Getting over someone you never dated can sometimes feel as intense as a “real” breakup. It can mean reckoning with broken promises, unrealized potential, or a whole host of lingering “what ifs.” Whether it was someone you couldn’t get close to, someone who rejected your first date request, or someone you felt you were dating but never became official with, moving on can be challenging.
8 tips for getting over someone you never dated but loved
As with a “real” or more traditional breakup, there are many ways to move on. Consider these tips for tending to your heart after the end of a would-be relationship.
1. Know your feelings of hurt are normal — it’s okay to be sad.
If you are heartbroken over someone you never actually dated, you might feel naive or silly. But those feelings can be natural, and sometimes intensified, because you never dated. When we allow our minds to create a false reality around an almost-partner, it becomes difficult for reality to match up to what we’ve imagined and idealized. The discrepancy between reality and idealizations can be very hard to reconcile and can cause intense feelings of sadness or even grief over what might have been.
Know that it’s also okay to be sad about incompatibility, lack of shared values, or lack of interest on the part of someone you genuinely cared for. You’re valid in feeling the whole spectrum of emotions that come with letting someone go.
2. Let go of idealizations. Focus on reality instead.
To focus on reality, first identify idealizations. If you think life with that person would have been “perfect” because they check every single box, take a deeper look. Nobody is perfect, nobody checks every box. It can be easy to feel this way about someone when we don’t know them on a deeper level, however, as our minds may fill in the blanks to see what we want to see.
“When you start thinking about marriage, kids, fantasy vacations, or whatever keeps you from really being honest about the person in front of you, your attachment system can latch onto the idea of someone,” psychologist Danine Dean, Psy. D., tells O.school. “That person we create in our minds is almost always better than the real version, someone who has likely let us down in the past.”
3. Cut communication or stop following their social media.
When you continue entertaining someone you never quite dated, whether this means checking their social media accounts, taking their phone calls, or keeping a text thread alive, it will be more difficult to fully move on. “Each time you view information about someone who activated your attachment system, you are starting the grieving process over,” Dean explains. “So if you can block or mute their stories, feed, or delete their text messages, you may give your attachment system a break to heal.”
4. Learn from the experience.
“Your disappointment will give you good information about how to spot something in a future relationship that may not add up with your needs,” Dean tells O.school. “You’ll learn to ask for these things earlier, so that you can move on before your mind becomes invested in the potential or the fantasy.”
5. Start a list of your wants and needs.
In the interim period between an almost-partner and when you consider dating again, start a list of personal wants or needs for future relationships. “This goes far beyond physical characteristics, income, or social status,” says Dean. “This means figuring out how you really want someone to treat you in a relationship. Ask yourself: How do I like to receive love?”
You can use information from the situation you’re leaving to populate this list. For example, if the person who you’re seeking to move on from regularly flaked on date night, you might want to prioritize potential partners who are consistent and reliable. Making this list may help you disengage from the fantasy narrative about what your almost-relationship could have evolved to, by helping you to put a finger on ways they hurt you or or let you down while you were dating.
6. If almost-relationships become a pattern, turn to someone you trust.
If you find yourself typically developing feelings for people that don’t have the capacity to care for you the way you deserve, you may need some help identifying your needs so that you feel more comfortable asking for what you want in a relationship. Take this time after this pseudo-relationship or crush fizzles to start seeing a therapist, friend, family member, or other support systems who can help you solidify these needs and identify partners who meet them.
7. Take your mind off of what could have been.
Feeling lonely or alone in the wake of an almost-relationship ending is complicated. These are difficult emotions to manage, particularly if you have unanswered questions or a lack of closure surrounding the separation. Instead of laying in bed to ponder all of the “what ifs” that never got to unfold in with this person, pour your energy into volunteering, spending time with friends, or practicing a hobby you enjoy. After the loss of a relationship, comforting movies, books, or podcasts can help, too. This might go a long way in reducing sadness or loss.
8. Arm yourself against doubt in future relationships.
Brenda Delmonte, president at The Counseling Perch tells O.school that if you notice cyclical thoughts of self-doubt or your lack the ability to find love again, remember that these are only thoughts and are not based in reality. “Take a moment to remember all of your positive attributes and uniqueness as a person,” Delmonte advises. “Remember that you are always capable of being loved even when the last relationship did not work out.”
The bottom line
Getting over someone you never dated can bring on complicated emotions. You may not feel validated in the experience, but it’s important to remember deep sadness or disappointment can be natural. Give yourself time to heal, and, when you’re ready to date again, know that you’ll be entering the dating scene equipped with more information on what you want and need out of a partner. When you feel ready to put yourself out there, let people around you know you’re available again, or consider joining a dating app.