You may have fallen in love “at first sight” but when you’ve loved someone for years (or decades), it may require a lengthier process and a conscious effort to leave those feelings behind. You may not be able to simply turn off feelings of affection and attachment for your former spouse, even when divorce is imminent.
“When you love someone and they don’t love you back, it can feel like your world is ending,” writes Trudi Griffin, LPC, in an article for WikiHow. “The pain you’re experiencing is very real. Science has even shown that rejection activates the same pain-sensing neurons in your brain that physical pain does. You can’t control how you feel, but you can learn to get past the pain of romantic rejection and move on with your life.”
If your spouse has lost that loving feeling and you have not, consider Griffin’s advice for falling out of love.
Allow yourself time to grieve. Take time to process your loss. “It’s healthier to let yourself be sad than it is to try to suppress those emotions,” Griffin says. “Denying or minimizing how you feel (such as saying ‘It’s no big deal’ or ‘I didn’t love her anyway’) will actually make it worse in the long run.” But avoid an indulgent pity party. If you’re isolating yourself from friends and family, ignoring your personal hygiene, binging on alcohol or unhealthy foods, you may be experiencing clinical depression and it’s time to seek professional help.
Recognize that you cannot control the other person. No matter how much you love someone, you cannot make them return the sentiment. “Your immediate reaction to learning that the other person doesn’t love you in the way you love them may be to think, ‘I will make them love me!’” Griffin says. “This type of thinking is very natural, but it’s also incorrect and unhelpful. The only thing you can control in life is your own actions and responses.” If you find yourself obsessing over your ex, try meditating on The Serenity Prayer: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Express your feelings to yourself. Stuffing your feelings can cause you overeat, drink to excess, or enact other compulsive behaviors. Find healthy ways to express yourself. “Crying can actually be therapeutic,” Griffin says. “It may reduce feelings of anxiety and anger, and can even reduce your body’s feelings of stress.” It’s natural to feel anger, even rage, but try to process those feelings without screaming, shouting, punching things, or breaking stuff. Instead, try to allow the anger to pass and then journal about why you feel this way. (Byron Katie’s The Work, is a great resource for processing resentments.) Work off steam through aerobic exercise, or find a constructive expression of your emotions through music, art, or a favorite hobby.
Embrace reality and that you are better off. “It’s very easy to idealize someone, especially if you have invested a lot of energy in falling in love with him or her,” Griffin says. “Stepping back to examine the reality —without being cruel or judgmental — can help you get some distance from that feeling of unrequited love.” Take your ex off the pedestal and objectively acknowledge his or her negative attributes — but resist the urge to say mean things about them (especially on social media) just to make yourself feel better. Concede that there are irreconcilable differences which makes your happiness together impossible.
Avoid memory triggers. “It’s hard to heal from unrequited love if you’re constantly reminding yourself about the other person,” says Griffin. “Avoid seeking out that song or place that reminds you of the person or a wonderful time you had together.” Pack up or donate mementos that will trigger painful memories.
Love and cherish yourself. Spend the time and money on yourself that you would have spent on your ex. Focus on physical and emotional self-care. Practice gratitude daily. Enlist the help of a skilled therapist. Treat yourself to a massage, facial or manicure. Splurge on healthy foods and join a yoga class or cycling club. Surround yourself with positive, supportive people and leave toxic relationships behind.
Remember that you are lovable and are fully capable of loving someone else. Although your lost love may be painful now, you won’t feel this way forever — especially if you consciously work towards taking care of yourself. When you do have nostalgic feelings for your ex, give yourself a break. “It happens to everyone,” Griffin says. “You are strong enough to get over it. Feel proud of yourself for that.”