By Callie Beusman
Moving on from someone you had feelings for can be difficult, and unfortunately this is true even if you weren’t ever in an official relationship with them. When a connection ends before it really began, it’s often hard to know how to cope; you may even be wondering if you have the right to be upset. (Of course you do, but it may not always feel like that!) If you find yourself exiting from a nebulous, confusing romantic situation, here are some of the best ways to get over someone you never really dated.
Avoid contact with your ‘ex’ as much as possible
Once you’ve decided that you want to get over this person, it’s best to limit your contact with them. You need to reach a point where you’re no longer emotionally invested in the idea of having a relationship with them, and this will most likely require you to take some time apart.
Amy Chan, author of Breakup Bootcamp: The Science of Renewing Your Heart, emphasizes that you need to temporarily stop all contact—which includes a total moratorium on looking at their social media. “If you find that you’re continually looking at their profiles, then you may need to block them and remove the temptations of checking in on what they’re doing,” she says. “Because that will make you feel awful.”
If completely cutting a not-quite-ex out of your life seems daunting, Chan recommends setting a smaller goal of committing to 30 days of no contact. “After that, assess and see if you can commit to another 30 days,” she says. “This breaks down the goal into chunks and makes it more manageable.” You may find that it’s easier than you think.
Don’t beat yourself up for feeling hurt
There’s a special kind of sadness that comes from a relationship that ended before it truly began; You’re not mourning the relationship so much as your hope for what it could’ve been. It’s unsurprising that you’d feel disappointed, dejected, and maybe even foolish for letting your fantasies get ahead of you. “People struggle more with these types of dating experiences because of all the unfulfilled hopes of it potentially turning into a relationship,” says Laura Yates, dating coach and the host of the Bounce Back podcast. “It can feel incredibly personal, which is hard to deal with.”
All those feelings are valid, and you shouldn’t minimize them just because you weren’t actually dating the person who hurt you. Be gentle with yourself: If you’re operating from the mindset that you somehow don’t “deserve” to be upset, you can end up making yourself feel guilty, and that isn’t helpful to you at all. “The best way to get over hurt feelings is to feel them,” says life coach Elise Dean. “Process your experience, reflect on the relationship, and then get excited for all that is to come in your life.”
Focus on yourself and keep busy
Venting to your friends is helpful, but in moderation. It’s definitely a good way to process your feelings and come to terms with the reality of your situation, but dwelling too much on your sadness may trap you in it. You need to find other things to think about: set some goals, pick up a new hobby, or just go out and have fun on your own.
Put effort into appreciating your life without this person, looking to your existing support networks, your interests outside of them, and the future you’re going to build for yourself. “Create a bucket list of things you’re excited about doing,” says Dean. “Focus your attention back on you and your life, friends, and family. Prioritize the things that will make you happy.”
Remember that you deserve better
Whatever your situation, the truth of the matter is that this person couldn’t give you the love, affection, or attention you wanted, and these are all things you deserve from a partner. If they’ve proved themselves incapable, there’s no point in waiting around and hoping they’ll change. “Cut your losses,” says Chan. “You’re not going to recoup the past investment of time and energy. There’s someone out there who is willing, capable, and able to invest more than an ‘almost relationship.’”
If you stop pouring your energy into something that’s not giving you satisfaction or stability, you’ll open yourself up to new opportunities. Once you do, you’ll be able to find someone who’s really, truly enthusiastic about being with you.