What do you do when you fall for the guy who is off limits?

We all know the familiar saying: “We want what we can’t have.” Well, when it comes to romantic interests, this concept can be a real pain. Whether it’s your office crush, your best friend’s fiancé, or that guy who isn’t ever going to commit, there are few things more agonizing than falling for someone who is off limits or otherwise unavailable.

Emotions aren’t always reasonable or logical. When we fall for someone or are deeply attracted to them, our brains release a cocktail of chemicals, creating feelings of euphoria and pleasure. It feels like the best drug ever because essentially it is. In a nutshell, the high levels of dopamine (the pleasure-seeking hormone) combined with low levels of serotonin (the hormone that helps us feel calm and relaxed) combine to create a crafty rewards system that is nearly indistinguishable from all other forms of addiction. That complex organ inside our head is wired to do this and doesn’t care whether it’s convenient or right.

While we can’t help a sudden onset of feelings, we can still make choices that are compassionate and supportive in getting ourself out of the “love trance.”

Phase One: Cut Off Contact

01. Step Away from the Stimulus

Stop putting yourself in situations where you will see this dude. This might be challenging if you work together or are partners in class, but exercise control where you have it. Refrain from attending events with him, and decline invites you receive from him. If you work together and you can’t completely detach, limit your communication as much as possible. Don’t go out of your way to interact with him, avoid areas where he hangs out, and maybe even consider asking your boss to be reassigned to a different department or team. The latter is drastic, but you don’t want to be distracted and running off of emotions at work. If it’s your local barista, go get that almond milk latte somewhere else.

02. Say Goodbye to Social Media

Stop torturing yourself, and don’t look at his social media accounts. Unfollow or unfriend him so you don’t have to see his posts or photos. This will be hard! You’re wired to want that “fix,” and social media makes it way too easy to indulge. Take care of yourself, and delete, delete, delete! “Out of site, out of mind” works, but it will take some time.

03. Don’t Give In to Temptation

If you’ve been intimate with this person, it will be alluring to continue to engage in physical contact with him, especially if this was the basis of your relationship. If you do this, you will only become more attached, and in the end, more hurt. Remember that your desire to be physically intimate with him is actually rooted in your desire of wanting more. If he can’t give you what you want, don’t give into the physical temptation. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that he will magically want to date you because you are hooking up with him.

Phase Two: Keep It Real

01. See Things as They Are

This happens by seeing the relationship as it really is. This means recognizing its limitations and willingly facing the truth. When we really like someone, we tend to hyper focus on the positives and idealize them in a way that is out of touch with reality. We may cling to the belief he will change, or that the situation is better than it truly is. When we’re attached, we have to consciously take off the rose-colored glasses every time we automatically put them back on. It can be helpful to recognize that everyone has flaws, and then make a list of what his are. For example:

  • He is with someone else
  • He doesn’t want to date me
  • He drinks too much

Whatever the negatives are, bring them into consciousness and actively think about them when you begin to idealize him.

02. Get Curious

If this isn’t the first time that you have become emotionally attached to someone who is unavailable, it’s time to take a hard look at yourself. What lurks beneath this pattern? Is it a love of the chase? Is there a belief that if you can win him over then you are ultimately worthy of love? Is it a distraction? No matter what the motivation, use this experience as a way to gain a deeper understanding of yourself. This pattern may very well be a protective behavior you unconsciously engage in for reasons you are not aware of yet.

03. Work on Acceptance

Acceptance can be so hard. In fact, it is the last stage of the grieving process. We all want love. We also want peace and true joy. Those are our deepest desires. But in unhealthy emotional attachments, we are not at rest. We do not feel contentment and stability. The joy we have is flimsy and minimal—mixed with unpredictable anxiety or pain. Accepting your situation for what it really is—that what you’re looking for isn’t happening with him—is one you have to process internally. Allow yourself time to grieve this loss and then accept what is.

Phase Three: Moving On

01. Start a New Hobby

Getting over a romantic interest can be all-consuming. Starting a new hobby is a great way to keep your mind and body busy. You might travel, start a new workout routine, take a painting class, start dating again, or join a hiking group. Pick something (or many things) you enjoy and do it often.

02. Use Your Support System

Talking about how we feel is vital for our mental health. Depending on your style of processing you may tend to bottle up emotions and feelings. This will only lead to more pain and discomfort. If you can’t talk to your friends or family, consider talking to a therapist or counselor.

03. Practice Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is extending compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering. Take extra good care of yourself during this time of healing. Get a massage, binge watch Netflix, reach out to friends for support, and avoid self-blame at all costs.

And remember, you will be OK without him.