We often hear people talk, sing, and write stories and poetry about the exquisite pain of unrequited love. But what we don’t hear about too much is what happens when you fall in love with someone who’s already in a relationship. In some cases, reciprocated love that is bound by limitations can be more painful to navigate than love not returned.
Not only can you not have them for yourself, but you have to see them with their person. And even if you aren’t seeing them, we know you’re picturing them together. Like, in those little moments where they don’t reply to your text messages quite as quickly as they used to and your mind takes you on a ride.
Truthfully, having feelings for someone who’s in a relationship sucks, plain and simple.
While it definitely just seems like pointless emotional entanglement with no way forward, there might still be some good there…somewhere, maybe? So, what happens?
Here are seven things that may happen when you find yourself in a forbidden love situation.
1You’ll try to fight it.
Unless being someone’s dirty little secret or a home-wrecker is on your bucket list, you’ll probably try to fight the attraction. You’ll tell yourself it’s unnecessary pain, you’ll tell yourself you deserve better, and you’ll make a list of pros and cons. You’ll pray to the god of self-restraint and you’ll do your best to stay away. But…
2You will probably fail, so you’ll justify it.
That didn’t last long, did it? Now, you’ll try to make yourself feel better about the situation. You’ll convince yourself that everything happens for a reason and there must be a lesson to be learned from this beautiful interaction you’ve been gifted.
3You’ll tell yourself, it’s okay because you just won’t get caught up…
By this point, you’re in. You’ve acknowledged that you’re in love with someone who isn’t “yours,” someone who is in a committed relationship, so you’ll try to set rules for yourself. You’ll try to stay connected but unattached. You’ll tell yourself you aren’t looking for a relationship right now anyway, so this is perfect, all the loving without the nag. And that could actually work for you. You could navigate this whole thing without getting too caught up. But sometimes it doesn’t work that way.
4You will get caught up!
Now it starts feeling less than great, and there is an emotion that you just weren’t prepared to deal with — jealousy. You find yourself being hurt when they cancel plans, and there’s a tiny stab in your heart every time they mention their partner’s name. And if the universe is feeling particularly playful, there might even be a moment when they call you by the other person’s name. Yikes!
5Then, the bubble will pop.
Yes. You have successfully created the prettiest, safest bubble where everything seems perfect when you’re together and it’s good. But at this point, you know you’re in too deep and someone is going to say something that will cause the bubble to pop. Here comes the reality check.
6You’ll battle with your self-worth.
You’ll probably get your first taste of reality when you start questioning your self-worth. This doesn’t make you insecure; even the most self-assured among us would struggle with this. You’ve put yourself in a situation where more often than not, you’re not being chosen. You’re second best, you’re the option when the first choice is away at work or visiting family for a week. And that chips away at you. You start wondering “Am I enough?” And you are, logically, you know you’re fucking amazing. But you also know the person you love, if given the ultimatum, you or their relationship? It probably wouldn’t be you.
7A decision will be made.
And sweetheart, that is no way to live. So, someone has to make a decision. Now, this can go one of several ways: You can decide to step away. Realize it just isn’t worth it and leave it alone. You can give them the option and pray they choose you, and maybe they do and you get the happily ever after. But if they don’t, you start moving on with your life. Or you try to be friends. The friendship is usually a little tricky, feelings are hard to turn off, but maybe you can step away and reconnect later. Patti Smith wrote, “We went our separate ways, but within walking distance of one another.” Maybe that could be you.
But perhaps the worst option is if they decide to break it off completely without giving you a say or a heads up. Now, that one will take some time to get over.
When all is said and done, though, you met someone and you shared something beautiful. And like most situations in life, if you pay attention, you will find something good to take away from it — a lesson learned, an inspiration when you needed it the most, a shoulder to cry on. So, you hold on to the goodness, always.
It is worth noting that you should absolutely not go searching for them in every person you meet. Trust us, love will find you, a love that is only yours. Until then, just focus on being your very best self. Maybe add another level to that glo-up, because if we’ve learned anything from Twitter, it’s that there is no glo-up quite like a post-break up glo-up.
Be gentle with yourself.