As Cassie put her 6-month-old to sleep, her mind was clouded by thoughts of her former partner. It had been 7 years since they parted ways, but the memories still found a way to creep up on her. Her emotions still raw, feelings so fresh, like it was yesterday that they were together. With a sigh, she wondered, “Can you ever stop loving someone?”
The question had haunted and confused her for a long time. Since that relationship ended, she had put in every ounce of strength and courage to pull herself together and get her life back on track. She did feel a strong love for her husband – the endearing, affectionate kind. Not, the knock-the-wind-out-of-you love that she continues to harbor for her ex.
She has tried to come to terms with the possibility that loving someone you truly loved is a lifelong journey. But that realization has taken away her peace of mind. The disassociated co-existence on two different planes, living two parallel lives is her torment. Is she doomed to live with it? Maybe, yes.
So, do you ever stop loving your first love? Does the emptiness in your chest ever stop bothering you? With the help of our experts who weigh in on the subject – psychotherapist Dr. Aman Bhonsle (Ph.D., PGDTA), who specializes in relationship counseling and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, and psychotherapist Jui Pimple (MA in Psychology), a trained Rational Emotive Behavior therapist and A Bach Remedy practitioner who specializes in online counseling – let’s answer all your questions.
Can You Ever Stop Loving Someone – Maybe Not, And Here Is Why
Like Cassie, Nevin hasn’t been able to find the answer to how to stop loving someone who doesn’t love you. He was in a deep, passionate relationship with Anaya for 5 years. They both thought this was it until Anaya turned out to be “the one that got away”. Nevin could not come to terms with it.
It has been 10 years, and that nagging feeling of emptiness after a breakup hasn’t quite eased for him. In the interim, he has gone on to marry someone else and fathered two children. Every day, Nevin tries to accept the reality of being dealt a bad hand in love, embrace his present and shake off the denial that what he thought to be his one true love didn’t become his happily ever after.
On some days, he succeeds. On others, he is gripped by an uncontrollable urge to travel back in time and somehow rewrite the past. To bring Anaya back in his life, as his friend, as his lover, as his wife – whatever capacity she’d choose. The answer to can you ever stop loving someone has been clear to him – a resounding “no”.
Related Reading: How To Fall Out Of Love With Someone – 18 Tips to Make it Happen
What Nevin has been dealing with typically happens when we fall in love with someone who helps expand the horizons of our beings, makes us better versions of ourselves, and helps us unlock parts of our personality that we didn’t even know existed. That love, in many ways, changes us on a fundamental level, and what we become as a result of that transformation is forever tied to that person.
As a result, you cannot disassociate yourself from the person, no matter how much time has passed or how grave the pain of heartbreak they caused you. Through it all, you will still find a way to view that person with a halo of positivity and those rose-tinted eyes that are characteristic of the famed honeymoon period in a romantic relationship.
“It’s not like I’ve completely forgotten all the pain Anaya caused me. But somehow, it’s not the pain or the fights that come to my mind every time I think about her. It’s a fear, a fear of missing out. Did I do the wrong thing by not doing everything I could to keep her around? How can you still love someone who hurt you? The image I have of her in my mind never ceases to exist,” says Nevin, confused about how he’s still not able to shake off his feelings for Anaya, though he hasn’t talked to her in the longest time.
Can you ever stop loving someone if you truly loved them?
Commenting on can you ever stop loving someone if you truly loved them, psychotherapist Jui Pimple says, “To me, it seems impossible to completely stop loving someone you truly loved. When we love someone completely and truly they become a very important part of our system, the person gets rooted in our thoughts, emotions, body, and memories so even when the person is no longer a part of life one can still keep loving them.
“People say they can get over a long-term relationship breakup, but it could be just the intensity of love lessening. When you are away from that person, you may not feel those emotions – at least not as strongly – but if that person comes in front of you or you have to interact with them, your feelings might come back, though they may be less intense. The only way to know whether you have stopped loving or not is to watch your behavior when you come face-to-face with that person.”
Sharin, who has been dealing with residual feelings for the man she was head-over-heels in love with, says she has experienced this up close. “It had been years since we parted ways but he continued to be on my mind a lot. I brushed those thoughts aside, thinking it was par for the course given he was once such an important part of my life.
“Once I was in my hometown for Christmas and we decided to head to the mall. There on an escalator, I saw this man standing a few steps ahead of us. It took me no more than a few seconds to figure out it was him – my ex. I could deduce that from just a glance at the back of his head. After all these years!
“I thought I had let go of the past, but I felt my heart beating in my mouth, my palms sweaty. All I wanted was to walk up to him and hold him close, but I couldn’t even bring myself to say hello. When I saw he was with his wife and child, it was like the world froze. In so many ways, I was still where he had left me on that dewy evening, and he had built a whole new life for himself.
“All those feelings that I didn’t even know existed have emerged to the surface so strongly that I can feel them in my bones. So, no, it’s not always a realistic expectation that you’d stop loving someone who doesn’t love you.”
Can you ever stop loving someone and have no feelings?
Psychotherapist Dr. Aman Bhonsle says the answer to can you ever stop loving someone and have no feelings is tied to expectations. “The emotions you have for someone are connected to the expectations you have from them. As long as your expectations are alive and dynamic, and affect the way you think and act around that person, your feelings will stay alive and you’ll continue loving someone you truly loved.
“Feelings of love are not a faucet that can be turned on and off at will. It takes time to reevaluate and renegotiate a relationship you have with someone. The possibility that you can stop loving someone who doesn’t love you is also entirely dependent on the kind of relationship you had. You have to take stock of what the relationship was looking like and how it must be let go of for the feeling to die down.”
Related Reading: Ways To Move On And Find Happiness All Over Again
So, can you ever stop loving someone? In Aman’s opinion, yes, you can. But can you stop having feelings for them overnight? No, you can’t. “It’s a process that takes its own sweet time, and for it to happen, you have to first and foremost, change your perception of that person.
“We tend to place the people who are important to us on a pedestal. We build them up in our minds and upsell them to ourselves to justify their importance in our lives and to see them favorably. When you continue to upsell someone, your feelings for that person become strong, and so does the love arising out of these feelings.
“Apart from letting go of expectations and taking off the rose-tints through which you view them, it is also important to distance yourself from the person for as long as you need to get over the feelings of love. This means following the no-contact rule to the T – stop interacting, stop connecting with that person, both virtually and in the real world.
“When all of these elements are in place, you can stop loving someone and move on,” he adds. As Dr. Bhonsle points out, you can’t really expect to stop loving someone but stay friends with them. You can’t lie to yourself, telling yourself that “keeping them around” isn’t going to make you pine for them because you’re just friends now.
Can you ever stop loving someone who hurt you?
Tessa fell madly in love with her ex’s best friend, who became her support system as she was coping with a bad breakup. A heady romance ensued, which led to her becoming pregnant and the guy leaving her to deal with the consequences by herself. Yet, Tessa finds herself gravitating back to him every so often. It has become a quintessential toxic relationship, and when her friends draw her attention to the fact, she dismisses their concerns with a rhetorical, “Can you ever stop loving someone who hurt you?”
Tessa has been going through what experts describe as repetition compulsion, a psychodynamic where the victim of trauma places themselves in situations where the event can repeat itself, exposing themselves to the risk of reliving that traumatic experience again and again.
While there is no clear understanding of why this happens, the consensus is that it is because the affected person is determined to find a different ending to that traumatic experience. Also, they become more inclined to seek the familiar and stick to it, even if it is unhealthy for them.
5 Steps To Stop Loving Someone
As Dr. Bhonsle points out, it’s possible to “unlove” someone you love the most, but it won’t happen overnight. The problem arises when despite letting a decade pass, people like Nevin still fail to escape the memories of their past romances that incite a need to get it back, instead of adoration for what happened.
Let’s take a look at the steps you need to employ to lose feelings for someone you love – or loved a decade ago. Though the fleeting memories may come back from time to time, it’s possible to not let them make you yearn for them, instead, just be grateful for the fact that they happened.
1. Don’t lie to yourself
“I can stop loving someone overnight. I’m not in love with my ex, I just think about them from time to time.” Cut it out, it’s not going to work. The first thing you need to do is not lie to yourself about the emotions you are feeling. Forcing the love away by never accepting what you’re feeling is like turning a blind eye to the fast-approaching train coming right at you, hoping it won’t hit you.
Accept what you feel, no matter how it may make you feel to accept these emotions. It’s not “sad” or “pathetic” to not be able to lose feelings for someone you love. Moving on without closure is difficult, and the amount of time it takes is highly subjective. Only after you accept what you’re feeling are you able to address them.
Related Reading: 7 Signs He Doesn’t Love You Anymore
2. The no-contact rule is non-negotiable
We’re sorry to break it to you, but you can’t really stop loving someone but stay friends with them. Perhaps the most important step you can take while trying to not let the memories of this one person plague your mind is to cut off all communication with them – virtual and in the real world.
Talking and interacting with this person every day is like a drug addict trying to kick their addiction while still using every day. No, you won’t “wean off” gradually, and no, things can’t remain amicable if one of you is still in love and the other isn’t. Sure, even the no-contact rule won’t make you stop loving someone overnight, but at least it’s a start.
3. Don’t idolize them
“S/he was literally perfect, I loved everything about him/her.” Really? Everything? For every good memory you have with them, perhaps you have a few bad ones as well, that your idolizing brain has dug away somewhere. Ask yourself, were they really as perfect as your needy brain has made them out to be?
You two ended things for a reason. The fact that you’re not together anymore proves that you weren’t really meant to be, and the issues in your relationship would eventually have crept up again. You’ve tried to look for the signs your ex wants you back and you haven’t found any. Throw those rose-tinted glasses that you’ve always had on, and try to think about a few of the reasons why you broke up. Things won’t seem oh-so-romantic anymore.
4. Don’t look back in anger
Just because you’ve now managed to recount their flaws as well, doesn’t mean that holding a grudge about the mistakes they made is going to help you unlove someone you love the most. Instead of looking back at the memories – that will inadvertently crop up from time to time – with anger or yearning, try to look at them with adoration.
The relationship was a part of your life to teach you something. It was a necessary experience you needed to go through to be able to learn something about yourself. Be thankful for the good memories that this person gave you, and understand that not all things are meant to last.
Though the romantic movies we watch may make you truly believe something like, “you never stop loving once you love someone honestly,” you’ll realize that changing your perception about the person and the memories is often all you need.
5. Seek professional help
If questions like, “how can you still love someone who hurt you?” or “Do you ever stop loving your first love?” just won’t stop bothering you, perhaps some professional help from a mental health expert is required. A good counselor will help you understand the cause of your yearning and will help you guide you through the healing process.
If it’s help you’re looking for, Bonobology’s panel of experienced counselors is just a click away. Instead of trying to figure out the answer to questions like, “Do you never stop loving once you love someone honestly?” all by yourself, let a professional help you with it.
Can you ever stop loving someone? Just like anything else involving human emotions and relationships, there are no simple and straightforward answers to this question. It boils down to the relationship you shared with that person, how deeply they impacted you, as well as how well you’ve processed and coped with the setback of losing them.