What To Do About Empty Love

By Steven Finkelstein|Updated August 2, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Lauren Guilbeault, LMHC

Have you ever heard the expression "unrequited love?" It means empty love or love that is not returned. Finding love in the world can be hard, and once you experience it, you'll probably be quick to recognize its transformative power. If those feelings are returned, then your existence will likely change for the better as you and your potential life partner learn more about each other and gradually care about and cherish one another to a greater extent. But what if you've found someone to love and they don't feel the same way about you? What can you do about it? Let's talk about some of the reasons that your affection might not be returned and how you can get over it.

Why Doesn't The Other Person Love You Back?

The first thing you should figure out if you've fallen for someone is whether there is any realistic chance at all of winning them over. In some cases, you might be able to convince the other party to give you an opportunity if you're persistent and determined enough. Recognizing a lost cause, though, is an equally valuable skill.

You Can Grow Stronger From Experiencing Unrequited Love

Empty Love: They Already Have A Partner

It could be that the person whom you love is already married or they are already in a committed relationship. Maybe you met this person through school, at your job, or you know them in some other capacity. It might be that the two of you are platonic friends, but you wish there were more romance between you instead of this seemingly empty love.

If you know that the other person is happy with their spouse or partner, then it is probably best to put any ideas of them out of your mind. To move forward with them would be to wreck their current relationship, and it would be wrong and disrespectful to still try and pursue them. If this is the empty love quandary which faces you, then the more adult thing is to withdraw gracefully and feel better about yourself for doing so.

The one exception might be if you know that the current relationship of the one you love is on the rocks. Maybe a divorce is pending, or it's evident that a breakup is imminent. If that's what's happening, you still need to wait until that relationship comes to an official end, then proceed with delicacy. The other person may not want to jump immediately into a new relationship if they retain some hurt feelings or empty love from the old one.

Their Sexual Orientation Means They Aren't Attracted To You

Sometimes situations also arise where you have strong romantic feelings for someone, but you realize you are not their preferred choice for a partner, or maybe they simply aren't attracted to you. This is an empty love occasion where you should not try to pressure or persuade the person you're in empty love with. If you know that they sometimes have a little flexibility in this area, then you might tell them how you feel. If you know that their proclivities lie elsewhere, though, then it would be best to forget your empty love and remain platonic friends or acquaintances with them.

An Age Difference

On occasion, you might have romantic feelings for someone, but they feel that they are either too young or too old for you. This seems like a problem that might not be insurmountable, depending on how big the age gap is and how dead-set the other person is against the match. As long as you are both old enough to give consent to have a relationship, then you might be able to sway them through romantic gestures if you remain persistent.

However, if the age difference is so great then even if you think you love them, it doesn't seem likely that it's going to work out in the long term even if they eventually say yes and agree to date you. People from different generations often have different values and priorities. Also, if you're at a different point in your life from someone else because of your age, then their idea of what to do for fun isn't likely to be the same as yours. There are rare exceptions where this sort of thing works, but usually, it's best for you to target someone closer to your age if the gap is a couple of decades or more.

What to Do if You Have No Chance with the Person You're In Empty Love With

Regardless of whether you find yourself in one of the empty love situations that we've described or a different one, if you have determined that you have no realistic chance of winning over the person whom you love, then it can feel like a crushing blow. It's fine just to say "well, you need to stop loving that person," but directing your heart to do someone and doing it are two different things. We don't always get to control our emotions, and often we love the people who are the most inconvenient for us. If affection and tender feelings were something that could be turned on and off like a faucet, then our lives would be considerably easier.

Get Away from Them

If you love someone and you know that they don't feel the same way about you, then one of the best things that you can do is to distance yourself from them or try to extricate them from your life. If you are in empty love with someone from work, then you can search for another job, or you can see about getting transferred to a different floor or another department. If it's someone who you know socially, then you can come up with an excuse and politely decline if they want to spend time with you. If they're insistent about knowing why you're acting that way, then you might have to be blunt, but hopefully, it won't come to that.

Out of sight might not equal out of mind at first, but it should eventually. If you don't have to see them every day, then you might think about them constantly at first depending on the level of your infatuation. The longer you are apart from them, though, the better you should be able to accept the situation. It is said that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but in reality, that's not how human beings are hard-wired. What's more likely is that absence will make you forgetful if you take enough time and allow it to happen.

Find Someone Else

The other thing that makes sense for you to do is to try to find someone else who you can date. It might not feel right to start dating when you're in empty love with someone else, but if you know that particular romantic conquest has no chance, then it will probably be quite refreshing to pursue someone who you know doesn't have any qualms about being with you. This might not seem like the perfect solution at first, but, much like distancing yourself from the person you love, it is likely to work if you're patient and give it a chance.

If you make a concerted effort to refrain from thinking about the other person and to focus on this new individual who you are dating, you might come to care about them based on their own merits. You shouldn't take the viewpoint of "there's only one person in the world who I'm capable of loving." That simply isn't true. The idea of  one individual in the world who's suitable for each of us is a fallacy. There are billions of people on the planet, and there are probably lots of them with whom you might be compatible.

You Can Grow Stronger From Experiencing Unrequited Love

Don't Focus On Your Empty Love

If you love someone to the point that you don't want to date anyone but them, then that's fine. If that's your situation, though, then you'll need to come up with some other option for taking your mind off of your empty love.

Redoubling your focus on your career might be an option. You might also decide to take up a hobby, or more than one. Maybe some athletic pursuit could be the answer, as an amateur sports league. There are thousands of ways to occupy your time. The point is that you need to come up with something that will distract you, but it needs to be healthy. You don't want to occupy yourself with something like shoplifting or recreational drug use. It's going to have to be something constructive if you don't want to wreck your life.

Do You Need to Talk to Someone About Your Empty Love?

You might decide that you need to talk to someone about the way that you feel. If so, then the qualified mental health professionals at BetterHelp will be glad to assist you. Having an outlet is critical if you are in a romantic conundrum and you can't see a way through it. You can vent, and also you can talk about your options moving forward.

There's no denying that it can be painful loving someone when they don't return that affection. It is not the worst thing that can happen, though. If there's one positive aspect to take from it, it is the understanding that you are capable of love. Some people don't even have that ability. If you haven't yet found someone who will love you back, then maybe the next person will turn out to be the one with whom you can spend your life.

Common Questions People Ask About Empty Love

What is empty love?
What is an example of empty love?
Is empty love good?
Can empty love fix?
What is the deepest kind of love?
What is a relationship without love called?
What are the 7 types of love?
What are the 3 types of love?
What is real love like?
Why do I feel like my relationship is empty?

Helpful mental health resources delivered to your inbox
For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns
Speak with a Licensed Therapist
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.