For the past few years, I’ve felt inundated with people telling me to embrace my “healing journey” when it comes to dating and relationships. Endless podcast episodes and TikTok videos have advised me to protect my peace, to get comfortable being alone, and to value my own company above all else—but as a naturally introverted twenty-something who has already protected her peace into staying in on most Friday nights anyway, the more I hear this advice, the more it feels like it’s meant to force me back into my shell. Being willing to put yourself out there comes with knowing that you could get your heart broken, and the reality is that sometimes, it’s not the official relationships that challenge your peace, but the situationships that become the most complicated to get over.
Finding yourself at the end of the road with a relationship that never quite became official can be an incredibly isolating experience, which is why talking about how to get over these relationships is so important. “A relationship that never becomes official can absolutely impact someone’s mental health and self-image,” says Adrine Davtyan, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and expert in relationship patterns. She explains that the “uncertainty and ambiguity in such relationships can lead to emotional distress, including feelings of anxiety, inadequacy, or insecurity.”
No matter what you’re feeling in the wake of a relationship that never became official (or even just a really intense crush that never manifested into a relationship), having a roadmap to getting over that person that isn’t just “Focus on yourself! Embrace your healing journey!” is incredibly important. Here’s exactly how to get over someone you never dated, according to an expert—because you deserve to be able to move on and enjoy dating again.
1. Create emotional distance
Much like an “official” breakup, putting space between yourself and the person you were involved with is crucial to getting over the relationship. Sometimes, this means cutting that person off entirely, especially in situations where your ex-situationship has had a negative impact on your emotional well-being. However, blocking contacts isn’t always possible, which is why it’s important to focus on creating emotional distance between yourself and your “ex” above all else.
“In some cases, maintaining limited or distant contact with the person might be possible without hindering your healing process,” Adrine says. If you are in the same friend group as the person you are trying to get over or have to see them frequently, try to focus on reducing the level of vulnerability in your interactions. Setting clear boundaries, reducing the frequency of interactions, and creating emotional distance can give you the mental space you need from the relationship and help keep this person out of your thoughts and feelings.
2. Acknowledge the relationship for what it was
Often, when we come to the end of a road with a situationship, we compare our healing process to others (or even our past selves) exiting official relationships. We expect that moving on should be easy because we never used the title of boyfriend, girlfriend, or partner. However, according to Adrine, a key part of moving forward is allowing yourself to grieve the loss of what may have been a deep emotional connection, in spite of the fact that it never got an official title. “It’s important to focus on the lessons learned and the personal growth that may result from the experience. I would suggest starting with the acknowledgment that the relationship, despite the lack of commitment, provided an opportunity for self-discovery and reflection,” she says.
Of course, there is always an extent to which processing the end of a non-official relationship means grieving an illusion or a perceived notion of what the relationship was capable of becoming. Recognizing that just because that illusion existed does not mean that your feelings weren’t real is key to finding the self-compassion that allows you to move forward.
3. Be patient with yourself
We’ve all heard the myths about how long it takes to get over someone—half of the length of the relationship, until you meet someone new, or even specific month ranges—but the reality is that putting a timeline on your healing only makes it more difficult to move on. “There is no black and white blueprint to how long it takes to get over someone, regardless of what the relationship was or was not,” Adrine says. “Try to do your best by not comparing your journey to others. Patience enables you to understand and accept the complexity of your feelings, allowing you to grieve, reflect, and learn from the experience.”
If you find yourself having an especially hard day throughout your healing process, try doing something that brings you joy like going for a walk, making plans with a friend, or treating yourself to your favorite takeout. By doing this, you’re not pushing your feelings away, but rather focusing on the other things you have in life that make you happy, despite the emotions you feel about your breakup.
4. Recognize the things you learned
Breakups of any kind feel undeniably icky, but once you’ve taken the time to grieve the loss, it can be powerful to turn inward and ask yourself what you learned from it all. “There are several factors to consider when it comes to having strong feelings for someone you are not officially dating,” says Adrine. “Having these feelings could reveal your ability to appreciate and recognize desirable qualities in others, as well as your willingness to invest emotionally in relationships.” Chances are, your unofficial relationship taught you something, whether it was something about yourself, the nature of relationships themselves, or the world around you. Taking a moment to acknowledge these lessons is how you build back even better into the next relationship.
5. Reframe your perspective to focus on new opportunities
At last, we’ve arrived at the step of getting over someone you never really dated that’s known on the internet as “the healing journey.” This is where you get to protect your peace, get comfortable with yourself, discover new interests, and make space in your life for new connections. Adrine highlights self-care as essential to getting over the person you were involved with. “Some ways to help with the process include focusing on self-improvement and personal growth, spending time with supportive friends and family, engaging in hobbies and activities that bring joy, and practicing self-compassion and forgiveness,” she says. As you step into your single era (and by single I mean single single), allow yourself to feel the joy that comes with getting to know yourself as well as building your new interests and connections.
The grieving process for the end of a relationship that never was can feel both endless and isolating. As you work through the steps of grieving, reflecting, and rediscovering yourself, try to remember that you are not alone in this experience and that one day, you will move on. Take it from someone who’s been through it herself: Getting over an unofficial relationship is one of the hardest things to do in the dating world, but it can also end up being a truly rewarding experience when you set strong boundaries, practice self-compassion, and take the lessons you’ve learned into the future. Sometimes, the most beautiful thing about a situationship is what happens when it’s over.