There are many reasons you may want to stop loving someone in your life. Perhaps they don’t have your best interests at heart or they’ve engaged in a behavior (such as abuse or infidelity) that can be harmful and prevent the relationship from carrying on in a healthy way. In some cases, you may not want to stop loving them yet feel it’s in your best interest (for example, if they’ve ended the relationship with you).
Although it’s a difficult task, figuring out how to stop loving someone can be an important and meaningful choice — one that involves gaining distance and connecting with other people and activities in your life that bring you joy.
While it may feel impossible and certainly takes time to stop loving someone, it’s absolutely possible to do just that. In fact, you may find that in no longer loving this person you open yourself up to the possibility of loving others — and even yourself.
Here are some practical tips to help you stop loving someone:
1. Accept That You Still Love Them
While it may seem counterintuitive, a helpful first step in ceasing to love someone is actually accepting that you love them in the first place. Research shows that avoiding your emotions can actually make it harder to cope and change your thinking patterns.
This can, in turn, change the course of painful emotions like love.1 To accept your love for this person, carefully examine why you love them and how they make you feel without judging the fact that you still love them.
2. Consider the Relationship for What it Was
Once you’ve accepted that you still love this person and what it is about them you love, it can be helpful to explore other areas of the relationship, such as what needs of yours weren’t met and what you wish were different.
List these out factually (for example, “This person avoided spending time with my family, and that’s something I love doing”) and keep the list somewhere you can return to if you need a reminder of why you need to move on.
3. Identify How Loving Them is Out of Line With Your Values
Considering the relationship for what it was often illuminates the ways in which loving this person is out of line with your values. To stop loving someone, identify your core values (e.g., “honesty” or “passion”) and list out the ways that loving this person doesn’t align with them.
For example, “Loving someone who’s a homebody doesn’t align with my value of spontaneity.” Because one of the functions of values is to influence how you choose to live your life, looking at how loving the person doesn’t align with your values can help you move on from them.
4. Act Opposite to Love
All emotions produce “action urges,” which are behaviors you are called to act on following an emotional experience. When you feel love toward someone, you may have the action urge of reaching out to them or looking through pictures of them. To change an emotion, identify a close opposite of the action urge.
The opposite of reaching out to someone could be reaching out to a close friend or turning off your phone altogether. Research shows that acting opposite to an emotion can interrupt an emotional cycle and even reverse it.2 Keep in mind that acting opposite to strong urges that aren’t in your best interest is something that needs to be practiced repeatedly and wholeheartedly in order to produce the desired effects.
5. Remove Reminders of Them
Another way to stop loving someone is by removing reminders of them. This will help you to stop thinking about them. Consider getting rid of or moving out of view items such as goods you’d purchased together and photographs. By avoiding as many reminders of the person as you can, you’re changing the way your brain experiences the love you’re trying to stop.
Studies show that specific and unique areas of the brain become activated when viewing the face of someone you love romantically, and that this kind of activation is stronger than simply thinking about someone or hearing their voice.3,4
6. Get Physical Distance
It can also be helpful to set boundaries around engaging with the person you’re trying to stop loving. While it may not be possible to avoid the person entirely (perhaps you live in the same small town), consider other ways to get distance such as by going to a gym you know they don’t belong to.
Having space between you will help you avoid cues (such as seeing their face) that might prompt feelings of love, and will also help you adjust to — and accept — life without them.
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7. Make Contact Hard
Along the lines of getting physical distance, it can also be helpful to increase technological distance by removing them from social media and considering deleting their phone number to help you stop loving them.
While some may choose to (or have to) continue communicating with the person they’re trying to stop loving, it can be helpful if you have the option to take these steps, as communicating with the person may encourage feelings of love or hopefulness that the relationship could work.
“My suggestion is to find ways to keep your emotions or sexual desires from pulling you back to that person. Any change is hard – how many New Year’s resolutions have we abandoned? But this type of change is even harder because our emotions are so strong. So, you need to structure your life so that you don’t have contact with that person – change your schedule, delete them from your contacts, stop following them on social media. Just as importantly, open yourself up to new experiences – and new partners – that you had previously ignored.”- Brian D. Doss, Ph.D.5
8. Prioritize Other Relationships
One way to feel less love toward someone is to direct that energy elsewhere. Feeling love and other emotions (such as happiness, excitement, and compassion) with other people gives you the opportunity to redirect yourself away from the person you’re trying to stop loving and sometimes even away from the emotion “love” altogether.
9. Take Up a New Hobby
Building mastery (for example by taking up a new hobby) can lessen the intensity of unwanted emotions by distracting from them and producing new emotions like joy and excitement. Look for hobbies that aren’t too easy, but also aren’t impossible to achieve. As a bonus, taking up a new and different hobby can help you build an identity separate from the person you’re trying to stop loving.
10. Practice Loving Yourself
Another way to stop loving someone is to redirect that love toward yourself. Loving yourself can take many forms. Consider getting in the habit of asking yourself, “What do I need?”, listening for the answer (e.g., “a bath,” “to call a friend,” etc.), and giving that to yourself. You can also practice loving yourself by self-validating.
A simple way to self-validate involves saying to yourself “It makes sense that I…” and inserting a feeling or desire, such as “…feel lonely,” or “want to feel loved.” Loving yourself will help redirect you away from thoughts such as, “I’d be better with them,” or “What’s wrong with me for still loving them?” which make you more vulnerable to unwanted emotions, including love.
11. Don’t Give Up on Love
Giving up on love altogether may be tempting, however doing so might increase the likelihood that you develop resentment for the person you’re trying to stop loving. You may have thoughts such as, “I can’t believe they ruined love for me.”
These thoughts actually direct more attention and energy toward the person you’re trying to stop loving, making it harder to let them go or find another person who is better able to meet your needs in a loving relationship.
When to Seek Professional Help
It may be helpful to speak with a therapist if you feel you need additional emotional support, you’re repeatedly contacted by the person you’re trying to stop loving and aren’t sure what to do, you’re experiencing symptoms of depression or post-traumatic stress, or if you’re trying to stop loving someone who had been abusive toward you.
Dr. Doss adds, “if you’ve repeatedly tried to end a relationship only to find yourself crawling back, talking with a therapist can help you understand why it’s so hard to leave this person behind. Working with a therapist may be especially important when you experienced unhealthy relationships growing up – as those can lead to insecure romantic attachments later in life.”5 If you need professional help, consider finding a therapist and check out this free online therapist directory.
Final Thoughts on How to Stop Loving Someone
Getting over someone you love can be difficult, but by employing certain strategies and focusing on new beginnings, it can certainly be done and you may learn some valuable lessons along the way.