Can You Love Someone But Not Want to Be With Them?

Is it possible for someone to love you and not want to be with you?

Yes, it is possible for someone to love you and not want to be with you. It is also possible for two people to still love each other very much but feel that they can’t be together in a relationship. It is actually more normal to still love your ex even after you break-up with them, or after they break-up with you.

Just because a relationship ends does not always mean love stops as well. This is because loving someone and wanting to be in a relationship with them are two different things.

Love is something that happens to us. Think of it as a universal energy that draws us towards someone, exists without motive or agenda and is a lasting source of acceptance, comfort and joy. We can feel this energy when we love someone whether they are present or not, and it causes us to act positively towards them at all times.

A relationship is something we make happen. We consciously choose who we want to be in a relationship with. There may even be several other equally good options to choose from, and we may feel strongly for both or all options, but we choose the person we want to be in a relationship with based on several factors including how we emotionally connect, how well we communicate, trust, support, respect, sense of fun, attractiveness (physical, mental, emotional, sexual, financial etc.), compatibility (i.e. similar interests, dreams, beliefs, values etc.).

Most of the time, love and a relationship go together, love comes first then a relationship. Some of the time, as in “we were friends before we fell in love” relationships, the relationship comes first, then love. In some cases, two people who don’t love each other are together in a relationship (or marriage) because they made a commitment to be together. And in a few cases, two people who love each other deeply can’t be together for a number of reasons (e.g. bad timing, religion or culture, long distance, one or both people are already married etc.)

When a relationship ends, it’s often times because one or both people stopped “feeling” like they want to be together in a relationship. It does not necessarily mean that they stopped loving each other, it means that:

  • One person (or both people) feels like they don’t want to be together anymore because they lost that feeling of being in love. They love the other person but they don’t feel in love with them.
  • One person (or both people) feels the relationship isn’t what they want anymore. They wanted it at some point, and now they don’t want it.
  • One person (or both people) feels that they can’t be together because the relationship isn’t working as it should be (not meeting their needs, too many problems, even toxic)

The emphasis here is “feeling”. Feelings unlike love are temporary, are triggered and shaped by our perception of reality, and can be influenced positively or negatively. And since feelings can and do change there is always a chance someone who loves you but doesn’t want to be with you can feel differently.

Where the pull of love is very strong but the relationship is not working, two people can break-up and get back together several times, or at least until one person decides to let the other go or until they have completely made it impossible to be together. It doesn’t necessarily mean they stopped loving each other, it means that they have  acknowledged that being together is no longer an option, given up on being in a relationship.

It’s with the understanding of the difference between loving someone and wanting to be with them that I am against “no contact” as a strategy for attracting back someone. Most people using no contact assume that because their ex doesn’t want them or doesn’t want the relationship anymore, it means their ex stopped loving them, so they must act like they stopped loving their ex as well; and not just act like they stopped loving their ex, but act negatively towards them.

They treat their ex like they’d treat an opponent (let’s see who gives in first/contacts the other) or an enemy (I’ll ignore you, I’ll make you jealous, I’ll devalue your humanity by refusing to acknowledge you even exist).

If someone still loves you but doesn’t want to be with you, the response is not to try to make them feel like you don’t love them either, to make them feel as hurt as you feel or make them regret their decision to break-up. It’s just how they feel that’s changed and often for a reason. You may not like or agree with their reason for not wanting to be with you, but at least respect it is how they felt or feel.

Don’t forget, feelings change all the time. Today they may feel that they love you but don’t want to be together and next week or month, they may feel differently. But if you are acting like you don’t love them anymore, don’t care if they live or die, and trying to make them feel like they are worth nothing, you are negatively affecting the way they feel about you, and about being with you.

Ask yourself: “If I still loved someone but felt we can’t be together because [fill your ex’s reason for the break-up here] and they treated me the way I am treating my ex, how would I feel? Would I feel like they are doing the things they are doing because they love me and want me back? Would I want to go back to someone like that?

“Treat others the way you want to be treated” is not just good advice, it’s also a warning.

You might also be interested in understanding how different attachment styles affect how we act in relationships.

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