Please help. I’m in love with a girl who’s in an unhappy relationship. What do I do?”
-Ty B. (Chicago, Illinois)
One of the most frustrating situations in life is being in love with someone who is in a relationship with someone else. You aren’t the first to write me about it; take comfort of this fact.
If the other person is in a happy relationship, there’s not much to be done. But what if that other relationship is an unhappy one?
My first question is how do you know her relationship is unhappy? Is it because she told you so? If that’s the case, there may be a chance she likes you and sees you as a sympathetic friend or shoulder to cry on. That level of sympathy and friendship is a good start, and might someday grow into love.
But there are a lot of pitfalls on that path you must avoid.
Watch Out For The Rebound Girl
I’m sure you’re familiar with the idea of a rebound relationship. That’s where someone has just broken up with their boyfriend or girlfriend, and they’re in a crazy, vulnerable, confused emotional state.
Sometimes, in their pain and confusion, they’ll start a new relationship before it’s time. Often they’ll get involved with someone who really isn’t a good fit for them, a person they’d never have hooked up with if they weren’t on the rebound.
More often than not, such rebound relationships don’t work out. They don’t last beyond the phase of sadness and confusion. Once the person is standing on their own two feet again, they realize their mistake and end the new relationship, or they don’t end it and things get bad and it falls apart on its own.
You can learn something from this. If there’s a chance you and this girl will end up together after she leaves her unhappy relationship, you want your new relationship to be built on a firm, enduring foundation, not just a short-term emotional need.
You want her to choose you because you are you, not because she’s sad and unhappy over someone else.
What that means is that the best thing for you to do is let her know how you feel and then wait. Give her time to extricate herself from that other, unhappy relationship. Give her even more time to clear her head and process all the crazy emotions she’s feeling after the breakup.
Let her heal and calm down a bit. There is no set period of time for this, but a good rule of thumb is to wait at least a month after a breakup.
Give Her Space During Her Recovery
During that month, you should give her the space and the quiet time to recover from her breakup. That doesn’t mean completely ignoring her, but it does mean having healthy boundaries with her and respecting them. When she ends her unhappy relationship, have an honest conversation with her.
Tell her how you feel and tell her you are not in a hurry. She will appreciate that you love her enough to wait a while until she’s ready to plunge into a new relationship. Trust me – your patience now will pay dividends later.
It may not be easy to wait. She may be confused, too, and come rushing into your arms the moment her other relationship ends. That’s why you need to be clear with her about your boundaries. You can spend time together, have fun together, go out and enjoy life, but try to hold off on immediate physical intimacy.
After a while, she will have recovered from her breakup and the leftover emotions from her unhappy relationship.
She will be ready to start thinking about the future, about a new relationship, and there you will be, having proven already by waiting for her that you are serious and that you really love her. That’s a good way to start.
Now, there’s another answer to my first question about how you know she’s in an unhappy relationship. She hasn’t told you, but you have observed it yourself. What then?
This is a much more delicate situation. You must be very careful. It’s not a good idea to come in as an outsider and say, “You’re in an unhappy relationship.” Even if it’s true, she’s likely to react defensively and say it’s none of your business. And she’s right.
If you hang around her pointing out the flaws in her existing relationship, you will paint yourself as a negative, critical, selfish person, and none of those things is an attractive quality.
So what are your options in this scenario? Well, about the best you can do is to let her know honestly how you feel. Arrange a safe, private meeting with her and put all your cards on the table.
Tell her you love her and that your dream is to be with her someday. Do it in a calm and non-demanding way. Don’t beg or try to play the victim or make her feel guilty or anything like that. Take the high road.
Once you’ve told her, now comes the hardest part. You have to drop the subject. Don’t mention it again. Let her know how you feel, and then drop it. The rest is up to her. It has to be, for all the reasons above – if you two ever do end up together, you want to give your relationship the best possible start.
If you keep declaring your love for her over and over, or if you try and meddle in her relationship, no matter how unhappy it is, things are likely to get very messy. Don’t do it! She has to handle it herself.
By giving her the space and time to do it, you are treating her like an independent adult and protecting her dignity.
Once you’ve told her how you feel, you’ve done what you can. She won’t forget what you’ve said. Things may not work out, but you’ve given yourself the best possible shot.
Be patient. I hope that helps and good luck with this endeavour, Ty!