Loving someone who doesn't return your feelings is a painful and lonely experience. You find yourself constantly looking for signs that the relationship is deeper than it appears, and you risk alienating the other person by acting too demanding of them. Being "just friends" with an unrequited love is a challenge that requires that you be honest with yourself, so you can avoid heartbreak and possible humiliation down the road.

Evaluate Your Feelings

Love can strike at any stage of a friendship, and a person for whom you have only platonic feelings today may become a crush tomorrow. The best thing to do if your feelings change suddenly is to take a step back and give yourself time to think. Hang out with other friends. Confide your feelings in someone you can trust to be objective, preferably someone who knows you both. Write your thoughts down in a journal so that you can arrive at a better idea of how you came to feel this way.

Take an Emotional Risk

Telling your friend that you are in love with him is frightening. Even if you handle rejection well, facing the pain of knowing your love is unreturned can be tough, says psychologist Deborah Khoshaba in her Psychology in Everyday Life article, "Unrequited Love: When Cupid Gets it All Wrong!" But second-guessing can lead to behavior that will be more harmful to the friendship long-term. An unequal balance of power in the relationship could result, and resentment may come to undermine what was once a good rapport. Confession is your best hope of keeping the equilibrium. Break the news in person so that you get a response and are able to read his body language.

Stay Focused on the Now

The best way to stay friends with someone who doesn't return your feelings is to take things at face value and prevent yourself from dwelling on future scenarios. If your friend invites you to coffee, have a good time talking to her in the moment rather than seeing this as a prelude to something more. Resisting the temptation to read between the lines can be hard, but it is the best way to bring yourself back to reality, so you can start enjoying the friendship on its own terms once more.

Know When to Call it Quits

The subject of countless songs and works of literature, unrequited love is so universal that only 2 percent of people have never experienced it, according to a 1993 study conducted by psychologist Roy Baumeister of Case Western Reserve University and his research associates and published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. But while some people move on rather quickly after a hopeless crush, others become obsessive. They believe that they need the other person's love to survive. Examine your feelings honestly. If you are spending too much time thinking about your friend as a potential romantic partner even after he has told you he doesn't feel the same way, the friendship is unhealthy for both of you. It is time to distance yourself and move on.