Can We Love Someone Without The Expectation of A Relationship?

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The way I grew up, love looked like this…

You met someone, developed feelings.

As the feelings grew stronger, you got into a relationship together. (Those feelings may or may not turn into love.) If they turned into love, the relationship got more serious.

Maybe you end up together, maybe you don’t. But that’s the way love had to look in my head.

As I grew up and had my paradigm split open, I saw there were different ways to love people.

Not all of them fit into a normal “relationship box” as I thought they should.

The first time I experienced this was when I was 23 years old. I had an electric connection with a co-worker. It was if we had known each other our entire lives.

He got me. We got each other. He taught me things about myself I carry with me to this day. I never thought much about that friendship as it was developing. I just knew our connection was deep and I looked forward to seeing him every day.

Then one day out of nowhere it was if somebody knocked the wind out of me. I realized I had fallen in love with him. I didn’t know how or when it had happened, but I saw it and felt it with so much clarity and intensity that my heart ached. It was so strong it suffocated me.

This was not a person I could be in a relationship with. He was married to someone else. But we acknowledged we both loved each other and in the time we were in each other’s lives, we gave that love to each other in small ways without ever being in a relationship.

It still remains one of the most profound loves of my life.

I attended a women’s circle this weekend with a powerful, deeply intuitive and grounded group of women. We talked a lot about relationships that night. I shared how I was still learning to receive love from people that I had no intention of getting into a traditional relationship with.

I was struggling with it—often pushing them away because I know I can’t give them what they want.

One woman challenged me, asked me if I could look at the container differently.

Was it possible that I could give my love to others and receive it without it having to look a certain way?

I was uncertain.

Isn’t the goal to find someone we can fully commit ourselves to—mind, body and spirit? I may not want to get married again, but I want someone who wants me—all of me. I want someone who wants to be with just me, and nobody else.

Is that really too much to ask?

I realize I hold my love for others tightly to my chest. I’m afraid to give it or reveal it. What if I don’t get it back?

One of my spiritual teachers said to me recently,You will know what true love is when you can give it to someone, without expecting anything back.”

I called bullsh*t on this at the time. It seemed impossible that I could ever give my heart to someone who can’t give theirs back to me. That’s not how it works.

Except it is how it works.

This same woman made me see things differently. We talked about a current situation. She explained that people love differently.

She asked, “Can you try to accept the love your friend has for you, however he can give it? Embrace it and allow yourself to receive it. And you in turn, give yours back to him, knowing you may never be in a relationship with him. Let it be Ok to just love each other in whatever way you can. Stop putting so many rules on it.”

I resisted. I don’t want to just give my love to someone. What if I get hurt? My love is precious and must be earned.

But then I realized I was already giving it. I couldn’t help but not. And I fell into a place of accepting that this is what my heart feels and the most loving thing I can do is to give it to him simply because it’s there.

There are men who have done this for me. There are men in my life now who love me. They ask for nothing back. They are brazen enough to tell me that they love me with no shame, no expectations, no withholding of their true feelings.

I respect that.

Can you do the same for someone else in your life?

Can you put aside your ego and your expectations and just say, “I hold a space inside myself that loves you.”

The timing may not be right. The circumstances may not be right. The two of you may not even be right together.

But we are allowed to feel love for anybody. That is the beauty of free will and our connectedness with each other. We can love whoever we want. We can receive another person’s love without needing to give it in equal amounts back.

The next time somebody says to me, “Let me love you,” I will not pull away and reject it so quickly.

It does not have to fit into a box. It does not have to make sense. It does not have to be perfect timing or make promises of a future together.

It just has to be authentic. Real love is just that. Authentic. We give it because it feels authentic to us. And we can receive it because somebody simply wants to give it.

Today I choose to give my love to people I feel it for. Not because it fits into a box. Or because I may end up in a relationship with them down the line.

But because it simply feels right to express what is authentically in my heart.


Bonus: This is a new kind of relationship that’s truly sustainable, passionate and fun:


Relephant read:

Shake Your Foundation by Giving Love Away.


Author: Dina Strada

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

Images: Cubmundo/FlickrJen Lemen/ Flickr


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Dina Strada

Dina Strada is an L.A. based Event Planner, Author, and Intuitive Coach specializing in relationships and empowering women. She was most recently featured as a Contributing Author in the powerful new book, “Simply Women: Stories from 30 Magnificent Women Who Have Risen Against the Odds”.

Dina walks her talk and inspires others through her willingness to be vulnerable, raw and real. A former featured author and top writer for elephant journal, her work has also appeared in multiple online publications including Huff Post, Thought Catalogue, Elite Daily, The Good Men Project, Chopra, Simply Women, Rebelle Society, Tiny Buddha and Thrive Global. Connect with Dina on her website or follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

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anonymous Feb 1, 2016 1:27am

Hi, I just had a quick question. In your experience you had an eye opening friendship with a guy who was married. Now, you speak about that friendship as if it was just in the past. Why is that? Why was it necessary for your growth for that relationship to be one that you moved on from?

anonymous Dec 11, 2015 8:09am

It was indeed beautifully written. I am actually in a similar situation like your co-worker. I love a girl and we are very close friends and we too have that connection. But her perception is similar to what you wrote. She too doesn't want a relationship and finds difficult to accept love. However I still love her and continue to stand by her without expecting a relationship. But I guess the way you have written your feelings and opinions, I guess its common with only the girls. I mean if I see a girl who's love is authentic, plus if I have the slightest of feelings towards her and have the trust amongst us, I would never miss the chance to say yes or give It a shot. What I am trying to say why complicate such things and find it so difficult to accept it? One should keep aside their egos at times. And there is nothing wrong in accepting and you shouldn't be thinking that you will be losing your self esteem in the process. So I would want everybody in such situations to think from the coworker's point of view. Wouldn't you want that coworker to get the love that he deserves for giving an ocean of love and standing by her selflessly. Wouldn't it be so beautiful to get accepted by the one whom you truly love. Though you love the person selflessly but somewhere deep down your heart, you would always want that person to reciprocate it back. I conclude by saying that don't try to complicate things and suppress your feelings. Let your feelings out if you feel it!

anonymous Nov 2, 2015 10:53am

The simplicity is the difference between unconditional love and conditional (whatever that is it isn't unconditional.) Unconditional love is just loving someone for who they are not for what they can give to you. Conditions are If you do this then I will. That is something other than love. Perhaps commerce.

anonymous Oct 27, 2015 8:48am

Interesting this webpage it titled with a elephant, because there seems to be couple of elephants in this article not being talked about. I don’t think its possible to love someone in a other-than-family way, without there being some form of relationship. If you can’t be with someone in a normal relationship, but have formed a love bond with them, you’ve engaged this person in an emotional relationship…even more so if the feeling is mutual. This is a real thing, and it’s exactly what the author is describing. “we gave that love to each other in small ways without ever being in a relationship.” This statement is an oxymoron. If you are exchanging emotional commitments with one another(as described above as “[giving] love to each other”), you have formed a real type of relationship. In the case where the author and her coworker, shouldn’t his partner be informed of his “other love”???

anonymous Oct 24, 2015 7:56am

I’m glad you wrote this. But honestly, I thought that truly loving someone means there are no expectations of anything in return. Sure, we may want to be loved back, but that is different than the love we give. I know it is largely semantics and there are many definitions of love, and our human desires make it more complicated; but pure LOVE…. well, I guess my definition is unconditional.

Thank you for sharing your words.

anonymous Oct 23, 2015 3:47am

I found myself 20 years ago in the same situation with loving my coworker who became my best friend . Both married and soon our friendship because too painful to continue. We lost physical contact with each othe but remained connected. Nearly 5 years ago we developed our friendship again at a precautionary pace. Both unmarried, both discovering ourselves and both declaring to each other we desired a closeness with each other and that a deep indescribable loss no one other than each has been able to come close too finding. I unlike my love has only been married 1 time. He has drifted from 1 relationship to the next, all the while declaring his love for these women who proposed marriage to him and he accepted. He has told me nearly daily for the last 3 years “I love you”. Recently I was informed that I misinterpreted his words “I love you” as these words have many different meaning for everyone and that he was going to stop telling me he loves me. And yes, you guessed it, I am confused and he had become distant but doesn’t want to remove each other completely from each other’s lives. But the pain of loving someone unconditionally is too emotionally exhausting and is turning into a painful instead of a playful areas for personal and relationship growth. i continue be a stand for him and myself in being love. Thanks for the article. Never accidental happenings. I feel connected and not alone.

anonymous Oct 22, 2015 8:07pm

Thank you for so succinctly describing the very thing that I have come to terms with over the last two years. Not once, but twice. It is inconvenient. It is frustrating, at times, but it has taught me more about love than I ever thought imaginable.

anonymous Oct 22, 2015 2:51pm

Your comment above about loving someone but not necessarily doing things for them that you would in a relationship helped clarify a bit, but what about when you love someone who doesn’t feel worthy of love, is closed to it. I have this with a friend I want to stay open to the experience of love he has helped open in me and not stop loving him but actually it’s painful for me, how do I keep loving him and keep myself safe?

    anonymous Oct 22, 2015 6:23pm

    Set BOUNDARIES! Just set some firm boundaries with yourself and him. If loving him gets to be painful for you, then it may be time to let go. I have learned (pretty recently in fact) that people have to want your help and be open to receiving it. When somebody does not want what we are offering, then it's time to step back and allow them to have their own journey whether it involves us or not. It's hard when we see all that they can have if they just allowed us to help them or love them. But they sometimes people just aren't ready.

anonymous Oct 22, 2015 9:54am

Wow. This really hit home–thank you. This kind of unconditional love definitely holds a higher vibration — more like 'soul-to-soul' love than the kind of love most of us have been taught with regard to relationships.

anonymous Oct 22, 2015 6:50am

I think this is a great article but It’s tricky as well. Why should we give all of our love to someone and only come out with the short end of the stick? I love without expectation from my children, always. They are how I know unconditional love, aside from what my parents have given to me. In a loving relationship, your significant other has to give something. We should just expect nothing in return? I’m not ok with that. Lol! Please clarify.

    anonymous Oct 22, 2015 1:36pm

    Liz.. I know this is so difficult. And it's hard for me too! All I was exploring when writing this is whether any of us (including myself) can love someone.. even if we keep it to ourselves and never tell another living soul about it… we just own that it's there. Even if we don't explore a relationship with them. I think we get so hell bent on wanting to receive someone's love back when we feel that for them. But it just isn't always the case that 2 people are in perfect alignment with their feelings. The love doesn't have to be the depth of being "in love" with someone… just simple "love" and affection for them. I think what I'm suggesting is to just be OK with any feelings of love and affection you may have for someone in your life without needing to have them reciprocate. It doesn't mean doing a bunch of stuff for them the way you might do if you were with them. Just allowing your heart to love them…Energetically they receive it and some people just need that to help them get through a difficult time in their life. Hope this helps clarify a bit where I'm coming from!

anonymous Oct 21, 2015 8:54pm

For him: I like this because I love you, but am not certain where we are headed.

    anonymous Oct 22, 2015 6:24pm

    Hmm.. I'd love to know who loves ME! You better be willing to come out of hiding whoever you are. 🙂

anonymous Oct 21, 2015 3:28pm

I have been in love with my high school sweetheart and she has been in love with me for some time now. I am married and she is in a relationship. We don’t love our committed partners any less. Sure, we’ve had our ups and downs but they are becoming less and less. We are both happier as a result.

anonymous Oct 21, 2015 11:58am

So if you are in a committed relationship with someone, but express love for another, is that not something of an emotional affair?

    anonymous Oct 21, 2015 1:40pm

    Yes Amanda. It is. But the reality is, those things happen all the time. As connected as we may feel with our current partner, we do form connections with other people. It's natural. It happens. And I don't think we can beat ourselves up over it when it does happen or not acknowledge it's there. I've found in my own personal experience that ignoring the feelings does not make them go away. Sometimes it's just better to acknowledge you have them, get them out in the open and make a conscious choice what you're going to do about them whether it's just express them verbally or discuss the possibility of bringing them into a relationship down the line. More often than not, if you're in a relationship with someone else and don't act on those feelings, they will eventually die down and simmer out.

anonymous Oct 21, 2015 9:41am

Beautifully written and in my view so true. But it takes personal growth and experience to see it this way.

anonymous Oct 21, 2015 8:41am

Thank you for this Dina! These words were exactly what I needed to read today.

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How to get your relationship back Jan 8, 2018 12:24am

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Htom Trites Sep 21, 2017 9:05pm

Love is giving, and receiving. It's not trading. I can love many people by giving to them (what is given can vary greatly, in kind and amount) and by receiving from them (and again, much variation.) Most (more than half) goes to and comes from my wife. The rest is scattered. If you're keeping score ... you've lost. Recommended: David Richo, How to be an Adult, HtbaA in Relationships, HtbaA in Love.

Christine Marie Aug 22, 2017 8:05pm

Thank you. I love that the universe put this article in my party today. Just what I needed to read.

Tania Meiring Apr 17, 2017 10:15am

And finally confirmed. Beautiful article

Tania Meiring Apr 17, 2017 10:13am

Oh man this makes me feel so much better! Not sure I understood feelings for one of my friends until now

Butch Jackson Apr 16, 2017 4:54am

Thank you for this.I'm struggling with the love I have for my ex.I will love her dearly and that will be enough.

Dina Barzilai Apr 16, 2017 3:09am

oops still being Love

Dina Barzilai Apr 16, 2017 3:08am

This is perfect. Have been at both extremes and balance is the key. Giving ourselves, our love away indiscriminately without thought for ourselves can end up disastrous. On the other hand, not giving away love freely and unconditionally—always insisting things be mathematically equal to avoid the first scenario, can be extremely limiting. Pure Love is unconditional and it doesn't depend on the other person. We must set our own boundaries and then freely love from inside those boundaries—boundaries we can choose to change anytime they don't fit. Love--in all its definitions--we can feel it and give it in small ways to everyone we meet—by BEING Love. I've been learning this more fully in recent months. This article is perfect and definitely resonates with me. The one I love most in the world couldn't possibly reciprocate in exactly the same way. Yet I freely will love this human with my whole heart until my last breath. They don't HAVE to reciprocate. Sometimes it's harder than others. But working through all of it, and still being Live, is part of being on a human journey. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Rachel Fortier Aug 3, 2016 3:29am

Thank you... this is like the answer I needed to my questioning ... <3