I recently wrote an article about falling in love with someone who doesn’t love me back and how I chose to practice non-attachment in order to move on.
It’s a subject that played on my mind for some time, and I know that writing about it was therapeutic in itself.
The experience of loving someone who doesn’t love me back changed how I looked at love.
Before I accepted that the love wasn’t returned, I felt that my love was simply a gift and did not need to be reciprocated in any way. I thought that I would love him for as long as I drew breath. However, as I progressed through the experience, I began to think differently about love, particularly of the unrequited variety.
Here is what I believe about unrequited love: When someone we love doesn’t love us back, we won’t continue to love them.
Yes, we’ll love them for a while. That “while” may be a month or six months or 60 years.
But what I truly have come to believe is this: love cannot survive with nothing to feed it.
When the person we love doesn’t return our affections, that love is starved. It’s a neglected love, and one day it will simply die. It doesn’t mean that our love was any less strong or real, only that it rarely can live where it is not nurtured.
This is the reason that I began dating again while my heart was still broken. Instead of waiting around for someone who’s not ever going to love me back, I got back to the business of living. I started to make plans, enjoy interests and, yes, I started dating again. I didn’t feel that this was duplicitous, and I certainly don’t feel like I started back too soon.
I feel that when we find the right heart we won’t love the wrong ones any longer.
In fact, I think that one day we’ll wake up and realize that we don’t love those others anymore. With my divorce, I know down to the second when all the love I felt left my body. With this other love however, I feel like it will gradually die from neglect and be simply a memory of someone I loved once.
But for now, we can keep our unguarded hearts open to the possibility of love again. Yes, we may get hurt again. We may fall in love or at least trip a little, and there’s always the danger that the other person won’t feel the same. But our hearts will still beat, and they’ll still feel. We’ll be brilliantly, wonderfully alive, and we won’t be waiting at home, lonely, hoping the object of our affection will one day see the light (because they won’t).
It’s not a matter of poor timing. If we were the right person for them, there would be no wrong time. It’s not anyone’s fault. We love who we love, and we can’t make ourselves love someone we don’t. When we accept that it simply won’t be, we have the opportunity to stay stuck or to move on.
I sometimes wonder if our unrequited love doesn’t last longer than it might because we do feed it. We feed it our thoughts and our time. We feed it our daydreams and our hopes. We feed it with wishes and conversation and regret for how things ended. In short, we stay locked into that past and locked into our hopes for a future that has been denied to us, and when we do that, the love lasts longer.
It lasts longer, but we’re in a holding space. We’re not able to move forward to find a love that will be returned to us just as strongly as we love. We’re not able to embrace life with pure, unadulterated joy because we’re too busy counting our losses. We’re not able to enjoy the future that’s waiting for us because we’re too busy thinking about the future that we’d hoped we’d have with this person we’d hoped would be ours.
I am guilty of feeding an unrequited love, though I limit the time I devote to it. In fact, I feel that soon there will be no time lost in thinking “what if”. Because each day, I am closer to putting to rest those feelings. And with every date I accept and every person I meet, I am that much closer to finding a heart that deserves my devotion. Each day I move closer to that, and in the meantime, I rest in the joy of living out each day feeling fully present and alive.
I don’t believe that we fall in love once, and it’s over for us. Sure, it may happen to a few lucky individuals. But for the rest of us, I think we may fall in love many times, and our hearts will either be cherished or broken in these encounters.
When the love is not returned to us, I don’t feel like it’s the end. I feel like we’re just at the cusp of something wonderful and new if only we’re willing to let go of what we think we want and wait instead for what our fragile hearts and brilliant souls truly need: a heart worthy of our devotion and in tune with what we need.
When we stop feeding a love that’s not returned, we can allow space to let in a love that will be.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Assistant Editor: Tammy Novak, Editor: Renée Picard
Photo Credit: Natalia Drepina/DeviantArt