I fell in love with someone.
The tale is unremarkable. Girl meets boy. Girl catches feelings. Boy runs like hell in case these feelings are contagious. You know, a tale as old as time itself. And while I can be casual and even make jokes about it, the experience of unrequited love—a concept I had relegated to angst-ridden teen years—is deeply painful to me.
Now, many months later, I’ve come to realize that I have not forgiven myself for the act of falling in love.
I’ve been angry about it. And deeply sad. I’ve felt a range of emotion from longing to loss and everything in between. But I’ve also been disappointed with myself for falling in love at all and angry that I could love anyone who could show so little regard for my humanity, that he’d walk away without a word or explanation.
The truth is, of course, that there were signs that I did not want to see.
I loved how he made me feel, and so when I saw the not-so-subtle behavioral cues I closed my eyes tightly so that I didn’t have to acknowledge them. I turned away from the truth of what was actually happening because I just wanted a little more time in the fantasy. I closed my eyes hoping to stretch it a few months more, thinking that I could be happy if I could have just a little more time. I could let go if I just had a moment somewhere in that time where I felt happy and secure.
The moment never came. Days became weeks that became months. The love didn’t fade. I’m too steadfast a person for that. But I realized that what is wrong with the whole picture isn’t that I feel love. It’s that I feel angry about feeling love. I’m so incredibly mad at myself for falling, and I haven’t forgiven myself for it. And I need to grant myself that forgiveness.
Falling in love with someone isn’t wrong. The person could be nice or a total monster, and it doesn’t matter. Loving someone isn’t wrong.
You know what is wrong?
Leaving someone without a word is wrong. Treating someone like their feelings don’t matter is wrong. Being unkind when there are other options is wrong.
And if we need to be angry after a heartbreak, we need to transfer that anger to where it belongs. This anger doesn’t belong to us. It’s not for us to carry, and we shouldn’t direct it at ourselves no matter how foolish we may feel in the aftermath of being let down by another individual.
Sure, we might have denied the signs. We might have ignored the many red flags or refused to see what was in front of us. We might have made mistakes. But the love? That’s not a mistake. Cherishing another person, caring for that person deeply—that’s not wrong, and we need to stop being angry at ourselves for our own humanity.
We can feel anger toward the other person, but even with that we’ll need to learn to forgive. Not because it’s best for that other person. We learn to forgive others so that we can heal ourselves. But we need to direct the anger to the behavior and not at ourselves.
Yes, we have feelings.
Sometimes we catch feelings whether we want to or not. And believe it or not, these feelings are not contagious. The other person may develop feelings, and they may not. But I’ve come to believe that we should honor the humanity in each other by being honest. All of these newly-named dating behaviors of ghosting and benching and hoovering—they’re not okay. They don’t honor our humanity. In fact, they treat us like objects meant to be used and discarded as if we don’t matter at all. They dehumanize us and leave us feeling broken when our relationships should make us stronger, even when they end.
We need to learn to forgive ourselves for the uncomfortable feelings and the unrequited ones. We need to stop feeling foolish for what we feel. We need to find a way to let go of the judgment and to show ourselves the compassion we would show our very closest friends. We need to forgive ourselves and allow all of the emotions to just be.
When we can do that, we’ll begin to grow. We’ll move past the relationships that don’t serve us, even if we still feel the love. We’ll make choices that honor our own authenticity, and we’ll be less inclined to shut our eyes so tight when behaviors present that don’t tell the story we want. In fact, we’ll become more comfortable in honoring our journey and the journey of others by acknowledging and discussing these signs we’re seeing. We’ll learn to let go and to accept that there are people who aren’t meant to stay by our sides forever in this life. We’ll accept that we can even love people who aren’t meant to stay. And we’ll remember that one day we may love the right hearts and see what it is to be loved back.
We’ll learn that we don’t need to forgive ourselves for our loving hearts. Not for one moment. Not ever.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: flickr/Charlotte Astrid
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock