The human buffet is grand, complex, and confusing. Add in the wildfire notion of “love” and it becomes a swirling black hole/supernova combination, exploding outward and pulling inward all at the same time. Add in the extra ingredient of having to guess how someone feels about you, and a permanent vacation in a monastery can seem totally sensible.
We think we know when we love someone. Sometimes we don’t know if they love us back.
But we can. It’s not that hard.
Are you performing grand gestures for someone only to the reciprocal tune of “Thanks”?
Do you constantly wonder what the other person is doing, whereas they are off living their life as if their time on Earth is one big wine commercial?
Is there a picture of this person on your phone you’d die if anyone found out about… but there’s no way you’re deleting it?
Your love for them might be unrequited.
Do you have an array of reasons to be around someone that fall short of stalkerish, but close to “Wow, isn’t this coincidental? Hey, if you’re not busy there’s this – No? OK.”
How jealous do you get when that special someone made of light grinds your soul by telling you about the great movie they saw with Someone Else?
Do you feel used, do you feel unappreciated, do you wish folks’ eyes would open to what is the wonderfully intertwined life path so clearly laid out before you?
Do you see yourself as patiently waiting for the other person to experience a revelatory burst of healthy, stable affection for you?
Our cultures can’t get enough of unrequited love. Willy Shakespeare wrote about it. John Cusack stood in the street holding up a boombox for it. Recently there was a guy who vowed to play piano nonstop in the park for it. Laziness and a sense of entitlement have led us to believe unrequited love is the Holy Grail of Romanticism, which in turn leads a lot of people to do really stupid things to “win” someone to their side.
If you’re the one constantly initiating contact, you may be missing a sign, but let’s rename and reposition it from “unrequited love” (a. it’s not love, it’s infatuation; b. “unrequited” means “not returned or rewarded”) to a more actionable observation of: It is time to move on.
Do you have more conversations in your head with this special person than actual out-loud dialogue? Unrequited love.
Do you have a habit of telling people about the “ones that got away”? Are you already scripting it about the latest object of your desire? Unrequited. Love.
Let’s enjoy a bit of bluntness: has someone told you “It’s not you, it’s me”? Clear, clear sign right there.
Has someone told you it’s not them, it’s you? Burning bush of signs right there.
It’s really tempting to think of ourselves as these sad, sensitive, romantic victims of the heart, but isn’t it funny how a lot of the time the “sensitivity” of “sensitive” dumped folks only extends to them getting what they want, not the feelings of the other person?
How about, instead, realize that no one (and this bears repeating in caps), NO ONE is owed to you. To anyone. Even if there’s no mountain high enough to keep you from getting to them or valley low enough, the journey is yours alone. No one, no matter what, in any way, shape, or form, is beholden to travel it with you.
If you weren’t convinced already, how about a few more signs your love for them might be unrequited:
They can do no wrong
Wherein the object of your desire is elevated so highly that you’re perfectly fine with that person never washing their unmentionables, which is pretty much the view of them, looking up from below, you’ve consigned yourself to.
Your identity depends on loving them and them loving you
Placing the burden of your general satisfaction with life on the shoulders of another person presents a huge emotional imbalance. It’s enough for us to live our own lives without also having to make someone “whole.” If the love you feel for another is based on how complete they make you, you’re definitely on the path to ruin. This is a selfish and draining type of co-dependent attachment.
When you think of them you feel anxious
This occurs as a result of part of you, despite what you want to believe, knowing that the intermix between you and the person on your pedestal is a one-sided affair. You’re afraid they’ll disappear before seeing how wonderful the two of you could be.
There’s little to no physical contact
If the best you’re getting out of a hug is the shoulder-touch/pelvic-repel, the level of intimacy you hoped for isn’t there. Touch is so important to bonding, and if you think you’re in love, but you and the object of your affections never hold hands or even maintain solid eye contact, that’s a sure sign their feelings for you are solidly platonic minus any hint of romance.
What Can You Do To Steer Yourself Out Of The One-Way Rut?
First, realize no person is an object, possession, balm, or prize. No one is obligated to conform to your fantasies. Once this is realized and internalized, a shift occurs: you give off cues of camaraderie rather than need. People like to feel that they’re on even ground with those they allow in their emotional sphere.
Second, accept that what you feel is what you feel. This goes for any relationship, whether a loving couple or a love from afar. The other may reciprocate these feelings or not, in the same fashion or not, but the crux will always be you feeling what you feel, and being OK with those feelings altering or disappearing altogether no matter the romantic entanglement.
Shakespeare had it all wrong about love not being love that altered when it alteration met. Nothing remains static in a relative universe, and that totally includes emotions. Unconditional love exists, but it has little to do with flowers and walks in the park and the feel of skin on skin. Terrestrial love is what most of us have at our disposal on a daily basis, and this love evolves as surely as an amoeba.
Third, enjoy your feelings without needing them to become something else. Love deeply and love often, but expect naught. There is something deeply satisfying in knowing you love someone without the need to see them naked or set up house in a quaint town. That’s called real friendship, and it’s a beautiful thing. There are no “zones,” friend or otherwise, to bandy about. Just love and acceptance and a minimum of heartstring harp-playing.
Everyone, at some point, has had feelings for someone who wasn’t quite on that same level of desired intimacy with them. Our movie and music industries are damn near predicated on that universal suffrage, and those industries are complicit in exacerbating the problem of expecting others to fall in line with our internal scripts.
If you’re not on the same page as someone, that doesn’t mean they have to throw out pages to catch up to you; they might not even be reading the same script. It means appreciating their story just as much as you appreciate your own; respect their journey’s richness and diversity as a welcome complement to your own.
Don’t think of unrequited love as a sharp insult against your inherent sense of yourself. Think of it as the infinite variety of flavors that can hit a universe of taste buds: sometimes flavor profiles meld, sometimes they don’t.
The tastes you try, however, have no obligation to be any flavor but what they are.