Loving or wanting to be with someone who doesn’t feel the same way can trigger a chorus of unpleasant and painful emotions. Let’s face it, we’ve all been there and, with the benefit of hindsight, would probably have moved on much quicker than we were able to at the time.
The nature of my work means that I frequently meet people whose intense focus on another person persists despite clear signs, or active denial, of the fact that the other person just doesn’t feel the same. Unfortunately, this only draws out the pain and prevents us from being open to experiences and relationships which are enriching and mutual. So, if you’re currently in the throes of unrequited love or find it hard to let go when rejected in some way, here is some guidance which you may find helpful:
Use this experience to learn more about current relationships
What is this experience telling you about your needs? The intense longing you feel for another person may be an indication that you’re deeply in need of connection and closeness. Whilst you may not have a partner in your life right now, take a look at your other relationships, such as with friends and family. Is there anything you can do to improve these or create more depth? This may be through spending increased time with important people in your life or changing the way you communicate with them. Such relationships can’t replace a partner but they can make you feel less alone or isolated.
Unrequited love says nothing about your worth
We often make the mistake of allowing another person’s feelings or opinion of us determine our self-worth. Questions or conclusions which may arise are – ‘What’s wrong with me?; He/she’s too good for me; I’m too boring/ugly/unsuccessful’. Whilst it’s natural to be drawn towards such conclusions when feeling low or rejected, you need to remind yourself that no-one has the power to determine your value. Not everyone will like you or be a good fit for you. Whilst disappointing, the sooner we accept this and acknowledge that our worth as people has nothing to do with someone else’s opinion of us, the sooner we can move on without losing a piece of ourselves in the process.
Do you have a tendency to fall for people who are unavailable or become fixated on people who show no interest in you? If so, this may be an indication of unresolved issues from your past. Adults who were rejected and unloved as children may choose people who remind them of a rejecting or unavailable caregiver, with the unconscious hope that if they can win their love or approval, it will prove that they are indeed worthy or valuable. Unfortunately, such relationship repetitions tend to reinforce or simply repeat the original hurt rather than heal it. If you recognise yourself in the above, I suggest working through this relationship pattern with a psychotherapist or counsellor.
Grieve the loss
Just because you didn’t have a relationship with this person you feel strongly towards doesn’t mean that you don’t experience loss when accepting that the love or attraction you feel isn’t reciprocal. Allow yourself to feel the full myriad of emotions that may arise, whether it be sadness, disappointment, anger, jealousy, etc. Write your feelings down in a journal or call someone you trust to express how you’re feeling. The sooner you allow yourself to express your pain and grief, the sooner you can move on.
Ramp up the self-love
Self-love is often mistaken for narcissism or excessive ego. This isn’t the case. In fact, self-love is an essential aspect of well-being and simply refers to an unconditional, humble acceptance of ourselves, warts and all. Just as you wouldn’t want your child, best friend or anyone you love to continue to pursue someone who doesn’t value them, loving yourself would prevent you from devaluing yourself in such a way as to remain stuck focusing on someone who doesn’t value you. So, do things you enjoy, spend time with people who make you feel good, treat yourself to your favourite foods and spoil yourself as you would someone you love.
Replace fantasy with reality
When we first meet someone, the admiration and intensity of the feelings we experience are usually based on fantasy and projection. Since we don’t know much about the person, we have a blank canvas on which to project everything we want from a partner. In order to reduce the intensity of your feelings, see if you can get to know the person better. I’m not suggesting stalking here. What I suggest is reminding yourself that this person isn’t perfect and, if you have some contact with the person (e.g. you work together or have friends in common), whip off those rose-tinted glasses and get to know who they really are. You may still like them or want to be with them, but chances are the intensity of the attraction or ‘love’ will reduce as you have a more rounded idea of who they are.