Unrequited Love

Audrey Kawasaki
Art by the amazing Audrey Kawasaki


As far as life experiences go, I would say you probably haven’t lived if you’ve never experienced the highs & lows of unrequited love. It is a crazy, heart-wrenching rollercoaster, & often we feel like we are the only person in the world who is secretly pining for someone else.

You’re definitely not the only person, though. Unrequited love is such a widespread phenomenon that there is even an entry about it on Wikipedia. I especially like the “unrequited love themes in music” section, since it mentions two of my favourite artists — Atmosphere & Damien Rice — as well as information about this song.

I tried to give you consolation, when your old man had let you down. Like a fool, I fell in love with you, you turned my whole world upside down. Layla, you’ve got me on my knees. Layla, begging darling please. Layla, darling won’t you ease my worried mind?

Unrequited love takes a lot of forms. Maybe you’re secretly in love with your best friend but don’t know how to tell them — & loathe having to grin & bear it while they tell you about their latest crush. Perhaps you are head over heels for your personal assistant. Maybe your casual fling has turned into something more emotionally serious — for you, anyway. Or perhaps you have a raging infatuation with that messy, sleepy-looking kid on the train.

Regardless, it is a unique experience. The sweet pull of joy tempered by feelings of despair. Ahhh. No wonder it’s such a pervasive theme in literature & music. Unrequited love makes you feel like you are going to explode with hope but at the same time, you wonder whether maybe this is the final straw, & you are actually going to lose your mind once & for all. You feel like you need to be in contact with the object of your affections at all times. You wonder what they’re doing. You make up excuses to call or see them. You hang off their every word — even the stupid ones. You make excuses for their bizarre behaviour. You manage, somehow, to twist everything around so that it is about you.

It reminds me of a scene from 10 Things I Hate About You.

Cameron: So, then Bianca says that I was right. That she didn’t wear the Kenneth Coles with that dress because she thought it was mixing genres. Right? And the fact that I noticed — and this is a direct quote – “really meant something.”
Michael: You told me that part already.

10 Things I Hate About You

The hardest thing about unrequited love is knowing when to call it quits. Some people meet someone they can never have & spend — literally — the rest of their life yearning. As you can probably imagine, this is a recipe for misery. There is more to life than the affections of one person, even though it may not seem that way at the time!

How to deal with unrequited love

Decide that it’s over
Hopefully, if you’re dealing with unrequited love, you have come to the conclusion that nothing is ever really going to happen. Maybe you’ve told them about your feelings, & they laughed it off nervously. Or perhaps it has been months, & still nothing — not even harmless flirting from their side. At some point, you have to decide that enough is enough, & that it’s time to move on with your life.

If you need a bit of incentive, give this some thought. You’re pretty amazing, right? I would go so far as to say that you are incredible, mind-blowing & magnifique! Well, if this person was actually as great as you think they are, they would have realised how fabulous you are long ago, & pounced on you already… but they haven’t. It is a sad but true fact. They are obviously not that incredible, so you just need to go & shine your light somewhere else.

Break contact
It will be good for your sanity if you give yourself some space to decompress. The last thing you need when you’re trying to get over someone is having them in your face all the time. Especially if they’re being sweet & concerned — how aggravating! The way in which you initiate the separation is up to you & it will depend on your personality. Some people like to just disappear off the radar. Others like to explain themselves. If you’re going to go the explanation route, I would advise not making it too dramatic, tempting though it may be. This is a statement of intent, not a dramatic flourish where you’re secretly hoping that they will plead for you to stay. Keep it simple. You can tell the truth if you want, or make up something about a sick aunt somewhere. Whatever the case, make it as low drama as possible. Seriously, who has time for that crap?

Hide mementos
Yes, it’s finally time to clean your bedroom. Get a plastic bag & fill it with all that stuff that reminds you of the object of your affections. The sweater they left behind, a butterfly-shaped hairclip, Polaroids of the two of you together, the lock of their hair you stole from their hairdresser (you sicko!), etc. Throw it all in the bag. Then take that bag & put it somewhere you’re not going to see it. The back of the garage is a good place, or perhaps stashed behind your cello case. Leave it there. Don’t be tempted to go rummaging through it. If it will help, write “DON’T” on the outside of the bag in black marker.

Give digital temptations the heave-ho
Delete their email address from your email client. Archive (or delete) their old emails. Remove their number from your cellphone. Take them off your Livejournal, Myspace & Facebook friends lists. Unsubscribe from their RSS feed or delete the bookmark of their Flickr account. You get the idea. Basically, make it really difficult for you to contact them. Trust me, this will be a good thing at 3am in the morning when you’re plonkered & all you want to do is call them & confess your love.

Use EFT to detach emotionally from the situation. Do a couple of rounds while saying, “Even though I love ____ & he/she doesn’t feel the same way, & even though it makes me feel rejected & ugly & not good enough, I deeply & completely love & accept myself…” or something similar. Take a deep breath. Drink some water. Now, don’t you feel about 200% better?

Realise that you don’t control anyone else
This is probably the most important step. If you don’t follow any of my other advice, this is the one you need to pay attention to! This is pretty much the advice I give to anyone who asks me, “I like this guy but he doesn’t seem to pay me any attention, what should I do?” The answer is simple — just let it go & realise that you cannot make anyone do anything, & if you try, you will only come face to face with resentment, bitterness & anger. Not very conducive to true love!

People have their own lives: they are on their own path & you should respect that. Think about how much you value your own free-will, & how much you dislike it when anyone — well-intentioned or not — tries to meddle with it. Now, step back & wise up to the fact that the object of your affections deserves the same courtesy & space. Regardless of what you may think, you do not know what is best for them. Only they do. So let go.

The more desperately you grasp at someone, the further away they will slip. People drift naturally towards & away from people, & the less importance you attach to that, the better. Don’t take it personally & put it down to the natural ebb & flow of the universe. In summary: Maintain control of your own life & don’t make anyone else’s your business. It will make you much happier.

Embrace your life
Make regular appointments to see your friends, get your hair done, play air hockey, bake cakes & go on roadtrips. The best way to forget someone is to start turning your life into the magnum opus you have always dreamed it could be. If you’re having fun & really living in the moment, that silly misguided fool will be the furtherest thing from your mind. Go out & dance, kiss cute people, eat enormous hamburgers, buy a typewriter, paint your bedroom, make a five year plan. & read this for reinforcement whenever you need it.

What to do if you’re in love with someone who is in a relationship

Back away, slowly. Odds are extremely good that they aren’t going to leave their partner for you — & even if they do, they will need time to grieve their past relationship. Otherwise there is a strong chance that your entire relationship with them will be composed of transference of emotion — nothing more. You deserve better.

While I am normally a strong advocate of the “Always Tell People How You Feel!” method, when it comes to someone who is in a relationship, it’s really best to keep it to yourself. Even if the object of your affections is always complaining about his girlfriend, you’re only hearing one side of the story. Maybe they use all that aggression & frustration as foreplay — you never know!

Think seriously about what will happen if you tell John that you love him. He will be confused & in a very awkward situation. His wife, Natasha, is going to loathe you on sight — which means you probably won’t ever see John again. It may strain their relationship hugely, & if it makes his wife so insecure that she leaves him, he is probably going to blame you.

Having said all this, of course, I am not perfect. I have been involved with people who were already in relationships myself, & yes, it always ends badly. With the benefit of hindsight, I can see that my interest in the “unattainable” person always came from a very unhealthy place. I wanted distraction or to prove something to myself & other people, & it was all crap. It was never about love, it was about ego gratification or digging myself a deeper hole of self-loathing. My point is, I’ve made those mistakes, so you don’t have to.

If you’re thinking about going after someone who is in a relationship, consider the possible cost. The carnage is always massive & it has the potential to make your life really difficult, if not a living hell. Don’t create pain in your life for the fun of it. You’re better than that! Think about your intentions & be honest with yourself. Do you really love this person, or do you just want to prove that you can have anyone you want? Work it out & realise that it’s just not worth it.

Unfortunately, unrequited love is something all of us will probably face at some point, & while it can be painful, you don’t need to let it rule your life. You can choose how much it hurts you & how deeply embroiled you get in the whole mess just by staying in control of yourself. Recognise your limitations & let go of expectations.

Allow yourself to open up to the love that you deserve. It might come from somewhere entirely unexpected, but you’re never going to see it if you’re fixated on someone who doesn’t appreciate you.

Note: Getting obsessed with someone who just doesn’t return your affections — regardless of how much you push it — can really be a shortcut to Crazyville. If you’re tempted to pace outside their front door or you’re envisioning their head on your mantelpiece, it is probably time to seek professional help!

Extra For Experts:
Unrequited Love on everything2.
How to deal with unrequited love, thanks to eHow.com.
Unrequited love can be a ‘killer’ from the BBC. How encouraging!