The Practice of Unrequited Love, Part II

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No matter what anyone says, unrequited love is the worst feeling in the world because at the very core, you are absolutely powerless to do anything to change it.

That realization is also the first step to living with unrequited love. Nobody wants to be powerless in any situation, because it's a horrible feeling that can overwhelm you. And it might also anger you. You can consider yourself an intelligent person, one whose come to grips with whatever personal hangups you have. You know many of your limitations but you've worked very hard to overcome them. You may not be happy with everything in your life, but you can't say that you are totally miserable, and you certainly know there are people much worse off than you.

But you also know that love makes you do unpredictable things. And most importantly, to put up with things that as that rational person, you would never do in any other situation, and you've often lectured your friends when they act irrationally or pick up habits they've never had before.

Unrequited love is its own form of long-term irrationality. There is no cure for it in self-help books or encounter groups. You can feel relieved that others are suffering, to be sure, but in your soul there is a place that you cannot cover up or heal or ever truly come to grips with: that is unrequited love and it stays with your all the days of your life.

Unrequited love always comes down to the same question: why doesn't he/she love me the way I love him/her? You can deny that's what it is really about, because you're damned if you want to sound like those desperate losers on "The Real World" or those dreadful reality shows where people hook up at the expense of fifty other idiots. In other words, you don't want to be in front of the video camera in the confessional booth crying that he/she doesn't love you. But admitting to unrequited love and living with it does not mean you're a loser or even an emotional wreck. When someone deeply affects you, it changes you and you are not the same. So you can't excise that impact and pretend it's not there, but when the scope of unrequited love becomes apparent, it often feels like an ill-fitting shirt that you have to wear. You struggle to find a comfortable angle but it just is never quite right, but there's no way you can throw it away.

The reason that you are so uncomfortable is that you can never answer the question of why he/she doesn't love you the same way. An important factor of unrequited love is knowing how uneven a relationship is. You are more giving in all aspects of the relationship, and what motivates you is how you feel towards that person. But there are points along the way where you start to wonder why the relationship is not so equal. You initially hold it up against your maganimous nature and in your true desire to take care of the other person. Yet there are rainy days when you feel resentment and that gives way to some form of anger, not only against your beloved, but also against yourself. You say, "Wait a minute, I shouldn't feel this way. If I feel like expecting something in return, doesn't that mean that I didn't do those things for the wonderful reasons I thought of in the first place?" And that's when the mental shift occurs, because you are so enamoured of the other person that any criticism of him/her is an affront and an undeserved one. So, you rush in to correct it by blaming yourself.

Allowing that to continue will only make certain things worse. You have to find a way to express or channel the resentment before it becomes uncontrolled rage and then things come to head: you accuse the other person who in turn will say something along the lines of, "Well, I never asked you to do those things anyway." Here, your mind reels because it's so apparent that your beloved has either never truly understood the depths of your feelings, or is throwing them right back at you in such an easy manner that you immediately question if he/she ever loved you at all. Take the shirt analogy from above: you won't throw it away because of what it means, but here he/she is just discarding it. There aren't enough words to describe how that hurts.

That isn't necessarily true of course, but that's how you interpret it. With deep unrequited love, every act becomes A Statement. No stone goes unturned and is fraught with meaning. And unfortunately, those meanings tend to be more negative than positive. You spend hours pondering every angle of What That Action Meant. You parse words in more directions than a computer could. But step back for a second if you think I'm about to accuse you of being obsessive or neurotic. All love entails some form of obsession, because someone is always the Object of your Gaze. Your feelings are no different from anyone else's, but in this case, there is an element of unattainability that colors most of your actions and his/her reactions. The obstacle is always there and you are aware of its proximity and what it symbolizes. In other words, you know the inherent limitations from the get go, and you want to cling to the amount of time you have together. So you surround yourself with constant "What did that mean?" questions and searching for some deeper meaning. Usually though, you wind up searching for rejection. Unrequited love is no more obsessive or neurotic, but it is haunted by time.