Exeunt Love

Exeunt Love

You fall in love, you fall out love. And somewhere in between, you become a victim of your own martyrology.

It’s the last part of unrequited love that a person can’t admit, or prefers to ignore because it goes against what he believes are his true feelings. You love someone so much that you’ve taken it upon yourself to bear the burden of a non-relationship relationship. You’re determined to remain faithful to the possibility of love, so you endure what most people would consider a dead end.

But you’re fooling yourself because you won’t admit how narcissistic you’ve become in keeping this ideal of love alive.

All love may be a form of obsession, but that neither makes it bad nor undesirable. And unrequited love is not a description for a fatal attraction. Unrequited love is the stuff of great literature, or a quiet tale told to a friend over a beer. These are the stories about “the one that got away.” Yet like everything that can be positive, or a simple description of how complicated our lives can be when it comes to love, it can also be negative and self-defeating. The goal is to understand when that happens.

In the desire to keep the potential for love, for a deep and meaningful relationship, you can become the center piece of your own universe and not realize it. In a curious way, you’re defining yourself through suffering: what makes you alive is the amount that you are willing to endure. And like many sensations, you can become resistant to the pain, so you create more pain to remind yourself of what’s at stake. You convince yourself that your beloved is the true object of your affection, but you fail to see how you’re transforming yourself into a martyr.

Love involves no small measure of pain; we all know that. Love is an ongoing lesson in adjustment, even if the love is unrequited. But when that starts to enter the realm of the narcissistic, it’s no longer about love. It’s about self-pity and delusion. It’s about making everything you do revolve around how much you’re suffering while denying that is the case. You ask, “How do I get out of this cycle?”, deeply unaware that you’ve created the cycle and perpetuate it. Quiet suffering in the name of love – a noble idea if there ever was one – is now about being morose and becoming trapped in an ever growing wave of negative feelings. You begin to look at your beloved with increasing resentment, desperately trying to back peddle and keep those feelings at bay since you’re still clinging to keeping the possibility of real love.

But at this point, it’s no longer possible. It’s a delusion, period. What’s the easiest test? When you realize that you can’t function. When you ask yourself “What do I do to escape this?” Now begins the Herculean task of peeling away all the layers, resisting the temptation to consider this an act of betrayal to your beloved, to your ideal, to your desire of a relationship. But don’t think of it as escaping or ending, think of it as a restoration. Your goal is to return to that time when you were in control of how you loved, even if from afar. As narcissistic and self-pitying as you’ve become, this is about reclaiming yourself. You can’t turn back time, but you can make things right.

Admitting the Obvious
How many times have you had a negative thought when it comes to love, and you quickly admonished yourself? “Don’t think like that!” you say. “It’s not right to have those thoughts.” But why? What exactly are you trying to banish? It turns out, you’re attempting to cover up the true extent of your feelings, and flee in the opposite direction. Yet all that accomplishes is another opportunity to feel miserable and deny yourself.

If you get resentful at anyone, especially someone that you hold dear, and have the feeling where your heart turns and your stomach drops, it’s okay. Yes, you read that. It’s okay to have that feeling and admit to it, because that’s the first step to restoration. It’s a golden opportunity to stare those raw emotions in the face and let it settle into your mind: yes, I feel bad. I feel angry. I feel rejected. By denying your basic feelings at a given moment (“I shouldn’t feel this way”) you’re losing the chance for adjustment and retreating into narcissistic self-pity. At that point, you’re inviting more negative feelings that you’ve associated with the essence of unrequited love and swaddle yourself in it: after all, pain means love, right?

By admitting the obvious, this simple act can open up a new vista for you. It’s the proverbial long stare in the mirror: okay, I feel angry. Now what? Accepting that you feel at all, is important. It’s all right to admit a negative feeling; the key is not to try to hide it from the light of day because then it begins to fester.

At the same time, it’s important to realize that you can become consumed by these thoughts as well. What it really requires from you is balance, even if you feel like you’re holding onto the center with your fingertips. Ground yourself, prepare yourself, but don’t deny how you feel. Think of it as a beast that rears its head and you have to face it. You need to stand your ground, and accept that you’re feeling just about every emotion in the book. And get to the heart of it: admit that you are scared. You’re scared of loss, you’re scared of being alone, but no matter how you qualify it, you are scared.

You won’t feel better immediately. It might take weeks or even months, maybe longer, to feel that you are in control of your feelings. And know that you are going to have those moments when you feel like despairing, or when the silence of your apartment just seems overwhelming. You will wake up in the middle of the night with your heart beating fast and your stomach as knotted as your sheets. Relax. Breathe. You are not a victim of some elaborate conspiracy and you are not abandoned. You can love someone and be faithful to them, even as you can admit that perhaps you should have a Plan B. Do not try to mask your feelings under the rubric of “I want to be happy for you”: that’s a given, isn’t it? You want someone to be happy, but don’t feel that it comes at your expense, because in this case, it really doesn’t. Don’t let yourself get consumed by the narcissistic wave that unrequited love can develop into, and don’t get run over by avoiding facing those feelings. And most importantly, don’t ask the question, “Why don’t you love me the way I love you?” Just as two people can repeat the same story differently, so can two people feel love differently. You have common ground in the affection you have for one another: there’s your center, your ground of control. And that’s where you can work back to.

Enter love, exeunt love: before and after, you can still have a life. You just have to know you can.