In this article I want to focus on a relationship issue that causes great pain to those who experience it. Unrequited Love is when we fall in love with somebody, but they do not return that love. In the earlier part of my life unrequited love (with nine different people) formed a very destructive pattern. It is only in recent years that I have come to understand why I chose to go down this painful route.
On the surface, unrequited love seems rather sad. We fall in love with somebody and they don’t reciprocate, but we can’t let them go. We obsess and fantasise about them, in the hope that they might change their mind, but this never happens. As I know to my cost, these relationships can eat up many years of a person’s life and leave them with nothing but pain and heartache. The question is, why would we fall for somebody who was not interested in us and then, even when they have made it clear that they have no interested in us, continue with the obsession?
To answer this we have to look at our emotional and perhaps spiritual needs, and particularly at what we believe we are personally lacking. All of us have needs (for a complete description of needs and their impact on our emotional well-being and relationships, read my book 'Bringing Back The Love'), it’s part of being human and we try to fulfill them in the form of a loving partner or more ideally by meeting them from within. When we fall in love, our partner gives us the things that we lack. We then feel as if our partner is making us whole, or complete and this is why we feel so good. In a normal relationship this is usually reciprocated, but not in the case of an unrequited one. In these cases we create an imaginary relationship in our mind, that is identical in all respects to the ‘real’ one but obviously lacks a partner. This is what leads to the fantasy – in our minds we can create the perfect partner and relationship.
The trouble is that although the fantasy can be very convincing, it is not the real thing and eventually we feel frustration, disappointment and an aching emptiness. Even then we might not let go of the unrequited person because we gain a perverse pleasure from the pain and suffering. This aspect of unrequited relationships gives us a clue as to the deeper motivations which I will explain later.
In trying to fulfill our needs through the unrequited ‘partner’, we must see certain qualities in them that we do not believe we have. In the most powerful unrequited experience I had, I later realised that I saw a deep and pure spirituality in the woman I fell for. This was something I definitely believed was lacking in me and yet in her it was clearly present and intoxicating. I use that last word deliberately because the attraction I had for her was at the level of addiction. It overwhelmed me and started to take over my life. In essence, I was trying to discover my spirituality through her, rather than discover it myself.
If you have had or are having an unrequited relationship, ask yourself what quality it is you see in the focus of your attention. Notice how you feel lacking in that area. The way through (and this is how I eventually let the lady go in my example) is to realise that if you recognise a quality in somebody else, you must have it in yourself. As the old saying goes, “It takes one, to know one”. Therefore accept that you have the quality you have been looking for in a partner and release the unrequited person from the demand that you are placing on them to fulfill your needs in that area. Although it may feel that we have an undying love for that person, this isn’t really the case. If we loved them, we would not expect them to fulfill our needs. Embrace the quality yourself that you were looking for in them and as you let them go, they will move out of your life and somebody new will enter, who has those same qualities. This time though, that person will also want to be with you. The amazing thing about letting go of a need is that the very things we were looking for in our life or relationship appear in abundance! Try it for yourself – it really does work. In some cases, the letting go is enough to change the whole dynamic and the unrequited relationship changes into a true, reciprocated one.
Finally, why do we create an unrequited love relationship and fear having the real thing? I asked this very question when I was letting go of the ‘spiritual’ lady I described above. I think I was frightened to admit my own spirituality and embrace it fully. It suited me to love her at a distance and borrow her gifts. If I had started a real relationship with her, I would have had to face my inner fears and test my spiritually. I guess, I was just afraid of being in a connected and truly loving relationship.
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