Lost Love: Why Unrequited Love Is Indispensable

“I think you are the most wonderful person in the world.”

Love and kindness are two of the greatest gifts we can give and receive in the world. I have been fortunate enough to receive both love and kindness throughout my life. I’ve been even more blessed to have given my love freely. When expressed sincerely, love and kindness create a ripple effect in how we treat others. But sometimes, telling someone that you love them might produce the opposite effect.

It might see them running for the hills.

That happened to me once. I fell in love with someone who could never express his feelings in the same way. Granted, the circumstances were less than ideal, but that’s the thing about love — it doesn’t acknowledge situations or rules. It creeps up and catches you unaware until one day you look up to see your heart cracked and bleeding over your sleeve as you wonder what the hell went wrong.

This love was different from any kind of love I had ever known.

The connection showed me what it meant to love without expectations. The lessons were intense and at times, extremely tough. He took me to the highest love-sphere and dropped me with as much velocity.

He managed to seep into my soul and mirror back at me parts of myself that I never knew existed, or at least to the degree offered — deep love, perfection, fire and creativity, buried insecurities, feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy, and even hostility.

It was as if he made me face myself, but he also made me feel like a woman.

As it turned out, when I finally found the courage to openly express my feelings to my beloved, they were promptly met with an indifference which was followed by the Holy Grail of rejection — silence.

“I may never see you or cry with you or get drunk with you. But I love you. I hope that you escape this place. I hope that the world turns and that things get better, and that one day people have roses again. I wish I could kiss you.”

― Valerie (V for Vendetta novel)

He vanished like a ghost and left me to question my sanity and every interaction that had unfolded between us. You know the part where you replay conversations over and over in your head?

Yeah.

I spent hours trying to puzzle the pieces together into something that made sense. Something that might ease the emotional turmoil.

It was a fruitless exercise. I had fallen so deep that I couldn’t deny the heartache — I had to feel and allow the agony to become a part of me in order to move through it.

Anyone who has experienced a broken heart knows how dark the aftermath can be. Every day is a shadow, with sleep the only respite from the pain.

When we fall in love it is natural to want to bond with the star of our dreams. It can be just as easy to become confused when your beloved is giving off an array of mixed messages in return.

I admire people who are truthful and upfront in all facets of life.

Word salads can fast become a brain-fry. Life can be difficult enough without the added stress of uncertainty when it comes to the people we love.

But it was uncertainty and word salads that became the prominent theme in this instance. My feelings were negated to the point that I had to assume it was unrequited love; even though I sensed and felt his deep affection and reciprocation.

Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche:

“Indispensable to the lover is his unrequited love, which I would at no price relinquish for a state of indifference.”

Unfortunately, my fellow didn’t see things in quite the same way as Nietzsche. Which inevitably resulted in my heart feeling as if it was stuck between two continuously slamming truck carriages.

I was unbelievably hurt.

They say that it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. That the damage caused by love lost and separation gives rise to growth and maturity, and the advantages are long-term when considering the bigger picture. Things like life-lessons, personal growth, and expansion.

I guess it’s true.

The experience did get me thinking about love and relationships from a different perspective. Even though it was difficult for me to understand how my love could be met with such carelessness, I wondered how it could have come to be.

Why are some of us willing to take a risk of getting vulnerable and expressing our feelings more than others?

Naturally, my focus immediately shifted on myself at first.

Rejection breeds feelings of shame, self-doubt, and worthlessness, and I couldn’t help but wonder what was wrong with me.

Was I not good enough for him? Not young enough? Loveable enough? Attractive enough … talented enough? Was I too outspoken and honest?

Does my personality totally suck?

I could go on …

Eventually, I stopped the self-deprecating thoughts and realized that it wasn’t me who lacked the right qualities to attract love. What is right anyway? I am not as inadequate as a person. I have a lot to offer the people in my life, and the world. I am perfectly imperfect, and for better or worse, I have learned to love who I am.

Sometimes, we have to choose to ignore the effect others have on our self-esteem and push past the insecurities long enough to recognize our own unique beauty and place in the world. There is only one of me.

There is only one of you, too.

Our experiences, the way we interact with one another and our environment is vastly different. This includes the way we love.

So, I dug in a little and discovered that when it comes to matters of the heart, the answer to how we love could actually lie in the past.

Let’s explore.

When I was growing up, my parents showed me the value of expressing love openly. The words “I love you” were never withheld or negated. They were given and received each day of my life — even if I had misbehaved or displeased my parents in some way.

I was shown kindness, empathy, and compassion, and I was secure in the knowledge that I was loved. These ways of being and expressing love have guided my parenting style and how I’ve raised and continue to raise my own children.

I realized that the openness of love demonstrated to me by my parents as a child has also greatly influenced the way I love other adults as an adult. When I love, I am more likely to express my feelings freely because that was how I was raised.

That’s my love map.

It is through our early relationships with our parents and caregivers that help us to create a “lovemap” that persists with us throughout our lives. Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud called this “transference”. He pointed out that when we find a love object we are actually “re-finding” it — a phenomenon that explains individuals who select a partner who reminds them of their mother or father.

Some of us have been there.

Personally, I love the concept of the lovemap because it gives us a foundation on which to identify the grand, often confusing and complex wildfire notion of love.

The lovemap concept was originated by sexologist John Money in his discussions of how people develop their sexual preferences. It captures the essence of a person’s emotional and internal blueprint for their ideal erotic and sexual situations.

From Wikipedia:

“Money describes the formation of an individual’s lovemap as similar to the acquisition of a native language, in that it becomes established at an early age and bears the mark of the person’s unique individuality, like an accent in a spoken language.”

Once formed, the lovemap is extremely difficult to alter.

But it was Freud who realized that human beings were sexual beings right from the start, positing the controversial theory that even babies have erotic feelings.

Considering the above concepts and conclusions offered by these brilliant minds, I think it’s safe to say that the way we define ourselves as sexual beings and express love in our relationships essentially comes down to our upbringing.

The more attentive and loving our parents were, the more likely those qualities will shine through us.

Some of us have been shown the tools at the onset on how to deal with high-level emotions, express our love openly and be more vulnerable with our feelings.

Still, all the research and knowledge in the world doesn’t take away an aching heart or the moments of incredible longing for your beloved.

Those are the moments when I tap into his essence and send him a burst of love-energy. Love in silence is just as powerful as loud love. It doesn’t matter that he cannot reciprocate my love because I hold that space for him. Once we love someone, they become a part of us in some way.

Nobody can take that away from you.

I can honestly say that I am not the same woman since him. It was his appearance in my life that showed me how to love to a different beat, and a part of me will always consider him to be the most wonderful person in the world.

Nietzsche was right: Unrequited love doesn’t have to be lost love; it is indispensable.

This post was previously published on Hello, Love and is republished here with permission from the author.

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