I never thought I’d find myself sending in a question to be answered publicly for the world to see. I figured I would always read answers to other’s questions and be satisfied that way. But you see, recently I find myself doing things I normally wouldn’t do. So, here comes my L-word related question: What do you do to move on from loving a person who you never had a relationship with? I’ll spare you all of the boring details of this tragic unrequited love story that has torn my heart to pieces and turned my world upside down. I know you’ve written about moving on in the past, but how do you do it when you weren’t in a relationship and it was simply a case of bad timing, or maybe lack of interest from one party? I have never felt such intense feelings. Seeing how passionate and intense my soul is… is, well, scary. – Lovelorn
My heart aches for you. Oh, the agony of unrequited love! It is a unique sort of torture to feel both love’s warm and tender beckoning and its painful rejection all swirled together in a sick ice cream cone of confusing misery. Forego the sprinkles, no amount of toppings with make this bitter love taste sweet.
Unrequited love is a poetic living hell.
The feelings you have for someone are not reciprocated, or they are completely unaware of your feelings all together. Be it bad timing or lack of interest, in this case, the lover is left unloved.
Is it weird to say I’m a bit envious of your position? Unrequited love is perhaps the most useful emotion for both artistic expression and self-betterment. There’s nothing like feeling someone is out of your league, or not interested, to get you urgently ticking off your “self-improvement do-list.” When I liked an athlete I got super in shape and when I liked a musician I took my own creative pursuits seriously and when I liked a writer I cultured the fuck up and started following, like, lots of intellectual Twitter accounts. When I liked someone in finance I opened a stock portfolio and started my 401k. Who are we but the person we are pretending to be to attract the person we love?!
Unrequited love has spawned volumes of works of art: Wuthering Heights, The Great Gatsby, Great Expectations, Phantom of the Opera, Twelfth Night, Gone With the Wind, works by Van Gogh, Dante Alighieri… every Drake album. I experienced unrequited love (or lust, rather) so strong my senior year of college I wrote an entire collection of erotica poems that remain unseen to this day.
No, but seriously being in love is – even when one sided – a feeling to rejoice.
And it’s valuable because it exposes us to a greater internal depth than we may ordinarily experience. You said it yourself: “I have never felt such intense feelings… how passionate and intense my soul is…” Damn. I mean, damn. Just relish and revel in that for a moment. I actually want to repeat it for emphasis: “I have never felt such intense feelings… how passionate and intense my soul is…” You have been gifted a glimpse of your own capacity.
Now, unrequited love can be useful so long as you don’t let it become harmful. You first have to understand that this person will not feel for you the things you feel for them, and therefore you should not pursue them. Sure, one day they may come around or circumstances could change but, I mean, would you even want them to? Would you actually want to be with someone who wouldn’t give you the time of day or consider you a viable romantic option? That relationship will likely always feel one-sided; you’ll find yourself doing even more things that are unlike you to keep the relationship going and may wind up putting in an unbalanced and unmatched amount of effort to keep things afloat.
That is not a relationship that will remain a relationship for long.
While the tension of unrequited love can move us to great creative achievements, it can also sort of just suck, so stop hanging around this person if you can help it. Your feelings won’t go away overnight, but it should still be your goal to move on; hanging around this love-sucker simply won’t do. Your feelings of love and admiration are blinding you to the truth; that this person is just a person. A flawed flesh-and-blood human being like you and all the rest of us.
Feeling unrequited love allows us to nurture purely positive thoughts and feelings about a relationship with a person because the relationship is pure fantasy. It never materialises so all we can do is wonder about what it would be like to be with this person. And because it never materialises—remains somewhat distanced, unemotional or platonic—we can create endless fantasies to sate our desire. In truth, reality rarely lives up to our expectations. What you’re really stuck on is this idea of a relationship you feel like you could have with this person. Your wanting becomes intensified by your inability to have the thing you want. Be weary of this guiley emotion; desire.
I wouldn’t prescribe a distraction, either.
I don’t think you should try to get over this guy or girl by finding someone else to focus your energy on because that new relationship will be strongly energised by your underlying feelings for this other person. I think you need to take ownership of this passion — own this feeling of “loving” and separate it from the subject of your affections. Explore these feelings of intensity and understand that they are not uniquely attached to one individual, but in fact a set of emotions you will remain armed with your entire life.
You deserve someone who feels that same roaring for you. Save a bit of this for then. And remember, as Tennyson’s says in one of our most famous of quotes, “I hold it true, whate’er befall; I feel it, when I sorrow most; ‘Tis better to have loved and lost Than never to have loved at all.”