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Posts Tagged ‘unrequited love’

In Mike’s last post, he questioned whether love was really love if it went unreturned.  It’s a question I’ve heard debated many times, but I think it’s a silly one.  Love isn’t dependent on getting what you want; love is the opposite of “what’s in it for me?”

I think this question is a reflection of the sad fact that we’ve largely twisted the definition of love to mean something like “something that makes me feel good”.  Of course, love can make us feel good, but there’s much more to it than that.

If my adult child decides that she hates me and huffs off to never speak to me again, will I love her any less?  When my beloved grandmother’s senility eroded her brain to the point that she didn’t recognize me, did I stop loving her?  Of course not.  So why would the standard be different for love that included an element of romance or sexual desire?

The important question that seems to be raised in Mike’s post is a different one altogether:  “Should I continue this relationship?”

The answer to that question is probably crystal clear, but it’s not dependent on what that other person might or might not feel.  It’s dependent on what you need to be satisfied with the relationship and whether or not you’re getting it.

You’re not going to bring him around.  You’re not going to wear him down.  He’s not going to learn to love you if you just stick around long enough.  He’s not going to see the light and realize that you’ve always been the best thing that ever happened to him like some teenager in a John Hughes movie.   It is what it is and it’s up to you to take it or leave it AS IS.

I’ve discussed this issue with a lot of people, and there seems to be a general assumption that “take it or leave it?” in this context is somewhat rhetorical, that if you truly accept that you’re not going to get what you want, walking away is the only thing that makes sense.  I don’t necessarily think that’s true.  In fact, sticking around has worked very well for me.

For years, I had an on-again/off-again relationship with a man who loved me far less than I loved him.  For the first six months or so, it was painful, and it might have seemed the wise thing to just walk away, but I made a different decision. I decided instead to embrace reality.  What we had together was wonderful.  It wasn’t what I’d originally hoped for and never would be, but when I removed my goals from the mix and looked at the situation as it really was, it was all good.  We learned from one another, supported one another, played well together, thought well together and really, truly enjoyed each other’s company.

“So what was the problem?” you might be asking.  I certainly asked that in the beginning.  But I quickly recognized that it was the wrong question and abandoned it.  The idea that there was a problem was born entirely of the fact that things weren’t proceeding according to my original goals.  In other words, that I hadn’t been able to bend him to my will.   The reality was simple:  there were things about our relationship that really worked, but he wasn’t ever going to marry me.  He wasn’t ever even going to be my boyfriend.

If having someone in my life full-time had been important to me at that stage, then it would have made a lot of sense to walk away.  If you know what you want and it’s clear that you’re never going to get it, there’s little to be gained by hanging around beating your head against the wall and hoping that at some point it will stop hurting.  But that wasn’t how it was for me.  I was happy with where I was in life and he added to that; he wasn’t standing in the way of anything I especially wanted or needed.  In that context, it made sense to simply take it for what it was–and what it was was good for a long time.

But you can’t have it both ways.  You can’t play at accepting the way things are but secretly keep hoping that they’re going to change.  You can’t say “friends is better than nothing” when you really mean “friends leaves me in a position to keep hoping things will change”.  Reality is.  Start there, and it won’t matter in the least whether you decide to name it “love” or not.

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