When the object of our affection doesn’t feel the same way, it seems as if we’re being robbed of the vital foundation of all our desires, hopes and dreams of happiness. It feels like life loses all meaning. The bitter loss is accompanied by a sense of hurt, injustice and the cruelty of fate. To someone in the grips of these feelings it seems that fate has crushed them and taken away their very last chance, an opportunity which will never be given to them again.
These feelings are hard to get over. They fling many people into a pit of depression, while others end up acting out in rash and disastrous ways. Romantic books and films have taught us that the feeling of being in love tells us that here is the one and only person who should be with us and reciprocate our feelings. Novels tell us that nothing is more important than these feelings and that worst thing in life is for your love to remain unrequited.
Maybe it’s time to stop listening to these tales of romance and lend our ears to something else? In this article, I’m going to talk about how to get over unrequited love and the associated feelings of grief, loss and pain.
Step 1 – Think, have you done everything in your power to win this love?
Many people think that reciprocated love only arises when both partners fall in love with each other almost straight away, spontaneously and effortlessly. In reality it doesn’t always happen this way. It’s not enough simply to be in love with someone for them to return your feelings. It’s often not enough to drop hints or even confess of your feelings.
Winning the heart of your beloved takes effort, perseverance and specific actions, especially for men. In order to attract a woman, you must try to win her over and not lose heart at the first setback. If she hasn’t fallen for you immediately, it’s no reason to give up. In my view, women subconsciously expect men to persevere somewhat. It’s the kind of perseverance that demonstrates important qualities men may be expected to posses: the ability to support a family, for example; to lead, to show initiative, to be source of stability!
People continue to expect that the object of their affection will fall in love with them just like that, and when this doesn’t happen they begin to suffer the anguish of unrequited love. But before you start to suffer, ask yourself if you’ve done everything you can to try to have your love reciprocated. If your answer to this question is no, it means it’s not yet time to give up!
Step 2 – Know, You haven’t lost anything that can’t be found again
If, in spite of all your attempts to win the love of the other person, they remain indifferent to you, it’s still no reason to start grieving. When you’re in love, it may seem as though the person you’re in love with is the only person with whom you’re destined to be. So when our feelings are rejected it feels that we’ve lost a unique opportunity which will never come along again.
But in actual fact, this isn’t the case – there’s nothing unique about it! It’s just your brain, or rather its biochemical processes, making you think this.
When you fall in love, your brain starts to produce a veritable bouquet of chemical compounds: serotonin, oestrogen, dopamine, testosterone, norephedrine and others. In its chemical design, being in love is similar to the effect of amphetamines in the way it affects specific pleasure centres.
According the the chemical map of serotonin activity, the feeling of being in love bears similarities to obsessive-compulsive disorder (or obsessional neurosis) – i.e. the person in love can’t think of anything other that the object of their feelings.
So it turns out that the belief you hold that the object of your love is a unique being and that you couldn’t ever be with anyone else is no more than an illusory perception generated by something akin to OCD!
If people really only ever fell in love with ‘the one’, the only person with whom it was possible for them to be happy, then I don’t think we’d see so many couples around us. Imagine that in the whole world, or even just your own country or city, there’s only one person with whom it’s possible for you to have a wonderful romantic relationship. The likelihood of meeting that person is infinitesimal. Yet somehow people still find themselves a partner – at work, at university, out and about. Do you really think they’ve all been so amazingly lucky as to have found their ‘one’? In actual fact, not only do people fall in love with other people they meet in their daily lives, but they may fall in love for a second time with someone else, split up, then fall in love again! And each time they think that they’ve found their unmatched one and only! So how is this possible? Why does our brain do these things to us, making us believe these kinds of delusions?
From an evolutionary point of view, there does exist a reason for this. It was beneficial to evolution for us to emotionally bond with our partner in order to found a family and look after our progeny. If everyone parted company immediately after sex, experiencing no bond with their partner, there would be no families, no one to bring up the kids.
So nature came up with love, which makes us think of our partner as a special person, to bond with them and take no notice of anyone but them and our feelings for them.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. It’s a wonderful feeling! But the beautiful rose of love shows its thorns when rejected.
I get that for people on the crest of the heavenly wave of love, any reasoning that reduces this wonderful, sublime feeling to biology is sacrilegious. But for you, for anyone who’s been through unrequited love, it’s sobering information.
Stop thinking that you’ve been cheated of something of great importance when someone doesn’t return your feelings. They’re not the only person in your life. Your bad feelings will pass, and you’ll fall in love again.
Remember that your pain is generated by illusory perceptions! Even if your feelings were to have been reciprocated, the feeling of strong attraction would sooner or later go (it’s not possible to be passionately in love eternally, or the chemicals in your brain would be totally depleted) and all your partner’s shortcomings would be laid bare before you. This is why many couples end up separating after the passion goes. Couples who live through this period of sensual ‘cooling off’ have something stronger and more permanent in their relationship than basic lust and attraction! But that’s the subject of another article.
Step 3 – Understand, It’s nothing personal
Of course, love doesn’t happen completely spontaneously. We fall in love with those who share our tastes and ideals, and have things in common with us. (Although we often overestimate this ‘commonness’ or ‘similarity’ when in the throes of love.)
But never the less, it is possible for us to fall in love with many people, not just with one specific individual, and this depends not only on the other person but on us ourselves (our feelings at that moment in time) and on random circumstances. We may fall in love because the person reminds us of our ex partner, because we’re in a particular mood, because we’ve had a drink, and because of many, many other things we can’t see and aren’t aware of.
Love may arise in you spontaneously and involuntarily, and this principle also applies to the person who doesn’t return your feelings. It can be that the feelings just don’t arise in them, but this doesn’t always mean that it’s anything to do with you. It’s just how it turned out. Don’t read too much into it and don’t get down on yourself. Feelings and emotions are unpredictable, random and transient; it’s therefore not worth getting too wrapped up in them.
The fact that someone didn’t fall in love with you can mean only that certain factors defining the specific emotional condition of the person didn’t manifest.
Now, does all this mean I’m saying that human relationships are the result of chance? Yes and no. At the start, people may simply fall in love with each other without thought. But after, when the passion goes, when idealism fades, and both partners start to see each other for who they are, the feeling of wild infatuation will be replaced by a true love not based on random feelings, but on a real, profound and personal connection between two people. This love isn’t the result of chance.
Step 4 – Get rid of your egoism
Instead of paying attention only to your own happiness, focus on the happiness of the person you’re in love with. This is the happiness you wish them because you love them. If they’re happy with their choice and things are fine for them, then let this be a reason for you to be glad rather than increasing your suffering. You shouldn’t think only of yourself.
Sit calmly and quietly in a comfortable position and try for at least a short time to wish the person happiness, imagining them living happily and being glad of this. Then mentally release them, allowing them to live their life, even if this is a life without you. Do this mental exercise for five minutes and see how it helps you. It will allow you to break your attachment to your egoistic desires and focus on the desires and happiness of others. Try doing it each time you start to feel the torment of your unrequited love.
Step 5 – Allow your pain to pass
At the moment it might feel like your life is over. Your beloved doesn’t feel the same way about you, things are really hard, and you can’t get rid of the deep hurt and despair. So let us try to calm down a bit and soberly speculate on what has actually happened.
Put simply: you didn’t get something you really wanted. That’s it. I know this might wound you, but the wound will heal eventually. Emotions and pain are temporary, and the pain you’re in now is simply the result of the fact that an intense desire was unfulfilled. You can draw a comparison to a morning headache being the result of drinking too much the day before.
When you get a headache after a party, you don’t think, ‘This headache is a nightmare! I must be the most miserable person in the world; the pain’s never going to go.’ That would be daft! You understand that your head’s hurting, but it’s bearable and will pass.
So take the pain of an unfulfilled desire in the same way. It will definitely pass. People suffer so much not because of the pain itself as such, but because of the way they respond to it. They think, ‘This is just awful. I’ll never find anyone else, I’ve never felt so unhappy …’
The mind makes the pain stronger, and in order to counter this, you sometimes need to shut your mind off. This is quite straightforward and nothing to be afraid of. Try the following experiment.
When the hopelessness becomes unbearable, try to simply mentally observe it. Pay it attention and watch it, without any thoughts. Would it be fair to say that after this, it’s brought down to size a little? Just stopping ruminating and instead drawing your thoughts to the feeling immediately causes it to diminish!
But that’s not all.
You start to see that these are simply emotions, which, like to your headache, aren’t connected to your true self. You see that you don’t have to be led by them, they become less real and you stop identifying with them.
Sad and happy events don’t exist in an of themselves – what does exist is your response to them. You can change your emotional reaction to these events and start to see them in a different light.
Take your pain as an ‘emotional hangover’ which will end sooner or later. Allow the feeling to go itself!
For some people an actual hangover can be very horrible and give rise to such depression that they feel they’re going to die or that everyone has turned their backs on them. They might blame themselves for all the world’s problems. However, these feelings are all still the result of their hangover.
The same can be said of your feelings of loss and despair. All the thoughts of wrecked hopes are simply temporary symptoms of your ‘sickness’. There’s no need to try to affect or stop them in any way. Just pay them a little less heed, and they will pass by themselves.