Unrequited Love: How To Cope When They Don’t Love You Back

Unrequited Love

Unrequited love is basically the story of my young adult life (and even in my professional life; with friends, and heartbreakingly, toxic family members as an adult. I don’t share this from a victim mentality whatsoever).

It’s written about in books and poems; there are countless songs about unrequited love, and it has been depicted in television shows and movies for as long as both have been available.

The heat really gets turned up around the holidays with the holiday movies and songs that essentially romanticize this disaster of a situation and then instill HOPE in the viewer that if their value is high enough, the love can be requited.

My main problem with love that is unrequited is how glorified and romanticized it gets. It is depicted more as the “norm” as far as foundational settings go for an epic/fairytale romance than an environment that is highly problematic, unsustainable, not romantic at all, and not your fault.

Instead of being expressed as a situation that should launch you into a hunger for reciprocity and mutuality, it seems that, for the most part, the complete opposite is portrayed.

Unrequited Love Definition. What Is Unrequited Love?

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines “unrequited” as “not reciprocated or returned in kind.”

When love is not returned, it is one-sided.

Mutual and reciprocal adult relationships are not seesaws. They cannot survive on one-sidedness.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I’ve had a one-sided relationship of any kind, it hasn’t been that great! Nor has it been uplifting or enjoyable. It has ultimately been a shameful, draining, embarrassing experience that initiated a brutal and unfair inventory where I picked myself apart on every superficial level. (Then, because I felt so ugly and rejectable, I’d make more terrible relational decisions and become a total clinger).

With all that being said, it’s easy to assume that knowing whether or not love is requited would be totally obvious. This isn’t always the case though. And it has personally caused me a great deal of confusion, humiliation, and self-hate. I will cover both sides.

It’s essential that you know what to look out for.

Straightforward Examples of Unrequited Love

  • You’ve fallen in love with someone who is simply unavailable to be in a relationship with you. This could mean that they are already in a relationship, are married, are a coworker (and it would jeopardize your job if you dated them); they’re way too young/too old (according to YOUR value system – there is never any judgment here as long as the law is not broken), etc.
  • You’ve developed intense romantic feelings and are convinced that you’re in love with your best friend who you know, does not, or would not feel the same way.
  • You want to get back with an ex from your past that has moved on in a way that would make romantically reconnecting impossible.
  • You’ve developed intense romantic feelings for a character on a television show, a real-life celebrity, or someone in a position of power who is “unattainable” to you. 
  • You’ve developed intense romantic feelings for someone who is in a relationship with a friend or family member of yours.
  • You’ve fallen in love with someone who you know does not feel the same way. 

5 Signs of Unrequited Love When It’s Not So Straightforward

Sometimes, you just don’t know. Or, there isn’t a very blatant and obvious roadblock that solidifies it as unrequited love.

Here are the top five signs to look out for when the situation is not as straightforward as the above bullet points. These signs may seem obvious. But when we are in the thrones of intense romantic feelings, it’s hard to admit/accept these signs that the heart wants to blind us to.

1. The person that you desire is more boundaried around you than others.

You’ve gotten to the point where you’ve expressed or even hinted at your feelings for this person. Your energy around them is obviously different than with others (whether you’re nervous, shy, or more direct and intense). And they seem squirmish, uncomfortable, and as a result, become even more boundaried around you.

2. They flirt with other people around you or talk about how they are attracted to others around you.

You feel ignored; almost like they want you to see them flirting with others – whether that be in-person or technologically.

3. They ask you for dating advice in scenarios that do not include you. 

And there’s always an excuse that you have ready to go for the obvious wrongs. You also feel very desperate when around them; like you never have enough time.

4. In your eyes, this person can do no wrong.

5. You make all of the efforts.

This is frustrating but you keep telling yourself that you just have to work and try harder; that you have to be better.

Bottom line, if someone is into you, they will equally invest.

None of this is meant to vilify the person you desire. It is absolutely wrong if they take advantage of you and exploit your feelings for them for their own personal gain. But many times, these are people who have healthy boundaries and, in some cases, no idea how deeply you truly feel.

I know there are always exceptions to every rule and that holes can be poked in literally everything. But in my opinion, unrequited love has more of an aspect of being in a longing, limerent state than one of true love.

This all became habitual for me. And I wasn’t able to cope with the other person not loving me back until I identified the origin of it all.

The Root Cause

For me, it had so much more to do with my own un dealt-with trauma and feelings of inadequacy than it ever did the person I was hoping to ride off into the sunset with.

I had developed a habit of finding myself in situations of unrequited love because it was safe.

It was much safer for me to give to someone that on some deep down subconscious level, I knew would not and could not be with me. It was also, much easier for me to build up, believe in, cling onto, and pedestal someone else because I didn’t know how to do those things for myself.

Unrequited love was so addicting because it allowed me to experience all of these feelings and give my love away, without any REAL risk or “unknown.”

It was a respite from having to deal with REAL connections, REAL situations, REAL rejection, and REAL relational circumstances.

It was so much safer and easier to love a projection than have to deal with my own dysfunction (and the challenges of a reciprocal relationship with a real, non-fictional person).

The reason why unrequited love is so addicting is because of the level of escapism it provides. Escapism, in my opinion, is the hardest “drug” to get off of. It is the root of addiction, and getting “clean” demands attention to a painful reality that can no longer be ignored.

How to Cope

It was really hard for me to cope when I found myself having to come to terms with the truth of a one-sided situation because the story I had been subscribing to could no longer work. It STILL hurts when I find myself getting back into this very familiar dynamic of clinging onto someone or something (a professional opportunity, wanting family to be who they’re “supposed to be,” etc.) that is unrequited.

Coping with unrequited love requires a tenderness WITH and love and compassion FOR yourself that, if you had an abundance of, there would never be a toleration for one-sidedness of any kind. 

For me, the best way to cope was to heal.

And healing started with feeling all of the shameful feelings associated with becoming something that I didn’t want to be (a clinger).

It started with taking a compassionate look at how certain traumas in my childhood primed me to be attracted to hopeless and impossible situations where I would tie my whole worth to someone seeing in me what I could not see in myself.

If you find yourself in situations of unrequited love, please know that there is nothing wrong with you. All you are doing is outsourcing the very love, admiration, attention, and compassion that YOU need to give to yourself.

The more you compassionately redirect and remind yourself of reality, the more self-respect and self-love you will build.

And the less interest you’ll have in one-sidedness.

Written by: Natasha Adamo

If you’re looking for further and more specific help; if you’re tired of waiting to be chosen and ready to choose yourself, personalized coaching with Natasha Adamo is the answer. Book your one-on-one session today.

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Author of Win Your Breakup, Natasha Adamo

About Natasha Adamo

Natasha Adamo is a globally recognized self-help author, relationship guru, and motivational speaker. With over 2.5 million devoted blog readers and clients in thirty-one countries, she is a beacon of inspiration to many. Her debut bestseller, "Win Your Breakup", offers a unique perspective on personal growth after breakups. Natasha's mission is to empower individuals to develop healthier relationships and actualize their inherent potential.

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