“Love is a gift.” Isn’t that what we’ve always heard?
But what happens when someone rejects our gift? When we’ve given them our love, and they decide to return it or exchange it for something (or someone) else.
Now we have all this love—this unwanted love. Often we hide it away or put it on a shelf, allowing it to become neglected and dusty. Maybe we try to forget it. Or maybe we take it out and try to give it away as fast as we can to anyone who will take it.
Is there a refund policy? Is there a way to re-gift our love when it’s not wanted by our intended recipient?
Is it possible to feel the giving of love without attachment to the outcome? For instance, we can give a birthday gift and neither know nor care if the recipient keeps it or enjoys it or takes it right back to the store. Once it’s given, we’re no longer concerned with what happens, because the gift was given freely in celebration of that person.
Can we do this with love?
A few months ago, I gave my love to someone who didn’t want it. It wasn’t just a return to sender type situation. It was more of an exchange. He didn’t want to accept my love, but he did want to accept someone else’s. He was never honest about it, but it’s like that tacky Christmas sweater we were once given that we casually gave away, so we’d never have to wear it. I didn’t have to be told that he’d given my love back to get something new. These things have a way of coming to the surface.
When I found out that he didn’t want my love, it hurt. All of a sudden, it wasn’t “I’m not ready for a relationship right now”—it was, “I don’t want a relationship with you.”
Afterwards, I kept wondering if love really is a gift. Because it doesn’t feel like one when we’re dealing with rejection. Or perhaps I’m struggling to accept that the gift was handed right back to me, because I’m too attached to the outcome. Which begs the question: how do we detach from the outcome when it comes to the gift of love?
How do we make love feel like a gift again? How do we remove our attachment so that it becomes a gift given freely?
I’m not some guru with all the answers. Sure, I used to work as a therapist, but that doesn’t mean I know everything. All I know I’ve learned from my own experience and my own inner work. Here are a few tips that might help you view love as a gift again. May this list be of benefit to you!
Love in the moment. It’s like that song by Meghan Trainor says: “I’m gonna love you like I’m gonna lose you.” We need to make our love more mindful and present, and a little less future-focused, because we aren’t promised anything more than the moment we are in. Loving in the present may help us avoid attachment to the outcome because we are focused on the now.
Love without expectation. Honestly, this one is tough for me. It’s easy to feel disappointed when we give away our love and come back empty-handed. Love is a feeling that sometimes aches to be shared, but if we can find a way to make our love one without expectations, we can turn it back into a gift freely given. This love is one that makes our partner feel free, that attaches no strings to the gift. It simply is.
Love more. When we get hurt, our reaction is often to shut down, to try not to feel as much. Perhaps to help love feel like a gift we need to love more rather than less. We can live in love, sharing it with everyone we let into our lives. And when we fall in love, instead of trying to deny it or hold it back, we can fully express it and feel it.
When I last fell in love, I immediately went into a panic, because I didn’t expect it. It was too soon in the relationship, and frankly I didn’t want to fall in love with someone who would so clearly never love me back. So I started with denial and then moved on to hiding so he would never see my feelings.
I don’t normally live with regrets, but I think I may have been better served just to love him. No panic. No worry about the outcome. No denying. No hiding. Just loving.
We should allow ourselves to feel love, and give it away as often as we can, because we cannot truly be depleted from loving someone else, even if it feels that way once it’s over.
I’d love to say that these three practices can magically turn love back into a gift, and that we’ll never be hurt again when we’re rejected, but I can’t say that. What works for me might not work for you, and I can honestly say that I have to work on this again and again. But if we want our love to be a gift, and we want to let go of outcomes and attachments, we have to try and find a way.
So this is me, just trying—loving now, loving without expectation and loving more than I thought I was capable of doing. Because the love itself is what matters.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: Rob “Berto” Bennett/Flickr
Editors: Nicole Cameron; Yoli Ramazzina