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Unrequited love—we’ve all been there, and it never seems to get any easier.
The ache keeps us in such a deep state of longing that we almost forget what life was like before the object of our affection.
When in the throes of unrequited love, it can seem near impossible to understand what has happened. One moment we are happily going about our single lives, the next we feel like our heart has been cut out with a pair of garden shears. Our hearts, for one reason or another, decided to fall for someone who would not be able to fulfill the task at hand.
Of course, this is no smooth sail, our self-worth and ego can be kicked around and bruised by such a painful outcome, and lead to feelings of hopelessness.
However, I’m here to tell you that precious lessons can be learned in such unfortunate circumstances.
This complex experience can teach us some fundamental truths about ourselves:
1. It reminds us to love ourselves before another.
When someone is either unavailable or does not reciprocate our feelings, we are forced to hold ourselves—tightly.
Forced to look within, we instinctively look to soothe ourselves. For some, this could look like a couple of glasses of wine or a few tubs of ice cream. For others, a warm bath, and a movie while snuggled up on the sofa is just what is needed. How we choose to self-soothe is not important, but the act itself is.
We realise that people will come and go, moments will flicker past us, but we will always have ourselves. No matter how devastating the rejection or disappointment of a love that will never be, the light radiating from the connection and love for ourselves will never dim.
We are never truly alone, the unconditional love from within is far greater than anything outside of us.
2. We gain a deeper understanding of ourselves.
Longing for that special someone can remind us of what sets our hearts well and truly on fire. Is it unapologetic honesty? Raw vulnerability? Does someone’s intense passion for life light us up? The beautiful traits we adore in others highlight what our values are, but also how we can be our best selves.
Each of us look for certain attributes in potential partners, these guide our attraction and lead us to develop feelings. So, the funny, vulnerable, and caring person we are pining for is representing what is most important to us—how beautiful!
It makes sense why unrequited love can feel so painful when these people we are falling for are connecting us to our deepest desires.
3. We have to let go and accept that what is meant for us will not pass us.
How many of us have spent hours daydreaming about how our lives could be with this person, only to have to throw those dreams straight into the bin?
So many of us (myself included) have a scarcity mindset, meaning we really do feel like there is only one fish in the sea for us. We may love everything about this person and truly feel that we are meant to be—despite their current relationship or their uninterest in us.
Truth is, we may be right. In several years, we may encounter this person again and all our dreams may become a reality, but it’s also possible we will simply move on with our lives without a future ever materialising between the both of us. This person may not be the person we are meant to spend our life with, because there is someone ever more suited to us out there.
By letting go of what we think should happen, we create room for what is truly meant for us.
4. We learn to be grateful for people and things without needing to possess them.
When our love is not reciprocated, we have to learn to admire from afar. We cannot smother another person or cross boundaries. We simply have to allow our appreciation to flow through us, and this can be painful.
However, isn’t it beautiful how much another person can affect us? Gratitude is a wonderful feeling to experience, and in this kind of situation, can be a really positive way to deal with disappointment. Allowing ourselves to feel grateful for having met this person and for our feelings, can release a sense of calm within us, as opposed to anger or bitterness.
Another person has made us feel a new kind of alive, and not everyone may experience that in their lives. We can be grateful without needing to hold onto people or things, which is an important lesson to learn.
5. It highlights our vulnerability and courage.
There is no pain quite like unrequited love. The feelings of rejection or disappointment can be overwhelming and make us question our worth.
Whether we have verbalised how we felt to the person we have fallen for, or we know that a future is not possible between us, we have been brave. We have leant into our feelings and welcomed them even when the outcome is not promised. We have been authentic and vulnerable.
It’s not a small thing to allow ourselves to feel when the risk is so high. To have the courage to explore unknown depths should be celebrated, regardless of whether we come out whole afterward.
“Vulnerability is not about winning or losing. It’s having the courage to show up even when you can’t control the outcome.” ~ Brené Brown