One-way devotion, or unrequited love: when you love someone with all your heart but they don’t love you back. Sometimes they don’t even appear to notice you. Why do we fall for people who won’t or can’t love us? What can we do when our love is unreturned?
According to an article written back in 1998, “Motivations for Unreciprocated Love” by Aron, A., Aron, E. N., & Allen, J., there are three kinds of one-way love:
- A crush on someone. A typical crush means that you look up to someone; that they appear to be out of your league – they could be older, or seem to be smarter, or better looking, or more popular than you. They may be in a relationship with someone or even married.
- When you are uncertain of whether it might progress from friendship to a romantic basis. You like this person, you’re pretty sure they like you, but, gah! How can you get from the friend zone to the love zone?
- You enjoy loving from afar. In fact, you prefer it. You get to indulge your fantasies, enjoy the feeling of being in love, yet if the object of your desires turned out to be human with human flaws and failings, you’d be deeply disappointed, so better to keep love at a distance. It’s the feeling of love that you love, not the person.
There is also, without doubt, a fourth kind of one-way love: when a relationship breaks up because one partner is unhappy. The partner who has been left behind still loves their ex and can’t understand why they needed to leave.
Why Do We Experience One-Way Love?
Many people believe that love must be mutual or it is not love. Anyone who has experienced unrequited love know that it isn’t like that – the feelings are real and very painful. Yet, loving someone you don’t know, or who discounts you as a person, is not what true love is. In fact, it is likely you believe that you are not complete without that other person. That they are all you need to become a whole and happy being. This couldn’t be further from the truth. No-one can make up for your perceived lack. No-one can be expected to fill the gaps in your psyche. That is called ‘neediness’.
You can only come from a place of love if you feel whole to start with. Placing such high expectations on another person means that they are doomed to fail. That any relationship that does develop will be under enormous strain from the start.
Signs of Unrequited Love
- You fantasize about him or her. You imagine your future together. Yet you have never exchanged more than a ‘Hello’.
- You are up one minute and down the next. Your emotions are all over the place. Life is wonderful. Life is crappy. It depends on whether you saw your crush, whether they ignored you, smiled at another person. Any of those small things can make or break your day.
- You exaggerate their positive qualities until they are, in your eyes, a perfect being. You refuse to acknowledge they have flaw and failings like everyone else.
- They are friendly to you but there is no warmth there as there would be from someone who is keen to take it further.
- You convince yourself that you can change their mind about you. That if they would just give you the chance, you could impress and wow them. This feeling may border on obsession, so be careful.
- You neglect other relationships in your life because this one is just too important. It consumes you. It outshines all the others. Friends get bored and fall by the wayside. Your parents worry about you because you are so distracted.
- You engage in self-harming or other damaging behavior. Your self-esteem disappears, you have feelings of worthlessness. You must seek help. Speak to a teacher, a parent or a health professional. You cannot allow this to continue.
How to Deal With Unrequited Love
The first requirement, of course, is that you really want to get past this uncomfortable state of one-way love. Some people don’t want to do that because they have invested so much time, energy and effort into it. This particularly refers to the ‘love from afar’, fantasy kind of love. Mostly, though, feeling deep love and not having it returned is heartbreaking.
One-way love is unhealthy, especially if it continues over time. It affects your self-esteem, your confidence and your perception of yourself as a success or failure in the area of relationships. Most people experience crushes when they are teenagers; it’s a natural and normal part of life, and they are quickly over it. However, when crushes turn into long-term obsession, or repetitive behavior, they become all-consuming and damaging.
How to Get Over a Crush
It depends if your crush is single or not. If s/he is with another person, you really need to let it go. Decide to live a great life despite him or her. Only by living well, engaging in life and having fun will you get past this.
If your crush is available but not noticing you, then get closer. Be a little flirty, but make yourself hard to get. Don’t go out with any of his or her friends. Your crush may be intrigued by this sassy girl or that charming guy (you). They’ll want to get to know you better.
How to Move Past the Friend Zone
This is a tricky one because you will have built up all these barriers in your mind. Carry on as you are but throw in a few meaningful looks or deep (but short) stares. Get a little flirty, but don’t overdo it. Let your hand brush their arm. Let your friendly hello and goodbye kiss linger a little longer. All you are trying to do is plant the seed that this might be something more than it already is.
How To Deal With Fantasy Love
You probably don’t want to give this one up, do you? If it’s bothering you then you have to get yourself into the real world. Get off your computer or phone and get out and about. Think about doing some voluntary work – you never know you might meet the real love of your life.
How To Get Over an Ex
There have been scads of articles and books written, and videos made, about how to get over your ex. The only advice we can give you is to accept your feelings of hurt, pain, and loss, and decide that despite them, or because of them, you are going to turn your life around. You know that you are worth loving, so go out there and be that person. If you don’t feel ready, then ‘act as if’. Pretend. Sooner or later, you will realize that you aren’t pretending anymore.