[Photo: free image iStock_000021076536Illustra]
Yea. That. If you’ve been through it or are going through it, you’ll know it’s pretty shit.
Most of us have been through it at some point in our lives and it can happen at any age. It doesn’t discriminate against backgrounds, cultures and languages etc. It is something any human being can feel. And that feeling is something you never forget. An exquisite agony and longing for someone who doesn’t return your affections. We don’t always know how it starts. Whether it was a chance meeting, seeing them from across a room, a work colleague, a close friend you’ve known for years or a beautiful stranger who takes the same train as you every day. Anyways, paths cross, and at some point, slowly it starts to happen and before we know it we are turned upside down, jolted to a halt, the breaks slam on and we re-evaluate everything with a sense of new awakening. Like some divine intervention. And then comes all the wonderful feelings of excitement, energy, adrenaline, love and fantasy. We become stuck in this romantic cocoon of love, mushy happiness and wear rose-tinted spectacles ignoring every bullshit thing they do to us and we put the object of our affections on a friggin’ pedestal. We see ‘signs’ everywhere confirming we are meant to be together and coincidences just keep happening further cementing this stupid idea that we found our soul mate, The One, our true love. And at some point, it all comes crashing down. And it will believe me. It’s just a matter of time. Then comes the gut-wrenching, heartbreaking pain. The reality. The loss. It hurts sometimes worse than real physical injuries. We look and feel stupid. I cried every day and night for three months until my eyes were red raw, puffy and I resembled some mutant frog. And really, we’ve only got ourselves and our obsessive crazy minds to blame. Why? I’m still trying to work that out.
I know only too well the pain of unrequited love or was it infatuation? Who knows? Aren’t they the same thing? I guess we idolise and fall in love with the image we project in our minds; of how things could be. We watch ourselves like we are watching a film. We play the lead role. Germans call that Kopfkino, we’d probably call it daydreaming. I’m guilty of doing that every day. I live in my head constantly.
Whether it be reminiscing old flames and childhood memories, dreaming up chance encounters or re-enacting movie scenes with the object of our affection, we tend to cherry pick favourite moments, gloss over past problems and ignore the evidence in front of us. We are so desperate to feel loved, to hear, read and see love from that person, to experience those ‘highs’ of love, that we blind ourselves to the actual reality of the situation. It doesn’t help though when they lead you on. When they keep you hanging off the bait, teasing you and playing with your emotions and when they keep coming back like Jasper does in ‘The Holiday’ making you crazy.
I’ve had school crushes before. I’ve had that crazy teenage obsessive thing with Leonardo DiCaprio where I collected everything on him, about him or that starred him. I’ve had adult crushes. But full-on infatuation or unrequited love that stopped me dead in my tracks and turned my life upside down? Well, that happened just once, in 2015.
During the most experimental, crazy and emotionally dramatic year and a half of absolute bliss where I felt on top of the world, when my fire and passion were reignited and where I felt my life suddenly had purpose and direction again, I was plagued with doubts and simultaneously, it was the worst time in my marriage for my husband and I. Was it love, lust or infatuation? Was it real? What was I doing?! I read every psychology article, blog and book out there. I tried to figure out my head and feelings. I analysed everything. And I was emotionally cheating which inflicted much pain, guilt and hurt on both my husband and I. I thought I knew what love was. What was this? I still don’t even know. Love has so many levels and comes in so many forms that I don’t know anymore which love we are supposed to have for marriage. Infatuations, according to many psychologists, last only half a year but unrequited love, well there’s no time limit on that. That depends on you.
I’ve known this crush for over ten years and I first met him one month before I met my husband so that was always something that tormented me. Was I supposed to be with him because I met him first? There was always chemistry but he lives in the States, I’m in Europe and he is always moving around with the military so over the years we only shared some online flirting and banter across social media. We always knew our limits and respected that we were in relationships with other people but in 2015 barriers were broken and we dared to cross that line. I never dared to risk so much before, I’ve never let myself fall completely and I never felt so much love and energy as I did back then. And consequently, that feeling became my addiction. I was high and I wanted more.
I was honest with my husband. As soon as I stepped over the line I had to confess and I realised we had serious problems in our marriage. I hate clichés and stereotypes and I get mad at people who end up having affairs because they can’t communicate in their marriages. And I’d just become the cliché I so hate. I thought we were different and suddenly an affair was starting to happen. It crept up and I was no different. (Side note: I never saw my infatuation in person, I never kissed him, I never slept with him. I just had a year-long texting and Skyping relationship with him). But despite trying to work on the marriage, I wanted something else. I wanted someone else. My heart wasn’t in it anymore and my efforts were not 100%. This “I’m in love” feeling I felt was nothing I had felt before. It was so strong that it changed my whole outlook on life. It woke me up and jump-started my life which I didn’t realise had become stationary for quite some time.
Unrequited love is a little like an addiction. We enjoy the highs, that feeling that we are in love, but it is one-sided. It happens in our own heads and bodies. Addictions are not contagious to others. We can’t share them. We all experience love and addictions differently. It’s personal and unique. We can control our addictions if we want to though. It just takes willpower and a reality check but it’s letting go and giving up the highs that make addictions hard to kick. Fantasising and daydreaming are addictions I enjoy. I can dream up wonderful beautiful things to escape the hard realities, stresses and worries of everyday life.
But an addiction is actually avoiding the truth. Addiction is just a means of escape. It’s procrastination, distraction and time wasting at their finest. It’s a substitute for something missing in our lives. It’s not making the problem go away, it keeps us in the same situation we are in, sometimes making it worse. It doesn’t improve our lives and ultimately can have negative consequences where we end up alone, isolated and lose love, trust and the respect of our friends and family.
Unrequited love and addictions though can sometimes be useful. They can teach us about ourselves. They let us go inwards into our own psychology and experiment. We can try to understand why we do the things we do, what makes us tick and what things we want and need in life. They show us what we are into and likewise highlight what is missing in our lives. But we need to keep them in check. We need to be able to realise our boundaries and recognise when we are losing our grip. They should be temporary and act as guides steering us through life. We shouldn’t be hung up on the substance that we are addicted to but look at using that substance (temporarily) to move forward closer to the goals and dreams we want. To making active changes to regain control and balance. We should re-channel that energy we invest into actually make things happen.
The trouble with me is I daydream too much.
I love watching in my mind how I see my life play out but it doesn’t bring me closer to achieving those things. It wastes time. If I invested the amount of time I spend daydreaming into actually working on my writing, I might have been a lot further forward in my writing career by now. Daydreaming may give me insights into things I enjoy but that’s all. Because if my experience has taught me anything, it is that my crushes have been the worst people and treated me like crap and brought nothing but heartache and misery. Why? Because we actually were not on the same wavelength. We didn’t have much in common and we didn’t click. Because they were liars, their morals and values were not in line with mine and because people got hurt. And sometimes fantasy is just that. Just fantasy and real-life is different. Flirting online, social media and trendy apps may give us a sense of feeling closer to someone but it masks much. You can spend hours chatting online but in person, you struggle to keep five minutes of conversation going and you are puzzled as to why. We are becoming more reliant on technology to help us create a perfect surface image that we forget how to connect to one another through conversation, sharing hobbies and being honest and real. When you connect in person you are learning and seeing that person on a deeper level; peeling back the layers. Rather than fantasising about life and the dream partner we think we’d be great with, we should just be living life. Actually doing it. Being active. Asking that boy or girl out, finding out what they are into and testing the waters. That way you’ll stop dancing around the Mulberry Bush wondering, “what if” and you’ll know and can deal with it and move on.
Oh and here’s a reality check: not everyone is going to love you. You ain’t all that special to everyone and you can’t make everyone like or even fall in love with you. And that’s OK. Deal with it. I wouldn’t want everyone to love me. That attention and harassment would be annoying. It doesn’t mean you’re not great, it means that that person you like isn’t great for you. But someone somewhere out there will love you for exactly who you are. You just gotta’ find the right jigsaw puzzle piece that fits you. Have faith, don’t panic and don’t settle for the wrong person out of fear of being alone.
With unrequited love, some of us go back to our “happy place” or the times where we had the most fun, felt young and carefree. We try to find old crushes and flames because we associate those feelings of carefree fun with those people who were present at the time. We try to recreate that to restore those feelings we miss. We are nostalgic and don’t like the unknown. We like to go to people and places that make us feel safe. But it’s a false sense of security. We shouldn’t open up past doors. That just opens up a can of worms. We need to live in the present and look at the future. We learn from the past; we don’t relive it. That’s my rule now anyhow. I think of it as a glass wall. No door to open but you can go back and view it. If we go back to our past and stir things up, then we are only damaging those past memories if things don’t work out. We end up making fools of ourselves, get hurt and then those memories that once were happy and carefree become tainted with pain, regret and embarrassment and friendships are damaged beyond repair. As we age we become different people. Our needs change and what we used to consider important usually changes, too.
What we need to focus on are the messages those fantasies and that unrequited love are conveying. What is it deep down you really want? Is it the person or are you missing certain feelings or lifestyles? Can you pinpoint what you need? You can make most things happen all by yourselves; you don’t need a relationship for that, it isn’t up to someone else to give you those things. More often than not our crushes never give us anything we want or need anyway. They donate a little attention and we lap it up and run a mile on it thinking it’s the best thing in the world. They drip feed us attention and we are still starving. Find someone who gives you their love wholeheartedly who you don’t need to beg. If they are into you, they will make it happen. If it’s not happening, move on.
Most of our confidence, happiness and contentment come from within. Where ever you are in life, know that you are not going through unrequited love alone. We’ve all been there and some are still struggling. What you need to figure out though is what you need to do to break your addiction and how to move on. Oh and allow the same amount of time to fall out of that love as you spent falling in love. For me, it’s been about 1.5 years falling in and 1.5 years falling out of unrequited love and I can finally say, (in a Kate Winslet, The Holiday, mimic) it’s over! I’m done being in love with him. The infatuated love, the anger, hurt, sadness that came after are all gone. I feel absolutely nothing and I feel free.
Looking back, perhaps it was survival.
I wasn’t in a good place and financially we were drowning. We hadn’t achieved much other than living hand to mouth and getting through each day. I was unhappy and as the saying goes, “when poverty comes in through the door, love goes out the window”. Despite being positive and upbeat, you can’t keep laughing your way through troubles. After a decade, you just burn out and become numb. Eventually, bitterness, anger, frustration, sadness and worthlessness take over the house where once love, hope, energy, happiness and laughter resided and those things destroy relationships. My infatuation was a wake-up call. A catalyst to get my arse into gear, to change my life around before it’s too late and to finally take the wheel and drive. It gave me Gumption. In the end, after sobering up and analysing my actions and feelings over the past 3 years, I think I fell in love with myself, not the guy. My addictive highs were loving how sexy and confident I felt. How I lost 2 dress sizes within 4 months and how I had so much energy. I fell in love with the idea of actually becoming the woman I wanted to be; a strong confident, successful woman and for the first time I really started to understand who I was, who I am and I started to fall in love with that person. She’s pretty awesome 😉 The idea of being loved by my crush was amazing (didn’t happen though) but ultimately, it was the possibility of changing my life around and finally achieving things I wanted to that got me moving. The year and a half wasn’t a waste of time as it showed me so much about what I want and where I am going but regretfully it caused pain and sadness to my husband who despite everything I put him through, after the unrequited love bubble burst, stood by me as my friend and comforted me as my heart broke and our marriage ended.
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