None of our lives exist in a Disney kingdom or in the swells of grand orchestral music at the end of a traditional rom-com, which is to say that unrequited love does not all of a sudden turn requited even if we really wish for it. A good friend of mine once said to me while I was in the throes of one of these unreciprocated crushes, “you’re never going to meet someone else if you continue to pine for him.” This is true. In the movies, you don’t have to, because your person always comes around. They either get jealous when they see you with someone else and realize they love you, or you have so many good moments together it finally hits them in a blinding flash that you are the perfect person in their life.
Any one of us in this position can understand all the painful aspects that come along with it. But recently I realized that there is a positive side. I know, I know, it sounds improbable, but hear me out.
I’ve always thought that real love meant that you wanted the best for someone even if it’s not with you. Sometimes easier to say that with good intentions than actually live it, but I still find it to be true. Having feelings for a guy who only saw me in a platonic sense, while frustrating for the duration, still leaves me with that thought about him.
If I set aside unrequited feelings, here was a person who let me come to him when I was hurt, excited, happy or sad. Listened to me when I wanted advice on how to proceed on work matters, or issues with other friends or dealing with a tragedy in my family. He allowed me to ramble nonsensically about anything and everything. Complimented my work, boosted my confidence on the low days and joked with me on the good ones. It was a friendship, off balance because of my feelings, but imbued with caring on both sides.
We knew each other’s families and I knew his asked after me the same way that mine did for him. And it felt good to know that in spite of it all we had still carved out a place in each other’s lives. That still felt special. Part of me even then felt that if you couldn’t get someone to care about you the way you wanted, should you really discount them if they obviously did care about you as a friend?
I think it’s because a long time ago I decided I would try to always find the little kernel of good inside any situation. Even the most heartbreaking and devastating, my coping method is to attempt to find that one glimmer of something that will get you through to the other side. It’s so hard though because when you’re in this kind of situation wouldn’t it be so great and simple if you could just break up with that person? There were so many times I wanted to say, “hey I know we’re not dating, but I want to and you don’t, so we’re breaking up, ok?”
Instead I did a version of breaking up which was to quietly distance myself and focus on not leaning on him so hard. He noticed but thankfully didn’t push too hard when I claimed I was crazy busy for work. It was the right thing to do because over time and having that space I gave my attention to myself and eventually other people which led to me investing in a reciprocal relationship.
I learned that it’s ok to not always get what you want, but that doesn’t mean we need to demonize the other person for not feeling the same way. But most importantly I learned that I first need to do what’s best for me, even when it hurts. And what was best was stepping away from someone who was causing me to convince myself that I was content in this unrequited state. Because facing otherwise meant giving him up as my constant, even though he wasn’t my boyfriend.
So even to this day I don’t regret a moment of it. I still smile when I hear he’s had some kind of success, and I know he does for me. He’s just no longer the first person I would run to with my news. Loving him taught me that you have to pick up and keep going when things aren’t going your way without laying blame anywhere. Usually laying blame or a clean break is the impetus to get over someone and move on, and none of that existed here. Instead of anger, there was just quiet disappointment, which was my burden to bear. Quasi-relationships will always have the most blurred lines, and sometimes that’s why they’re the ones that hurt the deepest, but teach us the most.
[Image via NBC]