Unrequited love is a painful, strange, one-sided affair that can make us feel vulnerable and undermine our happiness in a number of ways. Loving someone that doesn’t love you back is agonizing and it leaves you stuck with torturous emotions that are hard to overcome. Worse than that, it can prevent you from loving yourself, and prevent you from connecting with the true love you’re looking for in this stressful and chaotic life.
There are no guarantees in love.
When we think of love, we think about it as this ethereal thing that just to happens to us — like a lightening strike or a hurricane. We act as though we have no control over our love and we let it come and go (and wreck our lives and our wellbeing) as it pleases. Love is conscious choice we make, not a magical gift that’s bestowed upon us. It takes work to make love blossom, and it always takes effort to keep it around.
Unrequited love occurs when you have strong romantic feelings for someone that does not return those feelings (Bringle, Winnick & Rydell, 2013). It’s a one-sided experience that leaves us suffering with pain, grief and shame and it has plagued lovers through the ages. If you’re someone that struggles with toxic ideas of attachment, then you might find yourself paired off with someone who doesn’t love you in the same way that you love them. It’s important to identify this imbalance, however, and address it so that we can build the future and partnerships that suit us.
True love, when we finally recognize it for what it is, is all about choosing to accept and support someone in the life choices they choose to make. There're no limits to it and no condition. Loving someone can be easy or hard, depending on what we make of it, but it’s a long game that’s a steady hand and commitment.Good love should never take more work than you can happily give — and f that’s where you’ve found yourself, it might be a sign you’re dealing with a partner who’s heart isn’t in it like yours.
How to tell they don't really love you.
Sometimes, we are completely blinded by the words someone feeds us or the actions they give us, which can mask their true intentions. When someone doesn’t truly love us, however, there are a number of concrete signs that could signal the end and a bright new beginning.
Their words have no meaning
Someone who is lying about their love for you will still feel emotionally distant (even if they say that they love you…all the time). This is because their words don’t match the emotions they feel inside. They can’t bond or connect; they struggle to let down their walls, and they always fail to dig in for the hard stuff when the going gets tough. Even when a partner tells us that they love us, their actions can often demonstrate a different truth. True love means being there in word and in deed. If your partner doesn’t have the actions to back up their “I love you,” then their words are empty.
They aren't really concerned
When we’re in love with someone — truly in love — we think about them often, and we wonder how they’re doing and we wonder how they’re getting on. This concern for them exists whether they’re in the picture or not, and it doesn’t end just because they make us mad, disappoint us, or otherwise part from us. Someone who is faking their love often struggles to fake this concern, leaving their partners “out-of-sight-out-of-mind” whenever there’s some physical distance (or it fits their personal desires and purposes).
They demean or insult you
When we truly love someone there is no room in our relationship with them for dismissals, demeaning behavior or insults. Because we love them, we show them respect. When that respect is missing, however, communication breaks down and negative behavioral patterns come to take charge. A partner who does not love their other half will fail to show respect when things get tough, resorting instead to mean insults any time a confrontations is engaged.
They aren't worthy of trust
Loving someone means, inherently, that we can trust the other person. When someone loves us, they understand that they hold a piece of our wellbeing and happiness in their hands. They take this responsibility seriously, and will go out of their way to make sure their partner knows that they are safe and secure. Failing to trust your partner, or feeling as though they are untrustworthy, can be a sign of insecurity. But it can also be a sign that you’re tangled up with someone who doesn’t have your best interests at heart.
They pull you away from real love
Social isolation is a major warning sign in any toxic relationship, but it can also be a sign that you’re dealing with someone who would rather control you than love you for who you are. This type of behavior can start small, but it can increase to become an all-encompassing obsession that leaves you completely bereft of support when things get tough with your partner. It’s also an abusive type of behavior and a signal that your partner has more on their mind than building a mutually happy future.
They never show up for you
Support is one of the most important facets of any relationship, and it’s also one of the biggest indicators that someone loves you truly and for who you are (Braxton-Davis, 2021). When someone cares for us they want us to be happy, and that means supporting us as we go after the careers, and pastimes and dreams that bring joy and fulfillment to our lives. If your partner always fails to support you, or if they belittle or discount your dreams, they don’t really love you. And, chances are, they never will.
How to let go of someone that doesn’t love you.
Coming to the realization that you’re in a relationship with someone who doesn’t love you is hard, but it’s also a beautiful and powerful thing too. Having this knowledge empowers you to make radical changes in your life for you and you alone, allowing you to fall in love with who you are…and the future you want for yourself. (Author’s note: It’s important to remember that these techniques may not be applicable to all situations. If you or someone you love are dealing with an abusive relationship — professional or experienced assistance might otherwise be needed to extract yourself from the relationship.)
1. Allow yourself to see the truth
The first step in any journey is figuring out where you’re going. Before you can address your issues with your partner (and decide how you want to address your relationship with them) you have to figure you where you’re at in the moment, and where you want to go. This takes digging deep, and it takes making some brutally honest comparisons between what’re we’re living now, and what we want our futures to be.
Create some temporary space to clear your head, and spend some timee alone with just a journal and your thoughts. Make a few lists, the first of which should address how you’re feeling right now in the moment and why. Next, describe your ideal relationship, and what you want your relationship to look like 10, 15, 20 years from now. Those lists in hand, make a third list; and this time, record exactly what your relationship is like now and how it makes you feel.
Stop kidding yourself about the quality of the relationship you’re in, and start embracing what you really want and what you really need. If you need someone who is physically and emotionally there for your more consistently than your partner is now, embrace that and start accepting that need for what it is. There is no right or wrong when it comes creating our ideal relationships (short of setting out to intentional hurt others). Be honest with yourself and get real and why you’re unhappy in your relationship so you can start to plan a way forward.
2. Have the hard conversation
Before you make any moves, it’s important to communicate (with respect) where you’re at with your partner and what you’re thinking…even if they aren’t capable of doing the same. Opening up a dialogue is key in both enhancing our relationships, and shifting them into different stages. When a partner doesn’t love us the way we need them to, we have to let them know and we have to do so clearly and effectively.
If it’s safe to do so (and if it’s worth your time) — open up a dialogue with your partner and let them know where you’re at. Share with them how their behavior makes you feel, and give them space to reply with their own explanations or reasonings. Even though they aren’t justified in dismissing you, or belittling you, or leading you on, they still have a right to know what your issues with them are.
Avoiding accusatory language (“you do this..” or “you do that…”) and instead focus on how you feel and the type of needs you have. Rather than holding them accountable for hurting your feelings — detach — and tell them instead that they, at this point and time, don’t have the type of emotional support that you need for yourself. Make it about you and leave them out of it entirely. Think of it like a job interview, and don’t shy away from the harder details if they’re weighing heavily on your heart.
3. Create more space for yourself
Once you know what you need, and once you know — in no uncertain terms — that you’re dealing with someone who doesn’t love you, you have to severe ties. This severing of ties can look different (depending on the circumstances) but it’s a necessary clearing of space that allows you to make room for the people that will love you in the way you need. Whether you cut them out completely, or you shift them to a different place in your life: in order to be truly free and happy, you have to let them go.
When the time is right, cut ties with your partner and let them know that it’s time to seek different shores. Communicate clearly how you’re feeling, and let them know what needs you have that have moved you to that decision. Remember, accusatory language isn’t helpful here. Keep it to the facts, and only say the things that need to be said…even if you’re dealing with someone who lowers themselves to insults or belittlement.
If you’re someone who’s dealing with an especially abusive or toxic partner, make sure you complete this step in a manner that’s safe for you, and with the help and advisement of professionals or experienced social workers. It’s can also be important here to rely on the support of family or friends, and it might be crucial that you include them in this step. However you decide to proceed, remember that you safety is key.
Putting it all together…
Finding ourselves in relationships with partners who don’t love us back is a hard battle to fight. Whether they’re just confused or they’re maliciously stringing us along, it makes little difference to our feelings and the pain we feel when we’re dealing with someone who demeans, belittles us or otherwise denies us the love we need in a romantic partnership. If you’re dealing with someone who doesn’t love you, steel yourself and find your way to a future that’s yours and yours alone. There is someone who is out there who will love you, but you have to create space for them to open the door.
Take some time to figure out how you’re feeling and use this to engage the process and the journey that comes next. Embrace your relationship for what it really is, and accept the reality of what you really need from a partnership. When you’re ready, open up a dialogue with your partner and let them know how you’re feeling. Avoid accusatory language, but remain open and honest. Slowly, create space between yourself and your partner, and follow the energy of the process. Trust yourself to make the right decisions for you, and reconnect and re-engage with the people and pastimes that bring you joy. Not every person is meant for us, but there is someone out there for each of us (if we want them). Find the right person for you by letting go of your attachment to a person who doesn’t love you back. Severe the ties and nurture your soul before it’s too late to turn back.
- Braxton-Davis, P. (2021). The Social Psychology of Love and Attraction. Retrieved 22 June 2021, from http://scholarworks.gvsu.edu/mcnair/vol14/iss1/2
- Bringle, R., Winnick, T., & Rydell, R. (2013). The Prevalence and Nature of Unrequited Love. SAGE Open, 3(2), 215824401349216. doi: 10.1177/2158244013492160
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