Loving someone who doesn’t love you back is excruciating. But being loved by someone you don’t love can be just as heartbreaking.
It’s been called a lot of things: unrequited love, the friend zone, one-sided love, etc. But it all boils down to one idea: only one person is in love.
It’s a good premise for a romantic comedy, but we all know how it usually ends in real life. So many people fall in love with someone who won’t return their affection, yet they still push on, hoping for a miracle. We’re not saying that it’s impossible; lots of people fall for the people who loved them first. That’s how human emotions work. Give enough love, and it’ll come back soon enough, right?
The problem starts when you don’t feel the same way about the person who loves you. In time, it might change… but the present situation is what it is, and cannot be changed at will.
Why don’t you love the person who loves you?
There are a multitude of reasons why one person might not express the same feelings as their admirer. They might have had a traumatic experience that keeps them from opening up to someone new, for instance.
They might be in love with someone else who doesn’t love them back, as well. Now, isn’t that ironic? They might be dealing with their own insecurities, which, in turn, prevents them from letting other people in.
Perhaps they just don’t like the person who loves them. It can be that simple.
What does it feel like to be loved by someone you don’t love?
You’d think it was a wonderful feeling, knowing that someone is willing to give their heart to you without anything in return. Objectively speaking, most people will sympathize with the love-struck fool, while they crucify the person who was reluctantly placed on a pedestal.
The truth is, most people don’t consider what the other party feels in this sort of situation. They only see the suffering of the one who’s giving all the love. Here’s what’s really going on with the person who can’t seem to fall for someone who’s head over heels for them.
#1 It’s a burden. Being loved is all well and good, but being pressured to love someone back can be emotionally taxing. You’re carrying the weight of their affection, but you’re not enjoying the benefits of it.
#2 It makes you doubt yourself. You second-guess why you’re not developing feelings for a person who loves you. Is there something wrong with you? Are you a bad person? You’re not. You’re just not in love. [Read: How to master positive self-talk and banish negativity]
#3 It makes you guilty. When pushed, you might consider actually agreeing to your admirer’s proposal because it’s the “right” thing to do. Remember, though, that there are no winners in that type of situation.
#4 It pains you to see them like that. Yes, they might be hurting because you don’t love them, but it hurts you, too, knowing that you can’t ease their pain.
#5 You find ways to make them stop loving you. You start fights, become a brat, or treat them like crap. In order to avoid being an asshole by rejecting your admirer outright, you inadvertently become an asshole by pushing them away at all costs.
#6 It’s difficult to push them away. They love you. You can’t change it. Neither can they.
#7 It’s hard to let them go. Their love for you starts to become your security blanket. Their affection starts to make you feel safe and cared for. The only problem is… you’re not willing to do the same for them. [Read: Ways to reject someone and what to expect afterwards]
#8 You think that no one else will love you if you leave them. You start to think that maybe this is your last chance at love. It makes you think that it might not be a good idea to search for something else, when it’s already there.
#9 You feel validated because someone loves you. Your ego has been fed so much that you fail to see that you shouldn’t be dependent on someone else’s affection. You feel needed and wanted, but it’s not by the person you need and want.
#10 You feel like crap because you can’t give them anything in return. Knowing that you can’t return the sentiment makes you feel like the worst person ever. It’s not your fault, but it sure feels a lot like it is, especially when people start trying to guilt trip you into giving your admirer a chance. [Read: 20 signs you’re a people pleaser and you don’t know it]
#11 It feels awkward. You can’t convince yourself to feel any romantic feelings toward this person, so everything you do with them feels like a skit or playacting, leaving you feeling strange and out of sorts.
#12 You’re torn between wanting them in your life and letting them live their own. If you keep them around, it feels like you’re stringing them along. But if you make it clear that you can’t love them the way they love you, you’ll end up breaking their heart, and you’ll still be the bad guy. Lose-lose.
What should you do?
It depends on what your intentions are. Are you staying in contact with your not-to-be lover because you want to see things through? Or are you staying out of a misguided idea that you’re saving them? Is it out of guilt? Are you feeling socially pressured? Any negative feelings associated with the situation should be acknowledged and addressed.
When it’s a bad feeling, you’ll know that you shouldn’t be in the situation. If it feels good to spend time with someone you care about but don’t love, it’s okay; just make sure that you’re very clear and honest about where you stand. They should know that you are not in love and have no idea when or even if you’ll ever fall in love with them.
If you’re in love with another person, you should stop leading your admirer on. If you want to see other people, tell them that it’s over and that they should find someone else. It seems easy in the context of a how-to article, but we know that it’s not. When feelings are involved, there’s no easy way to break bad news.
Just know that your honesty is worth more than the effort you put into keeping the peace and placating your guilt.
Will you ever fall in love with this person?
The truth is that we don’t know–no one does. People fall in love when it’s right. No one can quantify or verify whether it’s already happened or not. Just know that loving someone means being able to see past the selfishness and egotism that comes with being liked.
Although it feels good to be adored, it shouldn’t come at the cost of someone else’s well-being. If you ever do fall in love with the person who loves you, just know that they wouldn’t have fallen in love with you if you weren’t worth it.