I’ve got this great self-correcting feedback mechanism for unrequited love; it goes something like this: if I’m into you, I think you’re just the cat’s ass; thing is, I’ve got enough self esteem to know I’m pretty awesome too, and if you haven’t got the good sense to recognize that, well that shows a considerable lack of judgment on your part and how can I possibly admire someone with such a significant character flaw? Ta-da! End of crush.
So I have to say I was surprised to find when I was at a party playing around with fortune telling cards (taken from a group of cards called “The Love Pack” …pausing for a moment to allow B-52’s Love Shack song to get fully stuck in your head) to pull the Queen of Unrequited Love. Figuring unrequited love may be more than just me crushing hopelessly on some fella, I started to think about unrequited love in all sorts of dimensions.
There is, of course, the good harmless crush, which first and foremost is great practice for having those hummy falling in love feelings without actually having to risk anything – I love you Corey Hart! (or at least I did when I was 14, I am so over you now). That puppy love, where you can just enjoy and admire someone with no reasonable expectation of it going anywhere. In my more mature crushes (or at least more recent ones) I’m also finding that what attracts me to someone I will never actually date can often be things I’m seeking out in my own life (see: Your Beauty Must Be Rubbing Off). I once had a crush on a guy who was warm, kind, active, outdoorsy, made a living helping people… and when I realized the attraction was going nowhere I also realized what I saw in him was practically a road map of where I wanted to go in my own life. It really had very little to do with him.
I think crushes become unrequited love and create suffering when you shift from dreamy thoughts to latching on to expectation and need. As someone who has spent more time on the dump-ee end of relationships and less on the dump-er side of things, being on the receiving end of an unrequited crush is a foreign and really uncomfortable thing for me. I had the occasional time in my spin at internet dating where I could feel some guy latch on to me, wanting so much, needing to express so much, that it would really make me backpeddle and want to say: “Whoa dude! Whatever it is you think you need, I don’t have it; you have to find it for yourself.” Or less diplomatically: “Run away, run away!” The thing is, that kind of unrequited love not only causes the lover suffering in their unfulfilled longing, but for a recipient with any kind of sense of what is going on it sticks them with the burden of a need they cannot fulfill. Icky, sticky place to be. And the part I really can’t get is how someone could persist in projecting feelings onto someone, wanting deeply from someone, without any kind of return of affection; that seems like a decidedly unloving thing to do to yourself. Don’t you deserve better than to keep wanting something from someone you will never get?
So, dreamy, visioning, harmless crush kinda thing = good.
Pining, yearning, can’t live without you unrequited love = bad.
With that in mind I feel compelled to look critically at my current unrequited crush – well, still not sure of the unrequited part, but definitely ill timed – what with launching this web site, trying to write with sincerity, and bucking up the courage to follow my dreams, I’m doing just about all the emotional risk-taking I can handle right now. The dating stuff is kind of back-burnered in my world right now, regardless of where said crush may be at. But I do have to ask myself not only whether my affections (even if I’m choosing not to act on them) are likely being returned (if also not acted upon) or if I’m getting to the point where the self-correcting mechanism is gonna have to kick in; but also what impact are my feelings having on said crush. Am I attaching desires and hopes to this guy? What am I drawn to anyway, what does that say about my life right now and what I’m needing in it?
I’m pretty sure that Jerry McGuire line “you complete me” is one of the creepiest concepts going. I’m certainly not interested in being the missing card for someone sad about not dealing with a full deck. Buddha’s “work out your own salvation” is more my style. That said, as I shake off years of growing up in a post-feminist era where I learned women had to be STRONG and INDEPENDENT, I’m recognizing it isn’t always about me alone, but sometimes how I am in a relationship and what I learn from that interaction. I’m still trying to find that balance between recognizing no one is an island unto themselves, and no one is just half of a pair of chopsticks either.
And I don’t know whether this crush is just part of me learning more about me, learning to understand and love myself more; or part of a beginning, learning to share and bond and play well with a partner; or some lovely, mixed up combination. I don’t have a lot of answers right now, but I’m exploring just being present with the feelings I have and not having to do anything about them, whether I’m the Queen of Unrequited Love or not.
More on the not being crazy while in love at The Truth About Hearts and Flowers.