Poets have written about it. Singers sing about it. Even Kate Winslet muses about it in the 2006 movie The Holiday: “And then there’s another kind of love: the cruelest kind,” she says. “The one that almost kills its victims. It’s called unrequited love.” According to Tal Yardeni, a breakup recovery and dating coach, unrequited love can come in different forms.
“It can be a one-sided relationship where usually one person is the pursuer and the one being pursued does not have the same feelings toward the pursuer,” she says. “It also shows up as a situationship, which is one of the most painful types of relationships as there’s no room for the relationship to evolve any further.” It can also show up as a crush that doesn’t go anywhere or holding a torch for an old flame who’s moved on.
And while it’s common to experience a one-sided relationship or infatuation, it can be something worth looking into if your relationships all tend to be unrequited. Because everyone deserves reciprocal love, Yardeni shares why you might tend to fall for one-sided relationships and the best way for you to kick the habit once and for all.
What are the reasons behind unrequited love
We might love the “will they or won’t they?” push and pull in rom-coms or in our favourite love songs but Yardeni says that narrative has definitely tripped us up when it comes to understanding what a healthy love looks like.
“There is this notion that we need to be fought for or fight for a person,” she says. “We will be the ones to change this person. And if this person doesn’t change for me, then I must not be good enough.”
Not feeling “good enough” is also tied to our childhood patterns and wounds that Yardeni says also plays a part in our dating life. “It really is drawing on childhood wounds that usually results in a level of feeling unworthy,” she explains. “So what happens is because your nervous system has gotten used to these types of tumultuous relationships, there is a sort of comfort in the familiar, even if it is painful.” For example, Yardeni says if you grew up in a home where you felt like you had to perform for attention, this could show up as getting good grades, striving to be the best so that your parents would acknowledge you, “then as an adult you will seek this out in your romantic relationships. You will almost make it your mission to be their desire. And unfortunately, you will be let down by them, thus making you feel like you’re not good enough and you must be the problem instead of seeing it as a person’s incapability to show up in the way that you deserve.”
Signs you have a pattern of unrequited love
According to Tardeni, there are a number of signs that you have a pattern of unrequited love, including:
- You tend to fall for people who are emotionally unavailable and therefore unable to meet your needs. “They’re always down for a good time but the second you get a little vulnerable, you open up, you might be looking for support, they shut down and or disappear,” Yardeni says. “They are not equipped to deal with other people’s emotions.”
- You are the one that puts in most of the effort. “You are overly available, all things are planned around their schedule and their conflicts, and you are happy to accommodate.”
- You feel like you have to fight for love. “The more distant they become, the more you try to make yourself more available, which just continues to push them away,” Yardeni says.
What to do if you have a pattern of unrequited love
Letting go of an unrequited love is easier said than done. However, Yardeni recommends a useful strategy: getting curious while dating. “The other person is giving you information left and right but what happens is we see what’s in front of us and we start to justify it in our heads,” she explains. “We might think, ‘it’s not that bad,’ or ‘they’ll change,’ or ‘I’ll be the one to change them.’ The one thing I always say is that we are not in the business of convincing. If someone is showing you ambivalent behaviour, you never really know where you stand, and are just downright not treating you in the way that you’d like, in the words of Arianna Grande, ‘thank you, next.’”
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