What does the romantic mean when he says, “I love you”?
- It could be: “I will always be faithful to you.”
Or: “I’ll always love you, even though I’m seeing other people while I’m still involved with you.”
Really, it depends on his relationship framework, and what he and his lover expect in a romantic relationship. The couple may be monogamous or polyamorous — and either way they can still love each other and proclaim that love to each other. But how can this be when monogamy and polyamory are complete opposite ways of loving?
Because love has absolutely nothing to do with relationship style.
Love is stronger than that. Bigger than that. More capable than that. It’s not bound by rules or obligations or even commitments. It’s not bound by anything.
And it’s not reduced to a feeling, though as a feeling it is very strong. Love is a verb, not a noun. It is an action. It is something you do. It something you choose. And when you truly love a person, you don’t ever stop loving them.
When you love another, you accept them unconditionally and you respect them. You wish for their happiness and growth, for what’s best for them — even if it has absolutely nothing to do with you.
What is unrequited love?
“A mighty pain to love it is,
And ’tis a pain that pain to miss;
But of all pains, the greatest pain
It is to love, but love in vain.”
– Abraham Cowley
There is no such thing as “love in vain,” because love is never so vain as to expect something in return.
Any “love in vain” is not love, but codependency, or the compulsion to have another person validate your own self worth, happiness, and personal freedom. This is impossible, which makes it indeed one of the greatest of all pains.
Real love, true love, is unconditional. When loving parents consciously bring a child into this world, they don’t see their child as being obligated to repay them. They brought their child into this world unconditionally, wanting the best for their child — no expectations attached.
This doesn’t mean that unrequited love is only an illusion — it is a real experience when you feel that you have loved without receiving any rightful love in return.
But let’s stop right there —
- – You’ve loved without receiving any rightful love in return. Your love is technically unrequited.
Okay. Yes, that may hurt. It may make you jealous. It may make you cry. It may make you wish you never met the person at all. It may even make you want to close yourself off from loving another again, for fear that your love will go unrequited.
The gifts of unrequited love
But sometimes it’s a good hurt
And it feels like I’m alive”
– Incubus, “Love Hurts”
But after a while, when your heart has grieved, you will remember, and you won’t deny — that you still love the other person.
You still accept them unconditionally, you still respect them, and you still wish for their happiness and growth, for what’s best for them — even if it has absolutely nothing to do with you. And it takes confidence and self-love to want the best for the person even though you are out of the picture.
When you realize this, all of a sudden it doesn’t matter if they return your love. It doesn’t even matter if they know you love them. All that matters is that you had the opportunity to love them, and you took it. You loved fearlessly, without expectations. You had the courage to make yourself vulnerable. And you can count your blessings for having been gifted their presence in your life, no matter how faint or short-lived it was.
You learned what love really is, and why it is so easily misunderstood, by Hollywood and a society wretched with dysfunctional beliefs about love and relationships.
Two valuable gifts of unrequited love
1) Unrequited love humbles us to remember that true love can only ever give. And that loving another is something so satisfying that it is a gift in itself.
2) Unrequited love challenges us to question and change our codependent illusion that we should ever expect someone to love us. It shows us to instead self-center on creating our own happiness, freedom, and self-worth from within.
In other words, we can transmute the painful feelings of rejection into deeper gratitude and greater self-confidence. How powerful is that!
So if you find your romantic self feeling unrequited, take the time you need to grieve. It may hurt for a long time. (And the longer it takes, perhaps the more self-healing that awaits you.)
But when it stops hurting so much, you’ll have two gifts by your doorstep — wrapped and bow-tied, with a red rose, just for you.