3 Ways to Be Happy in Unrequited Love

By definition, a non-reciprocal love is one-sided. But the experience itself doubtless embodies two sides. On the upside, you’re enthralled, enchanted, charmed and captivated by the beloved. The intensely glowing passion you feel is spectacular, exquisite, sublime. And indescribably exhilarating. The “in love” high is unlike anything you’d ever experienced (unless—hauntingly—you’ve been there before). As one writer opined: “If only the strength of the love that people feel when it is reciprocated could be as intense and obsessive as the love we feel when it is not, then marriages would be truly made in heaven” (Ben Elton).

Of course, the downside of unrequited love is every bit as intense, replete with agonizing feelings of isolation, misery, hopelessness and despair. And the torturous feelings of being “all alone” in your ardor can in a flash send you down—way down—from your glorious high. When, with incredible force, you’re struck with the mournful realization that the one you adore is not—and will not—make themselves romantically available to you, you can be overtaken with dismay.

So what if there were some way you might actually retain the awesome highs of your passion while obliterating—or at least softening—those terrible lows? That’s what this post is all about, and I’ll describe three ways that could help you free yourself from the torment of non-reciprocated love.

1. The Spiritual Path: Many of my ideas here are derived from the writings and lectures of Robert Thurman, a Tibetan Buddhist philosopher and professor at Columbia University, who was also a personal student of (and ordained as a monk) by the Dalai Lama. His notions about love and intimacy represent the highest ideal. And though it may be unrealistic to think that you could unreservedly apply these understandings to thoughts about your beloved, it’s definitely something to aspire to.

I’ve long believed that most psychological maladies relate to one’s self-absorption, and Thurman’s key contention is that you can liberate yourself from emotional suffering only by transforming your focus from “self-preoccupation” (equivalent to my preferred term, “self-absorption”) to “other preoccupation.” Here you no longer, egocentrically, devote yourself to pursuing your personal happiness, but the welfare and happiness of the beloved.

2. The Earthy Route: If, realistically, the road to happiness for you (and yes, even when you’re dealing with unrequited love) can’t be found through spiritual transcendence, this alternative will doubtless feel much more practical. It mostly revolves around, well, fantasy; “make believe.” And—strangely complementing the spiritual alternative—this strictly “imagined” remedy for solving your romantic dilemma might be viewed as another, more erotic form of transcending reality.

Restrained only by the limits of your imagination, you can visualize what you’ve come to realize can never actually take place. And the success of your fictional portrayal of happiness with the beloved will hinge on your ability to create a parallel universe in which all conditioned inhibitions and constraints (both practical and ethical) that might apply—both for you and the person you so treasure—simply melt away. “Vanquishing reality,” as it were, can enable you to see in your mind’s eye the two of you making the most unbridled, passionate love to each other.

3. Combining the Sensual with the Spiritual: Your ability to accomplish this feat will depend primarily on how much self-detachment—or self-dis-interestedness—from your beloved you can muster. How much you can leave your ego-centered desires behind and altruistically focus on their happiness and well-being. To do this, you have to fully embrace the fact that your two life paths simply weren’t meant to cross. You must move beyond your self-absorbed wants and needs and genuinely wish them the best of everything—totally for their sake, vs. your own.

Obviously, to the extent that lacking a loving partner has left you feeling achingly empty, or your very neediness precludes your valuing their needs above your own, genuinely accepting the one-sidedness of your love will be impossible. But if you can learn how to be “enough” for yourself, you can continue to love them, painlessly, from afar, and make that sufficient for you. And in this case, you can actually count yourself fortunate in having someone to eternally, joyfully, and erotically idolize—unless, that is, “persevering” in such a love negatively affects your present-day relationship.


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Love Magazine: 3 Ways to Be Happy in Unrequited Love
3 Ways to Be Happy in Unrequited Love
Love Magazine
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