The Problem of Unrequited Love

A few months ago my friend shared with me an interesting thought from an article about unrequited love offering a hypothesis as to why we all fall victim to it eventually. The article said that perhaps it’s because it helps us identify with the Cross (Oh, did I mention it was a Christian article? :) ) Loving someone who can’t or won’t love us back breeds familiarity with an act of love so deep and incomprehensible shown to an audience who at worst, couldn’t care less and at best, fails regularly at offering it in return. I thought about that and God’s inconceivable capacity for nursing a broken heart. Not yours, don’t be selfish. I mean His own. How exhausting it must be to continue offering love to people who can’t help but hurt themselves, each other, and Himself. So we love without being loved in return, and it hurts. Maybe because it mirrors the way God loves us, maybe because we’re just flat out insane. In either case, the difference between us and God is that at some point, we have to stop. I’ve been thinking about this too because I have a lot of trouble stopping. Countless long ass crushes over the last two decades have really driven that point home for me. And I’ve watched a lot of people have trouble stopping as well. Maybe it’s not a chronic condition as it seems to be in my case, but most people have had that oneeeeee person they just could not shake. And if you haven’t, honestly you can go fuck yourself.

If anyone’s been watching Bachelor in Paradise at all for the last couple years, you’ve at least seen this at work between Jared and Ashley I. I mean there are obviously a whole host of other issues going on there that would fill an entirely separate blog post, but we can all identify on some level with homegirl’s struggle. Wanting someone so badly who, for whatever reason, just does not want you back. And feeling like despite reason, despite being painfully aware of their position, maybe even despite them being an obviously bad fit, you cannot stop hoping. “Maybe they’ll change their mind! Maybe they’ll come around! It only takes one thought to give this a different ending!”

I’m a pretty big believer in the idea that “we were all made in God’s image and in His likeness” (The Bible). Not necessarily with regards to our specific bodies — although maybe, who knows — but I think the way He operates is reflected imperfectly in the way we operate. How we seek connection, how we’re curious and creative, how we are angered by injustice and also show tremendous capacity for mercy and forgiveness, and yes maybe how we continue to love and go after people who are telling us “no”.

Have you guys ever heard of StrengthsFinder? It’s a personality test that gives you a list of your top 5 natural abilities, things that come easily to you. There are strengths like “Activator”, people who are really good at starting projects. Or “Relator”, people who are good at making others feel comfortable and known around them. When I think about the ways God is reflected in us, I think about this list of strengths because I feel like God has all of them. One of my top strengths is called “Restorative”. It’s the problem-solving one, I loveeee a good problem. Big problem, small problem, theoretical problem, emotional problem, give it to me and I will try my damndest to help you solve it.

Recently I watched a video going into more depth on this strength and the speaker noted that the thing about people with Restorative is that they firmly believe no problem is unsolvable. No situation is too complicated, no person is too damaged or too far gone, everyone and everything can find healing and restoration if we work at it enough. Sounds like God right? It’s a beautiful picture of redemption – my problem though, is that I am not God. So I have this desire to endlessly offer myself to these people and problems when I don’t possess the capacity to do so. God can do it. God can chase forever after toxic people (which is all of us to some extent btw), even as they wound Him time and time again. I on the other, much more mortal, hand have to set a boundary. Which is hard, I battle against it constantly. Caught in this tension between pursuing a natural passion to help and fix, but having to respect my own limitations if and when the situation becomes unhealthy. And I think that’s the hard thing about deciding to end an unrequited love, we have boundless hope again that maybe something will change. Maybe they will change and grow. It’s beautiful, but at the end of it, we just don’t possess the capacity for that kind of pain. God does. Let Him chase those people. We have to learn to call it quits and throw in the towel when loving someone comes at our own detriment.