There is something sadistic about that childhood game with the flower petals. He loves me, He loves me not. Picking off the last petal and having the verdict be a ‘love me not’ was the end of the world in the school yard. Yet when maturity kicks in, ripping up and burning that flower seems almost satisfying.
Unrequited love is a fact of life. It’s been adapted by popular culture in movies like Harry Potter and Nicholas Sparks romance novels, but when it comes to reality a bee couldn’t provide a more painful sting.
Falling in love is simple. The same applies for falling in love with someone that’s probably not the best fit. The fun and games are over when rejection gate crashes the party.
Kograh dating guru and psychologist Jessica Revill believes that humans are social animals. Jessica works with hopeful romantics at Heart Menders Psychology wanting to find success in the whirlwind world of dating. Rejection from a love that is unrequited has the potential to send one into distress. Their behaviour is likely to change, especially if a person is already affected by an unrelated mental health disorder.
“The effect of this can be a good deal more severe and may trigger anxiety or depression,” Jessica said.
Beyond Blue have several online spaces for those struggling with their emotions sparked by unrequited love. Forums and counsellors are available from those struggling to come to terms with rejection and its emotional turmoil. Society’s expectations are tough, and there’s added pressure to avoid cats as the years go on. At least cats make their unrequited love obvious.
Kate Duarte thought she had met the love of her life. It didn’t matter how harsh the text or how cold the shoulder, she thought she had met her prince charming. In hindsight she realises she wasn’t his princess. She loved him. She would get all of the butterflies and hitched breaths that come with it.
It was like walking on ice. It would eventually crack. It did.
“I still think about how I shouldn’t have loved him.” – Kat Duarte
The relationship turned sour and Kat came to the realisation that loving someone who couldn’t feel the same way back wasn’t worth the hurt. She directed her energy elsewhere and left him behind. With it came a period of mourning and loss, but eventually made Kat stronger.
“It hurts but it makes you realise reality isn’t perfect,” Kat said.
There is a buddhist phrase used in buddhist circles that says:
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn how to ride them.”
Jessica believes the western approach to loss differs significantly. The western style aims to alienate any sort of pain as quickly as possible. This eliminates the benefit of learning or gaining significant insights.
For Kat she recovered because of the realisation she came to. She didn’t see the use of loving someone who admitted he didn’t feel the same way.
“The recovery was realising I wasn’t a toy,” Kat said.
Although being rejected is rough, having to be the burden of bad news is just as difficult. Having to say no is no easier than have to hear it. Having someone express feelings that can’t be returned means having to find a way to let them down. It could ruin a friendship or create an ugly war. This is exactly the conundrum Lauren Ferri was faced with when a close university friend revealed his feelings to her. She was stumped because it was an admission she hadn’t foreseen.
“My way to cope with things it to ignore, which is unfortunately what I did,” Lauren said.
This didn’t make the situation disappear. Her admirer turned up the heat, persistent to turn unrequited love into more. Lauren eventually decided that she needed to try another approach and confronted the situation. It was a lengthy conversation built on courage and apologies. Lauren felt like it had to happen. She couldn’t lead him on. He was persistent. He showed up on her doorstep begging her to change her mind. It went further downhill following the late night rejection.
“It’s heartbreaking. I didn’t want to hurt him, but I inevitably had to.” – Lauren Ferri.
Lauren confided in her friends, leaning on them for support and for help with what to say. It was a fearsome task having to tell someone she didn’t have feelings for them beyond friendship. It meant breaking a heart.
“I knew what it was like to be heartbroken and I hated doing that to anyone else,” Lauren said.
In experiences where unrequited love ends badly, loss or grief is a common emotion. Jessica understands the process to be dependent on the person and their own trajectory of grief. She believes the psyche seems to know that a break is needed when assault to an ego or major adjustments occur.
For Lauren the friendship didn’t survive. An air of awkwardness seemed to follow the pair. Hurting a friend was the last thing Lauren had wanted to do. As a result she has had to adjust and suffer pain. However, she believes that it was necessary to do, otherwise her friends feelings could have gotten stronger and the pain of rejection could have been more severe.
“We aren’t really friends anymore. So, I guess there is that sense of loss,” Lauren said.
The heart is a fragile muscle, however the main concern is the impact having it broken could have on mental health. The recovery process may not go smoothly for some, impacting the ability to bounce back completely. The condition of self-esteem will predict resilience following rejection.
Jessica says that people suffering from loss may have down periods or moments where they think they’ve recovered. The pain eases and it may feel like the end. When the pain returns it hits like a relapse. It works in waves. That relapse is a distinct part of the healing process.
“If loss of this kind persists, it can indicate conditions such as depression. In these cases, professional advice should be sought,” Jessica said.
Getting back up on the horse is easier said than done. There is no time limit set in stone as to when getting back into the dating game is expected. It could be the next day or next year. It’s down to instinct. There is something to learn from unrequited love, with resilience proving to shine through.
So whether you’re ready to stomp that flower into the dirt, remember your “he loves me” could just be on another flower waiting to be picked, possibly in a different garden all together.