Hopeless Romance, Not Just for Masochists Anymore: Tips on Dealing with Unrequited Love

by: Johnny Gall

Readers,

Someday—most days, if you’re like me—you may find yourself in a tricky situation. You may be in love with someone who does not, cannot, or will not reciprocate. Perhaps you’ve had the ill fortune of falling for a straight person; perhaps you’ve timed it wrong and gotten attached to someone who is already in a serious relationship; perhaps your choice for object of affection is simply uninterested in you; or, if you’re like me, perhaps you just have very high standards and are cautious about making the first move, but you still have to be in love with someone at all times. Because it just makes life better.

In any case, this period of one-way romance can be a scary and confusing time in a queer’s life, and it has the potential to really embarrass or devastate you. But, as IOW’s resident desperately single person, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be all bad. Hopeless romance is not just for masochists anymore. Yes, it will torture you. Beyond belief. But, to some degree, so will any two-way romance.[1] And anyway, nursing a way-too-serious crush can, at times, be strangely fulfilling.  So here are my tips for navigating your own unrequited romance without driving yourself crazy.

Use Your Imagination

Dealing with a one-way romance has one very obvious drawback: it only goes one way. The second party will not return your affections, and you’re effectively dating yourself. But, if you’re going to be dating yourself anyway, there’s no reason not to make the best of it, and to this end, dating yourself is the best part as much as it is the worst.

One of the few perks of imaginary dating someone is that you don’t have to be confined to the boring personality of an actual person. Fake-lover can be whoever you want them to be! You never have to have a fight; they’ll never frustrate you by tickling you mercilessly while you’re trying to get to sleep[2]; and you’ll have the best imaginary sex, because—being a part of your psyche—Fake-lover already knows exactly what turns you on!

Yes, there are certain limitations. Your fake-lover will not hold you at night, or, you know, actually show you any affection. But with a little creativity, you can let that adorable face of theirs fuel fantasies only contained by your own mental limitations.  Your imagination, in this case, is your most useful tool at making the best out of an awkward situation. So use it. Construct the most elaborate fantasy relationship you can and, in some ways, it can be better than the real thing.

Don’t Be So Obvious

There are actually two routes you can take regarding your Fake-lover’s awareness of the fake-relationship you’ve drawn them into. You can either be completely open and honest about it—letting the object of your affection know of your interest, with the reassurance that you understand that it won’t happen and you’re not going to push it—or you can behave like a normal person and prevent Fake-lover from knowing about your interest at all costs to save both of you from pretty serious embarrassment.
Should you choose the former strategy, just remember not to lay it on too thick. Let Fake-lover know you think they’re really cute and that they’re a really cool person, but that you respect their indifference. Each expression of admiration should be paired with two respecting-your-boundaries comments, just to be sure. And by no means should you ever say anything along the lines of, “if you change your mind.” It’s petty. They already know you’re interested, if they change their minds, they’ll still know where to find you without you coming off as pervy.
Should you decide not to disclose your burning desire, just make sure you can do it well. If you’re a queer with a long history of closetedness, you should already know pretty well how to keep your real affections a secret. If you’re a queer who—like myself—has an unfortunate biological disposition towards blushing under the most flimsy of pretexts, you might need to work pretty hard. In any case, you should be watching your every move around Fake-lover, because crushing is a lot like masturbating: if you intend to get discovered it might be embarrassing to the other person; if you’re accidentally discovered it will definitely be embarrassing to both of you.

Soundtrack at the Ready

Do not listen to love songs. They will make you miserable, because they will only remind you of what you don’t have. This can be challenging, because most songs that are not break-up songs are love songs. But you can enhance your experience considerably is you find those songs that are more in-tune with your situation.
I’m not saying you need to make a playlist of 150 songs like I have, but maybe have a few at the ready for when they’re called for. Some favorites of mine are “You Don’t Know Me” performed by Ray Charles, “On My Own” from Les Miserables, “Annie Waits” by Ben Folds or “Lovefool” by the Cardigans.

Watch the Stalking

Hiding outside of someone’s window is not cool, readers. Most of you already know that, because most people already know that, but still, plenty of folks are driven mad by desire and find themselves swimming in the deep end of the creepy pool.  The best possible strategy is not to stalk your Fake-lover in any capacity. But if you’re overcome by that burning desire to know more about them, my best advice is that consent is just as essential to unrequited romance as it is to two-way relationships.  So, is Fake-lover consenting to have someone digging through their trash? Usually not.

Is Fake-lover consenting to let you read all of their facebook posts in excruciating detail? If they’ve added you, then yes! Most likely, the things they post on social networking sites are for the public eye, because they’re being broadcast in a public forum. So browse away, and keep praying that all those see-who’s-viewing-your-profile things continue to be fake spam.  Is Fake-lover consenting to you saving the Kleenex they used, and doing some kind of voodoo on it to make them like you? Definitely not.

Is Fake-lover consenting to let you stare at them as they work as a barista? You’ll usually be able to tell, because they’ll usually notice you being awkward and creepy, and you’ll get scowls. But, assuming you abide by the yes-means-yes model—and you should—a warm and inviting smile will let you know they don’t mind your attention, creepy though it may be.

The point is, your new Fake-lover may not mind sharing some details with you, but if they really want you in their underwear drawer, the romance is probably no longer unrequited. So you should only seize upon those details your Fake-lover feels comfortable sharing with you, wherever that line is. And just know that crossing that line means crossing the line between kinda-cute-creepy and restraining-order-creepy. And you don’t want to be that person.

Keep Your Distance


Gauging the intensity of your unrequited romance can be tricky, but also vital to your own well-being. Because, let’s be honest, I’ve been sugar-coating this whole time, readers. You’re in a really shitty situation, and no imagined pirate-romance is going to make that feel any better. Unrequited love can often feel quite miserable, and yet quite hard to abandon.
With this, I like to remember President Snow’s comments from the film adaptation of The Hunger Games: “A little hope is effective; a lot of hope is dangerous.”
Your fake-romance may, at times, make your feel nice and give you something to look forward to, because of that small flicker of hope that things might actually go your way. If you hope too much, though, you will almost definitely be let down, and you don’t want that.
So remember that your Fake-lover is just that. Never get so wrapped up that you neglect your actual love life, and never let yourself hope enough to get in the way of your chance with a real person who’s actually interested.
Yes, on rare occasions, you might be able to sway that other person, but all too often you won’t, and you don’t want to let your devotion to an unrequited love get in the way of someone you might actually have a chance with.  Because, even though there’s a small chance you’ll end up like John Cusack, and hold that stereo up long enough to convince them of your devotion, the odds are much more likely that you’ll just end up like Duckie. And nobody wants that.

Johnny Gall is so, so very close to completing his B.A. from NYU in English and Creative Writing. He has hopes of moving on to seminary, and then to ordained ministry and works with several groups which advocate queer equality in the Methodist church. He is a feminist, anarchist, person of faith, part-time librarian and an all-around good guy.


[1] Or possible 3-way, 4-way, 5-way…..n-way romance. Love can be frustrating with any number of people.

[2] You know who you are.

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