by: Kara Crawford
Being in love with someone who doesn’t reciprocate your feelings can be complicated and incredibly messy. Yet, it’s not that uncommon of an experience – particularly for people who tend to fall often, quickly, hard, and/or for friends. The way luck would have it, I turned out to be a mix of the four, which makes avoiding awkward situations with imbalanced perspectives on the nature of a relationship almost impossible.
It’s easy to feel burned and defeated or to have low self-esteem when this is the case. However, there are alternatives to either sucking it up and dealing with it or emotionally closing yourself off to the world.
Seriously. Flirting is a fun and harmless act in almost all cases, so as long as you’re attentive to circumstances which might make flirting problematic, there’s nothing stopping you.
What you’ll want to be attentive to, though, are two to three reactions. The first is that of your crush. You want to make sure that they are comfortable with it. Some people like the attention; others would rather not have people cozying up to them if they don’t reciprocate the interest. Secondly, be aware of their partner’s reaction, if they have one. Chances are their partner could be okay with the flirting, but only to a certain point. It’s a good idea to respect those limits if you don’t want to get permanently kicked out of your crush’s life.
Third, but most importantly, you must be attentive to your own reactions. Sometimes flirting can be really cathartic, allowing you to let out bottled-up feelings for your crush. On the other hand, if your crush is a flirter, you might also build up unrealistic expectations or get the wrong impression. Be attentive to reactions, back off as needed, and just have fun with flirting and it won’t be harmful and could be cathartic.
Don’t try to change their mind.
Now, don’t go and get all defeatist thinking this means their mind will never change. The fact of the matter is simply that it’s generally a bad idea to actively try to change their mind. First of all, it just won’t work most of the time, so it really isn’t worth the energy.
Secondly, it’s not worth the risk. If you try too hard to make someone love you who isn’t there, the result might be that they just push you farther away. In the spirit of wanting to keep this person around, you want to be attentive to not annoy or over-pressure. They might, with time, change their mind due to a whole variety of circumstances, but trust me when I say your “help” will not help, and is generally more counterproductive than productive. Leave well enough alone, and simply hope and wait for change.
Accept that they probably aren’t your “one true love.”
Let’s face fact for a minute – if you have made your feelings clear and they show no signs of reciprocation, it’s likely pretty safe to assume this person is not your “one true love”. They can always change – it is within the realm of possibility. However, unless something serious and easily changeable is standing in the way of their reciprocation, the likelihood is that their feelings won’t change so drastically that they’ll become your one true love.
You may really love this person, but if they don’t reciprocate, your chances just don’t look promising. So sitting around wasting away your life hoping they’re your “one true love” probably isn’t worth the emotional energy you’d put into it. If they change, great, but don’t buy into the fantasy you’ve been sold your whole life by thinking that the change you want is inevitable.
Being friends is a totally legitimate option.
Seriously, if they don’t reciprocate your feelings and circumstances seem to dictate that their feelings will not change, there’s no reason to remove them from your life completely. You absolutely must, however, be attentive to your feelings and reactions to the situation. If you realize that you can’t handle just being friends with your crush, you need to take your distance, because being friends with them could just make the situation more painful and difficult for you.
On the plus side, though, just being friends may be the ideal compromise. On the one hand, you will not lose from your life what you love and appreciate about them, what makes you truly happy. On the other hand, being friends and having specificity and definition to your relationship could allow you to distance yourself from your feelings for them, and with time you might be able to come to a place of closure and resolution with those feelings so the friendship can continue without any extra dynamics.
Always be open to alternatives.
While you’re busy pining away for your crush, it may be that there is another opportunity knocking at your door, but you’re too busy or distracted to notice or care. Maybe the case is that you’re the person who doesn’t reciprocate the feelings. Whatever the situation may be, the fact of the matter is that there is a whole world of possibility out there, roughly 3.5 to 7 billion, depending on your preference.
There will be someone else who will come along who could sweep you off your feet, but if you’re 100% focused on your crush, you might miss them coming. So always be attentive and open to possibilities and you never know what might come your way. Keep the faith; the world won’t end because someone doesn’t reciprocate your feelings, nor will your dating life.
I always find this to be a helpful rule of thumb for all potentially precarious or awkward situations. So someone doesn’t reciprocate your feelings? Don’t panic. More will come around who will. In the mean time, panicking, just like overdoing it, will just cause harm to the situation.
So, there you have it. Being in love with someone who doesn’t reciprocate your feelings does not have to be the end of the world, nor does it have to be romantic or friendship suicide. You just have to be wise and judicious about your actions and reactions, and it’ll all turn out fine! Even in the most hopeless-seeming situations, there is, in fact, hope.
Kara Johansen Crawford is a graduate of DePaul University, with a BA in International Studies and Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies. Kara has been actively involved in activism and community service for much of her life and is particularly passionate about labor justice, queer issues and engaging faith communities on social issues. Kara is currently serving as a Mission Intern with the United Methodist Church at the Centro Popular para América Latina de Comunicación, based in Bogotá, Colombia. Follow Kara on Twitter @revolUMCionaria and on her blog.