Romantic love is not, nor should it be, unconditional.
Three years ago, I was in a long-term relationship with someone who couldn’t love me back. Our relationship was constantly being pushed forward into the future, at some distant point in time when everything would change and he would finally fall in love with me, too.
It’s okay that he doesn’t love me yet, I would find myself telling myself. I deceived myself into thinking that one day it would all change and that he’d magically develop feelings for me.
It took a lot of time to realize that he was never going to love me. He just didn’t have it in him, for some reason or another. Was it sad? Sure. Having to live with the reality that you have to move on without the one person you didn’t think you could survive without––it’s unspeakably difficult. There’s no way around it–it’s pure hell, and will be for some time. You feel the loss deep within you. You feel it until time causes you to eventually forget the details that caused you pain.
But you know what? Letting go was one of the best things I’ve ever done. It took a long time. For about a year after we broke up, I still thought deep down we might get back together. I realized, however, that much of this was propelled by fear. Deep down, I was scared of being alone. But then I realized at some point that I was better off single and facing my fears than to be tethered to someone who isn’t giving you what you need. The future is terrifying but at least there’s a chance of actually finding someone you’re happy with.
Chance of staying in love with someone who doesn’t love you and finding someone who can make you happy – 0%.
Chance of being single and finding someone who can make you happy – higher than 0% (Statistically speaking, the chances of getting married in the U.S. before age 40 is ~90%)
If someone isn’t giving you what you need *and* isn’t willing to work and communicate with you in order to give you what you need, it’s time to let go and move on. Someone who cares about you is going to do whatever it takes to give you what you need–and whether they are unable or unwilling to do so, the outcome is the same. Like a plant can’t survive without nourishment, you can’t emotionally survive in a relationship unless you’re getting your emotional needs met. No matter how much you want it, a relationship without just it isn’t feasible. This includes anyone who doesn’t want to be with you. I don’t care if they’re the best person in the universe–it just can’t logistically happen. Realizing that is really tough, especially when you’re still deep in the trenches of love for that person. But you have to – for your own sake – let it go. Mourn the loss, eliminate all possibility of it working out, and move on, even if it means just surviving for a while. I think it’s important to close the door completely, because as long as you’re harboring hope, you’re still attaching feelings to them.
Melodie Beatty calls it “letting go in love.” You can still love someone and let them go. But by letting go, you’re freeing up both people to go find a relationship that is truly fulfilling for them.