How do you cope with the pain when you are not on the receiving end of someone’s love or a chasm hinders outward displays of affection?
Out of Reach
It’s a common theme among romantic comedies. An individual falls in love with someone who is not free to pursue a relationship. Some plots depict a swooner that goes unnoticed by a popular character. Screenwriters call this sexual tension.
Beyond the glitz and glam of Hollywood, the emotion of unrequited love is real. How do you cope with the pain when you are not on the receiving end of someone’s love or a chasm hinders mutual affection?
Signs of Sexual Tension
- Awkward conversations
- Sustained eye contact
- Butterflies in stomach
- Close proximity
- Casual touching
- Exchanging smiles
- Frequent teasing
- Excessive laughing
Mutual sexual tension can lead to unrequited love. But unrequited love can be unilateral from a far.
Longing for Love
According to social psychologist Roy Baumeister, 98% of us have suffered from unrequited love at one time or another.  You might feel that attraction to one’s soulmate is an undeniable destiny. Your heart races from the moment you first see someone.
Perhaps you visualize the perfect mate in a dream. Then you become face-to-face with your soulmate, only to be barred by circumstance. One of you may be in another relationship or the other might not know you exist. Someone with whom you have an attraction may view you as just a friend.
Relationships are often the product of environment. If you live in a forest long enough, the trees start to look handsome. Unilateral affection can develop over time with a friend or workmate. Your brain produces serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins in response to the attraction to the individual. [2,3] The unreciprocated affection does not diminish the depth of your feelings.
Iskra Fileva, assistant professor of philosophy at University of Colorado Boulder, reasons that the alleged unrequited love is with a fictional version of someone about whom we create multiple qualities that the real individual does not possess. “The real person, by contrast, is not a good match. That’s precisely why he or she is rejecting us.”
This might sound harsh. But think of how many real Hollywood actors fell in love with one another’s character followed by a very short marriage. It is possible to develop feelings with a persona instead of a person.
Perhaps you are on the receiving side of the affection. Someone expresses their heartfelt love for you but you feel nothing inside. Examine whether you are feeding the other person’s desire. Too much time together or an abundance of flirtatious compliments can kindle such feelings.
A relationship may have begin with mutual romantic interest that wanes over time. Now you feel you are giving everything to make it succeed with nothing in return. It’s like dropping a valuable coin into a well to see how deep the water is and hearing no splash. The denial that a breakup is eminent may cause you to overcompensate with jealousy, and obsessive behavior. This type of love is emotionally draining.
Getting Over Rejection
Emotions are powerful, and cannot be easily switched off. Research by Ethan Kross at the University of Michigan has shown that we feel an emotional wound in a way similar to how we feel physical injury. Acknowledge that you’ve been injured and nurture yourself as with a physical illness.
Honestly answer whether falling in love with someone who doesn’t love you back is a pattern in your life. Or ask if you would feel better not having loved the person at all. [3,4] Your objective answers can separate harmful relationships from upbuilding ones.
When the relationship you long for requires more than reasonable patience, you may need to move on. Make new friends but be careful of rebound partners that fail to address your true emotional needs.
Redirect your affection towards helping others. The Bible says there is more happiness in giving than receiving. Involve yourself with volunteer or philanthropic activities. List your positive qualities and learn to love yourself.
UPDATED: AUG 22, 2023