Love is the singularly most vulnerable state a human can be in. Love is more powerful than any other force of nature and just as fast as it can lift you up — it can drop you back down; leaving you shattered into millions of pieces. But, love isn’t always two dimensional. In fact, it rarely is, and that’s what makes “finding the one” such a momentous celebratory occasion.
Love’s ability to sweep us away and leave us feeling the highest of highs, makes for no surprise that the failure of the force can leave us feeling the complete opposite. The lowest of lows. Especially when our love is breached by an unrequited partner.
In the wake of this disaster – shattered and bleeding – we’re left to wonder, “How could one’s most authentic emotion be unmet by a counterpart, rejected or labeled ‘indifferent’?” We’re confident the love and vibes we were sending were good ones. The best. And, we’ve all been there – probably on both sides of the issue, carrying the torch for someone who didn’t feel the same. Or, carelessly rejecting the notion that there could be “something great” between yourself and a friend.
There’s an old saying, “The higher the ball falls, the higher it bounces back up.” And, it’s up to us, individually, to recognize that in the worst of any situation; grapple onto the sentiment and realize that who we are and what we really want, as a person deserving of love, and come to terms with the reality: We deserve more.
Sometime this past spring I accepted – or casted, I can’t remember – the offer to grab drinks with a neighbor of mine. He lived a block-and-a-half away and we had never so much seen each other let alone meet in person. Yet, his profile seemed intriguing enough from the shallowest of glances, both of us were fans of the same local haunts, and even shared a mutual friend or two. (Listen to the whispers, I say.) It all made for great conversation on one of the best dates I had been on in a long time, and — at the time — I was averaging a date per-week.
Before we knew it, it was time to call it a night, we both had work the next day; truth be told – we had each spilled our fair share of beans. The walk back together from the dive was short and a little quiet with me wondering if I said too much. My baggage is far from Louis Vuitton, honey. We hugged and parted ways; me left; him right. And, just as I was opening my screen door a message came through to my phone: “It was great to meet you, but I don’t think it’ll work out.”
Did I mention this was a great date? There was great conversation between two otherwise lost souls with a very strong sense of humor about it all. And, even more frankly, I never like anyone.
Shook, and true to the Millennial Code, I blocked him immediately and then, two weeks later, remembered I’m not so great at relationships anyway. So, I released the grudge and unblocked him to propose an even better alternative: Friendship. He eagerly accepted and we grabbed drinks a few minutes later.
The weeks to come became more and more filled with deeper conversations, more laughs, and all of which were mostly served over alcohol. The more I got to know him, initially, the more I laughed about allowing myself to be annoyed (let alone hurt) he had originally rejected me. There’s something particularly bruising about being rejected before someone even knows you though. Still, he was not even remotely close to anyone I would ever see myself with, until he was, and before I knew it I was [gulp] in love [gulp] with him.
[I’ll vomit while writing this, but…] He had one of the best personalities I’ve ever met, and in my line of work that’s saying something. His views, morals, and ideologies aligned with mine for the most part — and this dude could make me laugh. That ugly kind of laugh that draws attention to the conversation, instantaneously revoking any sort of discretion. Oh, and his laugh. Positively infectious. I loved the sound of it; sometimes exaggerating the truth just enough or allowing myself to be the butt of the joke to get it out of him one more time. He was broken in the opposite way that I was and shamelessly selfish, just like me.
After a weekend away at my family’s shore house I told him there was “something good here” and he rejected the ill-articulated idea. Even in my [then] current state, there was no desire for monogamy or even a formal relationship; my usual obsessive qualities were out the door. I trusted, with a type of unwavering delusional certainty, that he felt and respected me the same way. This would be a gradual development. Mostly I wanted him to know that I liked spending time with him. Something I had already told him and a sentiment he seemed to echo. But, the reality is, two selfish people cannot be selfish together. Two negatives don’t make a positive.
That’s not how love works.
Though it hurt, and I struggled with the process of letting go for about two full months. I learned a lot about myself even though this wasn’t my first unrequited rodeo. This was, however, the first time I allowed myself to be completely vulnerable both privately and publicly with another self-identified gay man — and a confident one at that. (Everyone else had been closeted or the like.) To paint the picture a little more vividly: This was the first time I allowed one of my most meaningful relationships, platonic or otherwise, to come face-to-face with my worst.
I learned I cannot control how someone else feels. That was the first thing: I’ve always been one to try and convince people to come around, holding on to the “maybe one day” for far too long. But, there’s no pride in being someone’s second choice or a dirty little secret. If you want really real love… you can’t force it, no matter how hard you try.
I realized I’m stronger than I thought. In accepting the earlier fact of life, you’re bound to find peace and moving on makes you feel invincible; returning from those perils will only solidify that nothing can hold you back. It won’t take you long to begin to have trouble recognizing the person you were, vowing never to go back there again.
I realized my limits. Unrequited love brought be down, way down. And although it’s hard to identify at the time, there is an invaluable lesson to learn: You’ll never allow yourself to stoop so low again. I’m more clear than ever on what I want in a partner and personal relationships (across the board) moving forward. And, I won’t settle for less-than.
I realized that it’s fine to be alone as you work to “figure this out.” There was something within me just dying to say, “I’m in an actual relationship!” and that was the motivating factor between taking “a date per-week” for eleven months straight. Past relationships were not dually monogamous. I always just accepted that I was attracted to bisexual or sexually curious men, and one of the [many] side-effects of that was their desire to stray.
These men would reject the thought of “going public” with the relationship for a whole slew of reasons. The reality and common denominator in each of them is that neither one was truly comfortable with themselves and their sexuality. Not my problem; I know now it’s okay to be alone. I don’t need another person lying next to me, for however temporary it might be, to solidify the fact that I’m a human being worthy of company. There’s no more void to fill here but rather a secondary life journey, in search for compatability.