It’s funny how things never really turn out the way you thought they would, but it’s especially hard when it comes to loving someone who loves someone else. Reality is different from our expectations, and most of the time that doesn't really bother us. When the unexpected happens, it's usually not an issue. We barely notice the difference between our expectations and reality, and we live our lives as if none of it mattered. Then there are other times — when our anticipation takes root and grows over months or years of waiting — when real life pales in comparison to our fantasies.
The more eager we grow, the more painful the experience is when it's not what we wanted, and that’s the issue with expectations: We usually overshoot them. We expect more than we're likely to get. We aim for perfection, but we discover that reality isn't so different from the lives we've been living. Optimism is a wonderful thing until it blinds you. It’s important to be optimistic, but it’s just as important to be realistic. It's necessary that you understand the statistical chances of one thing happening versus another... and that you can potentially deal with seeing the person you love with someone else.
The more you accept that there is always a chance that things won’t go the way that you think they will, the less likely you are to be caught off-guard when that happens. Unfortunately, I’ve come to learn that sometimes — no matter how aware you are that things may not work out — there is no such thing as sufficient mental preparation. Not all of your hopes and dreams are going to come true, and when one of them collapses in front of your eyes, it hurts more than you could possibly imagine. This is called unrequited love.
As NYC-based relationship expert Susan Winter previously Elite Daily, unrequited love is oftentimes all about the fantasy. No matter how hard you may try to get their attention, they just don’t seem to be taking the bait, and if they don’t pick up on any of your cues or they seem “oblivious to your presence,” Winter said this is a “clear sign that you're not on their radar.” She added, “Either they have a partner, or they don't fancy you. Though it's hard to accept, it's best to move on.”
At times, accepting that reality isn’t just hard — it’s impossible. It’s hard to know what to do when the person you love loves someone else, and I know, because unrequited love almost destroyed me. I’ve been in love with the same girl for over a decade now. She was the one I always believed I’d end up with; I was convinced that no matter how many times either of us screwed things up, we’d eventually come back to each other. And I recently had the opportunity I’d been dreaming of: We had another chance to give things a shot, it seemed.
But I learned she was running to me because she was running away from someone else — a person she now loves. He's no good for her, but she feels for him immensely. And that's one of the reasons I've always loved her so much; she has an immense capacity for love. I tried loving others, but it never worked out. I guess that’s why it was so incredibly difficult to see her in love with another person. I thought that if I couldn’t find love again, she must feel the same way. I believed she would love me for the rest of her life, as I will love her for the rest of mine. But that wasn't — isn't — the case.
So I closed the door on a love affair that changed my life and taught me more than anything else ever could. When you see the person you love fall in love with someone else, it can break you. But that doesn’t mean there’s no coming back. “Although unrequited love can feel extremely painful, it can offer us an opportunity to grow in unexpected ways,” Jodi Clarke writes. “Through an experience like this, we can gain a better understanding of our needs, our patterns in a relationship, and how to become a healthy, positive partner in the future.” I had to learn what to do and how it felt when the person you love loves someone else, and you can, too.
Seeing Someone You Love With Someone Else Makes You Feel Lost
I distinctly remember the exact moment when I realized that our love would live forever in the past. I was at a loss for words. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know how to stand. I didn't know if I should keep my hands inside or outside of my pockets. My heart was racing. The wind was knocked out of me. I couldn’t spend another second talking to her, because I knew I was about to break down.
Love isn’t just about the emotions you’re feeling. It’s about what this person means to you. It's about the place he or she has in your life as well as your heart. When you realize that your loved one is in love with someone else, you see that the life you thought you'd have is no longer possible. Then you do your best to figure out how to cope with it.
Seeing Someone You Love With Someone Else Makes You Feel Incomplete
I wish I could tell you which part I’m missing, but I haven’t yet been able to pin it down. But you'll know you're a different person than you were an hour ago. You'll no longer feel or look at the world in the same way. You'll stop pursuing the same things. Your life has just changed. You have just changed.
The hardest part is accepting your new self. It’s not that you’ve changed into a complete stranger; you still recognize yourself. You just know that you’re now different. The problem is that you don’t want to be different. You don’t want to change. You don’t want a different life. All that you want is to turn back time and figure out a way to make things work. But you can’t.
Seeing Someone You Love With Someone Else Makes You Redefine Yourself
There is one positive outcome from this: You shed excess. You let go of the stress and worry of not knowing how things will turn out, because now you know the answer. You learn to steer your thoughts away from your ex, and you discover that you have more time for other areas of your life.
The part of you that just died gives room for growth. You now have a partially blank slate. You get the opportunity to rewrite and redefine the person you are. From the ashes of your love rises a new you. You start to once again get a grasp on your life, your reality and your future.
Seeing Someone You Love With Someone Else Makes You Revisit Your Beliefs
I was smart enough to understand where things were going before they got there. Of course, I couldn’t know anything for certain. But I did understand the likelihood of each possible outcome. I confirmed my theories about love and life because I was able to see the end before it arrived. This doesn’t change the fact that I was caught off-guard. I may have understood how things were going, but I didn't want to watch.
I wanted to be with her, to create a life together. I wanted to start a family. I wanted — and was ready — to be the partner and lover that she had always wanted. But none of that mattered then nor now. What matters is that I learned. I have a better, fuller understanding of things. Life’s greatest tragedies can be life’s greatest gifts, but only if we are wise enough to learn from them. Our beliefs define us and determine our future.
Learning to accept that the person you love has fallen in love with someone else is tough, but it can teach you some of life's most important lessons.
Susan Winter, NYC-based relationship expert
Editor's Note: This story has been updated by Elite Daily Staff.
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