Unrequited Love: Why It's Okay To Love Someone Who Can't Love You Back

I, as we all are, am a walking mess of flaws and weaknesses that drag me down but at the same time, make me the unique individual that I am.

Perhaps one of the most agonizing flaws I have is one that’s so deeply rooted in empathy that it’s painful to even acknowledge it as a weakness at all: I am drawn to people I think I can save, and I think I can save everybody.

I’m tough as nails, but those who know me best will tell you that I think with my heart and not my head, and that this often lands me in relationships and situations, which are both trying and at times, destructive.

I think I can save people not because I think of myself as someone with great power or knowledge, but because I have this somewhat subconscious inclination to help those close to me.

Someone we will love will imminently face a trial that breaks them to pieces, be it through addiction, grief, death of a loved one, heartbreak, mental illness or just a general sense of confusion and misdirection.

Everyone will inevitably encounter what it feels like to love someone, and everyone will encounter someone who is struggling. Sometimes these go hand-in-hand.

And when our loved ones are facing these trials, they are incapable of offering us a relationship equivalent to that which we give them. But what we need to recognize is this: Sometimes, that is okay. In fact, it’s more than okay; it’s admirable.

Loving someone who cannot love you back is a kind of love that is unbearable and overwhelming at times and pulls a sense of empathy and compassion out from the depths of your soul so deep you never even knew it existed; in the truest sense of the phrase, it is an unconditional love.

It does not matter how many times you are lied to, how late you stay awake at night consoling this person through the darker hours or even how much doubt fills and flows in and out of your head. You love this person through it, anyway.

When you choose to love someone who is struggling in a fight for his or her life, you are choosing to love someone who cannot fully love you back because he or she does not yet love him or herself. That’s exactly what it is -- a choice.

In recognizing that, you are actively making this choice; you’re recognizing how incredibly deep and open the human capacity for empathy and kindness truly is.

You’re recognizing how incredibly deep your own capacity for empathy and kindness is, and that, in the midst of disaster and agony, is something to acknowledge and applaud yourself for.

We were put on this earth to love and to be loved, yes, but we were also put here to walk the journey with each other. There will be times when you will not be able to continue forward without someone pulling your wrist and leading the way.

If you’re lucky enough, the people who care about you will be that leader for you. So be that person for the people you care about when you can. Walk with them, carry them if you have to.

I do not walk alongside people who need it because I pity them or because I feel obligated to. If this were the case, I would infinitely be trying to dedicate myself to every stranger in the world. It’s impossible; even though I wish it wasn’t.

When I choose to walk alongside someone, I do it because I care about that person, because I love him or her and because I feel that he or she is worthy and deserving of all of the great things in the world and shouldn’t be alone in trying to find them.

We can’t help everyone and that’s the harsh truth. But we can choose to dedicate ourselves fully to the people we respect, admire and care for completely, giving every “I’m here for you” and “let me know what you need” a much heavier weight.

I can’t save anyone but myself; I’ve learned that the hard way. All we can do is care for someone the best way we know how and teach and guide that person in learning to love him or herself.

I know that sometimes dedicating yourself to someone who can’t give you that same dedication in return, at least not yet, is a risk in that you risk losing yourself along the way. But it’s a risk worth taking.

So long as you stay brave and bold, you won’t ever lose who you are; in fact, you will learn to find and discover parts of yourself that would have otherwise remained undiscovered. Learning to love unconditionally will open chambers of your heart that others may leave forever closed.

Everyone needs someone, but there’s someone who needs you specifically. This person needs you more than you need him or her. This person can’t give you anything right now but a lesson, a trial and a hope that someday, he or she will be able to give back to you you all that you’ve given him or her.

Love them anyway.

Photo via We Heart It