A Calmer You, By Sonal Kalra: Damn, the pain of one sided love!
I’m writing this week for someone really close. Because that person wouldn’t listen if I say so verbally, but who knows, might just believe it if read as a published piece in a newspaper. This problem isn’t limited anyway; nearly one-third of the mails I get from readers of this column describe this pain in some form or the other. We’ve all gone through it. I have, am sure you have, too.
Unrequited love, or in simple words ‘one-sided love’ is a pain that perhaps ought not to be seen as just heartache that will go away with time. A BBC study (2018), quoting multiple clinical psychologists, says that ‘unrequited love or lovesickness needs to be taken seriously by mental health practitioners as a legitimate diagnosis, because it can drive people into a state of despair and hopelessness’.
Simply put, one-sided love is quite a sadistic practical joke by the maker of human feelings. You love someone, you feel magic in the air, a spring in your step. And then you realise that the sparks are ignited only in your heart, and that the other person doesn’t quite feel the same way about you. Understandably, it hurts. Hurts bad. But that doesn’t change things. You go through a chain of emotions ranging from anger to self-loathing. “The worst is that most people who experience being on the wrong side of one-sided love start to question or demean themselves in their mind. One out of the four cases of young people that I treat for depression also suffer from serious self-acceptance issues because they have been rejected in love,” a psychiatrist tells me. So it isn’t bad enough that you keep thinking of a person, who, frankly doesn’t know or care, but you are also constantly badgering your own self because of it.
And mostly the folks at home are rather dismissive of this pain. The typical sentences that you may have heard from friends or family, and that do not resonate with you at the time, would be, “It’s a crush. Not to be taken seriously”, “Yeh sab pyar vyar chhodo, padhai/career mein dhyan do”, or “Take up a hobby, you’ll soon come out of it”.
So today I am not going to say any of the above. You’re already sick of hearing it, aren’t you? I feel the pain, and I respect it. Let’s look at some of the possible ways it could be reduced.
1. First and foremost, allow yourself to feel the pain. Grieving is okay, it really is. Don’t ward off a genuine pain that’s coming your way. They say love happens, you don’t go out making it happen. Then if something that naturally happened didn’t find reciprocation, it’ll obviously hurt. No point telling yourself to falsely put up a brave face. Cry it out if that’s what you feel like. We are all allowed to cry at the loss of someone, right? This is like the loss of the idea of a relationship you beautifully envisioned in your head, but it’s not going to happen. It’s a genuine loss, and you are perfectly in your right to go through the process of grief.
2. Choose your distance with the person you love. Unlike what most friends would have advised, I’d rather not tell you to block that person out completely from your life. You could, if that’s what gives you peace. But I find it a bit Bollywood-ish to say that blocking someone from Facebook or Instagram or WhatsApp, or deleting their number from your phone will bring you instant peace. It might make you more miserable, especially if that person is a friend. Depending on your comfort level — and this totally differs from person to person — distance yourself from them. Set withdrawal goals in your head, and treat them like any other goals you’d set for your well-being.
3. Don’t feel sorry for yourself, or go down the path of self-doubt. It’s uncool to equate someone not wanting you with you not being good enough. Loving yourself is an essential step in finding the happy you again, and getting out of the mess that feelings sometimes force us into. A lot of people get into the trap of holding themselves responsible for someone else’s lack of feelings. And then punish themselves by not taking good care of themselves. A friend’s younger brother changed from one of the most good looking, happy guys I knew, to a complete mess after a complicated one-sided love situation. How is getting into indiscriminate drinking, smoking, eating junk, substance abuse going to help here? You making your own health or looks worse, is anyway not going to kindle feelings into someone who didn’t feel them even when you were at your best. This could in fact keep someone else who’s worthy from entering into your life. Don’t close doors.
4. Understand the other person’s pain, too. You know I’ve been through on both sides of it. Trust me, it’s the most painful thing to ‘reject’ someone’s genuine expression of love. It anyway takes a lot of courage to express love for someone. The other person, unless they are some vicious beings, which people are not, respects that courage. It’s equally difficult for them to confess that they don’t feel the same love for you. They may be saying it for genuine reasons owing to their situations or feelings, but at least they are being honest in not leading you on a false path of hope. Respect them for it, rather than falling into the often-given advice of hating them. When has hating anyone ever helped, anyway?
5. Lastly, try and look for your life’s larger picture in such moments of pain. Relationships are just one part of it. There are so many other facets — your future, your career, travels you will undertake, and things you’ll experience. Life has a lot of beauty in store, to cherish which, you don’t really need another person. Don’t get so lost in your grief that you lose sight of those opportunities. They are wonderful. They are awaiting you.
Sonal Kalra recalls what she read somewhere, “Your parents haven’t raised you to see you to beg people to love you back.” Get up and get going. Mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/sonalkalraofficial. Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra