Why I stopped romanticising 'unrequited love'

Though documented far less, the experience of a person who gets to reject another’s love is far from pleasant.

 |  5-minute read |   01-11-2016
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I started this weekend with a morning doze of "unrequited love" portrayed in a recently released Hindi film. Keeping aside my not-so-favourable opinion on the quality of moviemaking, it made me reflect on how my connect with such one-sided love sagas has evolved over three decades of my life.

There was a time when Alfred Tennyson's words "Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all" seemed to define my aspiration for "true love" - irrational, consuming and without any expectations. But then life happened.

Having been on both sides of such a relationship as the lover and the beloved and understanding its profound impact that probably shaped my life forever, I no longer romanticise the idea of "unrequited love".

I am parking my humility for the sake of discussion and acknowledging the fact that I have been desirable. Even statistically, women are more prone to being the beloved who reject advances of such love than men. Though documented far less, the experience of a person who gets to reject another's love is far from pleasant.

Reminiscing about my past, I have realised that often unwillingly I led on certain people to believe I was interested in them. I noticed the guy who would sit in the last bench and not socialise with anyone and made a conscious attempt to involve him in class activities.

I would get far too involved in a good pal's life and create an emotional interdependence that could be mistaken as love. Since I was always vocal about my feelings, I had a hard time understanding the unsaid. And when such love was confessed, that initial kick of being adored by someone eventually gave way to a painful guilt.

Very rarely was my polite refusal backed with an apology understood by people who were my friends to begin with. Despite the affection that I had for the other person, I found myself withdrawing lest he believed I was giving it time and would eventually consent to the relationship.

One time this withdrawal exacerbated that yearning for that friendship so much that I ended up proposing the same person later. The sad part was that even within the love relationship that followed, the love remained unrequited with neither of us being able to reciprocate what the other wanted.

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The Diwali release Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is about unrequited love. 

Another time with another person I was infatuated but fell out of it soon - the tirade of his attempts to rekindle it that followed made me fear for my life. Though utterly foolish but that feeling of guilt for driving a good friend to that level had held me back from raising an alarm and asking for help. And I counted the days to escape that hostile environment.

Over the years, I have understood that misunderstanding anyone's friendly behaviour for love is no excuse for pressuring that person to commit. But such experiences so early on in life deeply embedded a fear of the consequences of "being me".

People say now I am all sorted in the way I pick my friends and in control of the signals I send. The truth is that I miss locking away that spark that made me unabashedly call an acquaintance past midnight to check on his dog's health.

Donning the hat of that unrequited lover was also enlightening. I didn't care about how much was reciprocated and kept on investing my heart and soul into an asymmetrical relationship.

Of course, there was the joy of being in love and the anticipation of seeing him everyday. But not a day passed when I didn't think of what better I could do. If "true love" actually means "loving without expectations", I had gone a step beyond to being oblivious of what to expect.

Romanticising such lack of reciprocation had cost me my self-esteem and confidence. I had stopped retorting to gibes from my bosses. I had stopped being the life of work parties. Maybe Friedrich Nietzsche was right in believing that the suffering of unrequited love was indispensable for human growth.

Maybe such suffering has given to the world masterpieces of art and literature. But when this occurred to an ordinary mortal like me, I don't remember being able to pen a single thought on paper.

The wisest thing that I did in my life was to understand the futility of it all. Some artists are against the quest for happiness as for them it stops all attempts at self-introspection and critical thinking. I beg to differ. It is only that quest for happiness that made me fall in love once again.

A love that conquered my cynicism and fear of rejection. A love that made me believe I was the most beautiful person deserving of everything I wished for in this world. A love that broke my wall and let my thoughts flow in prose. A love that was, in all terms, requited equally.

Some say unrequited love never dies. It only hides in a secret place wounded. It isn't entirely untrue. But that's the beauty of wounds - they make you remember the times you fell but still got up and, more importantly, the people who had your back then. The wound will eventually cease to exist. Only if you don't wish to live with it forever.

Also read: Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is terrible: Twitter critics rip the film apart

 

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Samparna Tripathy Samparna Tripathy @samparnat

The author is a writer on public policy and social issues.

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