Many of us have experienced unrequited love at some point in our lives whether it’s a school crush, colleague, neighbour or close friend. While, some of us move on from the experience and look back on it with negative and positive emotions, others become addicted to the the act of pursuing people who don’t love them back.
Everyone longs to fall in love with someone that will return their love but sometimes some find themselves falling head over for someone who cannot love them back.
Mandy Peterson writing for Diamond Psychics notes that at times to be addicted to unrequited love can be a result of growing up in a household where love was either conditional or inconsistent.
“As a result, the child of such a household may have felt anxious to win the love, praise or affection of a parent—or someone else influential—who was unavailable, abusive or failed to provide proper nurturing. Thus, such a child became a ‘torchbearer,’ i.e. they put their parent or other influential role model on a pedestal, looking up to them to receive recognition or approval.”
Subconsciously there may be a fear of being loved and committed to because it means getting close enough to someone who can become controlling or hurtful. At the same time, however, there is a strong desire for commitment and to feel safe, cherished and approved of.
Mandy also adds that: “alternatively, the child could have witnessed one parent in an unrequited love relationship with the other and taken that energy”.
She also cites a sudden and unexpected separation, betrayal, health, or appearance issue and leaving/ending an abusive marriage or relationship can lead to this behaviour.
“Subconsciously there may be a fear of being loved and committed to because it means getting close enough to someone who can become controlling or hurtful. At the same time, however, there is a strong desire for commitment and to feel safe, cherished and approved of.”
Louis Venter, Founder of CouplesHelp, shares more information about this behaviour with Blacklight.
Underlying issues behind unrequited love.
People have a certain attachment system that developed thru parenting, enforced by childhood experiences and memories. Some are Anxious clingers and others Isolators/Avoiders.
Anxious clingers are people that anxiously cling to their partners and become increasingly anxious as the space between them grows. Avoiders or Isolators become anxious if people come to close to them as they create Isolation and avoidance patterns.
In research we discovered that Anxious clingers and Isolators always fall in love with each other. Somehow these two energies are attracted towards each other.
What we experience as “feelings of in love”, “butterflies in your tummy”, is actually your attachment system warning you.
You always give up your need to be loved due to your partner’s feelings of being smothered.
- You are the only one initiating contact.
- Your need for closeness is blamed and shamed.
- You are always the one sending messages and phoning back.
You need to realise if you’re in a relationship with an avoidant partner that you deserve all the love you need. In your next relationship be on the lookout for avoidant patterns. From the first day voice your need for closeness and love and don’t settle for anything less.
The pleasure or return in this process.
They believe that if they can conquer this big avoider – getting them to love them – then they would be truly loved. They fear rejection the most and therefore when left or abandoned mostly they don’t want the partner back, rather they want to avoid the feelings of rejection. Therefore it seems to us that they keep on pursuing.
How they rationalise this dysfunctional pattern.
- I am too needy
- It is my fault.
- I need to do something different.
- If I was more loveable this person would want to be close to me.
How to assist someone in this situation.
- Stay out of blame and shame.
- Give them a good book to read. (Attached: Rachel SF Heller)
- Keep reminding them that they deserve to be loved.
- Help them by dialoguing about how they truly feel in this relationship.
- Knowing their fear for rejection, remind them that they have a lot of people in their life that would support and love them.
Seeking medical help.
In-depth counselling could help a person to get to a point of understanding their pattern and to develop skills to work through the rejection and to acquire new skills to connect with more secure people in the future.
How to cut the pattern?
They need to voice their feelings of abandonment to their partner. Avoiders need these people to call them back into intimacy. I work with a lot of couples that made the transition into stable connection patterns. It started with the clinger asking for more intimacy, closeness and love.
Don’t fall in love with the first person you “fall in love with”.
Don’t trust your initial feelings with partners.
Voice your need for closeness immediately.
Be on the lookout for avoidant patterns.
Date people you don’t feel so in love with – usually these connections are much more stable.
Louis Venter is the Founder of Couples Help.
Clinical Imago Therapist (Imago International)
Enneagram Therapist (Enneagram in the Narrative Tradition)
Spiritual Director (Centre for Spirituality; University of Pretoria)
MTh – Theology and Pastoral care (University of Pretoria)
I am passionate about helping couples in a vulnerable space to find good professional help and to experience love and connection again in their relationship. My approach is focused on restoring connection as quickly as possible. Traditional counselling can often drag out the process of change. And while I wholly believe that restoration is a process that takes time and commitment, sometimes couples in dire circumstances need an intensive and immediate intervention that propels them out of unhealthy patterns. I focus on the encounter of two souls that meet essence to essence, in a relational paradigm that is about interdependence, not self-sufficiency.
And I believe that it is your privilege to love each other into wholeness.