Here’s the thing about romance that fascinates me: I love how easily it can make someone give away their most prized possession – their heart.
But contrary to popular belief, there is nothing romantic or poetic about unrequited love. It’s a misplacement of your affections, emotions and effort. It is a waste of time. Even if you tried your hardest, you can’t make someone love you (ditto, Bonnie Raitt).
I gave my heart away once. It was intoxicating and everything I imagined it’d be. But I was also left utterly broken and half the person I was before it.
I had unwittingly given my heart to this boy who had tugged at all of my heartstrings. He was everything I thought I wanted – a broody and eccentric creative who had an impeccable taste in music. We had known each other for a few years then and had just started to get close.
It was as if I was on a pendulum – feeling happy when he reached out to me and dejected when I’d been given the cold shoulder.
Conversation flowed easily; we shared the same wavelength. This depth of connection was rare for me to have. As our friendship progressed, I slowly began to realise how broken he was on the inside. Instead of propelling him to a fuller sense of living, his sensitive soul was becoming a crutch to him.
I’ll admit it: I had a bad case of saviour complex. I desperately wanted to save him from his debilitating self-doubt. I wanted to pull him out of his shell and show him the potential I’d seen in him.
To my discredit, I found his aloofness very enigmatic. There were snippets of moments where he would let me in for a bit before shutting me right out. It felt like a game of push and pull – and I was hooked.
For a bit more than a year, I was stuck in a perpetual emotional roller coaster ride. Most of what I felt was centered around his reactions. It was as if I was on a pendulum – feeling happy when he reached out to me and dejected when I’d been given the cold shoulder.
I lost myself in the process. I spent all my time thinking about him. I was always wondering if he was okay and if there was something, anything, I could do to make the weight in his heart a little lighter. I desperately wanted to know what he was thinking – about anything, about me.
In hindsight, his disinterest should have been obvious. It was the eventual slow and noncommittal replies – if they even came at all. It was the one-too-many times of total radio silence. It was right in my face but I still didn’t see it; I didn’t want to.
But one day it hit me. I felt rejected – not just as a friend but also as a person. My heart was left empty from pouring out all I had. I was exhausted from trying to put both of our pieces back together.
My mind had become so used to wandering in his direction every waking hour.
Nothing was off-limits to my overly analytical mind, not even my own self-worth. Was I not doing something right? Had I failed to love him the way he needed to be loved? What was so wrong with me? Was I not enough?
Deep inside, I knew I had to let go of my feelings for him. But it was hard. My mind had become so used to wandering in his direction every waking hour.
All my efforts to move on would be foiled whenever he said things like “you’re the only one I can talk to” and “you mean a lot to me.” But after I finally convinced myself that I had no business in wasting my time trying to love someone who clearly didn’t want it, we stopped talking.
And so I thought I’d successfully “gotten over” him. It wasn’t until a year later when we finally reconnected over dinner that I realised what I had been doing – I had been suppressing my emotions instead of processing them.
When I saw him that night, all the feelings and memories came flooding back. Suddenly, I missed our easy conversations, the back-and-forth banter about things that mattered the most to us.
The next day, I realised what a mess I was in again. My heart was flustered and confused. What was happening to me? I thought I’d moved on!
My worth had been so dependent on how people reacted to me that they had become my source of validation.
I took an emotional nosedive. I started questioning all my other relationships with the people around me as old hurts surfaced. It made me second-guess everything and everyone – including myself.
Realising the extent of my self-inflicted delusion catalysed my unravelling. I wondered what else I had tricked myself into believing. How could I be so sure of anything else anymore?
After wrestling with my self-doubt, I came to realise that my own unmet expectations had broken me. My worth had been so dependent on how people reacted to me that they had become my source of validation. It felt like if my love wasn’t being reciprocated, it was as if my entire person had taken a hit.
And that’s the way I’d been feeling all along with him.
Since then, God has been in the process of rewiring my emotional “circuit”. He’s removing my knee-jerk reaction of feeling rejected whenever I feel disappointed. He’s been busy binding up the wounds of a broken heart (Psalm 147:3).
Who I am is not found in the way people perceive me to be. The love I receive from people – or lack thereof – does not define me. God’s love does. It’s a love that I cannot be separated from (Romans 8:38-39).
I no longer don the tag of being rejected goods. And even as I struggle to see myself through God’s eyes (Psalms 139:14), I know He’s paving the road ahead for me as I learn how to fully lean on Him (Proverbs 3:5-6).
The person I had given my heart to may not have chosen me. But it doesn’t matter. The Lover of my soul first did – and does so every day.