Saturday, 8 June 2013

Unrequited Love Saturday

Well, it finally happened. Editing other people's stuff has done in my neck, so I really have to take the weekend off. I will turn over the combox to you, for your discussion.

Say you have a 22 year old friend who is absolutely crazy about a man she really knows almost nothing about, except that he is tall, handsome, smart, talented, charming and said to be a ladies' man. Older women in your set have been looking at your friend nervously and dropping hints to you that Patsy should look out. At gatherings, Patsy stares at her crush object as if he were the Holy Grail, and you have caught her wiping away tears on the way home.  

What do you say to dear Patsy?  And, if Patsy, how do you get a hold of yourself?

Update: Oh, dear. A reader has voiced real concern for Patsy, thinking that she is real. Patsy is not real. That is to say, Patsy is a hypothetical girl, based on myself when I was in my early twenties and not very rooted in reality. I'm sorry that this was not clearer, but I value the great discussion in the combox. 


Pearlmusic said...

Hard stuff… When I used to be 22 and this kind of things happened to me, my mother would say „but he’s not that into you” which was sober but killing; my most caring friends would say “get away from him – he’ s going to hurt you”. None of that really worked, as the more straightforwardly they expressed their views, the more rebellious I got, swearing up and down that I was the happiest person in the world when he was around (never mind the torment, uncertainty and grief of my little heart) and it used to end up in falling out. Now, when I think of any possible way that would have worked on me of that age, it might have been hearing from an experienced person, how it feels when you have found a true, requited love and how happy it makes people feel but WITHOUT referring to that particular guy and the stuff I was going through. Sooner or later I would have discovered how little happy I was with the guy in fact but without hurting so much and falling out with people who cared for me the most – and I hope this little girl also will.

Roadkill Rhapsody said...

I think a lot would depend on Patsy's character and temperament in general, and on how serious the risk of hurt was. If I knew she'd bounce back quickly, and would quite happily transfer her affections to another object, I'd probably be pretty blunt with her. Otherwise, I think I'd try to be tactful. I don't think I'd challenge her crush directly, but would ask her how she was feeling about the unrequitedness, how long she was willing to wait to be loved in return etc etc If, however, I thought the man noticed and was en route to really hurting her, I'd move in with guns blazing and drag her kicking and screaming to safety. If I was Patsy, I'd just sigh and say to myself, "You know he likes [insert name of local pretty girl], right?"

Evelyn said...

I would do what my dear friends have done when I have been lonely and it makes me stupid: show up on her front porch with a bottle of wine and a couple of hours to help fill that lonely place.

Anonymous said...

Since I'm close in age to Patsy here, I guess I'll mention what I myself would do if I were her.

Believing Mr Crush to be a "ladies' man" would help me to moderate my strong emotions. I'd make an effort to avoid being around him to try to prevent an emotional "flare-up" as well.

I'm struggling to think of how an older woman could advise me. Perhaps I flatter myself, but in general I think I've got a pretty good concept of reality, so I probably wouldn't need another person to point out Mr Crush's faults. I think I'd be well aware of them.

I'm also very reserved, and not the sort to "stare at her crush object as if he were the Holy Grail" or be "caught wiping away tears on the way home", so it's entirely possible that nobody would perceive my interest in Mr Crush, himself included.

If another woman did notice my feelings for Mr Crush and perceived that I would rather not have those feelings (and I would rather not if I were Patsy), the best thing she could do would be to reassure me privately that crushes are intense but transient.

- Julia

Pearlmusic said...

... and if I were to add a thing about being "in Patsy-like situation" not so long before today, the moment I decided to give up on a crush was when I found myself feeling sort of guilty after a few weeks of dating, but not knowing why. Strange, but this is almost 90 percent prognosis to me that things are going wrong and it's about time I cut him down. At least that time it was.

Resigned said...

Funny topic... I'm 29 and I used to have a lot of crushes in the past. In fact I have never been in a relationship in my life. Not that I'm so atrocious as a woman(I look better now than I did ten or five years ago, I have a job, some hobbies and generally can talk in a funny way:-) Some people cannot believe I'm single. For a long time I haven't moved in circles where I could meet many single guys. I probably have never been too active pursuing boys either (no Internet dating etc)..The result of those juvenile crushes is such that I'm probably no longer able to genuinely fall in love.. I have a friend with SSA whom I like and have a very mild crush on but I neither cry or obssess about him nor would I really like to be with him. The problem is that having never been in requitted love, I really gave up on love altogether

Seraphic said...

Real love is not a feeling or just a feeling. It is friendship caught fire.

Friendship-style love is desiring the other's good, plus wanting to be around him/her a lot.

Marriage-type love is desiring the other's good, wanting to be around him/her every day, and wanting to sleep with him/her and (if possible) have/sire his/her babies.

You can have a crush on someone without even knowing them at all, but you can't have real love for a stranger.

Having a million crushes does not destroy your capacity to love, because it does not destroy your capacity to have real relationships with friends and acquaintances. Love happens only in the context of real relationships, by which I mean two people interacting with each other.

c'est la vie said...

If Patsy were my younger sister, I would encourage her to tell me all of Handsome Rob's perceived virtues, and try to get her to be realistic about one or two of his faults. And then I would point out that people like Handsome Rob (ie ladykillers) are generally used to being pursued by lots of females, and are unlikely to feel other than comfortably flattered by unsought attention. I'd tell her that her chances would be dramatically improved by playing it cool and making him work for it. If she took my advice, I imagine the self-discipline involved would calm her crush down to non-painful levels and help her to be realistic--and hopefully to laugh--about the whole thing later on!

n.panchancha said...

Oh dear. Life!

I think that the trouble with being in Patsy's scenario is twofold (well, probably manifold, but this will make for a crisper comment):

1) Her first trouble is in (potentially) feeling like her love is unrequited because she's not good/pretty/interesting/whatever enough for her crush. I think people can often internalize this self-judgement when the person they're interested in doesn't return that interest. This does go back, of course, to other people's comments about temperament: Patsy seems like a sensitive soul, from the description.

In this sense, blunt comments like, "He's just not that into you!" can really hurt Patsy. Of course the friend delivering this comment doesn't mean to imply, "... because you're not good enough for him," but sometimes a bruised, rejected, sensitive heart can buy into that kind of lie. I think often a better approach, with a sensitive type who is letting herself be hurt, is to build her up and affirm her as much as possible, all the while challenging her choice to waste her energy and emotions on someone who clearly isn't right for her.

(There is another type of unrequited lover who needs to hear the "He's just not that into you!" spiel, I think - perhaps that's the one who thinks, "I'm perfect for him! It's just a matter of time before he sees it, so I won't give up.")

2) The second point I worry about is this sense of being a tragic martyr to romantic love - kind of the Eponine of the dating world. Infatuation and falling in love are really intense and exciting, and it could be easy for a young person to think, "This is the most important thing that's ever happened to me; this is when I have been most alive," and even start to form her identity around this feeling (even this suffering).

Urging the person to give up this crush, from this perspective, would probably be met with polite rejection - because the well-meaning friend "simply doesn't understand." I think the ideal situation is for the person to get away from their crush object for a significant period of time (to another town, even) and wake up to the fact that she has many other interests and talents and friends, and that life is much lighter and happier and full of options and opportunity when The Beloved isn't at the centre of it. Unfortunately, this isn't always an option.

The above alludes, I think, to the possibility of crush objects becoming idols. I think this is a real danger. If Patsy is a conscientious Catholic/Christian/whatever (or even ethics-conscious secular humanist), it might be worth bringing this up, gently (especially if she trusts you as a spiritual mentor). If she's been romanticizing her feelings as profoundly noble and selfless, the idea that they might more likely be directing her away from God could act as a wake-up call.

Julia said...

To n.panchancha -

I think those are some really good insights. Especially your first point about dealing with a sensitive girl and being careful when using the "He's just not that into you" reality-check.

The second point is also true, and I'll again state that it could be good to mention that having a crush can be a very, very temporary experience that can begin and end almost arbitrarily. For a girl who is suffering from unrequited love, hearing that those emotions will disappear (and probably sooner rather than later), could really help. As you've said, being away from Mr Crush will probably only help Patsy to overcome the crush quickly.

Since our Patsy is already 22, it's almost certain that she has experienced crushes before and has unexpectedly "got over" them, so she shouldn't have trouble believing that she might get over this one quite suddenly too.

Resigned said...

True, Seraphic. The lack of romantic relationships doesn't mean that we have no relationships at all. You always stress that and I think it's refreshing and puts things into perspective.

When it comes to what panchancha said about the girl feeling inadequate , not good/attractive enough as a result of unrequited love, I couldn't agree more with that statement. So, what is one to do when your love life has always been a series of crushes which have left you with no self-confidence as a woman and a complete lack of hope it could ever end up in a different way?

bolyongok said...

I would need more information on both Mr. Interesting and Patsy to make a good threat assessment and response. Is he a Bad Guy who has toyed with the feelings of multiple women that we know of, or is he just causing poor Patsy angst by his mere Interesting existence?

I can sort-of remember such feelings at 22. 22 year old Bolyongok dealt with such things by avoiding the guy in question, talking to friends/girls' nights in, and writing angsty non-romantic fiction.

Pearlmusic said...

n.panchancha – exactly, it is probably how “He’s just not that into you” would have worked on a sensitive girl and it’s mostly about her self-esteem. And, if she had been hurt enough before, she is highly likely to defend herself, trying to fight off that feeling she might not be good enough for her crush, and turning into the second category instead, like “What the hell - I’m perfect for him and I’m gonna win him”. So the thing is not being worth her crush but not being worth a requited love and a healthy relationship - and this is what a friend might delicately help her work out. What she definitely has to learn is that she is not to blame he is not interested and that it just happens.
The other thing is that young girls tend to confuse the idea of guarding their hearts with mere cynicism. While their guts tell them to give up on a crush and they intrinsicly feel they ought to, they feel guilty because they think they are unable to love truly (which some men imply while trying to free from such a relationship and it sucks) and they continue to hang on instead of getting over ASAP.

Jackie said...


Resigned, I'm not sure if your question was posed to Seraphic or it was okay for anyone to chime in. Apologies if I am overstepping-- your question spoke to me. ;-)

You asked "What is one to do when your love life has always been a series of crushes which have left you with no self-confidence as a woman and a complete lack of hope it could ever end up in a different way?"


Have you read Seraphic's book, The Closet's All Mine? I bought my copy after finding this blog and it has been so awesome for helping with this. It did me a world of good in de-coupling self-worth from romance.

Good luck-- I will be thinking of you, Resigned. :)

MaryJane said...

I'm also chiming in @Resigned, and hoping not to overstep boundaries!

In addition to Seraphic's book, I would recommend reading "Captivating" by John and Stacey Eldridge - with just a couple caveats.

{Someone asked about this book recently in a combox, too, so hopefully they read this.}

Captivating is written from a strongly Evangelical Protestant perspective, but I believe the authors do a truly excellent job of helping the female reader to recognize her woundedness and seek the healing that only God can give. (Truthfully, I think they have made JP II's Mulieris Dignitatem more tangible, probably without intending to do so!)

In their consideration of Biblical women, they don't mention Mary as much as some Catholics would like, but I don't think it's problematic per se. The only problematic point is that they suggest rebuking spirits of oppression, or the like, and we as Catholics believe it is much wiser to address God, asking for help, rather than to directly address any fallen angles hanging around.

That said, I think the book can be a real service to women who struggle with not feeling "good enough" or who wonder if they're really worthy of love. (And who hasn't struggled with that at times?!) I especially appreciated that they address their remarks to any woman reading the book, regardless of "vocation" or "state in life." In other words, they are interested in helping women find happiness as persons, not as "singles" or "wives" or whatever. Anyway, the book helped me and other women I know, so I hope it can help you too!

Jenna St. Hilaire said...

@Resigned--you have my prayers. I was you for so many years. I was also totally the hypersensitive crush martyr with internalization issues that n.panchancha talks about.

And if you're me, you don't think life can change, partially because you've seen no proof that yours ever does, and partially because hope after so many heartbreaks is just too painful. And you feel it's impossible because even if people (always girls) think you're pretty, you're not chosen and wanted, so you just know there's something wrong with you that the girls don't see.

People always told me life could change, and that made me angrier than ever, because how would they know? They didn't stand in front of the mirror at night wondering which feature was so boy-repellent. They didn't have to deal with the daily fear that insurmountable height/weight/acne/shyness/social awkwardness issues were keeping them from being happy in life. They were probably one of those little, neat, confident girls that has to fight off the boys from age five and gets married at twenty-one after four years of trailing a devoted boyfriend around.

If and when life changes, it does so suddenly, unexpectedly, and without reference to your past. Mine did.

Till life changes: My only salvation from unlivable discontent has been to find what I can do with my life, and do that with all my heart.

This is my answer to Patsy, too, since I know her particular demon all too well. I'm not sure if anything would have worked on me in my early twenties, but here's what I'd try telling myself (myself... how you put such things to another woman depends hugely on your relationship with her):

The guy may be all things wise and wonderful, but the crush is still an enemy. Fight it with everything you've got. Acknowledge the facts you have about his goodness, the things that attract you, and then acknowledge the over-exuberance of your emotions (the grizzled grandpa in the next pew has a beautiful soul, too, but he's not invading your dreams at night, right?) Separate the two firmly in your mind--write it all out, as objectively as possible, if that helps you. Be smiley and friendly when you're talking to Mr. Adorable, but pretend he doesn't exist when you're not. Pretend it no matter how conscious you are of him at every moment. He's just a guy. You have every bit as much human dignity as he does. Act on that fact.

Find some things you like about yourself and focus on you instead of him. Try a new haircut (get an artistic friend's opinion on what would be flattering, or this may backfire) or buy a dress or some lingerie that makes you feel sexy. See a counselor or start taking a good strong multivitamin for health, or both. Wake up every morning and thank God first thing for a specific and pleasant detail about the way he made you. Take up volunteer work or a creative hobby or some other activity that gets you out of yourself but also offers you some real affirmation. Write happy things in pretty-colored glass-markers on your bathroom mirror. Post encouraging quotes around your living and working spaces. Turn your head resolutely away from defeatist thoughts.

I still struggle with all this, married and all. Girls like me are tempted to see attractive guys as magical, as innately empowered and a cut above the rest of humanity, as the final opinion on our own likability. Every anxiety you possess can play into this (and we Patsy types have anxieties by the millions). That vision is a lie, and it's intended to destroy you. It can be demoniacally successful.

Don't let it get you.

Best of luck--we're in this together, sisters. <3

Pearlmusic said...

@Mary Jane – thank you a lot for taking on the subject! Honestly, I’ve also read this book and it helped me a great deal at a certain point of my life (yes, it helped me discover my real beauty in the eyes of God!) but later on some doubts arose – firstly about the concept of “romancing God”. Yes, we all know the metaphor of Christ and Church as His Bride, but I think it rather odd to develop a romantic kind of personal relationship with God. I can’t handle it like that. Yes, we Christians are Children of God the Father, we are friends and disciples of Christ the Son and in touch with the Holy Spirit. And yes, He seeks us, but rather as the Good Shepherd and not as a lover, if I’m right. I think probably what the Authoress meant to say is that we definitely need a loving, healing relationship with God and because she believes most of us women are romance-obsessed and the only kind of love we long for is romantic love (which is in fact about our feminine weakness a bit), she goes that way. And she’s definitely right with the view that no man can do to us what God Himself can do, but yet God cannot be who a living man is to us. I’d rather have it that way.
The other thing of my concern is the co-authorship of the book by Stasi’s husband, especially in some parts of the “Arousing Adam” chapter. While advising on the art of “seducing men”, he’s inserting some ideas about what men want a woman to be, not what God want them to be (and although it had been said before that a woman should never ever rely on men’s answer to question about her beauty and value, there’s the remark about “ask your husband what he would like better” at the end of the story of Ruth who is praised for laying her down next to a sleeping, drunken man (you know the story). Can be dangerous if understood sensu stricto!
I would probably also challenge the idea of men-being-strong and women-being-beautiful. Beauty is not the opposite of strength in my view, and I insist on women being internally strong, even though they are not expected to be aggressive in an external way (except in extreme situations).
These are portions I would argue about, but yet the whole book is loaded with some really fine ideas about femininity.
Love and all the best!

Pearlmusic said...

Ahhh, sorry for the typing error: "drunk man", not "drunken man", of course. Too much written German and English at once!

Seraphic said...

"Drunk" and "drunken" are equally acceptable in this intance. I prefer "drunken man" to "drunk man."

Pearlmusic said...

OK. First thought was best thought, then. Thank you!