Handling unrequited Love

Love is probably the most complex emotion a human can go through. Unrequited love, however, is probably one of the most painful emotional experience a human can go through. Today, psychiatrists believe that we feel the emotional pain of feeling unloved in the same part of the brain that feels physical pain (Source: psychology today.com). The pain, rejection and hurt is real but the phenomenon itself is not new and we have several examples from the Bible as well. These principles can be used to mitigate these emotions when someone feels stuck in this situation.
First, we do not own any person and we cannot claim a right to their lives. As difficult as it sounds, we do not have control over the other person’s thoughts, ideas and emotions. But we do have control over our thoughts, emotions and feelings. Working in a school with teenagers, I handle classes for them on value education where we discuss all ranges of topics pertaining to life. I share with them my favourite definition of Emotional intelligence –

1. Knowing what emotions I am feeling
2. Understanding them and controlling them
3. Knowing what emotions people around me are feeling
4. Understanding them and acting appropriately.

When we fall in love with someone who does not love us back, it’s important to know and understand what we are going through. The common symptoms are, we think about that one particular person more often and thoughts about the person inhibit our normal routine like studying, paying attention in class, working efficiently etc. Scenes on television and pop songs can make us fantasise. Today we can observe their activities on Facebook and keep seeing their pictures on WhatsApp. Some Christians even start praying for hypothetical needs of this person. If we dwell on these emotions, they can cause more pain.

Controlling these urges, emotions and thoughts are not easy but if left unattended they have the potential to cause graver damages. The perfect example is of Amnon, the son of David. He fell in love with his half sister Tamar, who he knew was out of bounds. II Samuel 13 describes how he got frustrated and even sick because of his inability to coerce his sister into loving him. He schemes an elaborate plan which is wrong and ends up violating her and then eventually Absolam, Tamar’s brother avenges him by killing him.

Pro-active action which will help us take our mind off the person. Inaction can lead to disastrous results.

Sharing these feelings with an open group of trusted believers, or even meeting a counsellor can be of great help.

Secondly, only God can complete all our needs: The story of Jacob, Leah and Rachel is puzzling. Jacob works hard to get the woman he wants – Rachel. Lo and behold, his father in-law tricks him and he is married to Leah! He then marries Rachel. Rachel is barren for several years and is unable to bear the pain of seeing her sister have one child after another. Leah, however, is the pawn in the story. She is used, cheated and unloved by her husband. (Gen 29:31), God saw that she was unloved and so opened her womb. Leah conceives 4 times and after each child is born, she hopes that she will be loved(Vv. 32-35) – Each child is named after this hope. Reuben, Simeon and Levi are the daily remembrance to her that her husband should love her. Sadly she never got what is rightfully hers. When Judah is born, Leah says, “This time, I will praise the Lord”. Verse 35 ends saying “..and then she stopped bearing children”. God wanted her to realise an important truth that only He can alleviate the pain of being unloved. David understood this very well. The number of verses he says about His love towards God shows us how inspite of several wives and close friends such as Jonathan, his intimacy with God was intact and only that kept him going. “When I lie down, I think about You during the watches of the night, where can I flee from your presence?”. Through every pain and hurt, only God can complement us and losing ourselves in His love is the greatest balm. And it is important to trust Him that He will guide us in finding a partner for each of His children.

Thirdly, anyone going through this situation or has just come out of it, it is important to have a “cooling-off” period – a time during which we completely forget everything about the person before committing to marriage. Also, complete and open sharing with your future spouse of this experience is crucial for transparency in the marriage. During this cooling-off period, spend a lot of time with friends from the same gender and ideally within the believers group. Take your mind off by engaging in new hobbies, adventures, projects, traveling etc.

The whole experience gives us a good idea of how God feels when we reject His love. The story of Hosea depicts exactly that. He loved us with an everlasting love, but we reject it. We despise Him, not attracted to Him, and spurned his love. But He woos us back over and over again. This is the everlasting truth.

Allan Victor
The author and his wife Abisha are currently working in students ministry with Sishya.

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