The Unique Pain of Unrequited Love

Love is a dance. Hearts come together briefly, then are whisked away by another – another person, another place, another intention. Perhaps you’re lucky enough to dance with someone for a long time, moving through the routine in a steady partnership. Maybe you find your dance card being handed around to one suitor after the next, and there is surely a thrill in that, but also a particular kind of loneliness.

Right now, you may be dancing by yourself, arms held aloft in waiting. You keep catching glimpses of a face through the crowd and you are certain they are making their way towards you this time, any minute now they will come, but… no. They are gone again. It seems unfair, almost cruel, that they could leave you looking a fool in the middle of the dance floor when it is so obvious that you would flow together brilliantly, silly that they would pass up the opportunity when it is clearly meant to be.

But it isn’t you they see through the crowd. You glance down at your dance card, searching for their name – you could’ve sworn you saw it, just before… but it was never there. And while you may have written your name on their card in bold letters and drawn little love hearts in the corners, as soon as you handed it back to them the ink started to fade, because it didn’t belong there in the first place.

Later on, they will finally spot your face, a beacon in a desolate sea of strangers, and, clutching a pen purposefully in their hands, move towards you. They will watch as you lower your arms in hopelessness, surrendering to your plight as a solo act. In that moment, someone else will swoop in and spin you around, and in an instant you are deeply entwined with this new heart. They will see the way you move together, like there is nobody else in the room, and they will anguish, wondering if they made a terrible mistake.

Meanwhile, you are gazing lovingly into these new eyes, dance cards forgotten, and that face you so longed to see up close fades into a fond, but distant, memory – just another stranger in the crowd.

Falling in love takes many forms. Sometimes it creeps up on you, little signs over time hinting at what’s to come. Sometimes it happens all at once, like that dream when you’re about to hit the ground and you suddenly jerk awake. Sometimes there is a trigger, like a song that cracks you open as you realise that you’ve gone and done it again, there’s simply no denying it anymore, you’ve fallen – hard. And that’s wondrous, that’s beautiful when the person your heart has decided it wants is also doing the falling but sometimes… sometimes, their heart has other ideas.

Unrequited love is a uniquely painful experience. Imagine laying your soul bare to someone who makes you feel so alive only to have them shake their head and turn away, leaving without a backwards glance. And you’re still wide open, and their apathy is sharper than any knife, cutting so deep and leaving scars you’re certain will never heal.

Often the not knowing is the hardest part. We tend to build people up in our minds to be something other than what they are, some unattainable ideal; we fantasise about our future together and it feels so real and so right that there is no possible way they don’t feel the same. We read into every small gesture, every offhand compliment, every lingering touch and we tell ourselves that it’s love, it’s love.

But sometimes, it’s not. The thing is, we don’t really know why love happens, and we certainly don’t know why it doesn’t. Often people will fall in love who seem so different, so wrong for eachother – but despite the odds, they do. And sometimes the most compatible people who tick all the boxes and are perfect on paper don’t want anything to do with each other. At least in those scenarios, everyone is on the same page.

Unrequited love sees one person devouring the prologue at lightning speed, having already done all of the hard work in their head, ready to slam the book shut and step into the warm embrace of their destined partner but… they’re nowhere to be seen. They are likely tucked away in a different aisle, running their fingers along the spines of other stories, deciding which one to pluck off the shelf and dive into next.

Have you ever experienced unrequited love?

These thoughts were partially inspired by the new Netflix original show, Sex Education. If you haven’t watched it yet, get on it – I can’t recommend it highly enough. Also keep your eye out for future articles about sexuality education.


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As usual, please feel free to ask me any questions in the comments or email me at contact.isobellawolfe@gmail.com

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