The beauty of loving and not being loved back

A personal bit about giving in to the process

The first boy I ever kissed was also the first boy I was in love with. He knew. Well, everyone knew. I
had loved him for three years, when, thanks to spin the bottle, he finally kissed me. Just that one
time. Loved him for two more years, learned all about his favorite soccer team, but to no avail. He
ended up with the girl he himself had been in love with all his life.
When I dated my high school sweetheart, we said I love you within the first week. I lost my virginity
to him, and everything was perfect. We believed we’d spend the rest of our lives together. We were
innocently, irrationally, idealistically in love. It was beautiful. Despite our efforts, that ended,
because I was looking for something else.

Song playing in my mind: „Innocent“ – Mike Oldfield (…You are magnificent when you’re

Third love, second relationship: Not so easy. I said I loved him, he told me I was cute. I was
devastated. Held a grudge for a year, until he finally said it. Never quite forgave him, and the
dynamics of me feeling more committed than he lasted the whole seven years we were together.
And in retrospect, so did my grudge.
Next relationship: I heard the three words first. Reciprocated immediately. I felt deeply loved,
supported, and cherished for five years. A stable, mature, drama-free, healthy relationship that set
the bar high for everyone after that. Still, I was looking for something, someone else. See a pattern

Song playing in my mind: „Unsent“ – Alanis Morissette (…You were the best platform from
which to jump beyond myself. What was wrong with me?…)

Then, an affair. Hot and heavy. He wasn’t free, and as it turned out, never intended to be. Told me
he loved me and went back to normal. Then told me again, just to play it down the next day.
Something kept me quiet when he said it. Yes, I did love him, but I wasn’t willing to let it show,
because I knew (or I thought I knew) he wouldn’t say yes to the concept of us. My wall was up, and
I ended it.

Song playing in my mind: „Piece By Piece“ – Katie Melua (…Then our ties will break, for
your and my own sake, just remember this is what you chose. Piece by piece is how I let go
of you…)

During this period I lost beloved friends and family members due to illness and/or old age.
Combined with that affair I felt like I was on my own, and that I could loose what was dear to me in
the blink of an eye.

Song playing in my mind: „Dance me to the end of love“ – Leonard Cohen (…Raise a tent of
shelter now though every thread is torn…)

And now get this: Meanwhile in my mid 30’s, right during my „nothing lasts forever“-phase, I meet
this guy that I had a crush on when I was 17. We start dating. I’m not quite in, I’m questioning our
compatibility, my feelings, him seriousness. I nonchalantly drop statements in front of him like „I
don’t think we’d make for a great couple“ or „I’m not sure if monogamy works for me“. Although
we’ve been dating for four months, no one is calling it a relationship. When my friends ask me, I tell
them he’s great, but I don’t see a future here.And yet, I’m secretly in awe of how connected I feel on an emotional and physical level, hence, the
two levels I believe I have the least control over. I realize I love him. Not just a little, I really love
him. So it seems. But what do I know?

Song playing in my mind: „Now that we found love“ – Heavy D & The Boyz (…Now that we
found love what are we gonna do with it?…)

Yes, I am aware that a few months into a new relationship, no matter if you call it one or not, I’m in
the honeymoon-phase. Hormones are going crazy, making him/us look better than we might
actually be. I know that, and I let those thoughts be washed away by a rush of oxytocin every time
he kisses me. I observe myself, and it makes me laugh.
Then one night, the inevitable happens: We have an intimate moment, I’m right there, not thinking,
and I whisper „I love you“. He looks at me and softly says: „Say that again.“ „I love you“, I say. He
kisses me. Holds me a little tighter.
And then there is silence. Long, suspenseful silence. Awkward silence. I’m trying to stay calm. On
the outside, I am. But I have a war in my mind. Sure, I’m old and fucking reflected enough to say
something because I want to express it, not because I want to hear something specific in return
from the person I’m saying it to. The fact that he doesn’t reciprocate doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel
it. People are different. Maybe I caught him off guard. Maybe he finds it premature. Maybe he has
doubts about us. Oh my God, what if I scared him off with my confession? What if I ruined
something that was slowly developing? What if he thinks of me as the affair while I’m trying to turn
him into my boyfriend? What if he’s not going to say it soon? Or ever?

Song playing in my mind: „For What It’s Worth“ – The Cardigans (…we had fun, fun, fun, ’til I
said I love you, and what is worse I really do…)

Before I bite my tongue of, I take several deep breaths. I’m breathing through the shame, the
embarrassment, the vulnerability. The thoughts come rushing back. I keep breathing. My mind
offers me the strategy that worked well for me while I was having the affair with the involved guy.
Play it cool. Or do what that guy did and act like I didn’t mean it. I had a few drinks, I could easily
blame it on that. I desperately want the upper hand back. I want to be the one who, when in doubt,
rejects. I can’t be the rejected. Balance has to be restored, one way or the other. I’m taking a few
deep breaths again.

Song playing in my mind: „Breathe“ – Depeche Mode (…Put your little hand in mine and
believe in love. Put your head on my chest and breathe love….)

And then I go back to observing myself and I make a conscious decision. Despite the anxiety,
despite the pain, I forbid me from backing out of what I said. I will own it, because it’s authentic.
Who are we kidding? I meant it. And I stand by it. Ok, that’s the first bit. Staying true to what I felt.
No idea what to do with it, but I will leave it. I will not tarnish it because of my insecurity, my fear of
rejection, my fear of not being loved. But I do feel very vulnerable and a little silly for blurting it out
like that. I feel uncomfortable, and what if he feels uncomfortable, too? So I make another
conscious decision. I am going to be sharing this part with him, too.
After a few more breaths I am calmly letting him know that I meant what I said, and that I honestly
didn’t say it so he would say it back. That I felt embarrassed and was worried I put him in this
uncomfortable situation. And that I didn’t want to put any pressure on him. Also, how much I
appreciated his honesty – that he only says things he truly means. The fact that I was hiding under
the sheets while I told him didn’t put him off. He then got really quiet and serious and said that he
thought what I said was beautiful. And the fact that this particular word wasn’t at the top of his
vocabulary didn’t mean he doesn’t feel things.

Song playing in my mind: „What is love“ – Howard Jones (…I love you whether or not you
love me, I love you even if you think that I don’t…)

Then we don’t speak of it for a few days. He goes back home, I talk to approximately 15 girlfriends
about it. I feel good about how we handled it. I loved his honesty, his openness. The fact that he
was able to talk to me about it. We stayed connected. And I am glad I didn’t put my defenses up.
Occasionally, a stinging sensation of embarrassment keeps creeping in. Sometimes my mind
suggests I find other ways to even things out by playing hard to get. Call him a little less. Send him
fewer and less romantic texts. I feel the sting and I hear my mind, but I don’t act on it.
I consciously do what my heart tells me, which is to communicate openly, lovingly. I will not allow
my protective side to rule my love life. And not just for me. If I love him, and I said I did, I want to
give him the gift of reliability. I want him to be able to trust me not to play games with him. So I
decide I let it sting for a bit. Who cares. It’s not going to kill me.
Meanwhile, I feel we are getting closer. Something is changing between us. Even though we hardly
speak due to our work schedules and the distance between us, I feel a shift. Mind still active, sting
still there.

Song playing in my mind: „I think I love you“ – David Cassidy (…I think I love you, so what
am I so afraid of?…)

Then we meet in person, one week after „the incident“. We spend the day. He takes me in his arms
and says: „I love you too.“ I can not believe how fast this is happening. I kiss him, slightly open to
the possibility that he said it to make me feel better. Quietly appreciating the nice gesture. Letting it
sink in. Feeling grateful to be with such a caring, kind man who’s so gentle with my feelings. Then
letting it sink in some more. Allowing me to really feel what he just said. Letting it spread, opening
myself to the idea that he truly means it. He’s not being nice. He’s being truthful. Letting it spread
some more until I have no room left for doubt.
I know now, that before we met after 18 years he was in a long term relationship that wasn’t very
emotional. It took some time for him to get back in touch with his and other people’s feelings. The
fact that I gave an emotional advance provided him with a tremendous sense of security. Of being
good enough. He needed a moment to let it sink in.
I love you – it is easy to say and easy to hear now. We have said it a lot since then. Whatever
happens, this was an opening moment for the both of us. I feel like we’ve grown, expanded, healed
a little.

Song playing in my mind: „Sonnet“ – The Verve (…Yes, there’s love if you want it…)

I will be forever grateful for this experience. And it humbles me to know that while I was battling not
to loose face I could have so easily hurt him deeply while he was still processing what I said. I’m
glad we could make each other feel safe while we were figuring things out. It’s a great privilege to
get to feel vulnerable and safe at the same time.
The stakes are high, but there is nothing to fear.
I have never felt better.