In Love With Someone Who Doesn’t Know

Embracing the Essence of Unrequited Love

If you’ve ever experienced unrequited love, you understand the bitter feeling of longing for a future with someone who doesn’t reciprocate your affection. It’s a painful experience, leaving you wishing you could rid yourself of those feelings. Even if you haven’t experienced it personally, you can imagine the agony it entails.

People often employ various techniques to get over someone who doesn’t love them back. In George Eliot’s novel Daniel Deronda (1876), the character Rex Gascoigne, after being rejected by Gwendolen Harleth, contemplates leaving England for Canada. I, too, once considered fleeing to the Canadian Rockies after heartbreak in Toronto. Some may seek solace in heavy drinking or endure uncomfortable blind dates set up by well-meaning friends. While these remedies may provide temporary relief, they do not make love disappear.

Why? Because our desire to stop loving is not enough to actually make it happen. Rational reasons to fall out of love are ineffective because love is arational. However, unrequited love can be transformed from bitter to bittersweet if we change our attitude toward it.

The Nature of Love and its Arationality

Rational love is justified by reasons, such as someone’s charm, persistence, or attentiveness. Arational love, on the other hand, cannot be justified by such rational explanations. The “problem of particularity” in love raises questions about why we love specific individuals rather than others who possess similar qualities. If love were purely rational, it would be difficult to explain this preference.

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Unrequited love challenges the idea that shared history or a relationship can justify romantic love. Sometimes love arises at first sight or develops over time with someone we barely know. In these cases, a relationship cannot serve as a reason for love.

Therefore, love is arational. While it may be pragmatic to move on from unrequited love, rationality alone cannot compel us to do so. Love is not subject to the power of reasoning.

Embracing Unrequited Love

Some might argue that if love causes harm, it should provide a reason to stop loving. However, love is not influenced by reasons, even if they seem valid. Sydney Carton’s love for Lucie Manette in Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities (1859) exemplifies this notion. Though Lucie didn’t love him in return, Carton sacrificed himself for her sake. Romantic love, it seems, is not only arational but also unconditional.

If you find yourself in the midst of unrequited love, there are compelling reasons to embrace your predicament. While it can be intensely painful, it is also a blissful torment worth enduring. By accepting your love, even if unreciprocated, you can alleviate the distress it brings.

The Act of Embracing Love

Embracing love does not mean rationalizing it. Love itself may be arational, but we can still choose our attitudes toward it. Rejecting love creates a divide within ourselves, causing further bitterness. Instead, affirm your love and tell yourself, “I’m in love, and that’s OK.”

You may worry that adopting prudential reasons to embrace unrequited love are insufficient. However, there is a nonprudential reason that holds great power: love is sublime.

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The Sublime Nature of Love

Love is a capacity beyond the scope of reason and sense. Our ability to experience immense, overpowering, and uncontrollable love is a testament to our humanity. Love reveals something profound and incomprehensible, akin to Immanuel Kant’s concept of the mathematical sublime. It allows us to glimpse the extraordinary, beyond the boundaries of our rationality.

Love defies our sense-making efforts, challenges our beliefs about choice, and reveals the mystery of agency. It exists on the edge of our understanding and expands the limits of our own self-awareness. Love is a sublime force that grants us a glimpse into the ineffable.

In short, love, even when unrequited, is exceptional. It endures anger, pain, and grief, defying all odds. Though it may hurt that your beloved doesn’t reciprocate, embrace the experience and cherish your proximity to the edge. Love is a noble capacity that deserves celebration, regardless of its outcome.

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