Love, adoration and admiration: The feeling isn't mutual
Michael has known Sarah for 20 years now. Living beside each other, they have essentially experienced all of their lives together. They went to primary school, secondary school and college together. They have laughed. They have cried. They have learned every intimate detail about each other. Michael and Sarah are in their final year of college and there is ambiguity over where they will be going to work. Michael thinks Sarah is the one. Sarah has had a bad run of relationships with men who never cared about her and Michael believes that if he could show Sarah how great a guy he is in a relationship, then she would fall in love with him and they would be happy. However, he knows timing is important here so he has been constantly checking her social media, reading her messages when she leaves her phone unattended, and following her to make sure she doesn’t see anyone else. After a few drinks, Michael decides to express his love for Sarah and she rejects him, saying she does not feel the same way. This breaks Michael’s heart and he gets angry at her. He can’t understand why she rejected him. They fall out as a result and they stop talking. 10 years down the line, Michael never really recovered from the rejection. He struggles with depression and he continues to obsess over Sarah. Sarah has developed anxiety issues and she has actually got a restraining order against Michael. She has caught him watching her from a distance and she is often scared to leave the house.
Laura has known John since she can remember. John was the stereotypical jock, always being the best at sport and always having the most beautiful girlfriends. Laura worked with John in a cafe, where there would always be a degree of flirty banter. One night at the age of 17, Laura decides to ask John if he would like to go on a date with her but he laughs it off, saying that they would always be friends and he couldn’t see her that way. This breaks Laura’s heart but she decides to focus on herself. She drifts from John and focuses on her education and ends up studying medicine. John studies graphic design and he goes on to set up his own company. 10 years down the line, John meets Laura by chance and they end up catching up. Laura’s former feelings resurrect and it appears it is mutual. They end up falling in love, having a family, and setting up a company together that produces state of the art medical equipment.
Two very similar situations but two very different outcomes. And Michael isn’t the only one. In India, there were 38,585 homicides based on love between 2001 and 1025. Love crimes kill more people than terrorism. So why does this happen? This post tries to decipher why.
As soon as you’re born, your immediate need is to be loved. Of course, you also need warmth, nutrients and safety, but you actively search for a connection as soon as your senses come alive, and this connection has huge implications for your future. If you ask someone what love is, many will say it’s growing old with a partner, holding hands while you rock in your wheelchair. Others will say it’s one of the most painful feelings you’ll experience while another might say it’s that moment of flow you experience when you are excelling at something you have always wanted to do. At the very least, love is complicated. To find another person to love, you need someone who likes the same things as you, who is a similar age, who is not too focused on their career, who is not already in a relationship, who is not a serial killer, who is in the same area as you, and who you happen to naturally bump into in a world where people spend more time looking at their phone screens than straight ahead. There are plenty of fish in the sea but most fish don’t suit you. And this is because it involves two peoples’ perceptions rather than just yours. Due to its complexity, it is generally not taught in schools. It is mutually exclusive to education, you know because it’s far more important to know different components of soil than it is to fall in love.
Love involves two people, not one:
So how can we teach our future generations about love? Well we can explain that love is an emotion. And remember, we ignore definitions here and we explain through cognitive behavioural therapy principles. We teach children to understand love through situations, physical sensations, thoughts and behaviours. For example, the situation might be one person meeting another another and forming a connection through a mutual liking of cooking. The physical sensations might be butterflies in their stomachs and increased heart rate. The thoughts might be I hope this person likes me, and I want to talk to this person all night, and the behaviour might be continued conversation and asking to meet again. Then the next bit is important. We then need to emphasise that love is mutual. Because it’s not clarified, teenagers are often left confused because they don’t understand that they live in a different reality to others. Therefore, they assume that because they love someone, then that person has to love them back. They just can’t see it yet. This is Michael’s issue. However, the failure of understanding here is that you cannot control how someone else thinks and feels, so you can try make someone feel the way you feel, but that doesn’t mean they will. And if this message is not understood, then people misinterpret personal space. This is the starting point of how public shaming happens, how stalking starts, and how rape can happen. So it’s essential that adolescents are made aware of this. If you have strong feelings towards another person, they are not required to feel the same way you do. Because even if you would be ‘perfect’ together, people do not live in your world. They might see the world completely different. A one way experience of love is the emotion of adoration. Because Laura has this awareness, it makes it easier for her to recover from her heartbreak.
You know when you know
So love is mutual. But how do we know what love is? And how do we know when to act on it? Well like what we teach at Motus, if you are going to do something because of the possibility of loving someone, such as committing to a relationship, you have to ask yourself if it is going to make you and the other person involved feel positive emotions or negative emotions long term. This is basing our decisions on our mental health. Michael does not decide that continuously pushing for Sarah’s love will result in negative emotions for him and her, and this results in their downfall. And what about the situation where you don’t know if your decision will make you feel positive or negative emotions, which is often the case? Well then we recommend taking the risk. Because with experience comes knowledge and wisdom. If you go into a relationship and commit to it, then you will find out far more about yourself than if you never committed to anything. The film ‘500 days of summer’ (if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it) touches on this really well. In the movie, both parties of the relationship are not suited to each other but by engaging in the relationship, they learn more about themselves. It helps Tom learn about the importance of finding love and passion in his career and it teaches Summer about the gift of love and marriage. They both get hurt from the relationship but this hurt teaches them vital information. So even if you don’t know, with love comes experience and this will allow you to know next time. Take the risk of rejection. Cue the inspiration quote.
Most people would say that there is something wrong with Michael but this couldn’t be more incorrect. We must remember that regardless of who you are, you cannot avoid situations of rejection, nor can you avoid the physical sensations and emotion of hurt. It is shit. But remember, you can change how you think about the situation and how you act. Micheal took Sarah’s rejection as a personal attack while Laura saw John’s rejection as an opportunity to focus on other aspects of her life. Regarding behaviour, Michael chose to hold onto his negative feelings by continuously pursuing Sarah, while Laura decided to find new ways to attract positive emotions. These differences in thoughts and behaviours are what differentiate the outcomes. The feeling of hurt is negative for everyone but how we think influences how we act and how we act influences how long the hurt lasts. And if you ever think that committing to something will make you feel negative emotions, you don’t need to feel guilty about rejecting someone else. This is not being selfish. This is simply looking at the long term. Time is valuable so don’t waste someone’s time even if they adore you short-term, which touches on the next point.
Unrequited Love: The detrimental relationship
So we recommend that you take the risk. But because of the complexity of love, of course there are exceptions. There is a belief that every couple has a settler and a reacher. The settler sees the other party of the relationship as reliable. The settler believes that the reacher is not perfect but he is infatuated with you, so he will do anything for you and that’s a nice feeling. But 10 years down the line, this acceptance graduates to disdain. You look at your other half with displeasure in your eyes. He stares back with genuine adoration, but you know you don’t feel the same way. But you’ve been together for a decade. If you left him, you wouldn’t even know what to do. On a deeper psychological level, this is an indication of your insecurity from a younger age. The first form of safety you found, you clung onto it, regardless of what form it came in. You made this decision on the basis of a fear of loneliness. So you made a decision on the basis of the negative feeling of fear, rather than the positive emotion of love. And then out of laziness and worry of hurting the other person, you maintained the relationship. The consequence of this is that you have wasted something far more important than security; you have wasted time. So how do we prevent this from happening? As mentioned before, we firstly experience as much as we can so that we can learn what we like and what we dislike. And then, we develop the skill of delay of gratification. We don’t maintain a relationship on the basis of avoiding negative emotions, but rather, exploring positive emotions. Be prepared to make others feel negative emotions short term for their well-being long term, even if they never see it this way.
So we advise to experience as much as you can to develop an understanding of ourselves. But this does not mean you need to spend your life jumping from relationship to relationship. Psychoanalyst and love expert Erich Fromm believes that meeting as many people as possible leads to a mindset of settling for the best person that is on the market and that people care more about being loved than finding love. This idea is promoted from the fact that we try to make ourselves as loveable as possibly by trying to make as much money as we can, by trying to make ourselves as attractive as possible, and by displaying ourselves as objects on dating apps. Fromm beloved that this was because society has given us an appetite for buying and he believed that this tactic of trying to meet as many people as possible would result in eternal isolation. It’s extremely important that you create your identity independent of others and personally develop alone, so you can know what you like and dislike and so you can think independently of the consumerist, materialistic idea of love that society has created. If you can then build an identity that you are proud of, you no longer have a need to be loved and it is at this moment that you are more likely to not meet the one; but to meet someone who you can love. Relationships are essential, but only in moderation. You need to learn to love by loving yourself first. Then you no longer have a need to be loved, and this is when you can truly find love. Just ask Laura.
And what about the people you look up to? Martin Luther King? Lady Gaga? Barack Obama? Celebrity stalking is unfortunately a very common problem and saying celebrities asked for it is not a valid reason for people to normalise stalking. And again, the main problem here is that these super fans think that if this celebrity knew me, we would be best friends. They ‘love’ the celebrities. And the super fans generally feel this way for a valid reason. People generally have a strong attraction towards celebrities because they are talented at what they do, they are attractive, and they seem like really nice people. In this case, it is important to tell the difference between respecting someone and loving them. While they can come hand in hand, I respect many celebrities but I do not love them because I have never met them. This emotion is admiration. And admiration is important. It can often motivate us to be more like that person, meaning it can create goals. But it should never motivate us to make a celebrity or anyone else feel uncomfortable. Remember, if you are making someone else feel negative emotions, then we should not be doing it. Decisions based on mental health. This is again an issue that stems from people misinterpreting their admiration of someone as love and this is why this education is so important.
So in conclusion, imagine a world where there were no celebrity stalkers, no creepy obsessors and no love crimes. If we can teach our future generations the correct way to think about feeling lonely, rejection or being in a detrimental relationship, then we could make more people see the true beauty of love: experience and understanding yourself. There is a dark side to love but people can learn and develop from it. Love is one of the most complicated emotions because it involves another person, but the only way you can learn about it is if you understand it and experience it. So love yourself, get your heart broken, and appreciate love. Because love is living.
All our Adoration, The Motus Movement.