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Monday, January 14, 2013

Letting Go of Unhealthy Relationships: Unrequited Love

One of the most difficult things to do is to let go of an unhealthy relationship where there is unrequited love.  When you're in a relationship with someone that you love, but who doesn't love you, it's emotionally painful and eroding to your sense of self.  The other person might have his or her own reasons for remaining in the relationship with you but, for you, the focus becomes hoping and doing whatever you can to try to get your partner to love you.  

Letting Go of Unhealthy Relationships:  Unrequited Love

For many people, being part of a relationship where their love is unrequited is an unconscious repetition  of a childhood dynamic with either emotionally absent or narcissistic parents.  The unspoken message from childhood as well as in adult relationships in this dynamic where you love, but the other person doesn't love you, is "You're not good enough."

Achieving clarity about the unhealthy nature of this type of adult relationship is hard because the person who wants to be loved is often completely focused on how to get the other person to love him or her.  Rather than putting him or herself first, this person places the other person's emotional needs first, to his or her own detriment.

A person can become so locked in this dynamic that he or she doesn't see it.  Friends and family often see it before he or she does.

Knowing this, the person whose love is unrequited not only feels the shame of not being loved by the person s/he loves but also feels ashamed that others are making judgments about it, even if loved ones never say anything about it.

When someone, who is involved in a relationship where his or her love isn't returned, comes to therapy to deal with the pain of this dynamic, it's the therapist's job to help this person become aware of the dynamic without being in denial about it.

With awareness comes the ability to make a choice about what to do.  Whether you make a choice to stay or leave, you're no longer a victim because you're consciously making a choice.

An article in yesterday's New York Times, in the Modern Love section, by Hannah Selinger, reminds me of this dynamic (see link below).

Getting Help in Therapy
There are few things sadder than looking back towards the end of your life and regretting that you wasted time with someone who doesn't love you or who doesn't treat you well.  You might realize, at that point, that if you had let go of that relationship earlier, you might have found someone who would have loved you.  But life is short and there aren't any "do overs," so this realization often doesn't help you.

If you're in a relationship where you're the one who is in love, but you know your partner doesn't love you, you know how much this hurts.  If you can get to the point where you can admit to yourself that this has become too painful, you could benefit from seeing a licensed mental health professional, someone who can be objective and nonjudgmental about your situation.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, you can visit my web site:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me: josephineolivia@aol.com.

New York Times: Modern Love - "Friends Without Benefits" - by Hannah Selinger

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