The first time you realize the person you love doesn’t love you is always a shocking and defining moment. After all, the recognition that someone doesn’t love you, in no way turns your love off for them. Nothing comes with the epiphany to help you.
I once realized that the man I loved didn’t love me in an unexpected way. We were spending time in a remote area where most of the day was spent listening to hummingbirds and watching clouds slowly drift above while laying in hammocks. It was the type of place people go to discover a deeper connection not to realize how completely unimportant their partner considered them.
There was no dramatic declaration of “I don’t love you.” There was no real drama but the sudden realization that this man didn’t love me. In fact, the revelation hit me during a conversation we had about our birth control methods. I thought it was something we needed to address because I was unable to take hormonal birth controls and he was emphatically against having children. He had mentioned it several times that he didn’t want kids now or in the future with anyone. Of course, the weight of the responsibility had been on me since he also wasn’t a fan of condoms.
So in this casual, picturesque setting I expressed how I had been thinking of solutions for our predicament and suggested that when we return to the real world that he should consider getting a vasectomy. After all, if we weren’t going to have children, we may as well snip the problem at its source. His response was a resounding “no,” and he didn’t want to discuss the subject further.
His reaction surprised me since he had on more than one occasion said he didn’t want children with anyone ever in the future. I had never made such a declaration for myself, but I also didn’t feel the need to have a child perhaps since I already had one. I gently pressed him on the subject. His response went from I should have a hysterectomy or tubal ligation to his last word on the subject being that if I ended up pregnant, I would have to simply get an abortion. That was the moment; his words shook me, and all I thought was he doesn’t love me.
When you are in a relationship with someone and all the heavy lifting is put on you then there is no way that person loves you.
The moment can be subtle. There were no raised voices and no actual angry words exchanged. There was only a lack of appreciation for the other person. There was not a moment he considered that after having a child at a young age that perhaps I had faced that question before and that twenty years after my only pregnancy I didn’t want to be forced by the person I loved to use abortion as a form of birth control. There is no love in that. He continued for a while about abortion and how people’s catholic beliefs have infiltrated every aspect of society. I sat silently half listening but just thinking, so basically you don’t love me.
This realization wasn’t about the act he was suggesting as much as the lack of respect and concern for me. At that moment I realized he never listened to my journey as a single mother. My concerns for my health were of no concern to him. He said all of that with a flippant non-repentant remark. Any response to his view resulted in further insulting me. That despite my being an atheist and pro-choice, society has embedded in me religious ideology that I could never escape. He was more evolved.
So there you are, with your new knowledge. There is no going back from knowing you love someone who doesn’t love you back. But there also is no switch that turns your love off just from recognition. You don’t even know if they realize that you found them out. So you sit with your new revelation. You devise plans and maybe there is a way to turn it around. There is a moment of denial that you think; you can show them how it should be.
It is easy to stay with someone even when you realize they don’t love you. Not much changes except you. You start to see them differently. You see the excuses you make for their behavior as what they are. You recognize that they have shown you their lack of love and appreciation in ways that you didn’t accept as such initially.
There is something in us that tries to make things right. You define what the right way is and try to make it so. I had always thought that he loved me but just didn’t know how to express it. He was scared to be free and just let go and be in love. He held back because of fear and sadness. I believed in my magic to show him that loving the right person wasn’t scary.
However, when someone doesn’t love you, they demonstrate it in every subtle action. It may not be in an obvious disparaging remark but how they handle your love for them. People do not always love one another equally. Your love for someone is alive, and it changes. When you know someone doesn’t love you, no matter what you do, you change. You know that even if you loved them more, they should cherish what you give them.
When you see someone through a different lens, then your love for them will change. You suddenly realize you want more from love than someone who will push you out of oncoming traffic. Your next realization is that you love them less than you did the day before, and you give yourself the freedom to pursue deeper connections in life. The knowledge that someone isn’t in love with you may be painful, but it is also empowering and frees you from the burden of mediocrity. Eventually, whether you stay or go, you will love them less than you did yesterday.