“Someone I loved once gave
me a box full of darkness. It
took me years to understand
that this too, was a gift.” – Mary Oliver
Few words can describe the pain you feel when someone’s love slips away from you. The passionate flame that once flickered in their gaze fades, until one day, the lights go out. Their eyes become dark, and suddenly, it hits you like an avalanche: no one is home. Love doesn’t burn there anymore. They’ve become a stranger, someone you no longer recognize. You’ve planted roots in their garden, but winter has come, with no signs of spring on the horizon.
One by one, they’ve lit matches and dropped them on the floor, only to walk away and leave you in the flames. No one tells you how hard it is to heal the burns. No one warns you how painful it is to watch the memories, hope, and potential emaciate before your eyes. “Grief is just love with no place to go”; that sentence hits you like a punch to the stomach. You have become well-acquainted with your own brand of loss. Soon thereafter, self-doubt ensues. “Why wasn’t I enough?” You ask yourself this question again and again, spinning wheels around in your head, circling near the brink of insanity, yet never moving forward. Forgetting that someone else’s inability to sustain their love for you is not a reflection of some kind of lack within yourself, you continue to wonder where you went wrong, why you couldn’t hold their heart.
Slowly but surely, after the clouds part, it dawns on you just how powerful the light of your love is. You begin to think, If my love is strong enough to make me hurt this much, it must also be strong enough to heal the one and only person who needs and deserves it most: myself. The truth behind that epiphany is like a key that unlocks a secret doorway, setting you free. So, finally, just like that, you take back your love and turn it inward, toward yourself, because you know that at the end of the day, you’re all you’ve got and will ever have. Yours is the only love you can truly count on.
These are the five ways that loving an emotionally unavailable person teaches you to love yourself.
1. They teach you the value of time.
Emotionally unavailable people serve as a reminder of just how precious your time truly is. Perhaps you’ve forgotten this because there is a part of you that needs healing and is calling for your attention. In fact, you may be drawn to emotionally unavailable types because somewhere deep within you, there is an inner child that needs tending to. After wasting so much energy trying to earn their love to no avail, you begin to grow exhausted, and eventually, that frustration becomes a catalyst for positive change. You learn to take back your power and use that time more wisely.
2. They teach you not to abandon yourself.
Chasing an unavailable person often means abandoning yourself by default. You become so invested in proving your worth that other things begin to fall to the wayside, including your emotional health. Once you realize that this person cannot or simply will not give you what you want and need, you learn to redirect your attention inward to the one person you have neglected for so long in favor of them. That book you’ve always wanted to write? You draft the plot and develop the characters. The spiritual retreat you’ve been yearning to attend? Suddenly, it becomes a priority. Someone else may have abandoned you emotionally, but as long as your own heart beats, you will never allow yourself to take your desires for granted. Never will you devalue yourself the way they’ve devalued you.
3. They teach you not to chase other unavailable people.
The pain of losing someone who is so unavailable teaches you that there is no happiness to be found in running after those who cannot match your volume or reciprocate your emotions. You can more easily recognize the red flags and, remembering the lesson, walk away in order to properly protect your heart this time.
4. They teach you to appreciate those who show up for you.
Loving an unavailable person is like walking through an emotional desert. When you finally get a sip of presence from others, you realize how parched you have been. One cup of emotional intimacy feels like drinking an entire ocean. You appreciate the love you receive from others that much more.
5. They show you the beauty of who you are.
Last but not least, the depth of pain you felt over that person shows you how rare and beautiful your love is. They may have failed to see and appreciate the wonder of you, but with time, you begin to see just how special you are and that the kind of love you have to offer is deep and meaningful. You realize that so many other people long to have it. You learn to choose those who choose you. They see you for who and what you are. You don’t have to bend over backwards in order to prove your worth to them. They look at your flaws in an air of humility and non-judgment. That’s all you’ve ever wanted—someone to see you, the authentic you, in both your shadow and your light, and love you in spite of your imperfections.
Although loving an emotionally unavailable person is undoubtedly an incredibly painful experience to go through, it can also teach you lessons that you can take with you along life’s journey. After the pain subsides, you emerge a stronger and more powerful individual—one who is about to live and bask in self-love, fully and unconditionally.