There are two reasons why they don’t love you.
The first reason is because he or she doesn’t feel it. This reason breaks both our heart and our ego. They don’t love us because of who we are or who we can’t be.
They want to love someone smarter, thinner, more cultured, with a larger record collection, with a less alcoholic father, with less baggage. Someone who is hot, who is less hot than they are, who expects less but wants more, who loves dogs and hates cats, who went to a big state college, who knows who Faust is. This is dangerous because it makes us think we can, and must, change ourselves in order to find love. We think, because he didn’t love the way I chew on my hair when I’m nervous, the way I say um to fill space, the way I stand pigeon-towed at concerts, than no one will.
I could tell you that you are wrong, that someone will love your stubbly legs and your use of the word “nefarious” in everyday conversation, but you won’t believe me…not yet. Because right now all you can remember is that they didn’t love you.
The second reason that they don’t love you is because they can’t. This reason does damage to our sensibilities. If they don’t love us because of us, we think we need change ourselves. If they can’t love us because of themselves, we want to, and try to, change them.
Maybe he is heartbroken and unable to imagine loving anyone the way he loved her, or maybe he is just broken, lying flat on the floor waiting for the world to end. Maybe he can only love alcohol right now, or he can’t afford to take the risk of love. Maybe he is incapable of love.
You might think, maybe I can fix him, help him, guide him; maybe I will be the one to change him. I could tell you that you won’t be – that of course they are the only ones who can change themselves. But you won’t listen. You’re too busy saving love, saving hope, trying to mend a wing that is dissolving in your hand.
Really, though, whether they don’t love you or can’t love you, all that matters is that there is no love and what you do with that fact.
You have two options.
You can stay. You can stay curled up on your January-frozen hardwood floors, staring at the spot where he last stood. You can repeat the anguish to yourself every day, reminding yourself how much it hurts, telling yourself it will never go away. You can update your miserable status again and again with yet another Smiths song. You can stay in perpetual lovelessness.
Or you can move. Not necessarily forward, but somewhere. You can go to the bars and make out with someone new, take an improv class, take walks along the lake on days it is too cold to do so, tell a story out loud, have sex with that friend you shouldn’t have sex with, go to AA, move in with your parents and start making candles to sell on etsy. You can move. You can do something.
At the end of the day you may find yourself back where you started, back on that cold hardwood floor. Or you may find yourself on a different cold hardwood floor looking up at a cracked ceiling with new legs wrapped around yours.
When you move you don’t know where you’ll end up, but if you stay you know exactly where you will be in a month, in a year, tomorrow. There is safety and extreme sadness in that knowledge. I could tell you to move but it doesn’t really matter what I say. If you want to stay, you’ll stay. If you want to change, you’ll move.
No matter what, though, remember that you loved. That is perhaps the only thing that matters.
We live in a world that prioritizes being loved, that glorifies the act of being sought-after and revered. We forget that the importance of our lives is not in who loves us but in our ability to love. Loving and not being loved back doesn’t mean it wasn’t love, it means something mattered to you, someone meant enough to you even if it was just for a moment, a summer, or a marriage.
The reason they don’t love you doesn’t matter. The fact that you loved does.