I'm not going to pretend that life is always going to be sunshine and daisies, dear readers. The simple fact of the matter is that sometimes life sucks, and it sucks hard.
I'm not sure that there is an emotional experience more frustrating, heart-wrenching, guilt-tripping, or generally horrible than unrequited love. If you remember feeling like Rosaline in Romeo and Juliet – the brief object of his whims only to be side-lined for the flashier, younger model – then you're in the right place.
Why is it so hard?
It is so hard to find value and validation in who you are as a person without the reciprocal feedback from another person. Indeed, if your feelings of worthiness stem from the emotional support of another person, as so often it does. That person is, for better or worse, responsible for your state of mind and sense of self. This isn't fair on anyone, and don't we know it as we angst and stress about the lack of emotional reciprocation we're receiving. All the while lamenting that it's not necessarily even their fault.
That's always the kicker that the people causing such emotional distress and pain aren't actually aware they're doing it. The quest for a satisfying and enduring, comfortable love is a long journey. And often one that doesn't have a specific endpoint. Certainly, 'enduring love' cannot be achieved through sheer force of will. Oh, but haven't we tried!
But you aren't alone!
I promise you that there are millions of people around the world and close to you that feel exactly the same way; helpless, confused, frustrated, and like you're 'lacking' something fundamental. That feeling doesn't even necessarily go away when you're in a relationship. And there's no two ways about it, love is hard. But it's even harder when you don't feel loved.
So, to make us all feel less isolated and alone in these feelings, let me dabble through a quick list of 8 reasons why it's okay to want to be loved. Fair warning, it might be worth having Gilmore Girls playing in the background with a mug of steaming hot chocolate in hand; things are about to get nostalgic and emotionally complex…
1. It's human nature
Just like the maternal instinct and the desire to protect what is yours, the need to be needed and form connections is one that is fundamental to the human experience. This includes both physical and emotional, even spiritual moments that you can forge together with another person. This allows you to be vulnerable (scary) and honest (gosh!) with other people and yourselves. Resultant of this instinct, we form communities and band together with common interests to face common enemies.
The same is true on an individual basis. While it's perfectly fine to be nomadic or to love living alone and in your own space. It's also extremely natural – not dated or silly – to want to shack up with someone. This comes out of a desire to think about the future, seek protection, and above all else, have security. It was true of cavemen gathered around primitive fires, and it's true of your Sunday morning family brunch in 2019. It's just science, guys.
2. You give it out every day, you deserve to get the same back
Another thing that we as a society have to unlearn is the principle of generosity in material and emotional terms. We know to offer gifts and monetary gestures every now and then to ensure that relationships are fair. But the same often isn't true of emotional gestures. Often, one person is more invested in a relationship than the other, that is to say, more willing to prioritise their time, money, resources and emotions.
A basic human right is to get back what you give out, and that is essential in order to cultivate healthy and sustainable relationships. We often let it slide because we may not view our time as being as worthy as another person's, even though we go above and beyond for them. It's only right that we receive the love that we put out into the world because if we didn't, we would run out of love to give. Melodramatic, I know.
3. We don't need to be strong and self-sufficient all the time
Another basic human instinct is to protect ourselves and remain quite private with our sufferings. However, we must learn to keep ourselves open and acknowledge when we are feeling isolated or upset. We need to be able to communicate when we feel we aren't being supported, not feel ashamed of what is sometimes perceived as a 'lack of self-sufficiency'. All living organisms hunt in packs! The animals that live alone simply don't thrive in the same way as communities, so we can't expect to either by pretending that we don't want to be loved.
4. We need to let our guards down
Do you guys remember what it feels like to go home to your family for the holidays when you sit by a warm fire and get fed to within an inch of your life by your slightly overbearing mother and father? That's what we acclimatise to as children, and it's right that we should desire it as adults. These feelings are valid and rooted in social structures that have pervaded for centuries.
5. Desiring romance is not weak or 'anti-feminist'
It shouldn't need to be said, but it does. I'm going to say it again louder for those of you that didn't hear it at the back: whatever your political agenda or goals, no way of life or worldview should invalidate your need to be loved. We're fighting for equality for all, not isolation and island-mentality.
6. It's okay to want to be desired and feel desirable
Again, even if you are subscribing to the male gaze, or your feet hurt in those shoes but you know your legs look great, you don't need your every moment to be symbolised or politicised. You are valid and worthy to want to be wanted; everyone wants to be wanted. People might show that in different ways, but doing so in an apparently 'anti-feminist' way isn't weak or misguided – it's your prerogative to make those decisions.
7. We aren't perfect and sometimes you need other people to connect with to grow together
It's the plot of all the great rom-coms to grace our era. The girl sets about improving the guy's way of life to impress another girl, but they end up falling in love with each other. Both grow into well-rounded adults, capable of compromise, compassion, and communication. What about that is not desirable?
And the most important one...
8. It sometimes takes another person loving you to realise how much you love yourself
I know it's cheesy, but am I wrong? Sometimes you need the person you love to announce that they adore your birthmark or freckles or thighs or fringe for you to recognise it yourself. We see ourselves through the same lens every day, but you can revitalise and re-energise your self-love in conjunction with emotional support from another person. That's just as valid as coming to similar conclusions on your own, and we shouldn't have to be emotional masochists and suffer alone.
Ultimately, love is what all the great songs are written about, but we all deserve to have someone serenade us with Stevie Wonder's 'Isn't She Lovely', and mean it unapologetically.
Life's too short to list more restrictions on who can love whom.