I'm going to preface this possibly contentious article with the disclaimer that it's okay to be loved.
Just because that isn't the message of this article, doesn't mean that you aren't also valid.
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. It is so hard to find value and validation in who you are as a person without 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 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 are no two ways about it, love is hard. But it's even harder when you don't feel loved.
That said, you shouldn't go looking for relationships and love where it isn't really in the cards for you. Or feel obligated to stay in relationships that aren't providing you with what you need.
Trust yourself enough to walk away
We all have those moments of doubt and insecurity in relationships. That's inevitable. Humans aren't infallible, nor should they be. If everyone was just robotic and said exactly what we were meant to say, where would the fun and surprise of life be? That said, we also acclimatise to toxic environments which aren't good for us.
We need to be better at recognising that we deserve better than what we sometimes get. Often, we might be investing more of ourselves and putting our time on the line for a relationship that isn't being reciprocated in the same way. Also, we often feel guilt for thinking about stepping away from such relationships, as though we are withdrawing a service that we 'owe' another person. We don't owe people anything in this world, not inherently. Not if they're not giving us the same in return, it's just not emotionally sustainable.
You end up expending and exhausting yourself and having nothing left for yourself.
Therefore, we need to recognise and relearn our power to say 'no' and mean it. Or to tell the people around us what we need when we need it. We don't need to become dictators or totalitarians to do this or to control the relationship, we just need to have an active and equal part in it. If we want to know where the relationship is headed, that's perfectly within our rights. Should your partner not be on the same page as you, that's fine – but that's the signal to leave the relationship. If you explicitly do not have a future there, then you're both wasting each other's time and effort, and making things harder for yourself in the long term.
You aren't selfish for leaving a relationship, even if there are other parties involved. Your life shouldn't be constantly on hold just because there are children involved, or friends, or a contentious situation. If you're unhappy, you have to start to work on that straight away. Children of divorced parents aren't unilaterally worse off than those whose parents stayed together. Wouldn't you rather your parents were happy, even if that wasn't with each other anymore? How is living in a house with constant fighting or tension preferable to a more open, communicative environment? It's not.
Furthermore, you only get one life.
Yes, I know that sounds like something that would be on a poster in your high school guidance counsellor's office, but am I wrong? You need to be willing to fall flat on your face in this world to reap the rewards of your endeavours.
If you're playing it safe and comfortable in relationships where you aren't happy, you're only wasting your time and playing yourself.