When the feelings aren’t shared, how do we choose to deal with the experience? By not repeating past mistakes.
Most recently, I believe a hallmark of maturity for us queer thirty-somethings is in how we navigate unrequited love where a real bond was forged.
Why? Because it involves touching base with abandonment — rejection, the feeling of being less-than and unworthy of human companionship.
To be queer in a heteronormative world is to simultaneously be other than; by default, this pushes you out of the collective norm that’s quite “easy” to assimilate amongst.
I know no queer person who has not felt woefully alienated at some point in their lives. This means — in the same breath — that I’ve not met a queer person who didn’t harbor the trauma of life-altering rejection.
And, I believe, we spend a fair chunk of our 30s contending with this. Or rather: unlearning our individual trauma responses to feeling unlovable, particularly in a romantic connotation.
In my teens and twenties, I was so reactionary when faced with adoration that wasn’t mirrored back. I made a beeline toward “fuck, you” certainty; I chose my own selfish narrative over opening up a dialogue; I blocked and moved on… when a truly platonic connection, one that could’ve been incredibly enriching.
(Mind you, sometimes it’s best to block and run. We usually know this on our gestalt. So many gay men are absolute trash, but with dumpster-truck asses.)
I’ve briefly dated one man in my 30s, thus far: I just turned 31; the SPF has never been lacquered on thicker.
I’ve, however, brushed up against unrequited love now three times. And it’s how I’ve handled the latter three relationships that I feel like I’ve grown the most from.
I’ve learned to hold space in whatever modality of communication is best. Preferably, it’s face-to-face or over the phone. Other times, it’s been a series of novella-length texts or volleyed voice notes.
I’ve found peace and appreciation in actively expressing gratitude for the time shared — “I’ve never laughed so hard over ramen I didn’t pay for” — as well as advocating for boundaries. Re-experiencing things the body perceives as trauma inherently leaves wounds.
In the context of unrequited, the severity and depth, and pain associated with those wounds are predicated on how strong those feelings you held were — the same ones that were not shared. It can take just a few days to “get over” them. Maybe a month. Perhaps a season. Occasionally, an entire year.
I’ve come to understand that you can, say, put a timeline on it. All you can ask for is space to sit with the healing, patiently. Without expectation.
Alas, when I was asked last year “can we please get dinner in like a month, I miss our talks,” after a hard talk, I obliged. I was not ready, and I had to cancel. This only added to my remorse and made the other person feel worse, by proxy. Leave it “I need some time away.”
That’s it. Nothing more. Hopefully, they’ll understand.
If the bond was truly something extraordinary that could possibly exist in a different canon of connection, time will tell. Time passed might just as well prove otherwise. But, again: You need time away absent of expectations.
I now find myself now in the throes of another fit of this. I’ve left it feeling remarkably proud of myself for how far I’ve come in handling unrequited love in the face of possibly a new type of connection.
Time will tell, I guess. And that’s perfectly fine.