When Unrequited Love Is Addictive

a photograph of the moon
Image by Jacopo / CC BY

Jazz ballads are typically very sad. Full of longing. Unrequited love.

As such, they were a perfect frame for my teenage years.

Surrounded by prettier girls who always seemed to have more luck than I did in dating, I was a dirty secret backup plan for them. The gay tryst in darkness. And occasionally I’d date a guy, but he was inevitably some troubled loner that skeeved everyone around me out.

So it went. A troubled home life only confirmed what I knew inside to be true: I was a lower life form than everyone who surrounded me. A person whose station in life was to dine on scraps that were thrown my way.

I gigged every weekend but never had anyone in the audience cheering me on. And while my friends often danced with their boyfriends during breaks, I was typically found hovering over the crudites, working out a new gig with a prospective client and/or eating a lot of raw cauliflower.

Before returning to perform songs with lyrics like these:

Darn that dream

I dream each night

You say you love me and you hold me tight

But when I awake, you’re out of sight

Oh, darn that dream

I channeled my sadness into playing beautifully. And developed quite a reputation for it.

I frequently made people cry when I played. Simply by turning myself inside out and showing them how I felt inside.

How much I wanted someone to nurture and love. Someone who would stay around long enough for me to really get to know them.

In those days, it never even occurred to me that it was possible for them to do it back.

Like Waking Up on the Moon

So when it finally happened to me, after decades of first being on my own and eventually finding some people who would keep me around for a while but treated me mostly with coldness, when I finally met someone who loved me back, treated me well…

I didn’t understand it. I couldn’t cope with it.

It just didn’t make any sense.

It was like I had woken up one day on the moon, with no memory of how I’d gotten there. I viewed my partner and our relationship with deep suspicion, expecting at any moment for the trick to become evident. To suddenly find that none of it were real.

But that didn’t happen.

And so my brain began to do another curious thing instead: It started to look for evidence that my partner didn’t really love me, even though it was a preposterous argument. A case that no good attorney would have taken up.

Because the evidence wasn’t really there, I instead began to plant false evidence of coldness, indifference. To interpret silences through the most hostile lens possible. Generate the most negative explanations for behavior that I could muster.

Because I’d become addicted to unrequited love. It was killing me, but my entire body had grown to accommodate it. Without it, I didn’t know how to function.

It hasn’t been the easiest road, withdrawal. Learning to recognize my own bullshit (like emotional self-harm) and call myself out on it.

But I’m starting to feel like I’m going to make it.

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My new book is out!

Dealing with Difficult Metamours, the first book devoted solely to metamour relationships, full of strategies to help you get along better with your partners’ other partner(s).

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