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Unrequited Love

I hate the word unrequited, because we assume it to mean that there is only one person in love, and the other person is indifferent or even ignorant of that love. We use the term to cover almost any relationship that does not come to fruition: from stalker-like crushes on celebrities, to unequal love affairs, to love that is not actively returned but is still felt on both sides.

“Where are you?”

Cricket has had a few unrequited loves in her life. Usually with cats. Cats are not sure about Cricket, with her fast moving feet and her high pitched bark, but that doesn’t mean that the cats were never interested in her; they preferred to lurk and watch her from a distance.

Cricket and the cat

Cricket and the cat

Butterfly is less intimidating, and more approachable, but as yet she has not shown any persistent interest in any particular dog, or animal, other than her sister. Cricket only pretends indifference to Butterfly. At the very least, she loves having access to a Scent-O-Pee dispenser at all hours of the day and night.

Self explanatory.

Self explanatory.

I used to watch Hugh Grant movies, and a friend told me, you know, life is not really like a romantic comedy. And I said, of course I know that – but maybe I didn’t. I knew that Hugh Grant was not like the characters he played, but I figured someone must be, for the script to be written in the first place. I may have too much faith in my fellow writers.

I’ve had my share of crushes on TV characters, but most of my unrequited loves have been more complicated in one way or another, and yet still, finally, unrealized. I often feel like I’m pressing my nose up against the glass at a department store window, to stare at all of the things I can’t have.

IMG_1829            The dogs are my experiment in love requited, because they really do love me as much as I love them (even if they can be moody and need their own space sometimes). They are my lesson in the routines of love: the gifts given whether you’re in the mood or not, tasks accomplished and needs met even if I feel resentful about it. And I’ve found that I’m pretty good with all of this, and I miss them when they’re at the groomer for a few hours, and I’m happy to see their smiling faces each time I come home. I learned a lot about the dailiness of love from Mom: that love is action as well as feeling, and if you love someone, you take care of them, even if they are annoying you at this moment (I can be very annoying).

"I love you anyway, Mommy."

“I love you anyway, Mommy.”

I’ve learned about how to invest in love from writing, because I invest in it every day, even when weeks go by without inspiration, or years without external signs of success. I feel the security of making that daily investment. But romantic love – I don’t know how to build that or even to seek it out in a productive way. My parents’ marriage was scary, and maybe that’s what I expect romantic love to turn into, no matter how it begins.

I’m tired of seeing everything I do as pathological, even when it is, actually, pathological. The thing about unrequited love, is that there is an endless sense of possibility. Something exciting is always around the corner, even if it never actually arrives.

“What’s next?”

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About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

70 responses »

  1. Loving people can be a very scary thing indeed. The hard part is trusting that no matter what happens you’ll be okay (yet maybe you won’t). I struggle with unknowns but eventually plunge into love. Sometimes it works out 🙂 And then eventually you die. Life. Blah!

    Dogs make it worthwhile.

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  2. ramblingsofaperforatedmind

    Our house feels empty without the little yappers….

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  3. I believe this firmly : love is action as well as feeling–and you put it perfectly!

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  4. Unrequited love is a weird thing because every so often you think it’s unrequited but it isn’t, it’s only drowning in unawareness. Romantic love is hard and necessitates daily work, you can’t be llazy about it. Dogs are the best with unconditional love. 😀

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  5. Oh yes, the high pitched squeals when a critter is sighted by a small dog. We have Kaci and Kali’s “Kritter Kalls”.

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  6. Every one and every living thing needs space, needs to be needy, and annoying at times. The fact that we accept this is love in itself! Woof!

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  7. People are all so very different from each other. I’m not sure what happened in your parents’ marriage is much of a guide as to where romantic love would go for any other two individuals. As Laurie Nichols said earlier in your comment thread, though, romantic love does usually take a bit of work. Nobody is perfect — not even Hugh Grant! — so a romantic relation involves a certain amount of compromise at times (or in my case, a lot of compromise most of the time).

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  8. Ah the Sunday papers! A cup of tea, a croissant and Rachel’s Chronicle of the week, you have become a ‘tradition’ and a source of joy.
    As you can see I am back ‘en forme’ this week.
    Sublime observations of the bitter/sweet double edge sword of one sided affection.
    BunKaryudo just burst my bibble – I though Hugh was perfect? No? I must be thinking of George Clooney!

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  9. Dogs often find cats fascinating – to stare at or to chase, maybe even to befriend. Cats often find dogs fascinating if they feel safe, because they know the dog or because they’re in a place the dog can’t reach. My last cat used to approach any dog from a spaniel down. Some responded in friendly style and others were frightened!

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  10. Beautifully put, Rachel. We are lucky that we have our animals to love, and to be loved by in return. My cats and I also get on each others’ nerves from time to time, but I think we’ve taught each other the art of compromise and the dance of tolerance.

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  11. Fantastic write up… and yes – we can count ourselfs lucky with our 4 legged friends. wouldn’t like to be without benn…
    ps: i love hugh grant romantic comedies 😀

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  12. When I was young I used to specialise in unrequited love. I still remember those young women with fondness . . .those I can remember, anyway! They were completely ignorant of my feelings for them. It was a sort of courtly love, and I could do little kindnesses for them without embarassment on either side. But the love I have for my wife is different. It is spoken and transparent. This means it is healthy, the air can get at it, the wounds can heal quickly. It is much harder than the unrequited stuff, but much richer.

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  13. Nakedly, heartbreakingly honest. “Romantic love” – an area of life where I have failed spectacularly so far … but, it ain’t over yet!

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  14. We love our pets to pieces, that’s why we have them. They give so much in return, and who can resist a pair of forlorn eyes as you try to eat that tasty morsel?

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  15. In my Filofax I have a dividing page – a photograph of a young woman walking a dog with the words – “All you need is Love – and a dog!”

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  16. I’ve never stayed annoyed with any of the dogs that have been in my life. I guess they’re easy to love and easy to forgive…

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  17. This is you at your very best writing, I think. Personal. Passionate. Your dogs adore you – we take their trust and adoration as requited love and should. Your love for writing is the very best of you – and has generated a faithful group of followers who love your work.
    Some people go a lifetime without your success in all areas of your life.
    And never say never about an unrequited love that may turn “requited” on down the road some day. 🙂 Someone would be lucky.

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  18. Dog and cat, completely different personality. Dogs may long for the friendship or acceptance, of cats, but cats are confident they are one thousand times smarter than dogs (even if they aren’t) so everything has to be on their terms. I must say I like that about them. They are unashamedly about Number 1.

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  19. Beautiful post. (It’s been a while since I’ve had the time to sit down and read, but I’ve enjoyed catching up this morning.)

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  20. Hi Rachel, I get this one. As long as you give love, you have love to give. So there is no such thing as unrequited love, as long as we accept love within ourselves. I too have learned this from my pet companions. When I was young I worried about “unrequited” love…but now I am just grateful for the freedom I have. Linda

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  21. Absolutely fantastic!!!
    I adore how you tied many different situations or different kinds of love into this post.
    I always enjoy reading your blog anyway, and it’s b/c it’s excellent! 🙂
    (My since passed away snail Big Mama & Devil Hawk had a love for each other and had I not of seen it for myself, I’d never have believed it.) “LOVE” is such a neat thing to think upon especially as it reaches far beyond humans.
    Give the fur children a good scratch for me. 🙂 🙂

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  22. In my book, dogs are the best teachers of love, both as in feeling and in action 🙂 Love this post, Rachel.

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  23. Do I detect a bit of a crush? On someone, somewhere? You are so worthy of unrequited love from someone; you just have to let them in and not fight it.

    As with every subject you write about, you come at it in such a wonderful way! Keep doing that. You are a brilliant writer and someday, with persistence and self confidence, you will publish a book. I will be in line to buy a signed copy!

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  24. “Scent O Pee dispenser”…..oh you made my year with that one..I’ll chuckle for ages!! I wonder of Huny misses her version with the loss of her friend earlier this year? Your dogs are ADORABLE..and as always you talk about them with love and respect. Romantic love is overrated anyway (in my opinion), but unselfless devotion of the doggy kind? Never grows old!

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  25. can I please love this post?

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  26. I completely agree, My cats love my son, but only when he is asleep, during the day they tend to stay out of his way, because he is 3 and a little rough,at night we find both of them on his bed

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  27. Dogs are so much better at love than humans!

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  28. I love this post so much! I love animals! I have a cat and she’s weird but it’s still love. I live with 2 labrador retrievers and their love is unconditional! That’s a scary thing. My peers still seem weirded out when folks are nice to them. hmmm… About animals too – it’s our job to show love and nothing else. They can’t defend themselves for the most part…

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  29. Well thought out and put together, Rachel. If they handed out PhDs in unrequited love, I would have been a Dr back in the day. My favourite movie was “When Harry Met Sally” and every Valentine’s Day was a huge production job for me sending anonymous cards to people I admired from afar and never knew how I felt or just ignored it. It wasted a huge amount of time and energy!! Real love is so scary and needs all those things you mentioned…especially action when you don’t feel like it. I still have a lot to learn 0n this front…kitchen needs to be cleaned up. Dogs need to be walked and I did mention making pancakes to my husband. Our kids are away at a scout camp for the weekend. HOwever, the cough I’ve been fighting for months now is still here and I’m not very mobile. I haven’t been walking and I’ve seized up and now walk like an 80 year old. I think my husband and I might go out for a drive or something. Hope you’re having a good weekend, Rachel! xx Rowena

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  30. When you wrote you don’t know how to seek out romantic love, my reaction was, “But you’re young–it’s out there waiting for you!” With a few moments’ thought, I realized I don’t know how to either. Keep loving your doggies and writing such sweet, philosophical pieces, and everything will work out.

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  31. I enjoyed reading this, a lot. That means, among other things, that it made me smile, knowingly. I especially loved the last paragraph. And I especially especially (that double especially usually means I laughed out loud, knowingly) at this: “I’m tired of seeing everything I do as pathological, even when it is, actually, pathological.”

    Reply
  32. Talking about “love” — I love your characterization of Butterfly as Cricket’s “Scent-o-pee dispenser” !

    Reply

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