Why unrequited platonic love hurts so bad, what we can learn from it and how I cope with its sadness
Trailblazing 19th century American Journalist and women's rights advocate Margaret Fuller wrote,
"All human affections are frail."
As kids today say, "Facts."
Frail, ephemeral and in so many instances, hurtful. While not as devastating as unrequited romantic love, unreturned platonic love diminishes our self-worth and dissolves our confidence in a different way.
With romantic love we may suffer when we're not chosen, but we can accept that only one person can be "the one." But since platonic love isn't legally or morally restricted to one person, being platonically ghosted is a huge hit to our self esteem.
Wait, there's no reason why we can't be close, but you're STILL rejecting me? What did I do? What's wrong with me?
Why don't they want to be my friend?
When I was 11, I fell platonically for Scottie and Rick. They were in my summer baseball league, only I was on the Orioles and they played for the Pirates. But we belonged to the same swim club so, because I considered them cool, I approached them at the pool. I liked them and I wanted them to like me.
For most of the summer, they let me hang. Occasionally, they'd even compliment me. And when a cool kid compliments you, you're in heaven.
Still, they allowed me to hang. They never reached out to me. I always had to initiate our meetups.
That baseball season, if you took the time to write to The Plain Dealer (newspaper) you could get free tickets to a special Cleveland Indians game. Several hours before gametime, the Major Leaguers would give us Little Leaguers tips on how to hit and field.
I had to write three separate letters to get three tickets - one for Scottie, one for Rick and one for me. Then I convinced my mom to drive us to the stadium and drop us off for the day. (A different time, right?)
After the Indians coached us, we watched them play the Red Sox. I don't remember who won. I was more focused on being with my new "friends." (Which was unlike me. I was really into the Indians and cared deeply about how they did.)
On the way home, I sat in the front seat with Mom. Scottie and Rick sat in the back. They talked to each other. I tried to join in, but it was awkward having to turn around to participate. I felt left out.
After we dropped them off at their houses, Mom turned to me and said, "Those boys don't care about you! They hardly even talk to you!"
I'm certain that she said more, but that's what I remember. That's all she needed to say. Even the 11-year-old me knew she was right. I didn't want to hear it - it hurt - but I needed to hear it.
It was one of the best lessons Mom ever taught me. Don't chase too much. Friendship has to be two-way. It's good be the first to reach out, but you can't leave your hand there forever. Sometimes we need our friends to reach for out for us.
When it doesn't happen, it's painful. What did I do? Why am I not attractive enough? Good enough? Why doesn't he (or she) want to be my friend? Why are the ones chosen over me better than me?
Here I reflected on the wise, precocious words of teenagers (when they wrote it) Isaac, Taylor and Zak Hanson.
You have so many relationships in this life Only one or two will last You go through all the pain and strife Then you turn your back and they're gone so fast
Plant a seed, plant a flower, plant a rose You can plant any one of those Keep planting to find out which one grows It's a secret no one knows
Each seed planted could blossom into a relationship. Which ones will grow? It's a secret that no one knows, sure. But as it is with romantic love, isn't it natural - and okay - to want some seeds to grow more than others?
I could make a lengthy list of people who came into my life who I hoped would stay, but didn't. Because our relationship was platonic there was no dramatic break-up. No formal falling out. They just stopped reaching out. For whatever reason, I no longer mattered. (If I ever mattered.)
"I will win the worship in their eyes and I will lose it."
- From "MacArthur Park" by the great Jimmy Webb Note: Webb wrote this lovely, creatively-arranged ballad after a romantic breakup. Are there any platonic breakup songs?
I don't prefer it, but at this stage of my life I don't mind being the dominant reacher. But I don't want to be the only reacher. It reminds me of Scottie and Rick and Mom's lesson about not chasing those who aren't interested in my friendship.
And it motivates me to focus my limited time on those who are.