How to survive unrequited love

SANDY SMITH
Last updated 05:00 28/06/2013
Heartbreak, heartbroken, broken heart, love, hurt
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Everyone has dealt with a romantic rejection at some point in their lives, the one who got away. But for some, like United States author and blogger Samara O'Shea, the pain of unrequited love stays around long after the relationship has ended.

When O'Shea was 24 she ran into a guy she had known in university and they started seeing each other. Both confessed they had major crushes on each other in school and a romance soon developed.

"The nostalgia factor played a role in our reunion in that we kept talking about how it was meant to be," reflects O'Shea. The couple dated for three months and Samara says she "fell fast and decided I wanted to marry him".

But it was not to be.

The object of her affection broke it off to get back together with his ex-girlfriend. Instead of accepting the relationship was over, O'Shea's feelings for him persisted.

"I was devastated and just couldn't move on," she says.

"It took me longer to get over him than the length of our relationship. I can see now what I had trouble letting go of was the future I had created in my mind."

O'Shea who is now in her thirties learned a hard lesson about one-sided love from that formative experience, something she is now turning to her advantage by writing a new book, Loves Me ... Not: How to Survive (and Thrive!) in the Face of Unrequited Love.

"I've learned that unrequited love isn't love. It's an unhealthy obsession better left behind," says O'Shea.

"It is painful because without realising it, we give our entire sense of self-worth to another person.

"We conclude that because someone doesn't share a romantic interest with us it must mean we're uninteresting, unattractive, or undesirable.

"Worse than assuming that's what the other person is thinking, we start to believe it about ourselves. If you get stuck in that negative cycle of thought, you can stay down for a long time."

Clinical psychologist Jo Lamble, who works with those dealing with relationship problems, says unrequited lovers often see signs of interest in the object of their desires where there are none.

"We are very hopeful creatures. We have confidence that the other person will come around in the end.

"That's why the book and film He's Just Not That Into You did so well, because the concept resonated with so many people.

"Outsiders can see it's time to move on, but if you're the one who is experiencing unrequited love, hope delays and exacerbates the inevitable pain."

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Lamble says to get over the heartbreak, you need to "stop looking for signs that aren't there; listen to your trusted friends; have as little contact as possible; accept any invitation to keep busy; look after yourself with plenty of exercise and healthy eating".

The first difficult but necessary step is to start to take back your self-esteem, suggests O'Shea.

"Say to yourself, 'It's not up to him (or her) how I feel about myself.' Even though you're sad and disappointed - completely legitimate feelings - you still need to tell yourself that you're a quality person and you will recover from this.

"Accept the relationship isn't going to work out and it's time to let go. Sometimes it takes just as much courage and strength to let something go as it does to hold on.

"Remember, you're not giving up on love you're giving up on this person. By doing so you're opening up door to let new love in."

On the flip side, O'Shea believes unrequited love makes the world go round.

"The silver lining of heartache is the creative genius it inspires. If hearts didn't get broken, then poems wouldn't be professed, songs wouldn't be sung, books wouldn't be written and movies wouldn't be made.

"Even Facebook had its birth in a relationship gone wrong. Instead of spending time and energy to win the person back, I recommend turning to that novel you've been meaning to write."

- Sydney Morning Herald

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