Why Longing is Not Love

Have you ever ached with desire for someone? When you met them you finally felt the kind of love that inspires symphonies and moves mountains. Maybe you were great friends who occasionally had sex. Maybe you were in a long-term relationship but something kept you from riding off into the sunset together. 

You may have been seduced into a never-ending-game of cat and mouse, or your feelings went unrequited. Maybe this person pops up from time to time and isn’t totally out of the picture. Regardless of how the story goes, when you think of them your heart goes pitter pat and you are filled with longing.

If you are carrying a torch for a person with whom you have great chemistry, or even a solid friendship, but who is unavailable in the way you truly desire, you might be mistaking longing for love.

Whenever we experience heightened desire for someone who is unable to reciprocate our adoration, this rejection can create an addictive cycle of behaviors that simultaneously feels “good” and “bad.” 

This pattern has a scientific explanation.

science beakerThe good feeling is the result of cocaine-like “love chemicals” called catecholamines (adrenaline, norepinephrine) in the brain that get activated because you are experiencing attachment styles modeled in childhood or adolescence.  When combined with other hormones in your body, they create an intense infatuation with your object of desire that keeps you running from the intimacy of a relationship with someone capable of reciprocating your feelings.

Often the people who are willing and able to offer us real intimacy do not trigger these same love chemicals and so we experience them as boring, predictable, and sexual turn-offs.

The bad feeling is the result of the blow to our self-esteem.  Our infatuation with this lost love, and our desire to “win them over” intensifies so that our self-esteem can be “restored.” The chemicals produced by our bodies urge us to keep in contact with them so that we can continue getting “emotionally high.”

For those who didn’t have secure attachments modeled in childhood, insecurity can be an aphrodisiac.

unavailable man longing woman

There are very few people I know — myself included — who haven’t experienced the “longing as love” phenomenon, so if you can relate don’t feel badly.

Because most of us did not experience an ideal childhood, not to mention watching tons of “chick flicks” [ahem, The Notebook] that idealize this type of dynamic, longing for the “unattainable one” is a rite of passage we go through.  That said, if you have been unable to complete your transition through this passage, I want to give you some tips that will help you heal and complete the cycle.

Tip Number One: Have a support system in place to Just Say No to sexual kryptonite.

Have a wise and loving friend around who can help bring you back to center when the object of your longing calls, texts, or otherwise contacts you.  Enroll them in your commitment to transition out of this painful dynamic so that you are available for mature, anchored attachment.

Make an agreement in advance that they have permission to push back against any B.S. that you say whenever he comes around (stuff like “but we’re soul-mates” or “you can’t help who you love.”  Ask your friend to reflect back to you the truth of who you are and that you deserve a loving, present partner who gives you chemistry plus commitment.

Tip Number Two: Trust Your Intuition and Pay Attention to Red Flags

Often when we look back on a situation (or in this case a situationship) it’s easy to see the red flags that were warning of pitfalls ahead.  If only we had trusted our inner knowing we could have avoided wasting so much time.

When you think of your Mr. Hard-To-Get, were there any red flags that indicated he was not available for the kind of love, connection and longevity you were deeply desiring? Did you push them aside or talk yourself out of them because of the intensity of your feelings?

Trusting your intuition and taking actions accordingly is especially important when the object of your affection gives you conflicting signals that keep you hopeful. When you pair your intuition with a trusted friend’s perspective, you are better able to see the warning signs that let you know whether to invest or cut ties.

Tip Number Three: Remember to Keep Your Emotional Tank Full

The nature of feminine based energy is to seek fulfillment for wellbeing. Fulfillment, be it mental, physical, emotional or spiritual creates a sense of calm and inner harmony in individuals whose primary energy source is based in the feminine. One of the reasons why we fall in love with someone special is because they are able to give us this sense of inner fulfillment.  The poses a problem if we are unable to provide that same sense of wellbeing un-partnered because we are in a continuous state of neediness that repels healthy partners and attracts unhealthy ones.

To attract your highest potential in love, you want to come to the table as a woman already fulfilled, happy, and balanced.

If you neglect to take care of your needs first, you are more vulnerable to setting the bar too low for the type of behavior you will accept from others.

Acknowledging your healthy need for fulfillment and creating daily routines and rituals that provide you with nourishment will fortify you and help you make a better decision whenever he comes back around for another spin on the merry-go-round. It will enable you to say “no thank you” to the intoxicating but momentary ecstasy on offer. You’ll start to rewire your brain so that you are no longer attracted to this “pseudo love” which is really just longing.

Tip No Four: Write A “King’s List” and Refer to It Whenever You Are Tempted to Slip

woman writing kings list

Although you may think that you are settling if you choose a man who does not immediately create the same lovesick feelings that you associate with this person, the real settling occurs when you trade a fully realized partnership in for the ever elusive potential of someone who isn’t able to commit.

In my Love Life Makeover course I take my clients through a visioning exercise where they write down the qualities that they would like to have in a partner.  I call it a “King’s List” and it outlines not only on this person’s value system and how he has constructed his life, but also how he demonstrates your value and priority his life.

A sample King’s List might include:

  • He is comfortable progressively spending more time together,
    sharing more and more of our inner life with each other, and allowing
    our relationship to progress at a healthy momentum.
  • He is romantic and loves doing special things to make me happy. He
    tells me and shows me he loves me.
  • He is a responsible person. He keeps his promises and acts in a way that shows I can count on him.
  • He is considerate of my time, my feelings, and boundaries.
  • He has high self-esteem and treats himself accordingly.
  • He believes he deserves me.
  • Being with me inspires him to be a better man.

The purpose of creating a King’s List when you are dating is that you can refer to it as your North Star when evaluating whether or not to continue investing time in a particular gentleman.  The purpose of referring to your King’s List when an old love re-enters the picture, is to compare how he is behaving to this list and wake up from the trance that he is the right man for you.

Final Thoughts

The desire to be touched, to be loved, to be seen and be chosen by someone you are crazy about is healthy, natural and wholesome. But the projection of these needs on to someone who cannot meet you fully is less indicative of lost love and more indicative of a need for emotional healing and attunement that only you can provide.

P.S. If you’d like some coaching support to be free of this cycle for good, set up a complimentary Hello Session with me here

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