Loving in the “Absence” of Love

Anyone who’s ventured into the dating world knows that only the lucky few emerge completely unscathed.

Most of us are bound to face a disappointment or two, to make a mistake or two, to have had our hearts broken or to have faced the difficult decision of breaking someone else’s. You win some and you lose some. That’s just part of the game. But we play anyway, don’t we, because it’s almost always worth it.

After facing my own set of disappointments (which were worth it, I might add), I have come to learn that even in the apparent “absence” of romantic love—or absence of the desired outcome that we hoped to have with someone—lies a plethora of chances to grow in learning how to love … just not in the ways we initially expected.

It is often in the disappointments, in the reluctant goodbyes, in the letting go of what “could’ve been”, that God teaches us real love—love that genuinely wills the good of the other even with no direct benefit to the self; even if it means stripping away one’s own selfishness and letting someone go, not because you want to, but because it’s what’s best for them; of wanting to see them happy, even if it means allowing them to choose someone other than you.

It’s often in the pain, the hurt, the confusion, and the conflict that we are given opportunities to choose forgiveness—even if the other person never deserved it, even if they never asked for it, even if they never gave us the closure we so badly needed. And it’s in the killing of our own pride by asking for forgiveness too that we finally put someone else’s peace above our own egos and impulse to ‘save face’, ultimately setting both people free.

It’s often in the disrupted plans or unfulfilled desires that we are forced to make one of two choices: we can either choose to believe that God is holding out on us, or we can choose to give our fiat even if we don’t understand anything and can’t even fathom an alternative outcome. We can either choose to let distrust grow in our hearts, turning bitter when we see others blessed with what we wished we had, and resenting God for using us as ‘pawns’, ‘lessons’, or ‘plot devices’ to move other people’s stories along, as if we don’t have a story of our own—or we can choose to believe that all of this is happening for our own good too, even if it doesn’t feel like it at first.

It’s when we are stripped of the ‘magic and glitter’ of requited love, of the security and validation that comes from mutual affection, of the ‘warm fuzzies’ that fade in the midst of conflict, that we learn how to love with true grit, sacrifice, and selflessness—the kind of love that exists even in the absence of positive feeling. The kind of love that is freed by a healthy sense of detachment. The kind of love that genuinely wants what’s best for someone else, even if it isn’t you.

So the next time you face another disappointment in the dating game, remember that none of this is wasted. Even in the absence of romantic love are plenty of opportunities to continue loving with greater refinement and sincerity of intention—just in a different way. So, make the most out of it. Don’t let it go to waste.

– Celine

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