What If You Love Someone You Can't Have?
Love & Relationships

What If You Love Someone You Can't Have?

A movie that I have watched, so many times that I've totally lost count at this point, is (wow) 11 years old now. It's the romantic comedy called Definitely, Maybe, starring Ryan Reynolds, Abigail Breslin, Isla Fisher and a host of other folks. If you've never seen it before, it's about a man by the name of Will (Ryan plays him) who is going through a divorce. His daughter Maya (played by Abigail) has all sorts of questions about his love life. As he walks her through his journey (totally in a PG fashion), a recurring character that keeps coming up is April (played by Isla).

If for some reason you decide to watch the movie for the first time at some point, I won't give the ending away. What I will say is I think that a part of the reason why I like the film so much is because it speaks to the old adage "timing is everything"—or, as my mother used to oftentimes say, "the right thing at the wrong time is still the wrong thing". When it comes to what we'll be talking about here today, it is oh so true that sometimes we love someone we can't have…right now. Maybe they don't see us the way that we see them—yet. Maybe there are some life experiences that both they and we need to have before crossing paths in a romantic way. Perhaps, while we may be "in the same book" with someone, we're not exactly in the same chapter, let alone on the same page. Again…yet. In these instances, sometimes all we need to get to our happy ending is time which requires faith and patience.

Yeah, that's not exactly what this article is about, though. What I'm talking about is what you should do if you love someone that the Universe is giving you all sorts of pushback on. Maybe they're married or in a serious relationship. Maybe the feelings are there, but you don't truly complement each other. Or maybe, you're "All Alone in Love" like Mariah used to single about (check out "5 Signs That You're In Love (All By Yourself)" when you get a chance). When this is what's going on, how do you 1) live through it and 2) get past it? Girrrl. Girl.

Ask Yourself If It’s Truly Love That You’re Feeling

If you're currently single and you desire marriage or a long-term relationship, what do you want the love that you share with that person to feel like? Shoot, to be like? Because I am passionate person, back when I was dating, sexing and situationship-ing, I must admit that I was a bit more interested in being led by desire than what motivates me now—feeling safe. Don't get me wrong, lust (which means sexual desire) has its place. My problem was that I put it before love and, when that is the case, things can go real left, real quick.

After detoxing some toxic family patterns, unhealthy friendships and cray-cray relationships with men, I realized that if something doesn't feel safe—"secure from liability to harm, injury, danger, or risk"—something isn't right. Something ain't the all-the-way-kind-of-love that I'm deserving of.

Just think about it. If you have a child, don't you want them to feel safe in your love? Your friends—don't you want them to feel safe in your love? Someone who believes that you love them, don't you want them to also feel safe? God loves us. Do you feel safe or unsafe knowing that?

Unfortunately, at least to me, the word "love" is tossed around so much—"I love ice cream", "I love red bottoms" and "Oh yeah, I love my husband too"—that a lot of us don't give love the kind of honor that it truly deserves.

That said, if you do indeed love someone who you can't have, in the process of feeling what you feel, is "safe" a word that can honestly be used to the relationship—mutually so? If not, if the situation exposes you to harm or danger or it involves a lot of risk (even if it's just emotional risk), I'm not saying that you're not feeling something; I'm just saying that love may not be exactly what it is. Love covers. Love protects. Love is safe. It's as deep and simple as that.

Get Real with Yourself About the Circumstances

If you've read enough of my relationship articles on the site, you know that I'm good for putting a throwback song into the mix. One that is pretty fitting right here is Shirley Murdock's "Husband". Actually, Shirley Murdock's "Husband", "As We Lay" (which she actually isn't all that thrilled to perform; see why here), and Kelly Price's remake of "As We Lay" where, in the video, Shirley plays Kelly's mom and says, "I know you think that you love this man, but God is not going to give you somebody else's husband." (For the record, she doesn't say you can't be with him; she said God won't be involved in the situation. That is key.)

I'm pretty sure most of you are familiar with at least one of the versions of "As We Lay", but if you don't recall "Husband", peep a part of the second verse: "You satisfied a real desire in me/Without apologies, I still have those needs/Well, I'm a lady with class, and I know my desire will pass/This cannot occur because you are her husband". I have shared before that once upon a time, I was a wedding planner who had the nerve to sleep with the groom-to-be (lowdown I know, yes she found out; they still went through with it, but they are divorced now). As a marriage life coach, I've also dealt with infidelity quite a bit and yes, sometimes people do profess to be in love with the person they are cheating with. I even know a couple who divorced their spouses, married their "side person" and have been together for well over two decades now (that is an exception and not the norm, by the way).

But to all of this, what I will say is, trust tends to be significantly and oftentimes irrevocably broken when two people come together via cheating. It is very hard to ignore the fact that if someone will cheat on their partner with you, it is very likely that they will do the same thing on you later down the road. And honestly, to want someone so badly that you don't care about that fact, that also begs the question if you're "in love" so much as you're bordering on obsession because real love doesn't require that you lose yourself in order to obtain it.

So yeah, if you love someone you can't have because they are currently with someone else, get real about if you are so consumed by them that you will not love your own self, just to be with them. If the answer is "yes", sis, the last thing that you need is that guy. What you need is to practice some self-love so that you can see what you are worthy of; and sometimes, that is the furthest thing from what you (currently) want.

Fun fact about "As We Lay": If you ever wondered what it would be like for these two sangin' powerhouses to come together, Shirley and Kelly performed "As We Lay" some years ago at the Essence Festival. You can peep it here.

Are There Red Flags That You’re Ignoring?

Once upon a time, there was a man who I loved so much that I looked over all sorts of red flags. His commitment-phobia. His unhealed childhood sexual abuse. How he would talk to me about other women (it wasn't derogatory, but it was pretty dismissive). His emotional unavailability and, to a certain degree, immaturity. I loved him so much that, in my mind, I thought that I could "love those things away" when, the reality is that, sometimes all you can do is support someone as they go through the process of fixing themselves via therapy, healing and the conscious desire to want to break free from certain patterns.

Sometimes, we want someone so badly that we overlook all of the reasons why we actually don't need to have them in our lives—at least, not in the way that we want them to be. Sometimes, if we're really and truly honest with ourselves, the "can't have them" is about all of the red flags that are trying to tell us, "I know you think this is what you want, but I promise you that it isn't."

What red flags are you ignoring? If you really can't see them, ask your friends about the red flags they may be noticing. Red means stop. Don't take that lightly.

How Has the Universe Been Working AGAINST What You Want?

There's another guy in my world who, although I didn't initially know it at the time that we met, he was in a long-term relationship. We worked together (which is how an overwhelming amount of emotional affairs get started) and so, eventually, I developed a pretty serious crush. By the time that I did find out that he was with someone—yes, feel free to insert some side-eye there because him not saying it from the jump was indeed shady on his part—I had already caught feelings. Feelings to the point where I was pretty irritated with God (what, you ain't never been there before?). I was irritated because, after finding out that we knew some of the same people and had shared similar life experiences well before meeting up and also well before he got with someone, I thought that the Lord was playing some sort of cruel prank or cosmic joke. Because, in my mind, this man was absolutely perfect for me.

That is until, after about six months of griping, I heard God say to me, "Shellie, if I wanted you to meet him when he was available, you would have. Being your man is not the purpose that he is to serve in your life." God was so right (duh). As I got to know this guy more and as I've discovered more about myself, he serves a purpose; just not a romantic one.

And trust me, coming to that realization has been a real lifesaver and totally a good thing. Not all connections or intimacies are meant to be romantic or sexualized. Sometimes, until we get—and accept—that reality, the Universe will do all sorts of things to put stumbling blocks in our way. For me, it was waiting for time to reveal.

So yeah, sis. If you love someone who you can't have, ask yourself why can't you? If it's due to their relational status, y'all's location or some other sort of circumstances, rather than breaking your neck to try and make "it" happen anyway, have you ever considered that God loves you enough to prevent it from going any further? And that is a blessing—even if right now it is a blessing in disguise.

What’s Preventing You from Moving On?

Even though mama used to say that there is no such thing as "can't", if trying to be with someone is costing you your principles, your self-worth or even if it's just totally wasting your time, sometimes "can't" should apply. You simply cannot remain emotionally invested in someone who either isn't right for you or, through his actions (or lack thereof), is showing that he doesn't want you because you're so much better than that.

If you're not yet at this point and place, ask yourself why not. Are you not accepting reality for what it is? Are the two of you sexually involved and you're honestly ad-dick-ted? Are you hoping that if you wait long enough, the circumstances that are keeping the two of you from being apart will change…even though his actions are clearly indicating that he has no problem with things remaining just as they are? Do you believe that you will never love someone the way that you love him? Are you afraid that this is the best that it's gonna get?

I had to learn the long and hard way that someone who truly loves me will value my time. A man who has no problem wasting it, he doesn't love me as much as I deserve to be loved. If the "can't have situation" that you are currently in is dragging along, you should ask yourself if waiting even longer is more or less painful than sucking it up and moving on, so that you can get to someone who will value every moment that he has with you—and will act accordingly because of it.

Do You Really Not Believe That There’s Better Out There for You?

Now that all of this information has been presented to you, if you still want to hang on, really, what is that all about? It took me a long time to get to the point and place that I'm about to share with you but, you deserve the kind of love that you are willing to give but aren't receiving in return. And here's the thing about that—if he felt the same way, he'd be making moves to figure that out as well. Here's one more thing about that—if he's married, you shouldn't want him to ditch his wife for you; he took sacred vows. Again, if he can dismiss her, he's showing you that it's not outside of his character to do the same thing to you too.

Something that the loving-someone-I-can't-have experience has taught me is the extreme importance that comes with guarding my heart so that the gift of my love isn't given without seeing if mutuality and reciprocity are even on the table first.

If it's not, no matter how awesome a man may be, he needs to be "filed away" as being something else. That way, my heart is healthy and whole for a man who I can love that I can have. A man who is single, ready and emotionally available to loving me in return. Because that's the kind of love that I deserve—one that will instead of, well, can't.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

Why We Love Men Who Are Absolutely No Good For Us

Why You Should Be Grateful 'He' Didn't Choose You

You Can't Sex It Away: A D*ck Appointment Is Not An Antidepressant

One Overlooked Yet Obvious Indicator That A Man Is Husband Material

Feature image of model Asha Childs by Unsplash




This article is in partnership with SheaMoisture

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