Dear Rabbi Bernath,
What do you do when a girl doesn’t want you, but you know she loves you?
Stop watching movies.
Oh wait – I had better answer this question properly, lest a pitchfork mob appear at my house and taketh me away.
So, you think you love her, eh? And you think that she really loves you back?
I’m sorry if I seem a little dismissive. Let’s think about this together for a second.
I’ve written previously about how romantic films dominate our understanding of relationships. They portray the various archetypal relationships by which we understand ourselves and the people around us.
(In the more religious dating world, archetypes tend to be based on different stories in the Torah – how Isaac met Rebecca, how Jacob met Rachel, how David met Abigail – not necessarily how Harry met Sally.)
One of those movie tropes goes like this: boy meets girl, girl shows a little interest in boy, girl decides it’s not for her, boy spends two hours of screen time trying to “win her back” by proving to her that she really does love him.
Don’t try this at home, kids. Leave it to the professionals – the actors. In my experience, this doesn’t usually happen in real life, and I’ll explain why.
Let’s enter into the man’s head for a second. What is he thinking? Why does he think it’s going to work? If it doesn’t – if she really doesn’t love him – then the whole story becomes kind of creepy, doesn’t it?
First of all, he believes that he loves her. Therefore, she must love him, too, because love is, by definition, mutual. Or, to put it existentially: why would God make me love her, if she doesn’t love me back? What’s the point?
What this hypothetical guy is missing is that the movie doesn’t really portray love. In other words: if love is always mutual (and that’s a big statement in itself), then maybe what you’re experiencing isn’t love at all, and therefore it’s not mutual.
We have a great word for this in English: infatuation. It’s a word that was popular in the 1800’s, but has fallen out of favour recently.
Infatuation is the way some people feel about food (theinfatuation.com is a food website, for real). It’s a very intense, very powerful feeling when it comes to human relationships. It makes people act uncharacteristically, because it’s an unreasoning love – a love untempered by the mind, kind of like an obsession.
This is the emotion portrayed in some of those romantic movies – usually, the movies where the guy goes a little crazy. But life isn’t a movie. In real life, it doesn’t always end well.
I know this will be tough for you to hear, but you need to move on. When a relationship is over, it’s over. Once the other person has said “no,” she is nothing and nobody to you. Get over it. Ideally, you should not see her ever again (or for a very long time).
Don’t get me wrong, I feel really bad for you. You’re stuck. Maybe you’ll never get out completely. It could be that this girl will live in your mind for a long time – even though she has completely forgotten about you. If it’s that bad, therapy, or a good mentor, can help. It’s important that you let go of her before you move on.
If it really was love, just leave the door open. When the time is right, she’ll come back. But true love means that you should give her space, not try to convince her that she loves you.
Most of the time, for your own health and sanity (and, in extreme cases, for hers, as well), if it was never meant to be, you need to try to take your lesson from it and find someone else out there. n
Have a question for Rabbi Bernath? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org