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here’s another kind of love: the cruellest kind. The one that almost kills its victims.” These lines from the Hollywood movie ‘The Holiday’ speak of unrequited love. Love that is not reciprocated. Those who have experienced unrequited love probably empathise with those lines. In some ways, unrequited love is a romantic, blissful state–what never entered into a deeper relationship can never truly end. Yet, this romantic notion can be shattered because of the intense emotional pain of loneliness and rejection that one may precipitate. Would a love relationship that is ‘requited’, or reciprocal, seem to be satisfying? Possibly, if that kind of love is girded by consistency, safety and trust. But even such a love need not necessarily be safe and happy. In some such love relationships, there may be a particular dynamic that is worse than ‘unrequited’ love. Such relationships are sometimes driven by fear alongside love, two extremely powerful emotions. The relationship is characterised by yo-yo-ing between a fear of losing the relationship and phases of love and attention. Usually someone in the relationship is blowing hot and cold. Someone is on again/off again, is randomly giving out or withholding expressions of love. This mechanism, intended or unconscious, keeps the fear alive in the recipient partner in spite of the random displays of love. Such inconsistent and intermittent reinforcement creates a kind of addictive bond between the two, where the partner at the receiving end of the random on/off behaviour becomes hooked to the promise of ‘hoping against hope’.
It is the lure of a promise lingering in the memories of those few good moments amongst countless bad ones that seem enough to keep a person in a relationship that is in varying shades toxic, manipulative and maybe even abusive.What does this hope hinge on? That certain beautiful love-moments, times of happiness, though infrequent now or even completely withheld, will return. “If I can just hang in there, maybe he/she will want me again.” It is the lure of a promise lingering in the memories of those few good moments amongst countless bad ones that seem enough to keep a person in a relationship that is in varying shades toxic, manipulative and maybe even abusive. Though it may seem that only romantic love relationships are driven by such dynamics, any love relationship can experience it, e.g., parent-child, friends.