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Dating Advice #92 - Unrequited Love

May 9, 2009 | by Rosie Einhorn, L.C.S.W. and Sherry Zimmerman, J.D., M.Sc.

He's infatuated with a woman at work. She'd rather ignore him. Now what?

Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I was roaming the Internet and somehow encountered your outstanding and helpful site. I need your advice.

I work as an accountant in a hotel. A year ago, my manager asked me to recruit a woman for the purchasing department. I conducted almost 10 interviews before I interviewed Melissa, and I kind of liked her. I worked with her a great deal to help orient her to her new job. One year has passed and she's always on my mind. I think I am in love with her.

I tried to tell her how I feel, and she told me "there's nothing I can do." I am not sure what that means. All I know is that I can't forget her, and I can't date other women without thinking of her. Please help.


Dear Zack,

Yes, this is a problem. You've really fallen for Melissa, and even though intellectually you know that she doesn't share your strong feelings, you can't let go of the thought of your being together. Even though you know that this is keeping you from moving forward in your life, your heart can't let you accept the reality that your head understands.

It is difficult to feel very strongly about someone who doesn't feel the same about you. It is even more difficult because the two of you work together and probably see each other on a daily basis. No wonder you always think about her and find it difficult to date anyone else. Each day, your feelings for her are reinforced simply because you see each other so often!

Nevertheless, you deserve to be in a serious courtship, one that has a future, and in which someone will reciprocate your feelings. The first step in achieving that is understanding why you are so attracted to Melissa. When you understand the reason, it may be easier for you to let go.

There are two possibilities at work here. One is that you might be unconsciously stuck on Melissa precisely because she is "emotionally unavailable." She's safe -- you can adore her from afar without having to deal with the difficulties and uncertainties of real dating. If you can discover the reasons behind your behavior, you can start to deal with them, eventually unstick yourself, and move forward.

The other reason why you may be so enamored with Melissa is that she has a number of qualities that are attractive to you. She may remind you of someone you are or were very fond of, or even have many of the characteristics of the woman you have always dreamed about. It would be very helpful for you to make a list of all of the reasons why you feel so strongly about Melissa, and then look at the personal characteristics you have described on the list. Think of who she may remind you of, and why.

That insight will eventually enable you to move on with your life. You will be able to acknowledge all the reasons why you are so attracted to Melissa, and decide that since she does not reciprocate your feelings you will look for someone who has other fine qualities and who is interested in you as a potential marriage partner.

The next exercise we suggest is that you do a little soul-searching and write down your thoughts about yourself -- your strengths and talents, your values, and your goals in life for the next six months, one year, and five years.

Then think about the personal qualities you admire in other people and the personal qualities you would like your future wife to have. When you date, focus on discovering some of these qualities in the woman you are with, and see what other aspects of her life, personality and appearance may not be on your list but nevertheless appeal to you. This way of thinking will make it easier for you to appreciate the company of the woman you are with.

There is one other thing you can do in order to help get past your one-sided adoration of Melissa. You need to minimize contact with her. Changing jobs may not be an option for you, and of course it would be unfair (and probably illegal) to dismiss her when she has done nothing wrong. Nevertheless, there are still things you can do. She's been at her job for a year, so there's probably no need for you to continue to train or supervise her as closely as you may have done in the past. If your desks are close by, try relocating one of them. If you stop by her desk to chat everyday, stop doing it. Think of different ways you can lessen the frequency that you see and interact with each other.

We've suggested a few solutions, but you have to understand that it will take a lot of work. With determination and effort, you will be able to get over your affection for Melissa and move on with your life. Good luck.

Rosie & Sherry

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