The Courage to Love Someone Who Doesn't Love You Back

The Courage to Love Someone Who Doesn’t Love You Back

“Walking down the aisle to the man of my dreams was almost more than I could fully embrace. I loved him with every ounce of my being and had never loved that way before. And I’m convinced that I will never love that way again!” my client smiled as tears flowed.

It was a curious mix of emotions, so I waited to understand something that was clearly flowing from deep within her soul.

“I never dreamed that loving him would be difficult.” Then she paused in deep reflection. “No… That’s not right. Loving him is not difficult. It’s difficult that he seems committed to rejecting my love.”

I smiled and nodded with the great empathy I was feeling as her heart poured out.

“I guess there was plenty of evidence that he did not love me. Maybe he was a good showman. Maybe I was blissfully ignorant. Maybe …”

By this time she was choking back waves of tears, but it appeared that the floodgates were opening.

She continued as her chest heaved words that seemed stuck in her throat.

“I believed that other than some difficult moments, we were good. We did a lot of fun things together, we laughed, we had great talks. Yet basic loving things that husbands do for their wives were painfully missing.”

“I convinced myself if I could love him better that it would come with time.” More heaving … “It didn’t.”

“He left me many times. But I believed in us. Even in his absence, I sent loving texts, inviting him home. I prayed. I fasted. I believed for a miracle!”

“Then, after a very unfortunate evening, I asked him to leave. He was very happy to go. Actually relieved to go.”

“He was gone for weeks, and I finally received a text saying he wanted to come home. This was the only time that I had not asked him to come home. I thought it was the miracle.”

“When he arrived home, he shared some disparaging news about having gone to be with his ex-girlfriend. He thought the only chance we had was for him to share the truth.”

“The truth was not what I expected, yet I guess I should not have been surprised.”

At this point, she was sobbing uncontrollably, and although she was gasping words, I was unable to decipher most of them. But I sat with her with loving patience. 

When she gathered herself enough, I heard all I needed to hear to understand her devastation.

“He told me that he did not love me when he married me. As a matter of fact, he told me he had to make himself marry me.” Gut wrenching sobs.

I reached for her hand and sat quietly with her. I told her it was okay to stay with the pain and cry it out.

When she could take in a deep breath, she continued: “I finally got the courage to ask why he came home? And he said because he realized that along the way he had started to love me.”

“I asked him when he had started loving me. At first he said when he saw a video update (about a doctor’s appointment) that I had sent him. But that had been just a week earlier.”

“Then he corrected it and said it had been about nine months previous to that.”

“I am so sorry. I see and hear how broken you are!” I whispered as she seemed to drift away.

I waited with deep compassion. “How do I ever recover from this? And how do I know if he really loves me?” she pleaded.

Although this was a gut-wrenching session, I wish I could report that it was a rare occurrence in my office. 

But the truth is, it happens quite often.

Whether it’s the one who says that they don’t love their partner anymore, or the one who has heard the devastating news… I hear it often.

I assured my client that I would answer her questions eventually, but the most important order of business was to do some healing exercises for her broken heart.

She did excellent work to that end, and finally, we got to the topic that I would like to share with you this week.

The courage to love when someone does not love you back.

 1. You must be courageous enough to believe in the power of love. 

Love is a powerful thing. More powerful than most of us can comprehend.

“The way of peace is the way of love. Love is the greatest power on earth. It conquers all things.” Peace Pilgrim

Two great songs, tell us about the power of love.

Huey Lewis sings:

Don’t need money, don’t take fame

Don’t need no credit card to ride this train

It’s strong and it’s sudden and it’s cruel sometimes

But it might just save your life

That’s the power of love

Celine Dion sings:

We’re heading for something

Somewhere I’ve never been

Sometimes I am frightened

But I’m ready to learn

Of the power of love.

“The true power of love is found in selfless attitudes and actions that seek the best for another person without expecting anything in return. When we act in that way, the feeling of love follows close behind.” David Jeremiah

Love is so powerful it has major impact on our health and well-being. Here is a long, but abbreviated list of the benefits research reveals occur as a result of loving someone:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Increased dopamine
  • Lowered rates of substance abuse
  • Reduced depression
  • Increased lung health
  • Reduced stress
  • Greater quality of life
  • Aging more gracefully (looking 5-10 years younger than your age)
  • Less likely to engage in addictions (such as drug or alcohol abuse)
  • Can add 7-12 years to your lifespan
  • Experiencing less pain (due to higher dopamine levels)
  • Prevents heart attacks (3x less likely)
  • Fewer doctor’s visits
  • Bolsters immune system
  • More likely to be physically fit
  • Experiencing fewer colds
  • Assists body in fighting off cancer cells
  • Less cortisol resulting in less stress
  • Healthier food choices
  • More likely to take healthful nutritional supplements
  • Better financial decisions
  • More laughter (which comes with its own health benefits)
  • Less chance of experiencing mental illness
  • Greater sense of purpose

But this is just scratching the surface of the power of love.

Love covers.

Love melts icy hearts.

Love is contagious.

Love gives hope.

Love overcomes obstacles.

Love transforms.

Love heals.

I told my client, “Don’t let anyone talk you out of believing in the power of love! If there is no abuse involved, if you love him, if you want to fight for your marriage … believe in the power of love!”

It takes courage … YES! But there’s a reason it is called “the road less traveled!” Because many do not have the courage to believe in the power of love.

With crocodile tears of hope this time, she whispered with determination: “I believe in the power of love!”

2. You must be courageous enough to speak of your needs and express your desires.

“I couldn’t possibly talk to him about what I want or need. If I say anything at all, other than what he wants to hear, he immediately leaves, or threatens to leave me again. And reminds me, he doesn’t love me and doesn’t want to…”

I understood the deep desperation and loneliness of my client.

But the courage to love is not about being a doormat. It’s not about giving up your rights. It’s not about you being the giver, and the other being a taker.

“I know it’s hard to speak of what you want and need. And when you do, you must do it in the right way,” I informed her.

I continued: “If you just become a doormat, meet all of his needs, and sacrifice all of yours… He will lose total respect for you.”

“I think it’s too late … I think it’s already happened!” my client said  with fear and regret.

“If you believe in the power of love, let’s believe that it’s not too late!” I encouraged her.

As I shared with her, the big mistake so many people make at these moments is that they dissolve into:

  • Begging.
  • Pleading.
  • Speaking like a victim. 
  • Demanding.
  • Threatening. (To tell others, to harm, oneself, etc.)

None of those are helpful. None of those will get us what we want and/or need.

The other thing we must be careful of is making it the topic of every conversation. Instead, learn to initiate fun conversation. Learn to initiate some fun activity.

Occasionally, just say something like this: “I know we’re in a rough spot, and I know that you’re not even sure if you want to love me anymore. I understand that. But as long as we are together, can we at least have a good friendship?”

Then suggest some things that would truly create friendship. Things like:

  • Going to a movie
  • Working on a home project together
  • Sharing what each one hopes to accomplish in regard to their personal growth over the next few months

And at some point, as some pleasant moments occur, suggest that you enter into some kind of agreement about getting help. Hopefully to reignite the love, but if that fails, to end things well … in a way that is least harmful to each of you, to your friends, and to your family.

There are many great programs out there. Find one that seems right to you, and have the courage to suggest it.

Make it a mature request, not begging. Not manipulating. Just asking.

The courage to speak in such a way is difficult when the one you love with every fiber of your being does not love you back.

But isn’t it worth the effort? 

“Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get – only with what you are expecting to give – which is everything.”

Katharine Hepburn

3. You must be courageous enough to align your heart and your brain with what is right for you.

“I don’t think my brain is even functioning at this point. And my heart is a dry and weary wasteland!” my client whispered.

The deep pain was evident, but I could see that she was beginning to gain some courage.

I’ve worked with couples for years, helping them each align their heart with their minds, and then aligning each of theirs together to move forward in a powerful way.

How is this done?

There is one-way that is a certain formula for success.

And that is gratitude.

Practicing gratitude. 

The courage to practice gratitude when the one you love does not love you back requires great determination and maturity. But as I told my client, I believe you can … and will … do this!

There are three ways that I recommended to her to accomplish this, and I would like to share them with you as well! 

  • First of all, keep a gratitude journal. I like to recommend that you have three sections that you complete daily.

The first section is finding a few things that you were grateful for (about the one you love) from the past 24 hours. These may be difficult to identify, but the very act of trying begins to align your mind and heart.

The second section is about things from the past that you are grateful for.

The third section or things you would be grateful for if/when they occur. Expecting there will be things to be grateful for in the future, does a powerful aligning of our minds and hearts.

  • The second thing that I recommended my client do to create this alignment was to spend a few minutes daily playing a movie in your mind… Almost meditating. Recalling the moments where you were grateful to the one you love. Watch it as a movie in slow motion. See it, hear the moment, feel the moment. If you will do this five minute gratitude meditation daily, you will feel great alignment occurring between your mind and your heart.
  • The third way to align with gratitude daily is to choose a gratitude song each day, and play it multiple times.

Here are some examples:

Thank You for Being A Friend (Andrew Gold)

Thank You (Keith Urban)

Thank God for Believers (Mark Chestnut)

Thank You (Led Zeplin)

Be Thankful (Natalie Cole)

Because I have a Christian worldview, one of my favorites is by Reba Rambo: A Perfect Heart

“I’m amazed at your talents

I stand in awe of one so great.

Then my soul begins to sing out.

To the source from which it came!

Bless the Lord who reigns with beauty

Bless the Lord who reigns with wisdom and with power

Bless the Lord who reigns my life with so much love

He can make a perfect heart!”

Choose any song about gratitude … and listen to it.

“I like that. I can do that. And I only pray that my mixed up mind and desolate heart line up and give me the courage to love.”

You can do it too, my friend. 

The courage to love someone who doesn’t love you back is hard, but it can be beautiful! Align your heart and mind with gratitude!


I am personally a big believer in miracles. Unless abuse is involved, don’t give up easily. Keep reaching for the courage to love. Even when it is not returned.

“We must discover the power of love, the power, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that we will be able to make of this old world a new world. We will be able to make men better. Love is the only way.”  Martin Luther King Jr.

Redemptive power. Think about that! As Dr. King suggests, let’s go the way of love. It indeed has redemptive power.

And don’t allow their inability to love you back to become a barrier.

You keep growing.

You keep loving well!

Love like Dr. Maya Angelou suggests:

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”

Someday … they might just love you back. I pray they will!