Most of us know the feeling of being rejected, passed over, or considered simply not ‘their type’ by a person we had a thing for. It sucks in the moment, and some of those incidents stay with us to damage our ego for a lifetime. However, in this piece, I’d like to put forth lessons I’ve learned over dealing with several such heartbreaks, which have helped soften the blow.

Popular culture, literature, and societal psychology over the ages have positioned romance as a very black and white game – you like someone, and only if they like you back you win. You have drive, sexiness and charisma. In all other cases, you lose – even if you remained a trusted friend, a respected co-worker, or did better in life without that person by your side, you were only second-best, and often never any good at all.

However, what if it wasn’t wrong to love somebody, and not be loved back in return? Not in the self-help way that says hey, you’re the best, it’s her/his fault they don’t see it…not in that aggressive way of being right (which still is right in as much as it helps a lot of people cope), but just mildly, as if it was the most natural thing in the world for one-sided affection to exist? Because I think it IS natural. Society has forced us into accepting it is shameful, which is why we either take guilt or self-loathing trips on rejection, or look up quotes, while eating ice-cream and sobbing, that describe why we are better than the other person ever will be. But what if it wasn’t something that remarkable or combative at all?

The person you loved is great, which is why you loved them, as are you. Maybe they find their peace elsewhere, as will you with someone entirely different – this doesn’t make either you or them inferior humans. Most people we confess love for without them loving us back think about us positively and not condescendingly, as our blinding emotions lead us to believe. And neither are all the relationships they are in as perfect as we believe and feel insecure about – but ideally, they should be. That is what this article is about. By accepting their right to love peacefully, we create hope for ourselves too – because appreciated at some point in life we all will be.

The other pop-culture facet I take issue with is the way the relationship narrative is construed in order to be branded ‘perfect’. It leads us to believe that our romantic lives can only be perfect if we meet our soulmates, get them in a relationship, marry them, and share their deathbed 40 years later. But when has life been that perfect, or situations so conducive to human whims? Why is it wrong if someone meets their most intense love in a country far from their hometown they’ll never get to geographically live in? At 18, when the relationship doesn’t work out due to a lack of maturity on both parts? In a situation where the other already has a partner they’d never leave the side of? Born into different ethnic or religious sects whose boundaries do not allow intermingling in conservative countries?

While perfect relationships and life conditions like the ‘ideal model’ are indeed beautiful, I believe people should not be romance-shamed if they find themselves in any of the conditions I mentioned. It should be okay to passionately love someone and still settle down with someone else who gives life meaning, even if not that intense, because this second person also has a separate and important role to play in one’s life. People should not be shamed for being human and falling victim to socio-political forces beyond their control, not be shamed for merely wanting to be affectionate towards another human. Society teaches us that we lost out if we didn’t get a special kind of romantic fairytale and/or closure, but I believe whoever loved with all their heart emerged a winner, with an interesting fireside story, life lessons, and a healthy dose of resilience as a complimentary gift bouquet.

May we all make sense of life, but not lose the spontaneity of emotion along the way. And in accepting a heterodox model of ideal romance, smile because our meeting with an intense flame happened, and not cry because it didn’t end only after an eternity.