Being in love is a helluva drug. I like being in love and I’m sure you do too. And I can remember sooooo many times when I was pining after a guy who just wasn’t returning my affection. So what do you do when you’re in love with someone who doesn’t love you back? I’ve got some advice for you.

For as sacred as a concept that love supposedly is in our culture, it’s a word that gets thrown around an awful lot. But what is love? And are you really in it? 

Here’s where a dictionary definition can be surprisingly helpful. 

Merriam-Webster defines love as:


“: strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties” (“maternal love for a child”)

“: attraction based on sexual desire : affection and tenderness felt by lovers” (’after all these years, they are still in love”)

“: affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests” (“love for his old schoolmates”)


“: to hold dear”

“: to feel a lover’s passion, devotion, or tenderness for”

“: to like or desire actively : take pleasure in”

As we all just kind of intuitively know, and as the dictionary makes clear, there are different types of love. In Greek, there are actually different words for love. But in English, they’re all just rolled up together into one. 

So when it comes to loving another person, there are different ways to do that. 

You might desire someone intensely, regardless of how they feel about you. 

You might care for someone deeply without them loving you back. 

You might feel a strong affection for someone else without them even knowing that that’s the case. 

But when we’re talking about being in love, what folks are usually referring to is being in a state of romantic love. And a key component of that is relationality. 

Affection and tenderness felt by lovers requires at least two lovers. To feel a lover’s passion requires one person to express that passion and another person to receive it. 

If the person that you’re supposedly in love with doesn’t reciprocate, if you aren’t in some sort of romantic relationship with them, you might feel love towards them, but chances are you aren’t actually in love with him. You’re in love with an idea of him. 

You don’t know how he’d treat you in bed, you don’t know how you’d handle conflict, you don’t know how you would take care of each other or not take care of each other. 

Love between friends is real and beautiful and super important, especially for queer folks. You can love your friends without idealizing them into this idea of a romantic partner that just isn’t real. It’s important to focus on the real relationships that are really in front of you. Retreating into fantasies might feel safer and more exciting, but ultimately they’re going to be less fulfilling.