I have spent years of my life in hopeless devotion. I would not wish it on anyone.
If you are hopelessly devoted, I pray that you will find the support and strength you need to let go. I hope I can help you get started by sharing a few thoughts.
Let’s begin by considering the word “hopeless.” The absence of hope is the bottom of the emotional spectrum. It is one notch or two away from “deeply depressed” and a close cousin to “suicidal.”
Hopelessly devoted is essentially a synonym for a love that has no hope. True, healthy love is overflowing with hope. Hopelessly devoted also implies a passion that is either unrequited or unequal. Who needs that?
Devotion is essential to a healthy relationship. The deep surrender and discipline of devotion, when mutual, is certainly a goal that any two people in an intimate relationship would want to reach. But not when it is hopeless or one-sided.
How do we get into the unhappy state of hopeless devotion? And how can we get out of it?
I used to think of hopelessly devoted as being an obsession with an unattainable love object who leads you on and then dumps you. While he moves on, you remain attached to him. In this scenario, the hopeless and helpless devotee is victimized by the object of her obsessive love.
After years of exploring my own ill-fated infatuations, however, I have come to look at it in a different way.
Being devoted to someone who is not devoted to you is, indeed, hopeless. But you are not a helpless victim in the situation. I have learned, through therapy and research, that remaining in love with a rejecting suitor is a matter of choice, not of submitting to someone else’s will. I now know that if I hang onto a futile infatuation, it is because I want a hopeless situation.
Want a hopeless situation? Yes I do. It is my fear of intimacy that makes me hang on to someone who does not care about me. That sounds horribly self-destructive, and it is. The good news is that I can change my own thinking and behavior.
To move from hopeless to hopeful devotion, we need to open ourselves up to someone who will actually return affection. This is a frightening prospect for those of us who crave but also fear intimacy.
Fear of intimacy can come from various sorts of early traumatic experiences with love. For someone used to working hard for affection and not getting much in return, a hopeless devotion can be a way, as Freud explained, to try to fix the past by repeating it.
But as students of Freud’s “repetition compulsion” theory know, repeating a hurtful pattern does not solve the problem. Nor does it cure a fear of intimacy.
How to move past this dilemma? It starts by learning to open your mind to people who are capable of returning your affection. You have to move “caring and loving” to the top of your list of desirable qualities. It is frightening at first. Sweet and affectionate people can be scary to those who fear intimacy and are not used to being loved in a healthy way. It’s ok to reach out to a therapist or support group for help in doing this. You need to learn to resist the magnetism of the unresponsive lover and to move in the direction of someone who can join you in your devotion and in the love you truly want and deserve.