on the kindness of rejection

In Sheila Kohler’s novel The Perfect Place (2005), the protagonist, a solitary, nameless woman with A Dark Past vacationing in a mountainside resort in an obscure Swiss town remarks that “there is almost nothing as tiresome as unwanted love.” This strikes me as true for both the Beloved and the Lover for different, if causally related reasons. Receiving love that one cannot reciprocate is a burden for the Beloved, who must weigh his sense of self as a magnanimous, empathetic person (assuming, of course, that he is a decent human being) against the effort he must keep on exerting to maintain this magnanimous and empathetic self despite the increasingly taxing impositions of one whose attentions and company he does not desire. That Kohler’s observation is true for the Lover seems obvious, though a Wertherian character might opine that it is in suffering and abnegation that one proves one’s love. The Wertherian view, I think, is not only stupid but also selfish and self-aggrandizing. I think that the prize of loving is loving itself, because in the process of learning how and striving to love well, one becomes a better person–more patient, understanding, perceptive, alive, and true. If the effort is its own reward, then when does loving become tedious for the Lover? Answer: when the Lover senses that his loving has become tedious for the Beloved. When the Beloved suffers the Lover, the Lover suffers himself and suffers exponentially because he feels both his pain (born of affection that is neither appreciated nor reciprocated) and the Beloved’s (born of inability to reciprocate), which intensifies the initial pain of rejection ad infinitum. Thus, the kindest course for the Beloved who cannot see himself loving in return is to cut the chase short, and make the cut sharp and clean, instead of prolonging suffering on both sides. The Lover keeps on loving because even pain can feel good the way exercise or righteous acts feel good. The Lover will keep on loving if he believes that he will somehow, someday make the Beloved, and consequently himself, happy, even if he is not happy now. Thus, it is up to the Beloved to put his foot down and in the clearest and kindest way possible say, “Sorry but we are never ever ever gonna be together, so please direct your attentions elsewhere, for your happiness and mine,” and support his rejection with sound reasoning. It is then up to the Lover to choose whether to love with intelligence and respect for self and other, or be a self-centered fool.

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