I remember being in a situation, a dozen years or so ago, ... so long ago it may have happened to someone else, ... where my fascination with the strength of my own desire and feelings cast a long shadow over the meager substance of a relationship I had with a friend. In various superficial ways she was the precursor to the girl I married: A likeable freckly redhead with an easy smile, an obvious intelligence, and a nice rack. I fell head-over-heels for her and doted on her every word, but she was too young, too scared, and too easily impressed by good-looking, indifferent creeps to take any interest in my goofy, nervous honesty. Also, I was a flailing hormonal mess.
So we were almost never alone together, and only had real conversations a few times. My desire for her seemed to exist within myself, almost wholly separate from any feelings she had about me, or even anything she did. It was like a hot coal, pressed into the back of my neck; impossible to escape; and it drove me mad. It lit up the insides of my eyelids with visions of us talking at night, or holding hands, or running errands together, or kissing languidly on a porch swing. Somewhere off to the side of this picture show I made notes and learned about myself ... And the most aggravating thing I learned was that this hot coal was my burden alone. Even if I could have passed it to her, she would have refused - in horror - to accept it.
Our "relationship" never came to a head, and that's alright in retrospect because it would have been a train wreck. However, to my surprise, I eventually learned three unexpected things. The first thing hit me four years later, and it was this: My attachment to her wasn't just because of her. It was because the traits I saw, or imagined I saw, in her were traits that I desired for myself. Yes, all the way to the point where I wanted to be the likable freckly redhead with the nice rack. Once I realized that, my feelings quickly detached from her, and became aspirations for myself. And I didn't need to actually get freckles and a rack - I just needed to learn the confidence and command I thought they bestowed (... evinced of course, by the effect they had on me). This was a turning point because I finally began to concentrate on, and take an active role in, shaping my personality to suit what I desired ... instead of hiding within or lamenting my enjoyment of those traits in people I knew.
The second thing I learned was this: She was just one of millions of desirable people. There's no practical limit to them, and if the timing isn't right to meet one, there will always be another along shortly. And finally, the third thing was: Once you locate someone who returns your level of interest (and it is indeed possible - not all relationships are stuck to some emotional imbalance), it's a whole new ballgame.
Sometimes we become so involved playing Cat's Cradle that we forget a basic fact of our situation: In order to play, we have first tied our own hands together.