I Can’t Make You Love Me

Photo courtesy | Kumolu Studios

Margaret A. Brunson, Ph.D., MPA

The title of this post is also the title of a song originally recorded by Bonnie Raitt in 1991. The popular song (remade several times by artists like Boyz II Men and Tank) speaks from the perspective of someone who is asking for honesty in a relationship. The writer is expressing the need for true connection and a desire to be loved, but also acknowledges that there is nothing in her/his power that can make the other person love her/him. And by acknowledging this, s/he in turn understands that at some point s/he will have to give up the fight of trying to hold on to an unrequited love.

I think this song has been remade several times because it speaks to a very common scenario and human condition. At the foundation of this scenario is the very human and real need for love. However, there are often times when someone will hold extremely deep feelings of love, longing and connection for another who does not share the same sentiment. And, sometimes, the person in love refuses to see this and because the other person doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings they go along to get along. By going through the motions in this type of relationship, they are ultimately preventing each other from being free and open to experience a reciprocal love with someone else.

I tend not to romanticize relationships. I believe that connection (spiritual, emotional, mental, physical), chemistry and compatibility are the building blocks for a healthy relationship. I believe at the root of all of those factors should be a genuine love that goes beyond physical attraction and butterfly feelings. Because of this perspective, I also believe that there are many people on this planet that we could love at that level and with whom we could build a healthy relationship. I do believe that some of those people are your soulmates and some are not. But, ultimately, I think that everyone has an opportunity to be loved and in a relationship if they really desire it. There may be challenges to meeting someone, but ultimately, I believe that they are out there.

So, as I think about this situation, I find that I, too have been in this situation. As a result of some serious self-reflection, prayer, understanding and revelation, I now know that whenever I find myself trying to hold on to someone who does not reciprocate the love I give or desire, I know that this action (or inaction) is rooted in fear.

We all need to see the value in ourselves the way our Creator God sees our value and worth. Once we begin to see ourselves the way God sees us, we will believe that we’re worth more than being stuck in relationships that do not add value, joy, peace, hope, or love to our lives.   Fear blinds us to our value because it tells us that we will be alone and lonely if we let go of those relationships. Yet, if we adopt a Love for ourselves that is unwavering and faithful, we will understand how to let go of situations that no longer serve us in reaching our destiny and purpose. And, we will realize that it is never our place to make someone love us. When we begin to love ourselves to a point of no compromise, it will bring us to a new awareness of who we want to be and how we need to get there.

If you find yourself in relationships with people where you’re constantly questioning their love for you, I’d encourage you to determine the underlying cause for remaining in connection with someone who is not genuinely connected to you. Take inventory of the love that you have for yourself and figure out how to increase your supply of self-worth and confidence. Once that occurs, you will begin to see and love yourself the way God sees and loves you and ultimately the way God wants others to see and love you.

#TheLoveLife is a campaign, movement, leadership development theory, self-help strategy/intervention, community engagement principle, cure for the ills of the world, catchy hashtag, personal mantra, and/or whatever you want or need it to be. Most importantly, it’s about embracing a different way to view your life’s journey; and I am so excited to share #TheLoveLife with you!


Dr. Margaret A. Brunson is a trained executive leadership professional with over fifteen years of experience in the public and non-profit sectors. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Master of Public Administration degree from North Carolina Central University and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in leadership studies from North Carolina A&T State University.