'If you steal, steal a camel, and if you love, love the moon." That's one Arabic proverb's view on love. It is often said to someone who wastestheir energy on something or someone less radiant or worthy than the moon.
Three girlfriends of mine - an American, a Lebanese and a Saudi - have never met each other but have all been struggling with the same problem for many years: they love men who don't love them.
The American is in love with an Egyptian man, someone she met through friends, who repeatedly discusses in the open how much he wants to marry a "good Egyptian girl" and follows up on his dream by meeting and sitting with only Egyptian girls.
From what I gather he has never led my friend on, nor has he sent mixed signals. But my advice to her - stop hoping he will suddenly notice her as more than a friend and they will get married - has gone unheeded. It has been like this for three years now. She says she can't help it.
The Lebanese friend is in love with a Lebanese man who is in love with someone who doesn't love him back. What makes this case especially sad is that he does seem to send mixed signals, especially the days he is down and reaches out to my friend - the one who is in love with him - for emotional support.
She has shown her feelings to him, but is not sure he picked up on them. Worse, he can't let go of his love, and so he ping pongs between the two women, the one who loves him and the one who doesn't. That has been a five year saga.
I asked my Lebanese friend recently what she saw in the man who wouldn't make up his mind. What makes him so special that she can't let go? "I think my personality is attracted to people who I feel I can help. I like them to use me," she conceded. "And he needs me and always turns to me for help."
Then there is my Saudi friend, who is in love with a Saudi man she met at work. In this case, it looked like it was reciprocal, and for over two months he sent her "love notes" in text-message format.
But his advances stopped suddenly one day after he sent a message announcing he was getting married. "Good bye," he wrote. No further explanation was given.
It was only a two-month flirtation, hardly long enough to get attached. But she still hasn't let go. Hardest of all: they still work together.
"Why did he ever start if he knew he was going to get married?" she keeps wondering, unable to let go.
She isn't alone in this predicament; it's not only women who can't let go of people who don't love back.
Two male Emirati friends of mine are still in love with other people, even after getting married to someone else. In both cases their marriages were arranged. These men said they couldn't dishonour the wishes of their families and so they went ahead.
But one must also ask: what can the women these two men are married to do to help?
I have watched many lovelorn friends over the years, and no matter how much we sit and discuss their relationships, analysing every action, hurt feelings don't change. I see them ache and cry, pining over every word the person they love utters. It is a horrible place to be. Not only do my friends ache, their pride suffers. Love might be blind, but it can also be cruel.
And yet there is no talking sense into those who suffer. The mechanisms of love have baffled researchers throughout the ages; no formula explains its power. Religion, social status, age, self esteem, and one's relationships with parents - each of these also plays a role and makes it even more difficult to understand.
I do have a theory, however: Perhaps unrequited love lasts so long because we assume it is something we want when in reality, we want it only when it is out of reach. This thrill of the pursuit, the "almost there" feeling, can keep you hooked for a very long time.
On Twitter: @Arabianmau