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Unrequited Love Can be Devastating! [Definition, Types, Signs, How to Cope, etc]

Unrequited Love Can be Devastating! [Definition, Types, Signs, How to Cope, etc]

Updated on Oct 04, 2022

Reviewed by Julianne Cantarella, MSW, LSW , Certified Relationship Coach

Unrequited Love - Definition, Types, Signs, How to Cope, etc.

I feel dejected and thankful that you checked this think-piece about unrequited love

The situation of your love life saddens me beyond words while I also feel grateful that you finally reached out. 

Tears probably roll down your cheeks as you read this, muffling your cries in your chest. I hate the fact that I can’t lend you a shoulder at your worst times…

Unrequited love can make you feel helpless, unloved, and desperate.

In worse times, it can also make you incapable of loving someone else.

But now that you’ve decided to learn more about it and finally walk out of it… let’s get started!

Unrequited Love Infographic

Unrequited Love - Definition & Signs
Unrequited Love – Definition & Signs

Unrequited Love Definition

Unrequited love is when you love a person romantically, but they don’t return your feelings because of a number of circumstances.

If you fall in love with a person only to know they don’t hold the same feelings, that’s what you call an unrequited love.  

Usually, the other person is physically or emotionally not available to you. However, they might be very close friends and not feel the same way.

For instance, when you bond with your friend deeply, you might develop some romantic feelings, but your friend’s feelings don’t change.

You can also call any romantic love which isn’t mutual or is one-sided – an unrequited love.

Literally, the term “requite” implies rewarding, returning, or repaying, and the phrase unrequited love always holds a theatrical suggestion deliberately.

Originally, this term was mostly applied in classical literature, plays, prose, and poetry, and it is still a hot theme for modern-day fiction, live entertainment, or even music.

Although fiction and entertainment romanticize unrequited love, the people who experience unrequited love suffer from deep pain because of unreturned feelings.

However, some relish this melodramatic feeling from unrequited love as it amplifies their unique personalities apart from others.

To check if you fell for this painful fate, tally with these…


Unrequited love can be with someone you know very closely, to someone you don’t know well… from someone you can’t have to someone who doesn’t notice you. 

Let me explain with some examples…

1. Someone falls in love with a person who doesn’t like them romantically.

2. Someone falling in love with a taken person.

3. Someone has romantic feelings for a colleague or friend who never thought of them any more than a friend/co-worker.

4. Someone hung up on their ex-partner who no longer wants them.

5. Someone falling for a celebrity or a public figure that has no idea they exist.

6. Someone likes or desires a person who can’t return their feelings, like a coworker, boss, subordinate, or teacher, due to ethical issues.

Perhaps you’re confused about your situation. If you’re blaming yourself for involving in unrequited love, let’s find if…

Is Unrequited Love Bad?

Unrequited love isn’t bad unless you obsess over the hurtful feelings, expect or force the other person to return your feelings, can’t function normally for it, or have a history of unrequited love.

Unrequited love itself isn’t anything bad, however, the feelings and experiences are unhealthy and give a bitter aftertaste to one with unreciprocated love.

If you despise yourself for involving in unrequited love, know that it wasn’t in your control. You can’t control your feelings towards others.

In fact, unrequited love is quite common among teenagers and adults when they begin new romantic relationships.

However, if you have a history of unrequited love, or if it impacts your life negatively, i.e., lowers your productivity, then it’s time to change your pattern.

Some people blame their unproductivity on their unrequited love to avoid taking responsibility for the quality of their life. They frame the other person as a rescuer who ignores the victim which is the epitome of immaturity.

They forget that they can attract sympathy in this manner, but not love or respect from their love interest. Love can’t magically bring them happiness or a sense of accomplishment.

In healthy unrequited love, you love them, admire their qualities, wish the best for their life, or care without crossing boundaries.

You mustn’t expect any reward for your efforts so do not care whether they love you or not.

Now that you know it’s not all bad, let me also tell you…

Is Unrequited Love really Love?

No matter how well you know a person, your unrequited love for them usually implies that you’re infatuated with their qualities. It’s not real love, because you don’t know them well. 

Mostly, not always, unrequited love isn’t really “love”, because you possibly don’t know the other person properly.

Well, you might crush on your old friend and say you know them better than their lover. Perhaps, you do, but they didn’t open up themselves entirely, at least not romantically.

Or you possibly experienced unrequited love with someone who is out of your reach because of the circumstances.

So, usually unrequited love is a form of crush or infatuation where you fantasize the other person as your perfect another half.

If you feel incomplete (I don’t judge you for that, that’s pretty common), you might perceive your infatuation as strong as love.

The reason?

When we can’t find happiness in ourselves, we seek it in others and desire to monopolize it, to feel better about ourselves.

Of course, you don’t “fish for a perfect person”, your actions are entirely subconscious.

You long for something great and when you notice that in another person, they become the object of your affections. Your yearning is so intense that you misunderstand that as love.

But all unrequited lovers don’t have the same fate because of their circumstances. Let’s find the…

Types of Unrequited Love

If you think you might only deal with unrequited love when the other person doesn’t date you back, you’re wrong.

Different people have different fates because some people don’t receive love even when they are in a relationship. 

So let’s dive into the types here…

1. You love someone who is over you

You feel that you still love your ex-lover after you guys separated, and long to be together. However, your feelings intensified only after they moved on for good.

You’re aware that you guys weren’t compatible, but once they left, you felt an urgency to have them again. This feeling is similar to withdrawal symptoms of substance usage.

You feel you miss them, however, in reality, you miss how it felt to be with them or to be loved. You crave the “feel good” neurotransmitters of love – dopamine and norepinephrine.

2. Your degree of love differs from them

In this kind of love, you love your partner way more than they do, or your reasons to love them are different from theirs.

Perhaps, they want to feel the thrill of love or experiment with sexual activities, whereas you dream about spending your entire life with them.

Or, you’re infatuated, however, they cling to you for moral, financial, or other kinds of support.

Or even, they married you to help care for their old parents, however, you see them as the perfect child, spouse, and human being.

3. You still love someone who rejected you

You fell in love with someone, proposed to them, yet they refused your proposal. Perhaps you didn’t take the rejection well, or they didn’t turn you down strictly enough.

So, you believe you’ll change their mind if you stay dedicated, chase them, and propose to them until they say yes… that’s harassment, don’t do that.

Or, you simply give up on all that effort and silently long for them.

Well, if you don’t disturb their lifestyle and love them from afar, you’re quite the wise person.

4. You love, yet never confessed

You love someone way beyond your grasp literally or you imagine they’re beyond reach. You have your own reasons to hide your feelings from your romantic interest and secretly love them.

Possibly you know they can’t return your feelings and stay quiet to prevent any discomfort in your relationship.

However, you hurt inside and loathe your circumstances leading to this situation.

5. They don’t know you exist

You might be a die-hard fan of some celebrity and had a crush on them from a young age. Due to the long-term liking towards them, you feel that it’s true love or that you’re not the same as other fans.

You dream about marrying them, hurt when they make an on-screen appearance with another celebrity, or hurt when the paparazzi spot them with their lovers.

Though they don’t have any idea of your existence, you believe you love them so hard and dream to meet them someday. Until then, you decide to accept this pain of unrequited love.

Once you’ve spotted your “types”, I am sure you also want to know some signs…

Signs of unrequited love

Whether your love is unrequited or not, you might not be able to identify that instantly. By the time people realize their love went in vain… where they gained nothing and only lost their spirit… hurt themselves beyond repair, it’s too late. 

I hope you don’t delay realizing what’s wrong with your relationship, because you deserve the best. So let’s dig in right now…

1. They don’t bother

Though you always think about them and ask “How are you?”, or “Did you reach safely?” they never asked you the same.

Perhaps you both return late after work, but they never tried to know how your day went. Your romantic interest doesn’t see you romantically if it’s always the case.

2. They don’t connect with you

You might feel that the person you love is emotionally unavailable, however, that may not be the case. They might just be indifferent around you.

Why so? Perhaps they understand your intentions and don’t encourage emotional connection… so you can get the signal, and move on quickly.

Some people respectfully and silently turn down unwanted romantic feelings with a poker face or lack of emotions.

3. They always suggest group outings

Whenever you ask them to hang out with you, they suggest including some more people on the list.

If you never spent a single outing with just you two, even after suggesting, it implies they don’t see you as more than a friend.

They think that it’ll be more fun when all your friends hang out together.

4. They treat you like a bro

For instance, when you dress up for them, they don’t compliment you. Or, even if they do, it’s not anything special or different from the others.

They don’t see you as a potential lover, but another friend in their life. They possibly even share their stories about hitting or yearning for others. It pains you and you know why.

5. They’re a lazy texter

Although you can’t wait to reply to their messages or your heart makes backflips whenever you hear their custom message tone, you don’t see that dedication from their side.

You fall asleep holding your phone in your hand, even see them “online”, but the reply never comes. They’re probably ignoring you on purpose because they aren’t in the same boat.

6. They bail out at the last minute

Even if you managed to fix a “date” with just you two, they bail out at the last minute, or even worse, they inform you they can’t make it way after the appointment time.

You were so excited for the day, wore your best attire, only to eat alone at a pretty café and return home heartbroken. Your love is unrequited and they don’t deserve you.

7. You’re never the first priority

Say, you and their other friend chose the same day for a hang-out.

They either promise to join you only if their other friend backs out at the last minute, or they ask you to keep that on hold until they’re sure.

If you always come second to someone else in their life, you know they don’t care. You’re wasting your emotions on them.

8. Your plans revolve around them

You find out they love volleyball, so you use a volleyball match as bait to lure them out. However, to date, they never asked you out to do some activity you like.

Your relationship with this person only satisfies them and that’s why they still hang around you. The moment you prioritize your likes, they possibly won’t accompany you.  

9. Your love depresses you

Usually, true love or both-sided love or healthy relationships makes both people happy. However, you don’t particularly receive happiness from their actions.

Rather, you feel sad, anxious, angry, or even ashamed of your feelings for them. Possibly because every time you try to show some love, you get nothing but indifferent behavior in return.

10. You act like an obsessed teenager

When you miss them, you stalk their social media feed, write love letters to them in your diary which you never send, or even visit their favorite places.

You fantasize about confessing to them, sharing intimate moments, or even gossiping about them with your friends and family.

All of this implies it’s a one-sided journey and you might hurt yourself immensely.

11. Their friends don’t know you

Well, when a person loves you, they’ll talk about their relationship and love with people.

But they don’t bother discussing you in their circle… because they don’t feel anything for you.

Don’t fantasize about romantic relationships with them if you want to protect your heart.

12. Physical intimacy is your responsibility

Perhaps you’re in a relationship with them. However, if they never initiate any kind of romantic or sexual physical contact with you, this implies they aren’t interested in you.

They don’t long for your touch like you and don’t feel any sexual tension brewing. It’s a warning sign, mate – you don’t hold a special place in their heart.

13. They dismiss your touches

If they ever brushed off your physical advances like a hug, a kiss on the cheek, or even holding hands, it implies they don’t feel the same way and don’t want to lead you on.

Catch onto this sign quickly because you’ll only hurt yourself in the long run. Let go of your expectations while your heart is still in one piece.

14. They’re an all-rounder

If you always feel that they’re perfect no matter what they do, then it’s possibly an infatuation. If you love them, you’ll be aware of their flaws but still, love them.

Everyone has flaws, and true love is when you both grow together and improve on your shortcomings.

15. They flirt in your presence

If they flirt with others when you’re around, that speaks plenty about their feelings towards you. You’re in an unrequited love where the other person has no idea about your feelings.

Or, they don’t care about your feelings at all. They continue with their life as usual and treat you like a nobody. Although this sounds cruel, they aren’t the ones.

16. You spend your time in solitude

If you always feel lonely even when they’re around… or even if you are in a relationship with them, that’s a red flag.

You’re lonely because they don’t care about your feelings or don’t spend enough time with you. If they leave you behind most of the time, you’re possibly suffering from unrequited love for them.

17. They forget your special days

When two people love each other, they at least remember each other’s birthday or surprise each other on special occasions. 

If they always forget all the special days in your life, know that you don’t have their heart.

They possibly don’t see you as a potential partner and so, don’t bother to remember important things about you.

18. You feel something’s off

For a long time, are your instincts saying that this isn’t right? 

Well, then something might be really wrong with your relationships, as instincts are usually hints of reality. 

You possibly feel insecure because the other person doesn’t share the same feelings with you.

However, if this is true love, you won’t feel so unsure. Instead, they’ll sense your insecurities sooner and make efforts to clear any misunderstandings.

19. You’re always the culprit

If they’re manipulative or toxic, they might blame you for things you didn’t even commit. To get away with their wrongdoings, they pretend and twist whatever you say into your fault.

You feel apologetic for doing something that hurt them. Meanwhile, they make new reasons to not love you or refuse your love.  

20. They only want the goodies

You guys probably can’t even catch up these days because they’re always busy. However, the moment they smell cash on you, they follow you like a puppy.

For instance, the moment you told them you got tickets to a famous event, they cleared their schedule to spend time with you.

You might think “Oh well, at least they’ll notice me” and overlook that he/she not only isn’t returning your feelings but also is a gold-digger.

If you found some similar patterns here, then I understand how mournful you are. But hey, look at the bright side, you’ll begin your healing process soon. But before that, you must know…

What Causes Unrequited Love?

You might engage in unrequited love either because the other person has some accomplishment you always fantasized about, or because you can’t commit to a real relationship.

Mostly, unrequited love expresses volumes about your personal hardships and has nothing to do with your romantic interest.

When you deeply wish to accomplish something but can’t, you’ll cling to anybody around you that matches your desire for yourself.

When you notice the other person is successful in all the ways you always wanted, you romanticize them.

Instead of seeking the qualities, you seek that person who has them and hurt because they don’t return your feelings or notice you.

Meanwhile, you forget that you ever wished for similar qualities and forgive yourself for failing to conquer the qualities yourself.

You forget to accept the other person is another flawed human being and worship them like a God/Goddess. You cling onto them to feel better about yourself.

You might also be really afraid of true love, so you reach out to unreachable people. Perhaps, you can’t take responsibility for another person’s heart, feelings, and expectations.

You save yourself from all the hassle of real love with this kind of distanced one-sided love.

You feel good as long as you fantasize about perfect scenarios in your head about romantic details, however, you’re not ready for handling the drama of a real relationship.

This can be your reality if you experienced disappointments in past romantic quests.

Whatever your reason is, this isn’t a healthy life, so let’s learn…

How to Get Over Unrequited Love?

To deal with unrequited love, you must step forward very carefully because your emotions are all over the place.

Focus on not hurting yourself while you get over your unrequited love for them… and you’ll soon find yourself out of this vicious circle.  

Let’s begin a new life here…

1. Don’t force yourself

If you feel for anybody romantically, you can’t really help your feelings. So never force yourself to unlove a person. If you love them, accept them.

Will you really be able to fool yourself by chanting “I don’t like him/her”?

The more you suppress your thoughts, the more you intensify your feelings and emotions for them. You don’t need that now, so don’t deny it.

2. Spill the beans

If you feel the other person deliberately sends you mixed signals, time to confront them… are they in for it, or not?

Do they look deep into your eyes like you’re their sweetheart one second, and flirt with another person the next?

They confused you for a long time so you’ll get your answers only from them. 

If they’re serious about you, think about taking your relationship to the next level… but if not, it’s time to walk out and prioritize yourself.


3. Engage in storytime

If you think you can’t talk to that person directly, indulge in some heart-to-heart discussion disguised in stories.

Feeling ashamed? Well, trust me, everyone (including me) suffered from unrequited love, so they won’t judge you.

Moreover, they’ll feel angry on your behalf, telling you that “Love hurts, but friendship doesn’t”. They’ll deduce the situation for you to show how wrong that person is.

Prepare some booze beforehand, you’ll need some to relieve the pain

4. Don’t allow a freeloader

If that person doesn’t possess similar feelings for you, that was already expected. Sounds hurtful? Well, I can help you minimize the pain if you push their thoughts out of your head for some time.

Think your best escape route is to be friends with them? However, that might be your excuse to stay close and not move on.

You’ll keep them in your head free of charges, without any responsibility for your feelings, all to hurt yourself more.

So, the better way out is to take some space.

While you do that…

5. Grab a part-time

If you have a lot of free time, you are bound to think about them more often. It’s time to put yourself out there and redirect your thoughts to something productive. Go get a job and earn for yourself.

When you’re working full-time, you won’t get much time to spare any thoughts and eventually, heal.

Meet new people on your job, learn a few soft skills like handling rush hours, or problematic situations. You’ll love how your life turns out when you have new challenges every day.


6. Learn something new

Enroll in a new course, learn a new language, paint & draw, try musical instruments, go wherever your heart takes you.

You’re a capable person with dreams to fly high in the sky. You prioritized that person for a long time. It’s time to do something worthwhile for yourself.

If someone in your family is an art expert, seek some insights from them or maybe look up YouTube videos.

Spend some time on becoming the better version of yourself instead of reminiscing on that person’s memories.

7. Don’t be hasty

“Healing process” isn’t a train you must board on time. It’s your personal carriage, so take your time to explore the world while healing.

Long story short, healing isn’t a child’s play. You need time, a lot of it to forget the person, your expectations, those fairy tale dreams, the happily-ever-after you imagined.

Though I asked you to not force yourself, you must forget everything at some point.

Take time to delete everything. You’re stronger than you think.

8. Don’t avoid mutual circles

If this person is a long-term friend, colleague, or just some close one, you possibly can’t ditch them completely.

You’ll meet them at social events, and if you have a mutual circle it’s even tougher. Others might catch onto your love situation and make fun out of the topic if you ignore them intentionally.

So, in front of others, ensure you’re at your best and mingle with them like always. Focus on the fact that you’re nothing more than friends or coworkers.

9. Redirect your feelings

Reconsider your emotions towards them, say your heart beats faster when you see them smile.

Instead of thinking you want to own that person with that smile, change your thoughts to “I wish to be as happy to laugh like that”, or “I wish they always laugh like that”.

Avoid thinking “I wish they smiled for me like that” because you don’t own them.

Replace your romance-induced feelings with positive and emotionally neutral emotions. You may need time to do it but eventually, you’ll be able to do it.

10. Cherish your experiences

Are you thinking “Why me? Everyone else is living their happily-ever-after so why is my life a tragedy?”?

Perhaps, at some point, I’d think the same and curse myself for having tough luck in love, but not anymore.

Because you learned something new about yourself, now you know what you want in a real relationship.

How much you want to love, how much you want to be loved, how much you’ll prioritize yourself… and everything else for a healthy relationship in the future.

11. Shed some tears

Dealing with unrequited love and no tears? Not a realistic expectation!

You thought that person will be in your life for eternity and within minutes that becomes a farce, that’s painful.

It’s time to grieve over the spilled milk and let it all out. Heartbreaks and rejections don’t feel great.

Rather, your question “Will I ever find true love? Will someone love me back as much as I love them?”

Let these emotions trickle down your tear glands and wash your pain away. Some nights your sobs might be your lullaby.

However, remember the next day will be a new day and you can always start again.

12. Break any pattern

If you experienced unrequited love multiple times in your life, this might be a pattern.

Perhaps you grew up, observed, or idealized a certain kind of romance or personality for romantic relationships.

So, you seek particular characteristics in your love interest, which led to this situation.

Attachment to certain features begins in childhood and you might project that in your ideal love life too.

Build new healthier relationships only once you identify your pattern and resolve them completely.

13. Now prioritize yourself

After experiencing unrequited love, you possibly understand what kind of man or woman you desire or don’t desire in your life.

Jot down everything you won’t compromise with… things that MUST or MUST NOT have in your significant other.

The things you can compromise about and also everything you’re willing and NOT willing for your romantic partner.

Take time to build healthy boundaries for new romantic and friendly relationships in your life.

How much will you allow your friends to flirt with you, and what’s a deal-breaker for friendship. Decide everything now that you know yourself better.

14. Pop the Bubble

If you still feel that the other person loves you or you have a chance because they broke up, you need to pop the bubble.

You read in between the lines more than you need to and that can delay your healing. If they said they aren’t into you, then that’s the truth. Take their words at face value, don’t overthink.

Your love is unrequited, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

15. Seek answers

If you still think that person is your soulmate, find out about them from mutual friends. They have flaws too, and you never know… you might hate some of the flaws.

You’ll probably say “Oh so the grapes are sour now?”

Ah well, why not? Perhaps the grapes were always sour, you just need to verify from the fleas. You didn’t really get a taste of it so neither of us can reach a conclusion now.

However, I hope you get your answers soon and break free from your obsession with them.

16. Try casual dating

Jumping into a relationship after a bad romantic experience is not a great idea. However, who said you can’t date casually?

Flirt online, in-person, meet new people, socialize, and know the dating world from up-close.

Brush up your social skills, learn to be the diva/hunk you are. Make great friends while you’re out there dating.

It’s way better than staying alone at home to feel depressed, or spending time with mutual friends and thinking of your unrequited love.

17. Bathe in your love

You loved that person so much that you forgot to love yourself, and that breaks my heart. You deserve much, much better than this, so show yourself some love in every way possible.

Hit the gym to feel good about your appearance, indulge in a new skincare routine. Start a healthy diet, no overeating, no starving. Watch some girl-power or bro-power movies.

Motivate yourself with some optimistic thoughts over the depressed unrequited love posts on social media – you don’t need any more drama.

18. Get some aid

If you’re suicidal, contact 1800-273-8255 (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) or 911 for immediate assistance during your hard times.

Different people take rejection differently, so the damage to your mental health depends on you.

Also if your depression makes you inflict physical pain on yourself, seek medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

An expert will help you cope with your situations, diminish chances of self-harm, identify your unrequited relationship patterns and help you break them.

They can also help if you have underlying mental health issues. Also, if you cannot get over your unrequited love after trying honestly, seek an expert for resolution.

If you want to understand how destructible an unrequited love can be, get your hands on these…

Unrequited Love Books

Many people fantasize about unrequited love, some don’t understand the psychological and emotional trauma it inflicts.

However, some authors penned down the devastating reality of unrequited love quite well. 

Check out these…

1. The Death of King Arthur (Sir Thomas Malory, retelling: Peter Ackroyd)

A story revolving around the downfall of King Arthur with the twists of multiple unrequited love shows that love can be a destructible power.

2. Gone with the Wind (Margaret Mitchell)

A chain of unrequited love among four people, based around the time of the Civil War. The protagonist accepts a number of husbands while waiting for the requital of her unrequited love.

3. Persuasion (Jane Austen)

A forced unrequited love story because the protagonist’s friend asks her to break off her engagement with someone she already loved. Years later, she still waits for her ex-fiance amidst financial ruins.

4. The Remains of the Day (Kazuo Ishiguro)

A plot about a Butler who receives a letter years later from a co-worker whom he fancied, and guessed that she fancied him too. However, this realization struck them too late.

5. The Sun Also Rises (Ernest Hemingway)

An unrequited love story about a war veteran who knows he can’t have his lady love’s heart despite his never-ending love.

Experience the pain of the hopelessly romantic man who’s faced with unrequited love.

A word from ThePleasantRelationship

You’re still hurting so right now, a way out of this trauma may seem challenging.

However, here’s a truth from the other side, you CAN get over this phase of your life. You WILL lead a better life because you DESERVE it.

If anybody told you otherwise, they don’t deserve a wonderful soul like you… one that will survive through a bad ordeal of unrequited love. 

Someday, you’ll reach the stars, realize all of your dreams yourself, have a healthy relationship with your dream partner, and also set an example for others.

Until then, fight with all your might.

Are you interested to know more about ‘Lazy Husband’ then click here?