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Dante looks longingly at Beatrice Portinari (in yellow) as she passes by him with Lady Vanna (in red) in Dante and Beatrice, by Henry Holiday

Unrequited love or one-sided love is love that is not openly reciprocated or understood as such by the beloved. The beloved may not be aware of the admirer's deep and strong romantic affection or consciously reject it. The Merriam Webster Online Dictionary defines unrequited as "not reciprocated or returned in kind."[1]

Psychiatrist Eric Berne states in his book Sex in Human Loving that "Some say that one-sided love is better than none, but like half a loaf of bread, it is likely to grow hard and moldy sooner."[2] Others, however, like the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, considered that "indispensable...to the lover is his unrequited love, which he would at no price relinquish for a state of indifference."[3] It can also be contrasted with redamancy or the act of reciprocal love.[4]


Route to unrequited love[edit]

According to Dr. Roy Baumeister, what makes a man or woman desirable, of course, is a complex and highly personal mix of many qualities and traits. But falling for someone who is much more desirable than oneself, whether because of physical beauty or attributes like charm, intelligence, wit or status, Baumeister calls this kind of mismatch "prone to find their love unrequited" and that such relationships are falling upward.[5] According to some psychologists, opposites do attract, but it is not possible to attract those whose moral values are different.[6][7]

Unrequited love victims[edit]

The inability of the unrequited lover to express and fulfill emotional needs may lead to feelings such as depression, low self-esteem, anxiety and rapid mood swings between depression and euphoria.[citation needed]


'There are two dark sides to unrequited love, but only one is made familiar by our culture'[8] - that of the lover, not the rejector. In fact, research suggests that the object of unrequited affection experiences a variety of negative emotions on a par with those of the suitor, including anxiety, frustration and guilt.[9] As Freud long since pointed out, 'when a woman sues for love, to reject and refuse is a distressing part for a man to play',.[10]

In popular culture[edit]

Unrequited love has been a frequent subject in popular culture. Movies, books and songs often portray the would-be lover's persistence as paying off when the rejector comes to his or her senses. The presence of this script makes it easy to understand why an unrequited lover persists in the face of rejection'.[11] The subject has also appeared in traditional folk songs, such as the Scots song I Once Loved a Lass.

'Platonic friendships provide a fertile soil for unrequited love'.[12] Thus the object of unrequited love is often a friend or acquaintance, someone regularly encountered in the workplace, during the course of work, school or other activities involving large groups of people. This creates an awkward situation in which the admirer has difficulty in expressing their true feelings, a fear that revelation of feelings might invite rejection, cause embarrassment or might end all access to the beloved, as a romantic relationship may be inconsistent with the existing association.


Unrequited love has long been depicted as noble, an unselfish and stoic willingness to accept suffering. Literary and artistic depictions of unrequited love may depend on assumptions of social distance that have less relevance in western, democratic societies with relatively high social mobility, or less rigid codes of sexual fidelity. Nonetheless, the literary record suggests a degree of euphoria in the feelings associated with unrequited love, which has the advantage as well of carrying none of the responsibilities of mutual relationships: certainly, "rejection, apparent or real, may be the catalyst for inspired literary creation... 'the poetry of frustration'."[13]

Eric Berne considered that "the man who is loved by a woman is lucky indeed, but the one to be envied is he who loves, however little he gets in return. How much greater is Dante gazing at Beatrice than Beatrice walking by him in apparent disdain."[14]


Roman poet Ovid in his Remedia Amoris "provides advice on how to overcome inappropriate or unrequited love. The solutions offered include travel, teetotalism, bucolic pursuits, and ironically, avoidance of love poets".[15]

Dorothy Tennov (1979) has suggested that the only cure for being in love is to get indisputable evidence that the target of one's love is not interested.[16]

Cultural analogues[edit]

In the wake of his real-life experiences with Maud Gonne, in a further twist, W. B. Yeats wrote of those who 'had read/All I had rhymed of that monstrous thing/Returned and yet unrequited love'.[17] According to Robert B. Pippin, Proust claimed that 'the only successful (sustainable) love is unrequited love'.[18] According to Pippin, sometimes 'unrequited love...has been invoked as a figure for the condition of modernity itself'.[19] Examples of unrequited love include W. B. Yeats, Stendhal, Dante, Ayn Rand, Hans Christian Andersen, and Goethe.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Unrequited - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 2012-05-23. 
  2. ^ Berne, Eric (1970). Sex in Human Loving. Penguin. p. 130. ISBN 0-671-20771-7. 
  3. ^ This is how R. B. Pippin describes Nietzsche's views in The Persistence of Subjectivity (2005) p. 326.
  4. ^ Ash, John. The New And Complete Dictionary Of The English Language: In Which All The Words are Introduced ... : To Which Is Prefixed, A Comprehensive Grammar ; In Two Volumes, Volume 2. Dilly. Retrieved 12 June 2015. 
  5. ^ Goleman, Daniel (1993-02-09). "Pain of Unrequited Love Afflicts the Rejecter, Too". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-12-26. 
  6. ^ "The Real Reason That Opposites Attract". Psychology Today. Retrieved 2015-12-26. 
  7. ^ "Opposites DO attract: Psychologists say couples who are too similar to each other are less likely to last". Mail Online. Retrieved 2015-12-26. 
  8. ^ "To love or be loved in vain: The trials and tribulations of unrequited love. In W. R. Cupach & B. H. Spitzberg (Eds.), The dark side of close relationships (pp. 307-326). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Carpenter, L. M. (1998)Spitzberg, p. 308
  9. ^ Goleman, Daniel (1993-02-09). "Pain of Unrequited Love Afflicts the Rejecter, Too - NYTimes.com". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  10. ^ Janet Malcolm, Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession (London 1988) p. 9
  11. ^ B. H. Spitzberg/W. R. Cupach, The Dark Side of Close Relationships (1998) p. 251
  12. ^ Spitzberg, p. 311
  13. ^ Mary Ward, The Literature of Love (2009) p. 45-6
  14. ^ Eric Berne, Sex in Human Loving (Penguin 1970) p. 238
  15. ^ A. Grafton et al, The Classical Tradition (2010) p. 664
  16. ^ R. F. Baumeister/S. R. Wotman, Breaking Hearts (1994) p. 150
  17. ^ Y. B. Yeats, The Poems (London 1983) p. 155
  18. ^ Pippin, p. 326
  19. ^ Pippin, p. 326n

Further reading[edit]

  • Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy (New York 1951) THE THIRD PARTITION: LOVE-MELANCHOLY
  • J. Reid Meloy, Violent Attachments (1997)
  • Peabody, Susan 1989, 1994, 2005, "Addiction to Love: Overcoming Obsession and Dependency in Relationships."

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unrequited_love — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.
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