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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. The beloved may or may not be aware of the admirer's deep and strong romantic affections. 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 Nietzsche, considered that "indispensable...to the lover is his unrequited love, which he would at no price relinquish for a state of indifference."[3]


Route to unrequited love[edit]

According to Dr. 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. Dr calls this kind of mismatch "prone to find their love unrequited. That such relationships are falling upward.[4]

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.


'There are two dark sides to unrequited love, but only one is made familiar by our culture'[5] - 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.[6] 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',[7] and vice versa.

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'.[8]

'Platonic friendships provide a fertile soil for unrequited love'.[9] 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 his/her 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 which have less relevance in 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"'.[10]

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'.[11]


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'.[12]

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.[13]

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'.[14] According to Robert B. Pippin, Proust claimed that 'the only successful (sustainable) love is unrequited love'.[15] According to Pippin, sometimes 'unrequited love...has been invoked as a figure for the condition of modernity itself'.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Unrequited - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 2012-05-23. 
  2. ^ Eric Berne, Sex in Human Loving (Penguin 1970) p. 130
  3. ^ This is how R. B. Pippin describes Nietzsche's views in The Persistence of Subjectivity (2005) p. 326.
  4. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/1993/02/09/science/pain-of-unrequited-love-afflicts-the-rejecter-too.html?pagewanted=2 titlle : pain of-unrequitedlove afflicts the rejecter too
  5. ^ "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
  6. ^ Goleman, Daniel (1993-02-09). "Pain of Unrequited Love Afflicts the Rejecter, Too - NYTimes.com". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  7. ^ Janet Malcolm, Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession (London 1988) p. 9
  8. ^ B. H. Spitzberg/W. R. Cupach, The Dark Side of Close Relationships (1998) p. 251
  9. ^ Spitzberg, p. 311
  10. ^ Mary Ward, The Literature of Love (2009) p. 45-6
  11. ^ Eric Berne, Sex in Human Loving (Penguin 1970) p. 238
  12. ^ A. Grafton et al, The Classical Tradition (2010) p. 664
  13. ^ R. F. Baumeister/S. R. Wotman, Breaking Hearts (1994) p. 150
  14. ^ Y. B. Yeats, The Poems (London 1983) p. 155
  15. ^ Pippin, p. 326
  16. ^ 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.
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