The Verdict: Is Unrequited Love Real?

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Unrequited love is an unusual phenomenon; although many confuse it for infatuation, others doubt its authenticity altogether. To ensure we’re on the same page about the meaning of unrequited love, let’s first compare it to a crush and infatuation. 

Unrequited Love vs a Crush vs. Infatuation: 


A crush is the least intense of the three and often presents as a mild attraction. You’re drawn to them when they’re around, but otherwise, you don’t think of them much. Crushes can be fleeting, or they can last years. 


Next is infatuation. When infatuated, we’re not only affected by them in person, but we think of them outside their presence too. With infatuation, it’s common to become smitten by the total essence of the person. You don’t just like the way they look, or your small banter, you like a lot of things about them. Maybe even everything.  

However, if they were to develop a severe bout of acne, started dressing unattractively, or fell out of favor with others, the spell would break. While infatuation is medium intensity, it’s still considered a “shallow” (albeit, not insignificant) romantic feeling because there’s no love involved. 

In other words, it’s a deep level of admiration, and admiration can always be lost and is dependent on the admirer. To elaborate further, this form of attraction has less to do with them and more to do with you; it isn’t based on their soul but on the ‘character’ or ‘persona’ they’ve presented. Infatuation can be confused with love because its intensity can lead to all consuming obsession. 

Unrequited Love

Finally, the most intense of the three is unrequited love. This is the level where you’re willing to suffer and sacrifice as if they were you, and where your desire to be with them isn’t solely because it would make your life better, but because you feel your contribution would meaningfully make their life better, too. 

This is the level where they feel like home; and, because they deserve the best in life, you’re willing to do everything you can to become the best person you can be because they deserve the best. A quick example of this phenomenon is with the famous author F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda. 

Although Fitzgerald and Zelda both loved each other, Zelda’s mother didn’t want her to marry Fitzgerald because her mother feared he couldn’t financially support her as a writer. At this point, it looked like their love story was doomed. 

Well, a year later, Fitzgerald published his first novel, This Side of Paradise, and it was an instant bestseller. The next week, Zelda and Fitzgerald were married. This remarkable story showcases the power of love and its ability to motivate someone to live up to their potential.  

Now that we’re on the same page about what distinguishes unrequited love from its two less potent siblings, let’s get down to the verdict. 

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The Verdict: 

In all honesty, unrequited love can be real love, but often isn’t. In fact, true unrequited love (where the love is real) can manifest in three ways and is quite rare. The overall rarity is because for love to be true, all the elements of love must be present (as in, there’s a genuine connection (ex. chemistry), you deeply care about them, and you want them to have the best in life). So, if the love object (LO) sensed these feelings from you, the lover, why might they resist the relationship?

Tragically, the answer comes down to the love-er not being emotionally ready for a healthy relationship. For example, the lover might love the LO at their own expense. This is bothersome because it’s unhealthy to date someone who sacrifices or disrespects their own boundaries for the other person. Healthy boundaries are an essential aspect of a flourishing relationship. 

Thus, without the love-er seeming emotionally ready, the relationship can loom as a stressful liability for the love-ee. Rather than be excited by the prospect of their pairing, the love-ee might instead shudder in fear of how the love-er’s ‘unreadiness’ may infect and doom the relationship. 

Furthermore, a LO can be resistant if they feel the lover can’t be independent without them. No one wants to be in a relationship where the other person is so emotionally or financially dependent on them that the situation would become a heartbreaking headache in ethics should they ever leave. 

Ultimately, no one wants to be in a stressful relationship. We want to come home and feel more comforted and relaxed, not increasingly worried and stressed. People often say love isn’t enough for a relationship to last, but love isn’t always enough for a relationship to start either. 

Another reason why unrequited love is rare despite being popular in the media, is because the phrase is often used to describe intense infatuation.

The Three Types of Unrequited Love  

Now that we’ve seen how authentic unrequited love works, let’s explore the three manifestations. In short, a lover could love the person, their dream of life with that person (often a yearning for completeness), or both. Let’s examine each further.

The first form, when one complete person loves another, is the most simple, clean, and least catastrophic form. If the LO rejects the lover , the lover will be hurt, but they’ll have a good solo life to return to. 

The next form, when someone loves the idea of a future with someone rather than the person, is more common. An example of this could be with a woman who yearns for fame and financial security. She may yearn for this life because she’ll think that it’ll complete her. This type of love is often seen in religion. Many people claim to love God, but deep down, they might not love God at all but rather the idea of going to Heaven or even the feeling of being superior to others. 

Back to our example with the woman who yearns for fame and wealth; should a man come along who can provide these things, she might think she loves him, but really, she only loves the future life he’ll be able to provide. In all honesty, this is likely why celebrities rarely date those without comparable fame/wealth. They want someone to love them, not their money and fame. 

Finally, the most extreme and complex form of unrequited love is a combination of both love of the person and love of a desired future/completeness. To clarify, not only does the lover love the person, but they love the future or vision of completeness too. 

The reason this form of unrequited love is often more painful than others is because when we love someone, we’re willing to sacrifice and put them first if need be. But what if you love two conflicting things? What if you love someone, but because that person doesn’t want the relationship, their rejection denies you of your dream or vision for completeness? If both loves are pure and true, this configuration can lead to significant loss and inner conflict to the point of triggering Ego Death. 

Conclusion: To summarize, unrequited love can manifest authentically in three different ways. However, it’s often used to describe infatuation. Want to know if you’re experiencing real love? Feel free to read my article, “9 Signs You Love Someone.”

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