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10 Things to Know About the Psychology of Unrequited Love

Unrequited love is a beast that we have all encountered. It is a one-sided love. This means that the love is not reciprocated or accepted by the person who is being loved. Sometimes this love is a secret and the person being loved and adored has no idea. Other times, they are aware and they reject the romantic love.

But what is the psychology behind this torturous form of love? Why do so many of us fall victim to it? How do we react when we are the beloved one in the relationship? How does it feel to reject someone who loves us? Here are 10 things to know about the psychology of unrequited love…


There is not just one type of unrequited love.

Psychology experts claim that unrequited love is actually quite common. Research has shown that practically everyone  has been loved by someone they did not love back or loved someone who did not love them back by their 20s. But we each may have a different experience with unrequited love. It can take on a few different forms. These include:

  • loving someone who does not have the same feelings
  • adoring someone who is not romantically available
  • two people who are already in romantic relationships pining for each other
  • a deep desire for a romantic partner from your past. 

Many ignore clear signs of unrequited love.

Unrequited love is a form of love that likely will just never work. Because of this, it makes sense that the signs of it are often ignored by the person who is pining for another. They are so focused on the romantic thoughts they are having that they often are not seeing that this will never work as they are hoping for. The signs that someone is experiencing an unrequited love may include:

  • Unreciprocated emotions 
  • Seeing them in an unrealistic view and putting them on a pedestal 
  • One sided contact (phone calls, text messages, social media)
  • Deeply longing for their physical touch.


There may be phases of unrequited love.

As you likely know from personal experience, one sided feelings can present themselves in different stages – crush to infatuation to love. As with all forms of affection, the crush is the fun part at the beginning. This crush, if the feelings get stronger, then turns into infatuation. If the affection and adoration have not been returned but the feelings turn into love, you’ve gotten yourself into some unrequited love. All of these stages look quite a bit different when the feelings are being reciprocated. They can be more difficult to navigate when they are one sided. 

Some may argue that unrequited love is not real love.

Traditionally speaking, being in love means having a mutual relationship with a romantic partner. However, someone suffering from unrequited love will likely claim that they are in love with the person they are pining for. Is this real love? Many people claim that it is not real love. Some say it is actually an unrealistic infatuation. While some psychologists claim that someone can still be in love if they are not receiving that love back, some may also agree with the obsession argument. Perhaps this is a case-by-case scenario. At the end of the day, how can anyone try to fully dissect another’s love and claim it to be anything if it not theirs personally?

Not being loved back may make someone’s feelings stronger.

Have you ever realized that you wanted something more after you learned you couldn’t have it? Maybe when you were younger you reached for a cookie on the counter and your mother said no. After that point, all you wanted was that cookie. It was all that mattered to you!

Unrequited love can sometimes involve the same psychology. When the person you’ve been pining rejects your love, they may become all that matters to you. This is a great way to tie in psychology to unrequited love. Our infatuation sometimes grows when our love is denied. Our brains and hearts have a funny way of controlling our emotions. 

Certain types of people may fall victim to unrequited love.

Some people may be more prone to loving someone in a form of unrequited love. While some people may quickly move on when their feelings for someone are not received. Others latch on. This can be a result of how someone was given and shown love at a young age, a representation of their low self esteem, or a look at how their brain desires things just out of reach. Someone may commonly fall into unrequited love because of any of the following examples:

  • They project their desired traits onto someone who actually doesn’t have those traits
  • They may spend all of their time trying to impress someone without even realizing if they themselves are impressed
  • Their low self esteem makes them only desire people who have them in a friend zone
  • They desire to fall in love because they are missing something in their life
  • They have a lot of trouble accepting rejection to be true

We may be able to learn and heal our heartbreak from unrequited love.


Healing from heartbreak is never an easy thing to do. It’s hard, painful, and it takes a while. Healing from an unrequited love is the same process but it can also offer us a new perspective that we otherwise may never be able to learn from. When someone is caught up in an unrequited love, it is often not very healthy. Deciding to move on and grieve that love allows someone to gain a better understanding of themselves. For example, a better understanding of their needs, their typical romantic patterns, and seeing better and healthier ways to find a future partner. 

Can we be someone else’s unrequited love and not know?

It could be very possible to be the object of someone’s deep desire and not even know it. For many people who are experiencing an unrequited love, it is totally unspoken and may come as a complete surprise. Perhaps it’s a close friend who is too scared to speak up, a partner from a past relationship, someone who was rejected but can’t move on, or something else. Being in love is a big feeling and a big investment. It’s even bigger when you’re doing it all by yourself! 


Pain from unrequited love can affect the person who did the rejecting. 

It may be obvious that someone can feel pain from their love being rejected. However, the less obvious part of the equation is that the person doing the rejecting will feel pain as well. It is not commonly discussed but many studies show that someone on the receiving end of unrequited love may feel just as much pain as the person doing the loving. As we mentioned above, not all people know that they are being pined over – sometimes it’s a secret. But for the people that are made aware, it can be hard to hurt someone. It can be difficult tell someone that their feelings are not mutual. 

Some people may seek help and guidance from an unrequited love relationship. 

For people suffering mentally, therapy and guidance is usually a highly recommended course of action for healing. While being heartbroken is something that we all go through at some point, it doesn’t make it any less painful. Heartbreak can lead to anger, sadness, and sometimes depression. As we mentioned above, a heartbreak from an unrequited love may point to other parts of ourselves that we need to heal as well. For some people, the combination of all these things is just too much for them to deal with on their own. Seeking out a therapist can help them:

  • get a healthy routine back
  • deal with the feelings from the heartbreak
  • understand their heavy emotions
  • determine the patterns that lead to pain like this, and more. 


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