What Is Unrequited Love?

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on May 03, 2022

While most aspire for romantic love, those feelings don’t always get reciprocated. Sometimes it’s a one-sided love. Unrequited love occurs when one person yearns for unconditional love from another individual who doesn’t feel the same way. This type of love appears more prevalently in people with anxious attachment styles and low defensiveness. 

What Are Unrequited Love Symptoms?

Unrequited love is a form of love that distorts one’s ideas about the person they’re in love with. You may be so caught up in your romantic thoughts for this person that it’s hard to notice they don’t feel the same. Signs of unrequited love include: 

  • Unreciprocated emotions
  • Having an unrealistic view of the person you’re in love with
  • One-sided contact through phone calls, texts, and social media
  • Longing for your person of interest’s touch

One study looked at humor as a coping mechanism for facing unrequited love. Humor can help change your perspective after facing the rejection of unreciprocated love. The burden of one-sided love can weigh heavy on you and have adverse effects. 

What Causes Unrequited Love?

Love develops over time, and developing romantic feelings for a friend can occur. Strong friendships that last over the years are prime opportunities for intimate feelings. 

Friendships are a great opener to romantic relationships, but they aren’t the only reason that unrequited love can occur. Some people believe a good friendship is a foundation for a romantic relationship. That’s why you may start to see your friend as more than a friend over time. 

Your proximity to a person can cause a love interest to form. Whether at work, school, or somewhere else, you may develop feelings for someone the more you get to know them. 

Love interests can arise from shared hobbies. If you find someone who likes the same things as you, you may see them as the perfect romantic partner. 

Any of these reasons can cause you to feel attracted to someone. If that person doesn’t reciprocate those feelings, that is the cause of unrequited love. 

Mixed signals can also cause one-sided love. If your friendship consists of flirty jokes, physical affection, or other romantic tendencies, you may start to see your friend as romantic interest. Mixed signals won’t make you fall in love with someone, but if you already find them attractive, it can make you more likely to look at them romantically. Especially if they’re acting like the feeling is mutual. 

Another cause of unrequited love is an unbalanced attraction level. If there’s a perceived difference in attraction, the person perceived to be more attractive might not feel intimate with a person they believe to be less attractive. A one-sided love can result, or no romantic relationship may form at all. 

How to Get Over Unrequited Love

After sharing your feelings for another person, rejection often feels awkward and embarrassing for both people. This can even cause the friendship to end. However, there are ways you get past the initial awkwardness and reform a mutual friendship. 

Give yourself and them a little time to move past the declaration, and then start casually chatting again once you’re ready. 

If you’ve shared your feelings and been rejected, you can assure your friend that you can accept their feelings and want to maintain the friendship. After the initial conversation, try not to dwell on the occasion with them. 

Another way to get past unrequited love is to return to your routine with your friend. If you start to avoid your friend after the rejection, they may think you no longer want to be friends. 

If you’re struggling with overcoming the rejection, you may need to pull back from your friendship. It may help to spend time with them only in group settings. Meeting new people can help recover from the declaration. Finding new people to talk to or date could help heal from the rejection. But if you still feel heartbroken, you might not be ready for a new relationship. 

It’s okay to talk with someone you once confessed your love to about new relationships. This may alleviate any remaining awkward feelings about the unreciprocated love. You should also tone down flirting or sexual innuendos that may have previously been part of your relationship. This will help keep you both from feeling confused or uncomfortable. 

You may automatically try to avoid the friend you declared your feelings to. However, you should continue talking and seeing each other as you did before the declaration. Your friendship has a better chance of surviving if you do. 

It is okay to need some space and time to heal after the rejection. Your friend might also need space. If they are distant after you’ve shared your feelings, they may feel guilty or sad and not want to hurt you further. 

What Else to Know About One-Sided Love

Unrequited love is when unreciprocated love causes a desire for complete love. There are five types of unrequited love: 

  • A crush on someone unavailable
  • A fixation on someone nearby
  • Pursuing a love object
  • Longing for a past love
  • An unequal love relationship

A study on the five types of unrequited love found that all kinds of these relationships are less emotionally intense than reciprocated love. Unrequited love is also found to be four times more prevalent than the love shared by two people. 

Unrequited love is also less intense in passion, sacrifice, dependency, commitment, and practical love than equal love. However, unrequited love has more intense turmoil feelings than reciprocated love. 

Studies have also shown that experiencing rejection has the same brain activities caused by physical pain. Unrequited love is a common occurrence, but that doesn’t make the pain less real.

Unrequited love is a part of being human. At some point in your life, you’ll likely experience the feeling. One-sided love is more intense than a crush and can last a long time. But if you experience the rejection of unreciprocated love, know you’re not alone. If needed, you can talk to a therapist about your feelings. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a trusted person if you’re having difficulty moving past the unrequited love.

Show Sources


Frontiers in Psychology: “Humorous Coping With Unrequited Love: Is Perspective Change Important?”

Online Psychology Degree Guide: “10 Things to Know About the Psychology of Unrequited Love.”

SAGE Open: “The Prevalence and Nature of Unrequited Love.”

VCU: “Unrequited Love: On Heartbreak, Anger, Guilt, Scriptlessness, and Humiliation.”

© 2022 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. View privacy policy and trust info