"You know the trouble with you lot? You're all in love with the wrong people."This is the state in which nobody seems to be allowed to reciprocate any romantic interest shown in them; since having some sort of love interest is standard for main characters in particular, this inevitably leads down the path of the Love Dodecahedron. Often, a story will begin with this trope, which then evolves into Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends and/or a less restrictive sort of Love Dodecahedron. Also, as the series ends, all bets are off and there might be some resolution. When fans support relationships that involve unrequited love, you're looking at Starboarding. This might be resolved—or, alternately, made even more awkward—if the unrequited makes their feelings known. If all the unrequited love is directed at the same character, they just might be a Mary Sue. The Ignored Enamored Underling may be working under someone Oblivious to Love. Any type 2 or type 5 Love Triangle falls into this category.
— Mrs. Patmore, Downton Abbey
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- The artwork for the Korean-exclusive "Ghostrick Break◊" in the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG shows that Ghostrick Yeti has a crush on Ghostrick Yuki-onna, who in turn seems to have a crush on Ghostrick Stein. Unfortunately, Yeti is shown being heartbroken by Yuki-onna showing her affections for Stein (she's seen blowing icy hearts on his back), and Stein seems to be either too dim or oblivious to notice Yuki-onna.
- The ad campaign for the comic Young Heroes In Love explicitly plays with this trope, as does the comic itself.
- The Super Young Team of The DCU has a love triangle (that's really more of a love line segment) along these lines; Big Atomic Lantern Boy loves Shiny Happy Aquazon who only has eyes for Well Spoken Sonic Lightning Flash who isn't interested in relationships.
- In the original Runaways miniseries, Gert has a crush on Chase, who has a crush on Karolina, who has a crush on Nico, who has a crush on Alex.
- Peanuts has this trope as the norm: Unrequited love is practically the only kind of love featured throughout the series.note
- In Curtis, title character Curtis Wilkins only has eyes for would-be celebrity Michelle, and barely notices Chutney's crush on him.
- Dogs of C-Kennel had Kenny trying to win over Cocoa's affections, without any success, making it something of a Running Gag.
- Calvin and Hobbes: The Series: "Insanity is In The Air" runs on a Love Triangle of this nature—Andy is smitten with Maria, but she finds herself more interested in Calvin, who doesn't really care about love at all.
- The Lemony Narrator of Equestria: A History Revealed often goes on a tangent on how she's been trying to get her homeless friend, Crazy Larry, to fall in love with her. He doesn't seem to show any interest in her advances though.
- Played for Laughs in Chapter 64 of You Got HaruhiRolled!, which features a severely dysfunctional Love Quadrilateral in which no crush is requited. To wit, Kuyou plans to brainwash Fujiwara into having sex with her, Fujiwara tries to catch Kyouko in the shower, Kyouko practically Squees over Sasaki, and, to top it all off, Sasaki makes the polygon open-ended by attempting to kiss her own reflection.
- In Sophistication and Betrayal this is a major source of angst for several characters.
- In Merlin fanfic A Very Hairy Situation, Merlin and Gwen are both in love with Arthur, who is in love with Gwaine. In the past, Gwen had a crush on Merlin, who didn't even notice. Due to his Magic Hair, Gwaine is actually a common target of unrequited love.
- In the Katekyō Hitman Reborn! Fan Fic Sehnsucht, the audience is initially led to believe that Cynthia, Noriko's past life, spared Daemon Spade after he betrayed the First Generation out of respect for her adoptive sister, Elena. While that may have played a part, the actual reason why Cynthia spared Daemon was because she was in love with him.
- Transformers Animated: Cybertronian Genesis: Both Optimus and Sentinel had feelings for their classmate Elita-1, who wasn't interested in any romance (though it's implied she felt something for Optimus), only dating the latter because he asked her out. Now, as Blackarachnia, she despises both of them. As for Optimus, he is still in love with her, won't even entertain the idea of entering a relationship with anyone else, and futilely hopes that she can still be redeemed.
- The Light in the Dark: Mulciber only desires Maria Zabini physically, and is implied to be attracted to the power he can reap from her being involved with him.Whatever his motivations, he clearly does not love her, while she is either infatuated with or truly loves him. Severus is in love with Lily, but whether or not his feelings will be reciprocated remains to be seen. Karen Smith of all people has a crush on him, but the feelings are not mutual. Edmund Avery meanwhile is interested in her. James fancies Lily, but she refuses to go out with him due to his bullying of Snape and other students. Evangeline is interested in Kitty, Paris Nott's girlfriend. Bertha had a crush on Alton Avery, who chose her friend Florence instead. Leslie is strongly implied to have loved Veronica romantically, but Veronica dated Regulus Black instead behind her back.
- Happens to several characters in Forum of Thrones:
- Rosalie has a one-sided crush on Philip. He does care for her, though decidedly not in a romantic way, but more in the way a father would care for his daughter.
- Irving Todd holds clear feelings for Maya, even outright admitting so to his drinking buddy Marak. While she is slightly aware of it, she has shown no signs of attraction towards him in return. Given that he is The Load, this is not particularly surprising, not even to him.
- There are also signs that this is the nature of Alysanne's feelings for Kersea, which are a bit too close to be mere friendship. However, while Kersea values Alysanne as a friend, she certainly harbours no romantic feelings for her.
Films — Live-Action
- Easter Parade: At least until about a half hour before the end, Hannah loves Don, Don loves Nadine, Nadine loves Johnny (for his money), and Johnny loves Hannah. Then, of course, Don loves Hannah ("Why didn't you tell me I was in love with you?"), Johnny gives his blessing, and everyone forgets about Nadine.
- In the Japanese DVD Sea Of Dreams, one short centers around a group of five friends spending a day together at Tokyo Disney Sea park. The story is narrated by a boy who has unrequited feelings for a girl dating another guy in the group. Throughout the short, it is revealed that all five teens have unrequited love for another in the group, but no one really acts on these feelings and life goes on.
- Miao Miao. The main three characters play this straight, but even the side characters get this to a platonic degree.
- In Red Riding Hood, Valerie's sister is in love with Henry, who crushes on Valerie, who only sees Peter. Also, Valerie's mother Suzette was in love with and had an affair with Henry's father and it's left ambiguous whether she loved Valerie's father at all.
- In She's the Man, Viola likes Duke who has a crush on Olivia who likes Sebastian (who is actually Viola in disguise). Stalker With a Crush Malcolm also likes Olivia. Eunice likes Sebastian (who is actually Viola) with Toby habouring a crush on her. Thankfully, this gets all sorted out in the end.
- In Sky High (2005) this is Mr. Boy, for Jetstream. Justified in-story, in that a hero like her could never notice someone in 'Hero Support'—not with the strapping, handsome, charismatic Commander around.
- In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014), both Mikey and Vernon have made it clear that they are attracted to April but she either ignores their advances or brushes it aside.
- Happens to Tessa in the film The Constant Nymph.
- Happened to all the characters in The Love Of Siam.
- Played straight for Ying. She is in love with Mew, but Mew tells her he will always only see her as a good friend.
- Played straight for Donut and her love for Tong. Granted she actually did date him but Tong wasn't actually in love with her.
- Played around a bit with Tong and Mew. The two boys loved each other, but they ultimately couldn't get together due to reasons.
- Played straight in Love and Death, where Boris has been in love with his cousin Sonja since they were kids, but she pines futilely for his idiot brother Ivan, who in turn only has eyes for Anna. Later parodied when Sonja's mopey cousin Natasha lists a long string of her acquaintances who are all pining after each other.
- The Sea Gull: Medvedenko for Masha, Masha for Treplev, Treplev for Nina, Nina and Arkadina for Trigorin.
- Stephen Sondheim's Follies loves this trope. Buddy is having an affair with Margie, but it leaves him unfulfilled. All he really wants is for his wife Sally to reciprocate his feelings. But Sally has never gotten over having her heart broken by Buddy's best friend Ben, who married her best friend Phyllis. Phyllis still loves Ben, but has become increasingly bitter and jaded as she's grown to realize that Ben only loves himself.
- Patience by Gilbert and Sullivan: the soldiers love the maids, who love Bunthorne, who loves Patience, who loves nobody.
- Twelfth Night, up until Sebastian says "madam, I will".
- Arms and the Man by George Bernard Shaw: Raina does start out in love with Sergei, but she's more in love with the romantic ideas she holds about what he's doing out on the battlefield, and once Bluntschli shatters her notions of romantic battle (in the first scene), we've got… Raina starting to want Bluntschli, Bluntschli thinking she's far too young to pursue, Sergei still thinking he's going to marry Raina but really more lusting toward housemaid Luca, and Luca seemingly going to marry a fellow servant. Of course, near the end, Luca pulls the rug out from under this arrangement, and everyone falls over into the right arms.
Bluntschli: 23? 23?! If you were 23 when you said those things to me, I shall take them very seriously indeed.
- In Jean-Paul Sartre's Huis Clos/No Exit, Estelle wants Garcin (more specifically, she wants a warm male body, and Garcin will do); Garcin, on the other hand, is attracted to the intelligence of Ines; but Ines is fixated on Estelle, who reminds her of her former lover Florence. The fact that they're stuck in a love triangle that will never be resolved is their chief torment in hell.
- In The History Boys: Posner loves Dakin, but Dakin is (if not in love with, then at least attracted to) Irwin. More amusingly, Scripps has a theory that this is the defining characteristic of Christianity.
- Team Starkid loves this trope. In both A Very Potter Musical, the sequel, and Me and My Dick, unrequited love is everywhere. Just for the sake of listing, in A Very Potter Musical and its sequel, we have:
- Draco and Ron both like Hermione and are in denial about it.
- Pansy likes Draco, who's just using her to cover up his crush on Hermione.
- Hermione likes Ron (and, according to A Very Potter Sequel, Harry), but neither one is very nice to her.
- Snape liked Harry's mother, much to Harry's disgust. That, and Lily was married.
- Ginny likes Harry, who likes Cho Chang, who is dating Cedric Diggory.
- Ron is implied to be bisexual for Harry.
- Umbridge has a crush on Dumbledore, who's gay. Dumbledore also seems to have a crush on Snape.
- Bellatrix loves Voldemort, who seems to love Quirrel…
- Wicked: Nessa → Boq → G(a)linda → Fiyero. The only requited love is between Fiyero and Elphaba, the latter of whom thought it was unrequited at first.
- A Midsummer Night's Dream has several human characters falling in love with one another, then out of love and into love with someone else, all at the wrong time, thanks to the fairies using love potions to mess with their already confused relationships for the lols.
- Little Busters! has a downplayed example that doesn't directly involve the protagonist Riki. Sasami is interested in Riki's friend Kengo, but also attracts the attention of Aikawa, a very minor character whose love sickness Riki and Rin are asked to cure during one of Lennon's missions. The two succeed in helping him out not by playing The Matchmaker, but by helping him realize his feelings are unrequited and helping him get back on track with his studying, which he was too distracted to do. Kengo is implied to have feelings for Miyuki Koshiki, though she ended up committing suicide in the real world, making her The Lost Lenore for Kengo. Sasami ultimately subverts this trope with Riki, as she does become a heroine with her own route in the Updated Re-release.
- In Maji De Watashi Ni Koishinasai, Azumi's route, where Miyako is in love with Yamato who is in love with azumi who is in love with Hideo who is in love with Kazuko who doesn't love him back.
- Bittersweet Candy Bowl has a chronic case of this. Almost every character in the cast suffers from this trope at some point.
- The webcomic Supermegatopia features Grease Monkey in love with Weasel Boy, Weasel Boy in love with Tiger Lass, Tiger Lass in love with Mighty Yak, and Mighty Yak is too dumb to notice the Love Dodecahedron. More links on the chain get added over time.
- In Sluggy Freelance Zoe cycles through this trope pretty darn quickly in this strip. Before she'd always rejected Sam's advances, finding him creepy. Then, when he goes missing, she laments how she let her "last hope of true love" slip through her fingers. Then, when Sam turns up alive and well, she's back to thinking he's disgusting. And then, no more thirty seconds later, she finds out Sam's gotten married. Instantly she's calling him her one true love again.
- The gods in A Momentof Peace form a love conga line. The god of Trust and Betrayal loves the goddess of Stories, who loves the god of In-Between Places, who loves the goddess of Glory.
- In All Roses Have Thorns, Galvan is in love with Auron, but Auron very obviously still has feelings for Collamair, and Collamair is in love with Faylin, but Faylin was in love with Isleen, but she rejected him. Wow.
- Davey of Maggot Boy is hopelessly in love with Sam, which will never go anywhere because he's dead, and she has a huge crush on her boss Lazaro, but he just hates everyone in general.
- Homestuck: Okay. Karkat had a confirmed one-sided crush on Jade, as did Tavros, and she rejected both. Gamzee at one point had a flushed crush on Tavros, and it's unknown how he responded. Vriska also had a very one-sided crush on Tavros and also had a crush on John that he seemed to return at first but has since grown out of. Kanaya had a one-sided crush on Vriska. Karkat seems to still have feelings for his ex-girlfriend Terezi. Nepeta had a one-sided crush on Karkat, while Eridan was also after Nepeta for a while, as well as half the cast, but most dramatically a red crush on Feferi and a black crush on Sollux. Both Sollux and Equius had things for Aradia which were complicated after she died. After being brought back to life as a robot, Aradia seemed to retain some feelings for Sollux, at least to the point where her last action before randomly causing herself to explode was to hug him, though at that point he was dating Feferi. Both WV and AR had things for PM which she never found out about before AR died and WV was, at the least, gravely injured. PM has a black crush on Bec Noir, who has a red crush on her. Finally, all of the Alpha kids have a crush on Jake, plus Roxy also has an unrequited thing for Dirk, while Jake wouldn't have minded the idea of going out with Jane or Dirk, and tried to date Dirk, but isn't really that interested, and also has a crush on Aranea, who seems to have a pretty similar lukewarm interest in him.
- Girl Genius:
- Happens between minions. Violetta and Snaug both crush on Moloch, who goes after Sanaa instead, who finds it stupid. However, things seem to change in favor of the Moloch-Snaug pairing.
- Happens everywhere in Paris. Colette has a crush on Agatha (though she might have been joking, and wasn't too worried about it anyway), while Agatha is still pining for Gil and Tarvek. Hoffman has a giant crush on Colette, and while she admits he's not as bad as the blatant gold-diggers, she still dislikes how he can't form coherent sentences around her. Larana has a crush on Hoffman, and is similarly incoherent around him, but he doesn't even notice. This gets worse when Larana finds out that Hoffman accidentally entered them into an Arranged Marriage to keep her kingdom and his adopted kingdom from fighting.
Zeetha: Everyone in Paris can't be like this. I mean, I've seen kids.
- In Sandra and Woo the Alpha Bitch Zoey is revealed to be a lesbian and has a crush on her friend Michelle. However, Michelle is shown as being homophobic and doesn't return her feelings after she kissed her. Cue pity.
- The Frederick, Leif and Canta triangle in Sire. Frederick loves Canta who loves Leif who is withdrawn and closed off to everyone. It should be noted that as Lineage Children of Raoul, Erik and Christine this alters their fated narrative a little bit.
- In Monsterpop, love is everywhere. Sasha has a crush on George, who's in love with Marina, who turns out to like Franny, who's in a relationship with Percy already.
- In 19 Days, it's lightly implied that He Tian might have a thing for Jian Yi, while Jian Yi is definitely in love with Xheng Xi.
- In the TV Tropes original series Echo Chamber, Shannon pines for Tom, Tom pines for Porn Girl, Zack pines for Dana, and Dana might or might not pine for Tom. Probably the only character who isn't in some way involved in the Love Dodecahedron is Mr. Administrator, and that would just be weird.
- A "story arc" on That Guy with the Glasses, mostly centered around the Psychotic Love Triangle of The Nostalgia Chick, Todd in the Shadows and the only innocent one being Obscurus Lupa. (The Chick not only kidnapped Todd multiple times, but turned into Alex Forrest when Lupa turned up in her apartment.)
Lupa: Did you just attack me with a butter knife?!
Chick: (licks blade) IT'S NUTELLA, BITCH.
- RWBY Chibi: In the main show, Jaune liked Weiss for a while before moving on, Nora doesn't know how to tell Ren how she feels because she doesn't know if he reciprocates, and Pyrrha won't tell Jaune how she feels while Jaune is pining over Weiss. Chibi mocks the teenage drama during a skit where Jaune is rejected by Weiss when he wants to study with her. Dejected, he rejects Pyrrha who asks the same of him. Upset, Pyrrha then rejects Weiss, who wanted to study with her. Witnessing the entire thing, Ren declares it's unbelievable that they cannot see the obvious. Nora growls a sarcastic agreement while waving a placard at him that says "Notice me!".
- While (thankfully) not always the case, this trope is often true of Real Life. As a rule of thumb, people tend to be most attracted to people who are "out of their league": more attractive or talented or popular than themselves. As a result, almost everyone has had a lot more experience with unrequited crushes, both as the crusher and the crushee, than with actual successful relationships.
- Very often happens amongst taken best friends.