"Unrequited love- it's fantastic, because it never has to change, it never has to grow up, and it never has to die!"
If someone is in love unrequitedly really, really strongly and desperately, they might either go bonkers
- or... follow a thought like "if you don't want to have me, no one should
!" and choose solitude or at least celibacy
for the rest of their life.
Often, this trope is similar to 'pledging loyalty' to the beloved person and trying to be "loyal" regardless of what the person in question actually thinks of the character. Seeing (or at least feeling) the idea of loving another as some sort of betrayal. In that way, it is kind of a passive version of Stalker with a Crush
, but with much less actively obsessive behaviour and more I Want My Beloved to Be Happy
If in the form of such a vow
, it often causes Inner Monologues
and moral conflicts, since the character must keep a balance between suppressing their feelings for the person (to prevent If I Can't Have You
and such) and abandoning their self-chosen duty.
Common reasons for choosing solitude because of unrequited love are not being able to ever love anyone else or still loving the certain person forever, although the love is unrequited.
Often, especially if the admirer and the subject of love formerly were Just Friends
, this leads to extreme regret about the events that caused the love to be unrequited.
May be expressed with an Obsession Song
Not to confuse with: All Love Is Unrequited
(due to similarity in names), Asexuality
(a character fitting this trope is sometimes mistaken for asexual), Stalker with a Crush
lead to this, but does not necessarily do; because of a certain Double Standard
subjects of this trope are easily considered to be this or to have such tendencies.)
Compare Celibate Hero
, Single-Target Sexuality
, Dogged Nice Guy
, I Want My Beloved to Be Happy
, Love Makes You Crazy
, For Want of a Nail
and My Greatest Failure
Contrast If I Can't Have You
, Stalker with a Crush
, and Love Makes You Evil
As a Love Trope
, this tends to be of spoileriffic nature.
Anime & Manga
- Neon Genesis Evangelion has a number of very egregious cases of this. As in, Omnicidal Maniac levels of Egregious.
- 5 Centimeters per Second got backlash because the unrequited love ultimately did not last forever, with Makoto Shinkai's intent to depict Takaki's maturation and his ability to move on, ending his obsessing over Akari.
- Nagi of Hayate the Combat Butler may end up being this. Hayate has promised to always protect her, but hasn't shown much inclination of romantic affection for her. The Unwanted Harem hasn't ended though.
- Cardcaptor Sakura has Sonomi Daidouji who fell in love with her best friend since Kindergarten (and is actually her cousin). Said friend got Happily Married and later died. While Sonomi did apparently marry a man and have a child with him, it didn't last and during the series she is single and still very much in love with Nadeshiko.
- XXX Holic: at least four people seem to nurse unrequited feelings for Watanuki, who himself is eternally waiting for Yuuko. The Zashiki Warashi maintains a friendly relationship with him but he doesn't seem to reciprocate her feelings, Himawari gets married but still seems to have lingering sentiment towards him (even her husband seems to like him), and Doumeki and Kohane marry each other, seemingly for the purpose of producing offspring who will keep him from being lonely.
- Millennium Actress: Chiyoko, the title actress, fell in love with a fugitive artist/activist she met once as a teen and became an actress first to find him and later so he'd see her and find her. She eventually chose solitude and later admits on her deathbed that "she loves the chase more". The guy interviewing her also has a crush on her, but it's not known what he did after she disappeared from public life.
- In Quantum and Woody, Eric Henderson has this for Amy Fishbein since his early teenage years.
- In Love Actually, Mark harboured a crush on his best friend's fiancee/wife and admitted to her that he may never fully get over it.
- In Harry Potter, Snape is in love with Lily through their childhood and Hogwarts years. Lily refused to associate herself with him after he humiliated her in public and ultimately chose Snape's school rival, James who had cleaned up his Jerk Jock act. They had a child named Harry, then they died and Harry grew up and to become a student of Snape, who treats Harry like shit because his dad is James... and because he's still angry and in love with Lily since childhood as he demonstrated with his Patronus causing Dumbledore to tear up. "After all this time?" "Always." Also Moaning Myrtle pops up in every other book to complain about how Harry never visits her.
- A played-with example in The Princess Bride. Buttercup swore "I shall never love again" after Westley was killed by pirates. She was going to marry Prince Humperdink, but she didn't love him, and it didn't matter to him that she didn't love him because he planned to kill her and frame Guilder.
- In Ivanhoe, there is Rebecca's unrequited love for the titular Wilfred of Ivanhoe. There is a great deal of I Want My Beloved to Be Happy involved.
- Baby Kochamma in The God of Small Things falls in love with an Irish priest in her teens and remains in love with him even when after he has died and she has reached old age.
- Dante Alighieri and Beatrice, not just in real life but even in his poetry.
- Glennkill: Beth. Also Ham.
- Norwegian poet Henrik Wergeland did the trope four times over, crossing into a stalker with a crush. The four girls combined led to his ideal woman or personal muse: Stella.
- In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the book, Quasimodo falls in love with Esmeralda and does selfless things for her for the rest of the book until they both die.
- Frollo, on the other hand, also falls in love with Esmeralda, obsessing over her, stalking at her, attempting to kidnap her, and finally inducing her death. Understandably, his "love" was unrequited.
- Esmeralda herself is unrequitedly in love with Phoebo, who in the book is a jerk.
- Discussed by Anne Elliot in Persuasion where she claims it's a behavior particular to women, and that while men and women are equally capable of love, only women will keep loving after all hope is gone. Turns out that she's wrong about that, and her true love Captain Wentworth was still carrying the torch for her even though he didn't think she cared about him.
- Lancelot from Merlin never gets over Guinevere. Despite that, he's supportive of her marriage to Arthur and keeps it a secret to everyone but Merlin that he's still in love with her.
- Friends: Ross and Rachel's feelings only ever surface when they can't have each other. In the entire show they are together for one season, during which they fight unhappily and drive each other away. They spend the other nine seasons pining but doing nothing.
- Yvonne Elliman's, "If I Can't Have You"note
- Martin Jondo, "Hurtful Game"
Oh please Lord never let me fall in love again
Cause this is such, such a hurtful game
Lord I can't breathe and I can't smile
Lord my emotions getting wicked and wild
I'm losing myself I'm losing my soul
Feeling this girl taking over control
"I won't fall in love again"
- "Haven't Seen You in a Long Time" by Great Big Sea details the narrator's feelings for a woman whom he has loved for years, but the timing was never right for them, and now he can only hope that she still remembers him, while he can't get her out of his head.
- George Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today" which is the day the main protagonist died.
- "The Boys Of Summer" by Don Henley.
- May or may not be the case with "Lovesong" by The Cure, depending on your interpretation.
- "Never Be Mine" by Kate Bush.
- "Pretty Ballerina" by The Left Banke.
- The Nostalgia Chick's "love" for Todd in the Shadows has been going on for nine months at writing and is steadily driving her closer to a padded cell.
- Most relationships in Homestuck fall under this trope at some point. For example, Nepeta Lejion harbors feelings for Karkat Vantas who has feelings for Terezi Pyrope. It is also made clear that Karkat knows about Nepeta's feelings but doesn't want to hurt her feelings by flat out rejecting her. To make matters worse, she dies before she can tell him herself.
- On Young Justice, Kaldur is still pining after Tula five years after she chose Garth and she died. An excuse he uses to infiltrate The Light.
- Implied in the Players arc of the tie-in comic. Barbara Gordon has had a crush on her best friend, Dick Grayson, that lasted over five years and through two of his girlfriends. But he eventually reciprocated.
- A sad reality for many people who cannot bring themselves to move on, even if they know that they should.
- This can become crippling if it crosses the lines between The Four Loves. People have been known to withdraw from human contact entirely, rejecting the thought of ANY kind of love after what they have lost.
- C. S. Lewis, though he finally moved past it when the married woman he was in love with died.