Unrequited Love Lasts Forever

"Unrequited love—it's fantastic, because it never has to change, it never has to grow up, and it never has to die!"
Vince, Queer as Folk

If someone is desperately in love, but finds it unrequited, they might either go bonkers, or follow a thought like "If you don't want to be with me, no one will!" and choose solitude or at least celibacy for the rest of their life.

Often, this person will see their behaviour as "pledging loyalty" to the beloved person and trying to be "loyal" regardless of what the person in question actually thinks of them. They may see the idea of loving another, or trying to get over their obsession, as a 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 (But Not Me!)

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 abandoning their self-chosen duty. The concept of Courtly Love is similar, based on cultivating a chaste loyalty to one's beloved when they're a socially unacceptable match.

Often, especially if the admirer and the subject of love were formerly 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 be confused with: All Love Is Unrequited, Asexuality (a character fitting this trope is sometimes mistaken for asexual), Stalker with a Crush (it can lead to this, but doesn't necessarily).

Compare Celibate Hero, Single-Target Sexuality, The Lost Lenore, Dogged Nice Guy, I Want My Beloved to Be Happy, and Love Makes You Crazy.

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.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ai Yori Aoshi: Even upon his marriage to Aoi, Mayu still hasn't given up on Kaoru and visits him once a month.
  • 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.
  • CLAMP is somewhat famous for this. It is even outright stated that every person is the same, no matter what world they are in. So, technically, no matter how many times they are reborn, their love will still be unrequited:
    • 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.
      • Hinted at with her daughter Tomoyo's love for Sakura, which lasts through the series, even after Sakura has hooked up with Syaoran. Even Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-'s Tomoyo can't help obsessing over a Sakura she just met.
    • In Chobits it is stated that persocoms have a specific weakness to this. As Ridiculously human robots they have a combination of emotional sensitivity and perfect recall that makes them highly susceptible to continual, ongoing traumatization long after the original event has passed; they literally can't let it go. One of the main characters becomes so depressed over her unrequited love situation that she loses her will to live and lapses into an irretrievable vegetative state.
    • 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.
  • Love Hina: Even while they're attending Keitaro's wedding to Naru, both Shinobu and Motoko remain in love with him.
  • 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.
  • Naruto: Characters tend to hold on to one love for their whole lives, even if their object of affection can't or won't ever feel the same. One obvious case is Jiraiya, who kept his unrequited feelings for Tsunade from when they were teenagers until when they were old and died right before she was finally looked like she was going to give him a chance. Another is Obito, whose crush Rin never liked him back and died when they were children, prompting him to dedicate his entire life to getting back at the world that took her from him, his love never wavering. Even Karin never stops loving Sasuke, but just decides to let him be happy with another. The only two cases of someone moving on from a crush to be with someone else are Ino, whose feelings for Sasuke were never serious anyway, and Naruto, whose one-sided crush on Sakura ended after Chapter 469 and was later explained in The Last to be more of a product of his rivalry with Sasuke than any genuine romantic feelings—which was implied way back in Chapter 3.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion has a number of very egregious cases of this. As in, Omnicidal Maniac levels of Egregious.

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • Lagaan: Upon realizing that Bhuvan would never return her feelings, Elizabeth returned to England, where she remained unmarried for the rest of her life.

  • In Harry Potter, Snape was in love with Lily through their childhood and Hogwarts years. Lily refused to associate herself with him after he broke all the trust she had in him. Lily instead ended up with his archnemesis and rival, James Potter, whom had taken down his ego since their last encounter. They had a child named Harry, then they died and Harry grew up 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, long after her death, as he demonstrated with his Patronus, causing Dumbledore to tear up.
    Dumbledore: After all this time?
    Snape: Always.
    • Also, Moaning Myrtle pops up in every other book to complain about how Harry never visits her. Then again, she's stuck as a thirteen(ish)-year-old girl forever, so it kind of fits.
    • According to Pottermore, Professor McGonagall turned down a proposal from her Muggle boyfriend because she was afraid she would have to give up magic like her mother did. He married someone else, but McGonagall didn't move on until after he had died.
  • 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 Phoebus, 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.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has plenty.
    • King Robert vocally mourns Lyanna Stark long after her death, but he never really knew her.
    • Robert's wife Cersei was in love with Rhaegar Targaryen, whom Robert killed, since she was a child. She always hated Robert for that, and the fact that her Arranged Marriage to Robert is abusive and horribly unhappy for her doesn't help matters.
    • Then there's Petyr Baelish, who has always claimed to love Catelyn Stark, and he starts a massive war that tears the seven kingdoms apart, as his way of lashing out to the world when he lost her to Brandon Stark.
    • And Catelyn's sister Lysa, who long loved the above mentioned Petyr.

    Live Action TV 
  • 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, sabotaging one another's new relationships, and getting jealous, but never actually reaching out to the other with clear, respectful communication.

  • 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
  • Implied in "Biscuit" by Portishead:
    ("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.
  • "100" by Brandi Carlile:
    I always think about you
    and I have to close my eyes
    If I live to be one hundred
    Will I ever cross your mind?
  • "Watching You Watching Him" has this twice over. The singer loves the subject, who loves a third person, who doesn't love her:
    I love you
    From the bottom of my heart
    And that's not gonna' change
    But things look grim
    When I am watching you watch him
  • Harry Chapin's "Taxi" has Harry encounter Sue; the two knew each other from "a long time ago." Sue went to pursue a career in the theater while Harry tried to become a pilot; neither succeeded. Instead, Sue is acting happy inside her handsome home, while Harry is "flying" in his taxi.
  • Thomas Dolby's "Europa And The Pirate Twins" recounts how Thomas and Europa started out as childhood friends, until war took her away. "We swore a vow that day / We'll be the pirate twins again, Europa." Europa grew to be a celebrity, while Thomas was shunted aside as a tosser. "Eyes were gone forever / As they drove her away."


    Video Games 

    Web Original 
  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • 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 (at least) two of his girlfriends. But he eventually reciprocated.

    Real Life 
  • 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.