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Unrequited Love Lasts Forever

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"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 (UK)

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 or 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 
  • Subverted in 5 Centimeters per Second. 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 (and, in the manga, he potentially hooks up with Kanae instead).
  • Ai Yori Aoshi: Even upon his marriage to Aoi, Mayu still hasn't given up on Kaoru and visits him once a month.
  • Blue Flag: Mita Touma has been in love with his childhood friend Ichinose ever since they were kids, and still holds a candle for him, apparently, but doesn't know how to deal with these feelings as they reconnect in their last year of high school. Subverted in the final chapter, when it's revealed that, at some point between the end of high school and Kuze's wedding 7 years later, Mita and Ichinose got married.
  • 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.
    • ×××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.
  • Nagi of Hayate the Combat Butler seemed to end up succumbing to this trope. Hayate has promised to always protect her, but hasn't shown much inclination of romantic affection for her. However, by the time the series ended, they're both living together in a situation that suggests they might have hooked up.
  • 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 implied that 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 crush on Sakura was explained in The Last: Naruto the Movie to be more of a product of his rivalry with Sasuke than any actual romantic feelings.
  • Red River (1995): Zannanza and Rufasa are unrequitedly in love with Yuuri and they both died after trying to shield her from the enemy’s attack.

    Comic Books 
  • In Quantum and Woody, Eric Henderson has this for Amy Fishbein since his early teenage years.
  • In The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, Brainstorm has a serious case of this. He was in love with a fellow scientist named Quark, who died in a Decepticon prison camp before Brainstorm could ever tell him so. Brainstorm then spent centuries figuring out paradox-free time travel in order to save Quark's life, and eventually scaled up his plan to "prevent the war altogether" - which would've erased himself from history.
  • Ultimate Spider-Man: Peter Parker was Kitty Pryde's great love, but his feelings for Mary Jane were greater. Then he dies and she goes underground, though she still mourns and misses Peter, and her Imagine Spot in issue #200 at Peter's memorial is seeing a future where they get married and work as a Battle Couple.
  • Implied in the Players arc of the Young Justice (2010) 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.

    Fan Works 
  • Man of Dreams: Even after Madara leaves him and betrays the village, Hashirama is still in love with him.
  • Sehnsucht: Cynthia was still in love with Daemon Spade even after he betrayed the Vongola First Generation, hence why she ultimately spared his life. It's implied those feelings linger within her reincarnation Noriko, which complicates her relationship with Daemon's Tenth Generation counterpart, Mukuro, and Daemon himself when he reappears during the Inheritance Ceremony arc.

  • Lagaan: Upon realizing that Bhuvan would never return her feelings, Elizabeth returned to England, where she remained unmarried for the rest of her life.
  • The Last Letter From Your Lover: Played With, in that the love was requited, but both parties thought it was unrequited. In the decades following Jenny's divorce from Larry, Anthony thought Jenny had rejected him with finality while Jenny was unable to find him. Nevertheless, neither got over the other, and bittersweetly reunite in the present day at Ellie's behest.
  • 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. The sequel short film, however, shows that he does.
  • Sky High (2005): Mr. Boy, the teacher of the Sidekick class, has been hopelessly in love with Josie a.k.a. Jetstream since they were in high school. Unfortunately for him, Josie is Happily Married to The Commander, the hero Mr. Boy used to be sidekick to.

  • 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 and personal muse: Stella.
  • Chronicles of the Kencyrath: Trishien and Ganth liked each other when they were young, but Ganth's father Parental Marriage Vetoed it. After said father died, they could've been together… but by then Ganth had seen the Dream-weaver and fallen in Love at First Sight with her—Trishien couldn't hold a flame to her. But through all these years, Trishien's feelings haven't vanished.
    Trishien: I loved you once. Perhaps I still do.
  • In the backstory of Eight Cousins, protagonist Rose's long-dead mother (also named Rose) was the center of a Love Triangle between brothers George and Alec Campbell. She married George, with whom she had young Rose, and Alec went away to sea with the Navy after bitterly quarreling with his brother. They managed to make amends before George's death, and Alec inherited the guardianship of young Rose, but in the present day it's heavily implied that he's still in love with the memory of Rose Sr. Notably, of the many Campbell brothers, he's the only Confirmed Bachelor.
  • Glennkill: Beth. Also Ham.
  • 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.
  • 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, whose ego had dialed down 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.
    • 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.
    • It's been implied that Albus Dumbledore never fully fell out of love with Gellert Grindelwald, even after the man more or less destroyed his family, and later became the worst Dark Wizard in history (at least until Voldemort showed up). While Dumbledore did oppose him, he avoided a personal confrontation until the body count became too high to ignore — even then, his reasons for doing so were purely emotional, involving things from their past together. Then there's the fact that Dumbledore swore off romance after their friendship fell apart. However, the biggest piece of evidence is when Harry suggests that the reason why Grindelwald refused to tell Voldemort the location of the Elder Wand was to prevent him from breaking into Dumbledore's tomb, and Dumbledore is oddly comforted by that thought.
  • Hive Mind (2016) offers Morton's love for Celandine. They knew each other for one year, and she spent the whole time very openly hating him until she faked her death to get away from him. Forty years later, he's still in love with her.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame
    • In 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 is unrequitedly in love with Phoebus, who in the book is a jerk.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Portrait of a Lady: None of Isabel's refused suitors get over her in a tiniest degree even years after she's married. They include Caspar Goodwood who was refused several times, Lord Warburton, Ralph who didn't even try to propose to Isabel, even though he adored 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 Humperdinck, 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.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has plenty.
    • Robert Baratheon is still very much in love with Lyanna Stark after her death, never realizing that she didn't reciprocate his feelings and that their marriage would likely not have turned out the way he imagines.
    • Robert's wife Cersei was in love with prince and heir to the Iron Throne Rhaegar Targaryen since she was a child. It was something of a Precocious Crush and there's no indication he was ever even really aware of her. Cersei always hated Robert for killing him in battle.
    • Petyr Baelish has always claimed to love Catelyn Stark, who saw him as a brother. He never stops being obsessed with her, and later transfers his attentions to Catelyn's daughter who resembles her. 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—and later Ned—Stark.
    • Catelyn's sister Lysa long loved Petyr Baelish, her father's ward. He never loved her back, but used her in his schemes years later.
    • Then there is Jorah Mormont's love for Daenerys Targaryen. Even after she makes it clear that she is not interested in him that way, he stubbornly persists in trying to woo her. Even after she becomes involved with another man, he soldiers on. Even after she sends him on a suicide mission, then banishes him under the threat of death for having betrayed her once, he works his way across half of a continent to go back to her, kidnapping a dwarf as an apology gift. Jorah will not give up his love for his khaleesi.

    Live Action TV 
  • 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.
  • Good Omens (2019):
  • Lancelot from Merlin (2008) 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.
  • Supernatural: In one of the final episodes of season 15, Castiel reveals to Dean that he’s secretly been in love with him for a long time, despite believing that Dean doesn’t reciprocate.

  • 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."
  • Franz Ferdinand's "Live Alone".
    "Wherever you are
    Whoever is there
    You know that I'll be here, I'll be here
    Wishing I could be there"
  • This is the theme of most "Torch Songs", which derives from the phrase "to carry a torch for someone".


    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • Implied in Double Homework with Tamara if the protagonist decides not to continue his relationship with her and Johanna. She will ultimately accept whomever he chooses instead, even if she’s not happy about it.
  • In Majikoi! Love Me Seriously!, during every route but her own, Miyako is depicted as still loving Yamato (even during the epilogues that take place years after) and during Azumi's route, she even becomes a servant to follow him years after he started.
  • In Virtue's Last Reward when Tenmyouji's backstory is revealed we learn that he's actually Junpei, the protagonist of the previous game, who never got together with Akane and continued to search for her for decades. He joined the Nonary Game willingly when Zero told him that he'd see Akane again. For 45 years he never stopped loving her. And the worst part is, his love was actually far from unrequited. Akane spent those 45 years pining for him as well, as evidenced by K's memories of the old woman (Akane) and the password to her computer being "JUMPYDOLL". However, by the end of the game her actions caused his feelings towards her to take quite a nosedive, to the point that he declares the Akane he loved to be dead and that what's left is barely even human.

    Web Original 
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • In Phineas and Ferb, Isabella is hopelessly infatuated with Phineas. In the Flash Forward episode "Act Your Age", Isabella has ostensibly outgrown these feelings, but has second thoughts just as she's leaving for college. Turns out, Phineas has realized he feels the same way about her at the least convenient time. It eventually culminates in a Relationship Upgrade as they decide to attend the same college and share The Big Damn Kiss.
  • In The Simpsons, Lurline was a character in an early episode who fell in love with Homer; though tempted, he ultimately turned her down and stayed with Marge. Many years later she returned, with it shown that she married multiple times since her first appearance...with men who all bore a remarkable resemblance to Homer.
    • It's likewise been shown that Artie Ziff, whom Marge went to prom with in high school before dating Homer, has maintained an obsession with her many years later.
  • In Young Justice (2010), Kaldur is still pining after Tula five years after she chose Garth and she died, an excuse he uses to infiltrate The Light.

    Real Life 
  • Dante Alighieri and Beatrice, not just in real life but even in his poetry.
  • C. S. Lewis, though he finally moved past it when the married woman he was in love with died.