What Happens When Love Is Not Mutual?

· June 3, 2016

Unrequited love is possibly one of the most painful situations that can happen in life. Whoever has experienced it knows that, and has felt it with all their being.

That’s also why it’s the clearest opportunity that we have to learn valuable lessons about ourselves. When we make ourselves emotionally vulnerable in this way, we’re much more fragile and hypersensitive to everything that happens.

Having this kind of experience can be traumatic and distressing, but also enriching and enlightening. Without a doubt, we gain a unique perspective.

girl and heart

Melancholy love

In unrequited love, melancholy is a faithful companion. It’s the sickness of the unsatisfied lover, caused by the unmet desire, and by the constant need to be with that person, which unfortunately is not reciprocated.

“Every lover, whose love is sincere but who can’t enjoy the love in union, either because of separation, the contempt of their loved one, keeping their feelings a secret, or whatever circumstance, must arrive at the border of illness by force and be worn and haggard, which sometimes forces them to stay in bed.”

-Ibn Hazm-

Everything we live through, anything that reminds us of that person, we wish we could share with them. Everywhere we went with them becomes sacred ground; we get excited and we become a different person when we think about them, even though it’s only a fantasy.

We hope for the littlest amount of contact with them, and the result ends up being a kind of nostalgia: a sadness located deep within our hearts. And then we feel true loneliness over not being able to be with the person we long for.


This sickness, the melancholy of love, which the medieval troubadours spoke of so much, is caused by precisely the thing that would remedy it: the person we love.

Frustration over unrequited love

It’s inevitable throughout the whole process of being deeply in love that we will feel frustration over expectations, hopes, and fantasies that will remain unsatisfied over time.

Unrequited love can happen over an infatuation with someone who doesn’t feel the same way, but it can also come about after a heartbreak where one has been abandoned by a previous lover.

In both cases, the intensity of frustration can carry various problems with it, both physical and psychological, due to the self destruction of maintaining indefinite illusions and hopes that will never be fulfilled.

icy heart

When do you lose the hope and desire to be with the other person? This is a question that could be resolved by people who have already gone through this situation. But there’s also a twist: the answer and the solution will be different for every person.

Accepting unrequited love

The whole process of maturity and self knowledge ends with acceptance. We reach a point when we understand that love is uncontrollable, it’s not dependent on our own free will, and therefore the other person can’t make themselves love us even if they want to.

“‘For there is merely bad luck in not being loved; there is misfortune in not loving.”

-Albert Camus-

And neither can we stop feeling it when we decide to. We can only observe how it it transforms and how we experience it.

Love is a spiritual matter; it can’t be intellectualized. It’s such a joy that it floods us and fills us with longing. Feeling like nothing is more important than the well-being of that person.

In that situation, only the person in love knows where the limit is, when they have to start to accept reality.

When hopelessness and melancholy are felt intensely, without getting to the point of repression, it’s okay to let those feelings die, since it wouldn’t mean a break-up, just that the relationship would transform. 

To lament having loved without being loved in return is to be ungrateful, because having felt love is the greatest gift you can get. Its magnitude and intensity are there to help our souls blossom, as well as to shape our lives through our wounds.

“I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.”

-Lord Alfred Tennyson-