Unrequited Love and Unconditional Love


Writer/ Researcher: Rafael Reyes

Graphics: Jia Moral, Sarah Mondoy, Mitzy Sabellano

Tweetchat Moderator: Marian Lorrice Apostol 

Love is the most complicated topic we as a civilization have tried to make sense of. It defies reason and tradition, yet appears to be “right” [1]. It transcends norms and evolves beyond the limits of our imagination. It is the force that compels us to “take the extra mile”, even if it’s for people who hurt us. What most of us experience in reality is that love is everything that we wish, but nothing like we thought of.

Unrequited love encompasses that last line of thought—a love that wishes to be reciprocated, that was never returned, thus trying to give more in hopes of eventually being loved back [2]. It is the love that lingers even after the point of rejection, grasping at straws for hope. If you had a crush or important person during your childhood or adolescent years that didn’t love you back, you must understand the constant tug that hurts more than being rejected.

Types of Unrequited Love

Unrequited love doesn’t just occur with our crushes, but also those in our pasts, our TOTGAs, and even with current relationships that don’t feel “enough” [2]:

  1. We might fall in love with someone who is unavailable because they “live in a different world” than ours [2]. They might be proximally distant (living far away), are totally different in attitudes, or live a life that creates an insurmountable wall, such as movie stars and rock stars.
  2. We might crush on those who are physically nearby, because proximity influences whom we become reliant on [2].
  3. Partners that break up often don’t share the same mutual feelings about the breakup, and one of them will still continue to love the other person [2]. Because there was a relationship before, the individual might constantly reminisce of the past and hope for a glimpse of them.
  4. Even in the present relationship that partners commit to, they might not share the same expectations, intensity, and nature of love [2]. A lover might want to be highly passionate, but the other wishes for more commitment than passion.

Staying Friends

Most often, unrequited love stems from being rejected by the desired person, which causes distress because of the rejection. Depending on the person who received our confession, not all is lost [3].

Some people manage to stay friends with the people they had romantic feelings for due to [3]:

  1. Interpersonal connections. Perhaps they were our best friend for as long as we have known them, and had significant value to us. It can also be because we care so much for them that our feelings aren’t just of passion, but almost like family.
  2. Social connections. Even if the two people didn’t end up together, they might stay as friends because they share mutual friends or that their family and friends liked the other person.
  3. Less distress levels at the point of rejection. If the person confessing their love managed to tank the impact that comes with rejection, they are more likely to attempt to make amends and stay friends, if they so choose. Inversely, the more distressed a person was due to the rejection, the less likely they’ll try to stay friends with the other person.

Unconditional Love

Why does it matter that we talk about friendships with those who rejected our love? If they won’t receive our love, doesn’t that mean they hate us? There’s no one single answer for these questions because love is complicated.

Love exists in a spectrum well beyond human comprehension. If you think about it, human relationships are also complicated to a similar degree. Even our attempts to classify our relationship status are not as clear-cut as it tries to be; are we “really” in a relationship, or are we up in the air about what our labels truly are?

Philosopher David Whyte wrote about how unrequited love is actually the love we experience the most in our lives, because we constantly expect to receive the same shape, level, and form of love that we give others [4]. Since love is such a subjective concept that can manifest in many ways and degrees, how and when could we ever hope to be given the same measure of what is unmeasurable?

In reality, unconditional love is the other side of the coin that unrequited love resides in. The absurdity of keeping on falling in love with people and things without the guarantee of reciprocity is also its biggest point [4]. By learning to let go of what we cannot control, what only remains in our control is the love we choose to give.

It is truly human to love because it is a construct where our capacity knows no bounds [1]. Love can overcome all kinds of grief and agony, even in the most hopeless of places and times [1]. Movements, ideas, and advocacies thrive from the same, impossible love, born out of a desire for change that is good for all. Keep on loving, because it is human to keep on exceeding our limits.

Pre-Session Activity: Share your short story of unrequited love.

Session Questions

  1. How would you describe the feeling of “unrequited love”?
  2. Why do we continue to love, even through the sadness and pain?
  3. How can we show and teach “unconditional love” to ourselves, our loved ones, and future generations?
  • Post-Session Activity: Self-love should be unconditional. Give yourself a motivating reminder for the week ahead!



[1] Gustafson, A. (2022, February 9). Why it can be sublime to love someone who doesn’t love you back | Psyche Ideas. Psyche. https://psyche.co/ideas/why-it-can-be-sublime-to-love-someone-who-doesnt-love-you-back

[2] Bringle, R. G., Winnick, T., & Rydell, R. J. (2013). The prevalence and nature of unrequited love. Sage Open, 3(2), 2158244013492160.

[3] Clark, E. M., Votaw, K. L., Harris, A. L., Hasan, M., & Fernandez, P. (2020). Unrequited love: The role of prior commitment, motivation to remain friends, and friendship maintenance. The Journal of Social Psychology, 160(3), 293–309.

[4] Popova, M. (2015, April 29). Poet and philosopher David Whyte on the deeper meanings of friendship, love, and heartbreak. The Marginalian. https://www.themarginalian.org/2015/04/29/david-whyte-consolations-words/

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