3 Signs Of Unrequited Love And How To Deal With The Painful Rejection

Ouch. It hurts.

woman looking out window thinking about unrequited love Getty

Falling in love is one of the greatest things about being human. But for anyone facing the rejection of unrequited love, it can also be one of the most painful.

Experiencing a meaningful romantic relationship with someone is deeply rewarding. It can help you grow and develop into the person you were meant to be. And who doesn't love a romantic evening spent with someone they've had their eyes on?

But just as surely as the sun rises and sets, one-sided, unrequited love, to put it mildly, isn't so grand.


What is unrequited love?

Simply put, unrequited love is love that's not returned.

By the most basic definition, unrequited love is love that is "not reciprocated or returned in kind" — but few matters of the heart are as simple as the dictionary might have us believe.

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Types of Unrequited Love

There are a variety of types of unrequited love, including these:

  • Love for someone who does not feel the same way, and never has.
  • Love for an ex who no longer feels the same way about you.
  • Love for someone who is not available because they are married or in a committed relationship.
  • A crush on someone you've never met and likely never will — i.e., a movie star, celebrity, or public figure.
  • Love for someone you are in a relationship with, but who doesn't love you with the same level of intensity.

According to life coach Cari Frame, unrequited love can be found in a few different scenarios.

"Sometimes, it’s when you are stuck in the 'friend zone.' Or, it happens in the middle of a relationship when you suddenly realize the person you’re with doesn’t feel at all the same as you do. Other times, perhaps you have fallen in love with someone who is not emotionally available," she says.

Not being loved in return by someone, or receiving reciprocal love from someone we so desperately love, is one of the cruelest twists of fate imaginable. In many respects, and many folks will agree, getting over unrequited love can be even more difficult than healing after a breakup.


Frame adds that unrequited love can take over your mind, body, and spirit just as much as reciprocated love.

"You can’t stop thinking about the person, your body is overcome with desire and need, the world is a better place when the beloved is near. But unrequited love has the added pain of having all your feelings, longings and affection being given into a void where nothing comes back to you in return," she reveals.

3 Signs Of Unrequited Love

1. Your feelings and expressions of love aren't reciprocated.

This is the best indicator that what you're experiencing is unrequited love.

Evaluate the relationship with your partner or the person you're going out with. If you're the one who has all the butterflies and signs of love, but your partner isn't giving you any of that same energy back, you need to think about what your relationship even means, and how to get yourself back to a better place.


According to psychotherapist Brooke Sprowl, requited love means there is mutual desire, effort, and energy toward a romantic relationship.

However, "If you're feeling lots of butterflies and euphoria, and you find yourself thinking about another person all the time, but they don't seem to show the same level of interest and investment, you may want to slow down and take a beat to evaluate what you need."

2. You're the only one putting effort into the relationship.

If you find yourself putting most of the effort into the relationship and have a partner who doesn't seem to care about you at all, that can also be a sign of unrequited love.

This might mean your partner keeps their distance, ditching plans you made, or maybe calling a date just "hanging out."


This can be difficult because you could be receiving mixed signals. However, whenever you ask them questions about anything, notice if they give you superficial answers, or if they don't ask you similar questions as well.

You're not only hurting yourself, but you're ignoring the signs that this isn't real love, which is a bad pattern to keep repeating.

3. They aren't emotionally available to you.

Signs of this can be subtle, but something small to look for is how often they hug, touch, compliment, or confide in you.

Frame suggests that when you first start to have feelings for someone, take a close look at their emotional availability:

"Ask questions like: Do they reciprocate your advances, or do they play coy and just give you a crumb of attention? Are you always the one reaching toward them, and never them toward you? Do they give you the same quality of affection and appreciation you give to them? Are they open and honest in communication, or do they seem to only tell half the story?"


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What causes unrequited love?

Unfortunately, what causes unrequited love may have a lot to do with you.

Perhaps you created an ideal image of this person in your mind, convinced that they have all the traits you desire in a partner. Or, you want to impress this person, so you jump in head-first, not paying attention to whether he can fulfill your needs. Or, maybe you just can't accept rejection and are adamant that it hasn't actually happened.

Whatever the cause or reason, it's important to not lose yourself to unrequited love, and forget your own standards and desires in a relationship.


Is unrequited love really love?

To some, it really depends on the situation. Some may think it's love if it helps you grow, while others think of unrequited love as only a one-sided relationship, with one person as the giver and the other as the unresponsive receiver.

Sprowl says that whether or not you define unrequited love as love depends on your definition.

"If you believe mutuality is a prerequisite for real love, you'll likely chalk up unrequited love to infatuation. If you believe love is defined by our feelings for another person, regardless of how they feel in return, you're likely to understand that unrequited love can be powerful," she says.

"We're often attracted to people who live out our shadow side in broad daylight," she continues. "If we engage with them properly, these relationships can help us integrate all the parts of ourselves that we disown and hide."


How to Deal With Unrequited Love

Ultimately, the only thing that can heal the heartbreaking pain of unrequited love is time. It's such a cliché thing to say, but it's true. Remind yourself that what you're doing is healthy and that you don't want to be stuck wasting your time on someone who doesn't return your feelings.

Much like loss, the best way to heal after experiencing unrequited love is to grieve.

"Often, we pass back and forth through various stages of grief — denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance — in no particular order and without any predictability as to when and how these stages will hit us. Moving through the stages of grief while holding ourselves with tenderness, patience, and compassion is a really important way to begin healing," suggests Sprowl.

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How To Move On From Unrequited Love

1. Cut all ties.

Instead of giving any more of your time to this person who doesn't feel the same way, remove them from your life, even if it's temporary. Cease contact with them, remove them from your social media, and focus on moving forward without them.

2. Shift your focus to other pursuits.

Letting go is hard, but every time you get a random text from this person you're in love with, you become hopeful. And that feeling is your worst enemy.

Remind yourself that you cut things off for a reason, and instead, focus your time and attention on your goals, new projects, or tackling those ideas you've put aside when you were distracted by this person.

3. Give yourself time to heal.

Don't ask yourself what you did wrong, because you will drive yourself insane. Realize that this wasn't your fault and isn't something you can fix.


Give yourself time to mourn, grieve and eventually move forward, and don't be hard on yourself for putting that time aside.

4. Accept the reality of the situation.

You have to accept the truth of the situation: someone didn't return your feelings, to no fault of your own. In time, they will find someone else and so will you.

This feeling might make you feel sad, but acceptance means moving forward.

5. Be creative.

Pull out all the stops and pursue your passion projects, whether it's writing a song, making a new dance for TikTok, or even rearranging your furniture. Try anything your heart desires, and think of it as spending your time on positive things you love to do.


6. Get introspective.

Focus all your energy inward on things you want — love, appreciation, and acceptance from others. Make sure to accept yourself in what you need from others.

Beat that feeling of being unappreciated and unloved, because you can give yourself all that and more.

7. Give yourself permission to feel your emotions.

Listen to all the sad songs in the world. Watch all the sad rom-com movies.

Whatever you do, give yourself time to actually grieve and be sad; don't try to suppress your feelings. Only then will you not feel so miserable.

8. Avoid their social media accounts.

Make sure you don't have any way of contacting them, or you'll end up regretting seeing what they are up to. If you need to, block their accounts so you can't find them anymore and give into temptation.


9. Don't harp on getting closure.

Sometimes, closure isn't possible. There may not be a reason why this person didn't have feelings back — that's just how it is.

To move on, says Frame, "You need to fully believe that the former beloved does not have the capacity to deserve you."

10. Focus on yourself.

Use this time to improve yourself and become a better person — for you, not for them.


Make healthy lifestyle choices to feel good in your own skin. Read positive affirmations and spend time focusing on your personal growth. Put yourself first for once.

11. Enjoy your friendship with this person instead.

If you feel like this person is an important part of your life, and you eventually choose to be on good terms with them, that's perfectly fine. Enjoy the moments you spent together in the past, and if you feel up to it, maybe make plans for the future.

In the end, you'll feel more at ease once you get to the right place.

12. Know your worth.

Think of how much you have to give and share with someone, and know that you deserve to receive the same. The person you loved was not capable, so wish them well, and move towards someone who is," Frame recommends.


13. Fall in love with someone else.

Go out with your friends, sign up for dating apps if you so choose, and meet someone you have potential with.

There's nothing better than liking someone else to get over the person before them. You might even forget about the object of your unrequited love, but just be sure you don't fall into the same pattern again.

14. Learn to adapt.

One of the best things you can take from this experience is knowing what you're capable of, and adjusting your viewpoint to handle situations in a different way. You'll thank yourself later.

15. Push yourself to move forward.

When you're in love, that feeling just doesn't go away on its own or in a short amount of time. It takes a lot of time, and in that time you can do everything needed to move forward into a better future.


Once you process your feelings, push through to the other side of heartbreak, aware of what you've learned and how you've become a better person in the process.

If you were lucky, you have only been the person being crushed upon. If you weren't so lucky, you know how it feels to be the one who climbs into bed each and every night hoping your beloved might possibly, finally have a dream that reveals their deep romantic feelings for you, albeit it all in vain.

And if you haven't experienced this cruelest of loves games as of yet, your dance with unrequited love might be yet to occur, but it's waiting for you, and when it comes, you'll want to be prepared to deal with it, and maybe you'll find that it helped you find yourself in a way.

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Rebecca Jane Stokes is a freelance writer and the former Senior Editor of Pop Culture at Newsweek with a passion for lifestyle, geek news, and true crime.