The French expression “la douleur exquise” literally translates to “the exquisite pain,” and refers to the pain of wanting someone you can’t have. TBH, I don’t think there’s a more eloquent, accurate way to describe the experience of a one-sided romance. But there are also numerous quotes about unrequited love that perfectly capture the agony involved.
If you caught feels for someone who doesn’t reciprocate said feels, take comfort in this: Unrequited love is so common that you can read about it in countless classic novels, hear multiple multi-platinum pop stars sing about it in current hit songs, and even watch contestants on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette deal with it IRL. In fact, a 2014 study published in the journal SAGE Open, which analyzed music over the last 40 years, found that a sizable portion of the lyrics in popular songs referred to unrequited love and romantic rejection.
When you love someone who doesn’t love you back, you may find yourself teetering between optimism that your crush will eventually feel the same way, and despair that they don’t. Longing for the unattainable can leave you feeling confused, lost, vulnerable, disheartened, and everything in between. But each and every experience with love — even, and especially, the ones that don’t end with a happily ever after — presents a learning opportunity. So, the best thing you can do is allow yourself to feel the complete spectrum of your emotions, and trust that eventually you’ll be able to glean some shred of wisdom from your one-sided romance.
Knowing that you’re not alone in your heartache obviously won’t take away the pain that comes with unrequited love, but it can help to ease it somewhat. So, whether you’ve found yourself in the dreaded friend zone, or the object of your affection is inconveniently in a relationship with someone else, refer to these quotes for a quick hit of much-needed commiseration, reassurance, and hope.
1. “In the arithmetic of love, one plus one equals everything, and two minus one equals nothing.” — Mignon McLaughlin
2. “Love is never lost. If not reciprocated, it will flow back and soften and purify the heart.” — Washington Irving
3. “To burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves.” — Federico García Lorca
4. “When you loved someone and had to let them go, there will always be that small part of yourself that whispers, “What was it that you wanted and why didn’t you fight for it?”― Shannon L. Alder
5. “It’s wicked to throw away so many good gifts because you can’t have the one you want.” ― Louisa May Alcott
6. “The worst feeling is falling for someone and knowing that they won’t be there to catch you.” — Rashida Rowe
7. “Living with someone you love can be lonelier than living entirely alone, if the one that you love doesn’t love you.” ― Tennessee Williams
8. “Too many of us are hung up on what we don’t have, can’t have, or won’t ever have.” ― Terry McMillan
9. “When you love something, you have to make sure it loves you back, or you’ll bring about no end of trouble chasing it.” — Patrick Rothfuss
10. “An unrequited love is so much better than a real one … As long as something is never even started, you never have to worry about it ending.” — Sarah Dessen
11. “A person doesn’t know true hurt and suffering until they’ve felt the pain of falling in love with someone whose affections lie elsewhere.” ― Rose Gordon
12. “Because, if you could love someone, and keep loving them, without being loved back … then that love had to be real. It hurt too much to be anything else.” — Sarah Cross
13. “The heart is stubborn. It holds onto love despite what sense and emotion tells it. And it is often, in the battle of those three, the most brilliant of all.” — Alessandra Torre
14. “Sometimes no matter how many eyelashes or dandelion seeds you blow, no matter how much of your heart you tear out and slap on your sleeve, it just ain’t gonna happen.” ― Melissa Jensen
15. “There comes a time in your life when you have to choose to turn the page, write another book or simply close it.”― Shannon L. Alder
16. “Let no one who loves be called unhappy. Even love unreturned has its rainbow.” — James Matthew Barrison
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