While unrequited love can hurt quite badly, the experience itself is not inherently unhealthy or bad. After all, people can’t control the way they feel or how much they like someone.
“Unrequited love isn’t bad,” Muñoz says. “Most people experience it at some point or another, especially in their teens and twenties when they’re exploring relationships, eroticism, and romance. But when unrequited love becomes a pattern—or when you remain mired in a state of experiencing unrequited love for someone in a way that affects the quality of your life—then it may be time to look at the function and cost of falling in love with people who don’t love you back.”
People can sometimes lean on unrequited love as a way of avoiding taking responsibility for ourselves and for our own happiness, Muñoz points out. “We chase the illusion of this elusive idealized other, telling ourselves that if only they loved us, we’d be fulfilled. This can keep us living in a childlike mindset where we avoid responsibility by believing we’ll be rescued, magic will happen, and we’ll feel happy, worthy, or whole with little effort invested on our part.”
All that said, there are certainly healthier ways to experience love that isn’t returned. It’s possible to love someone and simply not be concerned with whether they love you back. You can love someone from afar, admiring them, wanting the best for them, and caring for them in the ways you can, without asking anything from them in return. There’s an old quote thought be by the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe that puts this type of selfless love into perspective: If I love you, what business is it of yours?
The key here, of course, is to make sure that this love doesn’t impede on your well-being—and your ability to form mutual loving connections with others.