Unrequited love is cruel for if we could choose who we fall for, we’d never pick someone we know doesn’t love or could never love us back. Yet we fall for the ones we can’t have all the time.
Movies popularize the tale of unrequited love, albeit with a twist. There’s the main hero and their love interest. The problem? The love interest either doesn’t notice the hero or doesn’t share a romantic intention. Over the course of the story our hero will demonstrate their worth before this love interest and despite their problem of unrequited love, the love interest will wind up loving the hero back. Happy endings for all.
Unrequited love doesn’t work this way. You can’t make or force someone to love you. It’s either the case that you share that passion or you don’t. Unrequited implies the passion is not shared. Sure maybe down the road things may change but that rarely happens. Yet movies and novels make it seem like unrequited love is a solvable problem. Solving the problem is a staple in the romantic comedy and romance genres; probably coming in second only to the problem of forbidden love.
The reason unrequited love is so common as a story is because it is popular fantasy. What if an average guy like Adam Sandler’s characters could get all those beautiful successful women? The nerd in The Sandlot actually married Wendy Peppercorn. The down on her luck woman in countless romance novels and movies like Pretty Woman meets the guy of her dreams. They all get the one they can’t have.
Not only does the hero win, they often do so in ways which would be considered inappropriate in real life. The hero often gets the guy or gal through creepy behavior like stalking or socially inappropriate gestures which would never be accepted outside a fictional universe. Yet people try and do these same things in everyday life and wonder why it didn’t work for them.
Popular fantasy rarely translates to reality. Sometimes your wildest dreams do come true, but for the lot of us it won’t. Even if there were some way to get someone to share our level of enthusiasm, there is so much complexity that could prevent a viable romantic union; a current marriage, age difference, location, status. All these things still come before.
Yet we like to imagine a popular fantasy where we can get the guy or girl. We don’t choose who we fall for, love is like gravity, once we fall we cannot stop. Instead of acknowledging the painful reality of unrequited or forbidden love, it’s easier to live vicariously through someone who got what we can’t have. It is more enjoyable to imagine a fantasy where your dreams come true.
The more we spend time fretting over what we can’t have we loose sight of what we can. That is the danger in this popular fantasy. Sometimes it’s ok to not get the guy or the girl. Not winning all the time only serves to make us stronger. Love will come again.