Graduate Program in Counseling Psychology
Trinity Western University
Love can be either the most powerful motivation
for growth or the most destructive force in your life -- it all
depends on the kind of love you have embraced.
According to Rubin (1970), love has three components: (1) an
affiliative and dependent need, (2) a predisposition to help,
and (3) exclusiveness and absorption. Liking is more closely akin
to friendship. In his research, Wong has found that liking can
be negatively related to passionate love ; in other words, you
may be madly in love with someone you dislike, because you mind
tells you that he or she is "bad news", but your heart is still
According to Tennov (1979), love is different from limerence.
Love is mutual, and is characterized as a great affection and
concern for the welfare of the beloved. Limerence, on the other
hand, is passionate love gone wild. It begins with a spark of
interest, and under appropriate conditions, can grow into enormous
intensity. Limerence is a state of cognitive obsession, an unrealistic
hope of reciprocation. Almost every trivial utterance or behavior
on the part of the limerent object is misconstrued as a sign of
love, which keeps the hope of reciprocation alive. A tiny bit
of reciprocation, whether motivated by pity of vanity, will result
in feelings of euphoria, which inevitably turn to despair and
misery. However, limerence can grow into love, when it is completed
Peele and Brodsky (1975) also differentiate between addictive
love and genuine love. Addictive love occurs when a person is
totally absorbed in the love object in order to escape from an
otherwise meaningless and unhappy existence. Such obsession distracts
from a person's ability to pay attention to important aspects
of his or her life. Prolonged separation or termination of the
relationship can cause "withdrawal symptoms" similar to those
of a drug addict.
Lee (1973) has developed a typology consisting of six types of
love: (1) Eros, where the lovers search for someone with specific
physical characteristics; (2) pragma, where potential love-objects
are rationally considered; (3) agape, where the person loves without
expectation of reciprocation; (4) ludus, where love is treated
as agape; (5) storage, which is similar to compassionate love,
and (6) mania, which is similar to addiction love, characterized
by cognitive obsession as well as emotional peaks and valleys.
Lee (1973) describes manic lovers as extremely possessive and
needy. Unless they become involved with another manic lover, they
are likely to be very dissatisfied in their relationships, since
no other style can tolerate their excessive possessiveness and
Sternberg (1986) views love as a triangular structure, consisting
of three components: intimacy, passion and decision/commitment.
Various combinations of these components result in eight kinds
of love: (1) nonlove (absence of the three components),(2) liking
(intimacy in isolation), (3) infatuation (passion), (4) empty
love (decision/commitment), (5) romantic love (passion and intimacy),
(6) compassionate love (intimacy and decision/commitment), (7)
fatuous love (passion and decision/commitment), and (8) consummate
love (which includes all three components.)
"The above review of the literature indicates that researchers
have not come to grips with the prevalence and important implications
of unrequited love, which remains an under-researched area. The
present conceptual and empirical analysis of unrequited love is
part of a larger research program on its process and consequences.
It remains a challenge for psychologists to incorporate the construct
of unrequited love within the broader framework of intimate relationships.
The literature, music and films are replete with themes of forlorn
love. Judging from newspaper advice columns, magazine articles
and self-help books (i.e., Halpern, 1983; Phillips & Judd, 1978),
the problem of unrequited love seems both serious and widespread.
It is not surprising that popular interest in unrequited love
has remained unabated, because more often than not people are
not able to win the affection of the man or woman of their dream
and suffer much as a result.
When one's love is not reciprocated, a host of negative reactions
might follow. In extreme cases, a person may be driven to attempt
suicide in order to escape the pain. However, even in milder cases
unrequited love causes pain and may interfere with a person's
daily functioning. Unfortunately, such an important and common
human experience has not been subjected to theoretical or empirical
analysis. Part of the reason for this glaring gap in the absence
of a valid instrument to quantity this experience. The present
paper will introduce such an instrument after a conceptual analysis
of the different kinds of unrequited love.
Unrequited love, as it is commonly known, involves situations
in which one person passionately loves an unresponsive object.
Tennov (1979) has provided numerous examples of forlorn love.
Lee's (1973) manic lover and Hazan & Shaver's (1987) anxious ambivalent
lover also fall into this category. Each of these describes an
intense craving for intimacy, an irresistible cognitive obsession
with the love object, and prolonged sufferings caused by rejection
and jealousy. The driving force is not sexual gratification, but
reciprocation of romantic interest and devotion. We refer to this
type of obsessive love as the Classic unrequited love.
There is a second major type of unrequited love which involves
a different kind of dynamics. Norwood (1985) wrote a book on women
who 'love too much.' While she admits that this experience is
not solely restricted to women, she believes it is more common
in this sex, and therefore confines her analysis to females. These
women constantly seek out unhappy relationships with men who are
moody, bad-tempered, uncaring and abusive. The interesting finding
is that in some cases once the man becomes reformed and begins
to show love and kindness, the woman may 'dump' this man in favour
of another destructive relationship. Apparently, these women are
not interested in reciprocation.
Norwood believes that these women deliberately seek out unloving
and self-destructive relationships, because their highly negative
early family experiences have made them uncomfortable with any
real intimacy. Such family situations include those in which at
least one of the parents was uncaring, abusive and alcoholic.
These women may attempt to relive these relationships in order
to 'fix' whatever that was wrong in their early family life and
to gain the love that was once denied them. Another driving force
that operates in these women is their need to be needed. The feeling
of being needed gives them a sense of self-worth. Therefore, they
prefer unequal relationships in which they play the role of willing
martyrs. This type of unrequited love is referred to as co-dependent
unrequited love, because it has many of the same characteristics
of co-dependency in the field of alcoholic addiction (Cermak,
1986; Schaef, 1986).
Co-dependency is a term used to describe those people whose lives
are completely intertwined with a drug/alcohol addict, such as
a spouse or lover. The co-dependent identifies with their love
object to the extent of losing his/her own identity. The needs
and problems of the addict are taken on by the co-dependents as
their own. The co-dependents choose to get stuck in a painful
relationship, because of their neurotic need to be needed and
their own insecurity. Thus, unlike classic unrequited love where
the ultimate goal is union, the goal of the co-dependent is the
fulfillment of a need to be needed, no matter how unloving and
painful the relationship is.
The third kind of unrequited love is less intense, and more common—hence
the term minor unrequited love. This type is characterized by
one's perception that one's partner does not reciprocate one's
love to a similar degree. Minor unrequited love may be only a
distorted perception or it may be an accurate portrayal of the
situation. In either case, it may result in feelings of dissatisfaction
The practical implications of studying unrequited love are many.
Because it is a negative and potentially destructive experience,
psychopathology may develop. Even minor unrequited love may cause
marital breakdown and may adversely affect other areas of the
person's life. In any event, research on unrequited love will
provide a better understanding of a major source of personal relationship
difficulties and emotional distress."