Question Submitted: What's The Difference Between Unrequited, One-sided & Differential Love?

While the consensus shows that love is positive, there are some cases in which love can be heartbreaking. One-sided love is often referred to as unrequited love. Unrequited love isn't just being disappointed in a relationship, nor is it a secretive love such as loving someone from afar.

In unrequited love, feelings of love must exist in one person and those feelings of love have been expressed to the person they have feelings for, and those feelings must be unreciprocated. 

There are differences between unrequited, one-sided love and loving someone from afar.
An example of loving from afar would be if someone has a crush on or has feelings for a coworker but hasn't expressed their feelings yet.
Another example might be two people in a friends circle who spend time together and one has a secret crush on the other, but doesn't express their feelings about that to the other person. . 
An example of unrequited love would be if two people who know each other spend some time together and one person in that couple expresses feelings of love, and the other person rejects or otherwise fails to reciprocate those feelings. Another example might be if a couple meet on a dating site and one person expresses feelings of love while the other person rejects those feelings.
Unrequited and one-sided love are in essence two terms for the same thing. So in unrequited love, while you may feel like you love the person more than they love you, the love must first have been expressed by you and also rejected by the other person for it to qualify as being unrequited or one-sided. Loving someone from afar doesn't qualify for "unrequited love" since the love hasn't yet been expressed. 
There's also love differentials which is different from unrequited love. An example would be if a couple were in a romantic relationship and one partner loves the other partner more.
Another example would be if a couple were in a relationship and one expresses their feelings of love toward the other, and their partner responds with something like, "I care about you and love you too, or at least I think I do, I'm just not quite there yet."
A situation where two people are in a romantic relationship and one person falls out of love with the other, even to degrees, would be considered a love differential.
In unrequited love or love differentials, there's usually someone who is "running" and their partner is "chasing." In these types of cases, the person whose feelings are not being reciprocated or are not being reciprocated to the degree they'd like them to be, has a choice.
They can either let go of the relationship or they can pursue the relationship. Whether the person chooses to let go or to pursue is always a personal choice, and that choice is usually made based on their personal preference. 
When someone decides to let the relationship or the other person go, sometimes the other person returns and sometimes they do not. This too will be up to the personal preference of the recipient of that love. Sometimes people change their minds, while others do not.
When someone decides to pursue, it will be up to the recipient of those pursuit attentions whether or not they enjoy being pursued. Some actually enjoy it, others might not. If someone enjoys the pursuit behaviors, then obviously the chances of reconciliation of the relationship will of course be higher. That's just common sense. When someone doesn't enjoy the pursuit attentions the technical name for it is "unwanted pursuit behavior." Psychologists refer to unwanted pursuit behavior as bordering on stalking behavior due to the fact that the behavior is not only unreciprocated, but is actually unwanted. Unwanted pursuit behavior is never positive and can be problematic. 
Unrequited love followed up with unwanted pursuit behavior almost always ends badly due to the fact that it's unwanted by the recipient. 
Here's some example scenarios...
Bob and Cindy are in a relationship and Bob decides to end the relationship with Cindy. Cindy decides that she still wants the relationship though it's no longer being reciprocated by Bob. So Cindy decides to do everything she can to woo, flirt and cajole Bob back into the relationship. If Bob isn't reciprocating, it could leave Cindy in a miserable situation where she's trying so hard, and can leave Bob also in an uncomfortable situation because he feels pressured by Cindy.
Cindy would theoretically try to do everything right; taking Bob out on nice dates, investing her time in trying to be attractive for Bob, trying to be sensitive to Bob's needs, etc. Yet, all the while Bob is becoming more easily frustrated, seeming bored with Cindy and her efforts, it's really a painful scenario to see play out. Cindy is doing everything right but Bob seems impervious to any of Cindy's efforts and charms.
This is also common in affair situations too. For example, a wife may be having an affair with someone and the husband notices her interest waning, so he puts forth his best efforts and is left wondering why his wife seems disinterested, unattracted, bored and dissatisfied with him and with the relationship. The reason is because in this example, the wife is more focused on her affair partner than she is with her husband, which leaves the husband in a precarious position struggling to make his partner happy, seemingly to no avail. His efforts to create intimacy and to improve the relationship seem to fall on deaf ears, and ultimately he'll end up feeling rejected.
So, how come unrequited love and love differential happens in the first place and why does it have to occur at all? There's a consensus that people are generally attracted to those who are attracted to them, right? As human beings we tend to elicit reciprocal attraction, yes? 
The scientific explanation goes like this: Romantic love depends upon the presence of physical attractiveness. We tend to be attracted to those whom we ourselves find attractive, and who find us attractive. And ultimately, we as human beings will settle into our respective relationships with our partners who are on, or are there and about of the same level of attractiveness as us.
It's said that the most attractive people have more choices, and that they ultimately end up in relationships with other people who are of an equal attractiveness level as they are. This is said to leave the rest of the world, the rest of us, who are the less attractive people to pair up with one another. And it's this that the idea of unrequited love stems. In other words, we desire someone who may be more attractive than we are. I suppose that's one way to look at it...
Another example would be in friendships. While the presence of romantic attraction is said to be (at least largely) dependent upon the presence of physical attractiveness, friendships are not that way. People tend to be attracted to friends regardless of one's physical attractiveness. So it stands to good reason that unrequited love could also appear in cases of friendships. 
For example, if a pair of friends get together and over time, from those fond feelings of friendship, one develops romantic feelings for the other and in this scenario, those feelings are not reciprocated. Such as with the less attractive person developing feelings for the more attractive friend. 
But if you're like me or like the majority of the world, you'll find yourself saying something like, "Physical appearance doesn't mean anything to me, I'd feel the same way about this person I love regardless of what they look like." I agree, love can develop regardless of what someone looks like. I agree completely. 
But whether or not the other person will reciprocate will still depend on how attractive we seem to them, whether that he physically, spiritually, emotionally or mentally. Regardless of what the other person holds important to them so far as "attractiveness" goes, they'll be attracted to us based on how attractive we are to them again, whether that be other characteristics than just physical appearance or physical attractiveness.
In other words, it all depends on what is referred to as romantic desirability so far as what both partners hold valuable in that respect. It depends on what you 9and what they) happen to find attractive.
But back to our original examples, if you're on the receiving end of that aforementioned unwanted pursuit behavior, how do you handle it? 
Usually if you're finding yourself in the position where you have to reject someone or their advances, it's widely accepted that, most of the time, the person on the receiving end of the unwanted pursuit behavior isn't going to give the true reason for their rejection.
The real reason most of the time is that the person on the receiving end of the unwanted pursuit behavior thinks they can do better, and they're simply just not attracted to the person. But of course that's kind of mean to say and assuming the person has a bone of empathy in their body, they won't say that, at least not directly. Rather, they'll come up with a polite reason that conserves the pursuer's feelings. 
Reasons such as they're not interested in/ready for a commitment, or they are already in another relationship, or they don't feel like the relationship would work out (usually they place the blame for these things on themselves) to again, conserve the feelings of the pursuer. You know, the whole "it's not you, it's me" thing. In other words, giving an excuse that is not true to avoid hurting someone else. Understandable...
I agree that's the right thing to do because to say something like, "I just don't find you attractive enough" or something along the lines of, "I think I can do better so no thank you," would in fact be incredibly mean and hurtful for the other person to hear.
An honest answer would be "Sorry, but I don't want to settle and I think I can do better," and I've actually been on the receiving end of hearing that before. I can attest to the fact that hearing that didn't feel good and yes, hearing it broke my heart. 
I was in my young 20s when I heard that from an ex, and later on when I confronted my ex about why he was having an affair, how it ever started in the first place his response was, "Sorry, I am in love with her because I find her more physically attractive and I think I can do better than my marriage to you... well, you did ask me to be honest with you so that's it." 
And yes, hearing those answers can hurt to the core but at least I had my answer. 
I was pretty young back then but that experience taught me a lot. 
I understood through that experience that not everyone will base a relationship on feelings, there are sometimes other factors that may be of higher value to a partner such as physical appearance. In his mind I was too skinny, not pretty enough in the face, my hair was ratty and so on yet he did compliment my "domestic duties" and said that otherwise, I was a great wife and very loyal. Yay me... but that didn't change the fact that he found me less appealing as compared to the woman with whom he was having his affair.
Some might label my ex a narcissist for holding physical appearance so valuable, and he actually was narcissistic according to his family who told me that he was, but this doesn't mean he was actually a narcissist nor does it mean that non-narcissists can't hold physical appearance as valuable. It's unfortunate, but it's sometimes the way of the world so to speak. Some folks do hold physical attractiveness as valuable, it's as simple as that. It doesn't make them bad people, nor does it make them narcissistic. It's just what they personally view as being valuable as a trait in a partner.
There's also an idea that attractiveness can improve over time. Like leveling the playing field so to speak.
In other words, some believe that someone can go on their own and make personal changes, embark on a path of personal growth and inner healing, self improvement, or whatever it happens to be and return later after some proverbial overhaul and get their person to develop feelings after they see the positive changes. While this might be true in some rare cases, it doesn't always work out the way we'd like it to. 
There's also an idea that someone who isn't interested may see those improvements, or even if no improvement is made and time simply ticks by, they may change their mind and feelings toward the person over time. Is this even possible? 
I'm sure just about anything is possible, but it's my take that cases such as these would be few and far between. Usually when someone makes up their mind about how they feel toward someone or decides whether or not the other person is attractive to them or not, their mind is made up. Most people don't change their minds, at least most of the time anyway.
I think of it like a groove in a record, the same thing can reasonably be said for someone's mindset or opinions. If you're old enough to remember vinyl records, you probably recall that when they become scratched, that's usually the end of the record. You can buy some scratch fixer solution and apply it, but it's almost like a band aid because eventually with playing over and over again, you'll start to hear that scratch return. 
The same can be said for certain relationships where unrequited love exists. Even if the person changes their mind and ends up giving the relationship a chance with the "new and improved" version of the person, they're still going to recall that at one time, that person was how they were, and things like new hair, clothes and makeup are just additions.
If we were to change something about ourselves internally such as personal growth, this may actually be a more stable shift, because the other person might be able to tell themselves, "Well, they improved themselves, finished school, went to therapy, found religion, or changed in some way or another whatever it was that caused them to seem less attractive to me but now that they've grown and changed over time, my mind has changed about the way I feel for them." But again, everyone is different.
Personally, I've seen few and far between, cases of one-sided or unrequited love turn out well. Sometimes the couples end up together because time passes and the uninterested person develops interest because they see the other person in a new light. That's true that this can in fact happen. But it's usually because some time has passed and usually because the person reevaluated what is important to them so far as love relationships go. 
That said, it isn't just because one person embarked on change and accomplished improving themselves. It's because both partners made some type of change. While there may have been improvement on one end in one partner, the other person has also reevaluated their feelings and interests toward the other person too. 
So, can unrequited or one-sided love end up happily? Sometimes. But it's my belief that it really depends on the individuals and on the couple.
Anyway, I hope this helps you! Blessings XO

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