Unrequited love is love that is not openly reciprocated or understood as such, even though reciprocation is usually deeply desired. The beloved may or may not be aware of the admirer’s deep affections.
As the literary selections suggest, the inability to express and fulfill emotional needs may lead to feelings such as depression, low self-esteem, anxiety and rapid mood swings between depression and euphoria. A universal feeling, by some estimates affecting 98% of all people during their lifetimes, unrequited love has naturally been a frequent subject in popular culture. The object of unrequited love is often a friend or acquaintance, someone regularly encountered in the workplace, during the course of work or other activities involving large groups of people. This creates an awkward situation in which the admirer has difficulty in expressing his/her true feelings, as a romantic relationship may be inconsistent with the existing association; revelation of the lover’s feelings might invite rejection, cause embarrassment or might end all access to the beloved. In terms of the feelings of the hopeful one, it could be said that they undergo about the same amount of pain as does someone who is going through the breakup of a romantic relationship without ever having had the benefit of being in that relationship. Unrequited love has long been depicted as noble, an unselfish and stoic willingness to accept suffering, though contemporary western culture may give greater weight to practical, goal-oriented and self-assertive behavior. Literary and artistic depictions of unrequited love may depend on assumptions of social distance which have less relevance in democratic societies with relatively high social mobility, or less rigid codes of sexual fidelity. Nonetheless, the literary record suggests a degree of euphoria in the limerence associated with unrequited love, which has the advantage as well of carrying none of the responsibilities of mutual relationships.
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