Webster’s Dictionary defines unrequited love as a one-sided, unreciprocated love for a beloved. Those who endure unrequited love define it as the state of unbearable torment and emotional pain for falling in love.
Why Doesn’t He Like Me? Why Can’t I Be with Him?
These are the questions we ask ourselves when we face the reality of our unrequited love. Whether it's just a little crush or a lifelong love for an inaccessible soulmate, the effect remains the same: disappointment, depression, rejection, pain. But in the bleakness of despair, even as your heart breaks, there is a consolation to be had from unrequited love.
From unrequited love, we can learn about our full capacity for life as a proper human being, because unrequited love shows how we are capable of love for the sake of love itself. The ability to love is essential to living a good life.
The ability to love is essential to living a good life.
The person who can't love, or refuses to let themselves fall in love, exists no differently from a living corpse. Love, even when it’s unrequited, shouldn't be repressed because it provides immense value to a person’s human experience.
The Greatest of Art from the Greatest of Pain
Unrequited love is painful, and through this great pain, the better of us were able to create great art as a way to deal with the pain. The greatest of artists transformed their experience of unrequited love into poems, songs, paintings, and literature.
The grand passion of unrequited love has inspired much of mankind’s greatest art. Among these works are plays like Cyrano de Bergerac, novels like Gone with the Wind, fairy tales like The Little Mermaid, myths like the Legend of King Arthur, and songs like the legendary "Layla" written by Eric Clapton for his unrequited love.
Elaine and Lancelot
One of the most romantic examples of unrequited love can be found in a beautiful Arthurian legend of a woman called Elaine of Astolat. The story goes like this: Elaine of Astolat, known also as the Fair Maid of Astolat for her beauty, virtue, and grace, fell in love with Sir Lancelot, the bravest and strongest knight of King Arthur’s Round Table.
Unfortunately for Elaine, Lancelot’s heart belonged to somebody else (Queen Guinevere) and he couldn’t return Elaine’s love for him. Even so, Elaine painstakingly nursed Lancelot back from the brink of death, and in her attempt to consummate her love, offered to be Lancelot’s lover when he refused to make her his wife.
Holding True To Love
Lancelot – noble and gallant in nature – refused to exploit Elaine’s virtue by using her for sex without being in love with her in return. Instead, he offered her lands and wealth to support any marriage she would later choose to make.
Lancelot refused to exploit Elaine’s virtue by using her for sex without being in love with her in return.
Elaine rejected his offer as she declares that he was the noblest of knights, and she knows he is the only man in the world she could ever love. In the end, she ultimately died of heartbreak. Still, she doesn’t blame or stop loving Lancelot when she learns that he doesn’t love her.
Her final letter to Lancelot read: “Most noble knight, my lord Sir Lancelot, I have died of love for you who would not love me in return. As you are a knight without compare, think of me and pray for me, whom man called the Fair Maid of Astolat."
Celebrating the Splendor of the Age of Courtly Love
The story of Elaine, Fair Maid of Astolat, teaches us about the grandeur we once held for unyielding love. Her story, along with many other great stories of unrequited, yet unyielding love characterized the splendor of art from the Age of Courtly Love.
In that age, women were the paragons of virtue and proudly revered their heroes, as Elaine did for Lancelot. In turn, men aspired to be great, noble, and virtuous to be worthy of the woman’s virtue.
Women were the paragons of virtue, and men aspired to be worthy of the woman’s virtue.
This is in contrast to today, where most are more likely to view all concepts of romantic love in a more cynical fashion. People today will probably call Elaine stupid and unrealistic and impractical because they can't possibly fathom how her actions were once widely known to be a sign of the noblest and truest of love.
The Pleasure of Love Is in Loving
The truth is, many of those who are pained by the knowledge of their smallness begrudge the few grand heroes their great size. Their cynical approach to the idea of grand romances – whereby they downgrade the importance of love – is a modern-day trend.
Prior to the '60s counter-culture, society used to view and understand the sublimity of love differently from today’s contemporaries, because love and romance were celebrated, unabashedly and unapologetically, even when unrequited.
The squalor of today’s culture is our invitation to reclaim the romance from the past. If you are nursing a broken heart from your unrequited love, hold on to the goodness of love because the turbulence of that pain which took the heart by storm is proof that your heart is capable of soaring to great heights.