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Unrequited: Women & Romantic Obsession

Lisa A. Phillips discusses the interesting psychology behind unrequited love in Unrequited: Women and Romantic Obsession. Phillips, a journalist and journalism professor at the State University of New York-New Paltz, incorporates personal narrative, interviews, history, scientific research and evolutionary psychology to illustrate her premise.

Though Phillips does explain the underpinnings and consequences of romantic obsession, she also highlights the positive facets of unrequited love. Unrequited love embodies the potential for new life and possibility; the desire to resolve internal struggles; a platform to learn about yourself more than anything else.

In one chapter, Phillips dissects the essence of a romantic crush. Crushes signify discovery, poignant emotional terrain.

“Crushes seem like they’re about giving in, the self being subsumed — crushed — by yearning,” she wrote. “But the identity-building aspect of crushes can turn them into expressions of power and resistance.”

Crushes, especially for adolescent girls, are coupled with intense vulnerability. Raw emotions must be dealt with, but strength can be garnered. When heartache is the result of an unrequited crush, resiliency manifests once the pain diminishes.

Unrequited love serves as a ‘primal teacher’ as well. This kind of love may open a space in your heart — a space that’s been dormant for quite some time.

Phillips interviewed Eleanor, a woman who expressed her feelings to a man she loved. Eleanor relayed that she had no expectations: “You don’t have responsibility for my heartbreak,” she said. “This is what my heart has done. I didn’t think I could feel this way again after losing my husband, and it’s really good for me to know I can go to this place with someone.”

Although their relationship didn’t evolve into a romantic one, Eleanor’s feelings reflected hope and optimism. Her bout of unrequited love was a chapter to cherish; she was able to love once more, and for that, she was grateful.

“She knew she couldn’t think about love as something she could avoid for the rest of her life,” Phillips wrote. “She was capable of getting close to someone else. She wanted another relationship, even if it wasn’t with him.”

In an online video interview with a student, Phillips discusses the inspiration for Unrequited.

“It starts with my personal experience, where I had a life-changing and scary, earth-shattering experience of unrequited love,” she said. “That experience caused me to wonder, ‘what is this thing,’ because it was such an overwhelming force in my life and it changed my sense of myself. As a journalist, I was interested in exploring: what are the forces behind this; what are other women’s experiences of this? What’s the larger cultural context; what’s the science and psychology?”

Lisa A. Phillips’s Unrequited explores the psychological components of unrequited love and romantic obsession, but she captures the invigorating side of unrequited experiences, too. Unrequited love signals brand-new emotional territory and the ability to learn about yourself. It’s a teacher, demonstrating that love can wonderfully begin again.

Unrequited: Women & Romantic Obsession

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Lauren Suval

Lauren Suval studied print journalism and psychology at Hofstra University, and she is a writer based in New York. Her work has been featured on Thought Catalog, Catapult Community, and other online publications. Lauren's e-book “Coping With Life’s Clutter” and her latest book, “The Art Of Nostalgia,” a collection of personal essays, can both be found on Amazon. She loves to be followed on Twitter @LaurenSuval.

APA Reference
Suval, L. (2016). Unrequited: Women & Romantic Obsession. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 17 May 2016
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 17 May 2016
Published on Psych All rights reserved.