Is unrequited love always wrong?


I was going to post this on the thread I’ve posted about discerning and dating, but it’s really a whole other issue.

One thing that holds me back from marriage (and makes me want to use my talents elsewhere in religious life) is the fact that I’ve been engaged in the past.

I have said to someone that I want to spend the rest of my life with them, just them. I have given them my word. Not in a sacramental way, but it’s still my word.

They broke their side of that deal, but I don’t see why I need to break mine.

It’s been 3 years now. I still feel that way. I think I always will. I’m not in love with her anymore (well, maybe a little), and I can see that we would have been totally unsuited to eachother in marriage, but still, my word is my word.

Am I crazy?


I, like many others – and you, have had a painful UL situation. Took me well over 2 years to get over it, in my early 20s.

It’s hard to believe it can take SO long to get over it. But time does heal all wounds. . . eventually!

From my view of it, your pledge only works if the other person is willing to receive it. Apparently this is not the case. I would consider it null, a voided offer.

You may believe there is only one person for you. This is an untrustworthy notion. In reality, people are not so vastly different, and there are other women who would work out as well, or better.

Of course, you’ve skinned emotional flesh, so to speak, and that’s a part that’s hard to heal, and I suppose this helps reinforce the dubious notion that there’s “Only One” for you.


You are not crazy, but perhaps a little misguided. You did not make a solemn vow, nor did you enter into a covenant with the girl (as in marriage), and you did not break off the relationship. You are not bound, in any way before God or man to this girl. It is not unusual for people to say what you did, and you meant it in all sincerity at the time, but things did not work out, and most likely it was because it was not God’s will for you to spend the rest of your life with this girl. Many people who were actually engaged have given their word they want to spend the rest of their lives with each other, but have broken the engagement because they discovered they were not suited for each other in marriage, and since they did not marry, they are no longer bound to each other and are free to find someone else.

If it was not God’s will that you marry this girl, you should accept that and move on with your life, and try to discern what His will is for your life. He may have another suitable partner in mind, or He may be calling you to something else, but in order to discover that you must free yourself to be open to His will, and that includes giving up the idea that this promise you made in the past was binding on you for the rest of your life, when it wasn’t. That may be holding you back from truly discovering what He wants for you. Let go of the past, and put your future in God’s hands. Pray hard about this.


No, I don’t think you are crazy but now that you are at the point where you are questioning your state, you might be at ready to move on with your life.

The end of a relationship can be like a death. There is a period of grieving. This is normal. Some don’t give themselves that and jump into another relationship. You might always have a place in your heart for this person but that doesn’t mean you are incapable of loving another. You owe it to yourself to get out there. Someone is out there waiting to love you too.


if these were not marriage vows there was no promise that is binding, and there was no deal to break.

plenty of priests and sisters have dated, even courted and become engaged before finally discerning their true vocation. It is not a hinderance to religious life unless you really do have obligations that arose from that situation (such as a child). It is to your credit that you take promises to seriously but wise discernment also distinguishes between a promise and a vow.

the point made by PP about grieving is very apt and important. Why not put the situation, including your own feelings, under the governance of Jesus?


I know I haven’t made a sacramental vow, but what happened to letting your yes mean yes, and your no mean no? Isn’t the distinction a bit like the pharisees, who said that anyone who swears by the altar isn’t bound unless there’s a gift on the altar. I gave my word. My word is my word.


And you kept your word. The other person didn’t. Now let it go. It wasn’t a vow. It was a promise.

Engagement does not entail vows. It does entail a promise, but it is also a time of discernment to find out if the couple should, indeed, marry. It is now time to let this relationship go and get on with life.


Yeah, it even works like that in the laws of certain countries. No acceptance means no gift, no power of attorney, no other act which only requires one signature for validity but still won’t work if it’s rejected by the recipient.

Promises aren’t absolute. At some point, you give up if the other person doesn’t want it or if it would harm the recipient, or if it would do harm in general. Your ex didn’t break the deal, she terminated it. Move on.


No. I don’t think you are crazy. But I do think that you haven’t released this girl from her promise to you. And I think you have to do so before you are ready to move on.


Remember Miss Havisham in Dickens Great Expectations. She too suffered from unrequited love having been jilted at the altar by her fiance. She spent the rest of her life living in her yellowed wedding dress with the banquet room of her mansion untouched and the varmints eating her elegant but rotting cake.

Think of your girlfriend if the situation was reversed and you were the one who called it off. Would you want her to live emotionally like Miss Havisham? Or would you want her to get on with her life?

Obsessed with that one single incident, she gave up all her other days which could have been filled with a husband, children, more dresses, a rat free house and all kinds of desserts. But she never got out the door. She never knew what waited for her.


that’s fine but you cannot put the same weight to a promise like this that the Church places on a sacramental vow. you also cannot use this as an excuse to avoid discerning a vocation if you really feel called that way. In any case you should be discussing this with a spiritual director, not here, because any anwer here will be of necessity general and only someone who knows you can really advise meaninfully.


No exchange of vows, no promise to be held to. The deal was left on the table. She handed back your heart with a no-thanks.

We’ve all been there. What do you do with that? You recognize you have been given a chance to share in the sufferings of Christ. The ultimate in Unrequited Love. He hung on the cross while people jeered at Him and spit on him. He took His dying breath among the curses of the people He died for.

Top that.

Maybe you have a talent for that. You can make a career out of unrequited love. You can spend your life extending the Love of God to people who will refuse it. or not.

You’ve learned a lot about yourself. Thank the young lady. And now take that knowlege and move on to what God wants for you in life. And be glad that you didn’t discover your love was unrequited by being served divorce papers at the most unexpected moment. THAT really stinks!

If the woman didn’t kneel on an altar with you and put on a ring, and say vows, your promise is not binding until death. Your yes meant yes only in that it was a promise to marry contingent on her acceptance. Anything more is an implied threat or verges on stalkerdom. I mean, how does a proposal like that go? “Will you marry me? And even if you say no, I’ll wait for you the rest of my life!” Ummm… that doesn’t give her real freedom to say no without being a real jerk herself. Engagements are not marriages. Not even when we don’t even love the person anymore and are merely sticking to our word till the last dog dies.

Your word is obviously your bond, but don’t make it crazy glue tying you to someone who left three years ago.


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