Social Question

harple's avatar

Which is worse: To love more than you are loved, or to be loved more than you love?

Asked by harple (10441points) August 19th, 2010

I’m guessing we’ve all been there, on both ends. Is it harder to feel more for your partner than they do for you (and lets face it, you know when this is the case, even if you don’t want to admit it) or for your partner to feel more for you than you do for them? Have you ever been in this situation and conquered the imbalance?

I’m not really intending to get bogged down in the semantics of the word love, hence option to “feel more/less” if you like.

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50 Answers

mowens's avatar

To not love at all.

Jude's avatar

Agree with mowens, no love.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I’ve been the one that loved him less but we talked about it and it was okay – I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes, though.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I’d like to hear a little more if you’re ok with it. About being in his shoes?

Austinlad's avatar

With those choices, I’ll settle for “like” or alone.

Seaofclouds's avatar

Both would suck, but I think loving someone else less than they love me is worse. I think I would feel really bad for the person because I don’t feel the same way they feel about me.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I think nothingness would suck the most.

muppetish's avatar

Honestly, what has been the most difficult for me is when my significant other loves me more than I love myself. It’s hard to completely trust anyone’s love for you when you don’t embrace your own sense of self.

Both scenarios in the original question lead to an awkward, sticky situation. Sometimes to make a relationship work, one needs to put aside measuring cups of doubt and simply enjoy being happy.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe Well, I’ve never been in his shoes (high school crushes nonwithtanding) but when he was in his shoes, I felt it and had a discussion about it – I put it all out there, said look I think you love me more than I love you which doesn’t mean I don’t love you or that I’m not in love with you – I want you to understand that when we started, I loved you immensely and equally, it seems to me now, as to how you loved me – that has changed…if it ever changes again or diminishes even further, I will continue to talk with you…it was a long conversation, not the most comfortable of ‘em but we were all used to having difficult talks as we were in a polyamorous arrangement.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Thank you. You’re a special lady.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe Person, not lady. And thanks.

wundayatta's avatar

Wow! I can’t believe there is any question about this. It’s a no-brainer, as they say (although I hate the saying—it’s so condescending).

It is far worse to love more than you are loved. Especially if you love and they don’t. That kind of pain can last for years. I used to think it was the worst pain possible, but then I experienced depression. Still, it’s damn close.

To be loved more than you love is a piece of cake in comparison. You don’t have to do anything. You can say no, gently if you want, or harshly. But it’s the other person who feels the pain, not you. Sure, you might feel some guilt, but that’s nothing compared to what the other person feels.

NaturallyMe's avatar

To love more than you are loved for sure. If you don’t love as much as you are loved, what are you so sad about? You don’t have as much to lose as the one who loves more than they are loved.

And, everything that @wundayatta said.

nailpolishfanatic's avatar

I have never been loved by a s/o before except for y family and friends:)
But I would say the hard part would be being a lover and yourself not being loved.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I have a suspicion that some of the answers that have been posted so far are solely based upon the question and not on the description. Please correct me if I am wrong. My understanding is that you are asking if, in an existing relationship with an SO where the feelings towards each other have become imbalanced, is it better to be the one that feels like they have more love to offer than their partners.

If that is the case, I would prefer to be the one who feels *more [internal edit at poster's request] love. For some reason, I can deal fairly well with the fact that the relationship has gone cattywampus. I’d feel much worse if someone had stronger emotions about the relationship than I did. Other than being upfront, there is not much else that can be done to ease their pain.

Frankie's avatar

I’ve been on both sides and I definitely do not like loving someone more than they love me. Granted, that has only happened with one person, so I guess that is not a lot of experience to base my opinion on, but I didn’t like the feeling of desperation….it wasn’t even that I was acting desperate. I knew I loved him more than he loved me but I kept that to myself and did not act (at least, in my opinion), like the desperate, clingy girlfriend. But simply knowing that made me feel like I was a desperate person, which did not feel good, especially since I knew I deserved so much better. But anyway, ultimately the relationship did not work out, and I think that was for the best. Knowing someone loves you more than you love them sucks, because you feel guilty and that you’re put up on a pedestal or that somehow it is your fault…but I’d take that over the alternative any day.

marinelife's avatar

I have never found myself measuring the love.


It is my guess we all will experience both sides many times during our relationship. Feelings fluctuate up and down all the time. I don’t worry about it, because I don’t think it is ever exactly even. That is just part of a relationship. The idea of which side you are on is a little like high school to me. There are more important things in a relationship than who loves who more or less.

Frenchfry's avatar

To be loved less then you love. You will always have that feeling of I need more.

Frankie's avatar

@RANGIEBABY I don’t think anyone is saying that relationships are about keeping score of who loves who more (whom?...arg), but similar feelings of love and need in relationships are pretty important to the health of relationships…if one person in a relationship is feeling less wanted or less loved, you better believe it would have some kind of impact on the relationship as a whole.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

I agree with both @Seaofclouds and @wundayatta.

I am fortunate that I can detect no difference between the way I love and the way I am loved.
What could be better than that?


@Frankie I guess I have never felt that I loved more or that he did. I agree if there is a chronic issue of one feeling less wanted or loved there would be an impact on the relationship. I didn’t say anything about keeping score. In fact I said just the opposite. But practically speaking, I don’t believe for one minute that there is a marriage so full of bliss after 40 years that there aren’t up and downs with degree of feeling of love. If someone tells me they are head over heals in love with their spouse 24/7 for 40 years, I would wonder who they are trying to convenience me to themselves.

gypsywench's avatar

To love more than you are loved is the worst!

chyna's avatar

Some of us will have never known love.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Having someone love you more than you are able to love them is so painful when you care about their feelings. This pain is about both peoples feelings and can not be resolved by yourself alone.

To loved more than you are loved by the other is especially painful when you have no reason to hope that this will change, especially when it seems the other does not care much about you feelings. This pain is about how you feel only, something you can change.

Hobosnake's avatar

To be loved by someone else that you respect but don’t love back. The last thing you want to do is hurt them, but you’d probably only hurt them more if you forced yourself.

I’ve lived most of my life loving more than I’ve been loved and loved the whole thing (well, more so than if I hadn’t loved at all).

perspicacious's avatar

The level of love is an interesting concept. Neither of these choices is a good place in which to be. Most people, I think, have experienced both if they are older. When you love, you are open to hurt. When someone loves you and you don’t feel the same way, you try to spare them that hurt. Truth is, it can’t be avoided by one or the other.

Vincent_Lloyd's avatar

I agree with seaofclouds. They both would suck. You would be getting smothered while vise versa you wouldn’t be and so on….But I couldn’t agree with either since you need love equally.

Frankie's avatar

@RANGIEBABY I guess I figured from your phrasing (being concerned about what “side” you’re on, being like high school, etc) that you saw the situation as needless competition, thus keeping score of who loves who more at a given point. I understand now that we’re just talking about two different hypotheticals, and I agree with you that feelings fluctuate throughout long term relationships. But, as I understood it, the question was about, as you called it, a chronic issue of one person loving the other person more than the other person loves them, without the situation flip-flopping at any given point. In which case, as it was in my relationship, that causes some pretty big issues in the relationship as a whole. So the way I took the question was not keeping track of who loves who more (which would be very high school-ish), but more of a constant problem that one particular person has consistently stronger feelings than the other person has for them, which definitely isnt an immature concern.

CherrySempai's avatar

I think it’s worse to love someone more than they love you. However, I have never experienced that. I have experienced being loved by someone more than I love them, and it’s not fun but I feel it’s not as bad. :/ It’s actually going on now, so it’s awkward and uncomfortable at times because I don’t know if I want to spend the rest of my life with them (yet they say that to me all the time,) and I just like taking things one day at a time. I feel like it’s wrong to break up with them because they’re so set on the relationship, yet I don’t know if I even want to break up. I just know I don’t love them as much as they love me, and I feel bad about it.

MacBean's avatar

I guess I’m in a minority here. I have no problem loving more than I’m loved. Love is a gift to be freely given, with no expectations of anything in return. It’s nice to get it back, yeah, but the real joy should come from the giving.

On the other hand, I HATE it when people love me more than I love them. It makes me feel responsible for them and their happiness. I feel obligated to be nice. And I feel like they’re seeing something that isn’t there, and expecting things of me that I’m just not capable of.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

@Macbean, you don’t seem to be in the minority by my count.


I was in fact in the position of loving my first husband more than he did me. I was 18 he was 19 when we got married. As we grew up, I loved him more and he loved his occupation more “science”. I would rather be in the position loving the most, because not only did I not have to hurt him, there was something I could do for him, as I loved him that much. That was to give him his freedom without all the normal antics that usually accompany a divorce. So. 40 years later his is still in my life, but as a good friend. We have never had cross words all these years. Of course, it hurt and I didn’t date for 3 years. I just took care of our 2 children, and worked. Life is good.

Frenchfry's avatar

@RANGIEBABY Did you know Albert Einstein had a similiar problem? He gave his wife his nobel prize money and such for the divorice. I learn that on the history channel.

SuperMouse's avatar

I had a friend tell me once to always be with a man who loves you more than you love him. She said it is safer that way and he will always give you what you want.

The strongest, most intense love I have ever felt for a man is for the man I am engaged to now. I know that our love for one another is equally intense. While I do agree with @RANGIEBABY‘s fluctuation theory, I think that in many relationships there is one partner who needs the other’s love more. That is the way it was in my first marriage, I don’t think I realized it until after we were divorced, but he needed to be loved by me more than the reverse. This is probably part of the reason for the incredible guilt I dealt with in the process of ending my marriage.


@Frenchfry No, I did not know that. Funny thing is, my ex is a microbiologist. He and his partner discovered interferon, the drug they use for cancer. He is a very intelligent person. He could read the newspaper from front to back when he was 3. And is now working on COPD and the cells of the lungs. Some people are just meant to do certain things, and when we need to step away, then we step away.:)

JONESGH's avatar

to love more than you are loved. i just think it would be alot of heartache.

Scooby's avatar

There was only ever one part of me my ex wife loved…. :-/ my wallet!

lifeflame's avatar

mm. I’m with @mowens.
Loving, no matter what, is a period of growth.

I think I prefer to be the one more in love; than to have someone love me more than I love them. It’s awkward to have someone have a crush on me and I feel obliged to reciprocate. But if I am the one more in love, then it’s because (in my eyes) the other person is wonderful and inspiring; and even if they don’t love me back, their presence, what they do or say inspire me to think differently about my world. I’ve had wonderful largely unreciprocated relationships that really have changed the way I create and make theatre. Yes it was emotionally turbulent but at the same time, just being in love—even unreciprocated—for me is to be in the state of being very much alive.

On the other hand, recently I had someone very much in love with me; and I learnt a lot about setting boundaries and managing the relationship, so that we could enjoy each other’s company without his desires getting in the way. And I was very proud of that, because it in the past not set clear boundaries / did exactly what I liked just because I could and ended up hurting the other person, which I left me feeling not that great as a human being.

Ah, tis good to love and be loved!

pearls's avatar

Either way someone loses.


@pearls I have to disagree with you. I was on the lesser of the love side of things and I don’t feel like I lost anything. It is a matter of perspective I guess.

pearls's avatar

@RANGIEBABY I have been on both sides. The first applies to my ex which my children lost a stable home environment because he couldn’t keep his pants zipped up and the second was a guy I dated for four years who I know loved me, but I just couldn’t love him back the same way. Eventually, I told him my feelings and it hurt him pretty bad. I haven’t seen or heard from him in 8 years.


@pearls He probably moved on with his life as anyone would. People grow with experiences of loss and learn how to rise up and move on. I am sorry you haven’t heard from him, but why would you want to, if only to hurt him again. I am sure he is doing just fine and probably has a beautiful family by now. It may seem cold to you, but I try not to look back, what is done is done. I can’t change it, so I move on. Life is too short to keep looking or thinking in the past for me.

pearls's avatar

@RANGIEBABY I hope he has moved on as I have. I am not looking for him or looking to hear from him. I know it hurt, but I wanted to be as honest as I could. It really wasn’t fair to him to let him go on thinking I shared the same feelings. In fact, I was dating other people because I didn’t want an exclusive relationship at that time and I didn’t lead him on. I tried hard to get him to go out with other women, but I think he was thinking I was going to settle down with just him.

lapilofu's avatar

I used to think it was worse to love more than you are loved, but I’ve been spending a lot of time this summer learning to see love as its own reward. I’ve been learning to enjoy the feeling of loving someone regardless of how they feel toward me. And now that I know this is possible, I’d rather be a person who loves more than a person who is loved. (Though both, of course, is ideal.)

I’ve previously shared this dialogue between Charlie and his Brother from the movie Adaptation, but I think it’s particularly elucidating in this field:

— There was this time in high school. I was watching you out the library window. You were talking to Sarah Marsh.
— Oh, God. I was so in love with her.
— I know. And you were flirting with her. And she was being really sweet to you.
— I remember that.
— Then, when you walked away, she started making fun of you with Kim Canetti. And it was like they were laughing at me. You didn’t know at all. You seemed so happy.
— I knew. I heard them.
— How come you looked so happy?
— I loved Sarah, Charles. It was mine, that love. I owned it. Even Sarah didn’t have the right to take it away. I can love whoever I want.
— But she thought you were pathetic.
— That was her business, not mine. You are what you love, not what loves you. That’s what I decided a long time ago.

In truth, I believe any relationship is asymmetrical. Some may fluctuate and some may have more balance than others—but they will never be perfectly even. This interpretation of love, as a worthwhile feeling, has helped me grapple with that.

ducky_dnl's avatar

The worst to me would to be loved more than I can love. I have a hard time reciprocating emotions and feelings with people and I know for a fact that if I date, that problem is going to show up and I’ll feel like a jerk. So either way that’s going to suck.

Haleth's avatar

Both of them are touch. If you love someone more than they love you, you have to face rejection and loss. If someone loves you more than you love them, that doesn’t mean you don’t care for them or love them in some way. Hurting someone you care about is painful. If you’re a human being, and have any empathy at all, you will feel some of their pain and understand it. Then there’s a choice between continuing an unbalanced relationship, or ending the relationship and dealing with the pain of separation (on both ends.)

Winters's avatar

Loving someone more than they love you. But what can you do besides move on? Just because you’re down and depressed doesn’t mean you get a timeout, life goes on and your clock is still ticking, so why waste time moping?

Neizvestnaya's avatar

For me it’s harder to love more than I am loved in return or in the same way. You can have great love between people but not equal desire and that’s strenous even heartbreaking.

Hobosnake's avatar

The Greeks had 3 main words for love: Eros (love meant only for a husband and wife), Philia (brotherly love), and Agape (unconditional love). Agape is considered the greatest kind of love, and by definition expects nothing in return. So loving at the greatest level more than you are loved in return doesn’t hurt you.

Agape isn’t exactly easy to attain though, and I kinda need it right now. This is kinda awkward to say, but I’d appreciate some prayer.

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