Short Stories About Unrequited Love

All the stories on this page have a character who loves someone, but their feelings aren’t returned.

“In Ruth’s Country” by Rick Bass

The narrator and his uncle live in Utah, but they’re not Mormons. They run cattle. Mormons don’t date non-Mormons. He notices a Mormon girl, Ruth. She watched him sometimes. One evening, Ruth drives to their place to have her car looked at.

This story can be read in the preview of For a Little While: New and Selected Stories.

“The Muse’s Tragedy” by Edith Wharton

Danyers is a young man who greatly admires the work of the late poet Vincent Rendle, and Rendle’s muse, Mary Anerton. A social acquaintance, Mrs. Memorall, knows Mary and passes along an essay that Danyers wrote. Eventually, they meet to discuss Rendle’s work.

This story can be read in the preview of The Collected Short Stories of Edith Wharton.

“The Distance of the Moon” by Italo Calvino

The narrator recounts the time when the moon was close enough to Earth that people could reach it with a ladder. They made trips to the moon to collect moon milk. One of them, a deaf man, thoroughly enjoys his moon visits.

This story can be read in the preview of The Complete Cosmicomics.

“A Painful Case” by James Joyce

Mr. Duffy begins an innocent relationship with a married woman, Mrs. Sinico. After spending a lot of time together, Mrs. Sinico takes Mr. Duffy’s hand.

This story can be read in the preview of Dubliners(select in table of contents)

“Federigo’s Falcon” by Giovanni Boccaccio

A rich man spends all his money trying to woo a married woman. She isn’t interested in him. Later, as a widow, she wants a favor from him that could help her sick son.

Read here

“The Jjilting of Granny Weatherall” by Katherine Anne Porter

Granny Weatherall is on her deathbed. She thinks about some old love letters she would like to destroy, and her mind returns to the time she was left at the altar by George.

Read “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall”

“Just Saying You Love Me Doesn’t Make it So” by Meg Campbell

Nan is happily married but has never gotten over her college sweetheart, Lewis. Their relationship ended when she revealed she had a secret abortion. They meet on the street and talk about life and love.

Read “Just Saying You Love Me…”

“Double Game” by Alberto Moravia

Umberto and Peppe have been friends a long time. Peppe feels inferior as Umberto has many abilities. They are both attracted to Clara.

“In the Heart of the Heart of the Country” by William H. Gass

The narrator is a poet who goes to a small town to get away from everything and find himself. His lover has left him and he’s out of work. The narrative is unconventional—a series of vignettes, diary-style with many lists.

Read “In the Heart of the Heart of the Country”

“Stones in My Passway, Hellhound on My Trail” by T. C. Boyle

An accomplished blues musician, Robert, is playing in a club. There is a flashback to his youth when he saw a poisoned dog die. Between sets he spends time with Beatrice; another woman, Ida, looks at him intently.

“A Tree, a Rock, a Cloud” by Carson McCullers

When a boy stops for a break on his paper route, an older man says he loves him. He then tells him the story of a woman he married who later left him. He explains how he has coped with it.

Read “A Tree, a Rock, a Cloud”

“The Ballroom of Romance” by William Trevor

Bridie is a spinster in her mid-thirties who lives with and cares for her father. She only has a few breaks from her regular routine, one of which is a weekly visit to a dance hall. It is frequented by women looking for husbands and men who are just passing time or enjoying themselves. Bridie has marriage on her mind.

Read “The Ballroom of Romance”

“The Tragedy of a Comic Song” by Leonard Merrick

A poet and a composer write a song for a woman whom they both love. The song is a big success.

Read “The Tragedy of a Comic Song”

“The Naked Lady” by Madison Smartt Bell

A sculptor’s friend throws a drinking party for him to get his mind off an unrequited love. They are roommates who live roughly and in poverty.

Read “The Naked Lady”

“An Ounce of Cure” by Alice Munro

The narrator remembers her first love as a teenager. She dated Martin Collingwood for two months before he broke up with her. She is in misery for months. When she gets a job babysitting for the Berrymans, she finds some liquor and decides to have a drink.

Read “An Ounce of Cure”

“An Indian Dream” by M. J. Akbar

Ashfaq Hussain, a young man, meets Ayesha at a wedding. Her family is wealthier than his. He can’t figure out how to get her attention. His friends say he should just visit Lily, a prostitute.

Read “An Indian Dream” (Pg 9)

“A Rose for Ecclesiastes” by Roger Zelazny

The narrator, Gallinger, is busy translating one of his own works into Martian when he gets the news that the Martians will receive him. He’s a particularly talented linguist, the first human to learn classical Martian, and now the first to learn their “high language”. He’s going to be allowed into the Temple to read the sacred texts.

Read “A Rose for Ecclesiastes” (PDF Pg 5)