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Dissertation Title:

The Lived Experience of Impossible Love


Michelle Dawn Enterline

Date, Time & Place:

November 4, 2020 at


Romantic love conjures thoughts and ideas about blissful harmony, yet sometimes brings heartache. Individual conceptualizations and expectations of love and relationships, although subjective, often do not coincide with the reality of romantic love. This disconnect causes heartache and disappointment as love reaches an impossible point. Utilizing Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (Smith, Flowers, & Larkin, 2009), this research explores the lived experiences of heterosexual men and women as they share their experience with romantic love and how that love became impossible. Two men and one woman participated in semistructured interviews. The findings resulted in four superordinate themes: a sense of self with beloved, family influence, love becomes impossible, and personal reflections. The study’s clinical implications suggest that the effects of familial and cultural influence help shape individual expectations and views of love and relationships, and can contribute to the impossibility of love. The individuals’ narratives expressed the effects of these influences emerging through conscious and unconscious processes throughout their love relationship. Participants in this study found meaning in their experience of impossible love through introspection and perspective taking, both during their experience and after the fact. This led to a furthering developed sense of self, which encouraged contemplation of specific influences on their love relationships.


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  • Program/Track/Year: Clinical Psychology, Track A, 2011
  • Chair: Dr. Avedis Panajian
  • Reader: Dr. Christine Lewis
  • External Reader: Dr. Kenneth Hapke
  • Keywords: Romantic Love, Impossible Love, Relationship, Love, Relationship Discord, Couples, Meaning Making, Phenomenological, Heterosexual Relationships