Several months ago, I (30M) had someone from my dance group take me to a different nearby social dance place. While I did know her prior to this, I really started to feel connected with her when I was going just with her and talking with her in the car. That made me actually start to really be into her.
I didn’t ask her out for four months, part of that wasn’t my fault, because very soon after that, she went home for several weeks, but even after that, I got too anxious to ask her out for a while. During this time, I built her up in my mind as pretty much the perfect girl, which I should not have, fantasized about being with her, all of that.
Eventually, back in October, while I was at a fall party she invited me to, I brought myself to ask her out. Then she told me that she’s gay.
We still are friends, I haven’t brought that up again. We keep inviting each other to things. I keep trying to think of her platonically, but sometimes, I fall off the wagon. Like, I sometimes start feeling the same butterflies thinking of her, getting all sad that I can’t be with her, and then I start beating myself up over me feeling this way. Like, I KNOW nothing is going to happen between us, through no fault of my own.
I still want to be friends with her though. How do I fall out of love with her?
Fool In Love
I’m going to give you some advice, FIL, but it’s going to take some effort to put it into practice. I say this because the problems you’re having are all in your head. Not that they’re imaginary; what you feel is real. When I say that they’re in your head, I mean it’s literally a self-defined, self-perpetuating problem, one that’s born out of the way you’re thinking about this.
However, it’s important to recognize that the fact that this is all in your head doesn’t mean that this is something to beat yourself up over, to blame yourself over or otherwise punish yourself for. Instead, I want you to recognize this as an opportunity for some meta-cognition; I want you to think about how you’re thinking about things and how that’s affecting your situation. As the sage once said: there is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so.
The way you’re thinking about this is what’s making you feel awful. Change how you think about it and you’ll change how you relate to the situation.
Let’s start with the obvious and address the labeling issue: you’re not in love with your friend. You’re attracted to her, certainly. You enjoy her company. But what you’re feeling is limerence, not love. The two are easy to mistake for one another, especially if you don’t have a lot of relationship experience, but they’re not the same. Limerence is the fancy name for “puppy love”; the intrusive thoughts, the all-consuming desire and the feelings of melancholy are part of the experience.
It’s important to recognize these feelings for what they are, because it becomes part of how you get these inconvenient emotions under control. When you’re describing these feelings as “love”, you’re creating a scenario in your head that makes this so much more. It focuses your attention around the idea that this is a great tragedy, that it’s a defining moment and that it will have a deep and abiding impact on you. Giving up this love will leave a hole in your heart that will never truly be filled; you’ll simply become numb to it over time.
In reality, this is a passing fancy. You had a moment of emotional intimacy with someone you find attractive – a platonic moment of intimacy, but intimacy none the less. That was exciting! It may be something you’re not used to! The novelty of it, the thrill of it… that set your mind and hormones off and got your engine humming. It probably felt incredible!
But it’s not love. You barely know her, you’ve only really interacted with her like this once and then your imagination filled in the rest with your idealized version of her that has very little relationship to reality. That is what you’re reacting to, not the reality of her.
The reality is… well, she’s not right for you. Not as a potential romantic partner anyway. And now the pain you feel is trying to reconcile these two different versions – the fantasy and the reality of her.
So the first step is simply to relabel this. It’s not love. It’s a crush, that’s all. It can feel intense, it can seem like it will last forever, but it’s a momentary thing. Labeling it when you feel these feelings – “yup, there’s my crush on her, again” – defangs much of the immensity of it all. People get impossible crushes all the time – crushes on people who aren’t attracted to the crushee’s gender, crushes on people in relationships, even on fictional characters. Crushes aren’t anything to be taken seriously; you experience them and then they pass.
Just as importantly though: crushes aren’t something to beat yourself up over. This is something to keep in mind because beating yourself up over having a crush on someone is kind of absurd. Leaving aside that liking someone who isn’t going to like you back the same way isn’t something deserving of punishment, what, precisely is beating yourself up going to do? How is it helping to hurt yourself over these feelings? You can’t shame yourself out of liking someone. You can’t shame yourself into not feeling things, nor is shame and self-recrimination going to make things better. All this does is reinforce that you’re somehow bad and deserving of scorn. Why? Because she’s gay? So? Because it won’t happen? Big fat hairy deal. You’re not bad, stupid or cringe for having a crush. It happens.
And not to put too fine a point on it: punishing yourself for having these feelings just serves to reinforce the fact that you’re feeling them. All you’re doing is reminding yourself that you’re attracted to her, centering the state of having this impossible, inconvenient crush in your mind. Focusing your attention on those feelings only makes them linger, even when it’s negative attention. You’re not letting the feelings drift; you feel them, you go into that cycle of attention and recrimination and spend even more time thinking about those feels.
But if you were to just not focus on those feelings, you might notice that they don’t actually last. Without your attention to keep them at the forefront of your mind, they’d blip in and blip out again, same as anything else. If you over-toasted your bagel in the morning, do you feel that disappointment or irritation all day? Or does that irritation vanish when you have something else to occupy your brain, not to be thought of again?
The same goes with your feelings for your friend. You don’t need to force them away when they come up, you just notice them and label them and just turn your attention elsewhere.
So instead of beating yourself up, forgive yourself. You got a little over-excited over what is ultimately you making a new friend and it got away from you. That’s perfectly natural and normal. It’s a bit embarrassing but the sort of embarrassment you can laugh at yourself over. So go ahead and do that. That rueful but affectionate laughter is far better for you than smacking yourself around because you got a harmless crush on a queer woman.
The final thing to do is to stop running from the good feelings. You and this woman are becoming friends! You’re doing stuff together! That’s all great! Punching yourself in the face, metaphorically, for having feelings for someone you’re having a good time with is counterproductive. Instead, you can reframe this in your head as “I’m making a new friend and that’s awesome! I’m excited that I’m becoming closer with this cool person!” and actually enjoy your time with them.
That’s going to be far more productive – and emotionally healthy – than beating yourself silly over this.
Forgive yourself for getting a bit over your skiis in your excitement, recognize that what you’re feeling is just a crush and let yourself enjoy and appreciate what you do have as you get to know your new friend, rather than being upset that you fell for a fantasy born out of (understandable) enthusiasm. You’ll feel much, much better. I promise.
This post was previously published on Doctornerdlove.com and is republished on medium.
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