If you look up the definition of “crush” in the Cambridge Dictionary, you’ll get the following:
“a strong but temporary attraction for someone”
The Webster’s dictionary, on the other hand, defines crushes as:
“an intense and usually passing infatuation”
These definitions don’t do justice to what a crush actually feels like, right?
More often than not, when you have a crush on someone you don’t just feel attracted to them. You might feel desperate to see them, to touch them, to talk to them. Every moment away from your crush, every moment you’re not around them might seem like a cruel punishment you never deserved.
Crushes can overwhelm you — your thoughts, your mind, your soul. And the worst is that even though you might know you must move on, that there’s no future whatsoever with the other person, whatever you do, you’re unable to let go of them.
If you’re struggling with a crush, know you’re not the only one. I’ve had crushes on emotionally unavailable people, on people who just didn’t like me back, and once even on someone who was already in a relationship (which I’m not particularly proud of).
In hopes that it will prove useful to you, this article breaks down:
- why crushes can feel so intense (and hard to let go of)
- the five basic forms of crushes
- why you can’t move on from your crush (the psychology behind crushes)
- practical strategies to help you let go of a crush
Why Crushes Can Feel so Intense
One of my friends used to have a crush on a married man (with children) for months and only recently started getting over him. The funny thing is that she never even got to know him that well.
He was funny, good-looking, much older than her, and much more experienced. That’s pretty much all she knew about him. And yet, she idolized him.
That’s the problem with crushes. We idolize people we don’t really know. Indefinitely. We get caught up in our fantasies and daydream about our shared life, dates, travels, and children.
However, if we spend some time with our crush and get to know them — the real “them”, not the idea of “them” we have created in our heads — we might realize that they don’t even like traveling. That they don’t want to have kids. That we share zero interests with them and we have entirely different personalities.
What I’m trying to say is that if you never get the chance to see if your crush is a person who actually fits you, you can spend months, even years daydreaming about them and creating all kinds of scenarios in your head. They become an unrealized dream, a wish that was never fulfilled but you still can’t let go of.
As psychologist Leon F Seltzer confirms that in his article in PsychologyToday:
“An ‘untried’ love is virtually without limits precisely because, never really having begun, there’s been no time for disillusionment to set in. The beloved — frequently distant, uninterested, unavailable, or unapproachable — can remain an object of indefinite idealization.”
Because every crush can feel different, let’s take a look at the five basic forms of crushes.
The 5 Basic Forms of Crushes
Everyone experiences crushes differently because they come in different forms and, in turn, evoke different feelings.
As I mentioned above, I used to have a crush on someone who simply didn’t like me back as well as someone who did like me back but was already in a relationship. Both of these crushes felt different and lasted different amounts of time.
As clinical psychologist Dianne Grande explains in her article, there are five basic forms of crushes you can develop:
- A crush on someone unavailable who doesn’t even know you. Like those Hollywood starts you were infatuated with as a teenager. Or as an adult. Raise your hand if you have a crush on Keanu Reeves. I mean, who doesn’t? Jokes aside, this is probably the most innocent and temporary kind of crush.
- A crush on someone who knows you personally, but there’s no chance they will ever try to initiate a relationship with you. I think that’s the most common type of crush and one that’s particularly difficult to let go of. Like a crush on your best friend’s boyfriend or your professor who’s 30 years older than you.
- A crush on someone who has already rejected you. But, you know, you might not be able to get over how attractive/smart/funny they are or you might have taken their rejection too personally to move on.
- A crush on a past lover. You might develop this kind of crush after a breakup or when you see your ex — after a long time — and notice that they have evidently moved on whereas you remain single and unhappy.
- A crush on your partner. Sounds weird, right? How can you have a crush on someone you’re already in a relationship with? Well, it refers to a situation where two people love to different degrees and/or for different outcomes.
As interesting as diving into the world of crushes and the psychology behind them might be, it’s time to answer an extremely important question: Why can’t you move on from your crush?
Why Can’t I Move on From My Crush?
The most common underlying reasons why you might find it difficult to move on from your crush, are the following:
- You’re attracted to anything that’s forbidden. There’s a reason so many people develop crushes on their professors, bosses, or on people who are already in committed relationships. The more “forbidden” is something, the more attractive it becomes. The more you want it.
- You have low self-esteem. Low self-esteem can significantly sabotage your relationships, but it can also contribute to developing crushes on people from whom you seek validation. The more you feel rejected from a crush, the tighter you’ll hold on to it.
- The “zeigarnik effect”. The zeigarnic effect is a psychological phenomenon that refers to the human tendency to remember interrupted/incomplete tasks or events more easily than completed ones. That intensifies our need for closure and makes it tough to walk away from any unfinished business (e.g. a crush).
- You don’t admit to yourself that you don’t want to be in a relationship. But you can’t fool your subconscious mind. Your subconscious mind knows, so it pushes you to develop crushes on people you know are (and will remain)unavailable.
How to Move on From a Crush
Sometimes a crush can indeed be “a temporary attraction” or “a usually passing infatuation”. I’d dare say, however, that most often than not, crushes can be incredibly difficult to move on from.
If you’re in a place where you find it incredibly difficult to get over a crush and don’t know what you can do, here are some practical strategies:
Be honest with yourself. If you won’t be honest with yourself about your crush, how will you move on from it? Ask yourself some questions that could help you identify why you have a crush on that specific person and what needs are hiding behind your crush. For example:
- “Why do I like that person so much?”
- “How much I know about my crush’s personality, strengths, and weaknesses?”
- “Do I really like my crush or do I need some validation?”
- “If my crush reciprocated my feelings would I want to be in a relationship with them?”
Confide in someone. When we have a crush, we usually can’t see straight. That’s why it would be a good idea to confide in someone who can help you see things from a different perspective and help you move on from your crush.
I once had a crush on an insanely good-looking person who was also a complete jerk. It was only after my best friend sat me down and pointed out some things to me that I was finally able to realize how much of a jerk he actually was.
Avoid your crush as much as possible. The more you interact with your crush, the harder getting over them will be. My advice is, to avoid them as much as possible, at least for a while. For example, if you’re in the same company as friends, stop hanging out for a couple of weeks.
If you work together, try not to sit with them during your lunch break. Might even be a good idea to unfollow them on social media (no more checking their Instagram stories!).
Focus on something else. Putting your energy and attention to something else will distract you and you’ll stop thinking about your crush for a while (or you’ll think about them less). Grab a book, binge-watch a couple of shows on Netflix. Take long walks in nature, work out more. Maybe start a new hobby.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Getting over a crush can be difficult and take time. Try not to be too hard on yourself. Instead of pushing yourself to get over your crush as soon as possible, give yourself time to analyze your feelings and get over them.
Previously Published on Medium.
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