Dealing with obsessive crushes.
March 16, 2010 1:56 PM   Subscribe

Why do I keep develop obsessive crushes? How can I make myself get over them?

This is weird and awkward, hence the anonymity.

I feel like I don't experience romantic attraction like other people do. I'm a 24-year-old straight woman and I am usually painfully disinterested in dating. This may be because I am busy as hell (work + grad school + volunteering = very little free time) - but when I'm single, I never really felt the pressing need to date or be in a relationship like other people do.

Until, of course, I meet a Serious Love Interest. I'll meet a guy, get to know him, and promptly fall into a mad all-consuming crush. I'll think about him all the time, I'll be unable to flirt or look at anyone else, and I'll find myself mindlessly daydreaming at work like a silly 14-year-old. This happens rarely (I've had maybe 5-6 of them in my whole life) but when it does it's totally insane and lasts a long time. I secretly obsessed over a friend for 2 whole years before he moved out of town and I was forced to get over him.

Obviously, this is bad news, and it's ruining my love life. I can't make myself date anyone else when I'm engaged in all-consuming limerance, because I'm just obsessing over one guy. Twice I've had them turn into relationships, and both times the insanity faded into a more normal relationship feeling. That's fine. But when nothing happens, I feel incredibly upset and I act totally manic and insane.

I have a huge crush on a co-worker right now that I thought was reciprocated, but he just revealed that he has a new girlfriend. When I went home I actually cried. Meanwhile, a smart, cute, interesting guy in one of my classes asked me for coffee and I turned him down because I can't imagine dating anyone else. I can't focus and think about him all the time - I feel really pathetic and obsessive about it, but I can't help the way I feel.

I don't have any mental health issues that I know of, and my self-esteem is fine. I'm normal, reasonably intelligent, reasonably attractive and I seem to attract more guys than the average woman. So what's wrong with me? How can I experience attraction like everyone else, in a normal, grown-up, non-insane way?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Without knowing more about you it's hard to say. I realize this is the ultimate AskMetafilter trope, but I really would suggest sitting down with a counselor/therapist for a few hours and discussing this.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:00 PM on March 16, 2010

Why don't you try to actually date some of these crushes instead of just crushing? Maybe after dating some of them, and having relationships with them, and having breakups, you'll begin to see them as people with faults and not idols worthy of worship and obsession. After learning to identify negative traits of these crushes you can then learn to identify positive traits of other guys who ask you out and find a healthy mutually attractive relationship.
posted by greta simone at 2:08 PM on March 16, 2010

She did date some of these crushes, greta. That's the same advice I would have given: date one of these guys, find out he's completely normal or even obnoxious and boring, and let the relationship bottom out before moving on as a reminder that your tingly infatuations don't connect to actual relationship reality.

Since anon has done this, then I'd recommend therapy. Barring that, then get a friend who you can talk to about this. It's much easier to be logical when you explain how dreamy someone is and they're able to pick apart your infatuation and initial impressions.
posted by mikeh at 2:12 PM on March 16, 2010

Somehow I managed to miss that paragraph.
Please disregard.
posted by greta simone at 2:28 PM on March 16, 2010

Dopamine. Hell of a drug. The maximum dopamine rush comes from the possibility, not the achievement. And the possibility is always so perfect, isn't it? Some people get it buying lottery tickets, playing poker, or even shopping.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 2:28 PM on March 16, 2010 [12 favorites]

You need to simply learn to freely to express being attracted to someone. As in, instead of harboring an obsession in secret, feel free to open up and express your attraction... that will help control your obsessive tendencies.
posted by Theloupgarou at 2:35 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

I find I get obsessive like this when I'm lacking a project or challenge in my own life that gets me excited, so the boy becomes the project/challenge. Usually, it's a big waste of energy, unless you can actually date or pursue this person in a way that might lead to something meaningful. If you're having a crush on your married boss or something, well you might as well dig a hole and pour your emotional energy right into it. Sounds like pursuing someone with a GF is also bad news bears.

So I suggest-- set a goal or project for yourself that challenges you, and is what makes you get up in the morning. Let yourself be the controller of your own happiness, not some random boy. You can still have crushes, but it won't consume you as much if you have something else you're doing for yourself, that's equally awesome, competing for your attention.

Plus, being passionate about something is a very attractive feature in a person, and might inadvertently help you meet or attract someone new.
posted by egeanin at 2:40 PM on March 16, 2010 [11 favorites]

A couple of tips from somebody who used to operate in the same way:

1. If you start to feel a crush coming on, ask your crush out AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, before the crush metastasizes into an obsession. You've got to do it fast, because the longer you spend in obsessive mode, the more precious and wonderful your fantasy of relationship will become, and the harder it will be to risk losing that fantasy by actually asking the person out. Even worse, if you do manage to ask your object of obsession out, and he happens to reject you, it will hurt terribly because you'll have lost that precious wonderful fantasy. When you ask your crush out sooner, before you've had a chance to invest so much time into the fantasy, rejection won't hurt quite as badly and you'll recover faster.

I've actually found it ideal to ask people out when I'm in the pre-crush phase -- when I'm not entirely fixated on that particular person yet, but have started to take notice of them. It's taken me some practice to be able to pick this phase out, but it's really helped me to be able to date with less angst and more fun.

2. Go on as many dates as possible. Think of the non-crush dates as "practice dates" if that helps. "Practice dating" will help you when it comes time for you to ask out your real crush. It will also help adjust your expectations of dating, so that the obsessive aspects of your crushes get a reality check. And who knows? You might even find that one of your "practice dates" turns out well enough to become a real date.

The goal here is not to totally shut down your crushing process -- after all, limerence can be fun! Rather, you'll be linking your crushes to reality a little more closely, so that you can maximize your chances of having a real (rather than an imaginary) relationship with your crush, and minimize the (unfortunately inevitable) pain of rejection. Good luck!
posted by ourobouros at 2:43 PM on March 16, 2010 [28 favorites]

I've found that crushes lose most of their power once I openly acknowledge them - part of what makes the crush so strong for me is that feeling that "this is my secret" that, I guess, induces a false sense of intimacy? Also, going out on a date with one of the guys who is into you might help give you a more realistic sense of what "normal" people are feeling like.
I had a couple of agonizing crushes when I was younger but nowadays I think a lot more about the girlfriends that, although I only thought they were cute and not OMG AMAZING!!!, I got to actually know as a person and not just this figment of my imagination.
posted by modernserf at 2:46 PM on March 16, 2010

Whether you talk to them or not, don't fight the feeling. Roll with it!

Why not channel the obsessive frame of mind that comes with a dopamine rush into some goal-directed activities that will make you a more interesting, attractive, awesome person? Fix your living and employment situations; get in shape, clean up your diet, write poetry and fiction, paint. Instead of sitting around feeling inadequate, work on creating the person you want to be.

Seriously, this crush just might be the sharp kick in the heart you needed to get your life moving again.
posted by aquafortis at 2:47 PM on March 16, 2010

I used to do this but don't any more. My miracle cure involved meeting a former crush by chance, getting together with him, spending six months of delirious joy, becoming engaged and then calling it off when my inner pragmatist realized that the marriage would never, ever work out. So there's that. I think crushes have something to do with the belief that one person can magically make everything come right. Once you lose this belief, no one's that special.
posted by stuck on an island at 3:08 PM on March 16, 2010 [6 favorites]

I can't make myself date anyone else when I'm engaged in all-consuming limerance

Quit telling yourself this. Are you actually physically incapable of uttering the words ¨Yes, I´d like to go for coffee¨? Do it even though you don´t feel like it, just like you go to work or school even if you don´t feel like it.

I was going to tell you that you´ve been experiencing limerence, and there are far more non-limerent folk about (those people who tell you to ¨enjoy¨ your crush), but you seem to be familiar with the term.
posted by yohko at 4:13 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

"So what's wrong with me?"

This all sounds completely normal to me, actually. It's just what love hormones do to people.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:28 PM on March 16, 2010

It is normal, but not when taken to an extreme. It can be a form of escapism. Ask yourself what you are avoiding by obsessing. I'll bet there's something..... if you're honest with yourself, then you will find the key to kicking this.

I had these types of things for years, and they made me miserable (but a delicious misery!). I was avoiding going to college. I went to college and miracle of miracles! I haven't obsessed on a guy since.
posted by cottonswab at 7:15 PM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]

they're a distraction. Like any obsession, these crushes serve to shift focus away from all the rest, and to add some needed excitement. Plus, they're safe. If you're crushing over someone then you can't even consider going out with someone else. Or if you do go out with your crush, deep down you know it's doomed from the beginning (bc nobody is that incredible) so a part of you will hold back/avoid getting immensely hurt by just getting mild-to-moderately hurt.
Been there.
I stopped crushing/obsessing when things started falling into place in my life (academics, social life, career).
Best of luck!
posted by Neekee at 7:59 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

btw, when a guy wants to go out with you, he'll make it happen. Period. If he wants to date you, he'll ask you out. If he doesn't, he won't. End of story.

I allowed myself to believe that my crushes couldn't date me bc of __________ (insert excuse) which made it "complicated". It was all BS to keep me obsessed on the same guy for longer. Those excuses kept me single for a long time - and I kept them coming bc deep down I knew I wasn't ready for a relationship.
posted by Neekee at 8:05 PM on March 16, 2010 [9 favorites]

I gotta say that most of what OP has says is perfectly normal. In other words, her feeling that she doesn't experience infatuation typically is just not correct.

Once have been secretly in love with a friend for two years -- frequent, maybe the rule not the exception.

Busy 24 year old woman not interested in dating -- common.

Forsaking all others when you've found someone you really like, even if not yet reciprocated -- common.

All-consuming infatuation fading to normal affection once in a relationship? that's like the law of relationships.

Discombobulation at a break-up -- who doesn't feel that way?
posted by MattD at 8:32 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

It seems like you want to prevent yourself from dating by being actively disinterested in dating which decreases your odds of finding someone to date.

On the other hand, you develop crushes to compensate for not developing a social life focused on going out and having fun.

It seems more so your life is focused on "goals" of graduation and volunteering hours and not really time for yourself for some fun and actively seeking someone else?

Maybe even take a look at why you have a disdain for dating?
posted by iNfo.Pump at 9:35 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I sort of agree with info.pump. You say you’re painfully disinterested in dating because you’re so busy, but I wonder if you’re so busy because you’re painfully disinterested in dating, i.e. trying to distract yourself from dating, or have reasons and time not to date. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with not dating, being single, wanting to not date and be single. (Cuz that’s where I am right now and I’m happy with that!) This might be a long shot, but I wonder if your painful disinterest in dating is related to your painful, obsessive crushes. In short, why all the pain?

I feel like there are some contradictions in your post. On the one hand, you’re distinterested in dating. You don’t feel the need to date, or be in a relationship (I didn’t know other people felt the need to date/be in a relationship...) which is fine. But then you meet a guy you like, and you start obsessing. So I wonder, because of your painful disinterest in dating, does that prevent you from going out with him? Then again, I see that you have had two obsessions turn into relationships. And you can’t very well date your co-worker, cuz he has a gf.

Instead of wondering WHY you have these obsessions (and thus, obsess over your obsessions), try looking at them. Any colours/images come to mind? What does it feel like? Don’t try to shut any sensations down. This may sound silly, but try talking to the obsessive part of your mind. What does it want? What is it trying to tell you? Try to understand it, instead of feeling bad about it. When you cried over your co-worker having a gf, what did you feel? Were you maybe grieving over a possible relationship that could never happen? Did you feel ashamed that you misread what you thought was reciprocity?

Also, you’ve made comparisons of yourself with other people, whom you assume have attraction in a normal, grown-up and non-insane way, yet who attract less guys than you on average. I’m not sure what point I’m trying to make about that, but it just kind of stuck out for me. (I’m not trying to say you’re conceited or anything though. My sense is maybe you have a bit of shame about yourself? Again, I’m not sure.)

How is the rest of your life going? Are you happy with school, work, activities? If not, maybe you obsess as a way to escape? Maybe you need to make some changes in your life and that’ll help you feel better about yourself overall.
posted by foxjacket at 6:02 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

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