Life would be so much simpler if I just didn't like anyone.
June 24, 2013 11:19 PM   Subscribe

How do you stop yourself from developing crushes on people?

Most people seem to like having crushes on people, is the impression I get. I can't stand it. I dread it. Every time it happens it is the beginning of the end. I guess the linchpin here is whether there's any hope for them to be reciprocated, which for me there never is. I am not the sort of person people have crushes on; there's nothing going for me, so no one ever has. I'm not the sort of person you'd want to have a crush on you; it's like if Lena Hyena from the cartoons liked you. So I try not to let on, for their sake and for my sake. The best case scenario is that they don't notice; slightly less OK scenario is that they try to ignore it and feel weird; worst case scenario, they take advantage of it. (The worst case scenario happened to me recently and in part because of it I've lost all my friends.) At this point I've racked up at least 14 years of my life being worsened by having crushes on people. So the logical thing to do would be not to get crushes on people, because nothing good can come of them and I don't need more things in my life that make it worse, my life has enough of those on its own. But I don't know how to stop it.

Right now, for instance, I have five crushes that it is wrong to. I get why I have them - we seem to have a lot in common, I like how they look, everything they do is adorable, I can picture lives together - but that doesn't make them good or useful or right. In three cases it's wrong because they have very long-term, very serious girlfriends -- like, I'm pretty sure weddings are within a year or two serious -- so obviously I would never act on these, and even more obviously, neither is reciprocated. (I don't always get crushes on people with girlfriends, this is just a sad coincidence.) The other two are exes who dumped me. I don't want to have crushes on any of them. Nothing good can come of that. I want to be friends with them, is what I want, but this muddies the waters. Best case scenario, it makes the dynamic too awkward to make friends, worst case I'm one of those horrible people with ulterior motives you read about in friend-zone rants.

None of the methods I've read about work. I've tried dating other people - almost the entire city, it seems - and it's never worked, not only in that it hasn't gotten me into a relationship but that it hasn't shaken any of the crushes on anyone else. One of three things happen: they don't call for a second date, they do call but I'm not attracted to them and end up on soul-sucking date after another until I can't take any more, or I do develop a crush on the new guy and then it's the same problem: they get the upper hand and generally use it. I don't have dirt on any of them to imagine instead. Picturing people using the toilet or whatever does nothing either way (it baffles me how that can have an effect on anyone.) If I stop thinking about it, it'll come right back the next time I see them, or I'll have a dream. If I stay inside all the time they still exist on Twitter or wherever.

Sorry if this seemed incoherent. But you get the gist.
posted by dekathelon to Human Relations (28 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
The only thing that's worked for me is eliminating all contact with them. If that's not possible, then reducing as much contact as I can.

In those cases where you have an S.O.: laughing and joking about it with that S.O. and not making it ohmigosh the biggest secret ever.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 11:32 PM on June 24, 2013

I feel like this a peculiar question that is wracked with self-hatred, for which the only real answer is "therapy until you figure out why you feel like you are so worthless." But I suspect you would resist that answer.

What strikes me is that that the details you include seem to contradict each other. For example, you say that a) that there's no hope that your crush will ever be reciprocated, but also that b) your crushes sometimes "take advantage" of your feelings or "get the upper hand and use it." These are very vague descriptions which could cover anything from someone sexually assaulting you to someone simply reciprocating your attraction! I genuinely, honestly, don't know what's going on. If it's the former, go to the police; if it's the latter, recognize that people are reciprocating your crushes, because you are an attractive person.

If what you say on the face is the 100% truth, that you are attracted to people who will never reciprocate, then I think you should cut off all contact and maintain as much distance as possible. But if instead some people you crush on are actually crushing on you as well, perhaps you should investigate inside yourself why the fact that someone else likes you and is interested in you means they are "getting the upper hand" and "taking advantage" when they express that attraction.

Apologies if I have misinterpreted what is happening in these situations.
posted by lewedswiver at 11:58 PM on June 24, 2013 [19 favorites]

In my experience with feelings of all types, the more I try to suppress them the more they seem impossible to get rid of.

There's nothing wrong with feeling attracted to anybody — even somebody in a relationship, or an ex that you know won't work out. In situations like this there are problems with acting on the crushes, but the feelings themselves you need to accept.

Accept your feelings alongside the knowledge that the crush will never be reciprocated. Reconciling these realities will be really painful — I know, I've done it enough — but it's the best and only way to grow as a person and grow into someone who doesn't get hooked on 'bad' crushes!

And, yes, take space until you feel you can be in contact and not feel so much longing.
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:11 AM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

I am uncomfortable with strong emotional responses so crushes make me feel uniquely miserable. However, they also come with incredibly giddy highs and the possibilities they offer are intoxicating. You don't seem to be able to access the second part, or rather, it's clouded because you're too busy judging/shaming yourself for a perfectly human response. Having a crush isn't a bad thing; having an unrequited crush doesn't make you a loser or inferior or make you need to kill those feelings with fire.

I struggled with a lot of feelings of shame around my crushes (hello experiences as an [insert identifier here] kid in middle school) and the process I found that helped was: 1) accepting that I am worthy of affection and love and romantic interest, 2) that I can be the person someone somewhere crushes on, 3) and if my crush doesn't also think I'm the bee's knees then that's OK and I can still swoon quietly (aka: having unrequited feelings isn't awful so long as I am respectful). I find that repeated self-affirmations usually leads me to decide that I want to date/love/fuck/whatever people who are actually into me so the feelings mellow into "Taylor is really awesome and attractive" rather than "OMG TAYLOR AND I SHOULD BE LIFE PARTNERS". Depending on how strong my infatuation is, this can take a lot of time... and a bit of grieving really because we would have been perfect, theoretical!Taylor and I.

It's not perfect and it doesn't mean that I enjoy getting crushes, especially the almost-possible ones, because augh emotional torture... but it feels less like my feelings are going to kill me.
posted by buteo at 12:37 AM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you have a crush on someone with a girlfriend, if you can, spend a lot of time together with them as a couple. Though not in this life stage at the moment, I have found that cultivating a genuine friendship with the SO of a crush can kill the feelings very quickly and effectively. You have to actually like the SO, and make an effort to like them. If you just hang out with them and hate them, obvs it won't work. It helps you contextualise these people as a couple, and really erodes the fantasy elements.

As a sidenote, you say that crushes are not reciprocated, and yet two of your current crushes are ex boyfriends - so clearly, they are reciprocated. But I've hammered you enough about these self-destructive thought patterns in other questions.

The trick to keeping crushes fun, is to keep them appreciative, I think. Like, you might appreciate a good meal, or a nice picture. That little frisson of tension you feel is nice, it's fun to have genuinely innocent flirts with someone (I suppose I am an indiscriminate and equal opportunity flirter, age, gender etc is no barrier), but just like eating the same meal every day would get bad very quickly, so too is pretending the crush is anything more than a passing fancy, built from a few commonalities and quirks. And that in itself is a satisfying and fine enough thing.

Sure, it can grow into a relationship (just like a good meal may develop into an interest in Indian cuisine) but more often than not won't - and shouldn't. That is not particular to you; that is particular to everyone. Most crushes never come to anything and are not built for it, frankly.
posted by smoke at 3:43 AM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

What you describe sounds less like crushes to me and more like fixating on unattainable fantasies that reinforce your feelings of worthlessness (depression) and distract you from potential real-world human connection/intimacy (anxiety).

I suggest finding a therapist who can help you address any underlying depression/anxiety over trying to stop having crushes.
posted by headnsouth at 3:55 AM on June 25, 2013 [28 favorites]

I've found that most of my crushes have come at times in my life when I felt particularly lonely, and that being honest with myself about that was the fastest way to make a crush dissipate.

With my last crush, I felt much, much better once I recognized that it's natural to want an intimate connection, but pointless for me to throw all this longing at someone who wasn't even right for me. Doing more to connect with friends and family also helped dampen my crush's intensity.
posted by figgy_finicky at 4:58 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well first of all, get some therapy, the self-hatred in your post is really sad and disturbing.

Secondly, you can't be friends with exes. Not in a general way, but you, specifically, can't do it. So don't.

As for the rest. First of all, just don't indulge in guys with girlfriends. As far as you're concerned, they're neuter. Just people without genitals.

Now, I've had crushes on my friends and I've totally disclosed, and it's worked out great. Usually we'll both have a laugh about it and then we'll go on with our lives. The last time it happened, I ended up marrying my crush and we've been happily married for eleven years.

It's so much easier to have a crush and to ache and pine away, it's romantic and gives your life interest and gets you buying magazines and doing your hair cute and you have something fun to think about in boring times.

But it's not real. It isn't.

So, look into that therapy, I think you'll find that you benefit in a bazillion ways!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:29 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

I am not the sort of person people have crushes on; there's nothing going for me, so no one ever has. I'm not the sort of person you'd want to have a crush on you; it's like if Lena Hyena from the cartoons liked you.

This isn't a fundamental, unshakeable truth. It's your perception. Your perception can be changed. Please, PLEASE believe me that I used to feel THE EXACT SAME WAY about myself, and now I don't, and I've had several satisfying relationships. But I never would have been able to if I didn't get help. Will you please stop posting these questions, questions which always seem to be exercises in parading your self-loathing in front of the entire internet, and get some help?
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:40 AM on June 25, 2013 [20 favorites]

or I do develop a crush on the new guy and then it's the same problem: they get the upper hand and generally use it

What is it about having the crush that results in you giving all this power to them? What is it about letting on that you like these guys, that leads to you hinging you self-worth on whether they reciprocate in kind or not? I can't help wondering if once you've become aware of the crush, if you're leaving all the work of advancing it on them, as well as assuming that your own feelings/desires/preferences become irrelevant because they shouldn't "interfere" with the direction the crush is taking itself.

I have a feeling that you stop setting the terms of the potential relationship once you and the guy are aware of the crush, and act instead from your own insecurities, which leads to these guys' responding from their own insecurities, which results in them to using it against you.

I am not the sort of person people have crushes on; there's nothing going for me, so no one ever has

In all fairness, you sound pretty trapped in your head to be noticing whether other people have crushes on you or not. I pretty much guarantee that people have already had crushes on you, and your focus inward has prevented you from noticing/recognizing it. This belief that there's nothing going for you is probably half of what's fueling your intense preoccupation with your crushes --as though being with them or "having" them would totally compensate for this inner void. If that's the case, then THAT is something worth working on in therapy.

Personally I like Phalene's use of crushes as muses (as a means of getting some productive mileage out of the intense preoccupation). What is it that this muse is promising to offer me/help me realize about myself, that I haven't been able to understand/realize for myself on my own? With every muse comes another piece of self-knowledge that helps to genuinely fill the inner void.

So to answer your original question, How do you stop yourself from developing crushes on people? Bolster your self-worth. If you have good self-esteem, you don't need intense crushes to compensate for the lack of self-worth. If it feels like your crushes are getting all the power, then spend some time understanding the ways in which you are giving up your power and develop strategies for owning it. Perhaps if you can experience a crush without the extreme loss of power (which you will achieve once you start to understand yourself as a crush-worthy equal), you'll be able to arrive at some new outcomes with these experiences.
posted by human ecologist at 7:34 AM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

I am not the sort of person people have crushes on; there's nothing going for me, so no one ever has.

This is an example of what I personally call an emotional belief. It feels true, and you sincerely believe it, but that doesn't mean it accurately reflects reality or stands up to intellectual scrutiny. For example, you can't know whether, at some point, someone had a secret crush on you that they never acted on. It's unknowable. Statements like "there's nothing going for me" also tend to be unreliable because they are so broad. When I find myself holding emotional beliefs like this, I consider it a strong sign that I need to consider therapy again. I have found myself believing "I am not sexy or capable of being the object of someone's lust or love." This is extremely unlikely to be true, but highly likely to be a sign that I may be depressed and need outside intervention. I have found therapy helpful at such times. I recommend it for you based on my personal positive experience of therapy and in the hope that, even if you believe that I am wrong, you will gamble on the possibility that I am right and your beliefs are hurting you more than they are informing you.
posted by prefpara at 8:10 AM on June 25, 2013 [8 favorites]

What you describe sounds less like crushes to me and more like fixating on unattainable fantasies that reinforce your feelings of worthlessness (depression) and distract you from potential real-world human connection/intimacy (anxiety).

This sounds so true based on all your past questions.

I know you won't hear this until you are ready to hear it, but you are depressed. You have depression. You need to get well from this in order to make your life as a whole better. All your questions read like "I hate myself, I am awful, please internet validate my own sense of self hate".

I have been so much like this - your questions remind me of me. In fact, this question reminds me of how I still feel about relationships sometimes and it's something that I'll be bringing up with my awesome therapist.

Here is what I'd bet: you kind of hate yourself, and you kind of wish you could stop hating yourself, and those two things are in tension. You poke the wound of your self-hatred partly to hurt yourself and partly to see if you can possibly stop hating yourself. You both want us to validate your self-hatred ("yes, it's true, no one can possibly love you, here is a method for stopping having feelings") and you want us to somehow this time be able to persuade you that you are lovable. The part of you that wants help is the growing, living part of you, the part that doesn't want you to be a robot automaton who never loves and can never be hurt.

If you're at all like me, it will take you years and wasted years before you start to fix things - years of hating yourself, thinking that your problems are insoluble, thinking that you are different from everyone else in a bad way, body dysphoria where you see yourself as irrationally monstrous...the whole nine yards. When I was your age, I was convinced that I was such a monster that people would avoid sitting next to me on the bus - and it was all confirmation bias. I used to sneak looks at myself in the mirror to see if today I was as ugly as I thought. I hated myself. Even when I was happy, I was miserable. And like you, I thought that the secret to being happy was to finally internalize that I was unlovable and my feelings were stupid, and then I'd be able to stop having the feelings and move on. I thought that my main problem was that I hoped.

What I wish for you is that you won't waste years and years on bitterness, self-hatred and delusions.

I swear up and down to you that you do not have to live like this. I had a crisis a while ago, and a kind, good friend pushed me very hard to get therapy from a progressive therapy practice. After a year of therapy - and it's just been talk therapy, mostly, just a sympathetic ear as long as I needed it - I feel so different it's unbelievable. My problems, which seemed so insurmountable and so tied to deep, personal failings, now seem substantially solvable, or at least capable of being ameliorated.

Forgive this long and somewhat tangential response. I have been struck many times by your questions and how much they remind me of my own bad, harmful habits of thought and I've hoped that you will be able to get through them and not waste as much time as I did.
posted by Frowner at 8:28 AM on June 25, 2013 [38 favorites]

Crushes are an excellent source of self discovery. We generally develop crushes on people that are unattainable and have something about their persona that we would like to have in ours. Is there a common personality thread for all these crushes? Is this a trait that you crave for yourself?

Sometimes, just figuring out why we have the crush is there is enough to make it go away. Do you want to be more like that person? Are you afraid of real intimacy so you fall for people you would never date?

Crushes have nothing to do with the other person. A crush is all about you. Delve in, figure out what is there. Write short stories if you need to. Just remember, your feelings have nothing to do with the other person. You are only using them to figure something out about yourself.
posted by myselfasme at 8:40 AM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

Mod note: OP, please do not argue with other commenters - take the advice you want and leave the rest. Thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:50 AM on June 25, 2013

I'm not going to discuss the common denominator in your questions - you, your mental health, etc. - because I'm tired of putting energy into this and you're not going to listen anyway.

But I had an experience getting over an ex recently that was really surprising and kind of fun, and it might be helpful for you:

I dated this guy a few years ago. It was very brief and intense, and we broke up mostly because of circumstances, but it still sucked. He started dating this incredibly annoying girl pretty much the second he was single and available, and I hate read her blog for an embarrassing amount of time. Realizing that I was becoming a bitter crazy person, I stopped hate reading her blog. I still thought about him now and then, though. A lot of wistful what-if's.

I looked him up last week, realized he has a new girlfriend, and of course, read the saga of the break-up on the now ex-gf's blog. This dude is such a user. I am so glad he dumped me. He is really cute and great in bed and has a really interesting life and we had so much fun together, but I am so glad that I did not spend as much time in the rinse and spin cycle of Being This Dude's Girlfriend For Roughly A Year as I could have, you know?

So, maybe you'll have an epiphany like that. I'm a relatively well-adjusted, attractive person, and I was hung up on some asshole for a couple years. Happens to the best of us.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 10:55 AM on June 25, 2013 [5 favorites]

Look, if you really want to stop developing attractions to people, the only thing I can think of to recommend is a life of complete, passionate devotion to some other ideal -- that's the way monks and nuns of various faiths do it. In order to stop being attracted to people, you'd have to stop wanting to be attracted to people. In order to stop wanting to be attracted to people, you'd have to give up on the idea of ever having a romantic partnership. And because the drive to engage in romantic partnerships is pretty innate and powerful in most human beings, in order to give up on that desire truly, sincerely and unregretfully you'd have to find something else, incompatible with those partnerships, that you're happy to give your life to. So, how do you feel about Catholicism and Buddhism?

But, rather than going that far, you'd probably rather figure out a way to moderate your attractions to people so that they don't make you miserable. I get the feeling that for you, crushes feed into a cycle of dwelling on your own negative characteristics: this person is awesome->I'd like to be with them->but I'm not awesome at all->whereas this person is so awesome . . . ad infinitum. Would it be possible for you to freeze your crushes at the first stage? Think all you want about how wonderful and cute they are, how much better the world is for having them in it, etc., but try not to involve yourself in your own imaginings about them.

If that proves to be impossible, try making some kind of dramatic change, the kind that leads to so-called "personal growth," in some other area of your life. Sometimes if you have a crush on someone and undergo an experience that changes you, especially if it changes you by giving you more maturity, the crush can just fall away along with the other trappings of your mental state before you made the change.

OK, those were my answers to the question that were completely on your terms. I'm going to start questioning some of your premises now: obviously people are attracted to you sometimes in some ways -- otherwise there would be nothing for these guys to take advantage of. What they were interested in didn't match up with what you were interested in (it sounds like they wanted something much more casual than you did?), but that's very different from nobody ever being into you at all. If you look at it as "Most of the guys I have crushes on don't feel anywhere near as strongly about me," well, that's how it is for everyone . . . until the day you meet the person who does feel as strongly about you. Which, yes, can take a while. Not to mention that apparently some guys do call back for second dates with you when you weren't feeling a spark, so there are people out there who feel more strongly about you than you do about them.

Speaking of which, this has come up before in your questions and I know you don't like this answer, but it is vanishingly unlikely that nobody has ever had any kind of crush on you. Looking back over all the crushes I've had, the number I ever divulged represents a tiny, tiny percentage. Also, I've had plenty of crushes on conventionally unattractive people. And, face it, if unattractive people didn't still get happily married and have children Earth's population would have collapsed a long time ago.

Finally, you can let go of the fear that you're inconveniencing, harming or disgusting people by having crushes on them. As long as you aren't doing anything stalkery, which it doesn't sound like you are, most people find it flattering when someone has a crush on them -- no matter how unattractive they find that person. (Incidentally, I just googled Lena Hyena. Jesus. Please never make that comparison again -- nobody is anything like that, and you know it.) Also, bear in mind that there is nothing morally wrong with having a crush on someone with a partner, as long as you don't act on it. So you're definitely not making anybody else suffer, which should be some comfort.

And, OK, I have to say this, though you should ignore it if it's just going to make you ignore the rest of what I've said: your basic problem is that you're unhappy. I don't care if you don't want to call it depression, I don't care if you believe it's your own fault, I don't care if you want to address it by getting better, more practical therapy (I know from experience it's out there) or taking medication or taking drugs or devoting your life to helping children with malaria or confronting some jackass from your past or joining a penitential cult to cleanse yourself of your sins or whatever, but that is your problem. It's not the result of your other problems, it is the source of your other problems, and you should look into it first.
posted by ostro at 11:52 AM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

I read needy with fear of intimacy and a dash of attachment anxiety.

So I would work on feeling fulfilled alone (yes, alone) and being comfortably close with people who can really get close to you. (Start with opening up to real friends.)

This book is helpful about attachment styles and ruminating about loves.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:54 AM on June 25, 2013

Here's how you stop getting crushes on people.

First, you close your computer and you walk away. You grab your iPod and an album you really like, or an audio book, or a podcast, and you go for a really long walk or bike ride. You're going to take off your why-must-I-get-crushes self like a coat and leave it in your apartment. it's okay, it's going to be there when you get back, you're just taking a little holiday from it. You'll walk or bike for a long long time. You'll zone out and listen to your book or podcast or music (I find listening to people talking helps). You'll get why-must-I-have-crushes thoughts, but tell them you'll get back to them when you get home. This is a vacation. You'll walk and bike until you find your nothing-in-particular self, or better your enjoying-a-sunny day self, or best your getting-lost-in-walking-and-being-alive self.

When you get home you'll look at your why-must-I-get-crushes self, and your dating-is-a-sign-of-my-worth self, and your I-am-worthless self, and you'll let yourself grieve for them. There's a comfort in being these selves. When you're in that space, all that matters is the drama of the shitty feeling and getting rid of the shitty feeling. I'm guessing one of your ways of doing both is asking questions on the Internet that both confirm your shittiness and look to get rid of it by seeking reassurance from strangers. The problem with these versions of yourself is that they're keeping you from seeking big scary things. Things like really, genuinely, open-hearted connection with people. And feeling like you're fulfilling your potential. And feeling - scariest of all - okay with yourself. You can write these selves a letter or smudge sage or record a song or whatever, just acknowledge that you'll be sad to see them go.

Then you're going to find your scared-but-determined self. You're going to open your computer up and find a low cost or sliding scale mental health service. You are going to pick up the phone and say 'I am depressed, I need to see a therapist, and I need to see one now.' Then you're going to go, and hopefully you'll start wanting more for yourself and your short weird time on this planet than the high drama of feeling shitty and the overwhelming need to make it go away.

Okay, I totally lied. You'll still get crushes. But it's amazing what can happen without your I-am-worthless self in the way.
posted by nerdfish at 1:33 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you have five simultaneous crushes, come on, they're not that serious. It's the one, all-consuming big crush that's the scary thing. This can be worked on.

You have to stop fantasizing, use some mental discipline to turn away from people you know you can't have. Put some distance between yourself and people whose existence seems to be only there to taunt you with what you can't have. The worst situation is the work crush on someone you're more or less stuck with seeing, but even then, it's work, you have every excuse to stop indulging and be distant and busy.

Staying physically active and wearing yourself out so you crash instead of lying around fantasizing till you go to sleep is probably beneficial for all kinds of reasons. Do that thing.

Getting older will help you. You will have lower hormones and your urges will fade out over time. Something to look forward to!
posted by zadcat at 4:00 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think your having these horrible crushes probably has a lot to do with your belief that you're unloveable. (I realize these weren't your exact words - I'm extrapolating here from, "nothing going for me;" "not the type of person people have crushes on," etc. etc.) I guess the reality is that if that belief is going to be the underpinning of your love life, you are going to have a very difficult time participating in equal, non-crush, loving relationships. That isn't to say that you don't have access to equal, healthy, loving relationships, but that constellation of beliefs you have about yourself, for as long as you have them, is going to severely get in the way.

As I see it, your options are: 1. Drop everything and start believing that you are worthy of love and precious, which would probably be the short cut because you are. And you will save yourself a lot of heartache just realizing it off the bat. 2. Engage in therapy or some spiritual tradition that can remind you of your inherent goodness and help you out with (1). 3. Swear off crushes and ultimately love, cling onto a set of beliefs about yourself that are false and live a sad and stunted life.
posted by mermily at 5:43 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hello, person whom could have very well been me many years ago. You will look back on these questions at some point in the future (5, 10, 20 years?), and you will marvel at the energy you spent hating yourself. You could be using this energy to effect some sort of change in your life, or in somebody else's life. It's exhausting to loathe yourself so much.

You don't want to develop feelings for other people? I don't seriously recommend closing off your heart in that way. It sounds like a kind of hell, really. I still get crushes on people in my mid-40s, and I recognize them as a different creature from a real romantic relationship. They are one-sided, meaning that the entirety of the energy is contained in your head. The object has only as much power as you deem them to have over you.

And please get some therapy. Volunteer at a community garden, take knitting lessons, hike, walk your neighbor's dog, take up yoga, do something that gets you out of your head.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:53 PM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

Cut off contact (including observation) with anyone you crush on. Get right with yourself. You're a decent person, but nothing's going to feel right until you can look in the mirror and believe that.
posted by ead at 12:07 PM on June 26, 2013

I don't think there's much you can do to stop crushes from ever popping up (they always seem to blindside me when I least expect them), but you might feel less awful about having a crush if you simply acknowledge it without making all kinds of value judgments about yourself (this is presuming that you don't intend to act on a crush, and just want to stop feeling so bad about having it).

I feel your pain, it can be tough even for someone with healthy self-esteem to deal with unrequited crushes. When all those twitterpated feelings take over, it's easy to overlook all the ways in which the object of your crush is a flawed, normal person. And it's easy to feel unworthy and insignificant when you stand next to a fantastical being of your own imagination (and much of those damned hormones).

So how to reframe the way you feel about having crushes? Well, you appreciate certain qualities about someone. There's nothing wrong with that. What kind of person is completely devoid of affectionate feelings for other people? And you've got to realize that these guys you crush on aren't unattainable to you. Well, the ones with girlfriends are certainly off-limits, but that has nothing to do with you. The other guys are your exes! You dated them! So what if they didn't work out. There's nothing wrong with that either. Relationships are more likely to fizzle than not. You're young, you're still learning and growing, and finding the right person is often a matter of luck and timing.

Crushes can be fun (or at least not unpleasant) if you let them be silly little things that add a bit of spice to your life. I think my boss is cute. The only way that would ever happen is if there's an apocalypse and we're the only two people left on Earth. Given a choice, I'd rather not have the crush, and I'm sure my husband would prefer that as well (married people aren't immune to crushes either). But if nothing else, a bit of office eye candy isn't a bad thing! My friends are like, hey we wish we had a hottie for a boss!

All that said, dekathelon, in all your questions, you express such unhappiness and hopelessness for future happiness. Everything seems to feed and reinforce your unhappiness. I don't think your crushes would be nearly so miserable-feeling if you had your depression treated. I know from experience that depression absolutely amplifies all feelings of worthlessness by a magnitude of 1000.
posted by keep it under cover at 1:34 PM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm getting to this late, I don't know if you're still reading. But there's a vagueness to this question (and your other questions) that makes me think you're phrasing them in a particular way to set up a certain answer or type of answer. But your responses to other people's questions are not vague at all. They're clear and to the point and really good and helpful, and show you're pretty smart about human behavior. I haven't read them all, I just skimmed a few to see if maybe the vagueness was your writing style. But it's not--except when what you're writing is about you. I'm not sure what that means but I think it means something.

Okay, on to the actual question. First, I don't think you can prevent yourself from developing crushes. They will eventually go away though. Everyone always says to cut off contact; certainly that sometimes helps, but sometimes it makes no difference, so I wouldn't worry about that too much. What drives crushes (the impossible ones) to a long, slow, painful death, is reality. If those guys with the girlfriends get married to them, and you see the wedding announcement or actually attend the wedding, that will probably do it. And it will hurt. (I share your assessment that crushes are not fun!)

As for the exes, I don't think I'd call those crushes. I think those are more like, you still have feelings for your exes or else for the relationship you had/thought you had. And I find it hard to believe a person can have five crushes at once. Maybe two. But five, that's not really a crush, at least as it's usually defined. Meaning all-consuming crazy tailspins where you can't imagine there will ever be another guy like that, etc. Maybe you're using these guys as a distraction from thinking about something else. I don't know.

I do know you sound fairly miserable. But then, looking quickly at your previous responses, you've had relationships (even if they didn't work out.) You've gone on dates, at least some of them at the guys' instigation (even if you didn't end up liking those guys back.) When you say you've been taken advantage of, I'm guessing you mean guys who knew you liked them slept with you, promising you a relationship but not meaning it? If that's it, that's crap behavior on their part, but none of it adds up to you being undateable or unattractive. It just adds up to the fact that in your 20s (right?) you haven't yet found a till-death-do-you-part relationship. That is very common.

I agree with whoever above who said crushes are good for learning about what you want in a partner. Each new crush, you learn a new characteristic that appeals to you, and sometimes they're not what you would have thought. They can also be about what you want to be yourself. Like maybe if you crush on a very good-looking guy, it's really because you wish you were that good-looking yourself. You sound fairly obsessive (not always a bad thing, I am too) so I would suggest making a list. Really, write out all the guys you have crushed on and why, then figure out what exactly it is about them you admire. Some people are very against the list idea, but you're thinking about this too much anyway, might as well at least learn something from it, like a painful, difficult math class.

In the end I don't think the goal is to not like people, it's more to develop a sense of yourself that's balanced enough so you can like people, as is inevitable, and sometimes get very sad about it, but not have it ruin your life to the degree that seems to be happening to you. It's like those wobbly dolls, that you can hit and they tip over. Everyone gets hit and tips over, but you have to fix the ballast or whatever it is inside that makes you not fall all the way and be unable to get up.
posted by ocksay_uppetpay at 4:55 PM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: (Just a clarification, since several people have asked: When I say "taken advantage of" I don't mean sexual assault, more like guys pretending to reciprocate then saying later they'd just used me because they could. Considering that it is apparently out of the question for them to suffer any consequences ever for this, or to not do this to me, I'm just thinking practically. If I don't get crushes on people they can't do that. But there's the rub.

Other clarification: The vagueness is to make it harder for people to identify me from details.)
posted by dekathelon at 7:28 PM on June 26, 2013

This comment by rumposinc made me think about my crushes in a whole new way, and finally stop beating myself up for hanging onto an old crush long after it became clear that he was unattainable.
posted by ActionPopulated at 9:14 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

When I say "taken advantage of" I don't mean sexual assault, more like guys pretending to reciprocate then saying later they'd just used me because they could.

These guys are awful people, and you did nothing to deserve to be hurt by them. That said, were there perhaps red flags that you could look out for the next time around? It's not possible to keep your heart safe 100% when it comes to matters of romance, and I don't mean you have to resort to The Rules...but there are some pretty universal clues when a guy is a bad pony. Eliminating all crushes forever into the future isn't a healthy goal to work towards, but learning how to recognize a good guy over a bad one is definitely worth striving towards.
posted by keep it under cover at 10:32 AM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your crushes are basically aspirational. Somewhere between a crush and a daydream. You imagine a life with this person, this person who (I'm guessing) you believe has their shit together, either in general or more than you do.

Over time, I've found that in my own life, the amount of daydreaming and general Walter Mittyness I engage in is directly proportional to how dissatisfied or overall unhappy I am with the place my life is in at that time. When I was a teenager and working a shitty dead-end retail job, it got to the point where I was daydreaming not just about escapist things but about having, like, magical powers like being able to fly or have infinite money, and just sort of fantasizing about how my life would be. Maybe that correlation is true for you and maybe it's not, but it leaps out at me as a compelling possibility.

I think you'd find that the crushes would start to be less of an imposing presence in your life if you were able to work towards placing more value on yourself; the general tenor of your questions on this site (and subsequent followups) suggests someone who does not love herself, does not even like herself, and in fact not only hates herself but believes that this hatred is rational, that it is based in fact and fact only. I recognize that I cannot reason you out of this belief, but it is a false belief nevertheless. You're going to have to trust me on this.

At this point you're basically asking how to effect long-term, deep changes in your personality and/or worldview but you're going to rule out therapy so it's hard to know how to proceed, exactly. I will try a different tactic. Before I go on, please be aware that I still think the only real, true solution - the one you're looking for - is in finding a therapist who fits your needs, and that this may take many tries and be a little discouraging, but I recognize that the same negativity and pessimism which needs a therapist to fix will also make it very difficult to convince you to keep at it. So here is what I recommend. Fake it 'til you make it, to coin an overused phrase. Step by step. You can try it or don't, but I've been where you are and I know what I'm talking about.

1. Go to things. Go to parties. If you are not invited to parties, go to meetups. If you do not think going to meetups will work, shut up and go to meetups anyway.

2. When you are at a thing, do more listening than talking. Do not feel like you have to talk to someone if it's not coming naturally to you. Try to always have a drink in your hand - nothing too strong (it should be something with more than one ingredient and the larger ingredient should be non-alcoholic) - and practice the art of attentive listening while taking small sips over a long period of time. It's okay if you come off as quiet. Quiet is good. Smile, though. It's very possible to interact with people without adding tremendously to a group conversation. When someone tells a joke, laugh. In one-on-one interactions, practice the art of asking leading questions - nudge someone in a conversational direction and let them witter on while you listen.

3. While you are listening and hanging out and smiling at a thing, observe the people around you. See how they interact with others. Treat this as a project. See if you can spot charismatic people; people who radiate fun. What seems fun about them? What are they doing that is making them likable? Is it just one thing or is it a general attitude? Take in the whole room; don't stare at individuals.

4. Time to go home! If you had any particular rapport with anyone, exchange email addresses or what have you (rapport in this case is anyone with whom it was easy for you to have a conversation). Don't think about dating. If you find yourself forming a crush, that is okay. Keep it to yourself.

5. On the way home, think about what you saw. Think about the people who seemed fun. The charismatic people. The people who got laughs. Process this information. What did they do that was different from the more wallflowery people? Can you see yourself emulating these behaviors?

6. Sure you can. Try it at home! Talk to a mirror. Talk to a stuffed animal. It's harder without the feedback of other people's energy, but mostly you want to practice so it doesn't sound awkward. Don't try to become that super fun person on your next outing. You will need lots and lots of data before you move ahead with this.

7. Go to more things. Ideally you'll want to have a few things you go to, with different crowds of people. This will help you spot commonalities among those who are well-received.

8. Slowly - very slowly - over time, learn to incorporate into your own behavior those things which seem characteristic of someone who is fun. This will help you make friends.

9. Go to Toastmasters. I hear good things.

10. This is a long-term project. It will take a while. Don't get discouraged by failures. Don't get discouraged by a lack of immediately apparent results. Don't get discouraged by anything.

"Okay," you may now be thinking, "but how the hell will this help me with getting crushes on people?"

The answer is that I believe the crushes are a symptom, not the disease, and that in time you will find yourself having fewer crushes as your quality of life improves and you start making more friends with cool people. If I'm wrong, then I'm wrong, but then you will be a happier person with crushes instead of a sad person with crushes.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:27 AM on July 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

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