Managing a crush that needs to stay a crush
September 25, 2013 9:14 AM   Subscribe

Are you the anxious type who often escapes into the excitement/newness of crushes and find yourself taking things too far? How do you calm yourself and keep yourself from going overboard? What strategies can I use to make sure I keep cool and normal about this?

I have an intense, stupid, consuming crush on a guy (let's call him Jake) who works at a place I visit 1-2x a week for a group meeting. Jake, to keep it vague, takes care of us while our group is meeting. We've been meeting there for a year and during that time, Jake and I have struck up a friendship. I'm often the first to the meeting since I live closest, so Jake and I will chat.

We've shared intimate details with each other, and it's become a close friendship that exists only in the small universe of this meeting room. The crush is fairly mutual. We've spoken once outside the "universe," when Jake went out with my group (and the rest of his co-workers) to a place down the street for drinks. We both got a little tipsy, and admitted we like each other, but also like how safe and innocent our friendship feels. We agreed to not exchange contact information - no phone number, no social media, no mutual friends, and have stuck to this.

For a variety of complicating reasons, this crush needs to stay just as it is. It can't go further. (I don't want to get too detailed here why, but just trust this is true and isn't something I'm saying because I'm nervous about it going further.)

I love the perfect balance we have right now of a no-obligation, very lovely friendship that doesn't extend beyond the walls of our meeting place. However, I have a history of ruining crushes like this. I get anxious or need an escape, and I obsess and end up ruining the vibe by clamming up and getting awkward, or blurting out random professions of love (not quite, but you get the idea). I'm already getting more awkward around him because I have these feelings.

I have a lot of difficult life events going on now, and think about Jake too much because I don't want to think about real life. I want to go to the place on non-group days so we can talk. I find myself wanting to give him my contact information. But I want to keep things exactly as they are, for as long we can. (I realize our arrangement can't last forever.)

So, the question again is: Are you the anxious type who often escapes into the excitement/newness of crushes and find yourself taking things too far? How do you calm yourself and keep yourself from going overboard? What strategies can I use to make sure I keep cool and normal about this?

Notes: I'm in my 30s (not 16, as this would read). I'm in therapy. The group is important to me, so I don't want to stop going.
posted by Laura Macbeth to Human Relations (14 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I had a "friendship" similar to this for several months, except that we saw each other for purely social reasons, not around some structured activity. Platonic, platonic, platonic, wanted to just be friends, and then one day we were watching a movie and our hands accidentally touched and literally like 5 minutes later we were having sex. And then we dated for 2 and a half years.

So, I think you need to out with it. Decide what it is that YOU actually want (and not what "complicated reasons" seem to be dictating) and go from there.

Do you actually, really and truly, want just a friendship and this is just a funny blip? (This happens. It has happened to me.) Maybe try saying, "Jake, this is so silly because I love our friendship just as it is, but I have a silly crush on you right now. Apologies in advance if I act like a huge dork for a while because of it."

But if what is actually going on is that you want to date this person, say, "Jake, I like you and want to be more than friends. I realize that [complicated reasons] and I understand if this might not work, but if you are interested, I'd love to go out on a real date with you sometime."

Figuring out where the crush is coming from and actually confronting it WILL help you get over it.
posted by phunniemee at 9:32 AM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Distraction, distraction, distraction. Make yourself too busy with other good things to think about him.

Also, if you're anything like me, labeling a crush as off-limits makes him so much more attractive. People want what they can't have, in large part because the unattainability means we don't have to worry about any potential downsides. What if you gave yourself permission to really consider whether you should connect with this guy? Get yourself to the brink of "tomorrow at the end of group I'm going to give him my number," and figure out whether this would actually be a good thing or not. Maybe you'll feel more ambivalent when you realize that you truly could ask this guy out. Then he's not in the "can't" or "shouldn't" category, but the "I choose not to" category, which is much more personally empowering to you.
posted by vytae at 9:32 AM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

I love the perfect balance we have right now

No, you don't, because if that were true, you wouldn't feel so strongly tempted to see more of him and expand the relationship.

If you're determined not to act on your desires, in my experience the main options are either a) suffer through your frustration until the crush fades, until the pain outweighs the pleasure and you distance yourself from him, or until you cave in and "ruin" things by expressing yourself/ asking for more/ whatever; or b) finding other outlets for your crushy impulses.
posted by Dixon Ticonderoga at 9:49 AM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Don't arrive early, come just as the meeting begins and zip out of there in a hot hurry.

The contact feeds the crush.

If you have an SO, devote more time to reconnecting with that person, if you don't perhaps you might want to start dating.

Find other people who are appropriate for you to be with and spend time with them.

Jake can't even be called a friend. He's a nice guy at that meeting space. That's it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:53 AM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Usually telling the spouse helps defuse and re-orient the forbidden crush. Also, tap your side every time you feel the crush feeling.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:04 AM on September 25, 2013

Are you the anxious type who often escapes into the excitement/newness of crushes and find yourself taking things too far?
Oh, yes. I have been in this situation more times than I could possibly count. It is miserable.

How do you calm yourself and keep yourself from going overboard?
By removing myself from the situation, literally or metaphorically.

I am taking your complicating factors at face value and presuming that they are quite serious. So I will take care to point out that in similar situations, I have gotten into some incredibly painful and destructive scenarios by doing the same thing that you have been doing, consciously or subconsciously: allowing myself to remain in a world that lets me continue nursing the inappropriate crush while comforting myself by internally protesting that I am doing no such thing, and swearing up and down that I like things just the way they are while quietly keeping my fingers crossed for escalation. Road to hell, good intentions, etc.

What strategies can I use to make sure I keep cool and normal about this?
If you can't bear going no-contact, you will have to minimize. No more skirting the edge, no more riding the fence! There can be no "keep[ing] things exactly as they are" or "stay[ing] just as it is" if you want to be able to extricate yourself from this with everything intact, because any human being's natural tendency is going to be to expand toward rather than contract from anyone to whom they are so attracted -- it will only get worse, not better, if you try to maintain your current state. I know it's fun, and even downright intoxicating, but if your "complicating reasons" have the capacity to be genuinely hurtful or damaging, you are playing with fire and setting yourself up to get burned. (Ask how I found out.)

If you have admitted to and discussed the factors that are preventing the two of you from entering into a romantic relationship, there is no reason for you to tempt fate by continuing to chase that forbidden fruit. If you haven't talked about why you can't pair up, put those cards on the table ASAP. And if you're just avoiding the discussion because you believe you would mess things up via outward expressions of awkwardness and anxiety, just tell him straight up. "Sorry if I'm ever nervous or weird around you, I know we can't date because [reasons], but I think you're awesome and sometimes I can get all deer-in-the-headlights around people I like." It's totally OK, I promise!

If the very first time you went out together without "the group" directly led to you getting tipsy and confessing your feelings for one another, there cannot be a next time until you have this all sorted out. (Again, ask how I found out.) Start showing up later to your meetings so you don't have time to chat one-on-one, stop talking about anything that could be remotely construed as "intimate," and talk about something trivial and impersonal instead: the weather, the performance of your local sporting teams, what you had for lunch, anything that is banal and unattractive. Speak tersely and don't let yourself meander. If someone else comes into the room while you and Jake are talking, immediately invite them into the conversation.

Does Jake have an SO? Do you? If so, tell your respective SOs about the crush, and talk about your SOs to each other. If you're already talking about them, talk about them more. As long as you're both feeling attracted and tempted, don't let yourselves have another conversation that does not involve one or both of you at least mentioning your respective SO, or even expounding upon their virtues. I know it will make you flinch, but that's the point. Defuse and defang. If neither of you has an SO, don't talk about anything related to romance at all because you will just start comparing yourselves to the other's dating prospects ("but he's obviously not worthy of her," "but I'm totally cuter than she is," etc.).

Believe me, things can escalate incredibly quickly and get very out of hand if one of you trips up. We are all terribly/beautifully fallible humans and prone to lapses in right-mindedness to one degree or another, but a breakdown in propriety will become increasingly likely if you continue to let yourselves blur the lines between what is OK and what is not. If it is really important for you to remain involved in this group, you will need to take charge, act fast, and cut your interactions with Jake down to the barest and most detached quick before you find yourself lapsing into fuzzy judgment and then lying, guilt-tripping, and backtracking in an attempt to justify winding up there in the first place.

You had the presence of mind to bring it to AskMe, so I know you have the strength to pull back, reel things in with Jake, and continue to enjoy your little group universe, blessedly free of anxiety-provoking and possibly ruinous crushtimes. Good luck!
posted by divined by radio at 10:54 AM on September 25, 2013 [7 favorites]

Keep in mind that the impossibility of a romantic relationship with him does not mean you can't enjoy him and have him occupy an important space in your life. You don't even have to try and stifle the butterflies-in-stomach, fiery crushy feelings you're having.

What you DO have to do is recite a mantra to yourself--in my case it was 'This person is not my girlfriend. This person is not my girlfriend. This person is not my girlfriend.' And avoid all-or-nothing thinking like 'If we can't be together I can't bear to just be his friend.' It's just not true.

I say this as someone who has recently learned how to be friends with women I am really, really attracted to. You can still have the great benefit of having Jake be a part of your life, and it doesn't hurt anybody if you always burn a little torch for him secretly in your heart. Just keep your perspective intact and think before you act. AND it helps a LOT to date other people in the meantime to remind yourself that there are a lot more than just one person who could make you happy.
posted by TheRedArmy at 11:04 AM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think the key, assuming you are single and that an existing relationship isn't one of the "complications" you mention, is going out there and meeting and dating other people. It doesn't totally dull the sparkly crush feelings, but it helps them feel less desperate and it gives you something else to think about.
posted by misskaz at 11:14 AM on September 25, 2013

I have managed to maintain platonic friendships with people I have a crush on, even to the point that the crush completely fades (which for me can take many months). It helps if either of you are in a relationship, because that's a very good reason not to pursue anything. It's hard, but I think the main two tricks I use are:

1) Not take myself or the feelings too seriously or load it with a bunch of value judgments. Laugh and roll my eyes at myself, like "hear I go again, silly brain"

2) Treat it like any bad mental habit. Notice when my thoughts start heading that direction (gosh they look cute today. and they're so funny and smart and..) and try to redirect them. If you've ever dealt with other bad habits, like nail-biting or negative self-talk, it's about the same. First you have to learn to notice when your thoughts start heading that way. Then figure out something else to think about.
posted by Gravel at 11:21 AM on September 25, 2013

Maybe I've got an active imagination, but I'm reading that he's a professional in some capacity and this is group-therapy related. In which case this is a HUGE no-no. Whatever the boundary is, it exists for a good reason and it is for your benefit, not a parent putting a piece of candy away just because. So meditate on why it is beneficial for you as a human entity to not engage here, and you will find that habit growing stronger.

I have a lot of difficult life events going on now, and think about Jake too much because I don't want to think about real life.

Find other ways to distract yourself (hobbies? knitting? swimming?) or just sit down and think about real life, bit by bit, rather than escaping from it. Develop the desire to face your challenges with strength and wisdom, rather than retreat into the quick and easy. Nurture other friendships. Remember that "Jake" is not the source of joy and fulfillment; he's just some dude. Next time you see him, try to look up his nose. I bet it is hairy and crusty. I promise you there is no magical pill that "Jake" has that suddenly makes life wondrous and fun. That's how I would do it.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:14 PM on September 25, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you. This is all incredibly helpful advice, and helping me clarify my feelings and intentions here. I love Ask Metafilter for this!

Clarifications on a few things:

This is not a therapy group. It's a volunteer/non-profit group that Jake has no involvement in. He just works at the place we meet (it's a restaurant-type place).

It's a good point that I don't about want things to stay the same since I'm having these feelings. A better way to phrase it is that I know it would be best for us to stay as we are or lessen the involvement. I want more, but I don't want to act on it.

Thanks again, and please feel free to keep offering advice.
posted by Laura Macbeth at 12:38 PM on September 25, 2013

I see that last year you were married. If this is still the case, I would suggest talking to your husband about it. If you're reluctant to do so, this signals to me that you should be avoiding this guy you have a crush on. This is how affairs often start, with the best of intentions. The group is important to you, yes - is your marriage? This might be a sign that you are unhappy with your marriage, whether or not you're consciously aware of it.

If you are no longer married, my condolences, and I'd suggest dating other guys to distract from this one, if dating this guy is totally unthinkable for other reasons.
posted by randomnity at 2:02 PM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

For a variety of complicating reasons, this crush needs to stay just as it is.

Whenever someone cites some version of "It's complicated," my hinky-meter starts red-lining. It almost always indicates something unethical is afoot, and the complication is simply the clash between what you know to be the right thing to do (your sense of ethics) vs. what you want to do in the moment (your impulse).

If there is any wee slim chance that this crush would be hurtful to a significant other (either yours or Jake's), the way to uncomplicate things is to headcheck yourself, and find a way to act congruently with your beliefs and ethics. To do otherwise is to create angst, anxiety, and distracting drama that will keep you from The Good Life.

Here's a bucket of ice water to dump over your head: Imagine clearly that Jake pulls you aside at your next meeting and says, "I've found a serious partner, and I'm going to have to cut you off entirely out of respect for my new love." Or: "I've renewed my love for my current SO, and I'm going to have to cut you off completely. Sorry. My bad."

(I use this trick on myself when I start to sprout inappropriate crushes. It's harsh but effective.)
posted by nacho fries at 3:00 PM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sometimes, I've found it helpful to imagine the object taking a massive, straining crap.
posted by klangklangston at 8:28 PM on September 25, 2013

« Older stupid sensitive skin   |   Help me entertain him ... senior stroke version Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.