Help me crush this crush!
December 25, 2013 11:32 PM   Subscribe

I'm married, with a kid. I work in the service industry. I have a powerful, consuming crush on my boss, who is also in a serious relationship. I used to be his boss, and we have a very friendly and candid relationship. I really, really need to not feel this way anymore. If I try to back off and go professional, he always asks what is wrong and it sucks me right back in. How do I make it stop?
posted by hopemeplease to Human Relations (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You have a 'work spouse'. Lots of people do. Perfectly normal. Don't feel guilty about it. Just don't act on it. Some people will talk about it with their SO's, but I don't know enough about your relationship with your husband to be able to tell you if that's an option for you. I expect that it's consuming because you feel bad about it, so you think about it a lot. Maybe it'll get easier if you realize that like millions of people go through this and it doesn't wreck their marriages. Just recognize that you've got the feeling and, you know, be professional, and try to leave it at work.
posted by empath at 12:06 AM on December 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

Is part of your crush wishing you weren't married and wishing you could be involved with this guy?
posted by discopolo at 12:52 AM on December 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

I gave this a lot of thought. My answer?

Find a new job.

In the meantime, keep it professional.

You have free will. You have agency. Are you really going to let this bullshit topple your family??

If your energy is on getting new employment, you'll have no energy left for this potentially life destroying drama.

Make a simple choice and take concrete action. Stop acting like you're some sort of victim or heroine in a bad romance novel. That look is utterly beneath you as a mother and wife.

Walk away. Walk away. Walk away.

The story that you can't find a better job is TOTAL fiction.

Walk away into a better job situation.
posted by jbenben at 12:58 AM on December 26, 2013 [30 favorites]

Talk to your husband if you can. Let him know you're also willing to find another job because of this.

You don't owe your boss a friendship. Keeping it strictly business might not be easy, but there's way less potential for guilt. There are plenty of valid reasons not to want to get too friendly with one's boss, crush aside.
posted by luckynerd at 1:23 AM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

i'm not sure it's possible to control your feelings but you can control your behavior. i think what you were doing by backing off and going professional sounds good. if he asks what's wrong just say something like "i'm just trying to focus on work". he'll get over it in time. absolutely don't ever tell him you have the hots for him. i do think telling your husband is a good idea. if you must, get a new job. do what you need to for your marriage.
posted by wildflower at 1:52 AM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

My thoughts also were to get a new job. When I was married, I had frequent work crushes but they were never distracting to this degree. (I'm a serial crusher who never does anything about it because I don't actually want relationships -- are you fantasizing about an actual relationship with this guy?

If a new job is extreme for your circumstances, change your shift. If it's just a silly squee-he's-cute kind of crush, it should fade with distance. If it's the kind of crush where there's some reciprocation and you've fantasized about the practicalities of being together, then you should probably seek marriage counseling with your husband.
posted by mibo at 4:12 AM on December 26, 2013

absolutely don't ever tell him you have the hots for him This is the most important and immediate advice you need.
posted by InkaLomax at 4:39 AM on December 26, 2013 [19 favorites]

Best answer: You like your job and want to stay there. You were the boss but are now the subordinate. That puts you in a bind, which, in fairness to your yourself, your family, your boss and his S.O., you must find a way out of.

First, try a bit of behavioral conditioning. Put a thin (non-latex) rubber band loosely around your wrist. Whenever you feel the crush, give the band a light snap. Not enough to hurt, but enough to notice. Very soon, you will associate the crush feeling with something you want to avoid.

A short course of cognitive-behavioral therapy will also help. It's specifically designed to help you break out of emotional and thinking patterns that are causing trouble.
posted by KRS at 5:44 AM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Intellectually you know what you have to do. You have to get out of there. Also, you might want to examine why you have an unhealthy fixation on someone you work with. Is there something missing from your marriage?

While I can appreciate physical beauty in other people, it never occurs to me to crush on anyone because I'm head over heels in love with my husband.

If the thought of how destructive these feelings are to your spouse and family isn't cooling your ardor, there is something bigger going on here.

Crushes are escapism run rampant. They almost NEVER represent the object of affection as a real, live person. They're always about an idealized partner. A person who doesn't fart, leave empty yogurt cartons on the coffee table or is grumpy in the morning.

Perhaps you can start to see the flaws in this person. Perhaps you can start showering your spouse with affection, tell him/her everyday something you appreciate about him/her. The cognitive dissonance should have you reframing your appreciation for your spouse, and the added focus will help you see that you're hooked up with a great person and that the trifling inclination you feel for your boss is what it is, just a stupid thing that will never, ever happen.

Also, I reiterate, find a new job, why tempt yourself?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:55 AM on December 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

If I try to back off and go professional, he always asks what is wrong and it sucks me right back in. How do I make it stop?

Tell him to knock it off and keep it professional. You are not a weak willed damsel in thrall to his magical powers. You keep getting sucked back in because you want to be sucked back in, on some level. That's fine and natural, just recognize your own agency here and work to overcome it.

Start small, say stop going by his deck in the morning or sending him an a morning email, whatever. Build from there.

Good luck!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:13 AM on December 26, 2013 [8 favorites]

Tell your husband. Tell him and the power of this crush will go away. It's the secret that's powerful.

Say nothing to your crush about it. Remain friendly but never mention your feelings to him. If your spouse knows and your crush doesn't, that's the way out. The other way around is nothing but danger. I know this from experience.
posted by missjenny at 6:39 AM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

And when you tell your husband, you don't have to make it a big dramatic deal. You can be kind of dismissive about it, like "it's the stupidest thing, but..." If all goes well, you can get to the point where it becomes a joke between you and your husband about your "work boyfriend." And an inside joke between the two of you is powerful glue.
posted by missjenny at 6:43 AM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Tell your husband. Tell him and the power of this crush will go away. It's the secret that's powerful.

This is not a Lifetime special - telling your husband is a road fraught with peril. Do you know how he will act, how it will make him feel?

Don't plan around an unknown - focus on finding a new job.
posted by Kruger5 at 7:08 AM on December 26, 2013 [13 favorites]

First thing I did to get over a debilitating crush on a coworker, was to tell my husband it was happening. The thing to emphasize when telling is that nothing has happened, and you don't want anything to happen, and you hate feeling this way and want it to stop.

Second thing I did was to get on an anti-depressant (Wellbutrin.) I had a hunch that my frequent crushes were in part, my brain's way of getting a fix of dopamine. Not to mention that I struggled with depression off and on for years. I feel like this helped me, YMMV of course.

Third, I finally opened up to my husband about some things that had been bothering me about our marriage for some time. I had been keeping many things bottled up, and as a result I had some festering resentments that caused me to be unhappy in the relationship. For me it was crucial to get these things out in the open, and to insist that he needed to address them.

Fourth, we made it a priority to start doing new, different and fun things together. We tried new restaurants, went to see some plays, went bowling, etc. It gave us things to talk about, to be excited about together, and enjoy each other's company more.

Fifth, I stopped flirting with the crushee and minimized contact with them at work. I also did not allow myself to dwell on fantasies, or to listen to songs that made me think of them, or to indulge my crush feelings in any way. I also prayed about it, and had a candle-burning ritual done to help encourage closure on a spiritual/emotional level.

This all helped immensely, over a period of weeks, to wind the crush down to a level where it was fairly easily brushed off whenever the thoughts/feelings/fantasies tried to reinsert themselves into the forefront of my mind.

I wound up leaving the job later that same year for unrelated reasons, and not being in contact with the person was the final nail in the coffin of the crush from hell. I'm not sure if it would have completely burnt out or not if we had continued working together indefinitely. I also should mention that this was not someone I worked directly with... it was not hard to avoid them at work for the most part. I think if they had been my boss or someone I had to work with on a daily basis it would have been much harder to get over the crush while remaining in the workplace.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 7:33 AM on December 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

I would take a long hard look at what you perceive is missing from your life that makes a crush on your boss so fulfilling. I think the crush itself is a red herring and no amount of moving to a new job is going to answer the question of what you need to feel whole again in your marriage.

I had a similar situation with an old flame from college that I saw at my reunion. I started crushing on him hard and it was only once I hashed it out with my therapist that I was really able to identify why I was crushing on the guy and what was missing from my life to make him all of a sudden so attractive.
posted by tafetta, darling! at 7:41 AM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, let me say that I do agree with Kruger5... if you think it will not go over well with your spouse due to their particular personality, then don't tell them. There certainly isn't any kind of moral obligation to tell, I mainly suggest it because removing the secrecy helps to take some of the drama out of it and can have the effect of almost instantly minimizing the crush in your mind and feelings. But it is not a strictly necessary part of the process of getting over it by any means.

If you can't/won't tell your spouse, you can still go through the other steps I and others have suggested. However in your case I would seriously consider leaving the job as a early resort rather than a last one.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 7:43 AM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Speaking as someone who has been through this: You can't make it stop. It will keep getting worse the longer you work there. You need to get a new job and get out of this situation ASAP. And never, ever tell your boss, your husband, or anyone else how you feel except maybe a therapist with a professional duty to keep it secret.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:54 AM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is manageable. I've done it quite successfully with the following guidelines.

1. Remember that this is a crush.
A crush is a fiction based on an idealized version of a person.
A crush image possesses attributes that represent things that are missing from your life.

2. Separate the fictional person from the real person. Crush away on the fictional version, but make it a different entity from the real guy sitting there who is NOT this happy ideal flexing at you in your mind.

3. Mention spouses and children in conversation. Often.

4. For a dash of cold water, try to imagine how you two would ever end up together. Spouse dying? Pain of divorce, pain for spouses and children and families? That's HORRIBLE! You don't want that to happen to all those nice people!

5. Remember the bit about how a crush manifests things that you feel are missing from your life? Examine this crush image. What about the crush image is really strong and attractive for you? Is that an element that you can find again with your spouse? We tend to start taking long-term peoples for granted, and a crush situation can actually be really handy for taking a fresh look at them and finding all that good stuff again.

6. Keep calm, stay out of temptation situations. You can totally be a good friend and work spouse, but no drinking alone together et al.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 8:00 AM on December 26, 2013 [21 favorites]

If I try to back off and go professional, he always asks what is wrong and it sucks me right back in. How do I make it stop?

Ugh I had this. Solution: ICE HIM OUT. He asks you what's wrong and you give him a correct and superficial answer. He digs deeper? Keep the boundaries. You owe him no answers. He's a coworker, not a friend. If he persists then he's stupid, which should kill the crush even more. He sucks you back in because you need the attention, so get attention from your spouse or your real friends.

And yes look for different work. Did I hear you correctly that you work in retail? Those jobs are plentiful.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:10 AM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

L'Estrange Fruit speaks le truth. I wish I'd seen that reply a few months ago. The crush is NOT reality. But it can very quickly supplant reality. You cannot let that happen.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 10:49 AM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Why is this so difficult? You are married, you are unavailable. Simple. YOU are giving yourself permission to fantasise and think about him as à possibility. Don't fool yourself, you know exactly what you are doing. We like to think we don't but the choice is simple. When you married you decided that your husband is the man for you. The world is full of people you can have a crush on but it is up to you to do the right thing.
posted by ladoo at 8:15 PM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nthing get a new job ASAP.

@Jacqueline is right: "And never, ever tell your boss, your husband, or anyone else how you feel except maybe a therapist with a professional duty to keep it secret." Amen!

If I were your husband, I would absolutely NOT want to know that you have the hots for someone you work with. (We're human, I'll assume we all will feel this at some point, but the kind thing is usually not to mention it unless there is some super compelling reason, like you need your spouse's help to keep from cheating on them, or something? Yeah, not a good reason.) Tell me if you cheated because that affects my actual health, but for heaven's sake I don't need to know how you fantasize lovingly about your boss. Your thoughts are your own business. Let's not overshare.
posted by hush at 1:31 AM on December 27, 2013

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