If only they made Crush Begone
June 19, 2014 9:58 AM   Subscribe

I have a longstanding (10+ years) crush on someone I do not want to have a crush on. How do I go about eradicating it, when going no-contact is not an option?

Assume for the purposes of this question that Person X is someone I see frequently, and that I cannot stop seeing them without significantly overhauling the rest of my life (trust me on this one—I’m not making excuses to stick around). I do avoid them to the best of my abilities, but sometimes this is not possible without seeming bizarre to other people in my life.

Person X seems to have colonized my brain to the point where I dream about them several times a week. The crush follows me everywhere—no matter what I’m doing, if I have even the quickest thought of “Person X!” my whole system is flooded with crazy-making chemicals. It is a conscious struggle to notice when I’m thinking about them and to stop. For many years I indulged my thoughts about Person X because they seemed harmless, but have been working diligently for months now to quit this mental habit. I’ll make what seems like progress, then will see them and bam—am right back to where I started.

Part of the problem may be that Person X appears to return my feelings in a very safe, “fun,” “this is never going to go anywhere” fashion. I have always craved approval from others but have rarely gotten it, and so when I believe that someone finds me interesting it’s like catnip.

At the same time, I’ve lately found the crush to be more of a source of unhappiness than anything. I frequently feel embarrassed and inhibited around Person X, like I’m not living up to expectations, and this seems like an unhealthy way to be. It’s like a phase I need to grow out of, like it’s limiting my development as a person. It’s tiring to have to constantly monitor my actions to discern whether I’m doing something because I want to or because I’m hoping to impress Person X. I also find myself jealous of other people that Person X seems to really like.

If I could flip a switch and make it stop, I would do so without hesitation.

Both Person X and I are happily married. In my case, at least, I must emphasize that I am very, very, very happily married. There is no chance in this or any realm of existence that I would cheat on my spouse with Person X.

I've also gone through varying levels of personal happiness/unhappiness over the last ten years, which seem to have little impact on how fixated I am on Person X.

Person X and I are rarely alone together, and when we are, all interactions are very surface level. It’s not like we spend long hours deep in conversation. I have never been much of a flirter anyway, but I actively work to keep my interactions with Person X bland and non-flirty. At the same time, I guess I must be picking up on microexpressions of affection from Person X, or else my brain is inventing them.

I am not physically attracted to Person X, making this all the weirder.

How can I make it all go away?
posted by Sockrates to Human Relations (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
What if you were to tell your spouse about it? A little sunshine is the best disinfectant.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:02 AM on June 19, 2014 [11 favorites]

Yeah, I was going to say that part of the thrill may be the secrecy aspect.
posted by desjardins at 10:06 AM on June 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

I agree with telling your spouse. You really should tell your spouse, because that will significantly reduce the likelihood of something "impossible" happening later.

You might just let your spouse read this thread, which would be pretty embarrassing, but if you guys are old marrieds your spouse can probably handle it. It will make it very clear that this is something messed up in your head that you'd like to fix, not indulge.

Don't change your behavior around X, don't go out of your way to avoid X, continue treating X with civil courtesy but do not deliberately seek approval from X any more, and every time you find yourself thinking about X, reframe what you're doing as feeding the obsession, and try to turn your thoughts elsewhere.

Accept that you're not going to cure 10 years of habit in a week or a month. You'll have to work at this for a long time. You may never fix it entirely, but if you stop feeding your obsession, it will get smaller. Good luck.
posted by mattu at 10:23 AM on June 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is it possible that you simply get along well with this person? Reading your description I get the nagging sense that it's your interpretation of the friendship that is causing the stress, rather than typically crush-y tendencies like wanting to have sex with them, divorce, etc. Have you ever had good, platonic friendships with people of Person X's gender? Could you be manifesting the "men & women" speech from "When Harry Met Sally?"
posted by rhizome at 10:42 AM on June 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

I really, really sympathize. It's tough, because having someone who wants to flirt just a tiny bit with you, who will give you approval-cookies and cuteness points, this is a very fun person to be around - especially because you and X are obviously otherwise engaged and will never have a relationship, thus X is clearly not trying to get anything (eg into your pants) by being nice to you, right? and it's all harmless fun, right? Telling your spouse may not be very helpful; most likely spouse already knows, flirt-buddy relationships like this are pretty obvious. But maybe the embarrassment of spelling it out to them would squash down some of your "yay this is fun" feedback response.

Hanging around X's spouse could be very helpful, to make you more aware of all the little human irritating annoying things that X does (i.e. make X less perfect, devalue their opinion), as well as more aware of the high-quality relationship between X and spouse (so much more than the piddly little flirting between you and X, to put into perspective how much attention X is (not) paying you). The goal here is to put less importance on X's presence in the room. (note, this only really works if you're genuinely friends with the spouse and their relationship is strong, otherwise you're taking X's side when spouse is put out with them, and you start gleefully watching their relationship crumble, this is no good.)
posted by aimedwander at 11:01 AM on June 19, 2014

I have always craved approval from others but have rarely gotten it, and so when I believe that someone finds me interesting it’s like catnip. At the same time, I’ve lately found the crush to be more of a source of unhappiness than anything. I frequently feel embarrassed and inhibited around Person X, ... It’s tiring to have to constantly monitor my actions to discern whether I’m doing something because I want to or because I’m hoping to impress Person X.

Cognitive therapy has a handy trick: you act the way you want to feel. If you don't want to feel a certain way, you act the opposite. It works a lot better than simple repression, as a hack for diminishing unwanted feelings.

So you'll want to act the opposite of what might impress Person X. Make your conversations with X very, very dull. All those parts of your persona you think Person X might not approve? Let them come out to play, or at least stick their noses into the sunshine.

This may have two added benefits: (a) making you feel more grounded in yourself (as you accept and inhabit your stigmatized bits), and (b) giving you practical reason to scrutinize flaws in X's opinions (e.g. presumably Person X is anti-murder and hopefully you're not willing to kill for Crush-Begone, so you'll have to find other, less valid or at least more trivial forms of disapproval to reject).

Even if X's standards are identical to yours, you can still find things you wouldn't want Person X to see you doing (picking your nose! failing to recycle! eating peanut butter out of the jar!), and then work to revel in your devilry -- be it alone, in the company of others, and/or of Person X. Good luck, and enjoy!
posted by feral_goldfish at 11:17 AM on June 19, 2014 [5 favorites]

When we obsess, we don't want to think about something else. So I'd focus on thinking about stuff you don't want to think about.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:21 AM on June 19, 2014 [6 favorites]

You need to start making fun of yourself and this crush instantly. Tell your spouce, "you know, I don't know what it is, but when I see X, I turn into a fourteen-year old idiot."

I'd even tell the crush, "Pat, you know how much I love my spouse and I know how much you love yours, but I totally have a crush on you. I sure wish we knew each other in the seventh-grade, you know?"

I have cajolled myself out of inappropriate crushes this way many times (I have a thing for gay men.)

When I was single I'd do it up big, present a big bouquet of flowers, and say, "I know, you don't do girls, but MAN, I think you're dreamy." Then we'd both laugh and get drinks and look at boys together.

Your crush isn't serious unless you let it be. The sooner you make fun of it, and diminish it and expose it for the silly thing that it is, the happier and more peaceful you'll feel.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:22 AM on June 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh! Be sure to lavish your spouse with the attention you'd lavish on your crush if you only could. Cook special meals, get that bouquet of flowers, write mushy love notes, redirecting that silly energy to the actual object of your affections can't hurt ANYTHING!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:23 AM on June 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

Telling your spouse could work, depending on the style of your relationship. I would *not* tell the object of your affections. At best, it could be very unwanted and awkward. At worst, that is exactly how I've seen affairs start: "Isn't it funny how I have such a huge crush on you! And how you have a huge crush on me! It's especially because we would never do anything about it in a million years! Ha ha ha...." I know you feel certain about your commitment to your marriage now, but part of protecting your relationship is avoiding acts of hubris, and regardless of your intentions, telling your crush moves it to the next level.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 12:18 PM on June 19, 2014 [6 favorites]

Have a sit down with yourself and a journal. Free write why this person is appealing to you. And then look at the list. I have crushes on people who have qualities that I wish I had. Once I figure out how to be more spontaneous or travel more or, whatever, the crush is no longer needed. Basically, the crush is a tool to use for personal growth.

It could also be that you are very stressed out in your current life and you need the fantasy as an escape. We all need that sometimes, but, it would be easier if your fantasy was someone who wasn't in your life. Could you transfer your feelings to Clive Owen, maybe? He's super hot and you are unlikely to meet him.

And I do agree with the others, unless your husband is jealous or insecure, you may want to share your struggle with him. He may be able to help you.
posted by myselfasme at 12:37 PM on June 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

Part of the problem may be that Person X appears to return my feelings in a very safe, “fun,” “this is never going to go anywhere” fashion. I have always craved approval from others but have rarely gotten it, and so when I believe that someone finds me interesting it’s like catnip.

In some sense, I think that is kind of disrespectful and assholish. Perhaps thinking that through a bit will help.

When I worked at BigCo, I had a coworker, an older married white woman, who would be all buddy-buddy schmoozy with young men of color. These young men ate it up. This baffled me because, to me, she clearly thought they were extremely safe not just because she was faithfully married but because she clearly felt that she would never ever sleep with a man of color or a man much, much younger than she was. She was basically insulting them as "not really a man" and also using them to meet her own twisted emotional needs. I felt it was pretty sick stuff and I just could not fathom how this very racist, insulting behavior was treated by these young men like A Good Thing.

Men who are kinda, sorta nice to me but clearly view me as "safe" are men who are basically insulting me as someone they don't take seriously. For me, that is a huge, huge turn off and really kills my buzz. They are saying they neither genuinely care about me as a friend nor find me truly lovable as a real woman. I am just a cute plaything and they are not hesitating to toy with me. I find that icky and objectionable.

So maybe that framing of it will help cool your jets. Especially since, after ten years, Person X likely knows that toying with you in that way is like catnip for you. It is like offering just one drink to a known alcoholic who is trying to stay on the wagon. It's really, really ugly in some sense. And all for personal gain, at your expense.
posted by Michele in California at 5:32 PM on June 19, 2014 [6 favorites]

Maybe the fact that you don’t spend much time interacting with this person outside of superficialities actually is contributing to your nursing the crush. All you know is the surface stuff, the good impressive stuff. Could you attempt to discover deeper or less pleasant things about this person?

The lack of physical attraction makes me think there must be a lot of mental or intellectual attraction to make up for it- that this is a kind of mentor scenario. Like an older cool teacher type that you really admire. Could you find someone else who is just as intellectually stimulating who you don’t have a crush on, to fill that need?

The fact that this person encourages this flirtation or crush to some extent makes me think they’re kind of a baddish person. It makes me frown and think that they’re being a bit selfish. Could you talk yourself into realizing that what they’re doing is actually quite unkind to you?

In general, becoming very busy, picking up a new hobby, or meeting new people has helped me overcome crushes in the past. Trying to get yourself to stop thinking about something doesn’t work without replacing that thought with thoughts of something else.

Being inhibited and embarrassed and sycophantic around this person is a sign that they are not good for you. Crush or no crush. That’s not what real healthy relationships between equals look like. Remind yourself of that.
posted by quincunx at 9:59 PM on June 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

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