Getting Rid of a Crush
January 6, 2019 12:40 PM   Subscribe

I have had a crush on a married colleague for about two months now. I’m normally good at diffusing crushes. I think it’s gone during the weekend and then I see him and I’m a high school girl all over again. So far (from his perspective), I’ve clearly tried to avoid any non professional or friendly interaction with him, even though he is really friendly to everyone and best friends with my boss. He must think I hate him a little and must mildly sense how nervous I get around him.

He’s tried to become even more familiar and called me for no real reason at all (nothing work related). Pure friendliness I think. The last time we talked, he made a seemingly sexual innuendo, although it was very likely an innocent mistake.

I want out of this crush. I’m typically really good at diffusing crushes but it isn’t working this time (I internet stalked him and things that normally turn me off aren’t working for this one). What are things I can say, when I’m next forced to talk to him for work, that will turn me off and stop me from thinking of him as a smart, interesting, nice and attractive man? I’m already thinking of his wife and kids, so no points needed in this area. Maybe I should pretend to be an airhead? A horrible person? So that we don’t banter (not that this happens regularly at all).
posted by kinoeye to Human Relations (26 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
He can probably sense it. It would be better to actively shut it down as opposed to simple avoidance. You can't avoid him all of the time. Be actively negative.
posted by domo at 12:49 PM on January 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

I strongly suspect it was not "an innocent mistake" for him to make a sexual innuendo. That's not something an adult man is going to "oops" like he's a 2-year-old. I think the dude is also interested in you right back, which makes this worse since he's a coworker you can't avoid and besties with your boss.

He may be a smart, nice, interesting, attractive man, but he's also sleazy enough to want to cheat on his wife and kids with you, a coworker, which is frequently a situation that shoots people in the foot, careerwise. So that's a jerky thing for you to focus on right there.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:58 PM on January 6, 2019 [48 favorites]

The last time we talked, he made a seemingly sexual innuendo

He's married and what he said above when you have full knowledge of his marriage and kids *doesn't* turn you off is the issue you could focus on here. As they say, behind every smart, interesting, nice and attractive person is someone who is sick of dealing with their shit.

Do NOT engage. He very likely knows he has that effect on you and is enjoying and exploiting it most likely. Any person who flirts with the line and boundaries when they're committed doesn't seem like a good person to me. Please work on yourself.
posted by lunastellasol at 12:59 PM on January 6, 2019 [16 favorites]

No need to pretend to be a horrible person. When the two of you talk, resist the urge to respond with the first enthusiastic or flirtatious thing that comes to mind. Instead walk it back about halfway. Make it your goal that every conversation, exchange, etc. is about half as intense/flirtatious/charged with feeling as you want it to be.

Ask yourself before responding to his call or text or email, how would I reply to this if I was a 50 year old straight man who works with this guy? Would I answer right away, make a joke, and ask about his weekend or evening? Or would I answer tomorrow morning when I am back at my desk, in a matter of fact tone, without asking about how he spent personal time?

"He’s tried to become even more familiar and called me for no real reason at all (nothing work related). Pure friendliness I think. The last time we talked, he made a seemingly sexual innuendo"

He knows you have a crush and is enjoying the ego boost of talking to you even if he doesn't have plans to have an affair (who knows!). If you notice this again you need to acknowledge it directly and ask him to stop. You can say something gentle like, "I really appreciate your friendliness, but I got a flirtatious vibe from you [the other day/when we were discussing X work project/whatever]. Perhaps I misunderstood you but just in case I didn't, I wanted to let you to know that I'm not interested in flirting with a married man. Let's stay focused on work topics and keep things professional going forward."

Keep communication via your work email/phone and don't respond to him calling or texting you outside of work hours. If he keeps contacting you on your personal cell phone, reply by sending a work email back. Hopefully he has the sense to not flirt with you on the work email server.
posted by zdravo at 12:59 PM on January 6, 2019 [13 favorites]

The best thing to diffuse a crush on a married man is the idea that he might be enough of a piece of shit to reciprocate. And he is giving you that gift. I'm not saying to think of his wife and kids, but just think about, oh on some beautiful day if the impossible happened and you were together, the next day he'd be making eyes at someone else at the office and moving on. He sounds like a handsome, charming asshole.
posted by bleep at 1:12 PM on January 6, 2019 [9 favorites]

Find a new crush. I know -- it's not so easy. Crushes are random and strike with no rhyme or reason.

Find a new person to lust after. Go on a date. If you have a significant other focus on that person, and your commitment, and try to deepen and spice up on that relationship. It doesn't seem that simple when you are in the throes of a crush but your mind can switch to focusing on your real-life boyfriend or date and it can be fun.

Crushes can be exciting but ultimately they are a distraction from reality. I find that I have two desires when I have a crush: 1. I want my crush to find me irresistible . 2. I want my crush and I to be overwhelmed by passion and desire. I've been married for 20 years. Maybe I am craving these things. Or, maybe it's a normal human feeling. Maybe ask what you are really craving and try to get that with an available person or sit with that feeling without having to act or internet stalk or whatever.

In my case, I have heard that in midlife (age 46) there is an estrogen surge and at this time there is a high desire to beautify yourself, attract others, and have sex. It doesn't matter how old you are crushes happen out of the blue. It's a mixture of mind and biology.

Picture how it would play out if you did get with your crush and how unrealistic or damaging it would be to your life, his life, your job, etc. I imagine stuff like leaving my husband and family for some guy I really don't know. I imagine not having Christmas or birthdays or family get-togethers with my husband but some other guy. How unrealistic and implausible it would be to tell my family and friends I'm leaving my husband for Mr. So and So. How unrealistic and implausible it would be for Mr. So and So to bust his career and relationship up to be with me. How silly it all is. And that's okay. Know that's it's silly and unrealistic. It will eventually fade.
posted by loveandhappiness at 1:17 PM on January 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

I once had a work crush nipped firmly in the bud when my crushee got frustrated with me and handled it in a way that I did not like AT ALL. Had another crush (not work) end quickly when I looked him up on FB and saw that he had posted an image that was derogatory to women. I manage a current crush by just limiting my interaction with the person in question, but it's much harder.

Distance makes crushes more manageable, but in my experience it's the stuff you find out up close that makes you think "Eh, never mind." Bad grammar, unsavory jokes, stinky farts, crappy moods.

Another one is not just thinking about his family but talking about them - ask how his wife and kids are, etc. His wife's promotion to assistant head of accounting and kid's whooping cough are just not flirty talk.

Telling a trusted friend (not someone at work) is helpful, IMO. And it helps to remember what will actually happen if the crush plays out - he'll sleep with you and who knows, *maybe* he'll be a thoughtful lover but there's a decent chance he won't be. Then he goes home to his family and you're alone. If anyone finds out what happens you look like the homewrecking villain to your coworkers and the community. That's just the "selfish" POV - sometimes it helps to think about the possible ramifications for his kids etc.

Last but not least - finding someone to date - and cuddle with, etc. It's really hard out there but that just means you have to try hard. Feel free to memail me, I give myself frequent pep talks on this subject.
posted by bunderful at 1:24 PM on January 6, 2019 [10 favorites]

I'm gonna buck the trend of dragging this guy through the dirt and suggest instead that he's a human just like you are. If he's like me, maybe he is trying extra hard because ehe senses something but sees a blockage in the casual relationship and is working to fix that. I definitely do that with my coworkers, going the extra mile to improve his my relationships with people who I sense feel uncomfortable around me.

Secondly, I'm not really sure the whole idea of monogy is a for sure thing. Things can get complicated!

So in that whole complicated mess is the idea of professionalism. By which I mean, everyone should make space socially for others to earn an income, and my self esteem concerns end where your employment concerns begin.

Therefore I do take this as a real concern.

I'm going to suggest you do what people have done to me in the past. Go to a 3rd party (in this case Hr, NOT your boss) and ask them to sit down with this guy and talk him down. It sucks to be on the receiving end of that but seriously it's worked really well on me. As a social guy, respecting ppl is super important to me.

So, I recommend talking to Hr and asking them to give advice. Work crushes are nothing new. They for sure want to nip this in the bud before they have to waste time replacing one or two or three jobs.

And part of that might mean explaining to your boss that they are supporting you, that any retaliation on behalf of his friend will be inexcusable.

OK, that is hypothetical advice from an internet stranger. If it resonates, I'd be happy to reach out to my Hr colleagues for more advice, or talk more.
posted by rebent at 1:28 PM on January 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

Wow, Ask does tend to be way harsh on this topic.

I mean, people do have workplace flirtations and people do have low points in their lives where they look to outside parties for an ego boost, and none of that makes either of you terrible people. Additionally, a single probably innuendo does not mean he's a man who wants to cheat on his wife and abandon his kids. Jesus.

Is any of that appropriate or professional? Hell no. Obviously no good will come of this... like, there isn't an actual positive outcome to be obtained from even breathing in the aroma of this pile of shit.

Does knowing that make the crush less compelling? Hell no.

I think the advice to respond to him as if you were a 50 year old white man is good. I don't think there is anything that can lessen the crush except time (which is irksome, I know) and a lot of very honest analysis. You need to look at what this man appears to offer that is missing in your own life or relationship, and then go fix that which is broken.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:34 PM on January 6, 2019 [59 favorites]

Please be cool and businesslike at all times. The woman is always blamed when work flirtations become an issue. Do not talk to him about anything but work when you are not at work. At work keep casual conversations casual, the kind of stuff you might say to a favourite uncle, or someone at the bus stop.
What others say above is correct, this guy is feeding on your crush, even if he doesn't consciously know it. Don't feed the beast, it will not bring you any benefit. You might find it easier if you imagine him surrounded by his wife and kids.
You are a good person in a difficult situation, but you can rise above.
posted by Enid Lareg at 1:49 PM on January 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

This sounds like a tricky situation but holy moly, do NOT go to HR. Do not even tell anyone at work you like this dude. That would be a recipe for drama.

The other advice you've received is good. Enjoy the fantasy, because the reality wouldn't be as fun, most likely.
posted by coffeeand at 1:51 PM on January 6, 2019 [37 favorites]

Ride it out. Don't feed the beast is well said: you shouldn't.
Even this shall pass; it always does. Time is on your side!
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:54 PM on January 6, 2019

Big +1 on do not go to HR. A good piece of advice I got a while ago and may have read here as well: HR departments have one purpose, which is to protect the company if they fire you. Possibly you could go to an EAP which is more separate from work and also is confidential. But probably just riding this out is the way to go. Also +1 on you’re just two people in a situation and nothing I read indicates he’s an asshole.
posted by Smearcase at 2:06 PM on January 6, 2019 [7 favorites]

Since these are unwanted thoughts, you might find some help by looking into how people who have intrusive thoughts cope with those. Intrusive thoughts seem to often get labeled with thoughts of violent or grossly inappropriate behavior but I think many of the same techniques can work with crushes.
Instead of trying to not think about your crush, in your mind: acknowledge it’s presence, acknowledge that you are not interested in pursuing these thoughts, and remind yourself what you should be focusing on.
Consider having an appointment or two with a therapist who can walk you through this.
Do not tell anyone at work you have a crush on this person.
posted by HMSSM at 2:30 PM on January 6, 2019 [7 favorites]

You obviously understand the need to not indulge in this flirtation. He has come on to you a bit, so I think you are responding to his interest in you and maybe his pheromones. Try to notice any bad habits he has, or maybe he has to much ear hair or a weird laugh. Imagine him having bad breath. Lots of men really enjoy workplace flirting, up to and including acting on it. When you look at him, imagine him as a baboon who wants a conquest to improve his status in the troop, which is kind of accurate, and viewing him as a baboon should help make him undesirable.
posted by theora55 at 3:15 PM on January 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

Speaking as someone who was raised as a dude, there is -0- chance that a person raised as a dude will "accidently" toss sexual innuendo into a workplace conversation. That's bullshit. Everyone knows how to not use sexual innuendo, even accidentally. It's 100% a calculated, deniable attempt to see if you're receptive. He's scum, albeit really nice scum, he's cruising to cheat, and you can use this information to shut the crush right down.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:36 PM on January 6, 2019 [9 favorites]

Cultivate a crush on a movie star. Who do you like? Figure out the movie where he does the most for you and watch it. Best if done with a friend who you can discuss particularly crushable moments with. Shop around! Watch several movies with different stars with the goal of determining your own personal Hottest Movie Dude of the Moment. Whenever your mind starts to wander toward your work crush, redirect yourself to think about your Hottest Movie Dude Project.
posted by ewok_academy at 4:01 PM on January 6, 2019 [7 favorites]

Additionally, a single probably innuendo does not mean he's a man who wants to cheat on his wife and abandon his kids. Jesus.

Obviously I don’t know anything about this guy but if you want to break a yucky thought cycle of admiration you have to think about things that are less than flattering about them using whatever piece of reality you have.
posted by bleep at 4:18 PM on January 6, 2019 [7 favorites]

Additionally, a single probably innuendo does not mean he's a man who wants to cheat on his wife and abandon his kids. Jesus.

Yup. I mean, I'm as Crone Island-y as they come, and yet it's pretty clear that in the #metoo age, some guys will regard a female colleague with a crush on them as a safe target for the sort of flirting that isn't meant to go anywhere. It's still sleazy due to context, but not necessarily cheater-level sleazy.

Just be professional and don't engage.
posted by blerghamot at 4:46 PM on January 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

Part of the context of your question is assumptions and projections about him and his feelings, and I think that's at least part of why you're stuck in the crush -- you're still thinking a lot more about him than about yourself. The professional damage you might do to yourself by acting like an airhead, for example. What are you telling yourself? What other things have you tried besides searching for reasons to dislike him (again, a "him-centric" approach)? For myself, it helps when I really dissect why I have the crush in the first place, especially when it's one that is unsatisfying or dangerous for me to have. Is what drives the attraction a place you need to do some self-work?
posted by sm1tten at 5:19 PM on January 6, 2019 [7 favorites]

Own the energy of the crush. He does not have to be in the equation of you. Block his number on your personal cell. If he questions it, say you dropped your phone in the toilet and lost some contacts. Own the crush, cannibalise it and use it for your own joy, and energy, feel alive but not indebted to anyone. Thank the universe and billions of years of evolution for it. Go for a walk, enjoy your work, disconnect his energy from your power grid.
posted by Oyéah at 7:05 PM on January 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Maybe I should pretend to be an airhead? A horrible person?

Possible tactic, but you’re going the wrong direction. Being an airhead feeds into the wrong kind of dynamic. You want to go into professionalism, double down on that.

Pretend you’re his boss. Pretend you’ve just transferred into this job. Pretend your conversations will be transcribed and read back to you at your next review. Pretend your job depends on pleasant and professional interactions with him.
posted by RainyJay at 1:31 AM on January 7, 2019 [9 favorites]

Speaking as someone who was raised as a dude, there is -0- chance that a person raised as a dude will "accidently" toss sexual innuendo into a workplace conversation.

I don't want to be #notallmen, but blanket statements about human beings of any gender are the opposite of useful. Not to mention the opposite of accurate. We don't even know what the "seemingly sexual innuendo" was, so the only thing to base judgement on is guesses.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:29 AM on January 7, 2019 [6 favorites]

The thing with work crushes is that when push comes to shove, you have to work with this person. I have never come out of a serious project with a crush on someone. There's something about actually getting to know them, seeing how they handle things, seeing them at their worst up against stress, working with people who've worked with them before (Oh, Matt's doing that call to arms speech again) that inevitably throws water on the fire. Sure, I'll come out of a project respecting a colleague and wanting to work with them again, but getting good work done is NOT romantic.

But forcing a crush to stop cold turkey is hard. So my advice - tell yourself you're putting this on pause, your resolution for 2019, and if you still can't stand it you'll pick it up again in 2020. Double-down on professionalism in the short term, be the most effective coworker you possibly can, and demand professional excellence from him. I can pretty much guarantee he will not be so shiny in 12 months, but pretending you are only postponing your crush can make things a lot easier.
posted by aimedwander at 7:54 AM on January 7, 2019

- there has been some MetaTalk about limerence, but according to this blogpost/ Guide To Limerence there are 3 ways to "get over" this "crazy in love feeling":

1.) Reciprocation: limerence fades because of the certainty of their LO's love and affection for them
2.) Transference: the limerent switches the limerence to a new LO
3.) Starvation: feelings diminish painfully over a period of time where there is no hope for reciprocation; agonizing because all of the hope dies out very slowly. Severe throbbing, aching, and longing of the heart is expected.
posted by mrmarley at 4:19 PM on January 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

This ties in with DarlingBri's comment above about figuring out what is missing in your life - you could take this crush completely seriously; almost an "analyze it to emotional death" approach.

Sit down and figure out where you would like things to go with this man. What is the compelling fantasy/image of the future with him? What would it take to get there?

Let's say you see the two of you happily together in a healthy relationship. How do you get there from here? He and his wife would have to be having some problems with their relationship that are unrelated to you. Because you want a *good* relationship, he has to deal with those problems with maturity, but their nature should result in a divorce, so that he's single!

He'll be freshly single though, so he may not be a great candidate for getting into something right away. So let's say you wait long enough for him to be ready to be in another relationship.

But you still work together, so there'd be the issue of dating a colleague to contend with. There's a whole lot of thorny conversations for the two of you to have just to get started. But let's say you have them to your satisfaction, so now you can just proceed to being with him. Yay!

Ok now you're in a new relationship with him. How do you feel about his kids? Now you have to get down to the nitty gritty of *actually* being in a relationship.

How long would that take? How much emotional energy would it take to get there? All this assumes that he's a genuinely good guy who wants to do right by everyone in this situation AND he also wants the same thing you want i.e. the best case scenario. What are the chances that this is that scenario? What evidence do you have for and against this? How many assumptions did you have to make?

Another scenario:
Let's say you just want to sleep with him - go through the whole process of making it happen step by step. How does it happen in a way that you're okay with? Is it actually compatible with the current situation?

By the time you've gone through your version of how to make your fantasy come true, all the nebulous crushy feelings should be well and truly gone. The amount of time and effort to actually do something in good faith is too much for a garden variety crush to withstand. A positive side effect of this "analyze to crush death" way is that you might end up with a clearer idea of some things you want romance-wise that you haven't previously articulated to yourself before.

I realize I'm a little late to this thread, but I hope that's helpful and good luck!
posted by (bra) at 9:16 AM on January 9, 2019

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