How do you learn to never ever infatuate someone?
June 24, 2008 12:25 PM   Subscribe

Drama penguin of the day: I am infatuating a work colleague of mine badly and I am looking for resources to understand the nature of my infatuation to get over it.

My life sucks right now, because I fell for a coworker. Not a bad ass guy, and I wouldn't mind work-ethics etc and actually could go for it, if there wasn't the following background facts.

1- Although it is about to end, I am in a long-term (and since several months also long distance) relationship and I am tagged as taken (also, the colleague has already met my boyfriend twice). Let' s skip this part of the story.

2-This colleague will be leaving the workplace in several months for a job overseas.

And less importantly:
3- I am neither the best looking nor the most confident woman on earth. I was raised in a social environment where it's not too welcome when women make the first move. Generally, I am shy towards guys I like in that way.

My brain capacity is reduced to 3% right now and I am very sad because nothing will ever come out of this. And even if it did, he will go away soon. I can pull myself somewhat together and we get along well as colleagues when we talk about this and that. We have once spent several hours together on a journey. I am pretty sure that he thinks of me as a pleasant person. I do not want to spoil this and destroy the nice professional relationship we have by saying or doing something stupid and freaking him out. I actually did such a mistake once with another crush of mine and it resulted in unbearable awkwardness.

This being the third infatuation in my life, should hopefully be the last one (I am turning 30 soon!) It's so sad that it's stupid to wake up every morning and think about that one person and be sad until you go back to bed in the evening, to have that constant hopelessness feeling in the back of your mind, messing up the concentration at work totally and in general feeling like shit all day, your mind full of recurrent and sad what-ifs.

Some more information: we are sharing the same office (with others), and there is no possibility for a change in office place. He once told me he tends to have short-term relationships. He is a nice, outgoing person, so if he had any interest he would have showed me (although here I tend to forget about my official relationship status). He is smart as hell, and actually he might be suspecting what is going on with me and kind of enjoying that as long as I am not going too far.

My work requires a lot of concentration and analytical thinking, at which I am really having some problems right now. I need my brain back. I just want to be happy without missing someone I don't really know so much. Sadly, the more I get to know him, the better I like him, but no matter how good it "could be", it never "won't be". And I think I should understand that.

My colleague will be away from the workplace for some weeks soon, and I would like to use this period of time to recover and to understand what is going on. I would like to start some sort of a healing process before he returns. How can I get over this? And how can I learn out of this?

I also would like to be armed and built up some defenses against future infatuations. I basically want to get smarter about why this is happening.

So dear MeFites, please share here with me whatever knowledge, ideas, literature or wise jokes or even song recommendations, really anything, you might have on this subject. What's the deal with a crush, why do we have it, why do some of us get so sad when having a crush? Is it abnormal? Why do we get obsessed with that one person? And why will they never love us back?

Can I learn to be a less dreamy, more logical person, at my age, before I get so sad about anyone?

My throw-away: (although I might not be able to reply right away). Thanks a lot. I love you already for your help.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (13 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
You're being too hard on yourself. We can't always control who we like and who we don't like, and your existing relationship may be amplifying a need to move on to someone else. When I was in this situation I wound up quitting my job to get myself away from this person, but since your target is leaving soon (ish?) it will be up to you to figure out if you can stick it out.

As to your cultural history and ethics of relationships, maybe some exposure therapy is in order. If you go to bars, go with some friends and practice chatting up guys on your own. I know, it's harder than it sounds, but your social conservatism may be causing you to limit your options. Seeing the possibilities in making your own life in this world (rather than having to wait for Mr. Dreamboat to find you) may also help you to move on. Good luck!
posted by rhizome at 12:42 PM on June 24, 2008

Well, the easiest part of the question to answer is:

And why will they never love us back?

That's completely untrue. Break up with your boyfriend and ask the co-worker out for a cup of coffee. You're sad because you're not accepting the possibility that your crush might be reciprocated, so it seems doomed from the get-go. But you're being the primary doomer here, by not making yourself available and your intentions known.

If you still find that you can't try to date this crush in real life, you could always construct an elaborate alternate reality in your head in which you and this guy are perfectly happy together. I've done that, it's kind of fun.

I basically want to get smarter about why this is happening.

If I had to guess, I'd say this crush is the result of dissatisfaction with your current relationship and boyfriend. Your brain's looking for somewhere to put its love, you found a guy who seems nice, and now you're pointing a firehose of amity at the dude.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:44 PM on June 24, 2008 [4 favorites]

Hm. As for the nature of your crushes, it seems you go for guys you can't get. This book kinda helped me understand that in a way that is two-fold (meaning, you can be either active or passive in this I-only-want-what-I-can't-have way of relating to romantic partners.) Some of it is too, well, self-helpy, but it still makes sense. If you are a logic-driven person (and it sounds like you are) maybe it'll help you in some way too.
posted by neblina_matinal at 12:46 PM on June 24, 2008

I have a theory: it's escapism. It's kind of the "perfect" escapism because it keeps your brain occupied all day -- but unlike when-I'm-rich escapism or winning-the-Nobel escapism, there's nothing about this obsession that compels you to take action (like working towards a promotion, developing a side project). Even though it's not pleasant because of the sad feeling, it might feel better to your brain than whatever else it could be worrying about.

You might ask yourself what you're escaping from. It could be your ending relationship and your fears about it. Maybe someone you love is sick, or hopelessly broke. Are there emotional issues that you're not dealing with?
posted by xo at 12:49 PM on June 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

This being the third infatuation in my life, should hopefully be the last one (I am turning 30 soon!)

HA! Where did you get the idea that having a crush on a guy is immature and shameful and otherwise maladjusted? I'm hard pressed to think of anything more healthy and normal... Maybe it makes you sad because you've decided that there's something wrong and embarassing about liking a dude in the first place, so all of those other sad thoughts follow. Also - you really glossed over the long-term relationship that's "about to end", but it's not really a separate issue because you've only got the one brain. Maybe it's easier to wallow in fake-grief over a relationship that never happened than to really think about the actual relationship that is actually ending?
posted by moxiedoll at 12:49 PM on June 24, 2008 [3 favorites]

There are two ways to get over a crush. One is more reliable, the other is more professional and safer. The reliable way is to make a pass, and get turned down. You ruled that out yourself, I think. (or maybe not? There is that nagging 'what if' thing going on).

The safer method takes more effort. It's a rather negative kind of thing, but hey, you're trying to get over an excessively positive thing, so negativity is in order. Put that guy under a microscope and pick his nits, as it were. Find every little detail that is wrong with him, and consider just how all those things add up.

Short term relationships? How are you supposed to take a guy like that seriously? And he's about to be leaving. You already have one problematic LDR. A set of batteries in a nice vibrator would last longer.

You've been out of circulation too long. You're breaking up with your long-term boyfriend. Try some freedom for awhile. You said you're turning 30 soon. That's a good reason to have some fun.
posted by Goofyy at 12:52 PM on June 24, 2008

Dear Anonymous,

First you need to tease apart the things pestering you right now—the lack of workplace productivity, the current relationship, this guy at the office (and the complications of workplace romance), your past infatuations, inhibitions about making moves to further your social life, etc.

I mean, doesn't "Although it is about to end, I am in a long-term relationship" strike you as a bit absurd? You're not really in a relationship if you know it's over.

It's only when you see the issues laid out as a system of your mental state can you understand how it all works together, instead of—futilely—trying to stop being attracting to warm, friendly people. Three infatuations by 30 are nothing to get alarmed about.

Office crushes can be nice things. You can always have a long term flirty relationship with people without jumping their bones. I'd say you need to learn to exist—and express yourself across—a broader spectrum of feeling rather than trying even harder to box yourself into logical extremes.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 12:54 PM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

One way to get over such a thing is to realize you've idealized a relationship in your head. In real life, things don't work out so perfectly. Imagine the worst possible relationship you guys could have. It helps a lot if you draw on real things that could be wedge issues. For example, if there is a way he sometimes acts that irritates you, imagine that becoming a Big Deal eventually. If there is a point of view he holds that you disagree with, imagine that coming up at the worst possible times.

Then there's all the typical relationship killers that, for all you know, would be an issue. He's not emotional enough. He's too emotional. He doesn't want to settle down, but you do. He cheats on you with someone, bonus points if you can imagine him cheating with someone you guys work with. You have nothing to talk about. Things that are important to you aren't important to him. Etc.

It helps to remember that it's not just a thought experiment, either. If you guys did get together somehow, it's almost guaranteed not to be as perfect as you've imagined it. Since you've decided you can't have a relationship with the guy, there's less sense in entertaining the ways it could realistically go right than the ways it would probably go wrong. Remember past relationships where you idolized the person beforehand, and then things didn't quite live up to your expectations. It'll deflate the fantasy pretty fast.

I guess in that sense I (sort of) disagree with Greg Nog about imagining a world where you're happy together. Such a thing does work for some people, but in my anecdotal experience (with myself and others) the problem with crushes making people upset is that some people are miserable when reality doesn't match their fantasies. If you're already imagining that perfect alternate universe in your head, then try the opposite. (But by all means, try the perfect alternate universe if you haven't yet.)
posted by Nattie at 12:58 PM on June 24, 2008 [3 favorites]

Why do you think that infatuations will stop when you hit 30? If you stop becoming infatuated, even while in committed relationships, you're dead. I don't mean obsessions with co-workers, necessarily, but if my fiance' *didn't* say "reow!" when Warrick showed up to a CSI scene, I'd be concerned.

As for your self-esteem and the work guy, you're not allowed to whine about missed opportunities if you don't try. So go do it.
posted by notsnot at 1:07 PM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you're the sort of person who will take comfort from not being alone in how you think about your infatuations, you might want to read up on limerence.
posted by gnomeloaf at 1:27 PM on June 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

Ask yourself what it is you are trying to distract yourself with these thoughts. It will be something you don't want to think about. Usually unpleasant and anxiety-creating. Then think about it a lot.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:07 PM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

My apologies for not offering anything of value to your question, and I do hope that you are able to resolve things...but you must know that I just love the phrase "drama penguin!" Never heard it before, but it so cute!
posted by davidmsc at 9:23 PM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Strictly speaking, it is he who is infatuating you. You are infatuated.
posted by heffalump at 10:50 PM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

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