Sex writing is my jam, but when I’m not thinking about sex, I’m often thinking about its closely related sister: love. Crushes. Infatuation. Limerence. Whatever you want to call it. It may or may not be linked with sex in your mind, but it’s definitely still linked inextricably with sex in the world at large – so when I think about one, I often consider the other.
One love-related idea I keep coming back to, especially now that I’m single and too busy and distracted to date, is this: having a crush on someone can feel good, even if nothing comes of it.
I first learned this in high school. I was obsessed with the cutest boy ever (who, incidentally, walked past me on the street recently and tried to pretend he didn’t see me, which was actually what prompted me to write this post). I confessed my feelings and he straight-up told me he wasn’t attracted to me and didn’t want to date me.
It hurt like hell, of course, and I cried for a few days and pined after him for a few months (okay, maybe more than a few), but there did eventually come a time when I fully accepted his disinterest in me, and the fact that we would never be together – and after that, somehow, the crush became fun again. I anticipated running into him in the halls. I joyfully succumbed daily to the swoony feelings that overtook me whenever I saw him smile. I laughed at his jokes without worrying how that would be construed. I wrote about “Rejection Boy” sightings in my journal and relished them. It gave me a strange sort of pleasure.
Similarly, I also had a huge crush on my philosophy teacher in high school – and because there was absolutely zero chance of us getting together (what with him being 15+ years older than me, married, and employed by my school), I was able to fully enjoy those early stages of infatuation without it ever progressing to the agony and distress of real romantic yearning.
I learned that infatuation fuelled me, both emotionally and creatively. It made me want to get out of bed in the morning, put effort into my appearance, put effort into my life. It made me want to write, make art, say and do important things. Infatuation was like a potent blend of caffeine, LSD and Prozac, but without the side effects. From that time forward, I tried not to let myself fall into the trap of lovelorn sadness anymore – I tried to focus on the happy side of crushes, on what they could do for me, on what I could make them do for me.
Having experienced this love-magic and having thought a lot about how to replicate it, I think I’m qualified to share with you some tips for how to make your potentially painful romantic longings into an uplifting, cheerifying element of your life.
1. Accept that nothing’s going to happen.
Obviously this only applies in cases where you actually know (or think it very likely) that nothing’s going to happen with that person. Maybe your circumstances or theirs don’t allow for dating right now; maybe you know for a fact that they’re not interested; maybe you only like certain qualities about them but know they wouldn’t actually make a good partner; maybe they’re in a monogamous relationship, or you are; maybe one of you is moving away soon. Whatever the case may be, if there’s no chance of anything happening, accept that.
It’s my belief that the majority of romantic agony we experience (and maybe the majority of any emotional agony we experience) stems from the belief in what could be, and that possibility never coming to fruition. If you eliminate that element, you’ll eliminate a lot of your discomfort. It sounds depressing and bleak, but sometimes it’s the least depressing option you can take in that situation.
2. Identify what you feel when you’re around your crush, and enjoy those feelings.
A swoop of nausea. A herd of stomach butterflies. A fiery blush. A giggle fit. An intense, palpable desire to close the physical distance between you and your beloved.
Whatever you feel when you’re around them, try to identify and isolate what those feelings are. When you can pick them apart and notice them specifically, instead of just letting them wash over you and stress you out, then you can start to enjoy them.
Just as it’s exhilarating to finish a race or perform in front of a crowd, it’s also exhilarating to be around someone who makes your body feel like you’ve just done something equally stressful or scary. Certain people make you feel hyped up and blissed out – so long as you can recognize all those different sensations as adding up to a happy rush.
3. Figure out how you can make your crush into a productive force.
Get out your paints, guitar, journal or other creative outlet of choice, and get to work. As Nellie McKay says, “Come on, use the pain – drink up from the rain.” Sadness can suck but you’ll feel better about it if you turn it into something awesome.
Likewise, ask yourself what you can learn from this experience, and accordingly, what changes you can make. Maybe your crush doesn’t return your feelings because you have some bad lifestyle habits that they view as a red flag; you could change those. Maybe things didn’t work out because your crush got involved with someone else before you could gather the nerve to ask them out; you could work on your courage and confidence. Maybe the rejection made you feel like no one will ever love you (oh, babe, no!); you could work on your self-love and overall attractiveness. You get the idea.
I think one of the key differences between mopey, stagnant people and happy, dynamic people is the way they choose to look at their hardships. You can allow your troubles to define you and drag you down, or you can choose to view them as jumping-off points for greater adventures. I bet you know which option I recommend!
How do you deal with unrequited love?