Your adult crush is perfectly normal – here’s how to handle it
Written by Amy Beecham
You may remember the excitement and awkwardness of teenage crushes, but they’re not reserved for adolescence. Here’s how to handle a crush as an adult.
When I think back to every crush I’ve ever harboured (and there have, ahem, been quite the number), I can remember distinctly how each one felt. The giggling infatuation seemed like the strongest thing in the world. That dizzying excitement of desire and awkwardness, a gravitational pull that came from seeing them replying to your Facebook message or smiling at you from across the school hall. And don’t even get me started on the celebrity crushes plastered on my bedroom walls…
But even if the way we handled these feelings when we were younger make us cringe now (love calculators? Writing their name on your hand?), there’s something to be said for the optimism of it all.
“While we commonly associate crushes with teenage years, adult crushes are surprisingly common and usually completely harmless,” explains Rachel MacLynn, a matchmaker and psychologist.
Our first crushes tend to occur in our teenage years, she explains, and we often can’t act on them (because they involve someone we’ve never met in real life, such as a celebrity). Even if the object of our affection is closer to home, such as a classmate, we may not know how to act on our feelings “because we haven’t reached that stage in our development yet”.
But as an adult, when you’re too old to be silly and giggly and can simply ask anyone you’re attracted to out for a drink, how do you handle crushing on a friend or co-worker?
The good news is that having a crush as an adult is completely normal. Because, at the end of the day, genuine love and crushing can have a similar impact on the brain. They both result in the production of adrenaline and a dopamine rush which makes us feel good.
MacLynn argues that this one-sided attraction has the same overwhelming, often exhilarating impact and takes up lots of headspace even as we get older, whether you’re single or not.
You read that right: it is possible to have a crush while in a committed relationship. In fact, MacLynn stresses that a distant fancying of someone you spot in a coffee shop isn’t a precursor for infidelity, because the distinguishing characteristic of a crush is that there is no intention (or indeed, ability) to actually act on it.
“The need for secrecy might be based on feelings of guilt as thoughts mount in our head…“Am I one step away from cheating on my partner?” and “If I tell a friend will they think I am cheating?”. But a crush usually goes no further than a fantasy, or perhaps some light flirting,” she explains.
In other words, the butterflies we get when someone attractive holds the door open or sits next to us on the train is simply a bodily reaction we can’t really do much to control.
“Dopamine and serotonin are the two chemicals that are released when we’re attracted to someone,” says Laura Buckley, matchmaker at dating website Secret Alchemy.
“They make us giddy and excited, and who doesn’t want to feel plenty of that when normal life can be really dull?” The problem, says Buckley, is that these feelings can be “pretty addictive” – and we might think we’re hooked on the person, rather than the feelings.
So if you still find yourself at the mercy of soppy daydreams, don’t panic. “As adults, we’re a little bit more attuned to crushes and the reality of them. Despite this knowledge, they can still be intense, time-consuming and sometimes embarrassing,” she explains.
So while they may leave us feeling hopeless and frustrated at times, the main benefit of having a crush is that it provides a small bit of excitement in life. But they can also leave us in a strange lust-filed limbo that causes more frustration than fun.
When it comes down to it, you have two options for dealing with a crush: asking them out or getting over them. And neither is easy.
Of course, there’s a chance that if acted on, your crush can develop into something more. But just like we might remember our first crush, we all remember our first heartbreak, and rejection, in any form and at any age, can be a hard pill to swallow.
Whether you find yourself being let down gently, ghosted or see your crush with someone else, you may decide it’s time to get over them once and for all. So, besides ripping up their picture and tearing out the pages from your diary, how can you start to?
How to get over a crush as an adult
According to Buckley, like with most things, the first thing to do is share your thoughts with someone who you trust who will provide a sympathetic ear. Then, it’s all about limiting your exposure to the crush.
“Getting over a crush on someone can be made trickier by the location of the person with whom you have a crush. If there’s distance between you, moving on is easier. However, if they’re someone you see all the time, moving on can be tricky,” she explains.
Therefore, it’s important to unfollow them on social media, or at least limit your time on social media. “There’s nothing positive to be gained from seeing what they’re doing all the time,” Buckley adds.
If you are in close proximity to them, try to also pull back from spending time with them. “Seeing them all the time just reaffirms the feelings and doesn’t give you time to reflect on them and move past them. Being close to them feels nice in the moment as there’s perhaps some hope that something might happen, but in the long run, it’s unhelpful,” she says.
The most important thing is to take control of the situation, as only you can move yourself forward. It’s not up to the person you have a crush on, or friends, to get you past it. “For your emotional wellbeing, you need to take control of the feelings,” she says. “As hard as it is, focus on yourself instead.” If only I could tell my teenage-self that.
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