crushes and unrequited love bish

Crushes and Unrequited Love

Crushes and unrequited love aren’t always bad, in fact sometimes they can be good. Here’s some expert advice from me, a sex and relationships educator since 1999 (who might also have experienced the odd crush or two in my time).

What do we mean by crushes and unrequited love?

What kinds of things are we talking about when we use the terms unrequited love, or crush? It’s affection which mostly or entirely goes only in one direction. One way love. Where we have feelings for someone who doesn’t share those feelings with us (or hasn’t been invited to). 

Here are some examples, both from what people have told ‘work me’ over the last three decades, and also my own experience of them.

  • Big time feelings for a friend but you might want ‘more’
  • Feelings for someone but you think they’re straight and you know you’re not
  • Being excited thinking about someone you know but aren’t friends with (eg colleague, teacher, boss)
  • Having feelings for someone you can’t have a relationship with (because they are married, or super famous, or a cartoon character)

Can you think of any others? Do leave a comment at the end of the article.

I think sometimes crushes or unrequited love can be bad for us, but they can also be really good for us. Before we get to that, let’s think about whether you should tell your crush you like them.

One way love

Should you tell your crush you like them?

If you know someone in real life that you have feelings for (more on how you know you have these feelings below) you might want to tell them. Hey, they might end up sharing your feelings! So why not give it a shot. If you are going to tell your crush that you have a crush on them, here are some things to consider. 

Is it safe to tell them?

For some people the only risk of telling a crush you like them is some sad feelings of rejection. However, if you aren’t straight this might not be as easy for you as others. If you’re in a really homophobic (or biphobic or lesbophobic) environment it might not feel safe. There might be other reasons for you not feeling safe enough to take the risk. Get some advice from your support network, people you have been ‘you’ with, people you can trust. Here’s a resource about how to tell people big news about you which might help. Ultimately it’s about measuring the risk of what might happen versus the risk of not inviting someone to share your feelings. 

When you know, tell them

My advice with this is to usually: go early. There’s a big difference between ‘hey, I know we’re friends or whatever but just so you know, I think you’re really cute / hot / sexy / interesting’ and ‘I think I’m in love with you and have been for about 18 months and now we’re about to go to University and I just have to tell you.’ (this last one was the mistake I made). 

Telling them when you know, and not waiting, means:

  • it’s easier for you to deal with because feelings are smaller.
  • They might feel more able to look at you that way too because it’s not reconfiguring the whole relationship.
  • You’re not spending weeks / months / years keeping a big secret from someone. 

Here’s a useful resource help you to think about how you feel about yourself and how you deal with feelings generally.

Don’t be afraid of being sad

So you can see that it’s a risk and reward thing, as with most things to do with sex and relationships. You can minimise the risks by going early. Rejection can hurt even if you go early, but don’t be afraid of an emotion. Emotions sometimes just have to be felt and we learn from it and grow the more we do it. Yes this is harder for some people to do than others, because we all have different upbringings and some of us might find the sadness from a rejection to be too painful. 

But also I’ve got lots of resources about how to feel your emotions, so I’ve also got your back. You are most welcome.

You’re a multitude

As I’ve been writing about lately, I think it’s more useful to think of yourself as a moving assemblage of ‘things’ rather than this one definite ‘thing’. Every crush, every rejection, all your feelings then just have the possibilities of becoming something else. Things like ‘rejection’ feels like less of a big deal and more just ‘useful information’ which might help you roots to grow in a different direction. 

Is unrequited love love?

No: no it’s not (IMHO). I know how big unrequited love can feel, and I don’t want to diminish it by saying it’s not love, it’s just something else. Loving ‘at’ someone is very different from the love which is created between people. It’s about paying attention to the things that actually make love happen between people, not just the feelings you hold internally about someone. Love is consensual in that it is freely agreeing to be in a relationship, unrequited love is not. Love is very special and I think it should have it’s own word. What if we called unrequited love something else? Yearning: pining: wanting: they’re words. Using those words might help us to recognise love for what it is. If you have an unrequited love, what might happen if you started to rename it? Say it out loud or write it down. What does that do? What else?

Here’s a nice guide to what love is (and isn’t).

Are crushes good or bad?

Well I think they can be both. I think the key is to think about any crushes you have and to ask the following: does it open up possibilities for you, or does it close them down? For example, my crush was at my school, she was really smart, so I went to school more and got really good grades. However it also meant I was a bit ‘tunnel vision’ and I missed out on lots of other potential relationships with people I would otherwise have really liked. 

So if you have a crush, what’s it doing for you? Is it making school or work a little bit more fun? Do you dress to impress more? Are you trying to be your sparkling best more often? What does that do? Let’s say that you were able to be less ‘tunnel vision’ and seeing more of the world around you. What would that do? What might you see? Who might see you? 

If it’s feeling heavy

If your crush is more ‘unrequited love’ and it’s heavy and a burden: I’m sorry, that really sucks. When we focus on someone else like this, it’s perhaps at the expense of ourselves. So make this an opportunity to love yourself a bit more.

Think of a time recently when it felt a bit lighter, what did that do? How were people around you responding? What could you feel in your body? Were you doing something that felt nice? What is the volume of your yearning on a scale of 0 (no noise) to 10 (noisy) ? Let’s say it’s at an ‘8’, how come it’s not at a ‘9’? What are you doing that puts you at an 8, not a 9? If you could get it down to a 7, what might you start to notice? How might your friends respond? Who can help you get it to a 6? Is there a number you would like it to be at, where you can hold some feelings and be at your sparkling best? Here’s an article about how to feel a bit better about yourself.

Comment below if you like. I moderate all comments before they appear, just so you know!

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© Justin Hancock, 2024 Find out more about me and BISH here.

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I’ve been a sex and relationships educator since 1999 (with a background in youth and community work). In that time I’ve taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. I’ve worked with many charities, local governments, schools and youth organisations facilitating training and workshops. My two books, Enjoy Sex (How, When, and If You Want To) and Can We Talk About Consent? are widely available around the world. I’ve been on the telly and the radio and have written articles for newspapers and magazines. I’m also a member of the World Association for Sexual Health. Read more about me and BISH here. Find out about my other work here Justin Hancock

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