When To Move On From Your Crush
The allure of love can make us do stupid things. Here are the signs it’s time to move on with your life.
Crushes are a peculiar thing. One minute we are happily living our lives, staying active, and pursuing worthwhile goals. Suddenly, we’re struck by a thunderbolt from cupid himself, forced to surrender to the irresistible thrill of the chase.
A seemingly innocent crush can consume our being and destroy all remnants of rationality. We can become enamored and fascinated by every part of that person, from their cute dimples to their goofy personality.
While the experience can be blissful and potentially end in happiness, crushes can quickly turn obsessive when the feeling is not returned. This opens up a darker side of romance, characterized by hopeless chasing, irrational fixation, and the bitter sting of rejection. It’s not uncommon for someone to spend months or even years clinging to hope, often watching in pain as their crush lusts for someone else.
Yet, despite the agony, we endure, all in the deluded hope that something will change. And so the cycle repeats, with each iteration delivering another blow to our self-esteem and leaving us pondering one question — why are we not good enough?
As hard as it is, sometimes, the only thing to do is to let go of what isn’t meant to be. With that said, let’s look at the warning signs that it’s time for you to move on, and start reclaiming your life.
They Know You Want Them
The second your crush knows you’ve got the feels it’s game over. Remember, there’s a big difference between knowing someone likes you and thinking they do. The latter implies doubt and allows the gift of wonder. The former is a fact; there is no debate or question. You’ve probably experienced this in your own life — think about a time where you knew someone liked you compared with thought they did. There is a considerable contrast between the two situations, and unfortunately, knowledge is power.
What is it about knowing that has this effect?
It boils down to Dopamine, a drug like chemical that pulsates the body in search of pleasure. This single hormone makes us see rewards, take action towards them, and generate pleasurable feelings in response. While it motivates us to take action, it simultaneously exposes us to excessive pleasure-seeking and addictive behaviors.
Uncertainty is so attractive because it significantly manipulates Dopamine levels.
Standford Professor Robert Sapolsky has studied the chemical extensively. His research demonstrates two critical findings:
1 — Dopamine levels in humans rise in anticipation of reward, not just receipt
2 — Dopamine levels are highest when uncertainty is as it’s greatest (50%)
Simply chasing someone can generate a release of pleasurable chemicals (anticipation rather receipt of the reward), but crucially the amount of Dopamine is highest when we are unsure of the outcome.
In other words, someone who gives mixed signals is going to release addictive endorphins in the chaser — regardless if they never date them. Now let’s flip this around — what happens when you remove that uncertainty?
When someone knows you want them, there is no prize to win and no game to play. They don’t experience any of the emotions above, and thus you’re simply not an exciting prospect. The person who comes along and stimulates these roller-coaster feelings will always trump you. You’re not going to get anywhere when you make your desire so visible — you need to change your approach.
The best way to do this is through counter-intuitive behavior — pulling away instead of investing more. It doesn’t matter if you want to move on or win the person over, your next move is the same.
When in doubt, remember the Scarcity Principle — people are considered more valuable when they are less available. Sometimes you need to take a step back to take two steps forward. Shift your focus for now and re-evaluate at a later date if this something you still want to pursue.
If you’d like to read more about the role dopamine plays in attraction, I break down the specifics in more detail here.
You’re Clinging To Hope Despite Being Quarantined In The Friend-Zone
Be honest with yourself — are you clinging to hope despite knowing you’ve been friend-zoned?
Take a look at signs of the friend-zone below and see if anything resonates with you:
- You’ve been trying to make progress for months, but nothing physical has happened
- They try to hook you up with their friends or suggest other people
- You’re their agony aunt for all life’s problems
- You find yourself doing random favors for them
- They tell you about the people they are dating in graphic detail
- You go out of your way to make big gestures such as buying gifts and paying for fancy pseudo-dates, though ever nothing happens
- You lie awake thinking about how to win them over
- The conversation is dry and non-suggestive, you have to initiate and keep it going
- You repeatedly find yourself googling signs he/she likes you despite all the above
This is just a small collection of examples, but you get the idea. When you’re ticking any of these boxes, it’s time to move on.
I’m reminded of two great quotes that sum up your situation:
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.
If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got
What you are doing isn’t working — it’s time to try something else.
That’s not to say it will be easy. One of the most common reasons why people stick around in the friend-zone is the presence of mixed signals. While you know that you have been rejected, the other person might give you hope. They may frequently call or text, playfully touch you or even behave like your partner at times. Others may add fuel to your conviction by commenting on how cute you look together or asking how long you have been dating.
All of these conflicting signals can cause significant mental confusion. This is known as Cognitive Dissonance — the psychological discomfort experienced by a person who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values simultaneously.
When present, dissonance makes it extremely difficult to focus on anything but the cause of the tension and finding a way to reduce it. In this case, you become convinced that there is an underlying attraction, and you won’t rest until it has risen to the surface. You begin to wonder — am I the only one who sees this? Are they slowly realizing what they are missing? Will they finally wake up see I am the right one all along?
As a result, you might secretly hope you can win the person over by being the perfect partner in waiting. You become a great companion who is always available, listens to their problems, arranges activities, and doesn’t show interest in anyone else. But all of this happens while your crush is out chasing other guys or girls without worry. In essence, you’ve become an emotional vomit bag without benefits. Nothing about that is attractive.
Let’s remind ourselves of an unfortunate truth — people who want you don’t make it difficult. There may be some elements of the chase, but they will never allow a situation to span months if they want it to happen. It’s time you opened your eyes to the truth — you need to make changes and stop prioritizing another person over you.
In essence, you have put them on a pedestal. This says more about your sense of self-worth than anything about them. An individual confident in their value would not be sticking around in hope, but moving on knowing they can find someone better while focusing on being the best version of themselves.
If any of the above hits home, then I highly recommend my in-depth piece on why we chase people who don’t want us. Either way, realize that clinging on to hope and pretending to be the perfect partner is doing nothing for your chances. Know your worth, and start breaking these negative patterns.
They’ve Become Your Primary Purpose In Life — Limerence
Sometimes your feelings can be so unique and intense that you genuinely believe them to be once in a lifetime. In your mind, it’s a matter of destiny, and no matter what you do, you can’t stop thinking about that person. Throughout the day, your mind wanders, and yet with each new situation faced, you involuntarily find a way to relate it to the object of your desire. It’s like your mind has been hacked and overridden, and all thoughts are outside of your control. Above all else, you want them to feel the same way as you do because you care so much.
If the above sounds familiar, you may be suffering from Limerence, a concept discovered by Dorothy Tennov in the 1960s.
Limerence is defined as follows:
The cognitive and emotional state of being infatuated or obsessed with another person, that is typically experienced involuntarily and characterized by a desire for reciprocation of one’s feelings.”
How do you separate Limerence from Love and Infatuation? There are four vital signs to look for in yourself:
- You find yourself continually thinking about the person, and unable to focus on daily activities without seeing the relevance to them
- Your primary desire is for the reciprocation of feelings rather a sexual relationship or intimacy
- Your focus is on winning the person over rather than their happiness or welfare
- You compulsively read into the person’s behaviors and draw unfounded conclusions, e.g., examining text length and frequency extensively
If you think this sounds unrealistic, think again. Tennov’s early research found a surprising number of people with symptoms of Limerence, including a man who sustained a nine-year obsession for a co-worker. He had filled forty notebooks and several thousand audio cassettes with details of how she looked, whether she smiled or spoke to him, and other minute details that only he could appreciate. His distraction led to poor performance at work, several demotions, and eventual dismissal.
While that’s an extreme example, you might still be devoting your time to analyzing their behavior, scouting for signs of attraction, and replaying conversations in your head. Before you know it, you’re mentioning this person at every opportunity and obscurely linking everything you do back to them.
What you focus on grows. If you spend your time chasing other people, your fixation for them increases. Why not dedicate your time exploring new activities and doing things you love so you can become a better version of yourself? Commit to prioritizing the areas of your life that you neglected with your fantasy. Take up as many new activities as possible and become absorbed in something you are passionate about, perhaps a project or a goal.
You are 100% responsible for your actions, and nothing anybody else says or does will change your situation.
Unrequited love sucks, but it’s a golden learning opportunity and chance to address issues such as lack of self-esteem and self-worth. Take this time to focus on yourself, whether it’s taking on new hobbies, learning new skills, or going out and meeting new people.
One of the most useful beliefs to adopt is there is no failure, only feedback. Don’t dwell on past results — focus on what you can change and how you can move forward.
Every second you waste chasing unrequited love is time you cannot get back. Don’t allow future you to look back with regret at hours lost when you could have been making the most of life. And don’t worry, if you’re struggling, I’ve got you covered with a step by step guide on how to move on.
Just remember, everybody you have ever known has experienced some form of rejection. Michael Jordan was cut from his high-school basketball team. Harvard rejected Warren Buffet. It happens, and rejection does not define us — it’s your choice how much it impacts you.
How you feel now is not how you will feel forever. Respect yourself and value your worth as a human being. One day you will look back, laugh hysterically, and wonder what you were thinking. How soon that day comes is up to you.
Make it happen.
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