CakeMon 28th June 2021

This is part of a series on conscious relating. Other pieces are on endings, de-escalation and pauses. Conscious relating is about bringing awareness and intention to all our connections with others as well as our selves. It’s about noticing patterns and triggers as well as needs and feelings and being able to communicate about these clearly and effectively. It’s also about noticing how all our relationships, especially the one we have with ourselves, are interconnected with our lives. It’s about making choices, as often as possible, with our chosen core values front of mind.

What is a crush
A crush is a feeling of affection, desire and attraction. It’s usually talked about in relation to another person or people. It’s a normalised part of how we talk about attraction and relationships in the global north.

When experiencing a crush we can feel: tingly, light, fluttery tummy, butterflies, excited, anxious, annoyed, regretful for how we felt before, surprised, hopeful, nervous, ashamed and joyful.

When on the receiving end, we can feel flattered, confused, guilty, ashamed, nervous, excited, angry, scared and joyful.

It’s generally seen as a stage in a friendship and as a stage before action is taken towards creating a romantic/sexual relationship. It can be seen as ‘trivial’ or ‘important’ and can happen with fictional characters and people we don’t know, too.

What society encourages us to do and why

There’s a lot of messaging in European and American culture and society that we need (must?!) take action on a crush. There’s a lot of pressure to take it to another level the moment our feelings shift. We’re encouraged to speak of it, and, if not to speak of it, then at least to nurture it and keep it growing. This can feel good. It is also important to bring some awareness to how we are feeling and why. More on this later. What I am proposing is that, rather than rushing forward, we can instead sit with the feeling. We can be with it and see what it has to tell us. This can be for weeks, maybe even longer, certainly not just a few days.

Why every love song is really about you and your parents

How does that sentence make you feel? Have you ever thought about how and where we learn about relationship? Even before we choose and read novels and stories, or watch programmes and movies, we learn about partnerships from our family. As tiny babies, we pick up information and narratives about love, communication and affection.

Attachment theory goes some way to helping us understand how we relate and what our expectations, feelings and needs are.

We all desire care, attention, intimacy. To thrive, we all need touch, and to be seen and heard without judgement. As children we deserve these, and should not need to demand them.

Attachment theory suggests that, based on our early experiences, we learn to connect relationally with others in particular ways, and we respond to certain experiences, such as growing or decreasing intimacy and closeness, in certain ways that are interdependent with the behaviour of the other. Maybe as they get closer we pull away, or as they pull away we also retreat.

The different modes of attachment are discussed in detail here LINK. What’s useful to know here is that we learnt these ways of connecting and relating so early on, the patterns carved into our neurons before we’ve even begun to talk – that they’re often completely unconscious. And we tend to repeat behaviours until we see them – and, usually, long after we’ve seen them, too. This is how deeply embedded they can be.

Relationships can be tricky but, paradoxically, relationships are also the best place to make changes to the ways in which we relate to ourselves and others as well as to the world around us.

Why crushes are awesome and what they can teach us

The temptation and the cultural messaging is all about doing, taking action –rushing ahead. The wise words of Meg John and Justin remind us that the intensity of our feelings can blind us to the possible pitfalls as well as to the other things that are going on. These feelings can be giving you vital information about what you need. If we take a moment, we might ask ourselves: What are the qualities in the person that appeal and why? Where else in your life, and with who else in your life, might you find and cultivate these?

A crush can also be telling you something about you. About pieces of yourself that are craving to be seen.

‘Feelings are information, not directions. They can be seen and heard and not acted upon.’

By shining the light onto our own self as opposed to the other, we might illuminate parts of our self that have been hidden. I have noticed that, for me, the main appeal of subjects of a crush is confidence, also competence around work and success around work, and also humour. It’s not either/or: you can still fancy the person like mad, while also shining some of that light within, and seeing that the qualities you admire and are drawn to so fiercely can be cultivated in yourself.

‘How might you step deeper into these appealing qualities within yourself?’

Much of this is gendered. The qualities we see and which are appealing to us in others are often qualities that are often not permitted in us. Or, they are, but only in a lighter shade. By really taking this idea in, we can begin to give ourselves permission to step into those qualities.

If the crush is an existing friend, we need to reflect on whether it’s worth risking the connection we already have. If the friendship is important, is it worth taking the risks attached to layering additional intimacy or escalating the relationship?

If they are someone we know distantly, or don’t know at all, we can wonder what assumptions we are making about them and what relationship with them would be like. What images, stories, words and feelings come up? What might they be telling you about what you need? How might we get those needs met safely in other parts of our lives while also developing and creating a connection?

We need to see and hold the complexity of the object of our crush as well as ourselves.

A crush can give us insight into what we need. If we can also see that those needs are valid, and if we slow down, we can hopefully get them met well, and in a conscious way.

By taking our time, we can make a more conscious choice about what happens next. We cannot avoid ‘issues’, but we can deepen connection with grace and awareness. This involves really, really slowing down.

Why it can be good to act from a place of choice as opposed to being swept along by a song or two

A crush can feel amazing. The feelings of energy and excitement and optimism and anxiety all speak to a need for action, to do something about them.

It is absolutely valid that the excitement of a crush feels good. This makes sense. And all of the above risks sounding super-boring.  Why take it slooooow? Why think about it so much? Yeesh. It all sounds like work, when you just wanna feel giddy. But are you also not getting a little tired of making the same mistakes? Of repeating the same patterns? Might a change here actually feel good, even if it is unfamiliar?

Being caught up in feelings and moving quickly can mean we too easily cross boundaries, misread or miss signals, or act carelessly and non-consensually.  Speeded up, we can misinterpret body language as well as verbal communication. There’s no crime in being clumsy or making mistakes, but this can easily slip into non-consensual behaviour, into taking as opposed to being open to receiving. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s equally important to apologise for any harm caused and to take steps to not cause that harm again. We need to not demand more than is being offered. And we need to not offer more than we can give. Taking smaller, more conscious steps might sound dull, but it gives us a chance to really be deliberate and to see what is the best thing to do, as well as a chance to act in union and mutually with the other, as opposed to pressing our desires upon them.

Good questions to consider when you’re feeling calm are:

  • What are the qualities in that person which are disowned in you?
  • What are the qualities that are familiar, which may be appealing because they allow you to act in familiar but perhaps less helpful ways, whether it is work or a person or a hobby? How would you like to act differently?
  • Stepping six months into the future, who are you and what do you see yourself doing? What are your priorities? What were they before your feelings shifted?
  • What are the feelings telling you that you need? Is this person actually, objectively, a good fit for those needs?
  • What is behind the attraction? Is this a familiar pattern that you’re repeating? Is this something you want to do? What are the real risks of pursuing this further? What are the benefits? What might you gain? Lose?

Acting from a place of choice doesn’t mean not feeling excited and fluttery and wonderful, it means taking a step in the knowledge that you’re ready whatever happens next… Being more aware can even make this amazing feeling happen within you, for and about you, as well as help it last longer between you and others.

Further reading / listening