Out of Petals: Letting Go of Infatuation

He loves me, he loves me not.

TJ* was a senior but could check off every item on my mental list of qualities a guy had to have in order for me to marry him. Unfortunately, he would be graduating soon. It was better that way, since I had determined not to date in high school because there was no point. It would not work. There was no reason to think about him at all. I would not think about him.

My Grandmother—I call her Muti—told me once not to think about a black bull dog with a red tongue. She said no matter what, I should not think about that dog or his midnight fur or wet, raspberry-colored tongue.

Guess what I thought about?

Somehow, almost every journal entry from sophomore year of high school to sophomore year of college strayed into naming him. I can’t flip through the journal without seeing his name hopping across each page like a flip-book animation.

I didn’t invite him into my thoughts. He just intruded on his own–at least, the version of him I’d made up in my mind. My mental slide-shows would repeat our interactions over and over while I tried to read his face, his words, how he felt—how I felt. The more interactions we had, the more I clung to them and analyzed them. Then I would imagine a future where he would ask me out, or I would talk to him first, or somehow it would just happen without words. In my fantasies, we would just stare at each other, or hold hands, or garden, or read to each other on park benches. In reality, I did nothing to show I liked him. When I did catch myself trying to get his attention, I felt so guilty and confused that I would only obsess more.

I didn’t hold on to the crush. It held on to me. The infatuation consumed my thoughts for four years, even during summers when we didn’t see each other and after he graduated. I would imagine running into him at Target or a red light or the park.

Not long after he started college, his relationship status changed on Facebook. I cried in my mom’s arms saying I felt like a stupid teenager—which is what I was, though I never felt like it.

I tried letting it go, and I was okay for a while. When I finally went to college, two years later, and after surviving the first few weeks of classes, I got a text from a friend saying TJ wanted to date me. What? Where did that come from? He never showed interest before. 

It turned out that I was a rebound, and we never even met up before our technological communication ceased.

It was hard, but it finally broke me from my trance, and I was free.

TJ wasn’t the only guy I worried over when I was single. I remember one summer lying for hours at a time on the wicker porch swing and just imagining every possibility until I was trapped in my mind. For some reason I believed this process was necessary for something to happen in reality, but it never helped. I would always emerge as if from the dark—blinking, eyes unadjusted to the light.

What’s the Problem?

I shared this story because I know I’m not the only one who has worried and fretted over the possibility that a guy could be the one and that I might do something to mess that up if I don’t spend enough time playing through scenarios in my mind–right?

We typically use the word “infatuation” to describe something brief that happens right when you begin falling in love. It is considered foolish and over-the-top, and it tends to simmer off after getting to know someone more.

But what if you don’t get to know someone more? What if you’re carrying those intense feelings for someone but never get close enough to smell their stinky shoes or hear them say something unpleasant or dumb? Or maybe you do know them pretty well, but you still haven’t gotten further than friendship, and you still can’t tell if he likes you, so you read into every move he makes.

That’s the kind of infatuation I’m talking about. For me, it was unhealthy for my mind and stole much of the time and attention I could have given to better things. While I used to utilize my imagination for writing and empathy, infatuation hogged it all on fantasies that would never come true and that only hurt my self-confidence and joy.

We are not made to live in lies. It is hurtful to us and to the ones our minds are lying about. When we obsess over people as if all they are is a potential significant other, we are shoving them out of their significance as a person. We need to learn how to see people as people. It may be natural and harmless to think of someone as a potential mate at first, but to obsess on that and measure their actions is not harmless.

Bushwhacking

When I explained my issues with infatuation to my counselor, she told me I showed signs of O.C.D. My brain had locked onto a certain pattern. It was like the path in my backyard formed by my horses over years of them choosing the same way over and over again. My thoughts had dug through certain paths for so long that they were trapped in the ditch they had made.

The only way to break these thought patterns is to cut ourselves outside of the paths our minds form–we have to chop away the brush and carve out new patterns of thinking.

If you have a particular problem with obsession like I do, I highly recommend counseling. I’m not an expert, and what helped me may not help you. But I have learned from my experiences that there are some practical things you can do to bushwhack yourself out of infatuation.

Determine if it is healthy or unhealthy 

I don’t want to make it sound like all crushes are unhealthy. It’s perfectly normal to like someone. One way to determine if your crush is unhealthy is by how much it consumes your life and how much it affects your emotional health. If this crush makes you insecure, fearful, anxious, and guilty, then you may need to take some action to re-structure your thinking.

Another way to determine if it is unhealthy is if it is unrequited. If you have liked someone for a long time and spent time with them but they have shown no signs of acting toward a relationship with you, then either 1. it is not the right time, or 2. they like the friendship as it is. Unrequited love is a horrible burden to bear with no end in sight unless we take action against it.

Finally, if your interest in someone has caused you to do things things like Facebook-stalk or worse, you may be reaching an unhealthy level of infatuation.

Talk to somebody 

Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to release what is bothering you. Talk to a good friend who is trustworthy and will be honest with you. Try to avoid someone who will only feed your crush. Tell them how you feel and how he/she has acted. Your good friend may be able to tell you if this is a realistic thing or not, and they may push you to action. This can be uncomfortable if you are like me, but the best way to get out of your head is to do something.

Talk to your crush

After liking someone for some time and reading into his actions, I finally realized that I would not get over it until I knew how he felt. So I asked him. It was a tough thing to do, but you know what? He appreciated me talking to him, and we stayed good friends. In fact, our friendship got better because we had nothing to hide.

This is a terrifying prospect, but in my experience it is the quickest way to healing. If you think you really like this person, whether you are a girl or a guy, and you are ready to date, then talk to them. Trust me, they can only be flattered, and the worst thing that can happen–if handled well–is that you make a good friend.

I hate the term ‘just friends’ because it downplays guy/girl relationships. Many of my best friends in college were guys, and it was amazing to have these “brothers” in my life without fear of confusion.

If you are in a situation like I was with TJ where you are not ready to date and/or feel guilty for liking him, this step may not be best. However, I would recommend getting to know this person as a friend. I practically ran away from TJ whenever I saw him rather than treating him like a real person whom I could relate to in non-romantic ways.

Kill the guilt

You don’t have to ever feel guilty for liking someone. And I mean even if this person is someone whom you can’t be with in a Godly way. Our minds are weird things, and I wouldn’t call it a sin if your mind is doing something you don’t want it to do–even if you like it!

To clarify, I am not saying you should pursue this relationship if you feel it is bad. But guilt can only add another layer of obsession to infatuation. Instead, I highly recommend talking to a counselor who can help you bushwhack your way out of it.

Starve the crush 

There is a parable about two wolves–a good wolf and the bad wolf wrestling inside of a man. When he is asked which one is winning, the man says, “The one I feed.”

We have to starve out bad habits and thoughts. We do this through action. If there is anything that makes your obsession worse–social media, romantic movies, etc.–shut it off. If you find yourself thinking about this person as only a potential significant other, then try shifting your perspective so that they become a person again.

The best way to starve a crush, however, is to feed good habits and thoughts. If we only try to starve the bad wolf, the good wolf will also starve. This may mean doing things that have absolutely nothing to do with the crush. If you’re prone to sit around worrying about this guy, then get out of the house. Start a new hobby. Hang out with friends.

Don’t Feed Others’ Crushes

This is so important. Many people like myself can quickly taken up by the power of suggestion. Two of the major crushes I had started because someone else told me that so-and-so and I would be good together. This may be harmless to some people, but to others it can create a spiral of wondering “what-if?”

Trust God with your future

This is the most important one, and if you haven’t read my latest post–“Our Story: How God Helped Me Say YES”–then please do because it is all about God being faithful in our dating relationships.

I have come to believe that the root of infatuation is fear. We are afraid we are wrong. We’re afraid we’ll end up alone. We’re afraid it’s all up to us. We’re afraid [fill in the blank].

We don’t kill fear by fighting. We kill fear by trusting. Trust that God has your heart. God wants to be the first in your life. Let your journey towards dating be an exercise of faith and obedience. God cares, and the Spirit will guide you.

Trust God with your crush’s future

Sometimes we hold onto a crush because we are convinced that he or she needs us. This is not true. While I believe strongly that relationships are important for healing and growing as people and followers of God, I also believe that we are not meant to be in everyone’s life. God can take care of people without us. You may think that you know this person and are the only one who can help them, but God knows them and loves them so much more deeply. God knows their needs. Pray for this person, and put them in God’s hands.

Be Patient

This one comes after trust because trust allows us to be patient.

When I finally learned to let go of infatuation, it was because I trusted in God’s timing. Infatuation wants things to happen now. We obsess because we believe it will help speed things up. But it never does. Being patient means trusting that, if something is meant to happen, then it will happen. My husband and I were friends for three years before we both–at the same time–realized we loved each other and that we were ready to pursue marriage. In the meantime, we were great friends.

When we want things to happen now, we miss out on so much of the present blessings in our lives.

Wait

When we are patient, we can kill crushes before they even start by being willing to wait for knowledge. When we obsess, it’s because we want to know now what cannot be known. If you don’t know if someone likes you or not, then crushing on them in an obsessive way is unhealthy. Don’t waste your time on someone who barely knows you exist! You can become friends with them and act as I mentioned above, but let your thoughts rest in patience until you know he or she is interested.

While Your Single

You’ve probably read a ton of blogs or books on making the most of your single life by traveling, building your career, growing closer to God, and becoming the best man/woman you can be. I don’t have a lot to add, but I do want to end this post with one more word of encouragement.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul writes: 32-35 I want you to live as free of complications as possible. When you’re unmarried, you’re free to concentrate on simply pleasing the Master. Marriage involves you in all the nuts and bolts of domestic life and in wanting to please your spouse, leading to so many more demands on your attention. The time and energy that married people spend on caring for and nurturing each other, the unmarried can spend in becoming whole and holy instruments of God. I’m trying to be helpful and make it as easy as possible for you, not make things harder. All I want is for you to be able to develop a way of life in which you can spend plenty of time together with the Master without a lot of distractions (The Message).”

I am not sharing this to say that dating and marriage is bad. Even Paul would not say that. I am also not saying that single people have a better relationship with God. I do think that we often miss out on the opportunities we have as single women and men when we spend that time focused on being in a relationship. In fact, when we are feeding infatuation or exerting our energy into finding a date, we are perhaps adding on “so many more demands on [our] attention” than even married people have! We are consumed by distractions from God. Only when we are free from these fears and are willing to walk in God’s timing are we also free to love God with our all.

Let this time be the precious blessing that it is.

So–

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” (Philippians 4:7-9).


*Names changed

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