Crushing hard is only fun when the person you have your eye on is available. Catch feelings for someone in a committed relationship, and it can hurt almost as badly as a breakup.
"Even though a crush isn’t quite the same, our hearts can still ache for what might have been," says Dr. Suzanne Degges-White, Ph.D., chair and professor of counseling and counselor education at Northern Illinois University.
Here's how to get over a crush you can't date before you lose your damn mind:
1. Avoid unnecessary interactions.
Constantly running into your crush at work or school can cause legitimate emotional agony-but it only feels inescapable. "It can definitely be helpful to limit the exposure time you have to the verboten crush," Dr. Suzanne Degges-White says.
Small tweaks like dodging their desk on your way to the office espresso machine, or saying you're running late when you bump into them in the hall can help you subtly distance yourself.
"Being pleasant, but not overly friendly, is the best way to handle interactions," Dr. Degges-White suggests. You're not forbidding yourself from talking to them–you're just reducing your own emotional attachment.
2. Limit your social media stalking.
Seeing your crush's Instagram posts, stories, and status updates will only magnify the sadness you feel when you see him or her, say, taking a couples' hike with someone besides you.
It's why Dr. Degges-White suggests curbing your digital interactions with them. You don't have to dramatically unfriend or block your crush–a simple Facebook unfollow, or mute on Instagram or Twitter will do the trick.
And if you still end up perusing your crush's tagged pics while bored-browsing your Insta? Dr. Degges-White recommends going one step further: Curb the habit by spending less time on social media, altogether.
3. Distract yourself with other people and activities.
If your crush is in your group, you might be tempted to suppress your feelings and maintain your friendship. But when you're secretly into them, investing time in your friendship can really mess with your emotions.
"There’s no magic cure for an unrequited crush," Dr. Degges-White says. "But focusing on other relationships or finding a new passion can sometimes help make the healing period a little shorter."
So hit up your other friends to hang out more. Get into a niche sport like rock-climbing or aerobic pole-dancing. If you're up for it, go on a date. Do anything to move away from the idea that being with this person is your one path to happiness. If it's meant to happen, living your best life won't get in the way.
4. Give your crush's partner a break.
Pretty much every rom-com ever includes a love interest who is already dating a catty, super-uninteresting monster woman whose only defining character trait is keeping the main characters from being together.
But in real life, your crush's partner is a person, not an obstacle.
Casting your crush's girlfriend or boyfriend as the villain makes it easier to fixate on a breakup that gives you the opportunity to swoop in-a fantasy that's probably unrealistic and will either disappoint you, or keep you perpetually looking towards the future instead of living in the moment. It's why you're better off accepting the status quo regardless of how you feel about your crush's choice in partners.
5. Admit you don't actually want to be "the other woman."
"There’s something about wanting what you can’t have that can be seductive," Dr. Degges-White says-and it's especially true when your crush is a total flirt despite being taken, which could be bad news from the get-go.
See, even if that person doesn't cheat-cheat with you, if they badmouth their partner to you or sometimes hold your hand when they're drunk, guess what! That's emotional cheating-and one strike for infidelity.
"Track records show that a person that cheats on one partner is pretty likely to cheat on the next one," Dr. Degges-White says.
What's more, someone who's willing to cheat on their partner may be unhappy in their current relationship. And there's no way to tell whether they're falling for you or the idea of running away from the person they're seeing.
6. Set firm physical boundaries.
Alas, if only it were as simple as knowing a person who comes on to you despite their commitment to someone else is a selfish douche-and subsequently losing interest in them. But feelings aren't always so neat and logical. If you're concerned you might be tempted to make out with a taken crush who's particularly flirty, it's important to set up some ground rules to avoid doing something you may end up regretting, according to Dr. Degges-White says.
If you can't eliminate social interactions altogether, make a rule to not physically touch your crush apart from, say, a platonic hug. And if you have to see them at after-work drinks, have one vodka-soda and peace out so your buzz doesn't cloud your resolve. Distancing yourself from your crush is the least you can do for yourself: You'll avoid the emotional clusterf*ck and guilt that tend to follow intoxicatingly-dangerous kisses.
And if you've tried all these tips and continue to fall for unavailable people...
It might be part of a larger pattern of you falling for realistically-undateable people, according to Dr. Degges-White.
"Sometimes, people are attracted to 'forbidden fruit' because it serves as a protective mechanism," she says. "If a person lacks self-confidence in their romantic attractiveness and they choose to crush on people that are unattainable, they are probably protecting themselves from potential failure and from being hurt."
On the other hand, she notes that you could be someone who enjoys the chase but starts to panic when you get the chance to date the person you'd pursued for so long.
As simultaneously thrilling and devastating as these crushes can be, after a while, they'll just leave you with a muted sadness.
"You need to ask yourself what is keeping you from setting your sights on someone who might actually be available for a genuine relationship," Degges-White says, adding that self-exploration via therapy, or simply talking things through with your close friends can help.
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