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‘My crush is gay and will never love me back. How do I cope?’

Ask Roe: How can I talk myself down and restore the nice, normal friendship we had?

Many people who get intense crushes have energy to spare. They enjoy having someone to focus on, they enjoy the passion and spark that crushes bring, they enjoy a chase. Photograph: Getty

Dear Roe,

I’ve recently made a new friend through another friend. We got on well really quickly and have spent a lot of time together even without our mutual friend. He’s gay and is currently dating men. I’m a woman and identify as pansexual. I’ve recently found myself very attracted to him, physically and emotionally. It’s turned into a crush to the point where I put more effort into my appearance to go and see him and check my phone for his texts more than any of my other friends. I know attraction to another person is something you can keep to yourself and I fully intend to do that. But I think this crush is impacting my friendship with him and I find myself acting in a way I hope impresses him, as I would with any other type of crush. I don’t want to do this and I’m wondering how I can talk myself down and just restore the nice, normal friendship we had.

“That’s why they call them crushes. If they were easy, they’d call them something else.” It was true when Jim Baker said it in the 1984 film Sixteen Candles and it’s true today; the nature of crushes is that they can be overwhelming in the best and worst ways, consuming our thoughts and bending us to their will.

I think the most important aspect of your crush – and most emotionally difficult, obviously – is knowing that it will remain unrequited and I do think it’s going to be important not to fall into unhelpful obsessing over imagined romantic futures with this person. Like anyone who is unavailable to us, for whatever reason, obsessing over them can ironically make us emotionally unavailable to more suitable matches and can turn something fun and sexy and energetically charged into something torturous that can make us feel stuck and stifled.


I wonder if this situation is a one-off for you, or do you have a history of being attracted to people who are unavailable, emotionally or otherwise? Do you have a history of placing a higher value on people who aren’t attracted to you, who don’t want you sexually or romantically and chasing them for attention, validation, love, as if they held the ability to judge your worth as a person? Do you find people who are aloof or mysterious or unavailable more interesting than people who show up, ready and willing to love you? Do you encounter emotional distance or unavailability as some form of superior strength compared to people who openly adore you, who you see as a bit weaker?

Maybe you don’t. But I’d urge you to look at your dating history and even your friendships to see if there’s a pattern of you wanting things that are out of reach. Because when we value things that are unavailable, we remain unavailable to ourselves, as we avoid the messy, vulnerable complexity of having someone utterly adore us and must not only rise to the challenge of loving them back, but confront how we feel about ourselves and whether we believe we deserve love and adoration. (Spoiler: you do, but many of us aren’t ready to accept that yet.)

I’m interested in your desire to exert control over this crush, over yourself. Part of you really doesn’t like this anxious, phone-checking, nervous, endless-outfit-changing version of you that your crush brings out. I wonder why you don’t like this sensitive, intense, romantic, anxious, vulnerable, eager-to-impress part of you and whether you shy away from other sensitive, intense romantic, anxious, vulnerable, eager-to-impress creatures because they remind you too much of yourself?

It doesn’t sound like your crush is at an unhealthy level right now, so I’m hoping that instead of trying to control and quash it, that you get really curious about what it brings out in you and try harness that energy in ways that are helpful, exciting, passionate and joyful. Crushes are great at showing us what makes us feel alive; of reminding us how to find romance and energy in the small things; and they inspire us to be the best version of ourselves. You are friends with someone whose company you not only enjoy, but who makes you want to be the brightest, most shiny version of yourself. When that is something you can genuinely revel in and harness and use, rather than something that feels like pressure and a burden, this crush energy could make your life a bit more shiny.

Many people who get intense crushes have energy to spare. They enjoy having someone to focus on, they enjoy the passion and spark that crushes bring, they enjoy a chase – so let’s figure out how you can bring that focus, spark and chase to aspects of your life that are more helpful and generative.

If this person makes you want to spend time on your appearance, great – but bring that energy into your life at other times, not just when you’re seeing your crush. Make a plan with friends to get dressed up and go somewhere, so you learn the joy of feeling good and making daily life an occasion worth dressing for, even it it’s only once in a while. If your crush makes you want to be the most interesting version of yourself, wonderful. Grab that curiosity and throw yourself into reading, learning, committing to your favourite hobby, or learning something new and adventurous and impressive and weird – not just so that you can tell them about it, but so that your life is as interesting as your glorious, sensitive, intense mind. If they make you feel ambitious and driven, then throw yourself into a creative project or challenge yourself at work to do something you’ve been scared to pursue. And if this crush makes you feel hot and bothered and sexy and so in your body that you can’t stand it, then go out dancing, go sea swimming, go to the gym, go to a gig, go on a date with someone else, stay home and lather yourself in your favourite bath products and skincare and enjoy a night (or several) with your favourite sex toys. Enjoy the feeling of being utterly embodied – but don’t keep this energy completely tethered to and dependent on your crush. Take all the energy they’re inspiring in you and bring it out into the world. Learn how to feel connected to your desires and emotions and body generally.

When you stop focusing all your energy and magic only on people who won’t love you back, you learn how to accept yourself. You learn to embrace the sensitive, romantic, intense, weirdo parts of you. You learn that your magic deserves to be seen, every day.

This person may become a lifelong friend, a platonic soulmate, or they may just become someone you know. They are not the person for you, romantically. But this energy they inspire is a reminder of the person you can be – but you think that you can only be it for them, that they’re the only person worth being this exciting and shiny for. They’re not. You deserve to feel like this version of yourself, for you. And when you stop confining this energy to them and start bringing it out into the world, other people are going to notice; people who are emotionally available and ready to adore you. Learn how to let their adoration in.