Dear Dr. Wes and John: For a long time now, I have liked a guy. He has the same interests as I do, and we used to flirt and hang out with each other a lot. He told me he didn't want a girlfriend and I was fine with that, so we still hung out about once or twice a month. It isn't much, I know. Now I find myself attached to him emotionally, and it scares me because I know he doesn't feel the same way. I have tried everything to stop myself. I even read "He's Just Not That Into You." Nothing works. The more time passes, the more I feel as if I am that crazy girl that likes him. I don't want to be that. I give up. Please advise.
Dr. Wes: Love has a bad reputation of being a bit crazy. I prefer thinking of it as something we choose to give to others for good and sensible reasons. Then again, I'm 44. At your age, love is much more emotional - dark and beautiful, excruciating and euphoric, stellar and hellish. Anything with such kick has the potential for obsession. I doubt you're that far gone, but it may feel as if you are. Unfortunately, we have a long literary tradition reinforcing obsessive love. How many movies include a smitten guy (or girl) desperately pursing one true love and in the final scene winning her over with shear force of will? In the real world, that's a good way to get labeled as a stalker - or, as you put it, "the crazy girl that likes him." It's not a pathway to healthy romance.
Sit down and ask yourself some questions:
What am I getting out of this relationship? Is there something lacking elsewhere in your life: emotion, drama, companionship, attention? People don't do much of anything for no reason at all. If this relationship is meeting some hidden need, maybe you can meet it elsewhere.
Isn't there someone else to date? This is not the only guy in your school or the world. Decide to start other relationships whether it "feels right" or not. See if they don't distract and then divert you from this one. It may sound like a rebound, but in fact rebounds usually resolve lost love - or they wouldn't be so popular. Act "as if" things are OK and, shockingly enough, they become that way.
What about intimacy? Here's a piece of advice I got from sex therapist Laura Berman of Chicago: Don't keep sleeping with someone you don't want to fall in love with. For women, sex is ultimately about emotional interchange. If you and your friend are intimate, it's going to become increasingly hard to let go.
Enjoy this time of life in which love is a flaming blowtorch that sometimes leaves one singed. Just remember not to base any big decisions on it or commit yourself to it. In the long run, the torch won't fuel a relationship. Maturity and a good match will. You've got time. Keep looking.
John: First thing's first: What do YOU think the solution is? Chances are, you already know what to do. You know your friend isn't interested in a romantic relationship but is OK with friendship. It's really your call as to what to do next. There are lots of times when the "just friends" arrangement works out well, and I believe yours is one of these cases.
Actually, you're a long way from becoming the "crazy girl" with a one-way crush. It's perfectly healthy to talk to your friend twice a month - if that's what you want. If your friendship is causing you more misery than fun, it might be time to break off communications. But if you still enjoy each other's presence and you can avoid bringing up romance, then you should spend as much time together as both of you are comfortable with. But you must avoid flirting or hinting about future romance, otherwise you'll continue to live the same drama over and over again. Limit how many text messages you send to avoid coming across as obsessive.
My friends and I have fierce debates about what makes a woman attractive, and we've come to a unanimous conclusion: There is no gold standard to which women can be compared. Different guys are into different girls, and there's not much we can do about it. Of course, you could try and become what you think your friend considers attractive, but then you'd be losing a part of yourself. A better solution is to actively search for new friends, while keeping an eye out for cute boys. I can personally attest that there is something of a placebo effect involved in infatuation. If you think there is no one more handsome than your friend, your eyes won't want to prove you wrong. I agree with Wes. You should keep meeting new people, maybe try a date or two, in order to keep yourself open to new possibilities.
Finally, guys tend to focus their groups on activities, while girls focus their activities on groups. So a guy might call his friends to play a game of basketball, while a girl might meet up with her friends and decide what to do together. This can cause confusion when the sexes get together. You implied that you simply "hung out" with your friend, but what was HE actually doing? Watching TV? Surfing the Web? Playing video games? Or was he interacting with you? The goal is to have friends who interact with you and activities you enjoy together. That way, your acquaintance will not be so important to you and you will have many chances to meet others.
Next week: A teen with a "bad temper" wants to know how to avoid taking it out on his family.
- Dr. Wes Crenshaw is a board-certified family psychologist and director of the Family Therapy Institute Midwest. John Murray is a Free State High School senior. Opinions and advice given here are not meant as a substitute for psychological evaluation or therapy services. Send your questions about adolescent issues to firstname.lastname@example.org. All correspondence is strictly confidential.