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When crushes crush your heart

Updated: May 25, 2023

It can feel so damn good to be under someone's spell. Chemistry. Tension. Excitement. Anticipation. Longing. Fantasy. Even when you know nothing will ever come of it, a crush can be electrifying.



I've dedicated more than one past essay to the subject of crushes, of attractions I've felt for people other than PM. Being in the precence of someone I like like is . . . intoxicating. But what happens when the bubble bursts? When our crushes crush us?



Yeah, I got crushed by my crush just few months ago. I mean, don't get me wrong. It wasn't intentional on his part. I'm pretty sure he had no idea how much I liked him. I'm married, and he's married. How could he know? And yet "crushed" is exactly what I felt.



And now that I've begun to regain a modicum of self-confidence again, I've given some thought to this phenomenon. How, even as a grown-ass woman -- one with a beautiful life complete with a loving, committed spouse and healthy, happy offspring -- I can still feel utterly gutted after realizing that the person for whom my heart races has no interest in my attention. I find that I'm truly amazed at my capacity for heartache over something that was never anything more than admiration from afar and the stuff of erotic daydreams. *shakes head*



So I'm left asking myself the question, when we have built-up a relationship in our imagination, how can we find our way forward after the fantasy has crumbled? When the excitement of that attraction has turned to feelings of rejection, how can we recover and feel like ourselves again?



As married women, we don't talk about stuff like this. Not even to one other. I think in part it's a fear of judgment –– that others may misconstrue our attractions as a kind of betrayal to our spouses and families and maybe even a prelude to an actual affair. Our compulsory monogamy culture assumes that we'll feel complete fulfillment with our romantic partner, that our relationship will meet all our needs (companionship, romance, sex, emotional support, you name it) and that we shouldn't desire anyone else. So admitting we have feelings of attraction and desire for someone other than our partner or spouse sounds to others like our primary relationship is headed for trouble.



I also wonder whether deep down there also lies a fear that if our spouse is the object of another's admiration, there is the potential to disrupt our own relationship. Whatever the case, talking about married people crushing on others brings up a host of issues that we may not want to think about.



Primarily we're reminded that married folks still have erotic fantasies (we're human after all!) and that we can't control our partner's erotic self. I don't know what my spouse sees and feels when he looks at others. And as I've talked about before, that's scary as hell. If my partner finds out that someone has a crush on them, what happens if that attraction is mutual? Will my relationship be in danger?



Acknowledging that married adults may feel a pull toward another person means that fidelity isn't a given. That choosing our partners, our spouses, wasn't a one time thing. We chose them over others when we became a couple, but we choose them instead of others over and over again, over the life of our relationship. And depending on the state of the relationship, this reminder that our spouses continue to have a choice can feel threatening.



I'd have felt incredibly isolated and even a little ashamed about my attraction and subsequent heartbreak (and yes, I'll call it "heartbreak," because that's what it felt like) if I didn't have a close friend with whom I could share these things without fear of judgment.



All year she endured my teenager-level excitement when I would see my crush or exchange texts with him. And she laughed with me and even appropriately trash-talked with me when I didn't get a reaction from him that I was hoping for. Yes, it was all very juvenile, but I felt young and fabulous.

Having a crush after all these years felt invigorating. Sure, I had felt attracted to people over the years, but this was a something different. And it wasn't until recently that I realized why this felt so different, why it hit me so hard, but I'll get to that.



It just so happened that my friend and confidante had found herself under the spell of a crush this summer. We both giggled together like school-girls as we found a sense of aliveness in feeling that pull toward another person, for we were reminded that we are more than wives, mothers, caregivers. Crushing on another person (and being honest with ourselves about it) allowed us to reconnect with our whole selves –– human beings with passions and dreams and desires. And part of this sense of wholeness is a sense of self as an erotic being.



When we find another person who ignites our erotic selves, we savor every moment we spend near them. Every smile or laugh can make our heart soar. A crush can put a spring in our step. It can mean a swipe of mascara and lipstick we otherwise might not bother with.



For me, it reminded me that my home life -- my marital status, my kids -- doesn't define me as a person, as a woman. And that maybe, just maybe, someone out there in the world, someone unbeholden to me, might also be thinking about me, might be hoping for one more conversation with me, one more moment of my attention. And at 42, married for two decades with three kids, that felt damn good.



When I finally realized that I was crowding my crush, that he wasn't interested in playful exchanges with me or conversing outside our normal social interactions, the accompanying feelings of rejection were surprisingly intense. I felt like shit. That's the plain truth of it.



My crush bubble had burst, and it left me feeling unwanted, undesirable, rejected. I never intended for anything to come of my attraction for this other man. But the fantasy that maybe I was admired in return, that maybe he enjoyed my attention –– that shit was powerful. And to find it was nothing more than pure fantasy, it fucking hurt.


 

Lest you think that I won’t be returning to the topic of ethical non-monogamy (because I have no doubt you are all curious to find out more about PM's perspective on the topic), I assure you, all this crush talk is intricately tied to my feelings about the possibility of sexual exploring with other people.



While I readily admit that my erotic imagination is wild and untamed, a place wherein I can explore the forbidden and even the impossible, finding that I could again feel an erotic pull toward someone in my real life has caused me to imagine all sorts of possibilities. Smokin’ hot possibilities. And PM and I are still figuring it all out. So I assure you, more to come on that.

 

I wrote "A letter to my unrequited crush" at the end of this summer as a way for me to find some closure. I needed to walk away from my musings about this person, to close the door on my crush fantasies -- if for nothing else but the sake of my bruised heart and ego -- and I decided that writing out the thoughts and feelings that I could never share with this individual might help me accomplish this. And in the end, it did. I was able to put some things into better perspective.



What had started as a crush that made me feel alive, had transitioned into something that just left me feeling pathetic. I was never going to get the validation from this individual that I so desperately wanted. And he clearly didn't need the validation of my attention. *cringes* I needed to let go, emotionally and psychologically.



What was I hoping to get from this man? Honestly, all I was really looking for was some friendly, playful banter that would fuel the ol’ erotic imagination — you know, some silly chatting wherein I could pretend this person might actually find me as attractive as I find them. Despite what my erotic imagination liked to cook up -- and yes, it's true that that shit got filthy at times -- all I ever really wanted from this person was some attention in response to my own.



I initially beat myself up pretty badly over the whole thing. I felt quite pitiful actually. Here I am, a middle-aged (almost!) mother of three, trying to get a sexy male friend to flirt. And he has no interest whatsoever. I was so embarrassed that I had tried putting myself out there in even a tiny way. What was I thinking?! I chastised myself.



I’ve looked back over texts that I had sent him, and they were mostly silly and stupid. Nothing untoward. Just a little over-eager and familiar. But he wasn’t interested in playing. End of story.



So I felt pretty shitty for a time. And I’m embarrassed by this fact, too. Even more embarrassing — okay, maybe not more embarrassing, but still pretty humiliating — is the fact that PM noticed that I wasn’t myself, that I was less playful and frisky with him than usual, which caused him to ask me about what was wrong. And what a weird conversation that was! But I’ll get to that in a moment.



I saw the man formerly-known-as-my-crush at a local cafe about a week after our final awkward text exchange, after I had already written and published my unsent letter piece. And when I say I saw him, I literally mean “I saw him.” That’s it. Because I ran away without saying hello. *cringes*



I saw his car in the small parking lot as I walked up the sidewalk, and opening the door to the cafe, I took a deep breath and tried to steady my nerves. I knew I looked good (so I had that going for me in terms of confidence). Tiny sundress. Sandals. All tanned legs and beachy hair. And as I pulled the door open, I said to myself, Yeah, Molly, you can do this. You’re a big girl. I felt like I should just rip off the friggin’ bandaid and get it over with. Talk to the man and act like everything is as everything was. Because, really, I'm pretty sure for him, nothing had changed.



He doesn’t want to have a flirty-friendship with you. So what? I argued with myself.We’re still friends. It doesn’t mean we can't still have conversations like always. Because as a friend would remind me later, for him it still is as it always was. “He has no idea how you feel about him, how much you’ve built this up," she wisely pointed out.



I was sure I could do this -- look him in the eyes and say hello. But then I chickened out. Big time. *grimaces*



After a quick glance around, I saw him seated in a corner by the door. And what did I do? I proceeded to sit on the other side of the room and look at my phone until my order was up. I focused on putting some upcoming kids’ stuff in my calendar and tried not to fall off my stool like a freak.



Then they called my order, I got up, grabbed it from the bar… and b-lined it out of there. I saw him in my periphery as I approached the door to exit, and it would have taken only the smallest turn of my head to be looking straight at him. But did I turn? Nope.



And I would normally have stopped and said hello, whether he had initially seen me or not. And, in fact, I have done so before, in that very same cafe. One such occasion happened just a few weeks before, prior to our final weird text exchange that had me feeling embarrassed and a bit depressed. We had chatted. Our kids. His work. Summer fun.



So why did I now act like I didn’t see this man who was sitting there at a table not more than 5 feet from the door I had to walk out of?



I'm embarrassed, definitely. But I’m going to have to get over that eventually. I will see him in the future at social events and get togethers. So no avoiding him forever.



I think the main reason I couldn't stop and be friendly was because I felt like there was only one way it would have gone. He would have been kind and acted like no awkwardness had passed between us. And I would have felt like crap all over again.



I would have tried to pretend that I was cool, that it was all no big deal. That I wasn’t feeling chastised by his response to what was a stupid misunderstanding. And while that is how I’d want to come across, I’d inevitably seem sad and wistful. And that would be the most embarrassing part of it all. I mean, I'm a grown, married woman, for god's sake!



I don’t know if he saw me. I could see out of the corner of my eye that his head came up as I reached the door. I’m hoping he didn’t see me, and if he did, I can only hope I seemed relaxed and care-free. Even though my heart was racing and my stomach was in my throat.



The truth is that at that moment in time, the let-down was still too fresh. I couldn’t just pretend that I wasn’t a little crushed.



It's amazing how having a crush at my age could make me feel so alive in one moment, like life is full of endless possibilities, and then in another, make me feel like my time as a sexy, desirable woman is over and I should be put out to pasture. *throws up hands in disgust*



As I walked out the door of the cafe, I pulled out my phone and immediately texted my friend. “I just pretended not to see [“Tom”] in [name of cafe]. I’m so fucking lame 😖”



Her response not five seconds later? “No you’re not! He is! 🤣” I had to smile and laugh. *big exhale* Thank goodness for good friends that I can be myself with. That I can share my shit with and not be afraid of judgment. Seriously. One of my life’s greatest gifts.





When PM and I smoked some weed after the kids went to bed, I decided to tell PM how I had seen “Tom” at the cafe when I had grabbed a smoothie, but that I had snuck out without saying hello. He looked at me incredulously. “Why would you do that?” he asked. “What were you afraid of?”



“I don’t know,” I replied. I thought about all the various different people in my life, and if I could name one other person for whom I would have reacted the same way. I couldn’t think of one, not one, who I would avoid like that.



And yet for this sweet man, with whom I’ve spent many cumulative hours chatting about all sorts of things, I didn’t even acknowledge. And I felt like such an ass afterwards. But I still couldn’t put into words why I couldn’t stop and say hi. I only know that it felt like an act of self-preservation.



PM, being the perceptive man that he is (and the one person on the planet who knows me almost as well as I know myself), articulated what I could not. “Is it because the interaction would have been too safe? Because he would have been too normal?”



I sucked in a quick breath and then huffed a laugh. “I’m not sure,” I responded, because I really wasn’t sure. I wasn’t even sure what PM meant by “safe.”



PM went on. “You knew he wasn’t going to flirt with you. He would have been his normal, kind self. And that’s not what you want.”



Fuck. Yeah, PM had nailed it. (And PM had no idea about any awkward text exchange. The man just gets me. God, I'm lucky to have him.)



PM was spot on. “Tom” would have been as he always is — considerate and attentive, in the way that he is with everyone. He would have chatted with me like he always does. He would have been perfectly kind and friendly and the friggin’ poster-child for appropriate boundaries. A shining example of how traditional society expects a man should speak and behave with a woman who is not his spouse.



But that isn’t what I want. I want to converse with this man and feel like I’m not just like everyone else to him, but that I’m someone a little bit special, a friend that he likes talking to maybe little too much. I want to feel like he wants my attention.



But I’m not and he doesn’t. And so it just hurts to think of that type of safe, platonic interaction with him. When all I want is his attention in that moment. All I want is for him to want my attention. *big exhale*



I had been happy, crushing on this man in my own ridiculous erotic imagination. Pretending that our interactions meant even a little something to him, that maybe he looked forward to seeing me. Basking in our infrequent but lovely conversations.



But I had to go and ruin it for myself. I pushed with the stupid texts, and the result was that I burst the bubble I had created for myself. It was no big deal, really — my playful, silly attempts to extend our friendly banter to text messages fell flat. Like really flat. He clearly wasn’t interested in exchanges outside our typical social interactions, and I feel like an idiot to have thought otherwise.



We’re still friends. It’s just not what I want because it’s not what I need. I already have numerous male friends with whom I can have “safe" and appropriate conversations. And I even have a few with whom I feel I can be my weird, nerdy, socially-inept, sense-of-humor-of-a-14-year-old-boy, self. And I need these friendships. I appreciate them. But honestly, I wasn’t looking for another asexual male friendship.



What can I say? I want a little sexual tension in my life. Even if it’s just that sexy, jacked father at the pool that keeps making eye contact with me although we’ve never actually spoken, and then lo and behold, he moves from his normal lounge chair spot to one right in front of mine. Yeah, I had me some lovely fantasies later that evening that involved that man’s face (which, of course, is bearded…for my pleasure *eyebrow waggle*). But I digress…



I mean, fuck. All I want is to feel appreciated by a man who isn’t obligated to me. I want to feel noticed as a woman by someone I like, someone I respect. I want to be seen and admired for me, for the person I am in this moment, without thought of my past or future self, my accomplishments or failures.



Am I asking too much of the men I know, who are admittedly mostly married, as a reasonably attractive woman in her forties? I know everyone has a different level of comfort when it comes to flirting or playful interactions outside one’s marriage. But I don’t think I’m asking for much. Then again, in a compulsive monogamous culture where couples fear the idea of the “third” — that their partners could feel attraction and desire for someone else while still being completely devoted to their spouse — maybe I am.



I'm not interested in a serious attraction. I mean, I’m absolutely not looking for an affair. Someone to flirt with who wouldn’t be a threat to my relationship with PM — meaning someone fully committed to a spouse or partner — would be ideal. No strings attached. Just a mutual appreciation.



But unfortunately, as a stay at home parent of three, I have a relatively closed social circle. If it’s not coming from someone I already know, I’m not going to find it at this point. That isn’t to say something couldn’t surprise me. That I couldn’t meet new people. But… *shrugs* It’s bad enough that in terms of our youth obsessed culture, as I age I’m becoming more invisible by the day. *scowls and throws the bird*



And then, of course, cue the guilt. I can’t help but beat myself up for not being 100% fulfilled with my current life and the incredibly sexy man to whom I’m married. Why can’t the appreciation of my partner be enough? Why can’t I feel confident and sexy all on my own? Why do I need these validations at all?



I don’t know. I suppose I don’t technically need them. But it seems maybe that my erotic self needs the idea of the third to flourish. When there appears to be only one road available to us, it’s less appealing because it feels less like a choice.



Aaaaannnnd I’m back to where I was when I wrote “Can I be happily married and still want a side piece?” *shakes head*



So I hinted at the beginning of this piece that I realized after some time had passed why this particular crush crushed me so hard. Next week I'll share my epiphany, and how it relates to my feelings about ENM. They say that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. But, in fact, sometimes a cigar is a penis. And that's where I'll leave you until next week.



Until next time, stay kinky 😉


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