Defining Crushes

So, two weeks ago I made a post about being asexual and getting a crush. However, one question that this brought up is how we define crushes in the first place! Crushes seem to be this weird phenomenon that a lot of people feel, but no one ever really takes the time to define it. In general, when I ask people how they know they have a crush, they just reply, “You know it when you have one!” It gets more complicated when you factor in asexuality, since so often, people lump romantic emotions with sexual ones. So, the past two weeks, I’ve been on a journey trying to define crushes.

The dictionary definition of a crush was vague and varied.  They ranged, from “the puppy love of an adolescent” to “an intense but usually short-lived infatuation.”  However, if I’ve learned anything from my past experiences, it’s that dictionaries can rarely describe the complex emotions felt by actual human beings. So, I decided to move on to asking friends and acquaintances how they experience crushes.

What I’ve gotten (unsurprisingly) is a huge diversity in responses. They were from ‘wanting someone to call you nice things and cuddle with them’ to ‘finding whoever will give you the best sex.’ One friend described her crushes as finding someone physically attractive, then wanting to get to know them to see if their personalities matched their exterior. Another described them as ‘otp feels’, except directed towards another person.

There’s also squishes; platonic ‘crushes’. What defines these? The entire thing can get rather confusing rather quickly.

But from listening to people describe their crushes and the emotions they feel during them, I’ve been able to narrow it down to a few commonly agreed-upon characteristics:

  1. They are usually short term

Crushes appear to be a rather short-lived happening. They don’t last long, and if they are acted upon, they fade into a ‘liking’ or a relationship. However, there also are people who have crushes for years and years! Could these be classified as less of a ‘crush’ and more of a ‘like’ or even a ‘love’?

2. The person you have it on makes you happy/feel awesome

Most people I spoke to talked about how being around their crush made them feel good and it was a rather positive experience

3. You want to make the person you have it on feel awesome

Many people also explained that they wanted to tell their crush nice things about themselves and make them happy and feel good about themselves.

4.  You want to do romantic things with said person

This final characteristic I feel is the defining one between a squish and a crush. However, ‘romantic things’ has its own vagueness and subjectivity. While some people may find kissing to be a very romantic act, others may find it quite platonic! It all really depends on the person and the context of their relationship.

So in general, the crush phenomenon seems to be a very positive one. There seem to be a lot of favorable emotions. However, some other, more negative emotions seemed to also come up. There can be frustration, especially if the person one has a crush on is unattainable or doesn’t feel way. There’s also often confusion. Are the feelings returned? There can be sadness, anger, upset; all sorts of negativity associated with crushes.

So what I’ve discovered, overall, is that crushes are really complicated incidents. Everyone experiences them differently, though there are a few common similarities. However, I’d like to end with a question. How do you experience crushes? Do your experiences fit within the characteristics I’ve described above? How are they similar, how are they different?

About Annette

Annette is currently working on her undergraduate degree in Communication. She is an asexual lesbian and enjoys being involved in the queer community on her campus. This is her first foray into more serious blogging, though you can find her personal tumblr at annetterfly.tumblr.com. When not particularly busy, Annette enjoys learning, hanging out with her friends, and making videos of stick bugs dancing to sick beats. She is not nearly as un-hip as this biography suggests.
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14 Responses to Defining Crushes

  1. Eponine says:

    These descriptions are basically accurate for me. Maybe #3 isn’t a very strong one for me, especially in cases where my crush was obviously unattainable and there was a status gap between us (I’ve had crushes on my teachers/professors several times). I’m also very introverted and shy, so I’ll only compliment my crush or try to make them happy if I’m good friends with them, otherwise it seems awkward. 😛

    I think other characteristics of crushes include: constantly thinking about the person; feeling excited when you see them; feeling nervous in front of them; over-analyzing their words and behaviors (“He said such and such, does this mean he likes me?”). But not all these characteristics were present in all my past crushes.

  2. Sable says:

    My crushes don’t hit any of your characteristics except the first:

    Roughly once every two to three years (since I was nine or ten), I get a crush. In the sense of “an intense but usually short-lived infatuation.”

    One day, I catch sight of an acquaintance and realise that I think they’re amazing and that I have no real reason for feeling that way, I just do. I don’t have any stronger drive to make them happy than I did before and I don’t really want physical contact or anything sensual from them. I just want them to like me and approve of me as a person. I didn’t yearn for friendship, per say, but that was very definitely the relationship I would have preferred to be in with them had I been less distrustful of my emotions. (Unless you count the person who I just wanted to watch the freckles of all day. I suppose I wanted to be the creepy stalker there, but without him noticing.)

    As a side note, I use crush rather than squish mostly because crush sounds more immediate and violent to me and my experiences are more bewildering and mildly discomforting than warm and caring.

    As I’m not very confident in social situations, I have generally been more worried about rejection from my crushee than hopeful of eliciting approval. (Also, I perceived the situation as pretty awkward when I suddenly flipped to being interested in someone I was previously indifferent to, because I had internalised the message that people paying attention to someone was always directly related to how worthwhile the person was, despite not actually believing the message.) These emotions have normally translated to continuing to not really interact with my crushees or to ridiculously tentative attempts to reach out. I wouldn’t be particularly surprised if none of them had ever noticed my changed attitude. (None of them ever broached the issue of my behaviour with me.)

    I’m not sure if my emotions are less intense than the norm or if I just tend to distrust them more and my stand-offishness lets me repress them more. Or if the lack of warm glow from being nearby lets me be more reserved and capable of thinking about my emotions.

    When I’ve gotten it, I enjoyed non-negative attention from my crushees and their approval, but it was never enough to stop me wanting more.

    I never considered it likely that any of the people I crushed on were reciprocating my feelings and I wouldn’t have particularly wanted them to. If they had irrational positive feelings about me, it would devalue their approval. It would be better than them outright disapproving me, but not by much. And I’ve always found it hard to conceptualise sexual and romantic attraction to a specific person beyond the attention aspect and the idea it might be predatory or related to positive emotion.

  3. Seth says:

    I’ve had two experiences that might be considered crushes. The first lasted a year, and the second lasted about five (so much for characteristic 1). I don’t remember the first too well, except that it was similar to the second, but less intense, so the rest of this is just going to based on the second.

    I absolutely hated it. I was friends with her, and I liked being together, but that wasn’t so much a positive experience as it was respite from a negative one. While I wasn’t with her, I obsessed over her, and there was a lot of intense emotion that I did not want. While I was with her, I stopped obsessing so much, the emotional intensity dropped, and I was happy staying platonic (consequently, I never had any problems with nervousness, and characteristic 3 didn’t apply any more than it did with my other friends). It pissed me off that I couldn’t feel like that all the time. So, I’d fantasize about getting romantic with her, but never wanted to do it. Actually, I think that’s what it was: fantasy. It was like I had subconsciously constructed a romantic fantasy around her, but was still able to distinguish the fantasy from the reality.

    It’s conceivable that I may want to get romantically involved with someone at some point, but it’d have to be less emotionally intense, and actually be a positive experience for a change.

  4. Logan says:

    I quite liked this post since it’s true, very few people take the time to sit and really think about crushes, how to define them what makes a crush, well, a crush. So this is thought out and nice to see!

    But if we’re going for how I personally experiences crushes, it’s kind of tricky. I am consistently very bad at figuring out the differences between Platonic and well, not Platonic things (not necessarily romantic but, whatever). That or they blur together, or it’ll change back and forth between them, which makes figuring out if something is a squish or a crush near impossible? So I tend to just try and define it on what I think is the most consistent. For example, I have quite a long standing squish on someone, and continue to call it that, though it’s more like it’s morphed into a crush over time. When we were met there were cool and immediately a good match to me for what we were doing, and we got on pretty well, though we weren’t super close. I always wanted to get to know her more. And over many, many years, I have! And now-a-days we flirt a little and there is maybe kind of sorta something there between us but. I still couldn’t consistently define if it was a Crush or a Squish. It’s just not something consistent? I just know I love her, a lot, because she’s important to me and has been this big part of my life and is basically just an overall fabulous human being, but what exactly that type of love is seems a lot less important to me.

    The experience is mostly pleasant though. We talk pretty much daily in some form or another, she she’s my favorite person to interact with. Excluding times she’s unhappy so I get unhappy in extension, talking with her even slightly is a joy! I really like to make her laugh and smile and to give her things, and just goofing around and joking with her is awesome. But! It can be negative too, yeah, since unfortunately she’s off in the UK and I’m in the US. We’ve never been able to meet (yet – working on it), and sometimes the fact I can’t cuddle and hang out face to face and actually see how she reacts to things I say and do can be frustrating and kinda lonely! As can the whole ambiguity of our relationship – there’s no point in talking about it or defining it for the time being, I think, but that doesn’t mean the unknown of our more or less confessed feelings (never quit direct or extended upon, just sort of acknowledged a bit and there) isn’t frustrating as well.

    I actually had a very similar relationship pattern before. I was much younger and didn’t know about Queerplatonic Relationships or Squishes or much or anything, but I ended up best friends with a gal who was this great mix and my feelings for her were awfully similar as they were for more of the time with the one I was just discussing. Eventually though everything turn romantic and into crushes and ~~~love~~~ (but, ultimately just ended up in a lot of frustration and hurt feelings and pining for me! And some for her too. Infact it continues to be sometimes, since we’re still best friends, attempting to move past things, ha.). Along with that, I had things I’ve called “crushes” in the past, though I always feel weird calling them that now since. It was more having poor self worth and such and someone acknowledged me/being nice meant I made starry eyes at them and admired them a bit! Quite a bit even! Or someone had nice hands, I just really want to touch their hands, and when I was younger I didn’t think that could just be a thing. Clearly it meant I had a crush. Hah.

    So I’d say to be similar with your definition, two and three apply for sure. The first, not as much! What I personally define as crushes for myself is pretty vague, since they tend not to develop until I already have a very strong and often multiple-year bond with someone, so it ends up with me already being incredibly fond and close with them and suddenly fluttery crush feelings or. Something. Haha, it’s odd. And four is a bit trickier since, how does one define a romantic act! Is my crush actually romantic or is it just a squish, do I just want whatever we have to be more in some (platonic) sense, etc etc. But if I can consistently define it as a crush, like with the best friend, then yes I was to engage in romantic behavior. I want to hold her hand and kiss her a lot and buy her presents and wash and brush her hair and stay up late telling her she’s beautiful and holding her when she cries. (But, at the same time, I don’t consider any of that inherently romantic. I could do that in a platonic context, so ? This stuff is complex, really).

    So, well, there’s a fairly unhelpful novel for you. Again, lovely post, I’d like to see more people discuss these things. c:

  5. I was amused to see this go up because I’m working on a post on romantic attraction at the moment.

    Reading others’ responses has been intriguing as well. While I have thought a lot about romantic attraction, I haven’t spent all that much time on defining a crush vs. a squish vs. other emotions. Seeing people discuss crushes in particular is making me wonder something.

    This question is for anyone: Do you stop qualifying emotions as a “crush” if you enter into a defined, committed relationship with a person? From the responses I’m reading it seems like a “crush period” might end if the people involved enter into a (possibly new) relationship that satisfies emotional needs any previous relationship they had wasn’t satisfying. By which I mean… it seems like a crush might involve unsatisfied emotional needs, even if some type of relationship is present? Perhaps wanting “more” — whatever more means to the people involved.

    But I’m not really a crush person, and this only just occurred to me while reading this, so perhaps I’m off. It just occurs to me that I can’t really recall hear people using the word crush to describe a romantic relationship that’s gotten past “I wish this was here” to “we’re dating/married/etc.”.

    • Queenie says:

      In my experience, after I enter a relationship, I still have crush-like feelings about the other person for a couple of months, and then it sort of fades into a general upped happiness level. But generally crushes don’t last terribly long for me anyway (regardless of whether they are reciprocated or not), so I’m not sure if that fading is because I’m in a romantic relationship with my crush or just because it’s naturally fading.

      I don’t really think of crushes as involving unsatisfied emotional needs, ’cause occasionally I’ll get crushes on people despite being in a relationship and despite not wanting to be in a relationship with the person I’m crushing on (because I’m already in a relationship that makes me happy and, often, I’m crushing on someone who could not possibly want to be in a romantic relationship with me).

      • I haven’t had much experience with crushes — my first period I’d label as a “crush” lead to my current relationship, and I’d also label that as an general upped happiness level, though when I feel more giddy I do feel those crush feelings again.

        Thanks for your response, it’s interesting to hear more about what crushes are like. This is a good topic to learn more about while I’m trying to write on romantic attraction. Since I’ve only really had one crush… I appreciate hearing from someone who’s had more. 🙂

    • Eponine says:

      In my opinion, a crush is one-sided: either your feelings aren’t returned, or you don’t know how the other person feels yet. Once mutual feelings are revealed and a relationship is established, I wouldn’t call it crush any more. But of course the exciting and “high” feelings usually still continue for a while. In poly community this is referred to as “NRE” (new relationship energy), but it applies to monogamous relationships as well. I don’t really think of crushes in terms of unsatisfied emotional needs though.

      • That’s an interesting way to look at it, being one-sided. During my big crush period on my girlfriend I definitely had no idea how she felt (and when I thought I did, I thought it was a one-sided feeling on my part). I like the term new relationship energy! I think I’ve heard that in passing related to poly relationships but I didn’t know it could apply to monogamous ones as well. That’s good to know, thank you.

      • Eponine says:

        You’re welcome. 🙂 Yeah, NRE is mostly used by poly people and not very well-known outside the poly community, but it definitely happens in mono relationships too. Regardless of you’re mono or poly, the feelings at the beginning of a new relationship are quite similar. I’d like to see more people using NRE instead of infatuation, because infatuation has a negative connotation, while NRE is generally positive.

  6. Dihydogen Monoxide says:

    I mostly consider a crush to be a focused desire for a particular type of relationship with a specific person. The common the desired relationship is either more romantic and/or more intimate than the current relationship you have with that person. And I said focused, because someone can causally think “Yeah, they seem nice to go out on a date with,” but that doesn’t really mean that they have a crush on them just because they view the idea of a relationship, with a particular person, favorably.

  7. Vincent says:

    I had a squish one a classmate before. I strongly desire to be by her side, to talk to her, and I think of her often. But it faded away after about 3 days. I still have her as a friend, though.

  8. Wingswolf says:

    I am still confused about the whole love/crush/squish thing, but sorting them into categories and naming them is very usefull. (You still have to figure out which one they fit in, though.)
    I discovered the term squish recently, so I still have trouble deciding wheter somebody was a crush or a squish. But I have a strategy, so to decide I’ll imagine kissing the person. If it feels wrong, thats a squish. If I want it, a crush.
    I’ve made bad experiences with crushes in the past, like loosing their friendship after they found out, which is why I tend to be insecure around them. I don’t want them to suspect, and I don’t want to feel silly and try to act normal.
    Once, I liked a boy for really long, a year or so. Though there are others I have crushed or squished for a long time, I didn’t feel so intense for them. Maybe that one was love?
    Back to crushes and squishes, I believe they can both wear off after a short time or last for a while, you can have two crushes, two sqzishes or one of each (or more of course) simultaneously, and a crush can fade into a squish after you get to know the person better and decide you have no romantic interest, but still one for closeness. I believe a squish can also develop into a crush, though I’m not sure I have experienced it.
    What is really annoying is that I use to get crushes/sqzishes a lot, and they can wear off after a day or last for many months, and it is often hard to tell which of those will happen and if it is worth to go after it.
    They also vary in intensity.

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