Perhaps you haven’t dated in a while and now you’re beginning to go out. You meet a guy who seems great and he seems to like you too. You have a good time together.
Suddenly you find yourself smitten. If he’s said he’ll call you tomorrow afternoon, you wait around the house all afternoon and evening hoping the phone will ring. If he calls, you’re giddy with delight. If he doesn’t, you worry about what you said or did that turned him off.
Maybe you discuss the budding relationship with your gal pals, asking their advice. If he hasn’t called you when you think he should, you painfully debate whether to call him or not. Or perhaps you purposefully cruise places he frequents (gym, bar). Or maybe you find some lame excuse to drop by his place.
It feels similarly to how you felt in high school when you had a crush on a guy. Maybe you weren’t even dating him, but some of your feelings and behaviors are the same. In high school, you detoured by his locker between classes, lingered outside the gym after his sports practice, and ate lunch near his usual hangout. You buddied up to his friends to find out more about him and his routines. Maybe you asked him to the Sadie Hawkins dance.
Is this healthy? The butterflies and euphoria of starting a relationship feel wonderful. However, if he isn’t as interested in you as you are in him, those feelings will quickly morph into angst.
When it becomes unhealthy is when you find yourself thinking immature thoughts or behaving in ways that will embarrass later. A while ago I quickly became besotted with a man with whom I had dated only 3 times. I was obsessed with wanting him to call and called him more than I was comfortable. I heard myself thinking of asking him, “How do you want me to behave? What do you want me to change?” I was willing (I thought) to lose myself to be attractive to him. This is unhealthy!
Anytime you do something that you later are not proud of, you know you’ve gone over the deep end. The trick is to realize you’re hypnotized by the fantasy of him before you act. If you find yourself wanting to do things that you know you’ll regret later (e.g., sleeping with him as a way of keeping him), find a confidant to confess your plan and ask her to talk you out of it. If she lives nearby, maybe she’ll come over and confiscate your car keys to make sure you won’t do the stupid thing.
In her 40’s, a friend chased after men with limited or no interest. She left her husband of 20 years and moved 2000 miles to the small town in which she grew up to be near her high school boyfriend. Unfortunately for her, he was happily married and had no intention of leaving his wife. She pined for him for over a year, periodically meeting him for a drink and frequenting his haunts to see him, even if he was with his wife. Eventually, he rebuffed her enough times that she realized her folly and let go of her infatuation.
Another time she met a man who worked on a train. Within weeks of meeting him she moved into his train car that was attached to whatever train he was assigned to. She merrily fixed it up, sewing curtains for the windows and adding her woman’s touch to make it more homey. They traveled wherever the train took them, criss crossing the country. Within a few weeks, when they were many miles from her home town, he broke up with her and she had to find her way back home.
Perceived love can cause us to do really dumb things (in retrospect). Just like in high school. Our neediness, loneliness, or libido cause us to take immature actions. The key is to stop yourself before you do something you’ll regret. Remember, you’re not in high school anymore.
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