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My fantasies are clouding my judgement

Dear Faye, how do I stop over-romanticizing my crushes?

Design by Alexandra Francis @alexefrancis

In this instalment of Role Model in Training, Faye offers advice on how to stop your fantasies from taking over.

Dear Faye,

Everytime I get a crush I build them up in my head before I know them. Then it takes me forever to get over them! How do I stop? 

Little Miss Falling in Love with Potential

Dear Little Miss Falling in Love,

Did you write this submission, or did I? I swear to god, you’re reading my mind. This is one of the biggest struggles for you, me, and all the other hopeless romantics out there. I blame it, for both of us, on a robust imagination, intense creativity, and general optimism. It starts out so sweet and simple – you found a new person to daydream about! – and just like clockwork, you find yourself ignoring all the red flags and icks and whatnot, you substitute all their misgivings for your own daydreams, and inevitably, when the spell breaks, the heartbreak is that much more brutal. When you build it up so much, you’re not just mourning a missed connection, you’re mourning all that failed potential. 

When I was a teen especially, I was guilty of casting crushes in my daydreams. After the initial spark came, my love of storytelling would inch its way in, and soon, I’d have a whole romance novel in my mind. Our little interactions would colour the plot, obviously, but I was pretty adept at sustaining things with nothing more than my imagination. For a couple weeks, it was innocent. But the more I let my creativity (and delusion…) spiral and unfold, the harder it became to let him go. I didn’t realise it, but I was barely interested in the real person, but the stories were so wonderful and romantic that they kept me invested. I remember after one failed affair, I was tossing and turning in bed and realised: oh my god! I was falling in love with myself, through the crush! It was a major revelation. 

I took an inventory of the fantasies I had. Many involved him magically reading my mind, taking me on the exact date I wanted, buying flowers I’d never told him I loved, reciting romantic speeches. Duh. He was a vessel! The things I liked best about him was how well he fit into my own machinations. It was sort of disgusting to realise. And empowering. And sad. All at once. 

Illustration by Tinuke Fagborun @tinuke.illustration

My imagination had solidified my crush, turning a desire to get to know someone into an unearned devotion. Isn’t that twisted? It’s cruel! When you daydream too much, you set yourself up to fail. I think it keeps us trapped in unfulfilling situations; our memories blur and we really believe that this person is capable of so much more than we think. The longer we indulge ourselves, the more entrenched we get. With six months of hypothetical scenarios committed to them, ending things is bound to be a miserable process – there’s too much to mourn. You shoot yourself in the foot. You’re not only breaking your own heart, but you’re ruining the capacity to actually be in a relationship with this person. They’ll never live up to it! It’s tough love, but unclocked daydreaming is really sadistic. 

I’ve since learned to clock when I’m building things up in my head. I can’t always break the habit, but I can separate fantasy and reality more now that I’m aware of the guilty pleasure.

My main advice for someone like you is: don’t let yourself linger. Do you hate me for saying that? It’s OK. You can still crush, and you shouldn’t let your eye for sourcing potential go to waste. But from now on, you’re not going to wait to act on things. Sorry, but no slow burns or long pining periods for you. 

The second you’re noticing how hot that person is, you’re gonna get to know them. Stay in the moment… journal after an interaction if you’re really heady over it. Let their actions colour your judgement (my therapist loves saying this one.) You may find a love that mirrors your daydreams, but thrills you more with its real life complexities. Or, you may realise they’re a total dud, and instead of crushing for eight months, you’ll be over it in a week. 

Fulfil your storytelling urges by finding fictional characters you think are hot. Transfer your parasocial urges to someone who won’t be harmed by it. Try drafting up some romantic art. Like I’ve said before, there’s no real need for it to be good. It could be the worst short story in the world, but at least it’s an act of creative expression. And if you’re gonna daydream over them, set a timer for 15 minutes. Maybe add an element that’s intentionally unrealistic. You’re trapped on an island together. You’re in a country you’ve never gone to before. Things that can’t be real; things that you won’t open your eyes and believe really could happen. 

As for the mourning: I hope these tips help you mitigate the crazy periods of obsession. But you can’t break habits overnight. Literally nothing cures heartbreak except time and maybe, if you’re lucky, they get a really atrocious haircut. 

Unfortunately for us, imagination insists things can always be perfect again, so you may find it harder to really let them go. Just keep remembering that you want their potential, and a lot of the love you attributed to them was the love you had for yourself.

Till next time,

Your role model in training

Faye 

What you can do:

  • Read Tiana Reid’s excellent essay, Crushed. It’s a piece I find myself coming back to again and again, and honestly, it’s an essay I’m jealous I didn’t write myself. It considers capitalism, imagination, and it’s essentially romantic theory. All-in-all, it totally spells out why having a crush is so addicting, and worthy of intellectual treatment and respect. “A day is no longer task-driven but dream-driven. The fantasy of being a sovereign woman disintegrates. Suddenly I feel like [a] little girl…This world is warped and vivid but it is also an everyday utopia because I played a part in building it as an alternative ordinary world.”
  • Read Cookie Mueller’s excellent essays from “Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black”: Escape from New York and The Stone of New Orleans. Cookie is the advice columnist of my heart and my writing icon. I would honestly suggest reading her whole book, but if you’re strapped for time, these essays cover feeling lovelorn, getting over a breakup, and how to pivot from craving romance. She’s funny, direct, abrasive, and a real sage. Content warnings apply for mentions of suicide and general early 80’s attitudes towards drugs.
  • OR, read Sean DeLear’s brilliant diary collection, I Could Not Believe It. Will it help you stop crushing? NO! Will it deeply entertain you on the early teenage fantasies of a totally love-struck, horned-up teenager? Hell yeah. Plus, reading about how hard other’s are crushing will help you take it all a little less seriously.
  • Read my previous columns

 

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