Crushes are both the best and worst part of dating. They can make you feel alive and full of excitement, but then there’s always that lingering thought in the back of your head about what will happen if someone doesn’t like you back. Needless to say, we’re basically a mess whenever someone interesting catches our eye.

That’s probably why we’re so familiar with finding ourselves without a clue what to do after we internally acknowledge that we like someone. But you shouldn’t let this overwhelming feeling prevent you from doing, well, anything. After all, your crush isn’t going away anytime soon.

How Long Does A Crush Last?

The length of a crush depends on many things, such as whether or not your crush reciprocates, how often you see them, and if they’re already seeing someone else. However, the largest factor is, in fact, yourself. How much are you willing to nurture your crush and for how long?

“A crush can last indefinitely, especially if it’s never actualized or transformed into a connection or relationship,”says Jane Greer, Ph.D, New York-based relationship expert and author of “What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship.” 

Unless you actually do something about your crush, you’re more than likely to get stuck in a rut. You can, however, avoid this life of limbo by understanding what to do during each stage of your crush.

Stage 1: Awareness

You can’t have a crush if you aren’t aware of the person’s existence. Whether you recognize them from social media or you see them frequently at your local grocery store, it’s always the same: you notice them and they make you feel something. 

“An important part of awareness is observation, especially if you begin to really pay attention to how they present themselves and interact with others,” says relationship expert and author Susan Winter.

If you catch yourself noticing their mannerisms, like how they laugh or if they talk with their hands, it’s a sign you’ve taken a plunge into the crush pool. The best thing to do at this point is to just enjoy the view, especially if the person you’re crushing on is either in a monogamous relationship or is someone you don’t see often. But if you’re single, they’re single, and you’re still getting a rush every time you see them, prepare for stage two. 

Stage 2: Preparation And Engagement

If you find yourself trying to learn trapeze stunts or watching niche anime because your crush likes those kinds of things and you want them to notice and maybe talk to you, congratulations, you’ve officially entered the second stage of crushing. During this stage, emotions and self-esteem are at their highest.

“At this point your crush offers hope, promise, and opportunity,” says Greer. “You start to imagine yourself with that person, and they make you want to be the best version of yourself.”

This is the crucial moment when opportunities to interact start to present themselves. Winter suggests small actions, like smiling in their direction or saying a quick hello, as good ways to build up to a possibly scary, one-on-one conversation with your crush.

If you want to turn your crush into something more, interact with them as much as possible. This doesn’t mean you have to do small talk every time you see them, but you want to give yourself the chance to show off why you’re the shit. If you did watch that anime they’re into, bring up what you liked about it, and maybe even pick their brain about their favorite character. It not only gives you common ground, but it also shows that you care about their opinion. You don’t have to do this one-on-one either — it works just as well in a lower-pressure group setting. 

Stage 3: Volley And Invitation

If you’re having a volley, you and your crush are comfortable during your one-on-one conversations, and they flow effortlessly, says Winter.

“You’re able to talk about more than just how their weekend was or the fact you go to the same gym,” says Winter. “You’re both really making an effort to get to know each other.”

Still, figuring out how to ask them on a date can be tough. But try not to overthink it, especially if your crush is flirting back or showing genuine interest in getting to know you better. Winter suggests saying, “I really love the way you talk about this. Can we talk more about it sometime soon, just the two of us?” 

If you aren’t feeling quite that confident, you can also ask them to join a small group activity where you’ll have another opportunity to gauge the situation — and ask your friends’ opinions. 

And really, that’s all there is to it. You put the ball in their court (the volley metaphor continues), and it’s up to your crush whether or not they want to accept your invitation. This is pretty much the make-it-or-break-it stage, but regardless of the outcome, you’ll get closure.

When To Give Up And When To Keep Trying

Since crushes can last indefinitely, it can be hard to know when to cut your losses and when to keep pushing. Greer says that if your crush notices you, but there’s no real progress, it may be time to turn your flirting up a notch. 

However, if you aren’t getting the same energy back or if your crush is in a monogamous relationship with someone else, you should back off. Your feelings may be valid, but if the green flags aren’t there, you have no choice but to stand down. This rule also applies if you’ve asked them out before and they said no.

“A healthy crush can be really motivating and offers the possibility of something more,” says Greer. “But, if not, you still come out on top for being good to yourself and honest about your feelings.”

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