Here’s the synopsis of The Safe Crush attraction dynamic, using fictional characters Eve and Adam:
Eve is madly in love with Adam. She thinks he’s the most amazing, handsome and charming man she’s ever met. She would love to be his romantic partner, yet when he’s around, she suddenly becomes bashful. Sometimes she hides and watches him from afar. She dreams of the day he might suddenly take notice of her and reveal a secret attraction to her as a surprise to everyone. Then, she could feel confident in revealing her true feelings, and she and Adam would live happily ever after.
With this scenario, we are starting with a basic: girl-loves-boy-and-boy-has-no-idea-she-exists dynamic that I’ve titled The Safe Crush. You may remember this one from early childhood, but I’m mentioning it here because our early experiences around love attraction can have a lasting impact on how we approach love for decades after.
Some people may chalk Eve’s behavior up to being a shy person, a quiet type of person and Eve may indeed be shy and quiet. Eve’s shyness, however, is an external outcome related to an internal struggle. It serves as a protective response that occurs because she has a subconscious belief that her love-worthiness is diminished in value in comparison to Adam’s love-worthiness, even though she consciously resists this painful idea. She deeply desires to be viewed as a partner equally worthy of love and attention.
Eve has essentially put Adam on a pedestal in her imagination. She has qualified him as an ideal mate through imaginary interactions with him akin to the vivid imaginings that fuel voracious consumption of romance fantasy novel-reading, and are just as addictive. In her internal fantasy, both Eve and her relationship with Adam are perfect and without the stresses and anxieties that would accompany any real-world interactions that might put this lovely fantasy, and Eve’s safety within it, at risk. Eve’s fantasy relationship still provides her with some of the same benefits of a real relationship because engaging in it can activate the desired feel-good altered state that accompanies the love attraction experienced in desire. She feels safe knowing that Adam can’t reject her if he doesn’t yet know her, and therefore, this crush and the distance that supports it appear useful for her try and maintain.
The trouble with crushes, however good they may feel while they are safe, is the moment reality bursts in and painfully demolishes the crush-holder’s delusion. In fact, I imagine that this inevitable, heartbreaking outcome is the reason we call this kind of dynamic a crush in the first place. The label The Safe Crush is a bit misleading, in that this dynamic isn’t emotionally safe to maintain over time. However, I use the term safely in the label because that is the initial subconscious motivation behind the practice of loving someone as a distant admirer: protection from the harm that could come from rejection.
Anytime we are afraid of rejection from another person, we usually hold a subconscious fear that the rejection will confirm an existing internal belief that we are not worthy of what we are pursuing, that we aren’t good enough. In this case, Eve may fear Adam rejecting her would prove her unworthiness of his love or love in general.
On the flip side, if a person isn’t at all phased by rejection, it’s because they already have an internal confirmation that they’re good enough. They may feel this despite the fact that others may or may not share this view. Or, perhaps they are open to viewing the rejection as feedback for legitimate self-improvement challenges that are supported by genuine self-compassion. That genuine sense of self-compassion comes from being able to love yourself in spite of shortcomings and to recognize (and be excited about) opportunities to improve that are in alignment with the relationship outcome you desire.
So, how might a person like Eve be able to trade in her fantasy crush for an authentic sense of self-worth and self-compassion that could turn a fantasy relationship into a real one? Hold that question in mind and stay tuned.