Have a pesky crush? How to deal with common crush scenarios : Life Kit Having a crush is natural - they're a part of human biology. Sometimes, acting on it is a great, healthy step — or it can create a lot more trouble than it needs to. Certified dating coach Damona Hoffman walks us through how to handle a crush in several common scenarios.

Have a pesky crush? What to do in 4 common scenarios

Have a pesky crush? What to do in 4 common scenarios

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Anja Slibar for NPR
Illustration of a woman from her shoulders up in the middle of the frame, facing the viewer. She holds binoculars in front of her face, looking through them. In the lenses of the binoculars are eyes with pupils that look like hearts, illustrating the concept of having a crush on someone and observing them.
Anja Slibar for NPR

I have a confession to make.

I am an adult, and I have crushes – sometimes, hard crushes. You know the kind — when your heart starts to beat faster every time they text you, or you stumble over your words every time they say hi to you.

I never know what to do when I have a crush on someone. Should I let them know how I feel? Or ignore my feelings until they fade away? How am I supposed to pay my taxes when I get butterflies in my stomach every time my phone buzzes? Why do we even get crushes?

"We get crushes because they are hardwired into our biology," says Damona Hoffman, a certified dating coach and host of The Dates & Mates Podcast. "We are designed to want to connect, to mate and relate, and that starts from a very young age."

Not only that, Hoffman says, crushes can get stronger as we age, "because your needs are greater."

Depending on the situation, acting on a crush can be a good, healthy step – or it can create a lot more trouble than it needs to. Hoffman walks us through how to deal with a crush in four common scenarios.

Set firm boundaries for a crush you can't act on, especially if you have to see them everyday

Maybe you've developed a crush on someone at work or at school, or they live in your apartment building. Perhaps your crush is inappropriate or unreciprocated – but you still have feelings for this person.

"You need to be clear first that in your mind, this is a crush," Hoffman said. "This is not a line that you are crossing."

Fight the urge to analyze every interaction with this person. "We all get up in our heads and start projecting into the future or ruminating on the past," Hoffman says. Remind yourself that the feelings you're having are internal – they're not affecting the person you're crushing on the way they're affecting you.

If you've developed feelings for a friend, ask for clarity

Crushing on a friend is so common that Hoffman herself has been in this situation. For her, getting clarity was more important than fantasizing about what the relationship might become.

"I found out that this person was not on the same page and that they did not share the feelings that I was having for them," Hoffman said. "You might think that would be devastating, but honestly, it was so liberating just to know. And we were able to maintain a friendship afterwards."

Hoffman encourages her clients to "own the elephant in the room" but to tread lightly, especially if you're worried that admitting your romantic feelings could affect the great elements of your platonic relationship. Open up the conversation to see how your friend responds. You can say a mutual friend said you two would make a good couple, or ask them if they've ever thought about the two of you being more than friends.

"See how they respond initially," Hoffman said. "Then you can kind of have the conversation in baby steps."

Break through fantasy by taking an honest assessment of your relationship

Casual dating and hookup culture can be a hard thing to navigate, especially if sex is involved.

"People think that...just because they have crossed the line physically and had sex with someone, that then it means they're supposed to be together," Hoffman says.

There's a biological reason for that: having sex releases the hormone oxytocin, which is responsible for that feel-good sensation when you're attracted to someone. "You can talk yourself into a crush just because you've had sex or hooked up with someone...but it doesn't necessarily mean that they are good for you," says Hoffman.

It's easy to imagine a stronger emotional connection when you're crushing on someone you've been physically involved with.

Break out of that fantasy zone, Hoffman says, by getting honest about the way that partner is communicating with you: are they only reaching out to hook up? Chances are, that relationship won't get much emotionally deeper.

If you develop a crush on someone outside of your partnership, assess your primary relationship first

Just because you're in a monogamous relationship doesn't mean you're immune to crushes! You might feel guilt or shame for developing feelings for someone who isn't your primary partner, but in reality, the crush you have on someone else might be an important signal to take care of your current relationship.

"[Your crush] may be a phase or it may be something that you need to examine further, but it always starts with trying to figure out where...these feelings fit in with you and your relationship," Hoffman says.

It's not always productive to tell your partner about your crush. Instead, think about what you're getting out of your crush that you might not be getting out of your partnership: maybe the person you have a crush on is a really good listener and makes you feel heard, but when you talk to your partner, you feel like they aren't listening to you and understanding your needs. Start the conversation there.

"Get your partner to open up more," says Hoffman, "and explain to your partner what makes you feel loved and what makes you feel heard."


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The audio portion of this episode was produced by Sylvie Douglis. We'd love to hear from you! Email us at or send a voice note to LifeKit@npr.org.