If you are suffering from the more uncomfortable symptoms of infatuation, you know that it’s hard to find relief. You may not be sleeping or eating, and it can interfere with your work and relationships. Below are some writing exercises that can help you explore and address what’s really going on.
Are You Struggling with Infatuation?
You’re not alone. Folks at any age can fall victim to the dizzy feeling of intense desire for connection with another person. It can be a life-affirming experience – you feel like you are soaring, like all the love songs are written just for you. On the flipside, it can wreak havoc on your wellbeing and on your life.
I am an unwitting expert in this thorny issue, not only because I have worked with it during my career as a psychotherapist, nor because I’ve read so much about it and studied how it affects people. I am an “infatuation specialist” because I’ve been caught up in it so much over the course of my life.
I trace my first major, painful crush back to age seven. An actor named Randolph Mantooth played a sensitive paramedic on a television show called “Emergency!” I watched the show faithfully, quoted his best lines, and threw fits when I missed reruns.
Later there were boys in high school that I followed through the halls and wrote about endlessly in my diary. And, I’m sorry to say, I have even struggled with it as an adult.
I am mostly healed from this “infatuation disorder” now, but only because the pain it caused has forced me to understand it. I’ve made a study of the phenomenon and written about it, and was even invited to speak about it on an episode of the Maine Public Broadcasting Network’s program, Maine Calling. I was honored to be one of the guests on the show, along with Lisa A. Phillips, author of Unrequited: The Thinking Woman's Guide to Romantic Obsession. (I highly recommend this book if you want to read a thorough and intelligent examination on the topic.)
Discover What’s Out of Balance
In my experience, infatuation can strike during adulthood at times when everything seems fine. You are sailing along in your life, unaware that things are about to get intense. Then – KABOOM! – you meet that person, and nothing feels the same.
Why? How did this happen?
There are many, many possible reasons for romantic obsession to occur. I’ll focus on one: an imbalance in your life.
Things may have become unbalanced in ways that you haven’t noticed. Sometimes, subtle changes in your everyday life can lead you to seek out something different, including a new person.
Example: Married Vanessa and Tom the Musician
Here’s a story that’s based on situations I have observed.
Vanessa, a married woman in her thirties, met a man in a coffee shop. Tom was a friendly singer-songwriter who often played there for tips. She was a regular, so she struck up a friendship with him. Before long she found herself powerfully attracted to Tom. She loved to watch him sing and play. At home, she was distracted by her constant thoughts of him. Her husband noticed that she was distant.
Vanessa was alarmed. Why, when she considered herself happily married, would she turn her focus outward like this?
What didn’t occur to Vanessa was that she’d recently suffered a loss. Her fifteen-year-old dog had died. He was elderly, and she was prepared for his death, so she hadn’t expected to have any problems.
But since he died, she’d been having memories of when she was young. Before getting married, it was just she and her pup. She loved having him by her side as she played her fiddle in the subway station. His presence brought her attention and extra tips. It was a lifestyle she thoroughly enjoyed: playing music, having an audience and keeping her own schedule.
If Vanessa could truly explore her motivations and desires, she’d realize that her dog had been her last tie to her old life. Losing him meant letting go of an important part of her past. And then she’d met Tom, who was a vibrant reminder of the young, free musician she’d once been. Her attraction to him was actually about wanting to reconnect with a part of herself.
Writing to Understand and Heal from Your infatuation
It’s important to know that paying attention to your infatuation – trying to understand it rather than squash in out of existence – is unlikely to cause you to leave your current relationship or run after the object of your affection. Instead, it should give you insight into what’s needed in order for you to feel better in your regular life. And, ultimately, it might lead you to get over your infatuation.
Here are some exercises designed to help you explore and address what might be out of balance right now.
Step One: Explore Your Obsession
1. Write about the qualities you are most attracted to in this person. To do this, you can write about things he/she does that you admire, conversations you enjoy, or what aspects of the person you think about the most. Try to come up with a list of the person’s most appealing features.
2. Outline your fantasies about the person in detail. What do you imagine things being like with him/her? For example, where you’d spend time, topics of conversation, activities, fresh relationship dynamics, etc. (If this is mainly a sexual attraction, it could still be pointing you toward needing something in your life beyond the sexual – perhaps another passionate pursuit.) Write down all your daydreams and visions.
3. Describe the ways you feel when you are with this person. What moods does he/she spark in you? What does he/she make you think about? Or, if you don’t get to spend much time with the person, what do you imagine that you’d feel with him or her? Do your best to illustrate what happens inside you when you’re around this person.
Step Two: Factor Out the Object of Your Obsession
Now, remove the actual object of your infatuation from the mix. Rewrite the above passages without mentioning the person at all. Use the following prompts:
1. Here are the qualities that I value:
2. Here are some things that I want to do in my life:
3. Here are some ways that I want to feel:
Tying It All Together
If you look at infatuation as a signal, a piece of information about what’s out of balance, you can learn a great deal.
Are there times in the past when you were closer to these qualities or activities or feelings? Perhaps subtle changes have caused you to venture too far from those aspects of yourself or your life.
If you have not yet had these sorts of experiences, maybe your intense crush is a signal that it’s time for a growth spurt – you may need to try some new things.
Relief is not usually about attaining the object of your affection. If you want to get over infatuation, you are wise to explore what’s happening underneath. Once you find out what’s out of balance and connect with the parts of yourself that need attention, you are much more likely to find peace in your life.