Why Unreciprocated Crushes Are Not Worth Your Heartache (& How To Get Over Them)

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My first crush was a boy named Joakim. He was eight years my senior and triple my height — one of my older sister's classmates — and I'd often watch him playing basketball from the windows of my kindergarten classroom. On my fifth birthday, he slipped out of class to sing "Happy Birthday" to me, and my teensy body was practically bursting with nervous, lovestruck energy. I was convinced he would one day be my husband, my real-life Prince Charming. If only someone had warned 5-year-old Genevieve that unreciprocated crushes are not worth it before my little heart crumbled.

OK, OK, so that's a total exaggeration. No little hearts were crumbled. But like, Joakim plays for the Knicks now and woof, why wasn't I more persistent?

Oh, right: Because I was basically a toddler, and one-sided crushes are the very worst kind to have, anyway. They're also the story of my life.

In my quarter of a century on this planet, I've found myself smitten with approximately 1,000,000 men. They've included celebrities, peers, university professors, and that aforementioned NBA star in the making. But rarely, if ever, have my feelings been reciprocated. Which really f*cking sucks.

Now, I could lie and tell you that, with time, I've learned not to fall in like so fast — that my never-ending spouts with unrequited love and infatuation have taught me to take my time, to assess a situation intellectually rather than emotionally. But I have not. When my friends remind me not to get heart-eyed so quickly, I usually just shrug and say, "I'm a Pisces, guys!" As though astrology is a solid excuse for my irrational behavior.

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But — despite my proclivity for declaring that the cute barista who drew a heart on my cup is now my fiancé — I have learned, once my advances or affection have clearly been turned down, to rip that Cupid's arrow from my side. To move the heck on instead of concocting elaborate plans to make this random guy or that gorgeous actor (cough, Timothée Chalamet, cough) fall in love with me in return. Because, at the end of the day, I don't want to be with someone I have to trick or force into falling for me, you know? I want someone who falls for me — and the many quirks and idiosyncrasies that make up my personality — all on their own. Isn't that what we all want, at the end of the day?

Of course, it's easier said than done; particularly in moments when you're reeling from an unreciprocated crush. There's nothing quite like handing your heart over to a person only to hear them say, "No, thank you." But I've got a secret trick for those especially trying times.

Here's what to do.

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Several years ago, after my first-ever boyfriend dumped me via Facebook Messenger (to date one of my best friends, btw — what a guy!), I made a list. Not of his faults and flaws, though they were manifold, but of the qualities I liked most about myself — several of which included traits he'd mocked or belittled. The list included the fact that I baked a mean cupcake. That I was an especially smily kisser. That I only ate Kraft Mac and Cheese if the noodles were shaped like cartoon characters. While I hate the word "deserve," I told myself that I deserved to find a partner who appreciated these little tidbits and charms as much as I did. And, in the near decade since this list's creation, I've often reminded myself of exactly that.

Instead of saying, "Oh, she's just a bad communicator," or, "He's just really clueless when it comes to women," remember that the people who truly want to be with you will find a way. It's a hard pill to swallow, but if they wanted to call you, they would. And unless you're a master of the Imperius Curse, you can't control their actions or emotions. So, instead of striving to convince others to love or like or covet you, focus on falling in love with yourself. And trust that the right guy or girl's out there, dreaming about how their perfect person's got the same adorable qualities you do.

In the words of Carrie Bradshaw, "The most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you find someone to love the you you love, well, that’s just fabulous."