It can feel like absolute turmoil if you don’t have the tools to know how to manage your emotions when you develop feelings for someone, from agonizing despair, to intense euphoria, and everything in between. These are likely signs of love addiction, which can be a result of an overly romanticized social view of “romantic love” as the greatest virtue one can achieve.
If you’re one of the rare people in the world who knows exactly what to say and how to act when you develop feelings for someone, consider yourself lucky. For the rest of us, it takes conscious effort to figure out what to do and what not to do in these situations.
Through many years of missteps and mistakes, I figured out the healthiest ways to manage the development of feelings for someone, and most of the work is internal.
Here are the steps that have worked for me:
1. Figure out how to be happy when you’re by yourself.
If you’re able to find happiness from within, life becomes easier, but achieving this level of independence takes hard work. I read several self-help books and made a deliberate effort to treat myself like my own best friend.
We tend to use the word “alone” when we describe being by ourselves, but using the word “alone” implies that you are not a person. The fact is, you’re technically never alone because you’re always with yourself. You’re the only person that you’re around all the time, so you have to figure out how to start seeing yourself as a person and learn how to love that person. It’s an everyday struggle, but once you feel like you deserve to be treated well by yourself, a whole world of opportunities will open up for you.
In addition to that, you become more attractive to others because there isn’t as much pressure for other people to make you happy. The foundation of most–if not all–healthy relationships begins with people that can be happy by themselves so that when they find someone they’d like to spend their time with, they do so because the other person is a complement to their lives, and not a necessity.
2. Lower the stakes.
There’s a tendency to live inside our heads when we begin developing feelings for someone. Maybe you begin fantasizing what your lives would be like together, or how happy this person will make you. But once you start going down that road, you begin idealizing a person that you don’t know that well. You haven’t lived with this person. You don’t see this person everyday. You haven’t witnessed this person’s undesirable qualities or bad moods.
You’ve created a person who is perfect, a standard that no human can live up to. You’ve cast this person as a life-preserver instead of an actual flawed human being like everybody else. This person is not a magic pill for eternal happiness.
Also, contrary to what most television shows, movies, and books will have you believe, relationships actually take hard work with years of compromise and communication. It’s not some finish line to happiness. Once you’ve lowered the stakes, it’ll help you gain some perspective and realize that while it would be nice to spend time with this person, it won’t be catastrophic if you don’t, because you won’t be missing out on a perfect relationship that doesn’t exist.