For years, psychologists have been trying their best to understand the mystery of love and unpack all the complex processes that govern attraction and romantic relationships. And even after decades of countless studies, even after all the strides researchers have made in figuring out all the reasons why we fall in love, fall out of love, stay in relationships, and crave romantic attachments, there’s still a lot left for us to learn, especially when it comes to the earliest stage of love — having a crush.
So while there is no definitive theory yet about how we develop crushes and what we go through when we do, here at Psych2Go we’ve done our best to come with these 6 stages we believe everyone with a crush goes through:
Having a crush always begins with initial interest, when you meet someone new for the first time and you feel intrigued by them (Seiffge-Krenke, 2003). This stage can happen at any given moment. Sometimes, it can be as quick as when you first lay your eyes on them, and other times, it can take a while before you feel a spark. When you develop a crush on someone you’ve known for a long time, like a close friend, a lot of people tend to deny and debate with their feelings first before they can accept it. But the moment you do, you will suddenly feel the pull of romantic attraction taking hold of you, that there is something special about this person. That’s when you move on to stage two.
Once someone catches your eye, it’s only natural to feel curious about them. You want to get to know them better – all their likes and dislikes, their hobbies, their dreams, their favorite things. Some people do this by simply going up to their crush and asking them about it, but a lot of us feel too flustered and nervous to even strike up a casual conversation, so we resort to stalking them online instead.
You look up your crush’s Facebook profile, browse through all their posts and tweets, view their Instagram stories, and maybe even add them on one of their handles if you’re feeling brave enough. You do this so you can get a better idea about what kind of person they are, how much you have in common, and how compatible you’d be together (Fox & Anderegg, 2014).
Now that you know for sure you have a crush on this person, next comes infatuation (Connolly, et al., 2013). And for many of us, this is the best part about having a crush because when you’re infatuated with someone, your whole world starts to change. Everything seems so much brighter, more vibrant, and more beautiful to you now that you’ve found someone who makes you giddy with excitement every time you think about them.
There’s a never-ending flurry of butterflies fluttering in your stomach and you always feel like you’re floating on cloud nine with each glance or each word of conversation you share with your crush. They send you a text and you feel like your day is made. They make you laugh and the memory doesn’t leave your mind for days. Even the mere mention of their name is enough to make you blush and swoon! At this stage, everything seems perfect, your crush is everything you ever wanted in a guy/girl, and you just want this feeling to last forever.
Now comes stage four: sharing. You know you’re really starting to get serious feelings about someone when you tell your friends about them. Of course, sometimes our friends can figure it out for themselves when we have a crush, but what matters most isn’t that your friends already know — it’s that you wanted to tell them about it regardless. You want to talk to your friends about how your crush makes you feel and tell them about all the things you like about them. You want their advice about what to reply to your crush’s text or what to say next time you see them, and you ask them what they think your crush meant when they told you this or that. You want their support and their encouragement, but also their honest opinion. And it’s usually because of our friends that we slowly start to realize the flaws our crushes have or where our relationship with them is going, which can end with us either heading to Stage Five (falling in love) or straight to Stage Six (falling out of love).
5. Falling In Love
Like and love are two very different things, but sometimes, our crushes turn into something more and we find ourselves falling in love with them. At this stage, your feelings for them are no longer clouding your judgment about them (Brumbaugh & Fraley, 2006). You’ve stopped putting them on a pedestal and thinking of them as perfect, and instead, got to know them well and grew closer to them in a way that allowed you to see them for who they really are. And if you’re lucky enough that they feel the same way about you too, then you’re on your way to starting a romantic relationship with your crush! Congratulations!
6. Falling Out of Love
On the other hand, however, you may find yourself falling out of love with your crush after having seriously thought everything out between the two of you. Maybe you realize they aren’t as great as you used to think and it’s made you lose interest in them, or perhaps you feel that there’s very little chance of them ever liking you back or seeing you as more than a friend. Whatever the reason may be, it’s made you reconsider your feelings and snap out of your crush.
It may take some time before you can accept it, and depending on how strongly you once felt about them, it can be a painfully devastating thing to go through. But once it’s all over and you’ve finally moved on, you’ll thank yourself for ending it because deep down inside, you know that this person wasn’t right for you and that it just wasn’t meant to be. Oh well, maybe the next one to come along will be better.
Do you relate to any of the things mentioned here? What does having a crush feel like for you?
Everyone experiences things differently, but we all go through the same emotional rollercoaster that is having a crush. Liking someone can be incredibly confusing and frustrating, because it can either end in love or heartbreak, but it’s also one of the most fun and exciting things we can ever experience. So if you have a crush on someone right now, take your time and be sure to enjoy it for as long as you can.
- Seiffge-Krenke, I. (2003). Testing theories of romantic development from adolescence to young adulthood: Evidence of a developmental sequence. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 27(6), 519-531.
- Fox, J., & Anderegg, C. (2014). Romantic relationship stages and social networking sites: Uncertainty reduction strategies and perceived relational norms on Facebook. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 17(11), 685-691.
- Connolly, J., Nguyen, H. N., Pepler, D., Craig, W., & Jiang, D. (2013). Developmental trajectories of romantic stages and associations with problem behaviours during adolescence. Journal of adolescence, 36(6), 1013-1024.
- Brumbaugh, C. C., & Fraley, R. C. (2006). The evolution of attachment in romantic relationships. Dynamics of romantic love: Attachment, caregiving, and sex, ed. M. Mikulincer & GS Goodman, 71-101.