It’ll pass… or will it?
It’ll pass… or will it?

SocietyJune 13, 2024

Help Me Hera: Is it wrong to revel in an unrequited crush?

It’ll pass… or will it?
It’ll pass… or will it?

And how do I even begin to move on when I don’t really want to?

Want Hera’s help? Email your problem to

Dear Hera,

Is it wrong to want to steep in the pain of unrequited love?

Usually, when I find out that a crush’s relationship status, sexual orientation, or general lack of interest precludes me from their affections, the feelings dissipate without a fight. So I expected my latest infatuation to fade when a mutual friend told me they were resolutely heterosexual.

But this time, paradoxically, the feelings have only intensified. 

The thing is, Hera, I don’t want anything from them. The very idea of my feelings being reciprocated would diminish this person in my eyes. I’m not worthy. I think that’s more about my own self esteem than the pedestal I’ve placed them on, but I know it can’t be good.

I see them often, and long for them to look at me, but hate myself whenever I speak to them. I want their respect, but not their time or attention; that would be too much to ask. I think they are in pain and it hurts to see. I feel like a worm shrivelling up in the sun of their presence. See the kind of year 9 creative writing this bullshit has reduced me to?

I have two questions. The first is, is this wrong? I suspect that it is, but I don’t want it to be. The second question is, if I must move on, how do I even begin when I don’t really want to?


A lowly worm

a line of dice with blue dots

Dear Lowly Worm,

As a teenager, I once went on holiday with some family friends. One of these friends had a daughter in her early 20s. She wore a T-shirt with a bejewelled parrot on it, and I thought she was the most sophisticated person ever to live. Later, I overheard her mother saying she’d fallen catastrophically in love with someone and was so obsessed she couldn’t make eye contact or conversation. I thought that was the most romantic thing I had ever heard, and couldn’t wait to be old enough to love someone so much I couldn’t bear to speak to them. 

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with actively courting a little romantic misery. Especially when you’re young and bored and longing for some emotional intensity to break up the monotony. Unrequited crushes are less cute, when you’ve deluded yourself into thinking that the 23-year-old girl who works at the airport juice bar is your soulmate because she complimented your Pissed Jeans t-shirt. But cultivating feelings for someone you know doesn’t reciprocate them, for fun,  isn’t the worst way to pass the time. God forbid gay people have hobbies.

There’s something deeply addictive about marinating in the exquisite pain of loving someone you know you can’t have. I use the word ‘love’ in an offhand way, because most unrequited crushes, unless you know the person deeply, are convenient emotional fictions that have little to do with the object of your affection. Loving someone you barely know or speak to, is about as real as tenderly kissing your Leonardo DiCaprio poster each night before bed. 

Not that there’s anything wrong with kissing your Leonardo DiCaprio poster each night before bed. In fact, there’s something comforting about having feelings for someone you know doesn’t reciprocate them. You get to enjoy the addictive misery of a powerful romantic infatuation without actually bothering to do anything about it. Usually these crushes quickly run out of steam. But I understand wanting to wallow in the feelings while they last. 

Romantic misery is painful. But there’s also something delicious about the pain. Whether you’re in the throes of heartbreak, or obsessed with someone who doesn’t love you back, there’s a kind of backwards joy in feeling so rotten. You walk around the city like a protagonist in a Sofia Coppola movie. Everything around you, the old man in the butcher shop, the pigeons demolishing a chicken wing on the sidewalk, the teenagers on the bus watching Dragon Ball Z all seem beautiful and tragic, riddled with hidden pathos. The world radiates thwarted beauty. Intentionally prolonging your own suffering is often more fun than returning to the boredom of everyday life. 

Ordinarily, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with allowing yourself to wallow in these feelings. But I do worry that you’re so down on yourself. Seeking out an impossible crush, in order to feel bad for fun is one thing. But using that crush as an excuse to belittle yourself and fuel your self-hatred is more troubling. It’s sad that you think this person liking you would diminish them in your eyes. That kind of attitude is not a great foundation for future happiness. If you secretly resent people for loving you, and think less of them because of it, you’re going to end up alienating the people who genuinely care about you. 

Of course it’s easy to tell someone not to hate themselves. I’m not going to pretend you can fix the problem by giving yourself a wink in every car mirror you pass. But you need to be careful about the kinds of stories you tell about yourself. The more you tell yourself you’re an unworthy and lowly worm, not fit for love, even in comedic hyperbole, the harder those feelings are to shake. 

If you’re really struggling with self-hatred, I strongly encourage you to seek some kind of help. A little cognitive behavioural therapy might be in order. I’m not saying it will be easy to fix your problems, but hating yourself is no way to live, and the sooner you can begin to address this malicious internal script, the better. 

If this was an ordinary crush, and you wanted permission to spend a few months listening to The Cure on repeat and staring aimlessly at the moon, that would be one thing. But if you can’t separate your feelings of self-hatred from your infatuation, it might be better to try and move on. Or at least try to entertain the occasional fantasy in which this person might, even in a purely hypothetical context, feel lucky to have you.

Keep going!