Behind the Butterflies (Crush vs. Love)


Kaitlynn Trinnh, Staff Writer

Strolling through the hallways, you skim the area, searching for that certain someone. Catching a glimpse of them, you physically feel your heart skip a beat. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t revolve around you; they stride past you. Nevertheless, you still feel satisfied having seen them for three seconds. Even though you have never spoken to them before, you somehow feel a sense of attraction toward them, and you can’t help but like them. 

What are these feelings? Is it love or a crush? What is the difference between love and a crush? 

Those strange feelings you can’t articulate into words when describing that particular someone that’s called a crush. Although there’s no clinical definition for a crush, there are many characteristics associated with one that differentiates it from profound romantic engagement: love. Crushes are mainly rooted in fantasy. The beholder tends to project their values and ideals onto their crush, causing unrealistic expectations and infatuation. 

“You have little pieces of information [on] what you see, [therefore], you [feel] drawn into that person,” remarked New York City-based therapist Dr. Bukky Kolawe. A crush is different from a romantic relationship or interest, where you’re familiar with that person, and your notions are based on real-life experiences. 

To put the difference into perspective, if you are crushing on someone, you may believe that the attractive person that passes by during the passing period between 2nd and 3rd periods may be kind and caring; however, you have no way to prove your supposition or fully trust them since trust is built over time and through an established connection. What you feel is not a romantic interest but a crush. 

“I’ve had experiences with crushes, but none have blossomed into love,” stated sophomore Jason Huang. “One memorable crush developed in ninth grade. She was in my fifth period, and I always looked forward to seeing her in class. I always felt excited around her and could feel the butterflies stir in my stomach, something I’d never experienced. I’d always imagine what she was like and have little fantasies fog my head.”

Though there are differences between a romantic interest and a crush, what makes them so similar and difficult to differentiate? Both dynamics make you “feel”. To put it differently, the feelings of a crush and romantic interest both release mood-boosting hormones dopamine and oxytocin to the brain. 

According to Stephanie Cacioppo, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Chicago, “a crush and love act on different planes,” heavily differentiating the two aside from possessing the same biological reaction. Crushes feel like uncontrollable urges because they occur spontaneously, compared to love, which takes quite some time to develop. This explains why crushing may feel like a spiral where you have no grip.

“Maintenance of a crush can be stopped with strong willpower from the frontal lobe, meditation, discipline, and practice,” explained Cacioppo. 

Despite the varying differences between love and a crush, a crush can bloom into a romantic relationship, so, don’t lose hope! 

“My first crush [developed] in ninth grade. I always felt excited when I was around her, and I finally asked her to be my girlfriend,” reminisced sophomore Kevin Louie. “After a few months, my crush developed into love. When she was just a crush, I did not know her much, so I did not ‘love’ her. When we [established] a relationship, I became attached to her and began to love her.”

“With crushing, you’re ok with the distance because you’re not fully [attached and reliant],” stated Dr. Kolawe.

Nevertheless, an attachment system is created if you begin to share real-life experiences with your crush. Once a relationship is established, the body and brain can react differently, like feeling sad or alone when the person isn’t physically present. 

Putting aside the differences between a crush and real love, they both share the same ability to bridge people together. If you currently have a crush and are debating on pursuing them, go for it! You never know where it can bring you; you may thank yourself a few years from now, either because you dodged a bullet or found true love!


Photo by Dhaya Eddine Bentaleb