Bridgerton season 3 is all about Polin, but is there a downside to dating a long-term crush?

a man and woman looking at each other
What’s it like to date a long-term crush?Liam Daniel/Netflix

Bridgerton season three spoilers ahead.

Bridgerton is back, which means more gorgeous gowns, indelicate gossip, and, of course, a lot more steamy sex scenes. This season is all about Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) stepping out of the shadows and into the limelight. While Penelope has been a core character since season one, her role until now has been that of an observer – especially after it was revealed that she is the anonymous Lady Whistledown, author of the Ton’s society papers, AKA the Deuxmoi of her day.

However, after her friend and the object of her heart, Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton), returns to town from his travels with newfound rizz, Pen decides it might finally be time for her to take a husband. To do so – and to make Colin jealous – she embarks on the regency version of posting bikini pics to your Insta: getting a fancy new dress and hitting the first ball of the season. The only snag? It turns out her flirting game is not on point. She quickly scares off the first man who approaches by answering, “You as well my Lord” when he comments, “What a striking gown you have on”. Classic move.

After watching her abysmal attempts at flirting, Colin offers to teach her a few tricks of the trade as a way to help rekindle their friendship, putting a fun twist on the fake dating trope. Cue loooots of tension as Pen tries to hide her feelings while practicing her skills on Colin. We’ve watched Penelope quietly pine after Colin since season one via her friendship with Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jessie) – while the two have had a close friendship, Colin’s eye has generally seemed to be elsewhere, particularly in season two when he wound up engaged to Marina Thomspon (Ruby Barker). Fans of the show have been crying out for more screen time for Pen’s secret crush, and this season delivers.

a man and woman dancing in a room full of people

The storyline is thematically on point. If you haven’t yet got the memo, 2024 is all about yearning. As we enter into a new type of relationship with the apps, more of us are lamenting lost crushes and turning to the screen – big and small – for our fix. Luckily, in that department, we are spoiled for choice, from the slow-burn romance of One Day, the tension of Anyone But You’s steamy enemies-to-lovers plot, to Challengers capturing the magic of a can’t-stop-thinking-about-them type infatuation.

In fact, our longing for, well, longing has led to Bumble dubbing 2024, ‘The year of yearning’, with 40% of users they asked saying they were focusing on quality rather than quantity when it comes to their dating intentions. “It’s historically been a bit ‘uncool’ to admit that you are lusting for love – but this shouldn’t be the case, so 2024 is the time to drop being ‘coy’,” explains Caroline West, a lecturer in sexuality studies and relationship expert at Bumble. “Being confident and intentional when you date can be a really attractive quality.”

So, is a longer lead time and a friends-first approach the key to lasting love? While finally making it official with a long-term crush might be the dream, relationship therapist and lecturer Chantal Gautier warns that there can be a downside. “When we invest high hopes in a relationship or a person, we might feel let down if things don’t match up with the picture we have built up in our mind,” she explains. “This can lead to disappointment and unrealistic expectations.”

“In some cases, either one or both partners may regret transitioning to a romantic relationship, leading to resentment. These negative emotions can ultimately result in the loss of the friendship,” Gautier adds. This remains a worry for Penelope throughout the season, who finds herself balancing her new extracurricular activity with trying to mend her friendship with Colin – with the added twist of hiding her gossipy alter-ego from him.

Luckily, this wasn’t the case for Izzy, an email marketing manager based in London, who had a long-term crush on someone she met online. The two would often talk on X (formerly known as Twitter) and play video games together, before finally meeting by chance several years later. “I was in London for the day and messaged them, and they happened to be in the same area at exactly the same time! Fate is crazy like that,” she explains. By that time, Izzy had already developed feelings for them.

But the relationship didn’t start straight away. Izzy was dating someone else, and, besides, she and her secret crush were about to head off to university in different cities. “At that stage of life, it wasn’t right,” she says. Like Penelope and Colin in season two of Bridgerton, their relationship was put on ice by the distance, but the feelings didn’t fizzle out.

At the end of university, Izzy finally acknowledged the extent of her feelings and decided to end the relationship she was in. “Meeting this person again was what finally made me end it. After that, I couldn’t seem to stay away and got the train down to London as much as I could on a student budget in the middle of exam season.” Soon, the two were dating.

When transitioning from a friendship into a relationship with someone you’ve fancied for a while, Gautier says it’s important to manage your expectations. While you might have already planned your wedding in your head and know the person far better than someone you’ve just met on an app, the relationship itself is still new and will take time to develop. How Polin (Penelope and Colin) handles the transition is yet to be seen because – spoiler alert – while part one of the new season ends with Colin finally admitting his feelings for Pen by saying he “prefers sleep because that is where I might find you” (leading to a frankly delicious carriage makeout), we’ll have to wait until part two drops in June to see how things progress.

Back to real life, though, and Gautier says: “Be clear and direct about your intentions, but also be prepared for any outcome. Encourage the person to share their feelings and thoughts as well. If feelings are mutual, discuss what you both expect from the relationship. Are you both open to exploring a romantic connection? Keep in mind that if the person doesn’t feel the same way, it’s important to respect their decision with dignity and grace.”

While Izzy’s relationship with her long-term crush eventually ended, she says they have remained friends and the experience hasn’t put her off from dating a long-term crush again. “If your initial crush has lasted as you’ve got to know each other more over time, then to me that’s a great sign,” she concludes. “You might not meet at the right time for a relationship, but that shouldn’t mean that it’s never possible.”

Part one of Bridgerton season three is streaming on Netflix now

You Might Also Like