Developing a crush on someone when you’re already in a long-term, committed relationship can leave you feeling guilty and confused.
You may think it’s a betrayal of your partner but you might also be wondering whether your feelings are trying to tell you something.
If this is how you feel right now, try not to worry. This is far more common situation than most people realize. You might like to think of it as a warning sign that something needs addressing within your relationship or in your life: an opportunity to make things better.
Crushes vs finding someone attractive
It’s worth stating right away that it’s important to differentiate between developing a crush on someone and finding someone outside of your relationship attractive.
If we’re being realistic finding other people attractive is inevitable. Entering a relationship doesn’t mean we stop being human. It’s entirely natural for this to happen from time to time – just as it was before you became part of a couple. As long as you don’t act on it, there’s nothing wrong with it.
We tend to think of crushes as different because they usually involve imagining what it would be like to be in a relationship with this person. They go a level deeper – from the physical to the emotional.
What is my crush telling me?
We often develop crushes on people because we feel they might fulfil a need that isn’t otherwise being fulfilled. This might be a need for love, attention, sex, friendship or any number of other things.
Because crushes can happen for so many different reasons, and often start without us realizing –which is why developing a crush on someone when you’re already in a relationship can often take you by surprise and leave you wondering whether something isn’t seriously wrong.
It might be something has changed in your relationship recently that means you feel less connected to your partner. This could be a new job meaning you can’t spend as much time together. Perhaps you have young children and don’t have the energy to prioritize each other as much. A breach of trust may have made you feel more distant: perhaps you’re worried about allowing yourself to become vulnerable again.
Or it may be that this is simply part of the ebb and flow of connection and disconnection that takes place naturally in long-term relationships: sometimes we feel closer to our partners, sometimes less so.
It’s a good idea to think about whether your crush does seem to represent something that’s gone missing from your relationship. This will help you understand what you’re feeling, and is the starting point for thinking about what to do next.
How can I work on my relationship?
If you’re serious about your existing relationship, it will then be a case of trying to address the issue. It can take courage to do this, especially if what’s missing has been missing for a long time.
One question people often ask is: should I tell my partner about the crush? There’s no easy answer to this. If you feel it would be necessary to help them understand how you’re feeling, then you may need to find a way to do this gently. But be aware there’s a high risk that their feelings will be badly hurt.
One way to address this is by talking about it with someone you trust and who will keep it to themselves. This could be a friend or family member. You may find that the act of telling someone how you’ve been feeling is enough to help you begin to understand what’s missing in your life or specifically in your relationship.
If you do think there are problems in your relationship that need to be addressed, you’ll need to find time to talk to your partner.
How, when and where you have this conversation is as important as what you say – you may find it very useful to read our article on communication tips to try with your partner. This will help you think about ways to broach difficult topics without things turning into a row and how you could communicate effectively and clearly.
What you need to talk about will depend on your situation, but you might like to think about the following:
- Do we spend as much time together as we used to, and if not, why not?
- Do we make time to have fun together or just relax together?
- Are we listening to each other’s needs and communicating our own, or simply saying ‘I’m fine’?
- Have we been taking each other for granted?
Moving on from the crush — practical steps
We develop crushes on all kinds of people. Sometimes it’s just someone we see momentarily in the street. Sometimes it’s someone closer to us: a colleague, an employer, or a friend.
As part of the above process, it’s generally a good idea to try to avoid regular contact with the person you’ve developed a crush on. Depending on who it is, this can be quite straightforward or it might require some bigger changes.
If it’s someone we don’t see all that often, we can simply avoid running into them when possible. But if it’s someone who is closely linked to our lives, it can be worth thinking about whether certain changes will need to be made – whether you’ll need to stop seeing a certain group of friends quite as regularly, for instance, or not putting yourself forward for certain projects at work.
However necessary this will be depends on your situation, but you may find it’s easier to focus on your relationship if you’re not still seeing your crush week in, week out.
How we can help
Making changes in your relationship is rarely a short process. It usually takes a willingness to keep working at things consistently over time.
Don’t be disheartened if you aren’t able to get to the root of things straight away – or if it doesn’t always feel like things are heading in the right direction. Progress is rarely a straight line.
If you think you might need help, counseling is a great way of keeping yourself on course – or just beginning the conversation in the first place. Contact Couple Counseling DC for a session with Trina Dolenz.