Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Crushes outside of marriage don't have to be a problem
Washington: Do you think a marriage will have more success if the spouses only have eyes for each other? Or is it a sign of maturity that they recognize, yeah, there ARE other attractive people out there, and we choose over and over again to be with each other? I'm freaking myself out because I'm happily married but have a little crush on somebody at work. Makes me feel like a bad wife.
Carolyn: I don't believe the first case exists. Crushes are normal — though the hypothetical marriage without them sure sounds like the easier bet. Still, the second case is realistic, and I agree with it completely. Neither case, though, has any say in what's going on with you right now. For that, all you can do is keep doing your best, keep choosing on the side of decency.
Anonymous 1: Re: Crushes while married:
My husband and I talk about our work crushes with each other, and I think we both genuinely get a kick out it. I think having it all out in the open is much healthier. If you're not talking about it, it's still happening.
Or: Anonymous 2: Re: Crushes:
As the left-out spouse, I am constantly frustrated by my husband's crush on a woman at work. Please figure this out — it's devastating to those of us who are left to figure out what's wrong with us.
Carolyn: Two-part proof that it's an issue that defies easy classification.
Anonymous 3: Re: Crushes:
WHAT? You're "left to figure out what's wrong with us"? The guy has a crush, so something is wrong with YOU? It has NOTHING TO DO with you! It's a crush! It's a hormonal reaction. Something is wrong with HIM if he acts on it. I had no idea that marriage involves control over someone else's hormones.
Carolyn: Point well taken, but, remember, when people fall for someone outside their marriage, often the first question posed is: "What is it that you aren't getting from your spouse?" Sometimes it doesn't apply (see "Hormones" above), but sometimes it does — say, when someone is lonely in their marriage, or sexually frustrated. But then, maybe that's called falling for someone else, and not a crush anymore.
I could also make a whole other argument that just because the marriage isn't working out, that doesn't mean anything is "wrong" with "the left-out spouse" — just as there's nothing "wrong" with a puzzle piece that happens not to fit.
Anonymous 4: Re: Crushes:
Wait! Why is having crushes bad? I recognize that men other than my husband are attractive. I've had crushes on co-workers, but never acted on them. I love my husband. Does that mean I'm not supposed to be attracted to anyone else, or does that mean I don't understand how the other readers are using the word "crush"?
Carolyn: I offered those first two response posts to show that crushes can take such dramatically different forms. There's the we're-all-human-and-occasionally-our-heads-turn crush, and there's the I'm-so-distracted-I'm-neglecting-my-spouse crush. The former is great to laugh about with one's spouse, and the other is best talked about with one's choice of wise and detached counsel.