Crushes happen. They aren’t inherently good or bad. They are just a product of our evolutionary biology, a set of psychological and physiological processes aimed at priming ourselves for the potential mating ritual required for the furtherment of our species. In fact, I’d venture they are absolutely necessary for the survival of mankind.
The Wife and I have both experienced crushes throughout our 15 years together. There have probably been crushes we haven’t shared, but there have also been crushes we have. Often those arise from friendly and attractive coworkers and a little harmless flirting.
There is an argument that crushes can be good for a relationship. The other side of that coin is that they can cause serious harm. I’d argue this: crushes are a powerful force, capable of a great range of emotional experience, and while they are inevitable (and often avoidable), they should be experienced with great care and responsibility. Only then can they be a force for good, rather than a cause for a lot of unnecessary heartache.
The biggest benefit to a crush is the rush of endorphins, adrenaline, and “good feeling” neurotransmitters like dopamine and oxytocin. Remember the honeymoon phase of your marriage? Before you learned all her bad habits and she learned yours? That’s what it feels like. And because a crush generally lacks the amount of face time required to learn about their bad habits, that high can be ridden for quite a while. It creates a sort of new relationship energy, something that can be very good for one’s self-esteem, drive, and productivity. In a life that may have become less exciting than one would like, a crush is an injection of excitement and confidence that can breathe new life into one’s routine.
Crushes can also signal something missing in our lives or an important part of ourselves that we have allowed to go dormant. The more we repress ourselves, the more it moves into our shadow self, becoming increasingly alluring and attractive, especially when we see it in others. Psychologists propose that the attraction we feel in our crushes can often be a mirroring of something we find attractive in ourselves that we’ve repressed and desire to revive.
They bring sexy back. Let’s face it. No matter how amazing marriage can be (and I’d say mine is pretty damn amazing), we all get caught up in the monotony of life; careers, family responsibilities, chores, and all the other little things that make up our days leave very little energy for indulging in self-realization, self-actualization, and self-appreciation. In short, it’s easy to lose what makes us feel sexy. Crushes have enormous potential to remind us of those things and to motivate us to continue cultivating our sexy.
I’m an objectively decent looking guy. But in the hum-drum of the daily grind, it just happens sometimes that I don’t feel that way. And when The Wife is in the same mental space, she’s not always in the right place of mind to ‘gas me up’ and make me feel desirable (nor is that necessarily her responsibility, right?). This is where a crush can really add a little pep in my step. A reciprocated crush can lead to strong feelings of desirability, attractiveness, and self-confidence. Even if I never act on it (and aside from a little flirting and rapport building I never have), it reminds me that I’m objectively desirable out in the world, which gives me a boost that I bring back to my relationship.
So we have the neurochemistry pumping us full of good feelings, we are recognizing an important part of ourselves, and we’re bringing sexy back. That’s a lot of good vibes that can be channeled back into our relationship. In other words, your crush (or your partner’s) is triggering things that can be extremely beneficial to your relationship. You just have to harness all those vibes and focus them at home, not outside.
In my experience, the high of a crush gives me the self-assuredness and confidence to do things at home that I know will drive The Wife wild. I’m reminded that while I go home to get the emotional and physical comfort of a relationship, it’s not because I lack options. It might seem fucked up to say, but I don’t think it is. I think it gasses me up and puts me in a position to choose The Wife over and over again.
The first thing to note here is that while all of The Good is practically universal (in that we all experience all of it), The Bad is all potential, and thus, avoidable. Communication, knowledge, and understanding of yourself and your relationship dynamic can help you avoid all of the pitfalls of The Bad and allow you to navigate a crush productively without hurting anyone or causing any harm.
The biggest pitfall is the potential to hurt. A crush can lead to thoughts, behaviors, or actions that hurt the person(s) in the crush, as well as the partner in marriage. You first have to have a thorough and sober understanding of yourself. Have you cheated in the past? Have crushes gone too far before? Is it within you to act on a crush in a way that would have an undesirable effect on your own moral boundaries?
The next consideration is of your partner and relationship. What is the level of trust between you? What is the level of security? What boundaries have you set regarding this or similar situations? Have you ever talked about it? Should you talk about it now? Have you or your partner conducted yourself in a situation previously that fostered insecurity or a feeling of deceit? Are you both truly past it? All of these things help to inform how you move forward with a crush.
Should you tell your partner? For some, the dynamic is secure and lacking in judgment, fostering an openness that allows for the sharing of feelings like a crush. For others, sharing will cause nothing but pain. You probably know how your partner would respond and whether sharing of feelings for another person is going to be met with confidence and comfort or pain and a feeling of threat.
Should you flirt? Again, there is no clear answer here. It all depends on your specific relationship dynamic right now. There have been times in my marriage where both of us were in a good place and some harmless flirting in the work environment made the day go by faster and sent us both home feeling good about ourselves, allowing us to connect better and ultimately acting as a boost to our romantic/sexual relationship. There have also been times when even the thought of a partner flirting was met with jealousy and resentment. We aren’t perfect people. Understanding that, and knowing how timing can affect something like acting on a crush in any way, is key to facilitating a peaceful journey through a crush while protecting your partner’s dignity and sense of value in the relationship.
Should you act on it alone? I’m talking about fantasizing before you go to sleep, masturbating to the thought of your crush, picturing your crush while having sex with your partner, etc. Nothing involving actual communication with the crush per se, but allowing them appearances in your mind during activities in your real life. Is that ok? I’m of the opinion that you cannot police the mind, and that extends doubly to your partner’s mind. But consider this: does your partner consider it emotional infidelity? Is your relationship in a state currently where that behavior would be received as productive or destructive? Is it a harmless sexual enhancement or seriously detrimental to the sanctity of your emotional commitment to your partner? Knowing this will provide you with the answer as to whether your partner would consider this an emotional breach of fidelity within your relationship. An explicit conversation with your partner (generally not during the heat of a crush) would be even better. Bring it up during a kinky round of “Who would you do?”, Truth or Dare, or celebrity crush conversation.
Is the excitement/energy enhancing or undermining your relationship?
Are you constantly thinking about your crush, even when with your partner? Do you wait by your phone and check it constantly, anxiously awaiting that notification? Is the crush creating distance between you and your spouse? The math on a crush is simple: The more time you spend indulging and engaging with a crush, the greater the potential for negative effects on your spouse and primary relationship.
At this point, it may seem like I’m convincing you that The Good is guaranteed and The Bad is somewhat easy to avoid, and thus crushes are great for all, right? Unfortunately, it’s not so simple. You see, many of us think we are introspective, understand and respect limits and boundaries, and are overall decent people. Therein lies our fault.
You see, people who take crushes too far aren’t inherently bad, while you and I are inherently good. People who find themselves in compromising positions with crushes aren’t simply weak minded or dumb. They are the same as you and I, only they didn’t realize the fuse was lit and had gotten so close to the stick of dynamite. I’m not talking about serial cheaters here, but the ones who had a one-time slip up where their pants were around their ankles before they realized what was happening. Often times, the only difference between them and someone who didn’t find themselves in that position is a lack of acute awareness of the situation they were in, the effect they had on their crush (and vice versa), and a solid game plan for what boundaries were in place regarding their own behavior within the crush.
In essence, the only difference between a slip up (accidental infidelity be it physical or emotional) and a healthy crush that doesn’t threaten one’s relationship is self-discipline, self-awareness, and conscious awareness of the boundaries you have within your relationship, such that you don’t find yourself having crossed the line before you realize it.
So here are some of the ways people screw that up:
Creating opportunities for run-ins with a crush. If you’re going out of your way creating opportunities to be with your crush, this may be behavior that falls under emotional infidelity, depending on how your spouse feels about it.
Communicating after hours. If you’re home with your spouse and constantly watching your phone, texting/DMing/interacting with your crush on social media, this behavior may be seen as disrespectful or threatening to your partner.
Social media stalking. If you find yourself 4 years into your crushes Instagram page or Facebook timeline, you’re getting in too deep. It’s important to remind yourself that people cultivate their best self-image on social media, it’s not real, and your crush isn’t living this magically adventurous life. They have morning breath too.
Divulging too much information. I’ve noticed that behind the curtains of a DM or private chat, people are much more comfortable divulging information or speaking on topics far more intimate than they would be comfortable saying face-to-face. Science appears to back it up. The guise of the internet creates a cloak of intimacy that makes it feel comfortable talking about things we probably shouldn’t, or at the very least probably wouldn’t if we had to say the words out loud directly to our crush.
Ignoring the mirror. If your partner was doing exactly what you’re doing in your crush, how would you feel? Sometimes in the heat of a crush, we ignore that, convincing ourselves that “this is different” or “I know I won’t cross any lines” creating a cloak of superiority and convincing ourselves that our behavior is ok, even if it’s questionable at best.
Compromising emotional or physical intimacy with your spouse. Have you ever waited for your spouse to go to sleep only to fantasize about your crush and masturbate? Have you ever daydreamed about your crush while spending time with your partner? Even if you haven’t, have you pictured it, fantasized about it, or created opportunity to do so? Anything that compromises the intimacy of your primary relationship is dangerous behavior.
Justification. If you find yourself justifying your thoughts, behaviors, or actions regarding a crush, it’s time to reconsider. Defensive behavior is proof of a recognition (conscious or subconscious) that your behavior is borderline at best.
Your go-to person. if your crush is the first person you want to share good news or bad news with, you’re in too deep. When you’re thinking about your crush before your spouse, you need to reconsider whether this crush really is healthy.
You’re in denial. “I’m not a cheater,” “I’m not crossing any lines”, “That kind of thing will never happen to me.” These statements are a denial of reality. According to psychologists, the second most common slip leading to infidelity is that which happens when we least expect it; a spouse’s best friend, a best friend’s spouse, a long-time platonic friend, etc. We consider these relationships to be “safe.” and thus let our guard down. Add relationship trouble on either end and you’re practically asking for trouble. Why? You are comfortable being yourself. And you don’t consider your relationship with that person a threat to your relationship.
The Wrap Up
We’ve gone through The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, and now we’re at the end. I suppose you’re ready to hear whether it’s ok for you to crush or not, right? Well, it’s not that easy, and like everything else regarding relationships, there are no universal truths. I find an approach tailored to your specific relationship is what is needed here. If you have had discussions about crushes before and you have a good sense of what’s acceptable and not, go forth and prosper. If you are in a relationship with someone who would not be comfortable with you having a crush, keep it to yourself and don’t act on it.
In many relationships, when one rationalizes bad behavior (bad in this case being behavior their partner wouldn’t approve of) and goes out and acts on it, they know how their partner is going to feel, and thus keep it secret. That’s just adding fuel to the fire. You may think your partner’s expectations are unreasonable, fueled by jealousy, etc. But you have chosen to be in the relationship with them anyway. Recognizing that their expectations come from feelings of fear or threat to the relationship does not absolve you of behaving in a way that you both have agreed upon. Rationalizing doesn’t make it ok.
So do the right thing. Communicate early and often. Know how your partner feels about your behavior. Don’t do things that will create situations that threaten your relationship. Don’t disrespect your partner or make them look/feel foolish. Behave within the agreed-upon boundaries of your relationship and know that these things are likely to ebb and flow with the waves of the relationship.
What do you think about crushing in marriage? Have I missed something? Do you disagree with my assessment? Leave a comment below and let’s continue the conversation.