Have you ever felt self-conscious about your attraction to someone other than your partner? Romantic or physical attraction towards others can be a scary topic for partners in a committed, monogamous relationship. For many, the idea of attraction to another person might feel like a threat to the commitment of their existing relationship. Many partners worry that talking about a crush will make their partner feel bad, and many partners might feel guilty for experiencing feelings of attraction to an outside person in the first place.
But what if having crushes could actually be beneficial for your relationship, providing you and your partner with opportunities to learn more about yourselves and each other? And what if you and your partner could feel more confident when it comes to exploring those experiences together? Keep reading for more insight about what you can learn from your crushes.
It’s normal to have a crush on someone else, even if you’re in a committed relationship.
Crushes, defined as “an intense and usually passing infatuation,” are common, even for happy couples. Even though crushes are common, most committed partners report that they don’t intend to communicate their feelings of attraction to their crush nor act on their feelings. Instead, crushes appear to serve another purpose, creating a sense of “excitement, increased esteem, and fantasy/escape.”
Rather than fearing the emotional sensations that come with a crush, partners might instead appreciate their ability to feel such sensations because they are a normal and beautiful part of the human experience. So, while feelings of attraction are not bad in and of themselves, nor are they within our control, what we choose to do with them is within our control.
Should you talk to your partner about your crush?
There is no right answer to whether couples should discuss their crushes with each other. It depends on the partners’ level of comfort and safety in the conversation. Some partners might feel hurt or insecure when learning about the other’s crush, while some might feel energized and inspired. What matters is to maintain respect and sensitivity around the topic and to ask your partner how they feel about the crushes in the first place.
Consider sharing reflections on how your crush makes you feel about yourself instead of divulging details about your fantasies or disclosing the identity of your crush. This approach keeps feelings in check and can provide greater insight into what attracts you in romantic relationships.
If you decide to talk with your partner about your crush, make sure you are clear about the fact that you consider a crush “just feelings” rather than something (or someone) to pursue. It can also help to have answers if your partner asks you why having a crush doesn’t concern you and what you think about boundaries.
Know the difference between a crush and real love
When you acknowledge the difference between infatuation and love, you can help safeguard your commitment to your partner and make the topic of crushes feel less stressful.
The spark of connection you feel with your crush is often based on an idealized image in your imagination. The ideal of your crush often leads you to ignore their less attractive characteristics. For example, you may admire someone’s intellectual confidence but fail to notice their lack of emotional openness. Essentially, you might find yourself ignoring the aspects of a crush that you don’t particularly like, which is a very different experience from being in love.
Partners in a loving relationship choose to commit to each other despite awareness of each other’s flaws. Love is often based in reality and is fed on closeness and knowledge of the other person. You respect your partner’s differences, enjoy true intimacy, and work together as a team. A respectful and safe conversation about crushes can begin when you acknowledge to yourself and your partner that you recognize the difference between a crush and love.
Another example of this is having a crush on a famous Hollywood actor or actress. Your idealized image of the actor or actress has your mind fantasizing about how attractive they are or the role they play. Yet, the reality is that celebrity has a lot of help looking glamorous or fit (e.g., makeup artists, fitness coaches, dieticians, stylists), and someone wrote the script they acted out. You aren’t in love with the actor, but the crush you feel for them certainly gets your heart racing.
Why you should create boundaries around crushes
Although having a crush is normal, it’s essential to be mindful of not hurting or making others uncomfortable with your actions. This obviously includes your partner. Realistically, loose boundaries around how we handle a crush can lead to behaviors that negatively impact others or cross our own internal lines of conduct. Being clear about boundaries with ourselves and with our partner can set the safe stage regarding the topic of crushes.
For example, you might distract yourself if you’re fantasizing a lot about your crush so that you can keep your feelings in check and be engaged with your partner. You might also decide not to flirt with your crush, text them one-on-one, or spend alone time with them. While you don’t have control over your attraction to someone, you do have control over what you do with it.
What crushes can teach you about yourself and your relationship
Even if you and your partner don’t discuss your crushes, there are valuable insights from exploring what your crush means to you. A crush can shed light on your needs, desires, and aspirations that may be unmet in your relationship. Remember, having a crush does not always mean something is wrong with your current relationship.
Ask yourself these three questions to unlock your deeper or unmet needs.
- Is there something attractive about my crush that I wish to embody or experience in my own life?
- Does my crush have shared values, hobbies, or interests that resonate with me? What does this reveal about my own priorities and interests?
- How does my crush make me feel? Do they make me feel interesting, understood, and validated? What does that reveal about my emotional needs and desires in my relationship?
For instance, if you’re attracted to your crush’s sense of determination and ambition, it may indicate your value in pursuing goals with your partner. Or, if you are drawn in by your crush’s sense of interest and curiosity about your thoughts, it might indicate your desire to have more of your partner’s attention and care. Discussing such needs, desires, and aspirations with your partner can lead to a richer understanding, growth, and closeness as a couple.
Crushes don’t have to crush your relationship
The topic of crushes can feel emotionally loaded if you are in a committed relationship. You might worry about hurting each other’s feelings or feel guilty for experiencing outside attraction. However, attraction is a normal part of life, and the presence of it does not mean your relationship is unhappy or in trouble.
Having clear boundaries and respect for your committed relationship is a helpful way to feel more relaxed around the topic of crushes, either internally or in conversation with your partner. When you’re at ease with the topic, you can benefit from reflecting on the specific reasons you’re attracted to your crush and learn about your needs, desires, and aspirations.
If you and your partner are struggling with outside crushes and want some support, we are here to help. Our practice offers in-person appointments in Charlotte, NC, and Carefree, AZ. We also have virtual sessions available for those who live in Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Texas. Contact us to get started.