You had the wedding of your dreams, your partner is your best friend, and you've finally found your groove with this whole marriage thing. Then, that sparkly feeling of being recently hitched starts to fade. You start realizing that your coworker is actually attractive and super interesting to talk to. Or that your friend's friend is cute and smart. You're still completely in love with your spouse, but you find yourself thinking of this other person sometimes and smiling, maybe even getting a few butterflies. Years (and sometimes even months) into a marriage, you're crushing on someone else. While you may initially feel guilty about it, don't worry. Here's why it's normal, what to do about it, and when it may be going too far.
Is It Normal to Have a Crush When You're Married?
Before you beat yourself up for checking out that guy in the gym, know that it's very common. "It's fairly common for married people, even happy and committed married people, to develop feelings for others," Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, PhD, LP, LMFT, BCC and founder and clinical director at Growing Self Counseling & Coaching, tells POPSUGAR. "A crush, or 'romantic infatuation,' can happen with anyone who you spend time with and who has attractive or, interestingly, anxiety-producing qualities."
Why Do Happily Married Couples Still Develop Crushes on Other People?
"It's normal for married folks to wonder what it's like to have the freedom to be with someone else," Susan Winter, relationship expert and bestselling author, tells POPSUGAR. "Marriages can become routine, and a couple's interactions predictable. The 'sameness' of marriage allows for stability and security but also dampens excitement and spontaneity, and this double-edged sword is what creates the perfect recipe for a crush. It's a way to ponder a new and different romantic scenario without suffering its repercussions."
Sometimes, the qualities your spouse lacks are what draws you to another person who does have those desired attributes, causing attraction to other people. "For example, if you're enjoying the witty banter or increasingly emotionally intimate conversations you're having with an attractive coworker, you might come to realize that you and your spouse don't often have opportunities to connect in the same way anymore, and that you miss that," says Dr. Bobby.
When Does a Crush Cross the Line?
Admiring someone from afar is one thing, but actively pursuing someone who isn't your spouse is the type of behavior that experts agree could be detrimental to a marriage. "Crushes go from innocent to harmful when they cross the line of curiosity," explains Winter. "This occurs when direct actions are taken to engage the crush in a romantic manner . . . come-on's, sexual discussions, and pointed flirtations can quickly escalate into real-life consequences." Dr. Bobby also warns about just how intense a crush can become once those types of actions are taken. "When you develop a full-blown romantic attraction for another person, it's really all-consuming," she says. "It needs to be caught and snuffed out early, or it could easily destroy your marriage and possibly even the trajectory of your life."
What Should You Do If You're Married and Have a Crush on Someone Else?
When it comes to having a crush while you're married, honesty is the best policy. "Acknowledge the fact that it's happening, both to yourself and to your spouse," explains Dr. Bobby. "Saying it out loud, to both of you, helps keep you safe . . . it provides you with accountability and transparency that will protect you from getting deeper into romantic entanglement." It's also important to limit — or even eliminate — speaking with the person you're crushing on altogether. "Avoid contact with the person you have those feelings for as much as possible," continues Dr. Bobby. "If you must interact with them, keep it short and professional. Make it a point to spend more time with your partner and cultivate the good qualities of that relationship. Before you know it, the feelings for the other person will fade."
Can Developing a Crush While You're Married Actually Help Your Relationship?
It might seem a little counterproductive, but having a crush on someone who isn't your partner really can help your marriage. The grass isn't always greener on the other side — a concept that can be proven true when pursuing a crush outside of a marriage. "Developing a crush can sometimes be a positive thing for a relationship, particularly if you're self-aware enough to realize what your feelings for someone else might be informing you about what you'd like to be different about your primary relationship," advises Dr. Brown. "Using that contrast as important information about what you want to be different about your primary relationship could help you make important, positive changes with your spouse. And talk openly with your spouse about the changes you'd like to see happen."