So you’re dropping your son off at football and the new instructor happens to be the hottest guy you have seen this side of 2003. He’s glowing with youth and fitness; he’s great with the kids; and he’s chatty in a non-threatening, non-sleazy way. The next time you drop your son off, you check your hair in the mirror and practise your most dazzling smile. Do you want to have an affair with him? No. Does this preening make you a bad person? Of course not. You’re only human.
Try as we might to convince ourselves that once we’ve found The One, our roving eyes will be blinkered, it simply isn’t realistic. Christopher Ryan, psychologist and co-author of Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, says, “Couples are led to believe that waning sexual passion, or sexual interest in anyone but their partner, portend a failed relationship, when in reality these things often signify nothing more than that we are Homo sapiens.”
I hear murmurs from the other bench. “So, if extramarital crushes are natural, why does it feel so wrong?” As our societies evolved from being nomadic tribes to settled communities, our sexuality changed, says Ryan. “A non-possessive, gregarious sexuality was the human norm until the rise of agriculture and private property just 10,000 years ago.” Put simply, family is necessary for survival now. So, we’ve developed cultural rules which frown on anything that might jeopardise that.
If nature didn’t intend it to happen, on entering a relationship, our potential-mate radar would simply power down, like when you are in the first throes of love and you don’t notice another living soul. Fact is, none of us really want it to shut down. It doesn’t cause us stress, or anxiety, or illness, to fancy someone. In fact, it feels kind of nice. And if someone fancies us – even when we are in a happy relationship – it also feels nice. The only time it doesn’t (feel nice) is when your partner fancies – or is fancied by – someone else. Then it makes us feel sick, destabilised, scared and a bit insane. And it is this jealousy and insecurity that gives adult crushes a bad name.
The situation is this: if you are OK about your own meaningless crushes, you have to be fine about your partner’s crushes too. And if, like Ryan, you believe they are the natural result of our reproductive instinct, then the question isn’t whether they are OK, but how you can stop them rocking your marriage. Norma Cairns, counselling psychologist at LifeWorks Counselling Dubai says, “You are going to see people you find attractive – it’s normal. But if it becomes more, it tells you there’s something wrong with your relationship. If your marriage is stable and healthy, it won’t cause any issues. You’ll say, ‘He’s attractive, but my heart is occupied – you are in it’.”
Tina Tessina, psychotherapist and author, says, “Think of crushes as entertainment – they add excitement to life, and as long as you don’t confuse fantasy with reality, they’re harmless.”
Another psychologist and author, Susan Quilliam, says, “Fantasising about another man can help your relationship by making you feel more romantic, flirty and sexual.” What’s not to like? When the headiness of love wears off and leaves you with the very vanilla reality of sharing finances and rearing children, most relationships could do with an injection of excitement – and you get it where you can. Romantic date nights, bottles of massage oil, your son’s hot football instructor... it’s all fine – just as long as you’re not getting them all at the same time.
Having a crush may sound innocent and innocuous, but in my book it’s an ‘accident’ waiting to happen. This ‘crush crash’ may start out slowly but ends up hurtling down the highway leaving a relationship wreck in its wake.
A friend of mine, happily married with kids, always has a crush. Describing it as a bit like escaping into a good book, she says it provides a pleasant distraction from daily life’s stresses, a little boost of happiness. “We all need to feel appreciated and desired and sometimes a crush does just that,” she argues.
No harm in that, you may think, but you could be on a slippery slope to emotional infidelity. What starts as a crush can slide into emotional connections leading into physical cheating. You could be opening the door to an inappropriate connection.
“A woman may think there’s no harm in having a crush, but it could soon lead to grabbing a coffee, then working lunches. Before you know it, your relationship with this ‘new’ man moves on to flirtatious texts or emails,” says life coach Michelle Burton-Aoun. So, what began as a seemingly innocent crush has moved into emotional infidelity. “This emotional infidelity is a new kind of adultery. People are often under the misinterpretation that if they are not physically cheating, then there is no harm in spending time with another man. There is a very fine line between emotional infidelity and physical intimacy – so fine that people often do not realise that they are crossing it.”
But even if it’s just a crush – if you have a little bounce in your step as you walk away from him – is it really so innocent? A few thoughts about him, a glance, a stare, a little flirtation, making more of an effort because you know you’re going to bump into him later – it brightens the day. After all, and here’s the get-off-the-hook bit, you’ve done nothing wrong, right?
If you tell yourself that your interaction with, or crush on, a certain person is fine, ask yourself if your spouse would agree. Probably not, which is why you’re keeping it a secret, right? “In a crush, there is always an element of secrecy and hence deception, which has no place in a marriage,” advises Michelle.
Having a crush also means that you’re expending energy – thoughts, feelings, even fantasies – on someone else and you can’t nurture your marriage if you’re spreading it elsewhere. In his book We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love, Robert A Johnson explains that “when we yearn for a forbidden, passionate romance like in The English Patient, we are often blinded to the beautiful, committed love that is with us in every day of our life, the ‘stirring-the-oatmeal’ love.”
So, if you’re investing your thoughts and feelings into someone else, the more likely it is you will move away from your husband. Everyone is at risk of emotional infidelity because attention from someone new always feels good. You need to be aware and direct that spark towards your real love.
“The best way to avoid it is to strengthen your marriage, to bring happiness back into it,” says Michelle.
And with social media, emails and texting it’s easy to get drawn into an inappropriate relationship without even leaving home. This is dangerous, scary and tempting if you’re not happy.
Now I’m not a prude or anything, I just know how fast things can escalate and then spiral out of control into a full-blown lying and cheating affair.
Slam on the brakes before someone gets hurt.
“It’s not normal to be happily married and have a crush on someone else. It means something is missing in your marriage and/or your emotional needs are not being met.”
—Aquarius fan Natasha Rego
“If it’s just a crush, it’s completely harmless and can make you feel good, but don’t go beyond that.”
—Aquarius fan Jenni Kusuanco
“If you have a secret crush on any other man, it means your marriage
is lacking in something.”
—Aquarius fan Danielle Haggar
“A crush can be a kind of admiration, one where you want to feel like a teenager again. It can be harmless and doesn’t mean you love them.”
—Aquarius fan Lyn Salvs
“What kind of happily married person has a crush on someone else? There are no such things as limits.”
—Aquarius fan Maria Zarif
Next month’s debate...
Is smacking your child an acceptable form of punishment?