So here's the deal — I have an awesome (long distance) boyfriend with whom I'm head over heels in love. I'm only twenty and never anticipated falling for someone so hard (and so young!) but I honestly think he is my “one” and I would love to end up with him someday. Recently, though, I made a class acquaintance who I was attracted to.
We facebook chatted and texted occasionally for about a week, but not about anything deep or important, mostly just small talk. He asked me to hang out and at first I agreed, reasoning he knew I had a boyfriend and I would never cheat so what was the harm? I asked my friends for advice and they agreed, but it still didn't feel quite right, so I decided against it and cut off contact.
In spite of that, Auntie, I now feel awful. How could I have even considered pursuing a friendship with a boy I was attracted to? How could I even BE attracted to someone besides my boyfriend for that matter? I feel like the world's worst girlfriend. It's not like I cared strongly for this other guy — he was just cute, nice enough and I'm ashamed to admit I liked the attention. I always tried to look cute before I saw him, which I of course feel very guilty about now. I don't know what advice I am looking for exactly... how to stop feeling bad maybe? How to prevent future crushes while I am in a relationship? What if I develop one with someone I work with someday, and I can't avoid him? I know I would never cheat but just feeling this way makes me so sad and ashamed. Please help!
Sigh. Every so often, Auntie gets a letter like this. And each time it happens, I have just one thought: that I’d like to find the sadistic bastard who’s propagating the idea that being in a relationship means never noticing a single attractive person ever again! For the rest of your life! And shame, shame if you do!
... And then, that I would like to hit that person in the face with the biggest, floppiest salmon the world has ever seen.
Because you guys, being in a relationship is in no way the same thing as being dead. And whether you’re casually coupled or committed for life, I’ve got news for you: it’s still okay to notice the hotties. It’s okay to enjoy the attention. It’s okay to ogle the butts. And yes, it’s okay to have crushes, provided you don’t let them get out of hand (more on that in a sec).
And not only that, I’m gonna take it a step further: if your relationship were so all-consuming, and left you with so little interest or energy to invest in the world beyond its boundaries, that you could no longer enjoy the cheap and harmless thrill of noticing a hottie noticing you? Then, I’d be worried. Because love like that isn’t healthy or mature, nor is the expectation of it.
So unfortunately, Sparkler, I can’t tell you how to stop being human (which is what you’re asking when you ask how to prevent yourself from ever again being attracted to another man while you’re in a relationship.) ...That is, unless you want to lock yourself in an attic and refuse all future contact with anyone but your boyfriend and a short list of approved visitors who rate no higher than a three on the beauty scale, and even then, after a few months, I’m betting even the buck-toothed, acne-ridden, vaguely malodorous guy who delivers your groceries would start to look pretty good.
Instead, I’m going to ask you to accept (if not embrace) two important facts: First, that being in a relationship does not mean being dead to the beauty of the world, the pleasures of flirting, or the joy of human connection. And second, that two non-single people who find each other attractive can nevertheless maintain an enjoyable, appropriate friendship that never violates a single tenet of Decent Human Behavior.
Which is not to say that you were wrong in this case; it sounds like your friendship with this guy was a) entering slightly-too-intimate territory for your comfort, and b) a secret from your boyfriend, both of which are good signs that you needed some distance. (Although cutting off all contact was probably overkill; in the future, you can just hang out with a crush casually or in groups until the temptation fades—which, by the way, it always does.)
And if ever you find yourself emotionally invested in a crushy friendship to the detriment of your relationship, that’s a good sign that you need to a) step back, and b) ask yourself whether there’s something important that you’re getting from it besides the fleeting thrill of a new guy desiring you. Because crushes-while-committed aren’t just a natural part of life; they can also shine a useful light on previously unnoticed weaknesses in a relationship, and give you a chance to address them.
And if all this doesn’t make you feel empowered, in control, and at least nominally okay about the happens-to-everyone, not-even-remotely-shameworthy fact of having (gasp!) been attracted to another guy and (horrors!) enjoying the boost to your ego... well, I don’t even know. Maybe a cupcake? Those always cheer me up.
Have you ever crushed while committed? Share your story in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Related post: Auntie SparkNotes: Let's Talk About Sex