‘I keep fantasising about a woman in work’
I love my wife deeply but I have developed an intense attraction to a beautiful colleague
Make sure there is no inappropriate “banter”, physical touching or even lingering gazes – trust me, when we find someone attractive, we’re rarely as subtle as we think. Photograph: Getty Images/Caiaimage
I’m a 35-year-old straight man and I’ve been married for four years. I love my wife deeply and we’re very happy. But I have developed an intense attraction to a woman I work with. She’s very beautiful, and we get on well. Nothing has happened, we haven’t been inappropriate and I don’t think she has any idea about my attraction to her – but I keep fantasising about her. I haven’t felt this way about a woman since meeting my wife and it’s making me feel very guilty. I don’t know how I should deal with this. Should I stop interacting with her as much as possible? Tell my wife? I really don’t want this to ruin my relationship.
Take a deep breath and repeat after me: there’s nothing wrong with having a crush. There’s nothing wrong with having a crush.
Of course, you think I’m lying. But there’s a problem with the One True Love and Happily Ever After narratives that we are taught through rom-coms and love songs and Hallmark cards: they all claim that love and marriage and monogamy are always easy, effortless, and that once your find your partner, you’ll never find anyone attractive ever again.
This is a lie, of course. People are gorgeous, and kind, and smart, with jawlines that could cut glass and a turn of phrase that evokes glee and minds so quick you’d love to spend your life trying to keep up.
Attractive people are everywhere, and you’d be mad not to notice. And not a little bit less joyful. Crushes can be beautiful things; they indicate that you’re engaged with the world, and connected to people, and appreciative of them. Crushes are signs that the world can still surprise and seduce and stupefy you, and that’s wonderful.
One True Love must not be the one after all, or maybe we’re just bad people
But as you’re aware, crushes don’t always feel like that. They can fill us with guilt, confusion and doubt. Because according to the One True Love myth, once we find our person, we should never find anyone else sexually attractive. So when we do get all nervous and giggly around someone else, we think it must be a sign that our One True Love must not be the one after all, or maybe we’re just bad people, and either way it’s the beginning of the end.
It’s not. The key to crushing healthily is crushing constructively. Take a look at why you’re crushing on this woman. Often attraction is not just about another person’s traits, but how interacting with them makes us feel. Does she intellectually stimulate you? Make you feel creative, silly or adventurous? Think deeply about what this woman evokes in you, and figure out how you can bring that spark of electricity to your own relationship.
If it’s purely sexual desire, you can harness that too. If you only think of this co-worker sexually, but think of your wife with love and respect and admiration and commitment as well as finding her sexually attractive, then there’s clearly no competition there.
Your attraction to your co-worker is merely novelty – something that can be in short supply in a long-term relationship. So instead of fearing it, use it to strengthen your marriage. Enjoy the little sexual frisson of desire you’re experiencing – and bring it to the sex you have with your wife.
If your thoughts move from the realm of sexual fantasy to intentions to cheat – then you have an issue
However, crushes can become destructive, so do keep an eye on that. If your attraction results in you negatively comparing your wife to this woman, or makes you emotionally withdraw from your wife as you become closer to your crush, or if your thoughts move from the realm of sexual fantasy to intentions to cheat – then you have an issue. It doesn’t sound like you’re in that space, but remain self-aware about your thoughts and actions, so your crush doesn’t transform into boundary-crossing behaviour.
A good rule of thumb is to imagine your partner is in the room with you when you’re interacting with your crush. If you think anything you’re doing or saying would make your partner uncomfortable or feel disrespected, you’re probably crossing a line.
And speaking of crossing lines, I also need to point out that you have to be very careful that you’re not being unprofessional or inappropriate with the woman you’re crushing on. You’re married, therefore the question of whether or not she’s interested is already moot – you’re not looking for anything to happen.
But how you’re behaving towards her could still be making her uncomfortable. Make sure there is no inappropriate “banter”, physical touching or even lingering gazes – trust me, when we find someone attractive, we’re rarely as subtle as we think.
It’s natural to find other people attractive, even while in a loving relationship. As long as your actions remain respectful, you don’t need to feel guilty about that. This is merely the first crush you’ve had since getting married, and you’re learning how to navigate that. Enjoy the lesson.