I'm 36 and immature in love. How can I get some grown up perspective?
February 8, 2013 5:14 AM   Subscribe

I am happily married but have fallen in love with someone else. I think the intensity of my feelings for this other man is due to the fact that I’ve only ever been in one relationship before; I think I am experiencing this the way a teenager would. How do I get over this ‘in love’ feeling?

I married my first love. I met him when I was 16 and married him when I was 20. I'm very happy with the life we've made and we’re really good together. We laugh a lot, I still love his company, we have great sex, the kids are a joy. Everything is sweet.

But two years ago I met someone else. It was love at first sight for me but he and I clicked and very quickly became very close friends. I have no interest in having an affair but I don't know how to get over this man. I think if I had had other relationships before I would have the emotional experience and maturity to handle this.

I know from reading many other Asks that what I am experiencing as unique and special is actually very common but because I'm never going to have a relationship with this man and I’ve never experienced how this feeling can fade to nothing, I don't know how to speed up the process of getting over this giddy in love feeling.

The other man openly adores me considers me his best friend but has no romantic feelings for me. He is married too and they have two children. Our two families socialize together a lot, our daughters are best friends. I am good friends with his wife and he and my husband are friendly and hang out sometimes but usually it’s just him and me alone, just because of our spouses work hours. No one (my husband, his wife) minds.

I want to stay friends with this man but I feel crazy in love with him. I just want to feel normal about him and not miss him so desperately when we’re apart.

I'm looking for some wisdom I just don't have. Thanks everyone.
posted by Lollie1974 to Human Relations (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: 1. Consider talking to a marriage counselor - alone - about this. An objective third party with expertise in this sort of thing is invaluable.

2. What you have is a crush. Crushes happen to married people and it's okay. What's important is to recognize it for what it is. He is not your soulmate. He is not going to be the one that gets away. It's a crush. It's a season, and it will pass.

3. Take some time - 10 minutes or so - when you are alone and write down all of the things that you love about your husband. Take time to think about all of the ways in which he enriches your life. Redirect all of your mushy romantic thoughts back to your husband.

4. If you are spending time alone with guy in any context - stop immediately. It will only make things worse and you (and he) may do something stupid in a fleeting moment of bad judgment.

These things happen to lots of married people. Take heart; they pass. :)
posted by DWRoelands at 5:29 AM on February 8, 2013 [15 favorites]

Lollie1974: I think if I had had other relationships before I would have the emotional experience and maturity to handle this.

I'll let other people talk about how to get over a crush, but I just want to point out that this crush is not a result of your limited relationship history. People who dated many other people for years before settling down get these feelings and don't necessarily know how to deal with it any better than people who never had more than one relationship. Don't allow yourself to fall into the trap of thinking you are not in control of your own actions and decisions due to some quirk of your upbringing or background. That way leads to bad things.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:43 AM on February 8, 2013 [41 favorites]

Sure, sometimes we get crushes, but as adults we realize that they're not real.

Crushes are your imagination running wild with an attraction. You fantasize about romantic weekends, you dream about cuddling in front of a fire, basically it's a Hallmark version of a relationship. Totally fake, with no real life.

What you have with your husband and family is real. He farts. The kids are a handful. Your daily life is unexciting.

When you disappear into Crush-Land, there's no laundry to do, or cat box to clean, there's no toddler with a cold, it's all just lovely and pampering.

For now, get some distance from your friend. Eat more chocolate. Make dates with your husband so that you can rediscover the grown up, apart from the kids, the housework can wait aspects of your relationship.

Valentines Day is a perfect time to introduce some romance with your husband.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:55 AM on February 8, 2013 [8 favorites]

You get over this the same way we'd tell you to were you 16 or 20 or had you done this four times before: you go no-contact. It's going to require some coming clean with your partner but I'd rather be with someone who experienced normal, human marital bumps and then took steps to protect the marriage than be with someone who did nothing but pined and eroded the marriage. You must not feed the limerence.

It will pass. It may take three months or three years, but like we can all tell you with exes, it eventually gets to "Huh. Interesting. I can't imagine what I was thinking way back then."
posted by DarlingBri at 6:29 AM on February 8, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'm very happy with the life we've made and we’re really good together. We laugh a lot, I still love his company, we have great sex, the kids are a joy. Everything is sweet.

Is everything sweet, though? How much time do you and your husband have, just the two of you, where the focus of that time is on each other and your relationship? It seems to me that crushes in marriges happen when someone isn't feeling entirely satisfied with their partner. Sometimes it is because their life (work, kids, running the household) takes up SO MUCH TIME AND EFFORT that making time to maintain the relationship falls by the wayside. It is very easy to prioritize the kids and the pets and your job and the chores etc over going out on a date with your husband. Everything else seems so pressing and important that relationship time feels like wasted time. Or at least as though relationship time would be better spent doing all the other stuff. The crush then becomes a place to place all those unfulfilled relationship love feelings.

Even if you think you and your husband are plenty affectionate and romantic, I'm going to argue that you probably aren't. I'm going to suggest that you would probably be happier if you and your husband had more time to be "in love" and in a relationship, instead of always having to put the kids and the house and your jobs first.

If I were you I would:
1. take a BIG step back from your friendship with this guy. You aren't going to get over your crush unless you start creating distance. I know you value his friendship but right now you need to put a higher value on your marriage. Stop any solo time with him, and limit how often you have both families out doing things.
2. prioritize doing relationship things with your husband. I would talk to your husband about this. Tell him you've been feeling that your relationship has majorly taken the backburner to all the day to day stuff, and that want to up the romantic ante. Get a babysitter for the night and go have a nice romantic dinner together. Some night after the kids have gone to sleep cuddle up on the couch together and watch a movie that you saw on one of your first dates. Give each other random hugs and kisses. Be affectionate.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 6:32 AM on February 8, 2013 [5 favorites]

Best answer: - there has been some recent MetaTalk about limerence, but according to this blogpost/ Guide To Limerence there are 3 ways to "get over" this "crazy in love feeling":

1.) Reciprocation: limerence fades because of the certainty of their LO's love and affection for them
2.) Transference: the limerent switches the limerence to a new LO
3.) Starvation: feelings diminish painfully over a period of time where there is no hope for reciprocation; agonizing because all of the hope dies out very slowly. Severe throbbing, aching, and longing of the heart is expected.
posted by mrmarley at 6:56 AM on February 8, 2013 [7 favorites]

I could better answer this question if I knew two things:
1. How do you know he has no romantic feelings for you?
2. What is it about this other man that so attracts you?
posted by Dansaman at 7:56 AM on February 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

For a beautiful lesson about exactly this situation, and the inspiring couple that worked through it, check out "Act Two. I Met Him In The Yogurt Store" from This American Life. Both the wife with the crush, and the husband married to her are brave, honest, loving and totally amazing.
posted by amoeba at 8:33 AM on February 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

I want to stay friends with this man but I feel crazy in love with him. I just want to feel normal about him and not miss him so desperately when we’re apart.

Stop being friends with him. There is no easy answer where you get everything. You have to end the friendship or this will not stop.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:26 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I want to stay friends with this man but I feel crazy in love with him. I just want to feel normal about him and not miss him so desperately when we’re apart.

If you want to keep your marriage, you'll need to end your friendship with this man. Crushes come and go, and you're in the throes of a powerful one. Stop spending time with this person. It sucks, and it won't feel good, but that's pretty much the only way to deal with it.

Also, and this one is trickier, because every married couple's relationship is different, but you should probably consider talking about these feelings with your husband. Secrets erode intimacy.
posted by eustacescrubb at 12:49 PM on February 8, 2013

Best answer: As a guy that's been married 28 years, I say just acknowledge it as the crush it is, don't fight it, but don't feed it either. I've had two or three of those over the years. What I've come to realize is that the relationships were actually more like sibling relationships rather than romantic relationships, even though I found the friend attractive.

One thing that might help get through it, is to actually project forward in time on the assumption that you would get divorced and marry this other guy. What would life be like in 10 years? Don't analyze it, just daydream it. Sometimes when you have an unrequited choice (whether romantic or career or whatever), it's good to consider the opportunity seriously. If it's a "grass is greener" situation, you will realize that and can let go of that option once and for all. (Relative to the don't feed it advice above, I mean in the sense that you shouldn't act on it, or encourage advancing it with the other guy. Thinking it through is not feeding it.)

As far as sharing the secret with your husband, it may come to that, but as long as you know this relationship will not affect your marriage in the long term, it might be best to wait a bit for things to cool down before telling your hubby. It's more disturbing to find out that one's spouse *has* an active crush, than to find out the spouse *had* a crush in the past, but that things have died down.

I am not a psychologist, just a married guy who's managed to stay married a while. Oh, and my wife was my first girlfriend, so there is that.
posted by Doohickie at 2:14 PM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: In answer to some questions:

Tell my husband? I have. How did he respond? Angry and jealous at first then (with time and lots of honest conversations) very much like the husband in Act Two. I'm very lucky. He is amazing. I told you, we're sweet. Act Two is great btw. Thanks amoeba.

Sweetness: Yes, we have lots of alone time, we have romance, and we both have active and fulfilling lives apart from each other too. You'll have to take my word for it, everything really is lovely.

No contact/stepping back: I'm doing it. I initiated no contact 6 months ago. 4 months in, it was the holiday season so there was some unavoidable community stuff and two-family contact. After that we talked and decide no one was happy about zero contact so we've been in touch again but I still don't see or speak to him much. Have spent a total of a few hours with him this year. I originally asked for no contact because last year our family schedules meant that he and I were spending a lot of time alone together. I loved it but it felt wrong of me.

How do I know my friend has no romantic feelings for me? We're genuinely good friends so we talked about it nearly a year ago. It was a sensible mature discussion and then we moved on. No ongoing talk about "us", no private jokes, no flirting or anything. He just likes me a lot as a person.

And for the record, everyone knows. The other couple have discussed it. The other wife and I have discussed it. We've never talked about it as a group but everyone knows that everyone else knows. Everyone remains friendly. Girls still have playdates but now my husband or his wife drops and picks up.

So my question really is my only question. I'm happy with my relationship and how I'm handling my friendship but I just want constructive advice about getting over him. Its very telling to me that the consensus of the experienced is that this a crush. I appreciate that. No one is indulging me in 'oh, poor you, you love two men...'

posted by Lollie1974 at 6:53 PM on February 8, 2013

Well, you're doing all the right things then. I think you just have to recognize it as being perfectly normal, natural, and not allowed. You get over it by not feeding it, and letting it go. You had the fantasy, and now it's time to find a new fantasy. Maybe every time you find yourself fantasizing about your friend, you consciously replace his face with someone else--someone famous, your husband... just anyone else.
posted by RedEmma at 7:58 AM on February 9, 2013

I'm happy with my relationship and how I'm handling my friendship but I just want constructive advice about getting over him.'

The best way to get over him is to stop being his friend and to cut him off. Then there will be fewer times when you have feelings for him.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:19 PM on February 19, 2013

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