Obsessed With a Friend
May 7, 2013 2:08 PM   Subscribe

I've been married for 9 years and have been faithful in every way. I recently became close with a member of the opposite sex who I truly value as a friend. But I find myself thinking about this person way too much, and I am not sure how to deal with it.

I am not going to cheat on my partner, and this friend is also friends with my spouse and I know they would never act on any feelings they may or may not have.

I became friends with this person about a year ago, and slowly I realized there was a connection between us that has become a true and deep friendship, which is great and unexpected at this stage in my life, except for the fact that for the past month or so I can't seem to stop thinking about this person.

My question is how to get this person off my mind, because it's eating up a surprising amount of my time. Thinking about this person makes me happy, but I want to find a way to stop because I feel like I'm not in control of my own feelings and it's actively making it hard for me to concentrate on other things.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Did you see this thread from yesterday?

And this one from last week?

Both seem like they would be relevant.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:11 PM on May 7, 2013 [5 favorites]

Indeed it seems there are a lot of similar postings recently, and while a lot of answers address how to stop having such thoughts, using a medical analogy, those seem to be things that treat the symptoms rather than cure the underlying cause. I would suggest that anyone in this kind of situation should look at the reason they are open and receptive to such feelings developing.
posted by Dansaman at 2:14 PM on May 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

What are you not getting from your spouse that this person gives you?

Ask your spouse to step up to the plate, and dial back your dealings with this other couple until you don't feel this way anymore.

Or leave your husband and run away with this guy.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:16 PM on May 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

I think this is different than those other questions because OP is asking how to get the person off his or her mind, not asking about boundaries or communication. Also, this person is part of the spouse's friend group as well, not a work situation as in one of the questions.

OP, I know you're not saying you want to cheat on your spouse with this person, but this is one of the things I've done when in a situation with someone I want to be with but can't for whatever reason - I realize that I don't want to be with that person, I want to be with a different version of that person who could/wants to be with me - and that person doesn't exist.

So I'm focusing my romantic intentions on an imaginary person, which is foolish and crazymaking. This helps me accept the reality of the situation instead of wishing it were different. Might work for you too.
posted by sweetkid at 2:18 PM on May 7, 2013 [12 favorites]

I suggest that you work on your own marriage — not because it is necessarily lacking, but because that will distract you and will also have the side benefit of making your marriage better. And if your marriage is lacking, and you put effort into it and improve it, this relationship will pale (at least somewhat) by comparison.

Good for you -- really, really good for you -- for making the right call here.
posted by Capri at 2:25 PM on May 7, 2013

What are you not getting from your spouse that this person gives you?

The answer to that could very easily be "nothing at all." There's a particular kind of high that we get from the "OMG I've fallen in love!!!" feeling and there's a pretty good chance that that's what you're going through right now; in other words, it's not so much that you're "in love" with this other person but that you're in love with that very specific "I'm newly in love!!!" feeling. I think part of what can help you through that is recognizing it for what it is--give yourself a little bit of room to laugh at yourself for being a hapless victim of your hormones going crazy, but recognize that it's not entirely real and that with time it will pass. I think it's probably a good idea to try to have some romantic fun time with your spouse (not in a desperate "OMG, we must relight the flame or our relationship will flatline!" way, but just in a "lets do some of the things we do well together and help me connect with what I value in this relationship" way). And just let the other think burn itself out--which it will undoubtedly do if you don't actually act on your feelings.
posted by yoink at 2:26 PM on May 7, 2013 [6 favorites]

It's okay to be happy to see someone - as long as you tell your brain that's all it is (because more than likely that's all it is). Instead of trying to not think about the person, think about why you can't stop thinking about them. What it is about them that you're drawn to? You might find that your answers are not really about them at all, but about things that might be lacking in your own life (and not necessarily because of your SO). This might make it easier to completely friendzone them.

Can you compartmentalise this relationship? So, if you work together or do projects together or do hobbies together, don't socialise together.

Other than that, spend more time with your SO.
posted by heyjude at 2:38 PM on May 7, 2013

I should think that most married people can experience this sort of crush at least once in their lives. And yes, it is as ephemeral as a junior high schooler's crush. It passes.

I do not recommend expending effort on trying not to think about something because that will only bring it to the front of your mind. As the old psychology class trick goes, if I say, "Don't think of a pink elephant", you are going to instantly think about a pink elephant. If you must think of something, perhaps think of the consequences if you were to act out upon your emotions.

I think the best thing, though, is to let this run its course.
posted by Tanizaki at 2:39 PM on May 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Whenever this happens to me I enjoy the thrill of feeling aroused by a new person. Then I go home and fuck the shit out of my partner. Warm feelings for other people isn't something to banish, but rather just redirect those energies.
posted by munchingzombie at 2:43 PM on May 7, 2013 [9 favorites]

I've always found that understanding the chemistry behind emotions is helpful in processing those emotions and choosing how to act (or not act) on them.

The Economist: The science of love
posted by Jacqueline at 3:27 PM on May 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

It's okay to feel this sort of thing. I hope you have a close enough relationship with your partner that you can be honest about what you're feeling. It doesn't have to be "I'm obsessed with this person" but you certainly can share that the friendship is causing some intense feelings for you. That will help keep you honest and you can problem-solve it together. Honestly, it happens to everyone (often many times over a marriage) so in all likelihood, he has experienced something similar or will someday.

As for dealing with the feelings, spend some time in self-reflection. I don't think these limerant feelings come up necessarily because there's "something missing." In my life, they tend to come up when I'm bored or seeking an escape. It's easy to think that it's about how AWESOME the other person is, but really, it's almost always just about you being unhappy or restless on some dimension.

'Twere me, I would try to get some distance from the friend as well as refocus on my relationship. Plan a romantic getaway with your partner. Don't just do the usual thing, either; do something different that will help you to see each other in a novel way. Push yourselves. And then tell friend-more-than-friend that you're going on a trip and turning off your cell phone.
posted by annekate at 5:14 PM on May 7, 2013

Cut off contact. If you can't cut off social contact, cut off all contact without your spouse present. Its the marriage or the friendship. Trust me on this.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:13 PM on May 8, 2013

If the person is primarily your wife's friend, and less so yours, then it should be easy to distance yourself.

If you find yourself thinking of her, consider how much it would hurt your wife to lose both you and the friend, if things were to escalate.

Aside from that, good luck. This is a really hard place to be in.
posted by nohaybanda at 3:28 PM on May 9, 2013

I came back to this question because Lord knows it resonates with me. It's a little different than the two cases linked above. Together 8 years, but unless you just don't have, or got rid of, all friends of the sex you're attracted to, this seems to be an inevitable part of life. Here are a couple of thoughts that have helped me when it crops up.

(1) Remember when you were single? I was single for a long time, not quite perpetually, before getting together. You know the feeling of longing for one person or another? Not lust, not love, but longing specifically, for what we don't have? Well, it's a well-developed capacity for longing we have, and it doesn't go away now that we have what we longed for, any more than we lose our ability to think hey, I'd give it to this or that person. It's the overwrought emotional version of married, not buried.

(2) Distinct from longing. It's particularly hard when there are real feelings of friendship, caring, mutual respect, common ground, etc. A crush on a near-stranger is one thing. It's hard when it's a friend. I try to recognize that love (or like) is a legitimate emotion that does good in the world (mostly). We're entitled to feel it and it's not bad in itself. You are not wrong for caring about this person--I'd say you're not even wrong for caring a little too much. The problem is distraction from your partner. But the love itself, let it be.

(3) OK, now the hard part. No fantasizing about this person, ever. Also no PG fantasies of life together. I deal with the one by thinking, when so inclined, of ANY hot person who poses no danger at all. Be honest. You know who it is that doesn't cause a danger. Coworker. In-law. Porn. Whatever you have to do. But not him/her. As for the PG fantasies. Think about moving to Italy with your partner. Or the country. Whatever works.

(4) In general I think it's healthy to say, well, I am my own person, and my relationship with my partner is just one part, albeit a very important one, of who I am. In GENERAL. But when faced with this problem I take a slightly different tack (that is also a true way of looking at things). Think of your relationship with your partner as a major life activity. Like breathing, earning a living, taking a bath. There isn't any life without making a living. It's a fundamental thing--even if sometimes one is unemployed. You have got to get up and work. So too with your partner. You have to stand up and get in harness. If the team isn't pulling, so to speak, then you hitch yourself to the plow. No choice. You have no choice. Can you stop breathing just because it's kind of boring sometimes?

(5) No alone time, ever. No no no no no.

(6) You Don't Want To Be That Person. As you can see from my posting history, my parents are getting divorced after 21 years married plus 8 years dating. One of them made, shall we say, some mistakes of the first order. This parent is not a sleazeoid. Never wanted to Be That Person. And yet. If it can happen to them, it can happen to anyone. I have my own parents to hold up as a non-example. You surely have your own couple about whom you say My God They Couldn't Just Have Talked It Out And Then Divorced If Need Be But No S/He Had To Run Around Thanks Old Friend I Now Remember All That Fun We Had At Cocktail Parties In A Different Light. Forget all the good reasons and strategies and reframings. Bottom line, you (most likely) don't want to be in those shoes.

(7) Think about people that you used to want bad, but now don't. Ideally not exes as such. Objects of longing. You see them. You think nothing at all. There's a line from the Carter Family, "I have changed with changing seasons," that I take as a mantra here. This too shall pass, etc.

(7) If things really are bad, as opposed to blah, with your spouse, then you yourself know you need to do some introspection. All the above assumes, on the contrary, that things are mostly OK.

Good luck! Monogamy is a long game, I'm beginning to find.
posted by skbw at 3:38 PM on May 19, 2013

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