How to define relationships post-marriage?
July 21, 2006 9:05 AM   Subscribe

How can I define my feelings, having a small field of reference?

Throughout high school I never really had any friends, and when I did, I usually latched on to them, and it was an exclusive relationship.

So far, I've been in the same relationship for 5 years, and married for 1 year.

It's come to the point where I've developed an infatuation with one of the coffee staff across the way. If I was confronted with the chance to fling with her, I would more than likely deny it with consideration for my wife and relationship.

I honestly don't know what it is that I'm feeling, but I do like it. It's happened before, and I'm always reluctant to act upon said feelings for fear of what might happen.

My question is, are these feelings I tend to develop for random people something to be afraid of while in a marriage, or are they normal feelings that one should have with a close friend? How should I act? If it comes to this, how common is an open-source-marriage?

(my first post, be gentile)
posted by psyward to Society & Culture (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
First, it's a crush. They happen all the time. It passes, so don't get carried away. Enjoy it, but keep your distance.

Second, Dan Savage, in his book The Commitment, talks about a hetero couple who breaks up because the wife, in much the same position as you, discovers that she needs to sow some wild oats. Dan's point is that iron clad rules on monogamy may do more damage to marriage than homos. He may be on to something.

Still, it's just a little crush. Enjoy it, but don't imagine that your feelings are permanent, or that a crush is the basis for anything other than recreational ogling.
posted by ewkpates at 9:13 AM on July 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

My guess is that you barely know this girl so she is a perfect vessel for your infatuation.

If you did in fact get to know her, you'd probably watch with disgust as she, say, spent half and hour hacking up yellow phlegm in the morning. Following some event like this, your infatuation would probably fade and then find another object.

It is a crush and it exists because of the distance and romantic daydreamin'. If you close that distance, it will probably fade. I'd recommend not acting on it under any circumstances.

It has more to do with you, and not her. And yes, it's perfectly normal.
posted by milarepa at 9:28 AM on July 21, 2006

damn: half an hour
posted by milarepa at 9:29 AM on July 21, 2006

i think something helpful to consider is how you would feel about your wife having the same impulses and considering acting on them...would you advise her to go for it or to give it a lot of consideration? would you want her to discuss it with you first so that you can both work out what your boundaries are and also minimize deception?

...another thing to give thought to is--say this happens--even that your wife is cool about it--what are the possible scenarios, both ideal and tragic? do you risk developing much stronger feelings for someone else such that your marriage is threatened? if this other person gets involved with someone else, would you be jealous or even have a right to be? sometimes things like this take on a different shape when you project them into the future a bit...

there are lots of variations on relationships...the ideal, if not always realistic, is that you can share feelings like this with your wife and talk them out...

i understand where you're coming from, and for me personally i'll say that i try to keep in mind that, yeah, sometimes it seems like it would be really cool to play around a bit, but when it comes down to it, my partner is worth sacrificing that brand of impulsivity. that's not to say that some couples can't have a different arrangement, successfully and beneficially, but i think the best bet is to be sure your wife is on the same page before doing something about's easier being honest before something happens than after...
posted by troybob at 9:48 AM on July 21, 2006

I think such crushes don't reflect badly on your marriage so much as they reflect badly on your overall participation in a social network.

Your marriage will be better if you have a broad range of friends and contacts. If you have a rich and active and interesting life outside of the home I doubt you'll spend so much time woolgathering about the huge change some one-off with another woman would get you.
posted by argybarg at 9:51 AM on July 21, 2006

It's normal to have crushes on other people. How you decide to work this out depends on how you and your wife both view things like this and, to a much lesser extent how your social/cultural/religious community views these things. I have always had minor crushes on people outside of my primary relationship and used them as a little kick in the ass energy to feel good about myself and possibly to make someone feel good about themselves if I felt that it was somewhat reciprocal. Where things start to get problematic is if miscommunication occurs. This can happen in a few ways

- you tell your wife you have a crush and she sees this as some sort of "I'm planning to leave you" or "I'm not satisfied" statement
- your crush takes your actions as some sort of expression of interest in a relationship and moves in that direction and becomes hurt that you do not
- you think you'd turn down a fling and then an opportunity presents itself and you don't
- outside people see you and your crush and decide to draw conclusions that become rumors and innuendo

I had a very similar thing happen in my last relationship. There were a ton of other factors but while I was more than willing to tell my partner "sure, you should see where this interest in this other person goes" his upbringing and general sense of how to be in a relationship didn't permit that (plus he may have wanted out anyhow, hard to say from my perspective).

This is just to say that just because you feel like you have your own feelings figured out on the subject, this may not translate into your wife's understanding it from the same perspective. These can be touchy issues, so it's important to try to talk about it -- if you decide to -- with an understanding that people have a lot of different ways of viewing crushes and infatuations and interests outside of marriage, ranging from full-on open relationships to 'don't ask don't tell" to extreme jealousy and suspicion. You may not know how your partner views these situations until you ask, so be prepared.
posted by jessamyn at 10:00 AM on July 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

It's normal, it's going to happen to just about everyone repeatedly over the course of a lifetime. Sometimes that feeling will be a crushy one for a person romantically, or for a hobby or work or a friendship.

A feeling is not a mandate, however. Having a crush is not a good reason to decide you need an open marriage, and coming home and gleefully announcing to your wife that you shall just so you can go cavort with the coffee girl is a big cheesy cliche. Now, if you have issues with monogamy that have nothing to do with anyone else and everything to do with you, that's when you start reading and thinking and in a year or two you might be ready to do some talking.

In the meantime, enjoy the crush but accept it for what it is. Don't think she's going to make your life ever so much better and fix your problems and heal all your flaws if you could just get her naked; do let the funny tingling boost your moods and give you warm fuzzy feelings and help you remember that there's more to life than work and bills and stress - because that's what these crushes often seem to represent. Then take your happy warm fuzzies home and make your wife laugh about something.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:02 AM on July 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

Totally normal. Don't tell the wife, it would just hurt. You probably don't need to worry, but if you seem like you are about to act on it, evaulate whether the fling is worth more than your marriage. Act accordingly.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:07 AM on July 21, 2006

If it hasn't been a topic of discussion, if your wife has not expressed some flexibility on the topic of monogamy, chances are very high that any explicit addressing of this with her is going to get ugly fast.

I'm very much a monogamist but I've never thought it was necessary for everyone. I do think people are often in denial about how complicated and problematical realizing it may be, and I also think that "I want to explore outside the boundaries of the relationship" is often a covert bridge to "the relationship is damaged/stagnant and I want to get out."

Infatuations are normal and nothing to be afraid of. In my observation it is vanishingly rare to go from "I'm secretly admiring him/her" to having a fling. Usually there is a lot of bridging behavior, from flirty friendship to romantic but non-sexual intimacy to physical but nonsexual/semisexual intimacy before an affair is underway. Your case seems very unlikely to develop into anything but if you're tempted that way there will doubtless be a lot of opportunities to halt its progression if that's what you choose. It seems foolish to me to try to stop the feelings from occurring though, it's likely fruitless and these things come and go.

I agree with what others say, cultivating broader outside relationships would probably do more good than anything. When your marriage is largely your only social relationship that is a big and unnatural strain on it.
posted by nanojath at 10:16 AM on July 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

I disagree strongly with Ironmouth. While the crush is normal, I think you should tell your wife. I know it sounds counter-intuitive. However, by telling her, you're taking the "secret" part out of the equation. It is no longer something you're hiding.

Hopefully, you're wife will be able to hear that you think the coffee lady across the way is attractive and not freak out. You're showing yourself to be trustworthy by telling her and not keeping it from her.

If she gets upset, point out that you're married; not dead. The same should apply to her. She's married; not dead and will find herself attracted to others. She should also tell you. Then, you both know and still know where you stand with each other. It is a "Yes, Honey, I think s/he is attractive. I also think you are too and look who I'm sleeping with. You!"

My husband and I learned this trick in pre-marital counseling and have used it multiple times in our 12+ years of marriage.
posted by onhazier at 11:03 AM on July 21, 2006 [2 favorites]

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