7 Min Read
- What Thinking About Someone Else Means When You're Married
- How To Deal With It When You're Thinking About Someone Else
- Creating A Plan For Changing Your Thoughts About Someone Else
- What To Take Away
When you got married, you only had eyes for each other. There was no room for romantic thoughts of other people. But as time passes and that new relationship feeling mellows, you've started to notice other attractive people around you and can find yourself thinking about someone else.
Maybe there’s even one person you find yourself constantly thinking about. Or you may have made a close and unexpected connection with someone, and now they’re occupying your thoughts more than they should.
Whatever the case, you now find yourself married and constantly thinking of someone other than your spouse.
It does for many, and to a certain degree it’s okay. After all, being married doesn't mean you’re blind.
Attractive people are everywhere, and recognizing that doesn't – or shouldn't – threaten your relationship.
- Developing feelings for someone else
- Elevating someone in your mind above your spouse
- Breaking your marriage vows
- Betraying your partner
So, what does it mean, and what should you do if you find yourself saying, "I'm married but constantly thinking about someone else?"
What Thinking About Someone Else Means When You're Married
Thinking about someone else when you're married doesn't mean you're a terrible person.
And no, it doesn't mean your marriage is over or that you’ve fallen out of love with your spouse.
People in healthy and happy relationships can develop "crushes" on other people from time to time.
Believe it or not, these types of feelings can be completely normal. They often don’t mean anything at all regarding the health of your marriage, just that you’ve found someone else interesting and with something to add to your life.
But a "crush" is different from falling in love with someone outside your marriage.
There are two primary differences between a normal “crush” type reaction and the fleeting feelings we can develop toward people outside the marriage, and deeper feelings for someone else that are toxic and can kill your relationship.
These differences are:
- The extent of the feelings
- What you do about them
Realizing that the girl at the coffee shop is cute, interesting, and amusing is one thing. Pursuing her, having unnecessary private conversations, or trying to spend additional time with her is another.
Being in a relationship doesn't mean we won't meet attractive, intriguing people. These people may pique our interest as we get to know them. When these mild crush-type feelings are more about appreciation for another person, they're generally not a threat to the marriage.
If you choose the barista's company at the coffee shop over that of your wife, there's a problem, however.
Leaning into that crush-type feeling rather than setting boundaries, and allowing the intrigue and appreciation you may feel to grow violates the trust that should exist within your marriage.
The first scenario doesn't mean much. You're human and reacting normally to another person. The second, however, indicates that there are problems in your relationship at home. It should be a red flag telling you that it's time to focus on your marriage.
Dr. Kurt works with couples routinely who are dealing with infidelity. Very often, these affairs began with what seemed like innocent interactions. His advice on this problem is:
It's easy not to realize how powerful our thoughts are, especially regarding cheating. Typically cheating is thought of as an action - 'I slept with my co-worker' or 'We were sexting each other.' Yet all actions begin with a thought. So, being aware of our thoughts and actively managing them is crucial in controlling our behavior. I've treated men who've turned a friendly exchange at the coffee shop into an affair - and some of them have repeatedly done it. Understanding the motivations behind our thoughts and behavior is also very important. A word of caution – some of us trip ourselves up by over-focusing on certain words and their meaning. If you don't believe the word 'constantly' accurately describes the frequency of your thinking about someone else, be careful not to dismiss the warning that comes with this topic. You don't have to be thinking about someone else 'constantly' for it to still be a problem for you and your marriage."
If you’re thinking about someone else more often than your spouse, coveting their company, or feeling like you may be falling in love with someone other than your spouse, you should evaluate what’s actually going on.
Generally, when these more complicated feelings occur, it's because there are holes in your current relationship. In fact, what you may be feeling toward someone else is probably not real (no matter how real it feels) but rather a desire to fulfill needs that aren't currently being met in your marriage.
But while acting on these feelings by cheating on your spouse may make you feel better emotionally or sexually, that feeling is temporary. As far as your marriage is concerned, however, it will only make things much, much worse.
How To Deal With It When You're Thinking About Someone Else
While falling in love with someone else is a big problem, even minor, relatively normal crushes can be distracting and potentially damaging if they aren't handled correctly.
Although you may not be on the verge of an all-out affair, your spouse may feel bothered or threatened by the idea that you're even looking at other people and thinking about them at all.
Wouldn’t you if the shoe were on the other foot?
So, how do you prevent yourself from allowing thoughts of other people to disrupt your marriage?
Begin by giving yourself a bit of a break and understand that being attracted to members of the opposite sex is normal, and we all go through it. Throughout your relationship, both you and your spouse will find other people attractive and interesting.
Then develop a plan for how to handle those feelings when they occur. Doing this is crucial for both you and your partner.
Start by asking yourself a few questions.
- Why am I attracted to this person? Chances are, it's for pretty superficial reasons. They are friendly, show interest in you, look put together and happy – these things could all be part of it.
Keep in mind that you’re likely seeing them at their best. Your spouse is someone you see all sides of – good and bad. So, if you’re feeling tempted to develop a connection outside your marriage and are constantly thinking about someone else, remember, you only see one side of them – the best one.
Reality is never the same as fantasy.
- Are there problems in your marriage?If simply appreciating someone else has become something more, it's time to think about.
One reason people focus and fantasize about others is because they're avoiding difficulties at home.
Every marriage has struggles at different times. There's no utopia – not even with the person you are now constantly thinking about.
The truth is that if you were to leave your spouse and start a new relationship, there would be problems there too.
So, if you're married and constantly thinking about someone else, stop and look at your current relationship. The time and effort working on your marriage will likely bring far more happiness and satisfaction than fantasizing about other people.
- What do you really want? Yes, that hot bartender is fun to look at – but is that what you really want? Or, are you just missing the excitement and romance present at the initial stages of your marriage?
Marital romance has a way of getting pushed to the side over time. Keeping the excitement alive and appreciating each other is essential to a healthy marriage.
After some self-evaluation, you’ll likely realize that some areas in your relationship need your attention.
Focusing on someone outside your marriage won't make your life better. It will, however, make it significantly more complicated and those complications won’t be pleasant ones.
Instead, take some time and reflect on the areas in your marriage that need fixing and make a plan for how to fix them.
Creating A Plan To Change Your Thoughts About Someone Else
Improving the health of your marriage requires a plan. This should include personal boundaries when interacting with people you may find tempting.
The following tips can help you set and keep the necessary boundaries.
- Time alone with someone tempting. Don't set yourself up for failure by placing yourself in questionable situations. There’s no reason you need to have coffee or hang out with someone that could create problems for you.
- Avoid dangerous technology. Today there are too many seemingly innocent ways to connect with someone using technology. But using Instagram to interact, Facebook to stay in touch, or even just texting can easily allow you to cross lines that are already blurry.
Technology these days allows you to create a connection with others, flirt, or become emotionally involved in ways that don't FEEL like cheating. The truth is that these interactions are all forms of micro-cheating and can lead to big problems.
- Lying to yourself. If you have an interest in someone else – acknowledge it. Continuing to tell yourself it doesn't mean anything and that you can handle it may seem like it works. Until it doesn't.
It's like walking on the edge of a cliff, thinking there's no way you can fall – and then you do. Be smart from the beginning. Call a cliff a cliff and stay away from it.
What To Take Away
There's no avoiding feeling occasionally attracted to other people. And there's no shame in it. This goes for your spouse too.
Part of being married is learning how to keep those attractions in perspective. This means looking at the whole picture.
Just because your marriage doesn't have the original shine and new relationship smell it did at the beginning doesn't mean it's worth risking for something new and fleeting.
If you find yourself thinking about someone else in a way that threatens to cross boundaries, remember the following things:
- The person you're thinking about has as many flaws (maybe more) as your spouse. You're only seeing their shiny side right now. Remember – your spouse has a shiny side too.
- A marriage is about more than attraction and romance – it's a commitment to build a life together. Risking that commitment and what you’ve built for a fantasized version of someone else isn't worth it.
- The fact that someone else can occupy your thoughts means you need to spend some time working on your marriage.
- A very thin line exists between appropriate and inappropriate levels in a relationship. Being overly involved – even if it seems innocent – is likely micro-cheating and can quickly betray your marriage.
- You’re in charge of your actions - not fate, love, or any other indefinable force romanticized in poems, songs, or books. The right choice is yours to make.
If you find yourself married but constantly thinking about someone else you’re putting your marriage in jeopardy. To do what’s best for your marriage you’ll need to find a way to keep those thoughts in perspective.
However, if thoughts of someone else have become so overwhelming that you're struggling to control them, you should get some help. Understanding why you do this and how to manage it can be very empowering as well as liberating.
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