If you find yourself reading this article, the first thing I would like you to do is to take a deep breath and gently tell yourself, “It is normal for me to be attracted to other people, even though I am in a committed relationship.”
Yes, it is true —feeling drawn to people other than our spouse or partner from time to time is quite natural. The truth is that the human psyche is deeply complex and it is not possible to fully control our myriad feelings, emotions and perceptions all the time. So don’t be too hard on yourself for simply having these feelings. The fact that you are here trying to figure it out implies you want to do something about it —that is what ultimately matters.
Of course, I know first hand just how unsettling and stressful it can be when we become aware of having romantic feelings for someone other than our spouse. The intensity of the attraction can take us by surprise and we may end up feeling we are cheating on our partner. Especially if every guilty attempt at squashing, ignoring or reasoning with your feelings only results in them burning brighter—like the novelty birthday candles which manage to relight themselves every time you try blowing them out.
In case you are in a similar situation and are experiencing confusion and overwhelm, here are a few practical tips that may help you manage your inner turmoil and regain your equilibrium:
- Acknowledge and Face your Feelings: At first, it is likely you will choose to deny or ignore these unwelcome feelings. But as disturbing as they are, it is vital to first face them and then accept them in their entirety, with as little self-judgment as possible. Don’t belittle yourself for having such feelings—remind yourself that all emotions and feelings are part of our human experience. What matters is how we choose to act upon them.
- Draw Appropriate Boundaries: In order to protect yourself from doing anything you may regret later, like indulging in a full-blown extra-marital affair, it is important you draw suitable boundaries with the person you feel drawn to— at least till you are clear about the way forward,. This distance will not only provide much needed relief from the feelings of overwhelm you feel when you are in their presence, but also create a safe space in which you can gather yourself again.
- Examine and Understand your Feelings: Once you have truly faced and accepted your feelings, it is possible to look at them somewhat objectively. Try and understand what drives the desire to be with this other person: is it a mere physical attraction or something more layered? Perhaps you feel deeply appreciated or understood, or you have a lot in common such as shared values and interests? Or you feel a fulfilling emotional connection? Spend some time honestly examining all aspects of your feelings threadbare—this understanding is vital in order to consciously navigate your way to a place of emotional stability.
- Work on your Marriage: The good news is that you can use this new self-awareness as a toolkit for strengthening your marriage. Carefully examine the health of your marriage against each of the parameters of attractions you uncovered. Have you been feeling fulfilled in these areas with your partner? Is there enough physical and emotional intimacy in your relationship? What is lacking and why? Do you know if your partner feels likewise? Now is the time to have an open and loving dialogue with him or her with a view to recommitting to the relationship. Whether or not you choose to tell him or her about your attraction to the other person is something you must think about carefully. It is a delicate matter that must be handled with great sensitivity to your partner’s feelings.
- Enlist Support From Reliable Sources: Well-meaning friends may be unable to understand the emotional nuances of what you are going through, or offer advice based on their own personal beliefs. Through all this, it may be more beneficial to talk to a trained counselor who can stay objective, providing a safe, non-judgmental space for you to explore your inner world as you work through your emotions and thoughts.
- Practice Self-Care for Balance & Clarity: Keep track of your emotional, physical and mental wellbeing by regularly practicing hobbies and activities that soothe and nurture you. Go for walks, practice meditation or yoga, journal your thoughts and feelings, listen to music or silently watch the sunrise over a cup of tea. Doing so will ensure you stay balanced and maintain clarity, avoiding any impulsive actions.
- Be Patient as You Gain Alignment of Mind and Heart: Sometimes when the feelings we are experiencing are very intense, it can be a frustrating battle between the mind and heart. On the one hand, letting go may seem impossible, as you feel wonderful in the company of this other person—so you wonder if you can continue as friends. But you worry this may prove detrimental to your marriage in the long run. It can feel like a hopeless situation. Nonetheless, don’t lose heart—be patient as in time you are bound to achieve clarity.
Above all, remember to be gentle with yourself till you get there.