The new guy at work — what a catch! He’s cute, funny and oh-so considerate. Oddly drawn to this new colleague, you find yourself passing by his desk more frequently, exchanging “hilarious” email forwards, wearing lip-gloss for the first time in years, trading your standard work pants and cardigan for flirty dresses and upping your hair game.
If you were single, all of these things could signal the beginning of a fun, flirty relationship. But you’re not single, you’ve got a loving committed partner and you want to keep it that way — the question is how?
Here are five expert tips for ensuring that a harmless crush remains that way and doesn’t threaten your commitment to your partner.
1. Remember that it’s natural
Though you may think you’re the worst wife/girlfriend in the world for even thinking that someone else is funnier, cuter or sexier than your undisputed one true love, the truth is that you’re not evil, you’re just human. In fact, you’ve only succumbed to the same natural phenomenon as millions of other good, decent men and women.
“Developing a crush on someone other than your long term partner is normal,” says Vancouver-based sex therapist Teesha Morgan.
“Just because you are in a relationship doesn’t mean you suddenly stop noticing beautiful people. Crushes on bosses, coworkers, cute coffee shop attendees, waitresses, neighbours and anyone else you come into contact with on a regular basis is bound to happen, and that’s OK.”
2. Have control
Now that we’ve established your fragile humanity, let’s get one thing clear: Fantasies are fine and so are butterflies in your stomach when you’re in the presence of your secret crush. It’s how you behave in the face of temptation that reveal your character.
“Butterflies in our stomach that jump and flutter when they enter the room isn’t something that can really be controlled. What can be controlled are your actions,” explains Morgan.
“If you are making regular coffee dates with your coworker crush because you just want to spend time with them for example, then you are beginning to cross that line between a normal crush from afar, to a slippery slope of emotional or physical infidelity.”
Morgan’s advice is to cast a net over those butterflies. Let them flutter and flit internally until they die a natural death. Butterflies, both real and metaphorical, have a short lifespan.
3. Take some time to look at yourself
Obsessive thoughts are the hallmark of an intense crush, but instead of fixating on the object of your longing, change tacks.
Instead, consider all of those feelings as an opportunity to reflect on where you’re at emotionally and psychologically.
Obsessive thinking is a “red flag” says Toronto-based psychotherapist Aviva Mayers. “It indicates it’s time to reflect on our current, committed relationship and what may be going on there (or not going on) that is causing us to be so swept away by someone else.”
For example, a crush may reveal that you’re not having as much fun with your partner as you used to and have fallen into bad habits. Additionally, it may indicate that you’ve allowed too much emotional distance to crop up between you and your partner, says Mayers. If that’s the case then there’s a solution. Spend less time thinking about that cute guy at work and more quality time with your partner and make sure it’s time spent laughing, talking, and confiding in one another.
4. Acknowledge if you’re feeling lonely
Keep your crush to yourself, but if you’re feeling lonely or undesirable or just missing some affection from your significant other, that’s information your partner should know.
“It isn’t necessary for our partner to know about the content of our fantasies, nor that we are even having them, but rather to be engaged in a discussion with them about what we are needing or missing in the relationship and how we can get it from them, in order that the two of us feel closer again,” says Mayers.
5. Remember that you’ve been through a lot together — and that should be cherished
Research into the science of commitment suggests that couples that grow together, stay together. Complacency is the enemy of development, so keep the love alive by continually experiencing new places, ideas and experiences with your partner. Don’t shut down or shut him or her out when you’re feeling isolated and confused, rather for the health of your union, draw your beloved closer and decide to take on the world — with all of its temptations, joys, sorrows and struggles — together.
Originally published in 2015. Updated in 2017