Hey look! Tara received her first comment on TinaOLife – so she’s going for it. Ready…?This is a touchy subject for a lot of people. Ahhhh she’s totally got this for all of us. Read on.
READER: How about covering crushes and sexual attraction to other people besides your partner? I think it’s unrealistic to assume one will always be attracted only to one’s partner and I’d be interested to hear your take on it.
Tara – Personally, I am a huge fan of The Crush. I love feeling noticed in the world, I love getting to go home and tell my partner that I got hit on, I love sharing the excitement—in the bedroom and really everywhere—that I have a little thing going on. It will go absolutely nowhere but it is still so FUN.
I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again: we are humans and we are meant to have connection—intimate connection—with other humans. Sometimes this happens while we are in fully-committed, happy-as-a-pig-in-shit relationships. But it doesn’t have to threaten that relationship—despite how it might seem on the surface.
Here’s a simple thing to ask yourself: What does it really cost us to allow our partner to have this experience?
Usually nothing. So what’s the problem?
If you are threatened by this, that gives us a place to look. If we see our partner getting attention from someone else and we feel a pang of jealousy, we get to look underneath that and figure out what it actually means. Is it that we don’t feel like we’re getting enough attention from our partner?
Are we resentful that they’ve been away or busy a lot, leaving the bulk of the home responsibilities to us? There is almost always something underneath jealousy to explore (with a coach!). I know it sounds strange, but flirting and crushes and attention from outside our relationship can give us a renewed spring in our step in our relationships.
Think of couples who have a “Celebrity Freebie List”—a list of five or so (unattainable) celebrities that each partner is allowed to have a night of wanton sex night with, no-questions-asked, should the opportunity arise. Think of how fun that is to think about. It’s interesting, it can give you fun ideas for the bedroom (hello? Princess Leia in the gold bikini?), and it recognizes that although you have decided to share the most mundane moments of your life with another person, you are not dead. Even my Gramma used to tell me that although she had chosen her dish, she had no intention putting down the menu.
Years ago, I was with my ex-husband in Safeway and we were getting all the groceries for the week. It was really glamorous. He went to the deli counter, and to his delight, found that the 20-something blonde who said everything as though it were a question was flirting with him like he was a naked fireman. He was at the counter for a long time and when I finally went over to check on him, I noticed what was happening. I asked him something important, like, “Do we need mustard?” and he glanced at me and then blushed, before turning back to blondie.
I shook my head, rolled my eyes, and told him to have fun. I would catch him over by the lettuce when he was done.
It cost me nothing. He was beaming, from ear to ear to…other areas, and at the end of it, we were still committed, still paying the bills, still going home to the unfolded laundry together, right? There is a word I will borrow from the polyamorous community: “compersion”. Compersion is the flip side of jealousy, or the glee of seeing one’s lover falling in love with someone else.
Compersion, in a basic form, is what I was doing when my husband was flirting in Safeway. No, he was not falling in love, but I could definitely feel pleasure from seeing him feel attractive and noticed by a complete stranger. Don’t we all want our beloved to be happy and noticed and valued?
Now, when crushes go a little further and become emotional entanglements (emotional affairs), it’s important to have the wherewithal to recognize what is happening for yourself.
As I have asked MANY clients this over the years who seem confused about whether or not their behaviour could be considered cheating: Does your SPOUSE think this is an affair?
If they do, then it is. Period.
We all have a different threshold for what we consider to be “cheating”. If you have a crush on a co-worker, then the first thing to do—before you make excuses or make it okay, or make yourself wrong because you feel shame or guilt— is to talk to your partner and ask THEM what they think.
In this situation, it is important to measure against the comfort of the relationship and the person we are in it with.
Here’s the quick n’ dirty: we are all meant to live in community. It’s flattering when our partners get noticed (for us and for them), and it costs you nothing to allow this to happen.
And for shit’s sake: talk to your partner about it. If that’s hard, call someone (like me) to help you have that conversation.
I would love for you to give it a try; the next time you see your delicious mate being eyed up, roll your eyes and agree to meet them by the lettuce. Maybe you’ll get to reap the rewards of them feeling noticed and attractive by someone who isn’t you.
Get Real like Sexy Real, Tara.
Tara Caffelle is a Relationship and Communication coach who brings an approachable approach to guiding and inspiring couples and individuals. She is passionate about creating connected, almost-uncomfortable-to-watch relationships that are based in Sexy Communication and Big Lives worth rolling around in. Tara is based in the Lower Mainland of Vancouver and while tickled to talk to anyone (anywhere!) for a tweak n’ tune, she works only by invitation in custom-designed coaching programs. To claim your free 90+ minutes and see what might be possible for your own super coupledom (or persondom), find a time here.