What to Do When You’re Attracted to Someone Other Than Your Spouse

by | Mar 6, 2020 | Resolving Conflict, Uncategorized | 49 comments

When you feel attracted to someone other than your husband
Merchandise is Here!

What if you dream about someone other than your spouse?

On Fridays I like to highlight some comments that came in over the week and carry on the discussion, because what I’ve found over the last little while is that sometimes the best material ends up in the comments section, and then not everybody sees it!

So today I wanted to pick up from a discussion that started yesterday on the podcast. On this week’s episode, I answered 7 reader questions, and two in particular caught on in the comments. One was about persistent UTIs after sex (some great advice in the comments–take ONE antibiotic after sex, and talk to your doctor about this dose; or make sure you’re not allergic to the soap your husband uses); but many jumped on the question from a woman saying she’s attracted to a married man at her church, and she keeps dreaming about him.

So I wanted to highlight some of those comments. But first I’d like to share a story.

When I was on holiday last month, I woke up one morning in a cold sweat, completely despondent. I had dreamt that Keith had left me. In the dream, I asked him why, and he looked at me with disdain and said, “Sheila, you know.”

But I didn’t. So I ran after him, sure it was a joke. “Come on, this is us,” I said. “Talk to me. We always talk!”

But he said nothing and walked away.

So then, in my dream, I called my daughters, and wanted to know if they knew what was going on. And they said, “Seriously, mom, it’s obvious.” And then they wouldn’t talk to me, either.

It took a good two days to get over that dream. I told Keith, and he was laughing at first, but then he just hugged me because he saw I was really upset.

I know dreams don’t have to have any reflection in reality, but the emotions were real. But Keith and I hadn’t had a fight. There was nothing wrong. It was just a silly dream. But it felt terrible.

Sometimes I wake up after having a romantic dream about some guy, and I’ll be like, “Ewww…. Keith, kiss me quick because I just had a ridiculous dream I need to get out of my head.”

You really aren’t responsible for your dreams–EXCEPT we are more likely to dream about things that we have thought about recently.

But sometimes random things just creep into our dreams, and it has nothing to do with anything.

So let’s look at what some of our readers said. They all had very similar perspectives, which was that we need to not freak out if we’re attracted to someone else, and we need to put it in its proper perspective. Doug summed up my feelings pretty well with this:

I think the first thing everyone should remember, is that being attracted to someone is not an emotional affair. An emotional affair is when one or both parties share an intimate part of themselves with the other. Even that by itself, however, does not define an emotional affair. That could describe nothing more than a good, healthy friendship, tho if it is with a member of the opposite sex, it probably gets very close to crossing some lines. I have two such opposite sex friends that I correspond with regularly, and there is no blurring or crossing of the lines. I don’t want to say that they are necessary to me, or to them, but they are beneficial to me in the sense that our friendships are built around our marriages, and supporting each other in our individual marriages. I can honestly say that I have never had a romantic or sexual thought towards either one of them, and I can also say that because of the nature of our friendships, The reverse is also true. They are family, and in a very real sense, they are the sisters I never had.

During some of the worst seasons of my marriage, I did have an affair, and it started out as an emotional affair. I know only too well what that is, and where it is borne. The first danger sign is to want something other than what you already have, and the best way to combat that is to seek contentment where you are, and to go to outright war with discontent, whether that means adjusting expectations, or tackling obstacles in your marriage head on. I have done a great deal of, and I credit a lot of that to the two friends I mentioned. Their wisdom and insight has been a huge part of that.

I do feel bad for the Pastors wife who is struggling, but I would counsel her that being attracted to someone or something is not a sin, and it is certainly not an affair. I would counsel her tho, that entertaining thoughts of that attraction and fantasizing about the man starts running headlong into what Jesus taught in Matthew 5:28.

Doug

I agree–having a crush is not an emotional affair. And I like his definition–wanting something other than what you already have. Emmy suggested thinking of the other guy like your brother. You can think your brother is good looking, and a great catch, but you certainly don’t want him for YOU. She explains:

Would it help you to think about this other man as your very own brother? If he is a Christian, he actually is your brother. And if he is not, he might become one.

This did help me a lot when I was in a somewhat similar situation. It has helped me ever since. I’m not afraid any more to realize if a guy is a nice person or good looking or attractive. My brother is a very cool person and nice to look at and very attractive too, and I very much like being around him. I certainly can say love him, only not “that way” but in a totally different way. I trust that all who have siblings that are dear to them understand what I mean. A brother or a sister is a very special person and you may feel connected to them like to no one else. Still you would not call it a “crush”.

Also, liking someone does not mean you need to “have” him! Just like when you see a beautiful house or a beautiful horse or a very nice car or a lovely garden and you realize it is lovely, that does not mean you are “lusting” to have it. Really, about 50 percent of the people on Earth are of the opposite sex, and many of them are attractive. They are beautiful people God has made. One of them is made especially for you. The others are for someone else. That does not mean it is wrong to appreciate them in their own right and realize they are attractive. You can love them as much as you like as long as you love them as your brother, or your sister.

Emmy

Blessed Wife chimed in with this:

I think a first step, (which she’s probably already taken) is to increase engagement with her own husband and family, focusing especially on the positives. In other words, look in the direction you want to grow and go.

I might mention to my husband that I felt “distancing” and wanted to pull closer to him, but I don’t think I would go further than that. At least, it would be, for me, an absolute last resort. I can see a whole lot of potential problems with telling a husband who is also pastor of a church any version of, “Honey, I really love you and want us to stay married, but I’ve had a huge attraction for Steve for the last five years.”

Step 2 would be, engage with “Steve” only (ONLY) in the context of his family. It surrounds both of you with natural safeguards and chaperons. Also, it frames Steve as a real person in the context of his real life, not a hot fantasy you can take in isolation and obsess over. It will show him as either a happily married man devoted to his own family (if he’s an innocent man unaware of your feelings), or a liar and two-faced manipulator that you really don’t want to be with (if he’s flirting with you and trying to encourage you to stray).

If you have prayerfully been doing the above for 5 years and nothing has changed, that is one heck of a thorn in the flesh! So I encourage you to remember that God’s grace is sufficient for you! He loves you, and is glorified every time you choose right over wrong, faithfulness over unfaithfulness, His Word over what your heart (deceitful above all things!) tells you it wants. Look to God, then to your husband and how they delight you, and I truly believe you will lose sight of the deferred hopes, guilt and shame of “Steve”. I will pray for you!

Blessed Wife

And one man confirms what many of us were thinking–if it’s not necessary, he’d rather not know if his wife was attracted to someone else:  

I also would die if I knew my wife has a crush. My anxiety would take over and it would spiral. So I honestly don’t want to know if my wife has a crush. I prefer that she shows me love and deal with it. I mean of course if boundaries are being crossed. And I think that’s important with this question. To not cross boundaries. Not talk to much. Never be alone and never talk about intimate stuff. I am thankful for my coworker because she keeps everything professional. I don’t think I have ever had a conversation that is not work related with her. And that’s good. And that’s how I want to keep it. So as long as my wife doesn’t cross lines, know that it’s wrong and actively tries to stop it and continues to show me love, then I don’t want to know. It would crush me.

Feeling Lost

I want to add one more thought that I alluded to in the comments, but that I shared in greater detail in my big post from last year on how to prevent an emotional affair:

From How to Prevent an Emotional Affair

Just because you are attracted to someone else DOES NOT mean that there is something wrong with your marriage.

Did you hear that? Let that sink in. I think we sometimes believe that attraction can only happen if we are unhappy, or lacking something. But you are not DEAD. You are simply married. And sometimes we meet someone who pushes all the right buttons….

As soon as we’re tempted, and feel attracted to someone else, we often start to look at our marriage and figure there’s something horribly wrong. There’s some unmet need, and my subconscious is trying to point it out to me.

That could be true, but from the women I’ve spoken with I’d say that’s not necessarily true at all. Your marriage very well could be fine. It may not be, of course; but being tempted does not mean that something IS wrong with your marriage.

When we are attracted to someone else, the worst thing we can do is to then assume that we are unhappy with our marriage. That makes us start to doubt our marriage even more, or even look for things that are wrong with our marriage that explain why we’re feeling that attraction. “I must find my husband lacking if I’m attracted to this guy.” No, that’s not true. You just may very well fit with that other guy as well.

I am not one of those “there is only one person out there in the world meant for you” kind of person. I believe that God lets us choose our spouse, and that it is then up to us to become the best spouse we can be. Perhaps it’s because my grandfather was married three times to three wonderful but very different women (they all kept dying of cancer on him). Were those last two marriages substandard because the first was the love of his life? No, I don’t think so. He was happy in all three marriages, because he decided to love those women and be the best husband he could for each of them.

So the fact that you are attracted to someone else may simply be because there are many different people you could have potentially worked with.

Now, perhaps there is something wrong with your marriage. Hopefully this, then, will be the nudge to start addressing that problem by going to a counselor, talking to your husband about it, or doing something to change the dynamic. But it does not necessarily mean something is wrong, and assuming your marriage is on the skids is the worst thing you could do at a time like this.

So when you think of him, turn it into a prayer of blessing on his marriage or a prayer of thanksgiving for your husband. Try not to be alone with him. And do tons of fun things with your husband! I hope that helps.

When You Feel Attracted to Someone Other than Your Husband--what to do

Any more thoughts about dealing with being attracted to someone else? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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49 Comments

  1. Phil

    I was watching this conversation yesterday and just thought I would add my thoughts today. I have issues with not being even remotely attracted to someone when I first meet them and then over time they become attractive to me. It is a struggle that might just be normal or could be a result from my past history. I have a prayer I use when I find someone attractive and the thoughts repeat themselves. That prayer is this: Lord help me to find in YOU what I seek in her. I find this most useful in kicking thoughts to the side. As was previously mentioned you have to be careful praying for that person. That is because you are still focused on them even if you are praying for them. If you are still focused on them then you are still thinking about them and one could still hold on to the thoughts. I know that might seem eeww because if you are truly with God then your thoughts should be pure. However, In this case I find praying To God for myself a better tool.

    Reply
    • Gemma

      Hi Phil,
      Why do you think this is an issue or a struggle? I imagine this is quite a normal way of experiencing attraction. I guess it does make it harder to keep your distance because by the time you’re attracted to them, you’re already fairly close to the person.

      Reply
      • Phil

        Hi Gemma. This is an issue/struggle because for me my mind was previously wired for porn and sex addiction. That wiring is still there. What that means is my mind recalls that wiring and in part does not want to shut off. Therefore it becomes a battle at times. I can tell you that more recently there are 2 women in my circle that this has happens with. At first when I met them years ago it was non issue. As I have grown to get to know them they have become attractive to me. So instead of bland thoughts when I see and talk to them it is an internal battle not to indulge in their beauty. I hate it but it is no different a struggle than the Pastors wife in this instance. They are just thoughts and I must kick them to the side.

        Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      GREAT thoughts, Phil! Yes, I love that prayer you use. And I agree, as I said in the podcast. Watch out for praying too much for him, because then he’s still your focus. But pray for your husband, your marriage, use those thoughts to prompt you to text your husband or do something lovely for him!

      Reply
    • Just K

      I’d like to thank the author for clarifying the nature of attraction and Phil for the prayer. The prayer will help me focus on the true desire of my heart, the Lord. One thing I realized as I read the article and the insight of other commenters, the love I have for my husband is deep, satisfying and really old. I’m used to it. The crush I have is new, exciting and just adding some interest to my old shoe life. A new person to dress for and converse with b.c they bring new and fresh ideas. And not gonna lie, dazzling eyes that I get lost in. As I process my feelings, I would NEVER ruin the lovely life with my husband for a fling. But, I also know that the emotions I feel are real and need to be dealt with before moving into a more serious area. I have already been putting distance between, resisting time alone and redirecting my focus to my husband. I’ve seen other women flirt with my husband, btw. Oh yes, he’s has a fine figure, is a hard worker and a dedicated christian. These qualities do not go unnoticed by women we meet! The fact that I don’t feel threatened by other women’s attention is a testament to the strength of our commitment. I’m actually glad to be reminded that he is attractive!

      Reply
  2. Anonymous

    I know this isn’t everyone’s experience, but for me when I faced a similar struggle (starting to develop a crush on another married guy), sharing with my husband was the best thing I did. Something about actually saying his name out loud to another person moved me out of denying it was really an issue and into a place where I was able to see the problem clearly and take steps to address it. Now, I only shared with my husband because I knew he would not be hurt or become overly paranoid. I suppose you could also find another trusted person to share with if that would help you, but for me that raw intimacy of sharing what was really going on with my emotions drew us both way closer together than if I’d been trying to deal with the issue on my own.
    Like I said, not for everyone, but I’m grateful God led me to do it that way.

    Reply
    • Kylee

      Thank you for this perspective. I do think it is very important to be sensitive toward your spouse and how such news would affect them. But, confession is HUGE! If confessing such a thing to your spouse would harm them and the relationship, then you need to have that conversation with someone else who you trust for confidentiality, wise counsel, and accountability. So often when we keep our dark, twisty thoughts in the dark, they become darker and twistier. Once we bring them out into the light of truth through confession, so much of their scary, condemning power is lost.

      Reply
  3. Nathan

    “They” sometimes say that all things in a dream are just different aspects of you.
    So if you, for example, dream about having an affair with a co-worker, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to have sex with them or even that you want to have an affair at all. It could mean other things, or it might even mean nothing

    Reply
    • Doug

      I can’t speak about anyone elses experience, but I find that my dreams are very relevant. They don’t tell me anything factual, but I have found that they are a very good barometer of my subconscious.
      As a rule, they are seldom about present circumstances. Sometimes they are purely fantastical imaginations that have no basis in my life, and others tend to be memory driven, and reliving various experiences, but even then not accurately reflecting reality but rather just incorporating actual experiences into a broader context. They are also almost never pleasant, and usually wake me, and leave me in a disturbed and anxious state. They have been a somewhat constant companion, tho just earlier this week I noticed that I had been relatively undisturbed for a week or so.

      Reply
  4. Nathan

    Very true, Doug. For example, when I was younger, I used to have a LOT of dreams about being a Vampire Hunter, even though I’ve never been into vampires, horror or gothic fiction.

    Reply
  5. Feelinglost

    Nothing needs to be wrong with the marriage. I needed to hear that. Thats something that often has affected me when it comes to my coworker. I am praying about it and some days are better than others but this has been a concern. I easily start to analyze things and I always get worried that something is wrong in my marriage because I feel this way. This helped a lot. Attractions happens but I need to just focus on my wife and keep praying and make sure to keep the boundaries I have set up for myself.

    Reply
  6. Anon Guy

    This post is a massive trigger for me, because my wife and I went through this when she had an attraction. While I think each couple needs to do what’s best for them, I would caution that secrecy is the ultimate destroyer of trust. If you keep a secret from your spouse, they don’t really know you.
    My wife kept the secret, and I found out about it years later. The way I found out, and what I read, was devastating. What could have been a tough situation if dealt with at the time turned into a near marriage-ending ordeal later. Our pact now is that if we have an attraction, we share it and help each other deal with it, however hard that may be.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi there,
      That does sound like an awful situation. I’m so sorry.
      I think there’s a huge difference between a relationship where there is mutual flirting, and even something more developing, or a big friendship, and something where you just find yourself attracted to someone else but you never act on it and you don’t even want it, and the other person doesn’t know. In the latter case, you haven’t crossed boundaries. You haven’t sinned. There’s nothing going on that’s suspicious. As I said in the podcast, I do think it’s important to tell someone else so that you have accountability and it’s out in the open (say a friend or something), but to tell your spouse when there isn’t anything really wrong, and when you still love your spouse, can hurt them really unnecessarily. Some people have that kind of relationship where it would be okay, but many don’t, and that one admission can cause a spouse to spiral. So don’t keep it a secret from anyone, but simply deal with it.
      If you’re at the point where it’s not being dealt with, and there is a genuine emotional relationship developing, then you likely do have to talk to your spouse and say that you can’t be with that person anymore. It sounds like what happened with your wife was a genuine relationship, and that should be shared, absolutely. I think that is something different, though, and I would just hate to see a spouse blindsided when it wasn’t necessary and it can really hurt.

      Reply
    • Greg

      My wife also had an attraction to a co-worker and I also found out but I didn’t make a big deal about it but we did talk and now we’re just fine. I don’t place alot of emphasis on trust because anybody can be fooled. I never trust anybody totally including my wife.

      Reply
  7. Kate

    This discussion is helpful to me! I’ve experienced something similar (though different) recently.q I’m a gal in seminary who has always felt at ease around men. I love my classes, and the subject matter can lead to some vulnerability in discussing Scripture, ministry, and our relationships with God. Those discussions can lead to a false sense of intimacy, and an intimacy that I don’t always feel with my husband because we spend most of our time doing the necessary things in life: working, household upkeep, caring for our kids and trying to get them to go to sleep. There’s little time for deep uninterrupted discussions, and that’s the primary way that I develop a feeling of closeness with someone.
    So when I began to feel an emotional connection to one of my fellow students, I worried and wondered: “Is this an emotional affair?” For the situation as it was, I came to the conclusion that the connection I felt was similar to those initial feelings of sexual attraction described in the original post and some of the comments. I hadn’t crossed any obvious boundaries, and I wasn’t dwelling on it or seeking anything more with him. So I just made some guidelines for myself to guard against the temptation: keep discussions on campus and focused on class material/our experience of it. No texting or messaging about anything other than class assignments, and even then, I’ll make a point to find someone else to take those questions to. It’s so easy to be vulnerable with someone when you’re talking from behind a screen. I should know–that’s how my husband and I met!
    It’s been a good experience overall to learn how to distinguish sin from temptation or potential temptation. Feeling close to someone else has made me question the quality of my marriage in the past, and that has led me to dwell on that and create issues in my head that are not actually there. At the same time, letting go of the worry has given me the freedom to pursue more intimacy with my husband by initiating conversations about things that matter to me. This has led to an increased feeling of unity between us, at least on my side of things. I think 75% of the things that happen in my marriage are only in my head. They feel so real to me, and my husband has no idea. haha
    Here’s to pursuing more intimacy with my love and keeping all others in their rightful place as brothers and sisters.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s GREAT, Kate! Thank you for sharing that. It sounds like you handled that very wisely–both with the fellow student, and with your husband.

      Reply
  8. Lea

    “I don’t think I have ever had a conversation that is not work related with her. And that’s good. ”
    I didn’t read the context for this, but I don’t know how to never have a conversation unrelated to work with a coworker? I only do that with coworkers I don’t like. But that doesn’t mean we cross any boundaries into inappropriateness I think.
    I always find the emotional affair definitions a bit broad: I see it more as a closeness that crosses serious boundaries on the flirting front and is likely to turn sexual. I don’t like seeing it used for simple friendship. It’s a bit confusing.

    Reply
    • Lea

      Sidenote, i read the full comment about the coworker and that makes sense for their situation. I guess it just feels odd to me, thinking about all the chit chat that goes on in my office.

      Reply
    • Feelinglost

      I wrote that and for me its great that we dont talk about other things than work. Since there is an attraction from my part , starting to talk about other things and joke around and stuff can be dangerous. I know that for some people that isnt anything but as we can see with so many affairs that happens at work, those conversations can turn to something else for people who start to be attracted to each other. For some who dont have any attraction at all conversations like that arent anything to be worried about but when there is an attraction it can easily turn into something else. I talk a lot about things with my coworkers, most are female but there isnt an attraction there. It could be that most are older than me but this coworker is someone around my age and because of the attraction I prefer to not engage in anything else than talk about work. And I am happy that she seems to want that too. I dont know if she does it with purpose but I like that she only keeps the conversation work related. She has never even asked me how I am or how I feel, we go straight to work stuff and for me that is perfect. The only times we may talk about something else is if we are a group of coworkers and all are talking about something but that rarely happens.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I think that’s a very good boundary–only talk about work stuff. That’s really important when you’re afraid that you’re attracted to someone in another setting. If you can’t limit the interactions, then keep the conversation to only what is necessary to prevent increasing levels of communication.

        Reply
  9. Petunia

    Hi Sheila, I was wondering if you have written a blog post or done a podcast on how to develop healthy boundaries towards friends of the opposite gender? My partner and I don’t really know what to do in this area and I hate feeling jealous of his female friends.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Great idea! And I like that since we’re talking about community this month. It fits in well. I’ll try to schedule it in.

      Reply
      • Anon

        Could you please include advice on what to do when a ‘friend’ is attracted to your partner, but your partner just doesn’t see it?

        Reply
  10. Anon

    I wonder sometimes with dreams (when they are ones that really upset us and that we don’t want to have) if they are a form of spiritual attack, because the enemy knows that if we are worrying about our dreams, we will be distracted from what we ought to be doing.
    A few weeks back, I had a dream where I met a guy I found more attractive than my fiance and walked off with him in front of my fiance. The weird thing was that even while I was dreaming this, ‘dream me’ was also crying over our broken engagement. I was SO upset when I woke up, because awake, I have never had the slightest doubt about our marriage and think I’m marrying the most attractive man in the world, and I felt as if by dreaming those things, I’d betrayed my fiance. It left me feeling upset for a couple of days, made it hard for me to focus on my Bible study times and kept getting in the way when I tried to pray.
    I’ve since prayed that God will guard my mind while I sleep and specifically that He won’t allow me to dream any kind of unfaithfulness toward my fiance again. So far, I haven’t. I’ve done this before (I haven’t had this particular dream before, but I do often have guilt or fear-inducing dreams that leave me upset for hours after waking) and so far, every time I pray against a specific dream, it doesn’t come back.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s a great thought, Anon! And, yes, I believe they can be a spiritual attack, too. I think if you’re having recurring dreams, praying against them and for peace while you sleep is wise (I’ve had recurring dreams about my son who died, and it’s not nice. I need to remember to pray more over that!).

      Reply
  11. Jane Eyre

    “Were those last two marriages substandard because the first was the love of his life? No, I don’t think so. He was happy in all three marriages, because he decided to love those women and be the best husband he could for each of them.”
    I’m reminded of the saying that, once married, the ‘right person for you’ is your spouse. (Obviously, this is not true for people in toxic marriages.)
    If you’re struggling with a crush, the question to ask yourself is: what does this crush do for you? It’s not about the person – you have a great spouse! Maybe it’s novelty. Butterflies. Maybe you’re tired of picking up socks, washing baby bottles, and fighting over bills, and want to feel like you did when things in your relationship were fun and easy. Maybe you want affirmation of your attractiveness. Maybe flirting is fun for you. Maybe you want to feel young again.
    None of those things really have a lot to do with the object of your crush or the quality of your marriage!

    Reply
    • Lindsey

      This is a really good point, and one that I’ve found to be true.

      Reply
  12. Anonymous

    When I got married, my mom told me about a time when she was struggling with feelings for a married male coworker, who was also a family friend. After quite a bit of prayer, she realized that the attraction wasn’t directed at him, but in the fact that he was the only man around her who called her by her name–her father had passed away over a decade before, my dad called her “hon/honey”, my brother called her “mom”, her father-in-law lived far away. In that case, she did tell my father, so he began to call her by her name more often, and she put better boundaries up with her and the friend.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that’s lovely! I can see why that would affect her, too. Good for her for figuring out the root of it.

      Reply
  13. Mark

    I believe when we correspond in private or in person on a regular basis with someone of the opposite sex (while we are already spoken for) we are in danger of entering into one another’s mind like a revolving door, enough to mutually stimulate minds.
    It might be ok if the dialogue is polite, friendly and professional and nothing more.
    When it comes to an emotional affair, we have to ask ourselves “would we experience a “let down” if the chatting were to stop?”
    Once minds are mentally attracted to one another and have reached a point to mutually know what the other is thinking, it can cause mental boundaries to expand into uncharted places.
    Some may refer it as “brain sex” as they continue to have thought provoking dialogue as they share “male/female perspectives” from a different vantage point outside of marriage.
    I can’t help but consider that even exchanging “harmless” polite and friendly conversations on a regular basis that this as a form of flirting. It is almost like they are mentally making love, but without the garments falling to the floor.
    They may not be physically attracted to each other to think along those terms.
    Even so, mental attraction can be enough to create physical attraction and create a little (or a lot) of sexual tension.
    One needs to be careful, because when we disagree with our own spouse and find the other friend “easier” to talk to, we may lean on that “friend” more than we should be leaning on our own spouse.
    They may not verbally cross the boundary and share mutually how they are mentally and physically attracted to each other, or privately wonder’s how intense the intimacy would be even if consummating those desires would never happen.
    But they better be careful because after awhile when mental and physical attraction kicks in, we won’t need an interpreter to decode the meaning of body language which replaces words that don’t have to be said.
    (especially when the eyes are looking far enough so they can see the passion in their heart)

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      I definitely see what you are saying, but I do not necessarily agree with the caution against male-female friendships. I have many really close male friends, and my husband has many close female friends. And we have conversations with them one-on-one that are definitely more than simply “polite” or “professional” because we’re really close friends! So we talk about real things–our hearts, our hopes, dreams,aspirations, fears, etc.
      But the difference, I think, is that Connor and I always talk to each other FIRST. So if I have great news, I tell Connor before I tell Tim. If Connor is dealing with something stressful, he’s going to turn to me first, not Samantha. We put our relationship before all of these friendships. So I guess I see the difference as this: opposite-sex friendships are not the problem as much as failing to make your marriage your priority is the problem.
      Friendship and emotional intimacy are not something that is dangerous if they’re kept in their proper place, and I think that’s what you are saying in your comment, but I do get concerned that we get so worried about having a potential affair by accident that we forget that sometimes opposite-sex friendships can be a gift from God, too, and do not always result in attraction/affairs/awkwardness at all. Sometimes you’re just friends–even if it’s quite an intimate friendship.

      Reply
      • Mark

        Thanks Rebecca,
        Your heart exclusively belongs to your husband which makes you more immune to having an emotional affair.
        My impression is you are able to handle male/female friendships and engage in mature conversations and still protect your heart and avoid having an emotional affair.
        I do think that when “friends” are able to emotionally stimulate and mutually surrender and penetrate inside one another’s mind, it can be compared to brain sex, but without the physical sex and it becomes more than the type of friendship you are having with your male friends.
        The danger I see, is when the conversations become so mature it can create an enormous amount of intimate tension if the content creates noticeable physical desire.
        Don’t get me wrong, over the course of the last couple of decades, I’ve had mature conversations with a couple of women who was seeking an opinion and she later ended up falling in love with her soon to be husband. There was one however, where there was obvious erotic tension that made us vulnerable and it was enough for me to never wanting to get that close.

        Reply
        • Rebecca Lindenbach

          I just don’t know where you’re getting this “brain sex” thing and the way you’re talking about friendships makes it sound, to me, like you’re sexualizing something that doesn’t need to be sexualized.
          When I open up and pour my heart and soul out in a conversation with a male friend I’m not allowing that friend to “emotionally stimulate and mutually surrender and penetrate inside one another’s minds.” That is a really really strange way to put it, frankly. And you could use that language to make anything sound sexual. “When you eat, you allow the food to penetrate your body via your mouth, orally stimulating you with pleasure through your tastebuds, until you are done having your way with the McNugget Happy Meal and you digest it, becoming one flesh.” Just because we can make it SOUND sexual doesn’t mean it is.
          Brain sex is not a thing. And may I kindly suggest that if you are finding mere conversations with people to be sexually erotic that may be a cause to see a counsellor who talks about sexual recovery issues? Because this way of talking about it is not normal and can likely be overcome with some evidence-based therapies to help have healthier relationships with the opposite sex! Yes, through conversation we can become sexually attracted to one another and then it’s safer to just distance yourself for a while, but the reason for that is sexual attraction! Not because you’ve had “brain sex.”

          Reply
          • Mark

            Thank You Rebecca,
            25 years ago, I would’ve liked someone to have encouraged my wife and I to see a counselor, to teach us the meaning of “emotional connection” (if any existed then as “connection” wasn’t a term used at all in churches or society as a whole.
            We wouldn’t have had to wait so long to figure it out on our own. But at least we are connecting now and experiencing “emotional intimacy”
            As you know the title of this article is: “What to Do When You’re Attracted to Someone Other Than Your Spouse”
            Are we talking physical or mental attraction? Or both? Are we talking about a possible fallout if a friendship grows much deeper than a surface friendship?
            I’m responding this, after you wrote: “Friendship and emotional intimacy are not something that is dangerous if they’re kept in their proper place,”
            I beg to differ, if anyone is experiencing emotional intimacy with someone other than our spouse (even without the sex or erotic conversations) the friendship is probably deeper than it should be.
            From what you are saying , your husband is the only one you are experiencing “emotional intimacy”. so I don’t think you are experiencing “emotional intimacy” with your male friends, if you, be careful.
            When a man and a woman are experiencing emotional intimacy (sometimes referred as brain sex ) I’m sure you know, they don’t need to have sex and the conversation doesn’t have to turn erotic to experience an emotional affair.
            Though I know that it is possible that emotional intimacy can lead to an all out emotional affair and also a physical one, if they don’t protect their mind, heart and body.
            My impression is mental attraction (or emotional intimacy outside of marriage) can make our heart way more vulnerable than physical attraction.

      • unmowngrass

        THANK YOU!!
        Yes, men and women can be just friends! Even if one is married and the other is not. Or if both are, to other people. Friends. Real friends.
        And as sisters and brothers in Christ, we need each other! Dare I say it, as a single sister, I possibly have more need of my brothers than I would if I were married too (to a brother too, obviously). And what’s the alternative? Only ever mixing with single brothers? Completely aside from how that would rob both myself and my married brothers of a normal, edifying friendship… The singles only ever mixing with the other singles for close friendship… Please tell me how that is not a recipe for disaster?! Lol…

        Reply
        • Mark

          Hi unmowngrass,
          I have female friends that have asked me some personal questions .
          The only recipe for disaster I see, is when mental attraction develops strong enough to where the friendship turns into an emotional affair.
          Marital status doesn’t matter whether both are married to someone else, or one is married and the other is single.
          The risk I see, is if they fall in love with each other or the infatuation becomes so strong it effects the relationship they are in with someone else or take it even further and consummate the friendship.
          My impression is an emotional affair is when a man and a woman have mentally connected enough to stimulate one another’s mind and surrender their heart to each other.
          This type of male/female “friendship” can turn into an emotional drain, because like in my case, my heart isn’t big enough to be in love with more than my own spouse.
          I think sometimes, it can create intimate desire, but it doesn’t mean they will consummate those desires, even if they wanted to.
          Emotional attraction is riskier than physical attraction in my view especially if the friendship blossoms enough to surrender our heart and mind to someone else which is like placing an emotional barrier or wall between the one we have committed our life with and the “friend”.
          When the conversations become so open to where they are talking about everything under the sun from talking about the weather, the economy or if the dialogue becomes mature and adult in nature to a point where they are mentally making love to one another’s mind, is the kind of risk Sheila is talking about.

          Reply
  14. Thinking Christian Mom

    I had a great comment, but apparently 725-word comments are frowned upon. X-D I’ll try to post it in two parts. We’ll see if this works!
    If you start to think of another man, SHOVE THAT THOUGHT OUT. I understand where you’re coming from by encouraging women to pray for the man, but honestly, that in itself almost causes an “exclusivity” mentality. I think you can certainly pray when you have to see him and are struggling with your thoughts. You can pray when you find yourself suddenly deep in thoughts about him and need to pull yourself back out. But if it’s a fleeting thought, do NOT entertain it. Sometimes we’ll be like, “Ohhh, I’m just praying for him”, just so that we can think about the guy more. Don’t even go there.
    I also think that sometimes we yearn for another man because we have a problem with ourselves, not necessarily with our marriage. We can be lonely before marriage, during marriage, after marriage…. marriage doesn’t cure loneliness just by existing. I think if we find ourselves really, really struggling with feelings for another man, we need to examine ourselves and determine what our feelings really are. Are we attracted to this man and want a relationship, or are we struggling with feelings of rejection or loneliness, and this new guy just happened to come along at the “right” time, so we want to use him to fill that void? We need to pull back from those feelings of attraction and try to figure out what’s really going on here.
    On the flip side, like you said, it’s normal to feel some attraction. Sometimes, it may not be that there is anything wrong with our marriage or ourselves. It’s possible that we’re just making a mountain out of a molehill.
    Thanks, Sheila, for sharing your thoughts and the input of others! I think calling out the temptation of an affair can help to lessen its power, as long as we remember that it’s never “okay” or “excusable”. We need to be strengthened to follow God, not to follow our flesh, and there’s strength in numbers. 🙂
    Now let’s see if I can get part two of my comment in here….

    Reply
  15. Thinking Christian Mom

    I think the desire for another person might go beyond just relationships or our own personal problems. There’s a real flesh issue there where we’re naturally inclined to be discontent. There’s something really attractive about “what if?”. A fantasy, a possibility, a “maybe this could be better” is always attractive. And this doesn’t just apply to affairs, but it can apply to stuff. The idea of a bigger house, for example, is usually appealing to most people (in America, anyway!). We might drive by a mansion, gawk, and say, “There’s my house!” But WHY do we think we want it? Do we really? Do we “want” it because everyone in America “would” want it, so we think we want it, too? Do we want the possible fame that might accompany a mansion? Do we want to live like a “princess”? At first blush, it all just sounds so darn exciting! 😉 But in reality, we might find that we don’t like the house at all. Maybe it’s not our style. Maybe it’s too big and drafty. Maybe (definitely) it takes waaaaay too long to clean. Maybe you don’t know what to do with all those extra rooms. Maybe you end up not having any time to try and enjoy the whole house….and how do you enjoy a house anyway? Like, hey, let me go walk into my three different living rooms and just enjoy sitting in each of them separately.
    I think sometimes affairs are like big houses to us. In theory, a new “romance” with an attractive new guy might bring back some of those exciting feelings we felt when we first started dating our spouse. But in reality, affairs are not our style; they’re big, empty, and drafty. They will never fill you up, because they can’t. In fact, the thing you were seeking might turn out to not be in the affair at all. You want a loving spouse? You can’t get it by taking someone else’s spouse. You want to feel affirmed? You can’t have real affirmation from a man who is destined to leave you. You want to feel less lonely? You can’t feel less lonely when you have to keep a deep, dark secret hidden from the rest of the world. Whatever you’re looking for in life, you won’t find it in an affair.

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  16. Judy

    I agree that an attraction to someone else doesn’t indicate that there is anything wrong with the marriage. For me, I see an attraction to someone else as an indicator of something within me that needs introspection
    and change. I don’t accept that such attractions are benign and inevitable. Like any trigger, it can guide me to heart issues like approval-seeking, entitlement, lack of meaningful connection with others. These require not shame, but self awareness and repentance. The proverb writer tells men to let their wives satisfy them *at all times* and to *not be captivated* by a stranger, and I take this exhortation as a wife as well. Attraction to others is a distraction from one’s spouse. Unwanted lust is still lust, and freedom is possible. I’ve been there, and this is the path that helped me.

    Reply
  17. Renee

    In my case, I was attracted to someone (it was mutual) who ‘saw’ me. Know what I mean? I get regular male attention, and usually it’s not a problem, but this one guy really got to me. He was an average joe, but he was incredibly intuitive and kind, and it was hard to ignore. I’m in a marriage with someone who is amazing in every way, except he makes me feel like I’m his last priority and mostly invisible.. he isn’t interested in a better sex life or working through any hard issues. Even when I try to make things fun.. for example I haven’t orgasmed with him ever, in 11 years. He knows this. Sex is over when he’s done and I have to sneak off to use a vibrator alone (he knows I do this because I’ve told him, he just doesn’t like vibrators so I feel really uncomfortable doing it next to him). I’ve tried getting him to read fun books on sex with me, tried buying toys, he just gets really upset. He also doesn’t think time alone as a couple (after our four small kids go to bed) is important, he’ll do a movie but I get tired of that, we always watch what he likes. He’s awesome, except when it comes to being there for me. I feel like since he knows I won’t leave him he takes me for granted. So it is hard when someone else seems to see you as special for once, and there’s nothing to fall back on. I already felt alone, didn’t think it could get worse, but it did. Lol. If you’re struggling with this but have a great, caring spouse, know how lucky you are. Go hug them and hang out with them. Be glad they like being around you!

    Reply
    • David

      Renee,
      My spouse and I experienced vanilla type of intimacy for the first 12 years, until she was able to “let go”
      I did discover a book written by a woman who emphasized near motionless intimacy for at least the first 15 or 20 minutes (among other things) which elevated the plateau to a very high level, as the pressure for my wife to “let go” grew and grew.
      But also the longer I held back an indescribable amount of intense pressure was building that felt like a euphoria of pleasure was growing in uncharted places I’ve never been before.
      So I kept the pace so slow until she went insane and “it” finally happened without barely moving. In fact I decided to keep the pace very slow, causing myself to climb into a much higher plateau while she climbed up a different plateau where she experienced “it” again.
      When I couldn’t stand the slow pace, it was then that I increased the pace and experience the most intense pulsing release.
      I hope for your (and his) sake that he slows the movements to a snails crawl.

      Reply
    • Emmy

      Dear Renee, while your husband might “be” an amazing guy he certainly does not behave like one towards you. He is outright selfish. Even though you do not have the right to have an emotional affair (and I see you are fighting very hard not to have one) you do have the right to be upset about the way he treats you, even to be angry at him. The way he treats you is not OK.

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Renee, that’s so sad! I find it interesting that you say that your husband is amazing, and yet he really is treating you very poorly. You do matter! You really do. I’d suggest that you read this post on the Definition of Sex, too, and try having that conversation with him–that you’re no longer willing to have intercourse if it’s all about him, and not about you. You don’t want to be used. That’s honestly okay. He is treating you badly, and it’s okay to say, “we need more.”

      Reply
    • L

      I’m sorry, I don’t get how a husband can be amazing when he makes you feel you are his last priority and invisible. Just don’t get it.

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    • Michelle

      Renee, I am so sad for you. Like some of the other commenters, I feel as though you are covering up for your husband and his bad behavior. I find it impossible that he can be “amazing” and “awesome” and treat you like you are invisible. What you describe sounds eerily like my ex-husband, who was verbally, emotionally and spiritually abusive to me. I suggest to you Leslie Vernick’s book “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage.” You deserve to be loved and valued!

      Reply
  18. Lyndall Cave

    Speaking as a single woman, but one who’s had many a crush in my lifetime.
    I’ve found that many of the times when I have a crush or am attracted to a guy, it’s because I value certain traits or want to see more of that in my own life. Now, realizing what I’m attracted to isn’t scary any more because it’s a signpost pointing to the deeper longings and values in my own heart. For example, I realized that the vast majority of guys I was attracted to were all musicians. This helped me realize that music, songwriting and performing is something that I desperately want to do more of, but had ignored.

    Reply
  19. Chris

    Being in a toxic marriage found me accidentally attracted to a counselor. I never had thoughts of “us” while with him, because all talk was appropriate. In sharing with an older woman, she helped me realize that it was the character of Christ in this man that attracted me, not the man himself. And she expressed concern that I was holding him up as an idol.
    My husband had been unfaithful in the past (and porn in the present), so integrity was high on my list of qualities. This man was a wonderful husband, whose wife I also love.
    I realized that if this man had made the slightest move toward me, he would not have had the integrity I feel is significant, and therefore I would have NOT been interested after all!!
    Is that strange, or sensible? During the height of the attraction, I would pray for their marriage, their sex life, and anything else to discourage me from putting myself into the picture of his life wrongly. I tried to tell my husband that I needed his protection, and more sex. Somehow, I’m too subtle in this and, it didn’t work. But with God’s help and intentional effort, the wrong attraction is no more. I am blessed to have that older woman as a counselor instead when needed.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s a wonderful example, Chris! I think your older mentor was very wise. And I love that you saw it for what it was–something that was missing in your marriage, but it wasn’t that you actually wanted HIM. And as you prayed and saw that, the attraction diminished. That’s great.

      Reply
  20. Scarlet | Family Focus Blog

    Yes, I agree 100%. Nothing wrong with being attracted but if you find yourself thinking about that attraction, it is probably because something is wrong in your marriage. It probably needs a little more attention. The grass is greener where you tend to it.

    Reply

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