So, you’re taken. By which I mean ‘you’re in a relationship’, not ‘you’re Liam Neeson’s daughter and you’ve been swiped by evil Albanian human traffickers who your father has sworn to hunt down and kill at any cost’. You’ve got a significant other. A sweetheart. A paramour.
But you’ve also got eyes and sometimes you find that your peepers can’t help but look at other peeps. Now and again, you find yourself admiring other men (or women). Maybe your morning latte happens to be served by a barista so beautiful that you spend the rest of the day musing on the extra-hot Starfucks you’d treat him to if you were able to get him back to your place for ‘coffee’.
Or perhaps you find yourself feeling like Shrove Tuesday is happening in your stomach every time you bump into a particular workmate, a friend, even the boyfriend of a friend.
You’re only looking, not touching (although you are imagining. Vividly.). It’s just a crush. But just how acceptable is it to fancy someone else when you’re already spoken for? Is being attracted to other people natural and inevitable – or can it be an indicator that something is wrong in your relationship? When does crushing on someone other than your other half move from being ‘harmless and healthy’ to becoming a damaging infatuation, or a betrayal?
I discussed the subject with a group of mates and got some thought-provoking responses…
**Everyone with a partner fancies other people, right? It’s not like the minute you start going steady with someone, every additional Hottie McScorchington on earth suddenly gets vaporised. **
Sure, in the early honeymoon period you might be walking around like a human heart-eyes emoji, blinkered and blinded to the allure of anyone except your beloved. But especially when you’ve settled into an LTR, it’s totally typical to notice the existence of other folks you feel drawn to – correct?
‘It’s completely normal to find other people attractive,’ reckons Charlotte, 27. ‘Being in a committed, monogamous relationship doesn’t mean pretending that the rest of the world doesn’t exist; it means you’ve found someone you like enough not to want to take a gamble on dating any of those other people. But you can still recognise that they’re sexy or interesting.’
In fact, if Charlotte’s fiancé claimed that the only type of ‘fancying’ going on in his life was the consumption of Mr Kipling’s fondant-topped cakes, she’d view this as more worrying than him mentioning a crush. ‘If my husband-to-be claimed not to fancy anyone else, I wouldn’t believe him, which would be a real shame in such an honest and trusting relationship,’ she says.
Raven, 23, agrees, adding that if a boyfriend stated that he was oblivious to the charms of any other girl, she’d suspect that ‘baby doth protest too much’ and had something to hide – or else was worryingly obsessed with and dependent upon her. ‘Frankly, if you claim only to have eyes for your beloved, you’re either a liar, horribly creepy, or both,’ she reasons.
OK, so everyone has crushes. Should you discuss them with your lover, or should you just keep your passing passions to yourself?
Most of the mateys I debated with seemed to agree that being able to chat about crushes with a partner is a positive thing, which indicates honesty with each other, self-confidence about your own appeal, and security within the relationship.
‘Me and my man are very open about our attractions,’ says Raven. ‘He was a little taken aback when I first brought up the subject as it had been a taboo topic with his previous girlfriends, but I think we’re stronger for being so relaxed and open together.’
Some said that hearing about what sorts of other people got their lover’s cock-kiln or foof-furnace fired up gave them valuable insight into their partner’s tastes. Learning that girls in glasses gave the object of one friend’s affection an erection, for example, led to her using specs as a prop for sex.
‘My wife and I often compare notes on celebs we fancy, and we’ve also discussed which of our friends we find horny,’ says Rob, 31. ‘We tend to go for different things so we don’t always agree, but the conversations are illuminating – she sometimes reveals things that turn her on that I would never have guessed.’
Knowing that your lover does meet other human beings in real life that get them hot under the collar, but that they choose to stay with you over any of those options can enhance your confidence in yourself and in your partnership.
‘Plus, attraction and love are very different things,’ notes Chloe, 27. ‘When a couple are deeply in love, I think they have an intrinsic understanding that they wouldn’t give that up for a mere crush, which makes those crushes easier to chat about.’
This all sounds very grown-up and positive, but when I told my partner about my crush, they flew off the handle so hard that they ripped the damn metaphorical door off its idiomatic hinges. What does their angry/upset reaction mean?
‘If you jokily mention that someone on the telly gets you so wet that you need wellies and your boyfriend explodes with rage, or a casual comment that you were served by a fit barman on a girls’ night out prompts him to start sobbing that you don’t love him enough, it’s a bad sign,’ warns Felicity, 26 (who’s studying to be a relationship counsellor).
‘If a lover gets massively bothered by a lighthearted conversation about crushes – or if you find yourself getting wound up or upset by him innocuously referring to another girl – then there might be issues related to low self-esteem, jealousy, a desire to control someone too much, or some other problem.
‘These troubles could be to do with the relationship, or related to the individual. Either way, they suggest that something isn’t right, and needs examination.’
**Hmmm, I’m not sure. Are you certain I wasn’t just being an offensive douchebagpipe by gushing to my boyf about other people who make me swoon? I can understand why that might be seen as hurtful. I’m secure in myself and my relationship, but I’d be gutted if I was having a bit of a downer day and my boyfriend wouldn’t shut up about Jennifer Lawrence’s bottom or how cool the new lass at work is. **
Like a big neon hard-on tenting a pair of transparent trousers, this is a strong point that’s impossible to ignore. As right-on as it may be to converse with your beau about crushes, as with any sensitive subject, there’s a time, a place, and a way to go about it without being a total knobgoblin.
‘You have to pick your moment to discuss a crush – and make sure it’s a moment, not hours and hours of you enthusing about someone, and repeatedly bringing them up,’ sighs Rebecca, 22. ‘There’s a difference between nonchalantly saying you think someone’s fit, and obsessing over them.
‘When my ex mentioned he fancied his female driving instructor, at first I thought it was funny and it became a bit of an in-joke between us – I’d rib him when he went for his weekly lesson. But when he wouldn’t stop fanboying about her all day, every day, it became aggravating and gross.’
Whenever I’ve spoken about crushes with past boyfriends, I’ve tried to keep the tone light and humorous – not too intense. Without trying to patronise, I’ve been careful to give my partner more praise than I do any fantasy figure, in order to reassure them and avoid them feeling like Number Two (as in both ‘secondary to someone else’ and ‘shit’).
While dating a naturally very skinny guy whose arms were so slender that they looked like two of his pit hairs had grown long and acquired fingers, I avoided ratting on too much about my lust for Jason Momoa, who has more muscles than the flagship branch of Belgo – there was no way my lover could have changed his body type, and I didn’t want him to feel inadequate.
In fact, while we were together, I found myself fancying slimmer celebs, like Andy Biersack, and telling him about these more physically relatable crushes seemed more constructive.
Are there any particular types of crush that are like Fight Club: the rule is that you never, ever talk about them at all?
My sample bunch of pals unanimously agreed that if you fancy someone you or your partner are related to, you should keep your gob as permanently shut as Woolworths.
‘I secretly fancy my wife’s sister,’ admitted one anonymous associate. ‘I will never tell her. It’s a line that just doesn’t need to be crossed.’
‘If my bloke said he was attracted to anyone in our families, I’d think it was freaky as fuck,’ stated Bridget, 23. ‘Ugh. No. Keep that one hidden in your brain, and never let it make its way to your mouth.’
Making the ‘Your mum/dad’s well sexy. I’ll be chuffed if you look like that when we both hit 60’ remark is a common joke, intended to flatter, but if you actually have a genuine crush on one of your partner’s parents, best keep schtum about wanting to boff their mum, and say nada about their deliciously doable dada.
‘I went into wayyyy too much detail about what a gorgeous older woman I though my girlfriend’s mother was,' cringes Toby, 25. ‘It didn’t just make things weird between the two of us, it made her resent her mum for a bit, like she was competition, which I felt awful about.’
Most folks also agreed that if you still fancy your ex, you shouldn’t pipe up about it, while others suggested that confessing to crushing on your partner’s best mate could cause awkwardness, as it was ‘just too close to home’. Some also advised caution in coming clean about having impure thoughts about anyone you’d spend considerable amounts of close time with away from your partner – a colleague, for instance, or a best friend – lest you plant a seed of suspicion in your lover’s mind that something more is going on.
What about fantasising about someone else you fancy during sex with your partner? Ever OK?
Responses to this carnal conundrum are best summarised by Ben, 24, who says: ‘Thinking about other people now and again while shagging is normal. Loads of people do it, but only an absolute asshole tells you they’re doing it.’
‘If you’re never focused on the person you’re actually fucking, then that might suggest a problem, but indulging in a fantasy once in a while is legit, I reckon,’ says Chloe. ‘My fella and I have also role-played together, pretending to be film stars we both think are sexy – I’m not saying who! I really got off on him playing my dream character, although I did worry a bit when I returned the favour that I might not live up to what was in his mind.’
Finally then, when does a crush start to crush your relationship? What’s the difference between ‘innocent’ and ‘injurious’?
‘It’s fine to look at the menu – you just can’t order off it,’ says Charlotte. 'And if you find yourself truly wanting a portion of someone else, it’s time to consider whether there are aspects of your current relationship that are lacking, and make moves to fix them – or break up.’
‘Your partner should always hold the top spot in your heart and soul,’ proclaims Rebecca. ‘If any kind of crush starts taking up too much space, and nudging your lover into second place, that’s dangerous.’
Flirting a little with an IRL crush can give you an ego boost and a burst of adrenaline – both of which can benefit your love life at home – but take care not to over-indulge, nor to give your crush the misleading impression that you want to take things further if you don’t. That’s asking for trouble.
Every partner and every relationship is different. Each will have their own unique sensitivities, boundaries and agreements, and only you will know if a crush is getting out of hand, taking over your head, or otherwise giving cause for concern. If a crush consumes you too much in any respect, it will likely eat into your relationship.
Just one closing note: if you can’t be with your girlfriend at Christmas, and she’s sent you an impassioned message telling you how much she loves and misses you, she won’t be pleased if the first person you contact yourself on Christmas Day is not her but instead your celeb crush Alexa Chung, who you’ve tweeted at burbling about how beautiful she is.
That, my friend, will merely earn you a rant about ‘priorities’ and a snubbed (ex) partner shouting at you that she hopes all your Pumpkin Spice Lattes taste like Blumpkin Spite Shart-es forevermore, so that you can not only eat shit, but drink it too. So there.
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Follow Alix on Twitter: @AlixFox
Illustration: Karolina Burdon
This article originally appeared on The Debrief.