By AMANDA GOLDBERG
A few weeks ago, my husband James* and I were heading home after a friend’s birthday party. I had arrived to the party late, so on the post-party subway ride, James updated me on what happened in my absence. Specifically, he told me about a conversation he’d had with another friend of ours.
“She likes The Replacements!” he shared, giddily. “I never knew we had the same taste in music.”
I smiled. “And she’s pretty, too.”
“Well, yeah,” James grinned back.
“Aww, you have a crush on her, don’t you?” I teased.
“Maybe a little,” he confessed, before moving on to other topics.
For some couples, this exchange may have led to a longer discussion about fidelity and commitment. But James and I have always talked openly about crushes. We’ve never operated under the assumption that there’s no one else in the world that we find attractive or appealing. Over the seven years that we’ve been together, we’ve both developed passing crushes on others, but none of those feelings have ever developed into larger ones. I believe this is because James and I acknowledge our crushes as they happen, rather than hide them from each other or deny their existence.
James and I have been together since before we were legally able to drink. We’ve lovingly committed our lives to each other, but we also know that there are a lot of experiences we’ve both missed out on as a result of finding each other and committing to this at such a young age. For the most part, we’re both OK with that. We wouldn’t have decided to get married if we weren’t. But we don’t feel prepared to tell each other that we aren’t allowed to be attracted to anyone else. Enforcing that sort of expectation would do more harm than good to our relationship, as it would stifle us from being our true selves. Communicating about our crushes helps us see them for what they are—momentary distractions—in the context of what really matters to us: our marriage.
This isn’t to say that crushes are necessarily insignificant feelings. Crushes tell us who we find physically attractive, who we want to befriend, and, possibly, who we’d want to try dating if we had the opportunity. But crushes are, by their nature, fleeting. Crushes don’t necessarily lead to love or romance or commitment; in fact, I’d argue that most of them don’t. It’s only when crushes are forbidden or taboo that the curiosity grows, leading to the development of romantic feelings or infidelity. When crushes are acknowledged and communicated, it’s much easier to see them for what they are, rather than what might be. Crushes indicate that feelings exist, but not that those feelings will develop into anything stronger than what they already are. To believe that crushes are that powerful is to undermine the strength of one’s existing committed relationship.
And my commitment to James is a strong one. In fact, I believe that our ability to communicate about our crushes is a testament to the strength of our commitment. We may occasionally find others attractive, but there are certain aspects of life that we keep between the two of us. Our marriage means that we make joint financial decisions and share a bank account. It means that we make time for “just us” by going out on dates and having romantic nights at home together. It means we support each other’s aspirations and professional opportunities. It means we take vacations and spend holidays together. It means that we fall asleep together in the same bed every night. To us, that’s fidelity. That’s commitment. All of that creates a strong bond of intimacy that matters more to us than whether or not we only have eyes for each other.
When couples decide to marry, they have faith that their relationship will overcome all obstacles. Many do, but others are not so lucky. It’s impossible to know into which camp a given marriage will fall when the vows are initially exchanged. So I can’t say that I know with 100% certainty that none of the crushes James and I experience will remain harmless. What I can say, though, is that, whatever is to come, we are prepared for it. Our honest communication, the trust we have in one another, and the love we share will guide us as we continue our marriage. The future is a mystery, but an exciting one, and I am glad that I will be navigating it with the love of my life—my husband.
*All names have been changed.
This article was originally published on Role/Reboot here and has been republished with full permission.
Amanda Goldberg is the pseudonym of a New York-based freelance writer.