Psychologist and author Kerry Howard answers your trickiest questions about sex, relationships and love. This week, she shares her expert advice on how to deal when you're in a long-term relationship but you're attracted to another person. "These types of connections in our mid-life are not unusual, in fact they are extremely common," Kerry says.
Q. I’ve been married for 15 years and I’m attracted to someone I work with. I haven’t acted on it but I feel tremendously guilty. Is it a sign there are serious problems in my marriage? Should I tell my husband?
After 15 years in a relationship, it is not uncommon to find that you know each other really well, the good and the bad. We take for granted the person that we see every day. The shine can disappear from the relationship with the “reality” of daily living, and we can find that our resentment towards our partner can grow, making us feel disconnected from them.
When our relationship at home seems to be lacking lustre, the guy at work suddenly takes on an Adonis-like position in our lives. Your dopamine is activated every time you see him and before you know it you are fantasising about how good your life would be if you were together. This is because your brain has constructed an entire life around this person's smile across the boardroom table. His smile might be perfect, but he really isn't.
These types of connections in our midlife are not unusual, in fact, they are extremely common. The issue is not in the connection, the attraction or even the fantasy — it's in your actions. As long as you haven't actually taken any action, there is nothing to confess to your husband. The guilt is there because of the fantasy you have created about what you would like to happen between you, and you need to decide what it is that you really want.
Developing an attraction to someone else is going to happen at varying times in our life, but it is often much stronger when your relationship is not fulfilling. So you really need to look at your marriage and decide what has happened that has created an environment that allowed for this attraction to someone else to really blossom.
It appears that you are very committed to your marriage, which is why this attraction is such a source of guilt for you. I would suggest that you might like to talk to your husband about your relationship and consider taking some time together to try and reconnect. If you are aware of the relationship issues, you might like to seek out a good relationship therapist or book yourselves into a “Couples Workshop” where you will learn to improve your communication processes and enhance your connection.
If your husband is as committed to the relationship as you are, he will be happy to engage in a process that will improve your relationship. The problem is usually that women are very good at assuming that their partner should know what the issues in their relationship are and so we won't take the time to spell it out to them. This is really unfair on them because they don't think like we do, you need to ensure that you have his attention and clearly explain to him why you are feeling a disconnection between the two of you and what you would like to do to resolve it. Keep your language clear, calm and considered — the three 'Cs' of communication.
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