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Is it normal to have mini crushes?

Is it OK to Have a Crush While in a Relationship?

We’ve all felt butterflies in our stomachs when we find a new person attractive. While having a crush is entirely normal, it can also cause worry if you’re in a committed long-term relationship. But, if you have a crush while in a relationship, does that mean you’re being disrespectful, or even unfaithful?

In most cases, a crush is pretty harmless — healthy, even. But, if you’re worried about finding someone other than your partner attractive, whether it’s a co-worker or the cute barista at your local cafe, there are some potential signs to look out for.

Let’s learn a little more about crushes, why they’re normal, and when they might go too far.

What does it mean to have a crush on someone?

A crush typically means that you feel a strong attraction toward somebody. The definition of a crush is “a strong but temporary feeling of liking someone.” Liking is the operative word here, and it can mean very different things.

Crushes can be friendly, romantic, or sexual in nature. Whatever the exact meaning, having a crush on somebody means that you have the desire to be around them. Usually, that desire lasts for a short amount of time before fading away.

Having a small crush is normal, but it could potentially damage a committed relationship if it develops into real feelings, or if you allow it to go too far.

If you’re worried about liking someone else while in a relationship, keep reading to learn the signs of a crush.

What are the signs of having a crush on someone?

Common signs of having a crush on someone can include the following:

Thinking about the person regularly.
Feeling like every time you see them is the first time.
Talking about your crush a lot more than usual.
Feeling strange or shy when you speak with your crush.
Daydreaming about them or wanting to spend time with them.
You might feel infatuated or fantasize about them sexually.

Having crushes is part of being human. But is it ok to have a crush when you’re in a monogamous relationship?

Is having crushes while in a relationship bad?

It depends. A regular, harmless crush that goes no further can have minimal impact on a relationship. A 2019 study found that having a crush while in a relationship was very common. It also found, in most cases, that the crush had very few negative impacts on those relationships.

The timing of a crush can make things slightly different. If you’ve got a crush on someone else while you’re in the early days or honeymoon phase of your relationship, it might not even play on your mind. If you’ve got a crush on someone else while going through a rough patch, that might be a cause for concern.

Unfortunately, we can’t control when we find someone attractive. It just sort of happens. If you feel secure in your current relationship, then the crush is probably harmless. If you start to wonder what life would be like with them instead of your current partner, or if they might be the one, it might be time to reflect on the future of your relationship.

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Is having a crush while in a relationship cheating?

No two couples are alike, and we all have different definitions of cheating. What counts as cheating depends on you and your partner’s boundaries, as well as whether or not you practice monogamy. So it’s up to you to discuss what does and doesn’t constitute infidelity.

But generally speaking, having an innocent crush and not physically or emotionally acting on it, isn’t cheating. People can’t help finding someone attractive — and people in loving, healthy relationships probably won’t act on a crush.

But, while having a crush on someone other than your partner is normal, it could cross into dangerous territory. Your crush might start to damage your relationship, or count as cheating if you notice any of the following signs:

Is the crush causing problems in the relationship, or between you and your partner?
Has the crush started to affect your mental health or wellness?
Are you hiding anything from your partner?
Are you in regular contact with your crush — or maybe even discussing an affair?
Do you go to your crush for emotional, real-life, relationship-based issues?
Has your crush turned into an obsession?

Sexual contact with your crush would be considered cheating. But it’s also possible to have emotional affairs. If you find that you start to replace your partner with your crush for emotional connections, then it might be considered infidelity.

If you’re in a long-term relationship but have feelings for someone else, think about the emotional component.

“Partners that consistently turn toward one another for soothing comfort and sexual intimacy strengthen their romantic bond,” says Terri DiMatteo, licensed professional counselor and relationship therapist. If you’ve started to replace your partner with someone else, then this crush might start to become harmful.

What should you do if you have a crush while in a relationship?

Liking someone else while in a committed relationship is not uncommon. In most healthy relationships, it’s not something to worry about and you might choose to tell your partner or not.

But if the crush is playing on your mind, it might show that you’re longing for something extra in your long-term relationship. Think about things and be honest with yourself — is there anything deeper playing on your mind? If not, great. If there is, it might be time for some honest communication with your partner.

Is it a good idea to talk to your partner about your crush?

You might choose to talk to your partner if you have a little crush on someone. Sometimes, it might be best just to keep it to yourself, especially if you know it’s harmless, but it might upset them. How would your partner feel if you told them?

In some cases, telling your partner can cause jealousy and arouse suspicion. Of course, you shouldn’t hide things from your partner, but some small crushes can become a distant memory within days.

If you think the crush might cause issues or show a problem in your relationship, then it might be time to talk. Try to share the news gently, explaining how it’s just a crush. There’s no telling how somebody might react, no matter how innocent the feelings are.

Your significant other might even want to know — the additional honesty could help you become closer. One thing’s for sure: if the crush is impacting your relationship, then talking is probably the best way to go.

What are the consequences of having a crush while in a relationship?

If you have a crush while in a relationship you might feel many things. Giddy, excited, attractive — perhaps innocently flirty? You might also feel embarrassed and confused.

Crushes are natural and usually harmless, and we never quite know how we’ll react.

If you’re finding that a crush is causing trouble within your relationship, think about what steps you can take to emotionally disconnect from your feelings towards this person, then talk to your partner about these steps. Your relationship could become that much stronger for it.

Is It Wrong to Have a Crush While in a Relationship?

Developing a crush while in the throes of romantic commitment can be a confusing and anxiety-inducing experience. When I called for ideas for Crush Month, multiple people brought it up. So in honor of illicit crushes online and everywhere, we’re republishing an Ask MR column, originally published in January 2018, that tackles that very topic. P.S. You can always ask us questions via comment, DM, or email to [email protected] -Haley

Hey Man Repeller,
Is it okay to have a crush when you’re in a relationship? I have one and I’m stressed/don’t know who to talk to about this.

A crush can be a lot of things: an appreciation for your barista’s charisma, a jokey obsession with a celebrity figure, straight-up romantic interest with intention to boot. Human affection is an expansive, complicated thing, and it’s not something that turns off the moment you enter a relationship.

Of course, it’s a little more complicated than that, and there are a few ways to read your question: Is it cheating to have a crush while committed elsewhere? Does my crush mean something’s wrong with my relationship? Is it morally objectionable? I think the answers are probably nots across the board, at least at first blush, but at the heart of all these lies a larger question of loyalty, and what it constitutes inside a modern monogamous relationship.

In other words: How monogamous must I be for this to work? It’s a relevant and prescient question given how quickly the definition of commitment is evolving. As monogamy becomes a purely emotional choice rather than one rooted in tradition and practicality, must my every emotion be all in? Is anything else betrayal?

In my view, of course not, but that’s not to say I think crushes don’t matter.

It’s easy to get swept up in the romantic idea that true love stops the clock on your heart. It’s also comforting, especially when used as a tool to explain away the squirmy idea of a partner being attracted to someone else. I’ve used it myself. But imposing those kinds of boundaries on human emotion do nothing but blind us and rob us of our agency. Banning attraction would be tantamount to banning masturbation or sex altogether — the rule would be followed for as long as it took to break it. But can’t two people choosing each other in spite of other attractions be romantic in its own way? And further, can’t their appreciation of each other’s rich inner lives make their shared one even more expansive?

Attraction is a weird beast. I understand the impulse to want to frame it and control it. But it takes a lot of self-exploration (and self-permission) to understand yourself well enough to untangle your desires, and none of that can be done if you’re too busy denying yourself the full spectrum. There are times I’ve entertained romantic thoughts about someone while in a fulfilling relationship as a fun hypothetical, a daydream. Other times, I’ve fostered crushes and let them grow in my mind because I was dissatisfied with a partner. Neither was wrong, per se, but the former taught me something about myself, and the latter showed me something important when I was ready to listen. Wasting time on parsing the rules did nothing for either.

In my recent writing on relationships — about good sex and mystery and cheating and bad sex and exes — I’ve put a lot of emphasis on agency. It’s a concept I came around to a little late in my romantic life, but it’s really transformed my relationship with myself and others. It’s much easier to put everyone in boxes (I’m monogamous, therefore I look at no one else; he’s in love with me, therefore he sees only me) but I’ve learned that appreciating someone’s wholeness and courting their inner life with respect and curiosity — and doing the same to yourself — only stands to deepen and strengthen relationships.

If you have a crush, the more important question than “Is it okay?” is: “What does it offer me?” A playful sense of fantasy? A temporary mental escape from a rough patch? A self-esteem boost? A window into something that’s truly missing? A peek into your lizard brain? Crushes can show and tell us a lot, not just because our subconscious sometimes knows things before we do, but because crushes are hypothetical — they’re unbound by the grounding principles that make relationships live and breathe (hard parts included), and in that they offer soaring insight in the abstract.

Don’t rob yourself of that insight. In the emotional realm, black-and-white rules constrict us to black-and-white thinking. They take the emotionality out of the reason we behave the way we do. Attraction is normal; a crush isn’t inherently good or bad, but a good hard look at its impetus and context might prove enlightening. Only you can find that answer within yourself — just give yourself a little time and space to sift it out.

Photo by Fairfax Media/Fairfax Media via Getty Images.

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