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Carolyn Hax: A great married life – and caught off guard by a crush

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: I’m happily married with three great kids, a job I love, and a pretty good work-life balance overall. And I find myself in an unfamiliar situation: I have a HUGE crush. This guy is a friend and neighbor, we run in the same neighborhood social circles, our kids are friends, we go to kids’ activities together, my husband is also close friends with him, and we have some professional overlap as well.

I see him probably two or three times a week and look forward to seeing him again – I comb my hair before walking the dog if I see him, etc. We also text each other sometimes, mostly about the kids, but the texts often turn into longer conversations – NEVER flirtatious. There is nothing I don’t want to show my husband, but I am well aware that I look forward to those texts too.

I’m in my early 40s, married for 17 years – but I’ve only been with my husband since we were teenagers – and nothing like this has ever happened to me. All of my friends are close to my husband or this girlfriend, so I feel like I can’t talk to anyone about this. What should I DO?

Shredded: Wait. And slow it down in little ways that no one but you notice – like cutting off your part of those “longer conversations” where you long to feed them. Temptation is best resisted when it’s early and you’re resisting, say, a text message instead of a real person in your presence. Think of cookies: They’re easiest to resist when they’re in the store and you’re shopping on a full stomach, they’re hardest to resist when they’re on your plate and you’re starving.

This also includes not talking about it. That only drives up the price of oil.

Extinguishing is more an insurance policy against yourself than anything else, against what you can’t let become wrong. It’s not a punishment for already doing something wrong. A crush outside of a relationship isn’t inherently a bad thing; it’s natural and a good reminder to brush your hair every now and then. It’s just not realistic to expect to have feelings for no one forever (though I take my hat off to the couples who manage to do that).

Not only is this normal, but your marriage can actually be better with a few mind wanders. It all depends on how you handle the feelings and who you choose to benefit from your hot dog haircut.

For Crushed: Sometimes a crush isn’t about the crush. Maybe you should take a closer look at your own life and marriage. Is there something missing that the crush speaks to/represents? Could you address that?

Anonymous: Every crush lacks what every long-term relationship lacks: something new. Be skeptical, therefore.

There can always be more interesting lessons, too, so yes, it’s worth considering. But only after generously allowing for boredom.

Subject: Crushed: A good idea: Think of everything that is unpleasant about him. It doesn’t matter whether he’s serious or not. He snaps at dogs. He doesn’t like brownies. He wears sweaters. He has an ugly car. It helps.

Was there: If there were ever two truer words than “ugly car,” I’m not sure I’m ready to know them.

I think I have a crush on this answer. I’ve given similar advice in the past, but never was it this sweet.

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