It’s not uncommon for a single person to fall in love with a married person. It’s not an ideal situation — and yet, many people find themselves in it. Among the main reasons why married people seem attractive is their general confidence in (seemingly) romantic relationships. They are not riddled with the pressure single folks feel to be in a relationship, and this makes the latter nervous and awkward, especially in the beginning, which is the most critical time for attraction to be kindled.
A 32-year-old client of mine, J is in love with a colleague. They work in different teams but often collaborate on projects. He is married. J and her colleague have never admitted to each other that they have feelings for each other. But something about how he behaves with her, makes her feel that he is equally interested — the two of them enjoy working together whenever the opportunity arises; they try to have lunch together when possible; at office get-togethers, they mostly only spend time with each other.
Besides finding her colleague attractive, J feels that they connect very well at an intellectual level, too. She says, for her, it is a rare experience to have both physical attraction and intellectual connection come together like they should for romantic relationships. J and her colleague can talk about anything, and there is an ease of interaction that she has not felt with any man before.
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It’s been over six months that she has been feeling this way. J calls it love; she does not know what to do. They’ve never met outside of the context of work, just the two of them. She has never asked him out and neither has he. As she speaks of her conundrum, the fact that her colleague is married seems to be the least of her concerns. The things she is worried about are a) will it be okay to tell her colleague how she feels about him? b) what are the probable outcomes of her sharing her feelings with a married man? c) how awkward it could get if he rejects her.
I remind her that her colleague is married, but J says this has long stopped bothering her — she has made peace with the knowledge that if something does progress with this colleague, it will most likely be temporary. She adds that there isn’t much else going on currently by way of romance, and this, while it may not be ideal, is at least something.
The problem with this statement is that everyone wants to eventually end up with the person they love – we tend to be programmed that way. We might enter into a casual situationship knowing in our minds that this is temporary, but invariably, our emotions throw us under the bus.
I saw this with another client, M, who I coached for heartbreak post an affair. Despite the clarity from both parties during their affair that this was temporary and that she would not leave her husband, M fell in love with her. When she ended the affair, the emotional turmoil M went through far surpassed the good times they had experienced.
It makes one wonder then, if J or M had their own longterm interests in mind in these situations: J’s approach was one where she felt she could go along with this because nothing else was happening romantically. M’s approach was to believe that he will be able to handle his emotions in the aftermath of this temporary relationship.
My advice would be to always avoid such situations. Knowing that the other person is unavailable for a committed relationship is red flag enough. You may think you will not catch feelings, or get emotionally attached. In reality, however, spending so much quality time together, getting intimate, and also experiencing the adrenalin rush of any rendezvous, will only mean that feelings are bound to develop. Alternatively, if you still end up in a situation like this, go into it being aware of its emotional implications.
Society usually expects that there’s a set path to falling in love — that you get to know each other, fall in love, and then proceed to being committed to your partner. However, when we find ourselves in situations that throw this sequence to the wind and fall in love with people who are unavailable for us, we feel at sea. In such times, the only way forward is to remember to focus on what’s best for you in the long run. This helps especially in moving on. If your personal goal is to be with someone in the future, then let go of the person who’s keeping you from that.
This is a limited series by Simran Mangharam, a dating and relationship coach, who can be reached on email@example.com