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Question

My wife of 25 years has a serious crush on a guy we do volunteer work with. When we are working together she tries to spend as much time with him as she can. She has admitted to the crush and says she can’t control it. I am at a loss what to do.

Answer 

Your wife may believe she can’t control her feelings, but that is simply not true. She’s not only allowing the feelings for this other guy to linger, but she’s also choosing to move closer to him. There are several decision points where she can choose something different. She’s not powerless. Even though you are powerless to stop her, you aren’t powerless to make decisions for your own life if she continues on this path.

Attraction and chemistry are unpredictable, but completely manageable. It’s not unusual to discover a strong connection with another person who isn’t our spouse. Our social networks are full of attractive, interesting, and engaging people who might grab our attention. However, the strength of this attention grows or shrinks depending on whether we nurture it or block it. There is nothing wrong with internally acknowledging that there is some energy with another person, but if you want to avoid further trouble, it’s time to widen the distance.

The vulnerability to feeling infatuated with another person increases when there are unacknowledged emotional or relationship needs. It doesn’t always mean there is trouble in the marriage. Your wife may or may not have issues with her marriage to you, but this is certainly an opportunity to begin talking about what’s happening to her.

If she’s unwilling to create distance with him, I recommend you find a different place to volunteer. If she’s unwilling to switch locations, then you will have to decide if you want a front row seat watching your wife flirt with another man. She may not understand why she has these strong feelings, but she can create some space until she can sort them out.

You don’t have to passively wait to see what she does, especially if she’s actively building a connection with this other man. In fact, the more she moves toward him, the more difficult it will be for her to choose out. Elder Robert D. Hales taught this principle of how disobedience limits our agency. He said:

“In our mortal journey, it is helpful to remember that…when we don’t keep the commandments or follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, our opportunities are reduced; our abilities to act and progress are diminished.”[i]

Speak clearly with your wife about your concerns and invite her to talk with you about this relationship and why she chooses to pursue proximity to him. If she’s willing to set boundaries with him and talk openly with you, then there is hope for your marriage. If she refuses to talk and continues to find ways to connect with him, then you’ll need to make some decisions about your marriage.

Healthy marriages can tolerate virtually any type of difficult discussion if there are protective walls around the marriage. These walls safeguard the marriage and keep outside threats from breaking security and trust. If she has confused feelings, complaints, hurts, unmet needs, or other struggles, these are things you guys can work through together or with professional support.

The biggest threat isn’t her feelings. It’s her unwillingness to keep distance from him and protect her marriage. This is the most important request you can make right now. Let her know you’re willing to listen and sort through anything as long as there is a guarantee of protection of the marriage.

 

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at geoff@lovingmarriage.com

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.geoffsteurer.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

You can connect with him at:
Website: www.lovingmarriage.com
Twitter: @geoffsteurer
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

[i] https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/10/agency-essential-to-the-plan-of-life?lang=eng