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It’s not a situation that anyone aims to end up in, yet a lot of people find themselves married but in love with someone else.
It’ll be pretty clear to you if you feel this way (especially if you’re reading this now), but you might not have a clue what to actually do about it.
This is a very complex situation and one size doesn’t fit all, which is why we’re going to cover a lot of different options and outcomes so that you can do your best to figure out how you should move forwards.
Remember that, while this isn’t the nicest situation to be in, the fact that you’re reading this article shows you want to do something about it and find a solution, which is the best possible approach for everyone involved.
If nothing has happened… yet.
Okay, so you’ve realized you’ve got feelings for another man or woman who isn’t your partner.
Nothing has actually happened, but you’re tempted. What are you meant to do?!
Firstly, evaluate how genuine these feelings are. There’s obviously something behind them, but it’s important to work out what that is before you make any big decision.
A lot of us develop feelings for people who aren’t our partners, and this can be for a huge range of reasons.
Consider how strong your marriage is – are you not getting the attention you want? Is your spouse withholding affection (intentionally or otherwise)? If this is the case, you may be looking to get that from someone else.
It might not be the other person that you’re in love with, but the feelings of confidence, attractiveness, and appreciation that you’re enjoying.
Think about whether or not you actually like the other person, or just the way they make you feel.
If you realize you don’t actually love the other person, you need to find a way to get that same satisfaction and rush from your partner – which is a totally different issue, but definitely one you can work on!
You also need to think about the realities of these feelings. Again, it might not be the actual person you like outside your marriage, but the idea of them.
Maybe you like the idea of an escape or excitement, or you like the romanticized version of the other person.
You might not like the reality of them, which may be a boring future once the adrenaline of hiding and secrets wears off.
You might have seen them at work and found them very attractive because they’re charming and sexy – but they may also have different values to you and have character traits that you wouldn’t find attractive.
Remember that you’re attracted to what you know of them (which is likely to be quite different to your partner and therefore more exciting), and not their whole selves.
If you picture you two dating in reality, it might look very different to you dating in your fantasies.
Okay, so you might have realized that you do actually love this other man or woman for who they are and think things could genuinely work. If so, we’re very sorry – this is a horrible situation to be in and can make things feel very stressful and difficult. We’ll run through some more advice on how to manage this below.
If you’ve already acted on it…
It can be very hard not to act on our feelings, especially if they’re intensified by the adrenaline rush of secrecy.
Cheating on a spouse is not something most people set out to do, but it does happen and there are often a lot of different reasons behind it.
If things have already happened between you and this other person you’re in love with, you need to think carefully about what to do next.
We would always recommend that you tell your spouse that you cheated. We know it’s not easy, but being honest with your spouse is the best way to move forward.
You might have realized, having spent time together, that you don’t want anything else to happen with this other person and that you do genuinely love your partner.
If this is the case, you owe it to your partner to be honest.
If you are not pursuing things with the other person, it’s because you want to make things work with your husband or wife – and things will not work with them if you keep this secret.
They may be more understanding than you think, as they may be aware of whatever issues drove you to this in the first place. Either way, you cannot invest in your marriage without being honest.
If you want to continue to see the person outside your marriage that you have feelings for, you need to think about the best way to do this.
Again, we would recommend being honest with your partner. It might feel very confusing to choose between your spouse and the other person, but you do need to make a decision at some point.
What should you do if you’re married but in love with someone else?
We’ve touched upon this already, but we’re sure it’s a pressing issue on your mind.
We’ll go into more detail in terms of exploring how you feel and why later, but this section covers some of the things you can do now.
1. Talk to loved ones.
Speak to people you love and trust, and who won’t let anything slip to your partner.
If you’ve fallen in love with another man or woman who isn’t your spouse, you’re likely to be feeling quite confused (and potentially guilty) about those feelings, and you need to offload.
While it’s a difficult topic to discuss, you owe it to your well-being and sanity to get it off your chest and out of your mind.
You can choose how much detail you go into, but it might be worth seeking the advice, or simply ears, of someone close to you. There is always the option to seek professional counseling here too.
2. Communicate with your partner.
If you know why you’re looking elsewhere or falling for someone else, you should consider discussing that reason with your partner.
We’ll run through some reasons below, but, if you know that it’s because you feel taken for granted, for example, you can speak to your spouse about this.
Do it calmly, in a non-confrontational way, and let them know how it makes you feel. They may not realize they’re doing it and you might be surprised at how quickly they change their behavior – and how quickly it makes you want to change yours too.
3. Set some boundaries and remove the temptation.
If you’re married and in love with someone else, you might want to give yourself some time to figure out what to do.
You can help this process by setting some boundaries with the other man or woman.
If you’re having an affair, stop seeing each other while you work out what you want to do. If they are worth your time and heart, they’ll understand and respect this.
You could stop texting as often, stop going to the bar you know they’ll be at, or, if nothing has happened yet, stop yourself from interacting with them full stop.
The less the temptation, the more you can focus on what you really want to do – attraction, lust, and confusing emotions aside.
Can you love both of them?
You may be finding it very hard to process how you’re feeling, which is completely normal. Falling in love with some else while married is a very confusing situation to be in.
We know some people say that you can’t truly love someone if you can cheat on them, but it’s much more complicated than that.
You can love people in different ways, and your needs may evolve over time, meaning they might not continue to be met over the course of your marriage for whatever reason.
It is entirely possible to love more than one person at once, whether things have happened with the second person or not.
Why have you fallen for someone else?
As we’ve touched on above, it’s really worth thinking about why you’ve managed to develop feelings for someone outside your marriage.
1. You need to fill the gap your spouse has left.
It might be because there is something missing from your marriage. Maybe you no longer have sex with your spouse, and you’ve been missing sharing a physical, intimate connection with someone.
Maybe that lack of sex has meant that you’re more attracted to other people who are outwardly projecting sexual vibes, or you’re more open to sexual chemistry.
2. You want to be appreciated.
It might be that you feel taken for granted in your marriage and you no longer feel appreciated or respected.
You might have found someone who acknowledges the little things you do and makes you feel like you’re cared about and valued in a way that your wife or husband isn’t doing.
3. You long to feel good about yourself again.
You might have fallen in love with someone else because your partner no longer seems to find you attractive.
This links to the lack of sex, but it might also be because your partner never pays attention to you anymore.
Maybe they no longer notice when you’ve changed your hair, or when you make an effort with your clothes. Maybe they’ve turned down your advances or no longer compliment you.
Either way, if your partner doesn’t make you feel sexy and attractive, it might explain why you’ve been more open to the advances of someone else who does make you feel that way.
4. Your marriage is not what it once was.
Some marriages can become loveless over time. It’s heartbreaking, but things and people change as the years go by.
It can take children moving out or big lifestyle changes (such as new jobs, retirement, or moving house) for couples to realize that things have changed within the relationship too.
You might no longer feel close to your wife or husband in the way that you used to. Maybe you no longer spend quality time together or share intimate moments with each other.
Your marriage might feel as though you’re both just going through the motions, running on auto-pilot to get from one day to the next.
You can still love them in some ways, but there just isn’t love in the marriage anymore.
This is often the reason that people seek affection, attention, and love elsewhere. They no longer feel like they’re in a relationship, and they want to feel that way again – even if it’s with someone new.
5. Your partner was unfaithful in the past.
If your partner has cheated on you in the past, you might be more likely to look elsewhere yourself.
You might feel that the marriage is already tainted or ‘ruined,’ so you feel as though there is less to lose or risk if you fall in love with someone else.
You may also be doing it to get revenge, on some level, whether consciously or subconsciously. You might want them to experience the pain that can come from being cheated on.
Equally, that may have been your initial intention, but you might have actually found comfort with someone else and have developed genuine feelings for them, despite only wanting to do it out of spite to start with.
Is it genuine or a symptom of an unhealthy marriage?
As with the examples we’ve mentioned above, it’s very important to think about the reasoning behind you falling for someone else. This can help you work out what these feelings really mean.
1. You’re in love with a fantasy.
We’ve touched on it above, but you might have fallen for the idea of someone as opposed to the reality of someone.
It’s very easy to romanticize something new and exciting that makes us feel desired and appreciated, but we need to ask ourselves whether or not that’s really what’s happening.
You might like the idea of the person from work you’re falling in love with because they are not like your husband/wife – they are younger, they are more interesting, and, of course, you’ve not yet experienced domestic monotony with them.
The idea of them is exciting and dream-like, but the reality might not actually be that far from your current situation!
Think about whether or not you have feelings for this person specifically, or just any person that gives you an outlet from your marriage and something to fantasize about in your daydreams.
2. You’re craving what your partner doesn’t give you.
Again, we can often get attached to the feelings that someone gives us as opposed to the reality of being with them.
If you have been in a loveless or unhappy marriage, it makes total sense that you could fall very quickly for someone who gives you the attention and affection you’ve been lacking.
It’s understandable that you would look elsewhere for this – we all need a certain level of love in our lives in order to function!
If we’re used to physical contact from a loved one, for example, it can feel heart-wrenching to suddenly have that taken from us, especially if it’s taken by the actual person who normally gives us it!
You might find that you are simply addicted to the feelings that this new person can give you.
There are certain chemicals released from physical and emotional affection that stimulate our brain and make us feel great and ‘high,’ such as dopamine.
These can be released through hugging, laughing with a loved one, sex, emotional intimacy, etc.
If you’re feeling ‘high’ after seeing someone that isn’t your spouse, try to establish whether that’s genuine feelings for the individual, or the sheer joy of receiving affection and attention from anyone.
3. You’re not being sexually fulfilled.
We touched on the issue around physical intimacy and sex earlier, but it’s really important to consider how much of a role that is playing in how you feel (or think you feel) about this other person.
You might not have slept with your wife or husband for a long time, and that might be driving your decision to consider cheating on them.
Some couples have very mismatched sex drives, which can become even more apparent, and difficult to manage, over time.
If you haven’t had sex for a long time but still get the urge and really want to, you might be struggling to stay faithful.
If you know there is someone else you could be having sex with, or someone has flirted with you or been suggestive, you’ll become very, very aware of the fact that you have that ‘option,’ so to speak.
Think about whether you genuinely have feelings for this other person, or if you just enjoy having sex with them – or simply like the fact that they want to have sex with you.
The way we feel about ourselves can often stem from the way others feel about us, which makes total sense.
If your partner doesn’t want to have sex with you, you feel unsexy. If someone new comes along and wants to have sex with you, you feel sexy. And you’re likely to want to continue feeling sexy, especially if you also find them attractive and want their approval.
4. You’re looking for an excuse to end things – for good.
Of course, there is another very common reason for falling in love with someone outside your marriage, and it can be hard to know if it’s due to genuine feelings or an unhealthy relationship.
There is a chance that you’re subconsciously looking for a reason for your marriage to end. You might be doing this intentionally, of course, but let’s imagine you’re not aware of that for now.
If your marriage is unhealthy, you might have already tried to find ways out of it. You might be scared to outright ask for a divorce, but you’ve started to plant the seeds in the hope that things naturally fall apart.
Maybe you’ve stopped making an effort with them, or you’re sleeping in different rooms and barely spend time together.
You might think that you have genuine feelings for someone else, but you might actually hope that by cheating on your spouse, you’ll force things to an end.
They might have put up with the fact that you never have sex anymore, or that you’ve stopped cleaning and cooking for them all the time. They might accept that you want to spend more time alone, and they might be okay with you avoiding serious conversations with them.
However, you might know in the back of your mind that they could never forgive you if you cheat. That might be something that is subconsciously pushing you toward cheating – you know that that would be the end of your marriage and you could escape it, once and for all.
While your conscious mind would never want to admit to purposely sabotaging your marriage (which is why it tells you that you do love this other person), your subconscious mind knows that it would set you free from an unhealthy marriage.
As we’ve run through in this article, being married but in love with another man or woman is very, very confusing. There are many reasons that you might have these feelings (or think you have these feelings), and there is no easy answer when it comes to what to do about it.
The first thing you can do is really dig deep and think about where these feelings are coming from. It’s important to work out if those feelings are genuine, and you do actually love someone else, or if they’re simply a symptom of an unhealthy marriage and point to a different issue.
We would suggest you take your time before acting on your feelings, if you haven’t already, that is.
You cannot undo something like this, and you really need to work out what you want to gain from doing it.
Remember that you always have options, and that professional help is available – both to you on an individual basis to work through these feelings, and to you as a married couple to figure out what’s going wrong, or how to move forwards, whether that’s together or apart.
Still not sure what to do about your love for another man or woman? Chat online to a relationship expert from Relationship Hero who can help you figure things out. Simply click here to chat.
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