You never meant for it to happen, nor did you think you would ever develop romantic feelings for someone other than your spouse. But now that you have fallen in love with someone else, things have gotten intense.
Along with the excitement of new love, you might be cycling through shame, guilt, or confusion.
One of the MOST challenging problems you can have is being married and in love with someone other than your spouse.
Sleepless nights, sadness, and secrecy combined with the heady feeling of falling in love might make it nearly impossible to know what to do moving forward.
You might wonder how long this can go on – and although there are no easy answers, this article will help you sort through the dilemma you have found yourself in!
Is It Normal to Have Feelings for Someone Else While Married?
Yes, it is normal – and relatively common – for married people to love someone other than their partners.
It happens more often than you think, but not all people who fall in love with other people pursue affairs or end their marriages.
Over time, marriage can become stale and eventually fail to provide for both partners’ needs – ultimately leading to romantic desire, excitement, connection, and love outside the relationship.
Just because you have feelings for someone other than your partner doesn’t mean something is fundamentally wrong with your marriage.
Your spouse can’t possibly fulfill all of your needs, and you’ll inevitably be attracted to people outside your marriage.
Even if your relationship is solid and stable, at some point, you might find yourself attracted to someone else but have no desire to cheat. But sometimes, a fleeting feeling turns into something more.
Even happily married people find themselves drawn to or even falling in love with other people.
Loving someone other than your spouse doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person.
You’re a human with feelings, but those feelings don’t need to become significant or indicate there’s something wrong with your spouse or the person for which you have feelings.
Falling in love is one of the most amazing experiences.
If you’re in a long-term relationship where the romance and passion of the early days have long faded, part of you might long for an exciting connection, deep intimacy, and the burning desire of romantic love.
If you’re self-aware, in a committed relationship, and still feel love for your spouse, you don’t need to follow the feelings you have for the other person – you can handle them with wisdom and maturity. Just don’t punish yourself or drown in guilt.
You are committed to your spouse, and you never intended to fall for someone else, so why did it happen?
Common Reasons for Falling in Love With Someone Else
When you got married, you probably thought you were in it for the long term, and the love you felt for your spouse would last forever. Yet, now you are faced with a decision and extremely conflicted emotions.
Maybe someone came along that sparked intense feelings of attraction. You might believe you love your spouse and this new person, or you might think you don’t love your spouse anymore.
Not only is this uncomfortable, but you also may be unsure what you can do to fix this situation.
You might not realize that all intimate relationships experience highs and lows.
Love is not static, and you may have come to the painful realization that instead of actively working to strengthen your love, you no longer feel the deep emotions you once felt for your spouse.
Like anything valuable, the love between two people must be nurtured and maintained.
Here are the most common reasons you fell in love with someone else.
For example, imagine you marry the love of your life, but your partner gets a demanding job that has long hours and lots of travel. You rarely see your spouse, and over time you feel like you’re no longer a priority.
Your needs aren’t satisfied, and you feel alone and abandoned. You might as well be single!
You and your partner might be busy with your careers, household tasks, hobbies, children… the list goes on and on.
It was probably easy to neglect your relationship when you focused on balancing all of life’s responsibilities.
The consequence of this is that you take each other for granted, and the deep connection you once felt begins to crumble.
This weakened bond allows the marriage to become vulnerable to outside factors that can damage it further.
Emotional connection is essential, and occasionally your partner must address your needs. If not, you might seek comfort, affection, and emotional fulfillment outside the marriage.
Maybe your spouse fails to invest emotional and physical energy into making you feel loved, respected, and appreciated.
They are so confident in the marriage that they completely ignore the possibility of someone else entering the picture.
Arguing and Bickering
Continuous arguing, nitpicking, and bickering will erode any relationship.
Conflict within a marriage is expected, and if you and your spouse deal with conflict in healthy ways, it’s good for your marriage.
Unfortunately, regular fighting might lead to cold detachment and distancing, which can push you to look elsewhere for a romantic connection.
Complicated External Circumstances
Maybe you live apart from your spouse because of work-related reasons. Health problems or illnesses can damage a marriage. Caring for aging parents can also place a strain on a marriage.
There are infinite reasons why external circumstances might drive you to fall in love with someone else.
You might be unsure why you feel the way you do.
Loving someone other than your spouse might go against your core values and beliefs, and you might not have a “good” reason for falling in love with someone else.
Review these statements to get some clarity about why you developed feelings for someone other than your spouse.
- You feel unloved, unaccepted, disliked, or disrespected by your spouse.
- You met someone who finally understands you.
- There is a lack of sexual satisfaction in your marriage.
- You want emotional validation from someone else because you’re not getting it from your spouse.
- You don’t love your spouse.
- Your marriage lacks excitement and passion, and you want new and thrilling experiences.
- Your feelings for someone else simply distract you from addressing what you’d like to change within your marriage.
So, What Are Your Options?
Maybe you love this person, but it hasn’t gotten physical (yet!).
Regardless of whether the affair is physical or emotional, there are steps you can take to gain clarity. But remember, no one can decide for you what to do in this situation.
In your heart, you might already know what to do. Your mind is probably clouded with questions, doubt, fear, and confusion.
You might be worried about social and family pressures, as well as how your choices will impact your spouse and/or children.
Do these questions haunt you?
What if divorcing my spouse causes too many problems?
What will my parents and other family members think of me?
What will happen to my kids?
Can I repair the damage if I stay with my spouse and sever ties with my lover?
Questions might outnumber answers right now. And that’s okay.
Realistically You Have 5 Options:
- End the relationship with your lover and work on your marriage
- Continue the relationship with your lover and remain in your marriage
- Leave your spouse and commit to your lover
- Wait until your lover ends the relationship and then work on your marriage
- End both relationships
Each option has life-changing consequences involving your family, children, friends, lifestyle, personal beliefs, values, religion, and spouse.
Seek professional help from a couples counselor or relationship coach if you struggle to make a decision.
6 Steps for Deciding Your Romantic Future
The following six steps will help you begin the decision-making process.
Step #1: Ask How and Why It Happened
This situation didn’t “just happen,” and now that you’re involved, you’re responsible for dealing with it appropriately.
Review your marriage and analyze what happened. With enough reflection, you’ll discover clues that indicate why you strayed.
Don’t make excuses for yourself. Saying, “I don’t know!” or “It’s not my fault” isn’t helpful and won’t contribute to finding a solution.
What you CAN do is honestly think about how and why you fell in love with someone else. Avoid blaming your spouse or lover, even if you believe one or both are partially responsible.
Objectively assess the situation in a mature and level-headed way.
Step #2: Deeply Reflect on Your Feelings
Love and attraction can be confusing – especially if you’re torn between two people.
You might question whether or not you still love your spouse or if you’re really in love with the other person.
Is it simply a passing infatuation?
Is it just a crush?
It helps to examine your emotions. To do this effectively, you might require the assistance of a psychotherapist or relationship coach.
Step #3: Consider Short- and Long-Term Consequences
Short-term consequences include how your affair affects the lives of those around you right now or soon. Consider the following questions:
- Is this affair simply lust or infatuation?
- Why does your lover make you feel good in this present moment?
- Why is your spouse unable to fulfill your emotional needs?
- If you decide to tell your spouse, what will the reaction be?
- If you have children, how will they be affected?
- How will your friends and extended family react?
You might believe you’ve met the love of your life, and your marriage is over. But human emotions are complex.
You might feel deep love for this new person now, but it might fade as quickly as it began. So, it’s essential to evaluate the situation as objectively and logically as possible.
Thinking long-term isn’t easy when you’re married but in love with someone else. It’s particularly challenging when you’re thinking about the futures of not one but (at least!) three people. Ask yourself:
- How does falling in love with someone else affect the marriage I’ve maintained for so many years?
- How will it affect my relationship with my spouse, children, extended family, or friends?
- Will divorce be financially devastating to my spouse and me?
- How will my lover’s life be affected (spouse, children, finances, and so forth)?
It might seem impossible to imagine the future when you are caught up in such intense emotions now. But if you don’t consider the long-term consequences, you risk ruining peoples’ lives – including your own.
Step #4: Ask Yourself the Hard Questions
Asking (and honestly answering) these questions can be a painful process, but it is an essential step – otherwise, you might fall into the same patterns as before. Ask yourself:
- Why did I fall in love with the other person?
- What exactly am I receiving from my lover that I was not receiving from my spouse?
- How was I feeling in my marriage before my lover came along?
- What was the void in my marriage the other person filled?
- Are there things my spouse is not giving me emotionally, physically, or sexually that caused me to look elsewhere?
- How did I handle problems in my marriage?
- Can my marriage be salvaged?
- What is lacking in my marriage?
- Was I bored or unhappy with my life?
- What do I want, and what am I willing to work for?
Be completely honest with yourself. Uncovering the answers doesn’t mean your marriage is over – it does mean your relationship might be valuable enough to examine some harrowing truths.
Allow yourself the opportunity to be realistic and honest about what you can or cannot provide each other.
Step #5: Take Responsibility
Focus on yourself and not your spouse or lover. It’s time to do some soul searching to discover your part in the situation.
Falling in love with someone else might have nothing to do with your spouse.
Your childhood, attachment issues, past relationships, insecurities, and other emotional baggage might have contributed to you seeking emotional fulfillment and attention with someone other than your spouse.
Address and heal these issues to prevent the same unhealthy pattern from occurring again.
When you choose growth and self-awareness, you create the possibility of expanding your love and attraction for your spouse or your lover.
Step #6: Seek Professional Help
You might feel alone, unsure of what to do, and unable to find the answers on your own.
Maybe you’ve read lots of relationship articles filled with conflicting advice.
Seeking psychotherapy or relationship coaching is a great way to receive guidance.
Having someone knowledgeable about marital issues, someone who will listen to you and provide unbiased advice, can make all the difference.
While a counselor or coach can’t do all of the work for you, they can provide you with support, tools, and resources as you work through this.
Additionally, there are marriage workshops and virtual relationship boot camps that are available.
After you’ve completed the above six steps, it’s time to make a choice…
What to Do if You Want to Save Your Marriage
If you decide to work on your marriage, stop all contact with the other person.
As long as your lover is in the picture, you can’t move forward with mending your marriage. Stop all communication, including social media connections, with the other person.
Your focus, energy, and attention should be on working on your marriage.
Ask yourself, “What’s required of me to rebuild my marriage?”
Redirect the time and energy you gave to the other person to your spouse.
Rekindle the Love With Your Spouse
Falling in love with someone else is a wake-up call to push you toward making changes within your marriage.
Many people who are married but in love with someone else decide they want to save their marriages. If you have been married for a long time, you understand the sparks, excitement, and intimacy sometimes fade.
Ultimately, the initial passion and fireworks of a young relationship can’t sustain a long-term commitment. Marriage is more about never giving up and cultivating love and attraction through all of life’s stages.
If the goal is saving your marriage, make that goal a daily, active choice. You and your spouse must be 100% committed. Here’s what you can do…
You might have lost interest in your spouse because your focus has been on your lover. Fortunately, you can reconnect by making time to do romantic activities as a couple.
Some good examples of romantic activities include:
- Planning a date night at least once each week.
- Spending at least a few hours together each day.
- Frequently calling or texting each other.
- Reminiscing and recalling what you love about your spouse and thinking back to what it was like when you first met.
Your spouse might have new hobbies, interests, or goals.
When discussing hobbies and interests, or likes and dislikes, be genuinely interested. Care about what they like or dislike. Offer support, and try to engage in hobbies and activities together.
Communicate how much your partner means to you. Use words that build them up, and express your love and support.
Take action. Do whatever is required to reconnect with your spouse. Even simple tasks like washing dishes or giving your partner a massage are gestures that can help revitalize marriage.
Focus on Physical Touch
Increase the level of physical contact through hugging, holding hands, and snuggling.
What to Do if You Want to Separate or Get a Divorce
It might be time to leave the marriage.
If you have already checked out, admit it – whether or not you decide to continue the relationship with the other person.
You can’t save a marriage if you don’t want it to survive! Go back to considering the long-term consequences of divorce.
If You’re Considering Divorce, Ask Yourself:
- How will divorce affect me in the future?
- How will divorce affect my spouse?
- How will divorce affect the lives of the people that matter to me, like my children?
- Can I have an amicable split with my spouse? If not, how can this process be more manageable?
If you have decided the marriage is over, divorce is the best option. Seek legal advice and determine the best way to move forward.
Take Some Time off for Yourself
You might have an intense emotional connection with your lover and complete apathy for your spouse. Yet, you don’t want to stay with either person.
What can you do?
You don’t have to choose either situation.
When you’re married and in love with someone else, you might have thought, “I need to leave my spouse to be with my lover!” But instead, consider spending time on your own and break it off with both of them.
This choice might be a painful one, but there are things you can do when you’re single that you can’t do when you’re involved.
You can take the time to cultivate inner peace and tranquility. You can take a break from the stress and drama. You might even meet someone else that fits you even better than the others!
You’ve experienced a life-changing and challenging situation. Loving someone else other than your spouse is a tough position for anyone. It’s a mix of intense, volatile emotions and a great deal of uncertainty.
Hopefully, this article helped you gain clarity and make the decision that’s right for your future. Whatever you decide to do, where you reconnect with your spouse or move on, be sure to commit to it 100%.