How can I deal with a “crush” in a relationship?

I’ve been in a long distance relationship with my girlfriend for just over a year. This past week she admitted to me that she has feelings for another guy. She says it’s “just a crush” but I don't know how to cope with it.

How should I deal with this?

Tamara Powell
Tamara Powell
Anything But Ordinary!

I can only imagine how hard that must have been to hear. On one hand, most of us would say we want our partners to always be honest with us, but on the other disclosures like this can lead to feelings of worry and inadequacy if we're not careful.

So let me first of all say that it is very normal for human beings, even very committed and happy partners to have moments where they notice an attraction for someone else. Quite honestly, the brain can't help it. It sees something good looking and it pays attention. And when we pay attention to something good, our brains send out neurochemicals associated with that happy thought...and we get a rush of what your girlfriend is labeling "a crush."

The difficulty here is deciphering whether she was just attempting to honor her commitment to you by sharing this feeling OR if she is continuing to feed those feelings.

I would encourage you to thank her for being honest if you haven't already, and ask her to further describe the nature of these feelings and what she'd like to do from here.

As weird as it is to say, at the end of the day, what helps the most is typically reassuring yourself that you WILL be okay not matter what! That it is worth it to invest in your relationship and give it your all and if someday, god forbid, this woman chooses to walk away, then she is not the one.

Will it hurt? Of course. But is it the end? Hell no! There are 7.5 billion people on the planet and I firmly believe statistically speaking alone, there are at least several hundred thousand that could be AMAZING partners for you.

Cheering you on,

Tamara Powell, LMHC

P.S. You might enjoy this excellent book by Esther Perel for further inquiry into the fascinating world of love and mating behaviors: "Mating in Captivity

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
David Routt
David Routt
President and Clinical Counselor at Totius Therapies

Long distance relationships are very difficult to maintain, not just for the lack of communication, but also because of the lack of intimacy that comes along with it. Even if you have spectacular communication while in a long-distance relationship, it is difficult to maintain intimacy because you are lacking in the physical contact aspect of intimacy. Here, we are not talking about sex, but about the emotional connection that happens along with physical contact. It is also hard to have shared experiences when the two of you are in separate places. These are the challenges that you face, but there are some ways to improve your odds. 

The first thing to remember here is that dating is all about finding a person that you want to eventually dedicate your time, resources, and self to. If either of you finds that the relationship is one that you are not necessarily committed to, it is better to find out and have the opportunity to date others before a commitment is made. The second thing to remember is that open communication is a good sign in a relationship. That being said, I do not believe that sharing details about your "crushes" is the best thing for a relationship. Instead, I would recommend working on improving the relationship as best you can. It is a wonderful thing when we can feel that we have given our best efforts on something, especially something as important as the act of loving. 

Here are a couple things that you can do to improve even a long-distance relationship. Start by downloading the Gottman Card Decks App here https://www.gottman.com/couples/apps/. While on the phone or video chat, try asking each other some of these questions so that you can build a deeper knowledge of one another. Some may seem silly, but they help you know the other person more intimately. It is also helpful to make sure that you are having regular communication with each other. Some situations make it very difficult to communicate, but if at all possible, daily communication via phone or video chat would be best. Even if it is just for 30 minutes a day, really dedicate your time and attention to each other during those calls. Next, it can be helpful to know each other's love languages so you can show each other how much you really care. Take the assessment for the 5 Love Languages and talk about the results together. You can find the assessment here: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/

Attraction to other people is completely normal and involves biological processes. Intimacy, on the other hand, creates real connection and dedication to each other. Learn about each other, spend time together, and you will create intimacy. 

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Lauren Ostrowski, MA, LPC, NCC, DCC, CCTP
Lauren Ostrowski, MA, LPC, NCC, DCC, CCTP
I tailor my therapeutic approach to each client's strengths and goals

Thanks for writing in. Several things come to mind:

  • I don't know how you are communicating, but there is a great deal of difference between communicating through videoconferencing compared to text message when discussing subjects like this. Being able to hear and/or see each other will help you to be able to gauge a lot of the emotions connected to what is going on.
  • Are you in a place where you can ask your girlfriend questions about this crush and actually listen to her answers? If you can listen non-defensively and ask questions about what is actually going on (kind of like an investigative reporter might), you are likely to hear about her experience, thoughts, feelings, etc., so you can actually see what the crush is like for her and how you want to react to that.
  • Then you could see if she is willing to listen to your questions and answer them for you.
  • Another tip: Find out when is a good time to have this conversation. If you are talking to your girlfriend after she just worked a 10 hour shift and she is frustrated about that, it is likely that the emotion will transfer to the conversation that you are having even though it doesn't have anything to do with that.
  • Find a way to keep yourself grounded and centered during the conversation. Notice your feet on the floor or your hips in the chair. Mindfully play with an object or something like a paperclip or a pen. Doing this mindfully (by being aware of your senses) will help you to not feel so overwhelmed during the conversation.
  • After you have more details, communicate about what it is that you want or wish for. It is often easier to hear and discuss as opposed to talking about something that you need.
  • Remember that while anger is a very real emotion, there is always something else under it. Be aware of what else could be there: hurt, disappointment, betrayal, fear, etc.
The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal, as if you want to hurt or kill yourself or someone else, or are in crisis, call 800-273-8255 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week), call 911, or proceed to your local emergency room.
Cimberly R. Nesker
Cimberly R. Nesker
Registered Psychotherapist (3579)

Often, communication is the key within relationships. When faced with our significant other telling us about a “crush”, it can create or highlight feelings or thoughts that can promote feelings of insecurity. Talk to your partner about their crush and use the conversation to strengthen your bond. 

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Couples and Family Therapist, LCSW

Did your girlfriend tell you her reason to tell you about the new person?

Your feelings of insecurity is natural because you don't know where the crush fits into her life.

Since any long-lasting relationship in which both people thrive, means each partner freely speaks their mind and will be listened and responded, then your current situation is a good one to start these foundations of talking with one another.

Tell your girlfriend whatever is on your mind regarding her crush.   As your trusted partner, theoretically she would like to know all about how you feel.

Keep the expectation that talking about anything at all, is the best sign of closeness.

Once you learn more about this crush you can decide what, if anything to do differently in your relationship.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Kevin Mimms
Kevin Mimms
Building Better Connections

Those words must have been extremely difficult to hear or read. It sounds like you are both having difficulty with the distance, and I can only imagine that you have both been coping with this distance as well as you can. There are a few scenarios that I think would have pretty radically different paths for your own mental health, and I would like to explore them separately. 

The first scenario is that she has this crush, but still chooses you and wishes to stay with you. Keeping the value of her choice in mind, and the bravery she has shown in admitting this crush, handling her gently in that vulnerable place will pay off. You may find it worthwhile to explain your feelings about it, to share how it is hurting you to know of this, and what she means to you. Explaining those feelings will help you to not act out in your with emotions to cover up by becoming angry or withdrawing. Acting in this way will help assure her of her choice in you, and sharing these emotions and feeling supported by her may help you cope with this.

The other scenario is that she has a crush on this man and she is wanting to leave the relationship with you to have one with this other person. As before, it would be useful for you to share your feelings with someone. It can be difficult to process through these emotions, as they are intense and often overwhelming. In this scenario, it may be too difficult to share these feelings with your girlfriend, but it is still important that you acknowledge this loss and allow the associated emotions to have its place. Grieving the end of this relationship could be a great source of personal growth.

I hope this has been of some help.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

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