Ask Erin: How Do I Stop My Feelings For Someone Other Than My Boyfriend?

Artwork: Tess Emily Rodriguez

She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.


Q.

Dear Erin,

I have been in a committed relationship for about two years. My boyfriend and I are generally very happy and are planning to move in together in a few months. We've had our ups and downs, like any couple, but we're good for each other and are generally in a good place.

Except for one thing — I have powerful, almost overwhelming feelings for a mutual friend of ours. 

I don't think I've ever been this attracted to anyone. I believe it’s normal and healthy to find people attractive outside your relationship — it's happened before — but this is ridiculous. I haven't been able to keep him off my mind for a good few months. Nothing is going to happen — I'd never cheat on my boyfriend, and the friend has a girlfriend anyway — but I can't stop thinking about him.

I do think the problem is exacerbated by the fact that my boyfriend and I haven't had sex in a few months. He's always had a lower sex drive than me, but we used to have sex at least once or twice a week. This seems to have dried up. Between work and university (we're students) he's always tired, and while he's sweet and affectionate, I feel like I need more. I think part of my attraction to the friend (not all of it — he's legit gorgeous — but some) comes from wanting to feel desired.

I don't want to have these feelings! 

My boyfriend is great, and I can live without regular sex if I get to keep him in my life, but I don't know how to get rid of my feelings for the friend. He's a great guy, and I do like him platonically (as do our other friends), so I don't want to just stop spending time with him. I just want to stop thinking about f*cking him every 20 seconds.

Help?


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A.

As you mentioned, it is natural to find other people attractive when we are in committed relationships. But the intensity of your attraction for this friend is indicative of some red flags I see here. 

You are so young! You are in university and have been in this relationship for two years. I know some people find the one early on and it works out, but I think they are outliers. 

Most of us don’t know who we are yet, let alone who we will become, during our college years. 

And that discovery often goes far past our early 20s. Maybe part of what’s happening is that you subconsciously recognize this and this attraction is revealing that. And that’s okay. It is not a reflection of what your relationship has been or the feelings you’ve had for your boyfriend. The truth is most relationships won’t last. It can feel scary to acknowledge that you’ve outgrown a relationship, but my instinct here is that this is what’s happening. 

The sex life issue is valid; don’t discount its importance. 

Certainly, sex is not the most important aspect of a long-term relationship. BUT, it is pretty damn important. A couple’s sex life can be indicative of how healthy the relationship is. It is very natural that there are ebbs and flows within a relationship, and that includes sex. When there is a distinct difference in sex drive that seems to be more of a pattern, it’s something to consider. 

Do you want to be in a long-term relationship with someone whose sex drive is significantly lower than yours? For this to work, there needs to be open communication with your partner about this. Perhaps you can find a way together to work on this. 

Don’t move in with your boyfriend. 

With these sorts of doubts — and yes I believe this intense attraction is a manifestation of your doubts — it’s not the time to take that next step. What’s the rush? 

Don’t act on these impulses — both the impulse to move in with your boyfriend and the impulse to be with the friend. Neither will make anything but a mess. How do I know? Because I have made these mistakes. Both of them. More than once. 

If you are determined to make it work with your boyfriend, it would be helpful for you to see a therapist, to work out what you truly feel. Often the mere act of talking it out with someone who is outside of the situation can help with clarity. 

In the meantime, you asked how to stop thinking about him all the time. Remind yourself of this…

Your attraction feels powerful because it is based on a fantasy of this guy, not the reality of who he is or what it would be like to be with him. 

When we fantasize about someone, they are perfect. In our minds, they are capable of satisfying us, making us feel desired, and the scenarios are always heightened. The reality of being with someone is always different than our fantasy. That’s why fantasies are so enticing! They can be whatever we want them to be. I guarantee you that this girlfriend knows all the little annoying things about him that make him a real person. Try to remember that when your mind wanders to him. 


The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I’m not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I’ve gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendships, depression, parenting, sex, consent, what I’m watching, what I’m reading, Variscite, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me at  askerin@ravishly.com. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share with you my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo

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