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Infidelity, cheating and affairs . . . these are topics that we tiptoe around discussing when we’re in relationships. The prospect of being lied to and cheated on by our significant others is not only a terrifying prospect to dwell on, but it’s an even more frightening notion to consider committing against those we love. It’s no wonder that we are so averse to exploring this topic in our everyday lives!
The truth is that life is capricious and unpredictable, and while many of us are under the illusion that avoiding what makes us feel uncomfortable and embarrassed is the solution, we really need to have an open conversation that explores this taboo—and much feared—area of life.
It’s time that we stop ignoring the ominous “elephant in the room,” and start exploring why we feel so ashamed about feeling attracted to other people in loving relationships.
If you feel distressed, depraved, guilty or embarrassed for feeling attracted to others in your loving relationship, don’t allow your conscience to continue withering under the weight of your shame. Keep reading to discover why it is not only OK to feel attracted to others, but why it is normal as well.
Let me share with you something about myself. I am fortunate enough to currently be in a very loving, very satisfying long-term relationship that I never thought was possible to have with another human being. So I was very shocked and very surprised when I began to feel attracted to other people in my life. To my horror I found (and continue to find), that I feel intellectually, emotionally and physically attracted to others in my life completely out of the blue and with no warning whatsoever.
“What the hell is WRONG with me?” I have wondered many times before, “Why do I feel this way? . . . I SHOULDN’T feel this way.” And so ensues the endless hours of self-criticism and merciless put-downs.
Does this sound familiar to you?
If you have made feeling attracted to other people a crime in your life, you will most likely feel dirty, flawed, and irredeemably guilty like I have often felt before. Furthermore, you were probably indoctrinated with the unrealistic, fantasy-land ideal of "True love means that it is IMPOSSIBLE for you to be attracted to others."
Let me tell you something very simple . . . this is a completely unrealistic, andcompletely false.
Unless you are demisexual and only feel attracted to those you have created mental or emotional bonds with, you will always feel attracted to other people, EVEN in loving relationships. This is simply the nature of being a sexual being.
For sexual beings, being attracted to others is a normal way of life—whether it is that toned guy with the infectious smile at the Deli, the girl with the big boobs and alluring perfume at work, or the neighbor with the charming personality and hysterical jokes. Feeling attracted to other people does not make you evil, it does not make you a philanderer, and it does not make you guilty of a terrible crime.
But what does count is what you decide to do with these feelings.
It is perfectly normal and perfectly OK to feel attracted to others in loving relationships. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either crippled by insecurity (e.g. “If they feel attracted to ____, they will stop feeling attracted to me and will therefore leave me”), or is deluded by the mistaken belief that “being in love means you can never be attracted to others.”
While it is OK to feel physically, emotionally and/or mentally attracted to others, the real problems start when, out of shame, we begin to hide away these feelings and refuse to acknowledge them both to ourselves and to our partners. We will explore how to acknowledge these feelings to ourselves and our significant others a bit later.
But for now it’s really important to understand that secrecy is the core root of all “evil” in relationships as it breeds lying and cheating.
When we hide from any uncomfortable truth within ourselves—such as the fact that we feel attracted to others—we breed a type of neuroticism within us that accumulates more and more. The more we shroud our thoughts and feelings in secrecy, the more they weigh down on us and lurk in the corners of our minds. Through time, our repressed feelings and thoughts grow into monster issues that perpetuate our feelings of guilt and dirtiness. We find that we start having sexual dreams about others that we can’t avoid, or we start having uncontrollable lust issues that we don’t know how to put a reign on. Sometimes we even give into our morbid curiosities and start affairs and secret rendezvous as a way of appeasing the morbid curiosity of our Shadow Selves.
. . . and why?
All because we made feeling attracted to others a crime inside of our minds—all because we denied ourselves the right to experience and accept these feelings from the very start.
But don’t beat yourself up. I know what it’s like to feel the insufferable weight of guilt constantly press down on your shoulders, and I know what it’s like to slowly remove the burden of self-inflicted blame from your life. While the lessons that I’ve learned might not be able to solve every problem in your life right now, I do hope they help you to heal that part of you that feels “criminal” inside.
First, I want to write a disclaimer. This article is written for, and directed towards, loving relationships that are built on equality and trust. If your relationship is unhealthy, unequal and/or destructive, and if you have other people in the picture (for example, children), it is not always possible to be open to your partner about your feelings of attraction towards another person or people. It is even possible that in some types of relationships (e.g. physically or emotionally abusive ones) being open and “clearing the air” can do more long-term harm than good. It is up to you to determine what kind of relationship you have and whether it would be wise or not to “clear the air.”
However, it is always possible for you to be open with yourself about your feelings of attraction towards others. Sometimes forgiving yourself and giving yourself the permission to feel what you feel is all you need to move on with your life.
It can take a lot to rewire the “you-should-never-feel-attracted-to-others-in-relationships” belief that you have been indoctrinated (usually through religion) to believe for most of your life. So if you are struggling to give yourself the permission you need to move on with your life, try repeating the following affirmations to yourself:
“It is OK to feel attracted to others, but I choose [my partner].”
"I embrace my right to feel attracted to others. This is normal and this is acceptable."
"Although I feel attracted to this man/woman, I choose [my partner] for a good reason."
Like me you will find that through constant mental repetition of these affirmations, you will start to embrace the inevitability of feeling attracted to others, and you will let go of the guilt associated with these feelings. Remember, you chose to be with your partner for a very good reason, and it is important to remind yourself of that.
If you discover that you are still struggling to release the guilt you feel after repeating these affirmations to yourself many times, you are probably suffering from cognitive dissonance; or the state of having two conflicting feelings and beliefs, where one side of you wants to forgive yourself, and the other wants to continue holding yourself guilty. In this case, your word alone (at first) might not be enough to convince you that you are not at fault.
So let me give you mine:
I give YOU the permission to see that it is perfectly OK to feel physically, emotionally and/or mentally attracted to another person in a loving relationship.
Take this to heart.
Did I just sense an impending feeling of doom well up within you? This is normal, don’t worry!
Letting your partner know that you find others attractive doesn't have to be as hard or as apocalyptic as you make it out to be. It can be as simple as, “That guy has a cute face, he reminds me of Orlando Bloom,” or “There’s this woman at work, she has these massive D-cups that she’s always showing off,” or “I love that guy’s smile, don’t you?” There are an infinite number of subtle ways to indicate that you find someone else attractive. You don’t necessarily need to come out and bluntly say, “Geez, that guy/girl has such a HOT BODY,” or “Wow, that woman intoxicates me with her tantalizing personality and ssssssashaying hips” to our romantic partners, but it is necessary to acknowledge your attraction in some way, shape, or form so as to not continue repressing it.
Also, remember that feeling attracted to others is a two way street. If your partner extends the courtesy of being understanding and good-natured towards you, be mindful of returning the same favor to them. Our insecurities can make us jealous, obsessive and over-reactive, so be aware of how you respond to your partner. In other words, treat them how you would like to be treated: with open-mindedness and acceptance.
Remember, the more comfortable and accepted they feel, the more likely they will feel safe enough to openly share with you how they feel in the future.
I have learned a very valuable lesson in my own life which I hope you can bring into yours, which is to build a faithful, stable and loving relationship you need to be open about your attraction to others. Cheating, lying, and infidelity is almost always driven by the pent up temptation of exploring the forbidden and the taboo, but when you give yourself the permission to feel attracted to others there is no need to hide away anything.
By learning to accept that feeling attracted to others is a normal element of being a sexual being you nip in the bud issues such as guilt, secrecy, and unfaithfulness, reinforcing a strong foundation of trust and openness in your relationship.
What have your experiences been with this taboo topic?