Four years into a high school relationship, I became enamored with a guy on the track team at my college. We were in a few classes together, and I had noticed him looking at me — and by noticing him noticing me, in this way a crush developed. I participated in sports at my school, as well, and we would at times pass each other in the halls of the recreation center. We didn’t speak. We exchanged embarrassed, fleeting glances and that was enough. It drove me wild.
I thought when our classes together ended and track was between seasons, these feelings would subside. Instead, I spent all of winter break fantasizing about him. And on the first day back of the spring semester, there he was: sitting in the back of my American lit class.
My guilt led me to end my high school relationship, which was not the wrong decision. It was the right decision made for the wrong reasons. I had many reasons to end this relationship. I outgrew it. We were sexually incompatible. We did not want the same things from life.
Nothing ever happened with track guy, even when I was single. I added him to my circle on social media. We talked every now and then. He even mentioned hanging out. But once I got to know him, and myself, a little better, I realized I was not as wildly attracted to him as I thought.
The conventions by which I based this decision off of are terrifying to me. This was, admittedly, not a high-stakes relationship. It was going to end at some point, anyways. Most high school relationships do, and some of the ones that don’t, probably should. But, what if it had been a high-stakes relationship? What if we had both been older and experienced and had built a life together? What if we had been married? Had a house? Kids?
We are constantly fed unrealistic and unattainable narratives of relationship ideals through books, television, and movies. And I say fed because we eat that shit up. Love at first sight. Love conquers all. Butterflies and unicorns. Can you think of any romantic comedy where a coupled character’s attraction to another isn’t portrayed as an eternal betrayal?
We treat ourselves in this particular area like we can flip a switch in our brain. Attraction: On. Attraction: Off. If only the brain worked that way. I would be considerably thinner and my wallet would be considerably fatter. And maybe some of us can do that, but most of us can’t: 30%-60% of all married individuals in the US engage in infidelity at some point during their marriage. This number only accounts for the actual physical action of infidelity — it doesn’t account for the fantasy of it.
I have heard many people say that if you are attracted to someone else while you are in a relationship, that something must be missing in your relationship. Duh. Something will always be missing. You will never find someone who will meet your every single (and often irrational) need. You will find someone who will meet most of them, and the rest: you’ll learn to live without. Or, you won’t. I mean, somebody has gotta help make up that forever alone statistic, right?
So I broke up with my boyfriend of four years because of an attraction I felt for another human being that I never acted on — and never intended to, for that matter, while I was still in a relationship with him. I couldn’t control my thoughts. You know this to be true if you’ve ever had your mind running at 2:00 am and you’ve tried, and tried, and tried to quiet it to fall asleep. I could, however, control my actions. This is what many do (and don’t) when they make monogamous commitments to others. A common misconception is that the outside attraction isn’t or couldn’t be there. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t have to make a monogamous commitment to our partners to be exclusive. In fact, there would be no such thing as “being exclusive” because it would just happen, and it wouldn’t ever have to be talked about.
The capability of outside attraction is there, and if you don’t feel the evidence of this yourself, know that your partner does. This shouldn’t be a threat. Don’t police it. Your partner chose you. Don’t take that so lightly.
Honestly, I would be more worried if my significant other didn’t want to give it to the curvy, blonde waitress taking our order.