Monogamy can be a challenge, but many of us sign up for it anyway to satisfy a fundamental need to love and be loved. Far from being a blind adherence to social norms, people around the world are still committing to each other for life despite increasingly negative opinions of monogamy.
More and more we are hearing scientific reports claiming that cheating may be in our DNA because that behavior has been studied in our closest relative. More and more, monogamy is scrutinized and judged as something that is holding us back from real meaning. But people forget what a great challenge marriage and lifelong partnerships actually can be.
In the Roman Catholic Church, marriage is considered the most sacred calling; marriage has such high status because there is so much sacrifice that goes into making a marriage and family work.
One of the greatest sacrifices in making monogamy work is forgoing the passing pleasure of other lovers. No matter how attracted we are to the one we love the most, as long as we have blood in our veins we will feel attraction and affection for other people. How are you supposed to feel if you are attracted to a person outside of your committed relationship, and what does it mean for your relationship?
If you find yourself uniquely attracted to another person outside of your relationship, you can take a deep sigh of relief. It’s 100% normal. If you were to suddenly not be attracted to any person other than your spouse, there would be something wrong with you. But there can be a point at which attraction can overstep the boundaries of your relationship, and that is totally dependent on how you respond to the attraction.
Ignoring your feelings of attraction to other people is denying a fundamental aspect of your manhood: sexual desire. Your sexual desire is present so that you may create and extend the range of human experience through family and children. If you pretend that desire doesn’t exist, you are setting yourself up for trouble.
When you were single, the best way you could act on attraction would be to explore different people, to get to know them, and choose one you could partner with for life. But once you’ve already made the effort and commitment to grow with one person, what do you do with attraction to others?
I don’t think your spouse expects you to stop being attracted to others, and if that is the case, that would signal a major problem of distrust. One thing your partner would like is for you to remember how lucky you are to build a life together. You can use attraction to others as a reminder of the greatest love you have. This takes discipline, but if you can master your response to attraction then it will be something that actually improves the relationship with the one you love most.
One common complaint from women is that they feel lusted after and objectified by male culture. That isn’t too much of a surprise with how heavily conditioned men can be by pornography, but it can be changed with our thoughts. Women want and need to feel accepted and appreciated for who they really are — not just for how they look. This goes for extremely appealing women and plain-looking women alike. In reality, there is nothing plain about anyone because all people have an infinite universe inside of them waiting to be appreciated and explored.
Moving through the emotion of attraction
Attraction can be considered an emotion just like any other. If you accept attraction to others as a natural and good thing, then you can respond positively and in ways that bring you closer to your lover.
If you deny the attraction and ignore it, it will come back stronger and stronger until you decide to acknowledge it. Since we’re thinking of attraction as an emotion, it helps to know a bit more about the word itself. “Emotion” stems from the Latin root “emovere,” which means “to move through.” Emotions are meant to be moved through, but how you move through them is up to you.
If you decide not to acknowledge your attraction to others, it will grow and grow until you are forced to move through it. But at that point, when the attraction has exploded, your actions may not favor you or your relationship.
The emotion of attraction is one of the most important ones because it is evoked by beauty. If we stop being moved by beauty, then we can lose the joy and richness of living. Not only that, but our species could die out. So if you still have concerns about your desires, put them to rest and celebrate your attraction instead. Allow yourself to be moved in ways that bring you closer to the ones you love and that increase your admiration and respect for people in general.
If you want to grow in your long-term relationship, there may be no greater tool in assisting you than attraction to others. If you can master your thoughts and responses to attraction, then you will be that much more attracted to the endlessly complex and beautiful person who is your partner.
Some thoughts you can keep in your mind when you find yourself extremely attracted to someone else are:
- I am so grateful to be moved by this person’s beauty.
- I hope whoever marries this person respects and honors them, and that they know a lifetime of happiness together.
- I am so grateful to be reminded of my spouse through this person’s beauty, and of the treasure of knowing my partner more deeply and intimately each day.
- How can I be moved to improve my life and the lives of others through this person’s beauty?
- How can I grow as a man to better care for the loved ones in my life, and to know myself better?
- What areas can I improve on with my spouse so that I can renew our love and attraction? (Emotional connection is a big one here, guys.)
External beauty and attraction are reminders for us to look inside and admire the beauty within. If men can have the discipline to do that, the sky is the limit for intimacy and growth in their deepest relationships. External beauty fades, but the commitment to deeply knowing your partner will make for an exquisite relationship you can cherish and grow with for as long as you live. If you can be reminded of this when you experience attraction to another person, you can honor that person, their future spouse, and your own spouse while living an inspired life.
If you are experiencing an attraction that is threatening or could threaten your relationship, you can’t wait for the situation to change. If you don’t change your responses to the attraction, it will engulf you and you’ll make regrettable decisions.
If you don’t want to continue a committed relationship with you current partner, then it is best to end it before dishonesty enters the picture and feelings are hurt. That said, if you are more attracted to the mystery of another person, you should know there is an entire universe within your spouse of which you’ve discovered only a fraction. In many cases, men who are looking for affection outside of relationships can restore the spark in their own relationships by working on emotional connection.
Too often we become desensitized to the emotional needs of ourselves and our partners and fall into negative cycles of nagging and blaming, or attacking and withdrawing. When relationships decline to that point, another person you have no history with can seem very, very appealing. But just because you’ve declined in your communications and interactions doesn’t mean the relationship itself is doomed; it simply means there are unmet needs that need to be worked on.
The primary need in any relationship is to be emotionally connected, says PhD Sue Johnson, founder of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy. We need to feel needed, respected, and desired, but our hectic lives often leave us without time to think, let alone explore our emotions. But once you open up and begin to heal old wounds with your spouse, you’ll begin to renew your appreciation for your partner.
Good-looking people outside of our committed relationships can induce the fantasy that another person will take away the troubles we face within them, but that is never the case. If you throw away your current relationship without addressing unmet emotional needs, then you will only discover the same problems arise later in your next relationship.
So the most important question to ask when experiencing attraction for another person is this: “How can I better connect emotionally with my partner to increase my respect, appreciation, and attraction to him or her?”
That small shift in thinking will do wonders for the long-term outcomes of your relationships. It will also help you more willingly make sacrifices to make your marriage the best it can be. Not only that, but your example will influence the next generation of young men who may have been trained to reject their roles as men in a family. You’ll rekindle their hope to be part of something significant, like family, and give them motivation to make more of their lives.
If you’ve been struggling with attractions outside of your relationship, be glad that you’re still a red-blooded man. So long as you are intimate and emotionally connected with your partner, this person won’t care who you are attracted to. If you’ve been battling with an attraction that won’t seem to go away, here are a few tips to help.
1. Acknowledge the emotion of attraction. Thank God or the universe or the flying spaghetti monster for this person’s beauty, and be inspired to be a better man.
2. Move through the emotion of attraction. Use the feeling of attraction to your advantage by focusing internally on what you can do to grow as a man, to connect more deeply with your spouse, and to be reminded of all you have to explore with your partner.
3. Remind yourself of your long-term goals. Will breaking up or having an affair really give you what you want? Will cutting off ties with your partner take care of your problems, or will the same issues reappear with future relationships?
4. Go where the challenge takes you. Much like unchallenged muscles, your spirit and character will atrophy if you back down from the challenges of really knowing, loving, and committing to someone. Affairs may seem significant, but they always leave you with less substance and meaning.
5. Take ownership of your thoughts and emotions. If you don’t take ownership of them, your thoughts, emotions, and sexual desires will flatten you like an untamed bull. So tame the bull by aligning your thoughts and desires with the future you want. Discipline your mind, and make a plan to love your partner better.
And one last thing: Be grateful for the ones you love.