by DAVY WASHINGTON
Q: My partner and I are long distance, but I find myself starting to crush on someone else. How do I get rid of a crush? I feel really guilty.
A: Thank you for submitting such a vulnerable and important question. As unfortunate as it is, long-distance relationships sometimes come with the harsh reality of losing the connection with our significant others. This is a situation I’ve personally been in, so I know it’s a horrible feeling to face. Especially if you’re having a connection with someone else who’s closer in proximity to you, this is a sign that you’re missing something that your current relationship isn’t providing for you. My knee-jerk reaction is to tell you to break up with your current partner, but relationships are more complicated than that, so let’s get into it.
What’s the relationship like with your partner?
Start by asking yourself questions about the relationship, reflecting on your needs and your connection to your partner. Was the relationship something you felt strongly for before it became long distance? Were there any stressors between the two of you causing strain on the relationship? While it is undoubtedly difficult to be in a long distance relationship, how committed are you to one another? If this is someone you’ve been with for a long time but you may be having some issues with at the moment, emotional distance and the inability to satisfy each other physically on a consistent basis—if that’s a foundational aspect to how you both express love and care for each other—may make staying in the relationship even harder. It’s not unnatural to yearn for close connection with someone, and if you aren’t finding that in your partner and instead in someone else, you really need to consider where your heart lies.
What’s with the guilt?
You mentioned that you’re feeling “really guilty” about having a crush on someone else. Realizing that you’re not as committed as you thought you were can be a really difficult revelation, and it’s common to feel guilty in light of that newfound sentiment. However, the guilt isn’t necessary—you can’t change the way you feel and, I think you should lean into what your heart is telling you rather than shaming yourself. Based on what you shared in your question, you’ve done nothing wrong.
But, this revelation requires further action on your part to ensure that you’re not cheating or stringing your partner along. Even though this is a tricky situation to navigate, cheating on your partner is something you should never do, for the pain and emotional damage that it will cause cannot be justified by any reasoning or actions you may try to take. Even if you’re losing the emotion and attraction that you’ve previously felt towards your current partner, you should distance yourself from the person you’re starting to have an eye for and do some self-reflection about what you want romantically. If what you’re missing is the physical aspect of a relationship, brainstorm some ways to solve this element in your relationship before breaking it off—if you want to continue your current relationship. If you’re realizing that the relationship you’re currently in is no longer serving you or that you don’t feel as dedicated to your partner for more reasons than one, then breaking off the relationship you’re in might be the best course of action. If this crush is making you realize that you’re no longer able to fulfill the promises you’ve made to your current partner, breaking up with them is the most mature decision, too.
Decide what you’re going to do
Even though it’s hard, you have to make a decision about what you’re going to do, whether it’s breaking off your current relationship, trying to repair your relationship or something else. It’s not fair to you or your partner to continue a relationship that doesn’t have any promise of a future or that consists of wavering faithfulness. Write in your journal, talk to a close friend in confidence or dedicate a good chunk of your next therapy session to discuss this; it’s worth it because we have the obligation to treat those who are close to us with respect, and sometimes that entails breaking up with them when you’re no longer following through on your commitments.
If you want to break up
To have this tough conversation, sit down with your partner in a neutral environment where there isn’t any emotional attachment (not the place you went to on your first date, for example). Make it clear from the onset that you plan on talking about your relationship and what you both need for it to be successful, which, for you, is splitting up. This may be a shock for your partner if you haven’t mentioned anything prior to this and have acted like everything is fine, so peel the Band-Aid off slowly. Your significant other is likely to have a lot of questions, and there’s a chance you might not have all of the answers, but real and sincere honesty is the most important tool that you can use here; they deserve to know the truth.
If you don’t want to break up
If you decide that you don’t want to break up with your significant other, you need to distance yourself from the person you’re crushing on. If you’ve been flirting and they’ve been reciprocating, now is the time to let them know that you’re working on your relationship. Draw the boundary and make an explicit and outright effort for your partner. If you really care for them, you’ll do this; if you think that this boundary is too much, not worth it or unnecessary, it’s better that you break up and think long and hard about what you value in a relationship before you commit yourself to another one.
The bottom line
Bottom line, it’s natural to feel guilty, but don’t let it eat you up. As corny as it may sound, the heart calls for what it wants, and it’s telling you that your current relationship is not fulfilling enough for you. If you need a relationship with a more physical aspect, or even if you just feel like you need to move on, it’s perfectly okay to do that—no guilt necessary. Communicate and don’t keep your partner in a relationship that you’re no longer emotionally devoted to. If your partner were feeling this way, you’d want to know and not be strung along in order to prevent any unnecessary hurt. It’s best to act now before it’s too late.