You have a major crush on a guy at college. You’ve never enjoyed going to class so much, though when you’re there, the last thing on your mind is the lecture. The thing is, you’re in a committed and mostly happy relationship. You and your boyfriend have been together for five years. You’d never actually act on your crush, but you still can’t help feeing guilty about it.
Researchers think of a crush as a sexual or romantic attraction to someone that never comes to anything. The teenage years are full of crushes, so it’s no surprise that most studies have focused on adolescents.
Crushes are common
But recent research has shown that adults are no strangers to crushing – even when they’re in a committed relationship.
‘I would say crushes are pretty common,’ researcher Charlene Belu told Love Matters at the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality annual meeting. One study found that as many as 70 per cent of women crush on another guy while they’re in a relationship, Belu says.
But what does this say about their relationship? And is it bad to have a crush on someone? Curious to learn more, Belu tracked down 150 heterosexual women who were in a relationship. All of them had had a crush on someone other than their partner. The women answered questions about how things were going with their boyfriends and also their experiences pining for another guy.
In most cases, the women were crushing on someone they regularly crossed paths with, like a casual friend or coworker. Often times, he ‘added a little pep to their step,’ as Belu puts it.
‘It made them excited about going to see their crush – so they were more on top of maintenance of appearance or making themselves look a little nicer than usual because they knew their crush would be somewhere. So definitely a big thing is the excitement and the fun part of it.’
For many women, having a crush was a positive experience, at least in part. But some also felt guilty about pining for another guy. Seventy per cent of the women hadn’t told their partner about their crush, explained Belu, though it wasn’t clear why. ‘Are they not telling them because it doesn’t mean anything? Or are they not telling them because it does mean something?’
These are questions that Belu’s research doesn’t answer. But her findings do seem to show that crushing can be harmless and even a source of excitement for many women in a relationship. Around four out of five of the participants weren’t interested in taking things further with the guy they were crushing on.
However… 18 per cent of the women said they’d have sex with their crush if they could. And 17 per cent would break up with their current partner for him.
So were these women in a messed-up relationship, and that’s what made them get a crush on another guy? Or was the crush on another guy messing up their relationship? Again, Belu doesn’t have the answer.
What can we conclude then? Well, if you’ve got the kind of crush that gives you tingles, but you’d never take it any further and you’re really into your partner, then don’t beat yourself up about it – you’re not alone! But if you feel like you’d jump at the chance to take your crush to the next level, it’s time to take a long, hard look at your present relationship, and decide whether it needs mending or ending.
- “I’ve got a Crush On You…But You’re Not Mine” presented at 2016 Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS) Annual Meeting
- Interview with Charlene Belu