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The Forbidden Fruit and What That Crush Means

Photo credit: Tommy McMillion, meme agency

You’re in a committed and loving relationship. Out of the blue, you start feeling those nerves. Those butterflies. But for someone else! Someone at work. Or maybe it’s someone you see often at your local coffee shop. Is this wrong? What does it imply about your relationship with your partner?

That first feeling you have for an acquaintance or a new person can be an automatic one and does not necessarily mean anything. We’re only human, and I personally think it’s fine to still find other people attractive.   However, a crush is more than just a glance and can imply something longer and stronger. Is that kind of emotional feeling for someone whose not your partner still acceptable?

Well, I believe it depends on each person’s views of what constitutes cheating in their relationship. But why do we get a crush in the first place when we’re already in a relationship? If we’re receiving the affection, love, and attention from our partner, why do we feel something for others? One answer was provided by a study that came out in 2010. In the paper, researchers explain that a person has a psychological need for self-expansion. This means they need to grow with regards to their social identity, their thinking, and their self-concept. A sense of self-expansion is maintained by taking on new and exciting experiences as a couple and allowing the other person in the relationship into your self-concept.  However, the authors of the study point out that if your relationship is not allowing for that self-expansion, you may in turn look for alternatives elsewhere.[1]

The findings were collected from two studies; the participants from both were university students who were romantically involved. The average length of the participants’ relationships was a year and a half. The first study entailed a questionnaire where the participants were asked a list of questions about self-expansion in their relationship, such as ‘‘How much does your partner help to expand your sense of the kind of person you are?’’ and ‘‘How much has knowing your partner made you a better person?’’.

The second half of this study consisted of asking those same participants for help and input for a new dating site. They were put in touch with what they believed to be single people on the new dating platform (it was in fact a computer program set up to answer questions).  The participants asked these online dating members a list of questions and were given answers that hinted a high potential for self-expansion. For example, when a coupled-up participant asked that single person the question ‘‘How often do you like to try new things?’’. The single person answered ‘‘All the time!’’.  Finally, the participants (who were in committed relationships) were asked to rate their chat with the single people on the dating site.[2] It would be interesting to see if the findings were different using a more real-life scenario. Although for obvious reasons, it would be hard to collect this type of data.

I had never thought much about self-expansion in a relationship and how the lack of it can lead to a search for alternatives. However, I think there’s something else that needs to be taken into account: our own ability to grow and expand independently.  Yes, it’s important to grow within the couple by signing up for new classes together, trying exciting cuisines and going away on romantic weekends around the world.  But what about developing and growing independently? I think it’s also our responsibility to set new goals and challenge ourselves.  We can quickly forget that before we were two, we were one.  And the relationship we have with ourselves is just as important as the one we have with our partner, if not more.

[1] VanderDrift, L. E., Lewandowski, G. W., & Agnew, C. R. (2010). Reduced self-expansion in current romance and interest in relationship alternatives. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 0265407510382321.

[2] VanderDrift, L. E., Lewandowski, G. W., & Agnew, C. R. (2010). Reduced self-expansion in current romance and interest in relationship alternatives. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 0265407510382321.

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