Ever felt torn between the one you are married to and the one you constantly think about? Ever kissed your married partner while vociferously pushing away the image of another person? Are you unhappily married and in love with someone else? Have you been feeling unhappy lately? Or even unhealthy?
Yes, research shows that there is a direct relation between how happy and healthy you are, and how well your marriage is. Irrespective of what your vocal answer is, if you paused while reading the above queries, or felt your hands quiver a little before you said “No,” maybe you need to read further
Swaty Prakash, a communication coach with Certification in ‘Managing Emotions in Times of Uncertainty and Stress’ from Yale University and PG Diploma in Counseling and Family Therapy, writes about the signs that you are unhappily married and in love with someone else. In the article, she discusses what you can do if you have caught yourself saying, “What do I do? I found the love of my life while married to my spouse.”
11 Signs You Are Unhappily Married And In Love With Someone Else
People often believe (and for a long time, psychologists did too) that couples who argue a lot share a fragile bond, and have higher probability of separation. But here is a fun fact: Study reveals that conflict-free marriage is an oxymoron, and conflicts actually help to strengthen your bond. More than conflict, the conflict resolution strategies that two people adopt say a lot about their bond.
So having a rough patch or frequent fights don’t necessarily make you an unhappily married couple nor does an absence of these make you the contender for the ‘happy couple’ trophy. Similarly, being friendly with someone or venting out to a colleague isn’t reason enough to believe that you are in love with them. It would take a lot more of such signs to indicate that you are married but falling out of love with your spouse – and that you have fallen for someone else.
1. You like spending more time with the other person
Mindy, a reader from Oklahoma, shares with us that she was married to John for over 13 years. They were not “madly in love” but they coexisted peacefully. While Mindy took care of household chores and her business, John was mostly in office or on tours. Everything, however, changed last year when Mindy met an old college friend Chad. Now, whenever she had time, she rushed to meet him. Even when she was not with him, she found herself thinking about him a lot.
Mindy was in an unhappy marriage but with Chad in the picture, she became painfully aware that John and she made an unhappy married couple. Chad was on her mind 24/7 and yes, obsessive thought loop is a sign that you are falling in love with the other person.
You could be in an unhappy marriage and in love with someone else if you are:
- Constantly thinking about someone else while married
- Always imagining a life with them
- Able to share a better chemistry with them
- Looking forward to meeting them even at the cost of family time
- Having thoughts of divorce quite often
Related Reading: 13 Subtle Signs You Are In An Unhappy Relationship
2. You have physical symptoms of distress around your spouse
Psychology says that a lot of times, your mental conditions lead to physical symptoms, often without any medical explanation. If you notice such symptoms which miraculously feel less intense when you are with the other person, it could be a sign that you are falling in love with them despite being married.
For example, if you complain of headaches which almost disappear or lessen in intensity when you are away from your spouse or when you are with this other person, it could mean your unhappy marriage now has physical symptoms.
3. They become your go-to person
Do you pick up the phone or rush to wake up your spouse every time there is news to share? When I ask this to my clients, the ones in unhappy marriages say, “Oh! I hardly do that anymore.” Some justify further and add, “But then there is hardly anything to share anymore.”
Yes, communication says a lot and a lack of communication says so much more. So, look out for these signs. From discussing promotions of colleagues to your best friend’s wedding plans, everything is share-worthy if you want it to be. But if you and your partner have lost steam, none of it would sound worth mentioning.
It doesn’t end here, though. If you are married but feel mutual attraction and chemistry with someone else, you would tell all your problems and fears to them instead.
Related Reading: 11 Sure Signs Your Wife Likes Another Man
4. You hide them from your partner
It is no secret that we all have secrets we keep from everyone, including our other halves. But if this third person becomes your dirty little secret you hide from your partner, it’s one of the signs that you’re falling in love with them. So ask yourself these questions to gauge if they are your ‘secret.’
- Have you told your plus one about their existence?
- Does your spouse only know their name or are they aware of how often you meet them?
- Do you let your spouse know if they call you up?
- Do you either hang up or go to another room when they call you?
- Do your hands go sweaty and eyes dilate a little (non-verbal cues) every time their name pops up?
- Do you avoid mentioning them fearing that somehow your spouse will sense your intense attraction with someone else?
- Do you avoid calling them over even if your spouse says, “Let us have a friends’ get-together”?
- If you have answered ‘Yes’ to most of these questions, trust us, you are falling in love with them.
5. You don’t feel attracted to your partner sexually
There is yet another common belief that needs to be debunked – the frequency of sex with your spouse doesn’t say much about whether you are in the category of happy or unhappy married couples. A 2017 study found that an average couple in the US enjoyed sex 54 times a year which roughly means once a week. This figure is not a sign of unhappily married couples nor a benchmark for the happy pairs.
So is sex not an important parameter after all? Well, not exactly. Here is what is important in a married life:
- How frequently you have sex with your spouse isn’t important, but if it has decreased drastically in the last few days or months, it signals toward something concerning
- Even if you have sex, you feel neither the connection nor the intimacy that you once felt
- You never initiate sex and are always look for reasons to sidestep
- You are not aroused by their look or touch anymore
- You are fantasizing about someone else while having sex with your partner
- Even after having sex with your spouse, you feel unsatisfied
6. You feel no guilt complaining about your spouse to the ‘other one’
For someone to admit that they are in an unhappy marriage is one of the harder tasks because people often look at it as a personal failure. They try to conceal the sadness and portray a happy family picture whenever possible.
But if you feel comfortable and even guilt-free while admitting this side of your marriage to the third person, your connection with them is deeper than just friendship. In fact, you seek their advice and value their judgment more than your own. You feel that this other person understands you much more than your spouse and so, venting to them doesn’t burden you with guilt in the least, but lightens you up. The emotional integrity in relationship with your spouse is clearly non-existent if this points rings a bell for you.
7. You and your partner snap at one another a lot now
Whether it is about not enough sex or too much laundry, conflicts in marriage are inevitable. But there are a lot of underlying factors in such conflicts that decide if a marriage is a happy one or not.
Psychologist Dr John Gottman, in his over 40 years of research, introduced a very interesting concept called ‘The Magic Ratio.’ He said that couples who have five positive interactions for every one negative argument, are the ones who last the longest. Do you do this with your partner?
Here are some more tell-tale unhappy marriage signs:
- If everything about your partner is making you irritable, and you don’t see any joy or positivity in your conversations with them, it could mean that you are drifting apart
- While there was a time when you couldn’t wait to jump into their arms, now all you want to see is their back
- Your arguments now mostly sound like general statements such as “You always leave the floor wet” or “You never take care of my needs”
Related Reading: Is Your Marriage Making You Depressed? 5 Reasons And 6 Helping Tips
8. Or, you completely stop fighting
Yes, one thing that is worse than having constant fights is a marriage sans conflicts. It is like two fish in a fish bowl but with a glass barrier between them. They coexist but remain in their own bubbles with no expectations, demands, fights, or love. When you feel intense attraction with someone else, you might not want to indulge in any level of intimacy with your spouse.
Research has revealed that couples who adopt avoidance over confrontation are more likely to lead an unhappy married life. Happy couples choose to discuss the issues that are worrying them but couples who are in a loveless marriage sometimes burn all the bridges and ways of communication.
If you resonate with this point, there is more for you to ponder — Even though you don’t actually argue or fight with your partner, you fight a verbal battle mentally all the time. You are constantly angry at your partner and you feel that you are now turning into a bitter person, all ‘because of your spouse.’
9. You have changed a lot
If you are married but obsessing over someone else, you would notice a bunch of changes in yourself. When we fall in love with someone new, our subconscious mind makes us act according to what our newfound love likes. So if this third person is on your mind all the time, it is highly possible that you would change things about yourself to please them and to be more compatible with them.
For example, if they like bright colors while you always preferred earthy tones, you might want to try your hand on some reds and blues too. You might even find people around you pointing this out about your new avatar. And while you vehemently refuse any such change, your heart would know they aren’t lying and something has surely taken a new turn.
Related Reading: 13 Signs You Are Deeply In Love With Someone
10. You avoid family outings
Do you spend longer hours in the office, linger on and roam around aimlessly much after the grocery shopping is done? Well, if you are unhappily married, home doesn’t sound like the fun, safe space you want to be in. So you avoid going home, and planning a family vacation is a complete no-no.
Unlike yester years, when planning exotic couple trip itself was a fun exercise you and your spouse loved indulging in, now, even the thought of spending time with them in a faraway romantic land makes your stomach churn with anxiety and nervousness. You look for reasons to avoid any such vacations and are mostly “busy with work” or “not well” in case of any family get-togethers.
11. Everything about your partner annoys you
Love makes everyone look perfect, and the lack of it? Well, it bursts the bubble and brings the imperfections right in front of your eyes. So if love fades, the same ‘perfect’ person is stripped of all their embellishments, making them look imperfect and incompatible. You are definitely unhappily married and in love with someone else if:
- Everything about your other half is annoying: No one is perfect (or everyone is). It is the love that makes them so lovable and different. So, if you now find your spouse irritating and annoying 24/7, there is a question mark on the love that probably once was
- You compare them mentally: You are not just annoyed but are constantly comparing them to the other person and thinking how they are so much better than your spouse
- You are unforgiving now: From the way they dress up to how they chomp their food, you are not just annoyed but also unforgiving about everything big and small. This means your marriage is not holding up
How To Deal With Being In Love With Someone Else
If the signs you have read in the article so far sound like someone echoing your thoughts, it is probably time to look in the mirror and admit, “I met the love of my life while married.” Acceptance and acknowledgement is the first step to acting upon a situation.
Once you have accepted that you have extramarital attraction, don’t panic. People in such situations often wonder, “What do I do if I’m married but in love with someone else?” Well, there are four things that can happen:
- You carry on like this: You continue loving the person but do nothing about your marriage either. You may or may not start an affair with the other person
- You end your marriage: You choose the other person over your marriage
- You end the emotional affair: You choose to stay married and sever ties with the other person
- The third person ends it all: The other person, if they loved you back as well, decides to step back
While each of these steps comes with their share of consequences and perks, it is important that you look at them both in terms of short as well as long-term impact. We understand that it is not an easy decision to take, and one of the best ways to reach a final decision is by the 10-10-10 method. Write down how the first three decisions might affect you in the next ten days, and then list down the things that will change in the next ten months, and finally what would change in the next ten years.
Once you have written down all the pros and cons of each decision, hopefully your mind would be less foggy and more capable of making the right decision.
If You Want To Save Your Marriage (5 Steps)
So after much mulling, you decide to save your marriage. Well, if this is your decision, let me tell you something that might calm your nerves. A lot of clients who came to me after ending their marriages because they loved someone else have later confessed that if they had another chance, they would have done things differently and saved their marriage instead.
Step 1. Stop all communication with the other person
This sounds like the most obvious step, isn’t it? Well, it is also the most difficult one. To cut all communication with this person who was your guilty pleasure and your go-to savior is hard, to say the least. But rip off the band-aid, follow the no-contact rule and resist all temptations to call them up or stalk them on social media.
Step 2: Bring the focus back on your marriage
The common saying that “marriage is a work in progress” holds much truth. Just putting someone away would not save your marriage. Your marriage was always in trouble, the other person just rocked the weak foundations. So it is time to reset your thoughts, and put your energy and time into your marriage.
Communicate more with your spouse. A study suggests that quality of communication between spouses directly affects their judgment of relationship satisfaction.
Related Reading: 13 Signs To Know If A Relationship Is Worth Saving
Step 3: Rekindle old love in your marriage
Remember the time when your spouse was the one you loved and vice versa? So, what changed? What made you seek love outside marriage and when did your life partner become far from perfect? Once you realize when things had started to change, you would know how to ‘unchange’ them.
Most of the marriages are not able to survive the jolt after the honeymoon phase is over. Transitioning from the warm, cozy hugs to everyday routine often takes a toll. But understand that while the honeymoon phase always gets over, the next phase doesn’t have to be loveless or dull. Put in efforts and rekindle the old love. Plan a surprise dinner like the good old days or go for an impromptu weekend getaway to your favorite spot or have an order-in day with a lot of hugs, talks, and much more.
Step 4: Have faith in your love
It is not easy to heal a bruised heart, so be kind to yourself. Even if the first few attempts at saving your marriage feel a little forced, remind yourself that you and your spouse once had a good love-filled life. The fact that you chose to save your marriage says abundantly about your belief in it. All you need to do is remind yourself time and again that while it looks difficult, you have been on this happy road in the past and you know the way.
Step 5: Question your obsessive thoughts
Even if you have stopped all communication with the other person, chances of you obsessing over them are very high. You might find yourself thinking about them even as you lie in bed with your spouse or while you go grocery shopping. You might go to the office canteen hoping to meet them or go to their friends’ social media profile to just have a glimpse of them.
When such thoughts take over, question yourself. Ask yourself, “Why am I still thinking about them?” “Why am I not letting their thoughts leave me?” “What need were they fulfilling?” “Can I fulfill it in some other way?” “Was I repeating an old pattern by falling in love with them?”
Sometimes, honest interaction with the self helps us understand feelings better. Such questions would end the thought loop and chances are, your brain would get too tired confronting you and might stop obsessing over them.
If You Wish To End Your Marriage (5 Steps)
If you have found yourself confessing, “I met the love of my life while married and I am done giving a chance to my marriage,” it is time to think and act clearly and with caution.
Accepting that you are unhappily married and in love with someone else is not an easy feat. In a world that still glorifies marriage, your decision to separate may not be taken kindly. But while this is a difficult step, it can lead to a beautiful life ahead which you were probably deprived of in your loveless marriage.
Ending a marriage, when you love someone else, doesn’t have to be ugly or traumatic. Once you have realized that your marriage is over, what do you do? Here are some steps to follow to make sure that the ending to your marriage is a peaceful one and that the decision to divorce is not hasty or something you’d regret later.
Step 1: Talk it out with the other person
Whether they are in the picture directly or not, the fact that they are with you in this scenario cannot be denied. So it is important that if they are your plan B, they are communicated clearly about it too. You need to express your expectations and communicate the kind of future you have been weaving in your bubble. Make sure you are not the only one there.
Whether they feel the same way for you or not, you may still want to end your loveless marriage.
Step 2: Be empathetic to your spouse
If you are the one who is calling it quits, it would be humane for you to be empathetic toward them. While it is not an easy decision for you either, the fact is that you might have someone out there to go to. Your spouse might be not so lucky. So whatever the reasons of divorce, it never hurts to be kind and empathetic to someone you once loved, or shared a life with.
Step 3: Don’t indulge in blame game
While some grudges and blames are inevitable, setting healthy boundaries with your spouse is crucial. Tell them how you have made the decision and do not want to indulge in any mudslinging about who did what.
Blame games will only make things murkier for both of you and whether it is apparent or not, a failed marriage is often both the partners’ responsibility. So while blaming the other spouse sounds natural, it doesn’t morph the fact that when two people drift apart, they both retract steps. Blaming each other will only pile up frustration and make the divorce bitter and resentful.
Related Reading: 8 Ways Blame-Shifting In A Relationship Harms It
Step 4: Don’t let children be the victims
If you have child/children, the chance of them being the worst sufferer(s) is very real. A broken marriage is a lot of things but broken children are its worst side-effects. Don’t be bitter about your spouse when you talk to your children about the separation.
Your spouse might not have been the ideal partner but for your children, let them be the best parent. Also, it is important to let your children know that while you two are moving forward in separate directions, they would still be a team when it comes to parenting.
Meanwhile, make sure you have talked in detail about your children and your plans around them with the other person. It is extremely important to set boundaries, express expectations, and communicate fears about your kids.
Step 5: Forgive yourself
Look in the mirror and let yourself know that choosing a better and happier life does not make you evil or selfish. Be kind to yourself and let yourself know that it is not your fault if you could not live in an unhappy marriage and found love outside its bounds.
If you live with guilt or refuse to forgive yourself, the emotion might haunt you in your future life too. Do not be burdened by any negative thoughts and surround yourself with friends and family who understand you and not blame you.
- Unhappily married people are emotionally vulnerable and could feel attracted to others
- It is important to know if the attraction is mere infatuation or It’s something deeper
- If you’re married but constantly thinking about someone else, obsessively imagining a life with them, venting out your frustrations to them, and toying with the idea of divorce, you might be in lov
- Lot of fights or very less sex are not sole pointers of an unhappy marriage but are definitely red flags
- Ask yourself tough questions and know what you want – do you want to stay in your unhappy marriage and make it better, or do you want to leave?
Nobody wants to fall in love with someone else when they are already married. But sometimes when you are in a marriage that is abusive, loveless, incompatible, or unhappy, letting your vulnerable self fall for someone who is kinder and full of love and care is natural. But it is equally important to explore if this is indeed love or mere adrenaline rush of meeting someone new and exciting. Be firm yet kind to yourself, and ask yourself what you want if you are unhappily married and in love with someone else.