Love. We talk about it in Sacrament meeting, in Relief Society, and even on occasion in Priesthood. Sometimes we glamorize it or fantasize it, but never (well, hardly ever) do we discuss what to do when falling in love with someone who’s married. Mostly, we ignore the idea that it might happen because … well … it’s not supposed to happen.
Let’s think about it, though. Is it so strange to consider the possibility that we might be attracted to someone, regardless of marital status? We interact with other people’s spouses on a regular basis, especially at work and at church. It’s probably safe to say that almost everyone has felt attracted to another person that’s already in a committed relationship. When that happens, it’s not an issue of infidelity as much as one where personalities click. Still, it’s the wise individual who—rather than pretend it couldn’t happen—knows what to do when it starts.
1. Ponder why you’re feeling attracted to that married someone.
The following are a few questions to consider:
- Am I feeling lonely and/or don’t have a loving relationship?
- If I have a relationship, is it healthy? Or are my spouse and I not getting along?
- Do my spouse and I spend enough time together?
The last question is one of vital importance, because it’s easy as members of the church to become heavily involved in callings and service to others. In fact, we become so involved that we forget to provide service, in the form of quality time, to the one we love and to whom we’ve made an eternal commitment.
2. Nip it in the bud.
As a college student, Susan (name has been changed) was friends with a man she thought was single. She fell in love and then realized he was married. She felt shocked and at first didn’t do anything to change her feelings. She said in retrospect, “You can indulge yourself too much. You know something needs to change, but your heart thinks otherwise.” Eventually, though, she realized this wasn’t the course she wanted her life to take.
Knowing what to do is simple in one respect but excruciatingly hard in another. As soon as you notice you’re attracted, stop the situation. In addition, don’t tell friends that you’re attracted, either. Why? Because as soon as you do, they’ll feel the need to be supportive, which could translate into finding ways to help your budding feelings grow.
Who, then, do you turn to for help? If you feel comfortable confiding in your bishop, that might be a good source. Just be sure to tell him you want the information kept confidential and that you don’t want it discussed in ward council. Any bishop worth his salt will keep the confidence and immediately find callings that will keep you busy and far away from the person that is consuming all your thoughts. If you feel uncomfortable confiding in your bishop, try the stake president, or even an LDS Family Services counselor. It’s hard to bear such a burden, but recognize that with the exception of a few rare circumstances, friends are not the ones to ask for help.
In addition, no matter how strong the attraction is, or whether you even think your feelings would be returned, never tell your feelings to the one you’re attracted to. Susan stated, “Don’t make it an issue for them, too. Don’t mention it.”
Yes, it is hard to keep love inside, but once you tell the other person about it, you’ve opened Pandora’s box and will never be able to take that statement back. If you’re good friends with the person you’re in love with, it will ruin the friendship. The support and camaraderie you had will be lost, and you’ll feel even more alone.
3. Look at the eternal perspective.
Think it through logically. Suppose the person you’re in love with leaves his/her spouse for you. Most likely, the church will take a dim view of a divorce under those circumstances, and there will probably not be a cancellation of the prior sealing. Nor will permission be given for that person to be sealed to you. Priesthood blessings and ordinations may be denied, as well. The divorce will split his/her family, emotionally damaging children, the other spouse, and friends. Ask yourself, “Do I really want to ruin his/her reputation and engage in a marriage under these circumstances … one that will be for this life only?” Or, “Do I love this person enough to want him/her to remain an individual of honor, to maintain his/her good standing in the church and the community, and to keep the covenants he/she made?”
4. See less of him/her.
Moving to another state might not be the answer, because you will lose your support system. However, if you work together, transfer to another department or even another company. If you hold church callings that overlap, ask to be released and put into a different position. You might even consider attending another ward for a time. If you used to see each other as you drove down the street, take a different route. Susan suggested, “Label [the relationship] as something that has boundaries. Put it in a different class. There’s no need to be cold, but [you need to] only talk to each other on that level.” In other words, move it back a step … or as far as required in order to control your feelings.
It will be hard for a time—heartbreaking, in fact—but if staying totally away from the person is the only way to manage it, then do it.
When I interviewed Susan, we discussed why members of the church aren’t exempt from experiencing such heart-rending situations. Susan gave an opinion that offered excellent insight. “We’re allowed these experiences—ones that are going to happen naturally—to see how far we allow it to go, as a test of our character and of the commitments we’ve made. When we come back …God is aware. It sums up [our] devotion to marriage.”