I had a conversation with a client who felt ashamed because she found herself feeling attracted to men outside of her relationship. She felt alone in this experience. I reassured her that she is not alone and that it is normal and healthy to feel sexual attraction outside of committed relationships. The challenge, however, isn’t the sexual attraction, it is the pull to act on it that can feel uncomfortable.
This was something that came up for me in my relationship with Angus in the early years. I would find myself attracted to another man, and the pull would feel intense. I remember one occasion being on a modeling trip and feeling this with one of the male models. It didn’t help that we were meant to be a couple on the shoot. Picture this:
We are in the desert. Under this expansive blue sky. It feels like it is just the two of us even though we are surrounded by people, the makeup artist, the hairstylist, the photographic assistant, the photographer, the art director, the second photographic assistant. They have all disappeared into the background, and it is just the two of us snuggling, taking in the vista, wearing our white t-shirts and jeans for the catalog we are working for. There is a black beetle next to his left cowboy boot, and an electric current running between us. The photographer got the shot and we move on, but the current is still there. I feel like I have to physically restrain myself from succumbing to my urges using every fiber of my being not to say anything.
This is not something I shared with other people. It definitely felt like a moral failing on my part. I thought I was doomed to be in this struggle. But it was years later that I found I no longer had those urges. This was not due to failing libido. It shifted when I found myself bringing both feet into my marriage. There was a distinctive shift that occurred within me. It felt like a scanner got turned off. It is not that I don’t find people attractive or appealing anymore, but I no longer struggled with the inner pull to stray.
What I see now is that when I had found myself being drawn to other people, I was under the misunderstanding that they would make me happy. The pull to act on the sexual attraction was based on a misunderstanding that my wellbeing was found outside of me. If I wasn’t feeling happy in the relationship, it looked to me at the time that there was a problem with my partner. If he were different, I would be happier. It then made sense for me to have my scanner on searching the horizon for better-suited partners who would make me happy. And if I found one, I would then be caught between the push and pull of my desire to be faithful and my wish to be happier.
This changed for me when I got really clear that my happiness comes from within and it can’t be taken away from me by my partner. Seeing this was so freeing. I finally relaxed into myself and into my marriage. I no longer needed to be on high alert ready to get my exit strategy ready if the relationship didn’t feel good. Knowing my wellbeing was found within helped me to see that Angus was wonderful exactly as he is -- quirks and all. This was a tremendous relief. I hadn't realized how much I had been holding myself back in our relationship and how much energy that took. Letting go and being all in was much easier, and I was much happier. And of course, the relationship improved significantly.
So if you find yourself attracted to a person outside of your relationship, know that is normal and healthy. If you find yourself wanting to be in a monogamous relationship with your partner, but struggling to stay faithful, check inside and see if it looks like your wellbeing is found outside of yourself. Are you struggling? Does it look like the person you are attracted to will take away or reduce your struggle? Are you wanting to escape your emotional experience?
If this is the case, see if you can allow yourself to relax and feel the peace that lies within. From that place of peace can you hear your wisdom? Can you feel your inner security and wellbeing? From that vantage point, do you still feel the pull or does it disappear when you are connected with the source of your wellbeing?
I know for myself if I had done that when I was struggling, I would have learned much more about what I was truly seeking and found a better solution to my inner struggle.
Rohini Ross is co-founder of “The Rewilders.” Listen to her podcast, with her partner Angus Ross, Rewilding Love. They believe too many good relationships fall apart because couples give up thinking their relationship problems can’t be solved. In this season of the Rewilding Love Podcast, Rohini and Angus help a couple on the brink of divorce due to conflict. Angus and Rohini also co-facilitate private couples' intensives that rewild relationships back to their natural state of love. Rohini is also the author of the ebook Marriage, and she and Angus are co-founders of The 29-Day Rewilding Experience and The Rewilding Community. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To learn more about her work and subscribe to her blog visit: TheRewilders.org.