The Rational Basis® of Happiness Podcast

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Doubting my Choice

I am engaged but have feelings for another man.

(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)


Dr. Kenner:      Right now I’m going to turn to the phones and this is a situation where a woman finds herself engaged to be married. Of course she doesn’t find herself there, she chose that, and she’s got eyes for another man. What do you do with that situation?


Female:           Good morning Dr. Kenner. I have a question regarding my relationship. I’m having a problem with having feelings for two people. I am in a very serious relationship; however, I have feelings for someone else and it’s something that’s been bothering me and has been affecting my current relationship and I don’t know what to do about it. I feel like I’ve been denying those feelings, the feelings for the other person, for a while and it’s something I thought would go away, but it keeps surfacing whenever I’m in a relationship with someone else. I don’t know what to do. At this point, I’m on the verge of losing my serious relationship because of my feelings for this other person, so I need your advice. I don’t know, I’ve prejudged the other person based on certain things without giving them a chance, and I feel like as each day passes by, my feelings for the other person gets deeper and deeper and I don’t know how, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if I should just call off my relationship and give this person a chance? I just don’t know. I’m just confused. At this point, the stage, things are very complicated because, again, like I mentioned, my relationship is very serious. It’s come to the point where I’m engaged with this other person, but I’m having feelings for person B.


Dr. Kenner:      Here’s the big problem. The big word that’s causing all your problems is “feelings.” You’re leaving them floating, unanalyzed. What do you mean by feelings? I’m having feelings for this other guy. I’m having less feelings for my fiancé. And you don’t tell me that you’re engaged until partway into your question, quite a way into your question. So the question that comes to my mind is, how much time have you spent sitting down and figuring out what the cause of the feelings are? Why are you feeling reluctant around your fiancé? Do you have commitment issues? You’re afraid to get married? Your parents got divorced? Are there personal factors to do with him? Maybe he’s not the lover you hoped he would be. Of course you could grow together and learn skills, but maybe you don’t want to put in the effort. Maybe he’s very involved with work and doesn’t have time for you, in which case it’s a wake-up call. You either need to leave him, break off the engagement or work with him to see if you can become more important in his life. Maybe you’re someone who has always let your eyes wander and no matter who you have, they become the norm and it becomes boring very quickly. You don’t know how to re-energize a relationship and so your eyes will wander to someone else. You fixate on someone else.


This other person, you’re having feelings for, very powerful romantic feelings for this second guy. And you’ve allowed that fantasy of this guy to grow. If you have details of the other guy, if you’re spending time with him on the sly, then you’ve been deceitful and you should feel some pretty powerful guilt for that. But if he’s someone at work, let’s say, and you’re talking with him a lot, making more opportunities to meet with him after work and have a cup of coffee and you talk about your relationship – that’s what people do – and you feel like he’s just a good friend. And then it becomes not just friends. There was a book written by that title. And you just want to make love to him. He’s the one that, guy number two, not your fiancé, is the guy that you fantasize about. Well, partly you’re in love with your fantasy. You need to tease apart how well do you know this guy? I think you may have even mentioned you may not know him that well, so without the data, we can impose any fantasy we want on someone that we see that is good looking or has sexual appeal or that listens to us. You need to sit down with paper and pencil, but be ready to shred this afterward. Write down all of the feelings. Write down what the feelings would say toward your fiancé. Then on another piece of paper, write down what your feelings would say toward this other guy. You need to get the details out. It may be that my fiancé is loving, he’s my best friend, but he’s boring and sex is not any good. He doesn’t listen to me in sex, and guy B turns me on. He’s easy to talk to. He opens the door for me. He brings me coffee in the morning. But I think he drinks too much. Oh my gosh, you’ve got a fact there that you need to take a closer look at.


So you can break off the engagement if you want. I think you should immediately level with your partner so that he isn’t constantly baffled as to why you’re pulling away. Let him know that there is another guy and you’re going to try to figure it out. You can even get into therapy, individual therapy, and try to work this through. I suggest that you value yourself enough that you never just stay on a floating emotional level, but you analyze your emotions. That’s what cognitive therapy is all about. If you want a book, there’s a book on my website, Mind over Mood, that will help you untangle what’s under some of the negative or even positive emotions you’re feeling to get to the words that would best express those emotions so that we have better clarity about ourselves.




Here is an email I received, from Mrs. Rossi. See what you think about this. “Dear Dr. Kenner. My husband Ernie is in the military, and before he joined, he was somewhat romantic. Now there isn’t a romantic bone in his body. Can you tell me what I should do? Our marriage is just ‘hello, goodbye.’ Thank you, Mrs. Rossi.” Well, the first thing that comes to my mind is to do some detective work. Why is my marriage just “hello and goodbye?” Does he have a honey on the side? Amazing how many times I’ve seen that. Is he gay? Is he just overwhelmed with his involvement in the military and he’s becoming a Type A personality and he avoids intimacy? Is there some trauma involved? Does he feel guilty about something? Talk with him. Try to draw him out. Instead of saying to him, “I’m sick and tired of being ignored. You’ve got no sense of romance. You treat me like dirt. You better change or else.” Those types of threats, personal attacks and sarcasm backfire.


This is what you can do – remind him of your most romantic moments with him. Say, “Honey, I remember the time you brought me lunch and left me a romantic note in it. I thought about you all afternoon. I couldn’t wait to come home to you. I remember the backrubs we used to give each other and going dancing with you and how playful it would be. I miss that so much and I wonder if you’re missing it too? You seem wrapped up in your work. Help me understand you better. I wonder if there’s anything else behind the scenes that you’re keeping from me and that would help us explain why the fire has gone out of the marriage? What thoughts do you have on how we can recapture that playfulness and tenderness together? Or what is it I need to know to make sense of where we’re at right now? Help me out.” I would try to draw him out so that it encourages him to talk and the mystery is solved. Also, look around for clues. You may find lipstick on the collar.


Movie clip:

Female:           I just have so many questions I want to ask you. You have no idea what your work means to me. Oh come on. Just a couple of questions? How hard is that? How do you write women so well?

Male:               I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability.


Dr. Kenner:      That’s from As Good as it Gets. Can you imagine having that type of passion and just wanting to know and tell me more, how do you write so well? I’m eager to know? And the guy looks at you as if you’re a total flake and just says, “I take away reason and accountability.” Total sarcasm. If you’re living with someone like that – not just dealing with them on a chance basis – but if you’re living with someone who constantly gives you quick answers that are sarcastic, undercutting, belittling, take a closer look. Learn how to stand up for yourself and don’t take it from them. If you have the option of leaving the relationship or marriage, that’s possible. Try doing that. Or try drawing them out to find out what’s underlying their anger, their resentment, their feeling that it’s not fair, their use of sarcasm. Try to draw them out and get to the core of it. Otherwise, they’ll keep going and your life will just feel like one hopeless, chronic struggle and you don’t want to have that.