Ask Scary Mommy: My Husband Is Fantasizing About Our Next-Door Neighbor
Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
This week: What do you do when your spouse has a crush that’s creeping you out? Have your own question? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Scary Mommy,
My husband recently told me that he has a crush on our older, single neighbor. We do not know her that well outside of exchanging the normal pleasantries when we see each other outside, but he says he is sexually fantasizing about her. He felt the need to tell me because he feels “guilty” for how much he has been thinking about this. The neighbor doesn’t know, and has never done anything to give him the vibe that these are reciprocated feelings. I know it’s not her fault, but this entire situation has me feeling so uncomfortable and upset. I actually would have been better off NOT knowing and letting his fantasy play out in his head. We’ve been happily married for 13 years, and we have an active (3+ times weekly) sex life that has always seemed to make us both happy. We can’t just pick up and move, and he’s obviously not going to proposition this poor woman, but what the hell do I do with this information?
Um. *blink blink*
I can definitely see why you’re weirded out about this. It can be unnerving to some folks to hear that their spouse is fantasizing about someone else, period — let alone the person you see wheeling the trash can to the curb in her bathrobe and wave to while you’re taking the kids to soccer.
Sexual fantasies aren’t abnormal, and just because your husband is having a mental romp with the neighbor lady doesn’t mean that he’s going to act on it. However, because she’s in close proximity, it could be a little different than him fantasizing about some celebrity he’ll literally never meet (let alone have the chance to bone). I guess the first thing is to make sure he’s actually leaving her alone … especially if she has no reciprocated interest and/or doesn’t even know him beyond neighborly small talk. His sexual feelings toward her shouldn’t impact how he treats her; she has no idea, after all, and hasn’t done anything to encourage his behavior.
Simply advising him not to think about her isn’t going to help. If I tell you not to think about doughnuts, guess what you’re probably going to think about? Doughnuts. The trick is not to suppress the thoughts (that can backfire), but to change the focus instead. A 2008 study in the journal “Evolution and Human Behavior” says “[L]ove, but not sexual desire, is a commitment device, helping an individual suppress thoughts of an attractive other.” Basically, the researchers found that thinking about a current romantic partner — more specifically, a time when you felt love and connection with them — can help refocus thoughts about someone else. As it turns out, feelings of love are a more powerful draw than even sexual fantasies.
Your husband’s fantasy about your neighbor isn’t abnormal in and of itself. But it might be a good time to take stock of any deeper issues within the marriage (or himself!) that is causing him to feel restless or unsatisfied. Especially since he is thinking about her so much that it’s causing him to feel guilty enough to actually confess, despite knowing that it could potentially upset you. I’m a firm believer that even healthy marriages can benefit from counseling, so if it’s an option for the two of you, it certainly can’t hurt; there’s nothing bad about a deeper understanding of yourselves and your relationship.
Here’s hoping that soon, your husband’s thoughts about the neighbor will be limited to whether that was her dog who pooped on your lawn.