Innocent Crushes

Need a boost in your relationship? Harmless infatuations can be just the thing to rekindle the spark.
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Good for You

I have a giant crush on my spinning instructor. He is the best I've ever had, and let me tell you, I've spun around the block a few times. He is hilarious, motivating, and truly movie-star (not just "hot trainer") handsome.

And he looks as good in his bike shorts as he must have in the tux he wore to his wedding.

Oh, and did I mention that I'm also -- blissfully -- married?

So no, I can't exactly picture my instructor and me on a stationary cycle built for two. And honestly, I don't think about him when I'm not at the gym.

But I never, ever miss a spinning class. I am always on time. And when I'm there, I make sure my form is perfect; I spin hard, really hard. Teacher's-pet hard, show-off hard.

And when I come home from a weekend morning spin class, well, let's just say I'm extra-happy to see my husband.

Experts do not say that this kind of crush -- the kind that's your own little secret, the kind you certainly don't act on -- is "harmless." Rather, they say it's better than harmless! Why? Even an inconsequential crush, says Beverly B. Palmer, PhD, professor of psychiatry at California State University Dominguez Hills, "adds a little something extra to your life that is pleasurable and makes you happy -- people see you smiling more!"

People, including your husband. "A crush can remind you of why you fell for him," says Sharyn Wolf, a therapist in private practice in New York City and author of How to Stay Lovers for Life (Penguin USA, 1997).

But shouldn't your husband remind you of your husband? Well, it's not the people so much as the feelings involved, says Wolf. "The crush feelings go through the same synapses in your body, triggering the same bunch of biochemicals," she says. "It's not that this guy reminds you of your partner, it's that the crush reminds you of the way your body responded -- and still does-- with the person you love. And that's when you say to your husband, 'Let's get a sitter.'"

Kristin, 35, of Pittsburgh, had a crush on a higher-up while she was in medical school. Even during -- and after -- long, grueling days in the hospital, "it gave me that nice excited feeling that revved me up when I got home to my then-fiance," she says. "You know: crush leads to sexy feeling, outlet for sexy feeling is sexy fella at home!"

Carol Rinkleib Ellison, PhD, author of Women's Sexualities: Generations of Women Share Intimate Secrets of Sexual Self-Acceptance (New Harbinger Publications, 2000) and a sex and marriage therapist in Oakland, California, agrees. "An innocent crush gives you a little spurt of arousal, or turns up your pilot light -- but you know that's going home to your partner and will enhance the fun you have with your partner."

These crushes are safe because practically the whole point of them is not to act on them. "When you have a crush on someone you are suddenly reminded of your own sensuality. You get that little tingly feeling you don't even want to do anything about. You know you don't actually want to be with this person for real. It's just great to know those feelings are there," says Wolf.

Of course, there are crushes that are not so innocent. How do you know when a crush crosses the line, when one harmless spark becomes playing with fire -- even when nothing "physical" is happening? "A safe crush is one that adds to the relationship in your life. A destructive one is one that may subtract from your relationship," says Palmer. Are you distracted from your squeeze by thoughts of your crush? Do you tell your crush things that you don't tell your husband? Are you with your crush -- even "just talking?" -- when you could be home? In those instances, it's probably time to limit time with Mr. Crush and focus on what's missing for you from your marriage.

Continued on page 2:  Use Your Crush


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