There are thoughts you shouldn't be having about other people when you're in a relationship, ever, and then there are thoughts that are more common and harmless than you'd think. That's because thoughts and actions are two vastly different things. Sometimes they align with each other, and sometimes they're not even friends who nod and wave when they pass each other on the street. They're just thoughts. If you act on them, that's when things get tricky. There are also the thoughts that could be red flags for unhealthy or abusive pattern have formed.
Couples came to see my a lot, when I worked as a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, worried that they had already cheated, or that they were terrible people, just because of their thoughts alone. That's totally not true. Sometimes our brains are just weird. They concoct strange scenarios and they spout out irrational thoughts in response to to all kinds of feelings or situations. Need proof? Consider your dreams. Dreams are just weird.
If you're worried that your mental relationship game is a sign that your actual relationship game is headed off track, take a look through these thoughts before you jump to conclusions. Odds are, you're just a normal person with a weird brain, just like the rest of us. If your thoughts do point to something unhealthy, you can always talk it over with someone or get help by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
1. I'm In Love With You. Like, A Lot.
The only person you should be loving is the person (or people) you're in a relationship with. Feeling attracted to another person, or having a light crush on someone that you'd never act on happens, and is usually nothing to worry about. But when you're thinking that you're in love with someone other than who you're in a relationship with, that's when you have a problem. That goes double for exes. You shouldn't move on to a new, serious relationship until you're emotionally over your last one.
2. I Would Leave My Partner For You In A Hot Second
I think this all the time, but it's about Queen Latifah, so it's pretty harmless. If you honestly think you would leave your partner if someone you have your eye on would ask you out, then that's a problem. If you're not emotionally invested in your relationship, your performing a type of lie, especially if your partner thinks things are going great. Don't keep someone dangling while you wait for someone better.
3. I Bet I Could Get Away With Sleeping With You
If you're in an open relationship, and you're following the rules you and your partners have agreed on, then you're all good. But if you're plotting in your head about ways to sleep with someone else without getting caught, and you and your partner don't have an open relationship, that's not cool. If those thoughts are frequent, and you're pretty sure you're going to act on them, you either need to talk to your partner about opening your relationship up to other sex partners, or you need to be single an unattached.
4. Me Ex Would Do This Better
Shut it down. Comparison is the thief of joy, as the quote goes. All love is different, and comparing your new partner to your ex is just asking for drama and hurt feelings. Instead of thinking "my ex was better at..." you should be thinking of ways you could communicate your needs to your new partner. And when you catch yourself comparing your ex and your current partner, stop yourself. If you do this enough, you'll train your brain to stop thinking that way.
5. I Bet You Wouldn't Cheat On Me
If you're crushing on someone, and you think to yourself, "I bet my crush would never cheat on me," then what you have is a trust problem in your current relationship. Lots of couples can get past cheating and get to a happy, healthy place. Some can't. There's no shame in either. What you can't do is keep plugging forward in a relationship while you ignore your trust issues. You have to get to the heart of them, communicate about them, make a plan, and then move forward with that plan, otherwise those issues will get worse, and may even follow you to your future relationships.
6. I Can't Be Your Friend
If there's someone in your life you legitimately want to be friends with, and your first thought is, "I can't be friends with them. My partner wouldn't like it/let me," then that's a huge red flag for having a controlling partner. Abusers like to isolate their partner from friends and family. They also like to keep a tight watch over who their partners are allowed to interact with. In a healthy relationship built on trust, your partner would be happy and supportive when you're making new friends.
7. At Least I Can Talk To You; You Understand Me
The problem with this line of thinking is that you're admitting to yourself, via your thoughts, that you're not getting your needs met from your current partner. How many cheating situations start with one partner who looks for comfort and understanding in the arms of someone else? If you can't talk to your partner, that's a problem you need to solve instead of going to someone else to get those needs met.
8. I Could Use You To Destroy My Partner
Hold up. Revenge is not a healthy relationship skill! If your partner cheats on you or makes you feel unwanted, undesired, and misunderstood, than the right thing to do it to solve those problems or end the relationship. Thinking about using another person to make your partner feel the way they make you feel will only complicate your life and hurt more people. Always take the high road, even in your thoughts, when you can.
9. You Make Me Feel Safe
If you're thinking of turning to someone who isn't your partner for protection against your partner, that's a huge red flag. Really, the fact that you don't think you're safe is enough on its own, without adding in another person. In that situation, those thoughts must be taken seriously. You need to act because abusive relationships can escalate to deadly violence with little to no warning. Don't spend your time hoping someone will save you. Call the Hotline, or get help in whatever way you can.
If these thoughts are happening, listen to them. Let them motivate you to make positive changes instead of adding drama to your life.
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