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Already in a Relationship But You Can’t Stop Thinking of Someone Else?

You’re in a relationship, but you can’t stop thinking of someone else. If you’re confused about it, here is what you need to know to feel better about it.

can't stop thinking of someone else

If you can’t stop thinking of someone else, it isn’t cheating! It’s either the point before you decide to cheat, or the point in which you simply question your relationship, but know not to cheat. If both explanations sound bad, it’s because they aren’t the best situations to be in.

Stuck between two people that clearly hold your attention for very different reasons. One person might be the one you’ve been dating for years, while the other might be someone you met recently and who gave you something you miss in your relationship. And now, you have developed a crush on them.

Why do we think about other people while in a relationship?

You probably feel guilty if you are in a committed relationship but you can’t stop thinking of someone else. It can feel like you’re betraying your partner, but you also are wondering what it says about your relationship.

If this is how you’re feeling, don’t worry. It’s actually pretty common for a lot of people. You might like to think it’s a bad sign that there’s something wrong with your relationship, or an opportunity to make it better. But it might just be a crush.

[Read: Having a crush while in a relationship – why it’s okay and what to know]

Believe it or not, having a crush and simply finding someone else attractive is not the same thing. Finding other people attractive is just inevitable. Just because we’re in a relationship doesn’t make us blind to other beautiful people. It’s natural as long as you don’t act on it.

However, crushes on people are different because they usually involve imagining what it would be like to be with that person. Therefore, the crush does deeper from the physical to the emotional.

If the reason you can’t stop thinking about someone else is that you have a crush on them, it might be because you think that person can fulfill a need your partner doesn’t. It could be the need for love, attention, sex, friendship, or anything else unique to you. [Read: How to start a conversation with your crush – The secrets to impress]

Crushes happen for a lot of different reasons, but they usually sneak up on us. That’s why when you develop a crush when you’re already in a relationship can take you by surprise and bother you.

Maybe something changed in your relationship recently and so you feel less connected to your partner. Or maybe you have a new job or your partner betrayed you. Regardless, it could also be just a normal ebb and flow of a connection that is natural in long-term relationships.

So, it’s a good idea to think about why you are thinking about someone else. Does it represent something that’s missing from your relationship? This helps you understand why you’re feeling this way, and it’s a starting point for what to do about it.

The important steps to follow to help make up your mind

Things may seem grim, and they very well could be. But they don’t have to be. With a bit of reflection and initiative, you can make the tough choices needed to solve your problem. [Read: How to handle a serious crush when you’re already in a relationship]

1. Reflect on your relationship honestly

Are you happy, or could you afford to change a few serious things? Speaking bluntly, and without trying to offend anyone, if you think about someone else while in a relationship, it means something isn’t very right.

You don’t have to panic if it’s just a passing thought, but if it’s someone you can’t stop obsessing about, you need to actually ask yourself why this is happening.

Maybe you don’t have enough sex, or maybe you argue too much and this other person is nice to you. Whatever it is, it makes an impact, which left you vulnerable enough to let this happen. [Read: 24 emotional affair signs you probably didn’t notice]

2. Reflect on this other person

What made you start thinking about them? What did you notice that made you think? In keeping with step one, this person did something that drew your attention. Figure out what that might be.

Did they make you laugh, or understand something that took you by surprise? Did they give you something meaningful, or show you that you have a lot in common?

Were they paying attention to you, which made you feel flattered? Was it something shallow like their appearance? Dig deep and ask yourself why you’re falling for them.

3. Put two and two together: does the intruder plug the holes found in your relationship? 

Well, do things make a little more sense now? If your partner is being mean lately, as in they just can’t stop arguing and picking fights with you, but this other person is nothing but sweet to you, then you have yourself a case of using someone else to fulfill your needs.

You fell for this other person, legitimately, because your partner pushed you away and you let yourself get swept away by someone else. Or you’re simply using this unsuspecting person, but you don’t love them. 

Oftentimes, people still love their partner, they just can’t stop thinking about someone else. That feeling of butterflies may be nothing more than you using someone for your own selfish needs.

That’s the same feeling you’d get if you’d been stranded in the desert for two days and then suddenly someone rescued you and gave you water. [Read: What am I doing with my life? How to break through the rut]

4. Think hypothetically: if there weren’t major issues in your relationship, would this other person even be relevant? 

Something that helps with this is thinking back to a time when you and your partner were happy, but not in the honeymoon phase anymore, because let’s face it, the honeymoon phase is when you’re wearing blind goggles.

Surely, there was a time after that when you both felt happy together and fulfilled. If you had that again, would you even be thinking of this other person?

5. Think realistically: who do you speak to the most, and who do you want to speak to them most? 

Who do you miss, or spend more time with, and why? You know that urge you get when you really want to talk to someone, and no matter what you do to try and stop yourself, deep down you know you’re just delaying it? Well, who gives you that feeling?

This is the person you need to speak to every single day, the one you get anxious over, the one that you want to spend time with the most. The one who makes you feel complete, even if you have moments of sadness with them. [Read: What you need to do when you like someone but you’re already in a relationship]

6. Now that you’ve got all the details in order, pick one person

At this point, it’s become clear you favor one person more than the other and that you love someone, and hopefully not the other.

If somehow you’re unlucky and love both, then you surely love them for different reasons. Who feels more real, less selfish, more long-term? Who feels more like it’s just a reflection of what you’re missing and craving?

This may take time, picking one person, but it also might be easy after the previous steps. Every case is a different story, but what remains true in every situation, you are the third choice. Meaning if you feel torn and like you absolutely can’t pick, just be alone. 

If it sounds odd, think of it like this: do you want a love that isn’t strong enough to stand on its own, or do you want to be alone until you find a love that doesn’t let itself be shared with anyone else? [Read: Torn between two lovers? 16 criteria to pick one that’s right for you]

7. Take a break for a few days, not to do anything stupid, but to let the dust settle and think of solutions

Simply talk it out then and there, if the timing is right. The timing is right if your partner takes it well, and realizes you mean it when you say you don’t have real feelings for the other person.

Clearly, they know they have neglected points in your relationship and you simply saw them in someone else. That’s the extent of the situation.

It’s not the right timing if they didn’t react well, and they’re clearly distraught over the revelation. Just emphasize your feelings for them, explain you want to be with them, not anyone else, and that you will wait to talk until they’re ready. [Read: Love triangles and the confusing complications they cause]

8. If you decide to move on with the other person, break things off in the best way you possibly can, and don’t judge, blame, or berate your ex

They will be angry, and frankly, they have a right to be. Take the heat. There’s nothing you could do or say to redeem yourself or make the pain more bearable for your ex.

There’s not much more to say about this step other than it’s not going to be pretty. It is one of those things that really… shouldn’t be pretty. Admit your fault, explain you didn’t cheat, and that you have no words to defend yourself. [Read: How to break up with someone you love]

9. Don’t feel terrible, you did what was right either way 

You never cheated. Lastly, after you’ve made peace with the situation, and your partner, you have to make peace with yourself. Sometimes, people push you out of love with their actions, after years of things like lies, abuse, sexual neglect, cheating, etc.

Other times, people simply grow apart. It’s also possible to love two people, for different reasons, but that just means you love aspects of the two, and not one person as a whole, so it’s best to stay alone.

Should you tell your partner if you like someone else?

If you can’t stop thinking of someone else, then come clean to your partner. Something along the lines of “I just wanted to say that Bob/Jill really made me… reflect on our relationship. They’re so nice to me, and never yell out of impatience, and it made me… really want to work on things with you. I don’t want to have a better dynamic with someone else, I want to make us healthier,” works if you’re going to stay with your partner.

If you plan to leave, there really is no good way of saying things. Still, it’s best to start with the good times and work your way through a relatively brief explanation of what changed and where you’re at now, ending with the recent events.

How to stop thinking about someone else if you want to save your relationship

If you have decided to try to stop thinking about someone else and refocus on your relationship, there are ways you can move on from your crush. [Read: How to stop having a crush on someone and find your heart again]

First of all, you need to take into consideration who this person is and how often you see them. Are they your boss or coworker? A friend of yours? A friend of a friend? It will be more difficult to stop thinking about them if you see them on a regular basis.

So, if you want to stop thinking about someone, then if you can, try to avoid regular contact with them. Depending on who it is, this can either be easy or difficult if, say, you work with them. [Read: 27 painful and soul-crushing signs your crush doesn’t like you back]

If it’s someone that you don’t see very often, then you just need to try to avoid running into them whenever you can.

But if it’s someone you have to see regularly, you should think about what other kinds of changes should be made. You might need to stop seeing a certain group of friends or not volunteering for projects at work if you would have to work closely with that person.

Bottom line is that you need to distance yourself from the person you can’t stop thinking about if at all possible. That’s the only way you’ll be able to refocus on your relationship.

[Read: Am I doing it? 8 signs you’re accidentally cheating already]

If you can’t stop thinking of someone else while in a relationship, don’t worry. It’s pretty common. If you love your partner, don’t be mortified, be motivated to change, and take this as a warning. If you no longer love your partner and move on with the other person, make peace with yourself and your ex.

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Carol Morgan LP
Dr. Carol Morgan
Dr. Carol Morgan has a Ph.D. in communication and is a professor at Wright State University where she loves corrupting young minds. As a relationship and succes...