It’s okay to admit it: even if we’re in a relationship, we all enjoy it when we notice a stranger’s glance from across the bar, receive unexpected compliments, or find ourselves being flirted with! It’s perfectly healthy and normal to feel flattered when others are interested in you. Knowing that you’ve charmed someone with your looks or personality can be a nice little confidence-booster, but for most of us, the feeling is so short-lived and superficial that we hardly give it a second thought. In fact, we may even find ourselves laughing about the experience with our spouse! After all, there’s nothing to be jealous about: you’re already happy in a committed relationship, and so the attention of others is pleasant but ultimately completely unimportant. However, if you were to start actively seeking attention outside of marriage, my guess is that your partner would be a lot less happy to find out about it. That’s because going out of your way to feel desired by other people is a very different thing. If you’re looking for outside attention, even if you’re not cheating outright, you have to face it: this is a serious sign that something is wrong in your relationship. Left unchecked, it’s often the first step towards your marriage unravelling completely.
During my time as a love and relationship expert, I’ve seen enough relationships crumble because of actions like these to recognize this behavior as a huge red flag. Something is seriously wrong, and you need to take action. However, I know it seems like something that’s out of your control! The feeling is so intoxicating, and the temptation is so strong, that you can’t imagine how to reign in this situation. The same is true if your spouse is interested in people other than you – you’re probably feeling like your relationship is slipping out of your hands. Well, don’t panic! This article is for you, no matter what side of the situation you’re on. I want to help you understand why this happens, and what we can do about it.
Does Seeking Attention Outside of Marriage Mean it’s Over?
If you’re beginning to admit that things have gone too far, and your behavior is starting to worry you, then things are not in a good place. However, that doesn’t mean you’re looking at a failed marriage just yet. At this stage, your obligation is to understand what drives people to look for affirmation outside of their relationships, so that you can pinpoint the root of the problem and change course. I’ve seen plenty of couples bounce back after fundamental disconnections like this, and I know you can as well! The truth is that every long-term relationship will have moments when the alarm bells go off, and it’s how we choose to react that makes the difference. At this stage, you’re facing a problem, but you’re not facing an existential threat: with some patience, you can change course and solve this problem.
Unhappy Marriage isn’t the same as Unfulfilling Marriage
You may be surprised to hear that, in the vast majority of cases involving someone craving attention from people other than their spouse, don’t involve a failed marriage! People who cheat don’t always do so because they have unhappy marriages, and people who toe the line by flirting and seeking attention are even less likely to think that their marriage is falling apart. In fact, if you ask them, you’ll mostly hear that they believe they have a good marriage that they’d never want to lose! That should tell you a lot about what we’re dealing with here: it’s not about an unhappy marriage, it’s about an unfulfilling one. It’s counterintuitive, but the truth is that it’s very rarely as simple as having a bad relationship and looking for excitement elsewhere. If that were the case, people wouldn’t tolerate their marriage in the first place. Instead, the problem is deeper than simply being happy or not. You may love your partner to the moon and back, yet still have some fundamental elements in your relationship that are lacking. On an even deeper level, you may have an inner unmet need that’s causing you to chase the feeling of romantic attention! You can be happy together, yet still unfulfilled, and when you’re in this position problems are bound to come up. The solution is to forge a fulfilling relationship, in which you and your spouse help each other to be your best selves. For that, you need to know where to target your efforts.
The root of the problem? Needing Validation
There’s a simple reason that outside attention feels so tempting, and it has to do with our biology. Being potent, sexually virile, and being seen as an attractive potential partner is something that has its roots in our evolutionary past, and still plays a huge subconcious role in our self-confidence. I don’t mean to say that the urge to flirt with others is inherent and unavoidable! I’m only bringing this up to point out that, when you receive a stranger’s attention, there’s a built-in natural reason for it to give you such a strong confidence boost. Most of the time, this is a passing feeling that has no impact on your life. However, when you’re suffering from insecurity, this same natural reaction to romantic attention can feel like an antidote. It’s a short term boost that overcomes self-doubt, and can be really intoxicating. Ultimately, when your defenses are down and you have a poor self-image, you can easily find yourself chasing the superficial sense of validation that a stranger’s attention provides.
Miserable Husband Syndrome: Overcoming Insecurity
Insecurity can be caused by a wide range of things in both men and women, which is why the reasons we might seek attention outside of our marriages can be so diverse. However, it boils down to something that’s universal between the sexes: both men and women want to be desired, which means that chasing romantic validation is the quickest way to ease any insecurity about ourselves. It’s also the most superficial and short-lived.That’s why it’s best to address the root cause. Instead of blaming yourself, your partner, or your relationship, your best course of action is to identify the unmet need within yourself that’s causing your insecurity. By putting in the effort to target that, you’ll find yourself caring less and less about what other people think. This is easier said than done, which is why we here at Happily Committed have created a special course about exactly this. Click here to check out our course on overcoming insecurity!
You owe it to yourself and your partner to try. After all, it’s never your spouse’s fault if you’re looking for validation outside of your marriage, even if your relationship has stagnated or gone bad! That’s because ultimately, your behavior is entirely in your own hands. By changing your perspective, you’ll see that it’s up to you to either put the work into changing things between you and your partner, or if your marriage is truly falling apart, gathering the strength to walk away.
A Bad Marriage Isn’t the Only Reason People Cheat
Why do people cheat on the people they love? This question has vexed many broken hearted people over the centuries, but it’s surprisingly simple: seeking validation to soothe insecurity has nothing to do with how much you love your spouse. In fact, knowing how much you love them can give you a false sense of security, because you believe you’d never take casual flirting far enough to actually cheat. However, just like a person suffering from substance abuse problems, a gradual tolerance builds up that demands a bigger and bigger high in order to feel the same relief. The confidence boosts you get in the short term are intoxicating, and once you start pursuing them, you can feel like your insecurities vanish. But they’ll be there under the surface until you deal with them, meaning soon enough you’ll be out looking for more attention, validation, and approval. After a while, cheating may be the only thing that gives it to you. That’s why it’s so important to take this behavior seriously: something is wrong, and loving your spouse isn’t going to stop it from getting worse.
Avoiding a Failed Marriage
If you’re seeking romantic attention from people other than your spouse, let’s face it: your future together is at risk. The reasons you’re chasing this feeling are the same reasons people cheat, and unless you do something about it, you’ll find yourself drifting farther and farther from your marriage until finally there’s nothing left that’s worth fighting for. However, there’s no reason to just accept that your marriage is over! The truth is that every relationship, even the ones that seem to work effortlessly, has the potential to crash and burn if you don’t put the work into nurturing it. When you commit to someone, you’re not committing to loving them – that part comes naturally. Instead, you’re committing to putting in whatever effort it takes, day after day, to keep your relationship strong. That’s why, as soon as you start feeling the urge to flirt with someone new, think of it as a warning sign telling you to take action.
The same is true if you’re noticing your partner pulling away and engaging with others instead of you! Instead of going straight to anger and jealousy, choose patience and communication, and gently try to help your partner pinpoint the unmet need that’s at the root of the behavior. It’s never pleasant, fun, or easy, but this is the nitty-gritty work that ultimately makes your relationship sturdy in its foundations. So, with that being said, let’s take a look back at the most important things to understand if you want to know why people seek attention outside marriage.
1. It’s all about validation. Everyone likes confidence boosts and improvements to their self image, but placing our self-esteem in the hands of others is a different thing entirely. When we crave the superficial approval of strangers over and over again, it shows that we’re lacking meaningful self-fulfillment and a sense of inner wholeness. In that case, no amount of outside validation will ever change that deep underlying insecurity.
2. You need to fight to overcome your insecurity, otherwise you’ll find yourself just like the men suffering from miserable husband syndrome. It’s not their wives making them miserable, it’s their own lack of self-improvement that they’re blaming on their wives! You made a commitment to do what it takes, and now’s the time to do it.
3. Seeking the romantic attention of strangers provides a short-term, low-effort boost to your confidence. However, the feeling is so fleeting that you’ll continue to pursue it for an even longer-lasting “fix”, until you surprise yourself by cheating – even if you’re not in a bad marriage! This is how people can cheat on the people they love. It’s far better to put the work into finding the long-term solutions to this behavior, instead of taking the path of least resistance. That path always leads to failure.
With this information, you have a roadmap ahead of you. It involves being honest with yourself and your partner, stamping out your insecurities, and learning how to build up your self-confidence and self-worth on your own. It’s a long road, but it’s worth it to find fulfillment somewhere more meaningful and lasting than in a stranger’s glance.
Here at Happily Committed, we’ve dedicated ourselves to helping people overcome precisely these kinds of challenges, and preventing marriages from falling apart. The fact that you’re even reading this, looking for ways to self-improve, says everything about your potential to succeed. If you’d like some help on the road ahead, you’re always welcome to reach out to me or any of the other coaches here at Happily Committed by clicking here. Together we can push you even further towards your goals.
I sincerely wish you all the best.
Your coach when you’re seeking attention outside of marriage,