Every Thursday on Twitter @jdesmondharris, Dear Prudence asks readers for their thoughts on a question that has her stumped. She’ll post her final thoughts on the matter on Fridays. Here’s this week’s dilemma and answer:
My wife looks at photos of the woman she crushes on pretty much every day. (I’m also a woman, fwiw.) I would describe this as an open secret between us. That said, a lot of this looking takes place on our shared computer, where she doesn’t erase her search history and has saved dozens, if not hundreds, of photos of this woman. I’m happy with our relationship and it’s not like my wife is looking at photos of her exes or anything like that. I understand the celeb is an inaccessible fantasy and not a threat. But knowing that this fantasy is part of my wife’s everyday routine is tough. She knows that I know about this crush, but when I’ve tried to talk to her about my feelings about it, she’s shied away. What should I do? When is a celebrity crush too much?
I thought this question was difficult because it asked so much more than “When is a celebrity crush too much?” And my answer to that is: I don’t know! I think it probably depends on the relationship and both people’s values. But certainly, the fact that you’re having a hard time with this crush is a sign that something needs attention, and the answer to “What should I do” is: Insist on an honest conversation about it.
But let’s back up.
When I asked for help, several people offered practical advice to help you avoid encountering the evidence of the crush on a daily basis:
they didn’t say what kind of browser they use, but you can have separate profiles in Chrome with completely separated history, autocomplete etc. Unless their partner enjoys sharing their activity, it would at least partially address what’s going on. — @rjcc
Hmm. Maybe awkward conversation but could she ask her wife when she is looking at things about the celeb she does it in a private browser window? Like “I don’t begrudge you having this crush but I don’t like seeing the proof every day”. She’ll know but it won’t be as in her face? — @allenfee
The fundamental issue here is not whether celebrity crushes are OK (they are! fantasy is real and a part of how adults engage with the world). It is not even whether looking at and saving pictures of one’s crush is OK (I’m not gonna judge). The question is……
what is a reasonable request from one partner to another? Because it seems like this whole thing could be solved if the crushing wife would just use an incognito window (or her phone) and not save the pictures where the writer can see them. I think she is within her rights… — @RSGAT
If simply not seeing the evidence of your wife’s crush-stalking sessions every day would make you feel better, then a tech fix is the answer. One problem solved.
But I agree with others who wondered whether the thing that’s upsetting to you is not being confronted daily with the crush but being aware that it exists—something you won’t be able to un-know even if your partner agrees to use a different browser (or joins us in 2021 and uses Instagram instead of a shared computer to look at photos!).
One thing I would encourage the LW to consider is whether she just wants to not see the evidence of her wife’s celebrity crush activities (so using a different computer, browser would possibly solve the issue), or whether she has issues with the behavior in general. 1/ — @PeggyProuv
Using separate devices or an incognito browser might work for both of them but that’s a bandaid w/o disinfectant unless they talk it out first. 2/2 — @scottgoblue314
If the answer to “What’s the real issue?” is “I’m upset that a crush this intense exists, even if I never see the photos saved on the desktop again,” the next question you should ask yourself is “What about it is upsetting?” As @6SnatchAttack9 wrote, “If I were LW, I’d try to see where the discomfort is coming from. Jealousy? Insecurity? Does the celeb look/act different from you, is it sucking emotion/sex away from rather than into your relationship?” See if you can come to a conclusion about that on your own, so you can approach your wife with something clearer than “All these pictures … every day … seriously, what the hell??”
Which brings me to the next point people raised: Yes, you definitely have to talk to her, even if it requires some pushing. She needs to hear loud and clear that this matters to you and is having a negative effect on you. Whether it’s jealousy, insecurity, questions about whether you’re her type, a lack of closeness, or just confusion, you need to air out your thoughts. And understanding more about what your wife is getting out of it is a crucial part of the conversation. Since you say you haven’t talked about it at all, I’m hopeful that she can tell you something that will explain what this crush is doing for her and reassure you that it doesn’t mean anything about your relationship. Or maybe it does, and that will give you two something to work on together.
@PeggyProu had good suggestions here, writing, “I would encourage her to have a discussion where they can both talk openly—what needs does this serve for her wife? What does she enjoy about it? Are there any ways it reflects an issue she has with their relationship? And LW can discuss her emotional reactions and difficulties—not with the goal of one person being right and the other wrong (e.g., not “this crush is too far” vs “LW is overreacting”) but to recognize they’re both experiencing different feelings that are impacting each other.”
Some people homed in on your wife’s “shying away” from the conversation as more problematic than the crush itself, and I think there’s something to that.
For me it’s the “when I’ve tried to talk to her about my feelings about it she’s shied away.” that gets me. Because the GF in question is looking at these photos every day, and the LW is having *feelings* about it, valid feelings, but the GF doesn’t want to discuss it. /1 — @junglequeen88
“That’s what stuck out to me about this - is there a chance the wife wants her to see? Why is it on a shared computer and not a phone/tablet/etc. I think there are deeper issues than that, like the avoidance of conversation, but this is odd” — @saramisgen
LW needs to sit down with their GF and the GF needs to know this conversation is going to happen, no shying away. Either with a therapist or a neutral afternoon to discuss the LW’s feelings that they daily see evidence of their GF looking at photos of their celebrity crush, /2 — @junglequeen88
I agree. She owes you an honest—and hopefully, reassuring—discussion, even if it makes her uncomfortable. It’s the least she can do, especially because it seems that on some level, she knows you would see the photos. If she wanted to have a crush without any impact on the relationship, she wouldn’t have made it an “open secret.” Now that she has, if she’s a good partner, she’ll recognize that she needs to take some responsibility for it affecting you. The question on your mind should not actually be “When is a celebrity crush too much” but “When is making a crush known and then refusing to discuss it too much, and what does it mean?” I’m hopeful that the conversation will go smoothly so you won’t have to spend much more time wondering.
I am currently in marriage counseling with my wife after she discovered my three-year-long relationship with another woman. After a lot of soul-searching, I truly want to make the marriage work and ended my affair with “Sandy” for good. The problem we have is Sandy’s son, “John.” Sandy has been a single mother most of her life and I am the only father figure he’s known. John and I developed a bond over the years and I feel as though it would be cruel to cut him out of my life because I am no longer in a relationship with his mother. My wife is adamant that she won’t stay in the marriage if I maintain any ties with either John or Sandy. I feel disappointed in her for not having the compassion to see John is the innocent victim here who needs my ongoing support. I’ve previously promised John I would always be a part of his life and I don’t want to go back on that. Shouldn’t my wife be more understanding of a child’s needs?