As a general rule, no one wakes up in the morning and decides “I’m going to ruin a marriage today.” There is probably some jerk out there who has done exactly that, but the average adulterer never actually intends to stray from their spouse. In the same way, the mistress or other man did not suddenly decide to be a homewrecker. Adultery tends to build up gradually.

Almost every cheater will claim the affair “just happened” but the vast majority of people are aware that they are on a slippery slope. Some of them simply decide to grab a sled. Others, however, realize that the friendship they formed with a married person may not be quite so innocent and want to take a step back. Once a crush is formed, however, it gets easier to lose control. So, what do you do if you realize you have a crush on a married person?

Squash any dream of getting together.

Dreams of your crush leaving their spouse and prancing off into the sunset with you are like cockroaches. They are very, very hard to get rid of once they are in your head, and one small daydream rapidly spirals out of control into an endless series of increasingly improbable what-ifs. Those dreams are also about as good for your mental health as a cockroach infestation is for your physical health. You need to accept that your crush is taken. They cannot date you, and if they have even the slightest sliver of integrity, they will not date you. Even if they have talked about leaving their spouse, whether for you specifically or simply in general, you are not going to get your happily ever after while they are still wearing another person’s ring. If you two are, somehow, meant to be together, you will find each other after they have completed their divorce and gotten over their spouse. Do not, however, wait around hoping that will occur. Kill any hope you have of a relationship with this person and move on to someone who can actually show you love. 

Terminate any relationship.

If you were that unfortunate soul who did not know that your crush was actually already married until date three, you need to terminate any relationship you have with the married person immediately. It does not matter if their divorce simply needs the judge’s signature. As long as they are married, they are off limits. Someone who truly loves you and is truly done with their previous relationship will understand and respect that you are insisting on waiting until everything is above board. Someone who was never actually interested in you beyond convenience will simply find someone else to be their dirty little secret.

Remaining the other woman or other man once you know your crush is married can actually put you in danger. Some people really do attack their spouse’s lover, and others will threaten or harm the person they were cheating with in order to keep them quiet. Do not put yourself in that position. If you find out they are married, leave immediately.

Avoid being alone with them.

Regardless of whether or not you fell into a relationship with them before you knew they were married, you need to avoid being alone with a married person when you are crushing on them. It is far too easy to become bold, overly familiar or to make a decision you will regret later when you feel like you are having a secret rendezvous with your crush. Sneaking around can seem romantic, but it is really just proof that you are both doing something shameful. Avoid temptation while you are getting over your crush, and make sure you always have at least one other person in the room with you when you are dealing with your crush.

List their flaws.

When you have a crush on a married person, you cannot always wait for the crush to fade like you would if you were crushing on someone single. You might have to kill those feelings forcibly.
In that case, treat your crush like you would any lingering feelings you might have for an ex after a break-up. Remove reminders of the person from your life and make it a point to focus on the worst parts of their personality. List the things they do that drive you crazy. Recite their character flaws to yourself. Do not pretend that they are perfect either. If they would actually consider cheating on their spouse with you, you have a list of very serious personality flaws right there: disloyal, selfish, liar, betrayer.

Get a friend’s help.

Sometimes you have to bring out the big guns. In that case, talk to a friend about what is going on and have them help you to stay on the straight and narrow. When you start devolving into daydreams about the fairy tale when you and your crush skip off to some happily ever after, your friend can give you a sharp return to reality. If you start bemoaning how your crush is perfect, your friend can remind you of all the character flaws that are guaranteed to be in any cheater. They can also back you up and make sure you are never alone with your crush.

Stop beating yourself up.

Crushing on a married person is awful. Having inadvertently developed a crush, however, does not mean that you are a terrible person. It is going to make things awkward for you for a while, but it is not a reflection of your character. Your heart wants what it cannot have. Well, your stomach would probably like to have an entire chocolate cake, but you know that is a terrible idea. The same principle applies here. You are not a terrible person for wanting that chocolate cake, and you are not a terrible person for thinking that a married person is attractive or charming. As long as you avoid acting on those thoughts and work to eliminate them, you will be fine. You have not crossed the line.

If there is a ring on their finger, they are off the market. Your brain knows this, but your heart sometimes struggles to give up on what it wants. The best thing you can do, however, is to force yourself to move on. There is someone out there who is right for you, and no matter how much you may think that married person is the one, the ring on their finger is a neon sign from God saying you are wrong. Listen to that warning and walk away. You will be much happier in the long run.