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When You’re Married But Thinking About Someone Else

I woke up feeling strange. It was still dark outside my bedroom window, but the slivers of light from my neighbors’ porch lights shone on my husband, sleeping soundly beside me.

I had a dream, a pleasant dream—too pleasant, really—about a guy I had dated before my husband. And now I felt unsettled. The dream made me miss my ex, and it made me feel nostalgic for those beginning stages of relationships where sparks fly and emotions run high.
In my mind, I knew that the emotions that surged through my body at this moment—the feelings of nostalgia and wanting the thrill of a new relationship—would pass as quickly and erratically as they had come. I knew that this did not indicate some major problem between my husband and me. We have a very loving, passionate, and communicative relationship. I also know it is common to think about past relationships, but how we respond when these memories surface matters.

Though I’m not going to act on these feelings, I hate feeling like I’m hiding something from my husband. I am his and he is mine, and we share everything in life. So I wanted to tell him about this dream and how I was feeling, just to let him know that I was struggling some with past memories. I’ve found that when I do this, it takes away the power of the emotions about the past. The act of my speaking them aloud and him listening gives me perspective and helps me feel closer to my husband.
It can be a difficult conversation, though. I wanted to share my dream and feelings in a nonthreatening way that would reassure my husband that I love him, choose him, and am committed to our marriage vows 100 percent. But I also wanted to be honest. So I got up in the darkness and tiptoed to the living room so as not to wake the kids. I tried to avoid the squeaky floorboards, but there are too many of them in our wonderfully old house. Thankfully no one woke up, and I sat with my laptop and wrote a letter.
In the letter I assured my husband that I loved him dearly, but that in this particular moment I was feeling strong emotions about a past relationship. I told him about my dream and how it was making me miss my ex and feel distant from my husband. After writing the letter, I felt much more settled. I knew this was just a cloud of emotions that would pass, but I still wanted to fill my husband in so that we could bridge the distance I was feeling and weather the craziness that human emotions can sometimes be.
The next day was a Saturday, and so when our kids were napping my husband and I laid down to read the letter together and talk. It’s never fun talking about past relationships with the person you love, but having the letter written down worked really well. I didn’t have to stumble over my words or ramble on while trying to get to the point. My husband read attentively, even though he said it was difficult for him. But he appreciated the gesture of trust and vulnerability, and he responded with empathy and tenderness.
We talked about how we’ve noticed a pattern. Sometimes I have these dreams about a past relationship when my husband and I are in a busy time. We talked about how important it is to make time for each other, and how we wanted to go on more dates with each other. So we decided right then and there to hire a babysitter one evening that week and go on a date.
The rest of the weekend was wonderful. We were affectionately attuned to each other. We gave ourselves permission to have a low-key weekend. Instead of focusing on chores and to do lists, we focused on each other. We like working on things around the house together, and it’s important. But things had gotten out of balance and we just needed some time to chill. We were reminded that time spent together was not “wasted” time, but rather time during which our love can continue to grow. After a moment where I felt flooded by my past, it was important for us to celebrate the present—the life we have together.


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