Wedding Woes

You're aware of it, so that's the first step.

Dear Prudence,

I am a college student dealing with intense feelings toward a professor. I want to maintain a strictly professional relationship. I’m also in a long-term relationship with someone I really love. My partner makes me happy every day, and marriage is in the cards. There is nothing lacking in my relationship, which is partially why this situation is so confusing. I’ve worked closely with this professor in the past, and he was more of a mentor than anything else. He’s significantly older than me and also married. Possibly because he has been supportive and encouraging of my academic work (which I am insecure about), I became attracted to him, and I’ve found myself wanting his attention more and more.

I am not someone who develops feelings like this often or easily, so it’s unfamiliar territory. He has no idea, and I want it to stay that way, but I am worried that continuing to work with him at all would be inappropriate, given my feelings. I don’t want to fuel a desire for something I can’t have or risk my own relationship. I have been open with my partner about the situation, and he has been understanding (he actually thinks it’s very funny). He has encouraged me to continue working with this professor because of how the mentorship has helped me academically. I would like to do that but can’t shake the feelings of guilt and worry that I’m doing something wrong. Do you have any advice on how I can set some boundaries for myself, deal with this situation emotionally, and maintain the professionalism of this relationship?

—Inappropriate Crush

Re: You're aware of it, so that's the first step.

  • Having a crush on someone and doing something about it are two very different things. You already recognize that acting on this attraction would be a bad idea, which is an important first step. From here, I would say continue working with this professor for now but monitor yourself to make sure working so closely with him isn't causing you to become dissatisfied with your partner or distracted from your academic work.

    Even if you find it isn't a problem (but especially if you do), I think it might be a good idea to seek out mentorship from another professor or two as well, or maybe someone else who works in your field of study. Not only would that expand your opportunities to learn, but it might also make your relationship/interactions with this professor feel a bit less loaded.
  • I actually think this can be normal. You’re working closely with a successful professor who is showing interest in your work and validating you work/intelligence/ self. You’re not doing anything wrong by having these feelings. As long as you don’t act on them. 

    Basically, cut yourself some slack LW! It’s normal, it will likely pass, & it doesn’t mean anything about your relationship or your love for your partner. 
  • I've had small, fleeting crushes on some of DH's guy friends from time to time.  Our friend M is over 6ft tall and looks a little like the Rock.  He's a very fine man.  But getting to know him over all this time there's so many personality traits that I appreciate in a friend, but there's many more that would make me batshit as his partner.  

    So LW, work alongside him and get to know him. The light may dim.  
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