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The Xx-xy Affair: So, You Like An Untouchable

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Holding hands with you when we’re out at night,

You got a girlfriend; you say it isn’t right,

And I’ve got someone waiting too.

But what if this is just the beginning?

We’re already wet and we’re gonna go swimming.

“Why Can’t I” by Liz Phair

The untouchable. My personal dictionary defines an untouchable as a person that you are attracted to, who is already in a relationship, or a person that you are attracted to other than your significant other. We have heard of these stories our whole lives. Alanis Morissette makes the reference meeting the man of [her] dreams and then meeting his beautiful wife. Look around you; chances are you will see a plethora of songs and media coverage dedicated to this love for someone, who is off limits. After all, Kate Winslet is not supposed to marry Billy Zane, she is supposed to be with Leonardo DiCaprio, albeit briefly.

One of the constants in Hollywood is that an actor/actress is attracted to an untouchable, who is almost always in a relationship with someone abusive and evil. In the end, therefore, “true love” wins out and everyone lives happily ever after (or not). Life rarely follows art in this way. There is never a happily ever after as long as we are breathing. We have to live with the choices we make, and the people we make the choices about. So, why do we allow ourselves to absorb these unrealistic views on relationships? I feel that these messages fed to us by the media, are merely mirroring our own fallen desires. We misplace our desire, and feel that if we are attracted to an untouchable, than we have to act upon it. This is not the case. Let’s look at each definition of untouchable, and see the flaws in pursuing this type of relationship.

1. You are attracted to someone who is already in a relationship.

From this point, there are two types of relationships that I can see:

a. The person is in a healthy relationship.

b. The person is in an unhealthy relationship.

If the person is in a healthy relationship, do absolutely nothing. You may like them, but so what? The relationship that they have is working well, and you need to leave it alone so that it can grow into something truly special. If you really care about this person, then you want them to be happy, and a positive relationship will make them happy. But if you superficially say, I want him to be happy, but secretly think, as long as it is with me, then you are acting out of selfishness and a lack of self-confidence. In this situation, loving them has nothing to do with your motivation; you are motivated by a desire for them to love you. Look deep into yourself and see what your intentions are in any relationship. If you are just taking feelings from people to feel better, you are an emotional dependent who needs to learn to respect himself, and respect other people’s feelings as well. Commitments need to be honored, and if you were in a relationship, you would want someone else to respect the commitments you have made. Therefore, you do not have the right to disrupt a healthy relationship.

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If the person is in an unhealthy relationship, you will find yourself in a bind. Yes, it is healthy to want them to be happy and away from the negative relationship. However, you should not help them break off that relationship with the intention of forming your own. The last thing that a person needs when coming out of a lengthy relationship (good or bad) is another relationship. They need to take a six-month hiatus from any and all romantic relationships, in order to deal with their pain, and grow as an individual.

2. You’re in a relationship, but you can’t stop thinking about this other guy/girl.

What do you do? Well, if you’re willing to break up with the love of your life at the first signs of attraction from someone else, then you will find yourself in a steady cycle of attraction and boredom until the next attraction comes. However, if you have to break up with your partner, make sure that you are doing so for the right reason (i.e. you two don’t fit together) and not because you like someone else. In order to guard yourself from this, you need to follow the aforementioned “six-month rule.” Those six months will help keep your priorities in perspective. Confusion with regards to priorities can still come in; mainly from a mix of our own sinful nature and the messages fed to us from the outside.

The main problem with media influences (i.e. Titanic) is that we subconsciously internalize the idea of “current partner = villain”, and view our partner as evil when we become attracted to someone else. This is a blatant lie, and it needs to be treated as such. One movie that I can think of, that properly addresses the dynamic of the untouchable, is Forces of Nature. This movie is about a guy (Ben Affleck) who gets stranded on the way to his wedding, and falls for a free-spirited woman (Sandra Bullock), who offers to accompany him on his journey. As they get closer to the wedding, Ben’s character finds himself falling in love with Sandra’s. She generates feelings in him that had long been dormant, and he begins to question whether or not he really wants to marry his fiancée. When they arrive on the day of the wedding, he sees his fiancée and remembers exactly why he wanted to marry her. Thus, Sandra Bullock’s character fades into the background as the couple recites their vows.

Often, in a relationship, you may find yourself thinking about another person. If this is the case, I recommend that you spend extra time with your partner, and remember why you chose to be with him/her in the first place. Most likely, the problem is not totally averted, yet. Once you decide to stick with your current partner, despite the feelings you have for the ‘other’ person, you have one major rule to follow: never spend time alone with the ‘other’ person. Ever. This can lead to conflicted feelings, and unfortunate circumstances. It is much easier to forgive your significant other for thinking someone else is attractive; it is much harder to forgive them if they have already sowed the seeds of a relationship with the untouchable.

So, these are the rules for dealing with untouchables. It is not as if they are totally off-limits, it is just that you should treat them that way. Protect your heart (Proverbs 4:23) from falling for these people. If you give in to the temptation, it leads to relationship anxiety for both of you.

[Jeff Taylor is a Counseling Specialist at Texas Tech University and is expecting his first child with his wife, Alison.]

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