I have been married for just over one year. I absolutely love my wife, but I am developing strong feelings for my mother-in-law. For some reason, I can’t stop thinking about her and fantasizing about being with her. I don’t know what to do about these feelings and am wondering if it’s normal? I don’t know what to do.
Our Clinical Psychologist’s Reply
While there is brain chemistry involved in who you are attracted to, much of sexual desire is emotional. As such, people become sexually attracted to different people for a lot of reasons. In your situation, it could be that your mother-in-law is a kind and nurturing woman and you find those qualities sexy. Or she could remind you of someone in your past (a favorite teacher perhaps) whom you found attractive in your youth. Thus, these feelings sound pretty normal.
Regardless of whether or not your attraction to your wife’s mother is normal, for the sake of your new marriage, you must take steps to deal with them appropriately. Although you didn’t mention it, I would not advise telling your wife about your feelings. Even if she is understanding about your feelings, such a confession may lead to awkwardness at family gatherings or (worse) tension between your wife and her mother or amongst the three of you.
There are a few ways to handle these feelings toward your mother-in-law. Figuring out why you are attracted to her may facilitate getting rid of the feelings. For example, if you determine that it is because she reminds you of an attractive neighbor, then such a realization may eradicate the feelings. Similarly, if you decide that it’s because she is nurturing, then you can seek additional nurturing from your wife.
However, if you never discover the reasons for the attraction or if they don’t go away once you do, then the next step is managing the feelings. Make sure you don’t do anything to encourage the feelings to grow. Do not spent a lot of time alone with your mother-in-law or actively seek her company. Do not allow yourself to think about her all the time. If thoughts of her come into your head, let them pass through and replace them with thoughts of something else. This is a technique called thought substitution. The purpose of it is to retrain your brain to think of thoughts other than those that are harmful to you. If you keep working at it, eventually the thoughts of your mother-in-law will fade. Hopefully they will be replaced with thoughts of your wife.