How crush proof is the average marriage? Maybe not much

16 April 2024

Gabe Trew, owner of Australian market retailer POP Canberra, decided to run a Valentine’s Day competition this year. He invited social media followers to send him, anonymously I believe, stories about the great love crushes of their lives.

Entrants would be in the running to win what was described as a “dream date.” But something strange happened. Two weeks after Valentine’s Day passed, submissions, or romantic confessions, were still rolling in.

Now, nearly two months on, and some five-thousand people, with stories to tell about their secret crushes, have been in contact with Trew. As a result of the promotion, eight couples — people previously staring down the barrel of possibly a lifetime of unrequited love — have come together.

Of those who were united with their crush through the POP Canberra promotion, I’m not sure how many, if any, were married, or in a relationship, immediately beforehand.

But when ABC National Radio show, Life Matters, recently canvassed the subject of crushes, some listeners admitted to holding a torch for someone else, despite being married. And some of these people eventually deal with the dilemma. They end the relationship, or marriage, they’re in, and find it in themselves to tell their crush how they feel. Sometimes, it turned out the light of their life felt the same way. But for others, the path can be fraught with peril:

For Julie, another Life Matters listener, things haven’t worked out so neatly. She’s been dealing with a difficult crush on a friend that has left her feeling confused and distressed. She’s also married, and has been trying to work out how to protect both her relationship with her husband and her friendship with the object of her crush. “I don’t want to hurt my husband. I’m sort of trying to hold on to that,” she says.

While things may have worked out well for some POP Canberra contest participants, it’s not all bad for those who remain where they started. Professor Michael Slepian, an American psychologist, says having the chance to air their secret, albeit anonymously, can be beneficial:

“[Individuals] do want to get secrets off their chest, they do recognise that a secret can burden them … but those opportunities rarely present themselves,” he said. “It [the POP Canberra competition] provides people this outlet that is not normally available to them, to talk about the things they don’t normally get to talk about.”