Forbidden Relationships

Think Love Is Hard? Try Forbidden Love

Sarah Riccio

You're in love, and that's good news! Unless your love is forbidden, that is. We don't just mean your friends don't like them or they vote for the other party. We mean forbidden, as in your boss, your married neighbor, or your son's best friend from college.

We're talking about the kind of love that inspires gasps and rumors, that almost everyone considers oh-so-wrong. 

You may know it's impossible, but your feelings are intense nonetheless. Why are certain kinds of love taboo? How can you extricate yourself from such a strong attachment? Come with us down the flaming rabbit hole into the depths of bad, crazy, prohibited love. 

Forbidden Love Definition

Forbidden relationships are viewed by society and most everyone you know as destructive and immoral. Types of forbidden love vary according to culture, country, and religion. In some places, love between a single person and a divorced person is considered unthinkable, while in others, almost everything but an abusive or predatory relationship is accepted. 

Examples Of Forbidden Love

Love of the forbidden variety may be illegal, widely considered unacceptable, or just frowned upon. These types of relationships may involve such elements as:

  • Age gaps. No matter what you call it a May/December romance, "Mrs. Robinson situation," or cradle-robbing any relationship with a large age gap is bound to invite judgment. Maybe it's social science: studies show that a three-year age gap is most common around the world, and the man in a straight couple is likely to be the older of the two. These couples are also more likely to have children, and healthier children at that.
  • Marital status. This type of forbidden love goes by many derogatory names — having an affair, stepping outside the marriage, cheating — all of which mean the same thing: a relationship with someone who isn't your spouse. As you may have guessed, these relationships are a no-no in most countries and cultures around the world. 
  • Genetic links. Marrying your first cousin used to be a-okay, but no longer. Nowadays in the Western world, getting together with even a distant family member several times removed may be too close for comfort. Family bonds aren't always frowned upon in more traditional cultures, and might actually be encouraged. How forbidden these links are depends on where you live and how you were raised. In Western cultures? Your cousin is out of the running.  
  • Social bonds. If you've ever heard the words, "they're from a good family," then you know what social bonds are all about. In some cultures, love between people from different sides of the proverbial tracks is considered forbidden or doomed to fail. 
  • Looks and ability. Many couples are judged by how well they "go together," based on each person's appearance and physical ability. Love between people of different levels of conventional attractiveness can be considered strange at best and forbidden at worst, as can a relationship between differently abled people.   
  • Certain kinks. She's a hotwife, he's a cuckold. Couples with kinky dynamics often share a forbidden love they hide from their families, friends, and society. If they're forthright about their relationship, they may be judged or become the subject of gossip.   
  • Professional relationships. Love between co-workers, no matter what their position, is a minefield of potential danger. Office romances typically flout HR regulations, making scandal and dismissal very real possibilities. Though a little flirting may be tolerated, full-on public romances are usually off-limits in the workplace.   
  • Religion. Forbidden relationships are not always the stuff of romantic movies, and can have destructive, real-world implications. Some religious groups discourage or outright forbid relationships with people of other faiths. Church leaders may refuse to marry interfaith couples, while their families might forcibly separate them or subject them to violence. 
  • Teachers and students. A staple of times past, relationships between professors and students are now viewed as disruptive, unfair to other students, and an abuse of power. Some teachers who had relationships with students over the past 40 years have recently been outed for harassment and sexual abuse, and a few have been charged with crimes.  

Why Is Forbidden Love Tempting?

You know your forbidden love is wrong, at least in the eyes of others. That crush on your father's friend/babysitter/doorman is all kinds of inappropriate, but for some reason, you can't help it. You know you could lose your job or your position in your community. So why can't you let it go?  

Here are some of the reasons why forbidden love is so tempting:

  • It feels exciting. When you think of forbidden love, you probably imagine something thrilling, similar to skinny dipping or making out in public. When you're in the throes of a forbidden relationship, rules feel suspended and emotions take center stage. Your old life might feel colorless and boring by comparison. 
  • It makes you feel attractive. The best part of forbidden love can be seeing yourself anew through your lover's eyes. Suddenly you feel sexy, fascinating, good enough to be the object of someone's taboo attentions. They're obsessed with you, and you love it. The other people in your life may hardly seem to see you, but your lover makes you feel like the most interesting person alive.   
  • It gives you a chemical rush. New love creates a heady cocktail of dopamine and other "love hormones" that activate the reward centers of the brain. You might feel addicted to the rush of excitement and desire, and despondent when you lose it. This is particularly true of forbidden relationships, which benefit from an excitement-boosting dose of secrecy and guilt. 
  • It's true love. Sometimes it really is genuine love. The object of your affections may be a terrible choice in the eyes of your family and society, but you adore them with all your heart. Depending on circumstances and who may be hurt, you might decide that your love is worth fighting for. You may have to sacrifice, but for some of us, love trumps all.

How To Get Over Forbidden Love

Getting over a forbidden relationship is a lot like getting over any love it takes time, effort, and a few key steps. To get over an attachment and leave it behind you, try a few of these love-busting tricks:

  • Go no contact. No contact means NO CONTACT. Block them on your phone and all social media channels. If you work together, try to get reassigned to another location or avoid them as much as you can. Consider another job, church, class, or place to live. It's difficult to put someone out of your mind when you have to see them, so do everything you can to eliminate their presence from your life.
  • Get busy. Studies show that one of the best ways to move on from a relationship is to create new neural connections by doing things you've never done before. Get out of your typical routine, socialize with friends, learn a new skill, plant a garden  invest time in positive activities that will help you develop as a person and improve your self-esteem.  
  • Process it. Talking about your forbidden relationship with a friend or therapist can help you wade through complicated emotions and feelings of loss. Journaling, reading, taking walks, and meditating are other good ways to sort through your thoughts and move on with your life. 

How To Make Forbidden Love Work

Determined to go the distance with your lover? Not all forbidden relationships are forever, but some can beat the odds. Here are tips to help you decide if your bond is worth saving:

  • Make a list of downsides. Will innocent people get hurt if you and your love stay together? Are either of you at risk of losing your jobs or families? Take a clear-eyed look at the cons of your relationship and understand the repercussions before you decide to take the plunge. 
  • Ask yourself is it love or infatuation? Love lasts, while infatuation is fleeting. Are you in love with the person or the excitement of being together? Is it them you long for, or the way they make you feel? Love may be worth the disruption a forbidden relationship can create, but infatuation rarely is. 
  • Talk about it. Talk, talk, and talk some more with your forbidden love partner about the consequences of continuing your relationship. Talk with your friends, family, and therapist if you have one. If you're going to make the relationship work, you'll need to bring it out of the shadows and into the light of day. Talking is an important step toward full disclosure.  
  • Commit. Love always takes commitment, and prohibited love even more so. If your relationship isn't illegal and won't harm anyone, you may decide to cast off your doubts, deal with family disapproval or life adjustments, and commit fully. Be sure your partner is as committed as you are before you make your relationship public and confront the fallout of forbidden love.