Conflict Thesaurus Entry: A Character Having Feelings for Someone They Shouldn’t

Conflict is very often the magic sauce for generating tension and turning a ho-hum story into one that rivets readers. As such, every scene should contain a struggle of some kind. Maybe it’s an internal tug-of-war having to do with difficult decisions, morals, or temptations. Or it possibly could come from an external source—other characters, unfortunate circumstances, or the force of nature itself.

It’s our hope that this thesaurus will help you come up with meaningful and fitting conflict options for your stories. Think about what your character wants and how best to block them, then choose a source of conflict that will ramp up the tension in each scene.

Conflict: Having Feelings for Someone One Shouldn’t

Category: Power Struggles, Failures and Mistakes, Relationship Friction, Duty and Responsibilities, Moral Dilemmas and Temptation

Desiring a family member’s spouse
Wanting a relationship with a friend’s significant other
A professor having feelings for a student (or vice-versa)
An employer wanting to be with their employee
Having feelings for a co-worker (when fraternization is not allowed or the co-worker is with someone else)
A married person developing feelings for someone else (who may also be attached)
Developing feelings for someone who is much older or much younger
Falling for one’s enemy, opponent, or captor
An officer wanting to be with a subordinate
Wanting a friendship to become something more when that friend has other romantic interests
Being attracted to someone of a specific gender that causes the character to fear they will not be accepted for it (and so they think they shouldn’t have those feelings)

Minor Complications:
Embarrassment if their feelings are made known and not returned
Friction in their other relationships (caused by guilt, shame, and secrets)
Disrupting their routine so they can spend more time around the other person
Having to answer questions about their odd behavior around someone after it is noticed (leading to evasiveness, denial, or lying)
Rumors starting to fly
Damage to their reputation

Potentially Disastrous Results:
A spouse’s heartache at discovering these hidden feelings
A marriage breakdown if a line is crossed and an affair is discovered or admitted to
Losing one’s job if the feelings are uncovered and deemed inappropriate
Ruining a friendship or relationship once feelings are out in the open
Losing an opportunity (for a promotion, a scholarship, admission to a special club or sorority, etc.)
Being kicked out of an organization or group to avoid conflict of interest
Being cast out (of a church, a community, a family, etc.)
Being demoted or reassigned to a new department or job posting
Engaging in an affair and being unable to live with the guilt (and so telling one’s partner, leading to fallout)
Developing an emotional wound (unrequited love) and being unable to move on

Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Feeling guilt or shame for what they feel, even while allowing themselves to fantasize about fulfilling their desires
Struggling with questions about monogamy and whether it’s natural or not
Agonizing over the idea that they may be a deviant for what they feel
Trying to rationalize their feelings and failing
Constantly going over all interactions with the person they have feelings for in hopes of spotting signs they feel the same
Feeling angry at themselves for feeling the way they do
Questioning the role of fate and if this attraction was “meant to be,” as it would explain why they can’t control what they feel
Vacillating between wanting to tell the other person and staying silent (in fear of ruining everything)
Questioning their own identity

People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: family, friends, or people in a work, school, or social environment where they have contact with the person they desire

Resulting Emotions: admiration, adoration, anguish, anticipation, anxiety, apprehension, conflicted, connectedness, desire, desperation, disappointment, eagerness, elation, embarrassment, envy, euphoria, excitement, fear, flustered, guilt, happiness, hopefulness, jealousy, loneliness, longing, love, lust, panic, powerlessness, self-loathing, self-pity, shame

Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: addictive, compulsive, disloyal, foolish, impulsive, jealous, needy, nervous, obsessive, possessive, promiscuous, reckless, selfish

Positive Outcomes: 
Realizing unhappiness is causing their wandering eye and so making the choice to work on themselves or an existing relationship to regain happiness
Discovering what they really want (either to stay in an existing relationship or to move on)
Regaining appreciation and respect for a loved one who is faithful (helping the character to realize they must also be faithful and let go of their emotional attachment to another)
In some cases, realizing their desires are not appropriate or normal and seeking out help before they act on what the feel

If you’re interested in other conflict options, you can find them here.


Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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Traci Kenworth
1 year ago

A sad situation! Rife for conflict!