I’m in love with my teacher

Falling for your teacher or lecturer is not uncommon. But is it illegal to get into a relationship with them? And maybe even have sex with them? Here's your lesson in forbidden love.

apple with heart carved out

"If I leave this on his desk, will he get the message?" Photo by volunteer, Rianna Hudson

I fancy my teacher

If you’ve developed feelings for a teacher or lecturer at your school or university, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Agony Aunt Anita Naik estimates that 2% of her letters are from people who have developed crushes on authority figures within education, which is not surprising given that there are nearly five million students spending up to 40 hours a week with teachers and lecturers at schools and universities across the UK.

What if they fancy me back?

Sometimes the attraction between teacher and pupil ends up with the relationship becoming physical.

“My teacher was 37 and I was 18 when we first got together,” says Julie from Sevenoaks. “I was going through a tough time at home and he picked up on it, so I confided in him. He hugged me and complimented me, but I just thought he was trying to make me feel good about myself. Several months later he asked me to babysit for him. I agreed and one night, whilst his wife was out, he gave me a hug and asked if he could kiss me. I said yes and it developed from there.”

Is it illegal to have sex with my teacher?

“I do not advocate breaking the law, but it is important to be aware of the consequences if you do,” says Julie. “The last thing you’d want is your parents finding out or the teacher’s name in the papers or even worse, them ending up in prison. I never went out on dates. The teacher I was seeing did take me out to a pub near his house for lunch once, which I thought was really risky, but usually we just drove off to quiet places in order to spend time together.”

If a teacher has sex with you, it’s a criminal offence. It’s been illegal since 2001 for teachers in the UK to have sex with a pupil at their school who is under 18. But it does happen – in 2009, 26-year-old public school teacher Helen Goddard was jailed for 15 months for having an affair with a 15-year-old pupil. Although there are no laws against sleeping with a lecturer if you’re over 18, universities and colleges discourage this type of behaviour and you could both end up in serious hot water if caught.

How do I get over them?

“Having feelings for a teacher is perfectly normal,” says British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy fellow Philip Hodson. “As you get older, you need to start making decisions for yourself, so you look for role models. If you’re at school that means teachers. We borrow glamour, confidence and a sense of learning from these people, but that doesn’t mean they feel the same or that you’re going to run off and marry them.”

For most people crushes on teachers remain idle fantasies, but that doesn’t make them any less painful. As well as making you feel awful, prolonged heartbreak can affect your friendships and even your exam grades.

“I get letters from people who can’t concentrate, sleep or eat properly because they’ve fallen for their teacher,” says Anita. “If you find yourself in that situation you have to be very tough with yourself and keep your feelings in check by reminding yourself constantly that your feelings are never going to be returned, for practical, moral and legal reasons.”

Easier said than done, of course. But it is possible, according to Philip Hodson.

“One way to get over your feelings is to concentrate on the teacher’s bad points,” he says. “When we’re in love with someone we tend to think they’re wonderful and, by comparison, we are not. But nobody is perfect and you can use negative aspects of character to help re-focus your thoughts and bring the subject of your attention down off the pedestal you’ve put them on.”

How do I break up with my teacher?

Most crushes and relationships involving teachers and their students don’t end up like something out of Notes on a Scandal. Most just fizzle out, as Julie’s did when she left school to go to university. But disentangling yourself can still be hard and you need to be clear about what you want.

“Breaking up might seem a potentially terrifying experience but you need to remember that you hold an enormous amount of power as you could terminate their career,” says Phillip Hodson. “You should be confident, or at least try and appear confident, but there’s no need to be vindictive. Be kind and explain firmly that you understand what has gone on and that it has to stop, otherwise there will be consequences.”

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015