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Dr. Kenner: Here’s an email from Linda, who is dealing with kind of the same problem in reverse. She’s the one who’s had some wandering eyes. “Hi Dr. Kenner. I’m a 30-year-old woman, a nurse, married to Frank for 10 years. We have three beautiful girls. I’ve never flirted with another guy or done anything inappropriate. I have never been interested.” That’s pretty amazing for 10 years, to not even have an attraction with another guy. “However, four months ago, I met Joe, a considerably older man. I’ve not been the same since. My attraction is much more than just physical. Never have I felt this way. It’s a passion that has awoken inside of me and it feels so unfair. On one hand, I can’t continue to think about him. On the other hand, I don’t want to stop thinking about him. I find myself fantasizing about what it would be like to be with him. He is married with four kids and I would never do anything to break up his family. My husband has no idea of my attraction to Joe. But he has to know something has changed. I’m pulling away from him, being very distant. I have no interest in intimacy anymore. The worst part is that the more I pull away from my husband, the more affectionate and harder he tries. But I just can’t. This is not something I can just stop. I wish I had never met Joe, so I wouldn’t be going through this right now. Thank you for listening. Linda.”
Linda, what I think you’ve discovered with Joe is visibility. Something has happened in your relationship with this older man where you feel understood, cared for, cherished and in a long-term relationship – you’ve been with your hubby for over a decade and you have three girls – that takes a toll on people, if you don’t know how to keep the love alive. In fact, you can get my book The Selfish Path to Romance if you want to know how to keep the love alive. But what do you do at this point? Because in a sense, you have emotionally betrayed your husband for four months and he’s been living in a nightmarish world. He’s powerless and the more you distance him, the more he tries to pursue you. That is called the distancer-pursuer relationship. You do have choices and what you can do at this point is not just go by that wonderful passion, that emotion, but analyze your emotion and fit it into the full context. You have three girls. This other guy has four children. And you’re living in a fantasy world with Joe. You haven’t had sex with him. You haven’t dealt with all of the kids under one roof.
It’s easy to cocoon a relationship and make it feel like it’s the best relationship in the world, but it isn’t the real thing. It’s a potential, but that potential comes at a huge tradeoff for you. The tradeoff is it will do damage to your family. The consequences of letting this grow for four months will have a toll on your kids and your husband if you decide to leave, and they are your values too. So you need to figure out what to do at this point. It doesn’t mean you can’t leave your marriage – but man, that is a life-changing decision and you want to put a lot of thought into it.
Number one, I would be honest with your husband. Let him know the reason you’ve been pulling away is that you’ve had this attraction. Sometimes that reduces the attraction. It’s respectful of yourself. You’re not living two lives. Number two, let him know you haven’t had sex with him. And then I would get professional help for yourself.
Male: God, I have had it. In the past six months I have done everything a man can possibly do to meet a woman. Singles bars. Blind dates. Lecture series at the museum. I even spent hours in the grocery store trying to look helpless in the produce department.
Female: This happens sometimes. When you’re in a really bad streak you start to get desperate. Women can sense that. They can smell it.
Male: Smell it?
Female: Mm-hmm. And trust me, when a guy starts to get over eager, complimenting me too much or laughing too hard at all your jokes, you just want to turn and run. In my experience, the minute you stop looking, the perfect person falls right in your lap.
Dr. Kenner: And that’s Ros from Frasier and she’s giving him therapy. She’s just sensing that he’s probably being a little overbearing or too eager in his attempt to find someone. You know, there’s some truth to that. If you really want to find a partner in your life, then you can’t just sit on the couch and wait for someone to drop in your lap, as Ros says. You do need to go out and do the legwork. You do need to either go to the dating sites or put out an all points bulletin to friends and family to find a partner. That’s how I found mine, so don’t laugh at that one. And you need to put in effort to find someone while you hold your dignity. While you don’t feel desperate inside. You are pursuing a wonderful goal. It’s not that you’re desperate or that you’re has-been goods and you’re trying to find somebody who would be willing to be with you even though you’re broken. You don’t want to have that view of yourself.
My website is DrKenner.com. We have another website, SelfishRomance.com. How do you like that one? As you hear, it’s SelfishRomance.com, but we mean self-nurturing your life. Self-valuing, cherishing your partner. What do we have at that website? Well, my co-author and I have written a book, The Selfish Path to Romance, how to love with passion and reason. And you can go to the website and take a look at the book. We’ve got a lot of advice on everything from how to make yourself loveable, how to find the right person, how to keep a romance going over many years and how to part ways, even, if it’s not working out in a way that minimizes the damage. We talk about sex, how to resolve conflict, we cover a lot. Again, that’s at SelfishRomance.com.