Saturday, September 30, 2017

Husband Poaching


Dear Andrew,

Lately, a woman in my husband's office has seemed to take a romantic interest in him. I believe he's loyal to me, but it bothers me that she thinks she has a chance, and is not leaving him alone. She knows he's married, so her initial email to him was "So, do you have any younger brothers available?"

It's hard for me to believe my husband doesn't know that's one of the most cliché pick-up lines in the book—cleverly designed to gauge a crush's commitment to his/her current relationship, while simultaneously implying that you're into that person. "I know you're taken, so I'll let you know I'm interested in you by telling you I'm looking for romance, and I'd be interested in someone a lot like you since I guess I can't have the real you....or can I?"


Let's rewind a bit. He met one woman, we'll call her Betty, while we were dating. Betty called him at all hours of the night just to talk and would sound a little put out that he was with me (I could hear her on the line). She invited him on outings that he emphatically insisted were not dates, and showed up to his house with videos in hand at 11 p.m. on Friday nights when she thought I wasn't there. These kinds of things happened all the time with her. I grumbled about it, but didn't want to be the "insecure" jealous type and I wanted to prove that I trusted him, so I kept my cool and played nice with her.

I thought it would cease with our marriage, but she still calls and emails him (though less now than before). His tone of voice on the phone reveals how special she is to him. When I get upset about it, he sighs to demonstrate how tiring my insecurities are, makes me out to be a jealous, petty nag, defends her, a fight ensues, and he enters a defiantly defensive gridlock and essentially refuses to cut ties.

I feel that Betty wouldn't persist in such a way if she felt that it was hopeless, that she didn't have a chance. After a few years of her blatant disrespect for relationship boundaries and his unwillingness to honor my role as his wife, I started to lose trust in him. So without his knowledge, I got in the habit of monitoring his email for any sign that he was giving her reasons to persist. This snooping, however, feels like a dirty, compulsive weakness. Part of me is looking for damning guilt, but part of me hopes that I will find something that redeems him.

I learned of the more recent office admirer (let's call her Wilma) while observing this email correspondence. It makes me think he's developed a habit of passively encouraging this behavior because it's flattering, which I can understand, but this encouragement allows her to undermine me and mock our marriage. The fact that she is so brazen indicates that she is a mate poacher, something I've been hearing a lot about lately. I learned that poachers target people in serious relationships because of the thrill and power of seducing an unavailable person, taking competitive behavior to a new level. When a man flirts with me knowing that I'm married, I'm a little offended. He is discrediting the significance of my marriage and disrespecting not only my boundaries, but also my husband.

Just like with Betty, my husband defends Wilma. He defends this situation and insists it's a cordial, professional relationship. I don't buy it. In my opinion, there is really no such thing as harmless flirting with someone else's spouse and it concerns me when people brush it off as innocent. In fact, I think the likelihood of adultery is intensified when people militantly dismiss it as "innocent"; it's as if they like their guards to be down, and are desperate and determined to remain that way, as vulnerable to temptation as possible.

Because of her brazen arrogance, and her apparent confidence that she could poach my husband any time she wanted, I am incensed. It's not enough for me to know she's wrong. I need HER to know it. Maybe I am too insecure, and this is definitely petty. But I feel like a chump and I'm angry that he's not sticking up for me—or for his own marriage.

I have been giving him extra praise to ensure he isn't craving it enough to seek it from anyone else, but I feel like nothing I say as his wife is as exciting as the things that come from the fun, fresh, coworker who doesn't HAVE to say those things. I know that I'm superior to her in pretty much every way (personality, success, looks, class, talent, and the fact that I'm not a tacky menace) and that I shouldn't be threatened. I guess it just enrages me to watch her try.

Imagine that you lived next to a pedophile and you had small children. You have taught them all about strangers and grown-ups that could hurt them even when the ones who seem nice. You've even specifically warned your kids to stay away from the pervert next door, and you know they would not get into his house or car if he asked them to. But when they walk to their bus stop, you can see the pedophile staring at them and trying to figure out ways to entice them. Wouldn't that disturb you?

My husband is obviously more discerning and less vulnerable than a small child, but I am just as upset knowing there is a woman who has her eyes on him, plotting to take him. It's also upsetting that he refuses to see her as predatory (yes, it's a strong word…but the shoe fits) and thus lives with his guard down.

I have concluded that no matter what I do, he can't be convinced and she can't be stopped. The only way to get through my issues will be to do it on my own and make peace with it. It seems impossible to do. I understand that jealousy in small doses is not harmful and in fact can add a little flavor to the relationship…but this is different than that. I put up with this type of drama in my dating years. But I'm married now and I should not have to deal with these kinds of things anymore. I hate that I'm competing for my own husband. I hate that he's allowing it. I REALLY hate that he defends her and I hate that I can't do anything about it. It's making me into an angry, bitter, untrusting person.

From an outside perspective, do you believe I should be concerned? Do you believe these situations lead to adultery? How can I stop this pattern? How can I just shrug it off like some women? I would love your insight.

Signed, Protecting What's Mine


Dear Protecting What's Mine,

I understand your anger toward the women you consider to be potential mate poachers; I would also resent someone I thought was making a serious play for my spouse. To me, though, the main issue does not depend on whether you are right or wrong about the intentions of those women. My concern is the way your husband has handled the situation.

His first interest should be in safeguarding and nurturing the relationship he has with you. He is not doing that. He knows the things that bother you, yet he continues to do them. This shows a blatant disregard for your feelings. He is not attaching the degree of importance that he should to looking after you and the relationship between the two of you.

Results matter. If the result of some behavior is damage to your marriage, then that should be enough for him to stop that behavior, or at least work with you to make sure you are not being hurt by that behavior. He is doing neither.

He has learned that you will put up with him crossing the line. If you need to own a piece of this problem, this is it -- by not wanting to appear jealous or petty, you have taught him that you will put up with it.

He can't control what other women do, but he can control his responses to those other women. His response to them should be: "This makes my wife uncomfortable so you have to stop doing this." The fact that he won't do so is a major danger signal in terms of how close the bond is between the two of you.

You should make this point with him and insist that he put your needs before those of one of his friends, regardless of whether the friend is male or female.

You are not being overly sensitive or jealous. He is being insensitive, uncaring and flirtatious because he likes this attention from other women -- another danger sign. Allowing another woman to drop by to watch a movie alone with him at 11 pm on a Friday night is WAYYYY over the line... and he knows it. Everybody knows that, which means he is getting a payoff from it, enough that he is willing to battle with you to retain it.

An ongoing email correspondence with another woman where he discusses personal matters about you and his marriage -- to me that is one form of emotional affair.

It is also a bad sign that he is willing to let someone else demean you and your marriage without defending you. A husband who holds his wife and marriage in high regard would never allow that or condone it with silence. I would shut anybody down in a heartbeat if they said something nasty about my wife, and that includes my parents, boss, children, co-workers ... you name it. I would simply never allow anyone to do it. You are right to be upset about this. Furious and hurt would be the appropriate response from you.

Yes I would consider all of these to be danger signs in terms of adultery. If I were you I would check out my post from November 10 entitled Catching a Cheating Spouse. I note that this article mentions monitoring of email and phone records as possible ways to find out if your spouse is being unfaithful.

Your path to freedom is not just to accept this behavior from your husband. Instead you should make the arguments I have made in this email and insist that he stop. If he persists in ignoring your complaints ... well, you have to decide how far you are willing to go to back up your request that he treat your with dignity and respect.

If you think he might already be cheating, you may wish to wait to confront him until you have read the article I mentioned and followed the advice given there.

These are strong words and I don't mean to add to your hurt and torment. As I see it, though, you will never be happy until the situation changes somehow. You can make it change. Stand up for yourself, say what you mean ... and mean what you say.

All the best,
Andrew
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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Long Distance Inattention

Dear Andrew,

My man and I have not seen each other for two years. Since we are from different countries and the marriage process takes a huge amount of paperwork and time, we have not yet been able to be together. We have tolerated many sad times during these two years but we hung on. My man built us a very nice and beautiful house, changed his job and is doing a tremendous amount of work all by himself. If things had gone well, we could have been together in almost two months.

I said this so you know that he loves me and is trying everything he can to get me.


We met two years ago in my country and spent a total time of 15 days together. The sexual attraction was huge but we did have a lot of silly fights during that little time. The fights mostly started because I was too insecure and I could not trust him 100%. Even though I hurt him badly with my words and actions, he still wanted me and has done so many sacrifices for me. I have tried to be an ideal partner for him. I have changed many of my bad traits, such as not giving him the silent treatment. I have been 100% loyal to him and have tried to be what he wants me to be.

The problem is that we have not had any physical contact with each other for two years straight, and that has had a very bad effect on our relationship. Our emails (we stopped talking on the phone a year ago) are only filled with sad words about how depressed and tired we both are. We accuse each other of not caring enough or not loving the other one enough.

He wants me to be an active person who works out and takes care of herself. I have failed many times but I have succeeded many times too.

I stopped working a year an half ago. I was a teacher and I liked my job. It provided enough money for me to feel as independent as I could. (I live with my parents.) I gave up working because he did not want me to work in the same place that my ex did. I did not continue my university classes and dropped out. I have no self-confidence anymore. Each time I suggest working again, he thinks I am thinking of long-term plans for myself to stay in my country, and that makes him insecure. He told me that if I need money, he would send some. I can never accept it. I would rather drown than call for help. I need to be independent, have my own money, have my own job. I wanted to go back to university again, but again, he said no. I should wait until I go to him, then I could study whatever I like.

I am 26 years old and I feel so old. I do not go out of the house, because I do not want to get into trouble. I do not hang out with my friends. I lock myself up in my apartment and only go to my parents' apartment at nights to watch TV with them. I stopped my social life so that I won’t give my man any reason to be suspicious, so that he could relax that I don't cheat on him.

The problem is that we have not had any physical contact with each other for two years straight, and that has had a very bad effect on our relationship. Our emails (we stopped talking on the phone a year ago) are only filled with sad words about how depressed and tired we both are. We accuse each other of not caring enough or not loving the other one enough.

Last week, my man went on a business trip and he could not contact me for three days. I cried every single night, thinking that he had committed suicide or had an accident. I was going insane with worry. I wrote him many emails during those three days telling how worried I was, that life is meaningless without him, telling him about my days and how depressed I was and telling him that I loved him. He contacted me after three days and told me that he had no way of contacting me, because his cell phone did not work in that area and neither did his mobile Internet. I just sent him an email telling him that I was so glad that he is back and that I loved him.

In reply he sent me an email telling me that for once he was content, because his trip had gone so well for him, but when he read my emails, they were like a cold shower for him. He said that I do not appreciate him enough and he wonders if what he is going through is futile. He says, "Why can’t you be stronger? Why can’t you appreciate me more?"

What have I done wrong? He knows I go insane with worry each time he doesn't send me an email. Did I not have the right to worry? And I never said anything mean in my emails, only my concern for his health and well being.

I had a bad breakdown after reading his email. I replied and told him I won’t put up with his abuse anymore. He had no right to call me weak and tell me that I don't appreciate him. I set us some new rules, telling him that he should send me the schedule of his week, he should treat me the same way I treat him. I told him I will start working again, despite the fact he has told me not to, told him that I won’t let my world go around him anymore. He does not give me the care and attention I need. I told him that I won’t let him affect me in my decision making, because he doesn't care for me and my sanity.

It wasn't a nice email.

He read the email and broke up with me. He said, "You went too far. Leave me alone, we are through."

In reply I said, "As you wish," and I have not contacted him, neither has he.

Two days have passed since then.

I love him. He is the only man I want to be with. He has proven himself to be a man for life over and over again. He loved me even when I hurt him, and I want him back. The trouble is, I have always initiated the apologizing and wanting to get back together. I know deep in his heart he wants us to make up too, but he is too proud to send me an email first. I do not want him to see me as needy. I want him to come to me first. That seems impossible.

What went wrong? What should I do to get him back? Do I have to change more? If yes, what should I change? Is there anything seriously wrong with us? Why can’t I be more appreciative and give him the respect he wants me to give him? Why can’t I control my temper?

Signed, Seriously Damaged


Dear Seriously Damaged,

Assume for the moment you could patch it up with him. Here are a few things to consider.

Let me get this straight. He won't "let you" work, take classes, or admit to having a bad day, which means that he cares only for his own needs, not yours. He gets suspicious if you have a normal social life with your friends. He tells you how you should interact with your own parents. He criticizes you, calling you unappreciative, weak, too insecure (even though he is also clearly insecure), and saying you have "many bad traits." He wants you to work out so you will be physically appealing for him. He has all the money in the relationship, but you are apparently not important enough for him to spend some of it to come visit you, or call you on the phone. He can't even bring himself to prop you up by offering a few supportive and loving words once in a while. The end result is that you are depressed, lonely, and completely unfulfilled in your lifestyle.

What exactly are you getting out of this relationship?

As far as I can tell, the only thing you are getting is hope. Your continued involvement with him (limited as it may be) provides you with the promise that you won't have to spend your life alone.

But here's what I can't get past. When you finally get your reward, when you reach that magical day you've been waiting for and the two of you can be together ... you'll be getting together with a guy who by your own account treats you horribly.

You say the attraction was intense when you first met. Well of course it was! It's always that way in the beginning. You two were only together during the infatuated excitement phase of a brand new relationship. Lust runs high, everything is fresh and new, and of course it all looks good. Yet even during that time you say all was not well, that the two of you had "a lot of silly fights" during the only time you were together.

Okay, he built a house. He works hard at his job. He has stayed in contact for two years. Those are good things but there is much, much more to being a supportive partner than that. I'd give him a failing grade in several other departments, such as caring as much about you as he does about himself, and being attentive to your needs.

Even if the two of you had not broken up, I would urge you to think long and hard before committing to a lifetime of that kind of treatment.

And don't think he will act differently once you are together, once the stress is gone, once you are married, once the moon is aligned with Venus. Far too many people have entered marriage thinking their partners will improve in some way. Experience has shown this rarely happens. Generally, what you see before the marriage is what you can expect to get for the rest of your days.

Do you want a husband who will dictate to you when you are "allowed" to have a job or take a course? Do you really want that little say in your life? Maybe so -- some cultures treat these sorts of issues differently than others, and I don't want to make assumptions. Even if that is okay for you, though, I'd think you'd want a partner who cares deeply about your needs and wants. Have you seen that from your boyfriend?

I have to ask myself why you have stayed in the relationship this long. I can only assume you are somewhat desperate to have someone in your life, so you are willing to take whatever promise this relationship holds. That makes me nervous for you. Desperation is a dangerous emotion when it comes to making relationship decisions. Desperate people will often stay in relationships from which more self-confident people would walk away.

Are you afraid you could not find another relationship? Do you have an idealized memory of those magical fifteen days of infatuation? Do you assume that the two of you will return to that state of excited lust when you see each other again? Perhaps these are some tough questions you should ask yourself.

If you think through all that and decide you really want to make up, this is what I suggest. Tell him the truth. Open up and tell him how you are feeling and that you want to be with him. True honest expression of love and desire to be together is the way to break down barriers of anger and silence. Don't try to explain how he hurt you, just acknowledge whatever part you played and tell him you don't want to lose him.

If you end up back together, I suggest you give some serious thought to how you can find your identity in this relationship. You need to have a life of your own, even if it means he has to work through some of his own insecurities.

You've been living in a difficult situation for two years. I wish you the best of luck in trying to create a better one.

With warm regards,
Andrew
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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Does Sleeping Separately Hurt Your Relationship?

Dear Andrew,

How often do you hear of couples living in separate bedrooms? I do hear stories of older couples with separate beds, but usually in the same room and it's usually for health reasons, isn't it?

Well, we are a young couple (barely 30) doing just that. We each have our own bedroom and we both love it. We have been married eight years this September and our separate rooms didn't start intentionally. My husband has always snored and HAS to have the TV on to sleep. I have never been able to sleep through that, but had somewhat adjusted to it.


We planned our second child to be born around the time my mom was moving out of our house so he could have his own room. Well, she never moved out and he stayed in our room. This child wouldn't sleep and kept us both up. So after several months, my husband mentioned sleeping on the couch to see if the TV bothered our son. It worked! Our son slept longer that night than he had in a long time. So, my husband stayed on the couch. When my mom moved out he moved into her room and has been there ever since.

I now get sleep like I haven't had in many years. No more arguing about the TV volume or channel, no listening to him snore (it's gotten worse) and I don't have to share the bed. Why would I give that up?

The few friends that we have told about this situation cannot believe we live like this. Is it really that unusual? Would it jeopardize our marriage as some people say? What about when my boys are old enough to understand? How do I explain it to them?

Otherwise, we strive to have a happy, as close to normal as possible relationship.

Signed, Rested and Happy


Dear Rested,

I know people who would find it extremely difficult to feel close if they slept separately, and I suspect some of the readers' comments in reaction to this post will reflect the same emotional need to be together. Some couples like this will put up with a considerable degree of sleep disturbance to achieve the closeness and will consider that to be a worthwhile tradeoff. (And, of course, many couples are able to sleep together without keeping each other awake.)

Sleep disturbance, however, can be a source of tension between spouses. Snoring, fidgeting or kicking while asleep, frequent bathroom visits, sleeping with the TV on -- any of these can contribute to sleep deprivation for the affected spouse. Tired, cranky people do not always get along with each other as well as they might when rested and refreshed.

Snoring is perhaps the most commonly reported disturbance. A University of North Carolina study shows that approximately 30 percent of women and 40 percent of men are habitual snorers. This can leave the partners tossing in frustration much of the night. We all know how horrible it feels to be exhausted, especially if you live that way on an ongoing basis. People whose spouses prevent them from sleeping often dread going to bed and may even build up resentment toward their partners. The snorer may also be embarrassed, much as they would if they had a problem like bad breath that led to difficulties with their partner.

Given that there may be practical reasons for sleeping apart, does this necessarily lead to a lessening of intimacy and closeness? According to Canadian author and sex columnist Josey Vogels, the answer is a resounding "no." She points out that while sleeping in separate bedrooms has the potential to strain a relationship, couples can more than make up for it by paying attention to each other while awake.

We all know that "sleeping together" involves more than just sleeping. We read together, talk, make love and cuddle, all of which can help to build closeness. None of these, however, happen while we are asleep. Vogels maintains that the time spent asleep is the least important in terms of your relationship. She speaks from first-hand experience, too, since she often retreats to the spare bedroom because of her husband's snoring. She recommends spending some time together in bed together before separating for sleep, and suggests that surprise visits can add to the spice.

You are right to think of your children's views. Show plenty of affection for each other when they are around. Show them and tell them how much you love each other and explain that the sleeping arrangements are simply so you can get a good night's rest. They will take their emotional cues from you. Reassure them in a happy way that all is well and they should have no problem accepting this as a normal part of your life.

The results are what matter the most. If you and your husband are getting along well and the intimate side of your relationship is in good shape, then don't fix what isn't broken.

All the best,
Andrew
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Saturday, September 09, 2017

My Parents Don’t Like My Boyfriend

Dear Andrew,

I am nineteen years old and I’ve been dating my 21-year-old boyfriend for about a year. We get along great but the only problem is my parents don’t like him. That bothers me because I think it should be up to me who I date. He’s fun to be with and says such nice things. My parents want me to find someone who goes to college like I do, or at least has a job. But it’s not like he doesn’t want to work. He had a part-time job at a store but that ended last summer and he hasn’t been able to find anything even though he is looking. This is the first time I’ve had this problem with my parents and I don’t know how to handle it. We’ve never really fought much before and I don’t like it. My boyfriend is cool about it, though. He just laughs when we talk about it and says not to worry about it, but it still bothers me. Any advice?


Signed, Unhappy

Dear Unhappy,

I can understand why you feel torn. It sounds like you have enjoyed a good relationship with your parents, and now you find yourself at odds over one of the biggest issues in your life – your choice of your current significant other.

You are correct about one thing. In my opinion, it is completely up to you who you date and with whom you eventually settle down, if that is in your future. You are a young adult, it is your life, and you are the one who will be the most affected by your choices.

But ... yes, I have several very large ‘buts’ for you to consider.

I worry that one of the factors here may be what I call The Saturday Night Syndrome. A typical existence for a teenager in college revolves around classes, assignments, and a social life, with maybe a part-time job or some extra-curricular activities like sports thrown in to round out the mix. Your boyfriend doesn’t attend your classes, nor does he share your job or play on your volleyball team. He intersects your world when it comes to hanging out during your leisure time and when you go out on Saturday night. That is the arena where he must shine in order for you to feel good about the experiences you share with him.

You see, couples tend to feel better about each other when they share positive experiences. (Which is why the occasional date night or vacation trip can be so important later in life, when day jobs and mortgages tend to take over.) Based on your letter, I would say your boyfriend is good at helping you enjoy yourself when you’re at the movies or at a party. It sounds like he has some skills when it comes to knowing what to say to you in a social context. And those are all good things. I would also guess you are attracted to him for other reasons, such as his physical attractiveness or whatever else you are responding to in him. Again, there’s nothing wrong with any of that.

The problem is this is not a complete test of how well he may be able to contribute to your long-term happiness. Some young people measure compatibility based on how well things are going right now, when perhaps a some thought about the potential future might shed a different light on things.

I realize not all dating relationships are headed for a long-term commitment. People date for fun, have transition boyfriends – I get it. But you are at an age where relationships often start to get serious. You’ve been with this guy for a year and your letter gives no indication things are likely to slow down or end soon. In my books this is either already a serious relationship or has the potential to become one. I guarantee your parents recognize the same thing.

I haven’t met you or your boyfriend, so I can’t possibly offer an opinion about him as a person or as a potential partner for you. However there are a few things you mentioned in your letter that I recommend you should think about.

Let’s talk about a few life skills you should look for. The first is earning potential. That may sound callous and out of step with a discussion about love and how he makes you feel, but it is a hard fact that we all need to earn a living. That is especially true for someone who might marry a young lady and become a father. Now I can’t pass judgment on anyone who might be struggling to earn an income in today’s economy. Times are tough and jobs are scarce. Not everyone needs to go to college to succeed. The question for me, though, is this: What is your boyfriend doing to improve his situation? Is he working long and hard to scour the hills looking for opportunities? Is he treating his current downtime as an opportunity to improve his skills, learn a trade, or start a small business out of his garage? Has he volunteered to work somewhere for free in the short term so he can create contacts or learn something marketable? Or has he merely submitted a handful of resumes and asked a few friends if they know about any jobs? Everyone can occasionally be faced with challenges, but it is how we respond to them that shows whether we are a go-getter who is likely to succeed no matter what, or someone whose fortunes depend on luck and the good graces of others. I hope my daughter would have her eye out for one of the go-getters.

A second life skill in any relationship between young people is trying to get along with the potential in-laws. Like it or not, every boyfriend has a sales job to do, selling himself to your parents. That can involve communication, compromise, the ability to recognize issues and deal with them, and underlying it all, the desire to create goodwill and harmony. How much effort has your boyfriend put into any of that? I recognize his relationship with your parents is a two-way street and they own half the relationship. He has to do his part, though. If, as you say, he merely laughs off their concerns without taking positive steps to try to mend fences, then that should make you pause and think. Is this how he is likely to approach other important relationships in the future, such as with employers, co-workers, or your friends?

Going along with that, has he shown any concern for how this conflict is affecting you?

You asked about your parents, and all I’ve talked about so far is you and your boyfriend. The reason is I want to give you a perspective that many parents are likely to have on your situation. It seems there are plenty of factors involved that would give your parents reasonable grounds for being concerned, especially since they are likely to be the two people on this planet who are most interested in you ending up with a fulfilling and happy life.

One more thing you said gives me pause. This is not a recurring pattern for you and your parents. I assume you have dated before, which means they didn’t object to your previous boyfriends, just this one. I also have to assume your parents know something about life. They were once your age, dating and watching their friends succeed and fail at numerous relationships. Whether you want to admit it or not, they have some perspective on these sorts of things that you don’t have. So just the fact that they are concerned should make you stop and wonder whether they might have a point.

Please forgive me if any of my assumptions are off base. You might have already thought through many of the points I mentioned. And like I said at the outset, your choice of dating partner should be completely up to you. However, I suggest your parents’ concern should set off major alarm bells and get you thinking about some of the issues I mentioned above. I wish you the best of luck in working through that and, hopefully, arriving at a happy place for everyone concerned.

All the best,
Andrew
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Saturday, September 02, 2017

How Can She Get Over Her Feelings for Him?

Dear Andrew,

I am happily married – will be 9 years in October. No problems at all with my husband as he is a very good man and devoted husband and friend. Had forgotten old boyfriends, lovers, etc. everything many years ago when I met my husband and have been very happy.

My problem is an old lover that I saw a year ago this past April. I met him in 1993 and we did not really date – had a brief thing. Neither of us were married at the time but he ended up pushing me away. I never understood why and I contacted him on and off for almost 3 years. I loved him totally and never understood why he did not want me. Over the years, I dreamed of him on occasion and I thought of him whenever I went back to Myrtle Beach where we met. But nothing painful. No problems or regrets. I loved him still but it did not hurt and I did not have a desire to contact him. I knew that for whatever reason, he had some issues and I always believed he cared as I had pushed him one time and got a strong reaction and he admitted he cared for me. When I met him and afterwards, I believed that we were supposed to be together. I believed for the longest time that I would be with him and marry him. Even after none of that happened, I knew deep down that one day I would see him again. I can’t explain it, I just knew that I would.


I saw him at a professional conference. He stood in front of me on purpose so that I would see him. I know this because the last time I saw him he did the same thing and then denied having seen me. When I saw him last, his friend was looking at me really oddly at the same place where we met. I couldn’t figure out why this guy was looking at me so funny and then I saw “him”. I know his friend was waiting for my reaction and I had a big one. I did not talk to him that day last April when I saw him again as I was sure he did it on purpose. It was at a conference in one of those large ballrooms with 400 – 500 people and during a break I was talking to a former co-worker at the end of a table deep in conversation. Someone was standing in front of me and talking, but I thought nothing of it until he introduced himself and I looked up and there he was. Wanted to crawl under the table and die right then. I didn’t react. My friend did not even know what was going on but I told her later. Sent him an email, and called him last September and talked to him. He denied seeing me, getting my email, etc. I thought then that this was just not true.

I got a therapist (licensed family, marital, etc.) in January because I couldn’t shake it and went alone to try and sort things out as I never stopped loving him. It did not take her long to identify the reason for his behavior. After only 5 sessions/weeks she suspected he had a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I googled it and found all kinds of information on it. Wow – it explained 85 – 90% of the behavior I experienced from him. That helped a lot. I have an extremely detailed memory and I remember everything about him and everything that happened between us – things he said and things I said. The huge missing piece of the puzzle was found and I understood why he did not want me or love me and why he was such a paradox (he seemed to care, he wanted my attention, the way he looked at me was pretty unmistakable, but he would dodge and deny and distance himself).

I guess my question is, how do I really let this person go. I thought I had. I knew I still had feelings for him, but I had managed to bury them. I never expected them to resurface. I am doing much much better with it after having seen the therapist. It helped a lot. Have you ever dealt with NPD’s before? I could always hear the regret in his voice. I think he knows that something is wrong with him. When he said that I should have come and talked to him, I told him I couldn’t. He asked why I didn’t, I told him that I didn’t think he’d want to see me. He said he would have thought that was the other way around.

When I read the info about NPD, I see why it seemed that he was always threatened by me or afraid for some reason. I could not put my finger on when I would talk to him, but there were times I could hear the fear in his voice, I could feel the regret in a way from him, I could tell he was always struggling with what to say to me. He was very smart and that was part of the attraction. I believe he is the cerebral form of the narcissist. I expressed my feelings to him very clearly. I told him I loved him.

Is there any way to be over him once and for all? Is there any help for these people? Do they have any feelings or is really just a case of the lights are on but no one is home? Can I get over not getting what I wanted desperately and instead getting what I needed (a strong man for a husband)?

I would appreciate any thoughts you have.

Signed, Not Over Him


Dear Not Over Him,

I’m a results-oriented kind of guy. I am not that concerned, to be honest, about the reasons behind this man’s behavior. In terms of how you should react, it doesn’t matter if he has some personality disorder or he behaves that way because he is getting messages beamed to him from Mars or if it is because he is just a nasty person. The end result is that he has treated you a certain way and you have to react accordingly. You need to protect yourself from the poor treatment.

Not only that, your letter indicates that his behavior is a problem for you. I disagree. That’s his problem. Your issues are tied up in your own behavior. That’s actually good news because you have no control over what he does and all the opportunity in the world to control what you do.

To summarize your situation, you had a “brief thing” with a guy approximately fifteen years ago, which you characterize as not even dating. Based on this brief encounter and a few words of attraction you wrangled out of him, you became convinced you have a special connection with this fellow that you thought would result in further contact and potentially marriage. He on the other hand pushed you away, made it clear he didn’t want you, ignored and lied about your emails, and acted positively weird when you happened to bump into him later.

The real questions for me are these:
  • What made you feel so positive about this guy to begin with, when he had such an ambivalent response to your relationship?
  • Why has your feeling of a special connection persisted for so long even though all of the potentially reinforcing events have actually been negative?
  • And why oh why would a great gal like you squander your emotional energy on a guy who has made it quite clear he doesn’t want you?
There is a saying in the medical community that applies to diagnosis. “When you hear hoofbeats, think horses not zebras.” In other words, most situations are caused by the most common issues. It sounds like at the time you wanted very much to be in a relationship. You received at least some positive feedback from this man – the “strong reaction” you received when you pushed him – so you allowed yourself to develop a strong hope that this might be THE ONE. Hope can indeed spring eternal and it seems to be doing so in your case.

This hope is so powerful, this feeling of inevitability so seductive, that you categorize his weirdness as issues to be overcome and any slight indication of interest as proof that your hope has merit.

Your letter also implies that the initial encounter was sexual, since it was “not really dating.” Our society teaches young women to attach great importance to sexual relationships, especially the first relationship that involves great passion and abandon. Young ladies who give sex freely and without discrimination are often portrayed as tramps, while intimacy with the great love of your life is viewed as special and unique. So if you simply had a romp with a random guy who quickly passed in and out of your life, then you may be tempted to think badly of yourself. But if this guy is THE ONE, then it’s different. The sex is a special thing that happened with a special person in your life. This could be a powerful motivator to attach additional significance to this relationship.

Since we have not spoken I have no way of knowing if this is a factor in your case. I mention it so you can think about it and decide if you wish to raise it with your therapist.

You need to place this relationship in the appropriate historical perspective so it will stop interfering with your current emotions. You need to ask yourself what would have happened if he had agreed to stick around, to enter into a more longstanding relationship with you.

That would have been a disaster for you. His “come here, come here, no get away” personality would have had you constantly tied up in emotional knots. His weird behavior would have had much more opportunity to cause you pain, and the end result would have been the same, with him eventually rejecting you – not because of any failing on your part but because he has proven that this is his pattern.

Yes, you can and must get over this guy. He is not deserving of your desire – his behavior towards you makes this unequivocally true. My advice to you is to believe him when he says he doesn’t want you and to move on. Your husband is really THE ONE and deserves to occupy that spot in your heart without sharing even a bit of you with anyone else.

Good luck!

All the best,
Andrew
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