I’ve been married for four years now, and I live a happy life with my husband, who is 15 years my senior. A few weeks ago I met a man who is 25 years my senior, and I find myself overwhelmingly attracted to him. Through a mutual friend, I learned he feels the same about me. I see myself wanting to pursue a friendship with this man, but I’m terrified of what might happen. Please do not tell me a simple “no” because I already know I shouldn’t. I really am happy with my husband … we are compatible in every way imaginable. How is it that I can be so strongly attracted to someone else when I’m so happy? This new man, by the way, is gentle, well-educated, well-spoken, well-traveled, well-mannered, well-off, and well-everything.
—Happily Married, But …
Well, well. Prudie is wondering where Daddy was when you were growing up. You clearly have a thing for older men—which does not make you a bad person. It’s just that if your choices keep getting exponentially older, you will be camped out in Leisure World by the time you are 40. As per your request, Prudie will not tell you a “simple ‘no.’ ” Instead, here are some things to think about. Your most concrete question—how is it possible to be attracted to someone when you’re presently happy—may have to do with a subtle, if not subconscious dissatisfaction. You may also have an immature longing to keep falling in love anew; certain personalities are drawn toward repeated new beginnings. And affairs offer escape … one way or another. Be aware that long-term monogamous marriage is not a natural state of being—though it does work for many people. Relationships evolve and change. Most people will experience sexual feelings toward persons not their spouse. Such feelings are entirely normal (and usually fleeting), so don’t beat yourself up about that. Whether or not you act on these feelings will have to do with your values.
I am student at a university who has fallen in love with her professor. We became very close this last semester, though there was nothing physical or inappropriate. We both had strong convictions about playing it responsibly and ethically. Now that we’re in a new semester, however, he is no longer my professor. Recently, his mom became very ill, and he had to leave to care for her. He is still not back. We promised to keep in touch, which we did by e-mail. Then suddenly, in the middle of a back and forth exchange (on a light and innocent topic), he did not reply. I had already e-mailed him that I had a gift for him when he returned. He said he wanted to talk, and if I left the gift in his office, he would get it. I e-mailed him three or four more times and never got a reply. I would think that as a mature, educated adult, he would tell me whether he felt he misled me or whether the feelings are mutual. I’ve been thinking about this obsessively. I needed to share my joyous adoration for him with him, but I never meant to make things awkward. I still get butterflies every time I check my e-mail. Nothing—and he’s still not back.
Prudie thinks the professor reconsidered your joyous adoration and decided the whole thing was a mistake. The flirtation may have been genuine on his part … or he may have been trying to manage what he perceived as a crush. His not responding was his response. Chalk this up to one of life’s lessons, and do not pursue this man, electronically or in person, when he returns to campus. When no explanation is forthcoming, it just means the other person is not up to talking about it, and silence sometimes says it all. Much as you would like one, there may never be a discussion about why things turned out the way they did.
In the last month I had the good fortune to meet a sweetheart of a man. Things clicked from the word go. I’ve fallen head over heels. He is the first man in three years, since losing my late husband, who has been able to unlock my heart and allow me to “feel” again. We spoke every day and spent time together on weekends. (We live two hours from each other.) Then, two days went by with no contact. I tried reaching him, but to no avail. Then I received an e-mail from him saying he was sorry he’d been out of touch, he needed time, couldn’t figure out where the relationship should go … just one reason after another. He also apologized for his part in our having sex right away. He said that really wasn’t like him! Then he said that all my attention to him was scary, so he felt he would go it alone for the foreseeable future. I was crushed and cried for days. I also wrote several highly emotional e-mails expressing my feelings and thoughts. It’s been a week now, and not even a package from UPS with some of my things that were at his place. Am I holding out false hope that he is ever coming back to me? Let me know what you think.
You were, alas, too needy, and men do not respond well to that in the best of times. It is perfectly understandable that, three years after your loss, someone who made you feel alive again would have you thinking long-term. It was all too fast for him, however, and too smothering. Prudie’s guess is that this chap will not be back, but take from this experience two important things: the knowledge that you can love again, and that next time things need to go more slowly. A note requesting your belongings and wishing him well will give you a dignified closure.
My younger sister and I (both in our late 40s) have never been close, and I’m trying very hard to develop our relationship. I can tell she wants that as well, but the problem is that we are soooo different. I find her shallow and her conversation tedious, and I think she finds me intimidating (or so I’ve been told by our mother, who may be projecting, if you know what I mean). I instigate all of our times together, although she seems to enjoy and want them as well. We’ve gone shopping, which is kind of fun, but we share almost no interests at all. I am an avid reader; she doesn’t read. She’s religious and “churchy”; I’m on a lone spiritual journey. We both like movies, but our tastes could not be more different. She spends her extra money on costume jewelry and shoes; I spend mine on my motorcycle and books. She and her young son live with our parents; I am a widow and own my own home. My college-age daughter is smart, ambitious, and gregarious; her son is sweet, but he’s spoiled and plays video games. Despite all this, I do love her and ache for us to really know each other’s hearts. How do I accomplish this so late in life?
Sisterly affection need not hinge on who likes shoe shopping or who rides a hog. You’ve communicated to Prudie that you feel superior to your sib, whether it’s conscious or not, and the odds are good she’s gotten the message. Someone you refer to as “shallow” and “tedious” cannot help but feel your disapproval. You even describe your child using positive adjectives while her son, though sweet, is a spoiled kid with a video game habit. If both your mother and sister find you “intimidating,” there must be some aspect of your personality that is difficult for others. What you must do, if you want a relationship, is bag the judgmental business. Stop, already, with the checklist of who has which qualities. Deal with your sister on an emotional level. Simply tell her that you are two very different personalities, but you love her and need her and want to strengthen the relationship as you both grow older. Find the things you find valuable and admirable about her, and let her know. If you soften up a little, Prudie feels certain the two of you will grow closer.