Group Therapy is a relationship advice column that asks readers to contribute their wisdom. Each week, we offer up a problem
for you to weigh in on, then publish the most lively responses, with a final word on the matter delivered by our columnist, Lynn Coady.
A reader writes: About a year ago I met a guy who was in town on business for the summer. We got along so well, we saw each other every day, but there was never anything there sexually for me. Eventually he told me he was married and had a child, which didn't faze me because we were just friends. After he left we talked every day, and I started to have feelings for him. Now he is telling me that his marriage has failed, that his wife is just a friend, that he wants to leave her and start a new life with me. I am desperately in love with him and want it to work. But everyone is telling me that it won't. I'm afraid he'll back out and I'll be left heartbroken. What should I do?
Wait six months
Sincerity is in actions, not words. Tell the guy you're flattered by his interest, sorry for his current problems, and to give you a call again. In six months. If at that time he is still with his wife, you're friends. Maybe. If not, he is now in competition with other decent, caring, honest and unmarried men you have met and dated. If he calls before six months, tell him not to call again. Ever.
- Stephen Workman, Halifax
Set him free
Get out of this now while you can still salvage some self-respect - let alone your heart. Your availability is the catalyst to his failing marriage. Why do you fear he may back out? Because you know that he is coming to you for a soft place to fall without resolving his primary responsibility as a husband and a father. If you care for someone, set him free to get his life in order without your interference. Then you may be more assured that things will unfold as they naturally should.
- Darby Brown, Kitchener
You need to be in lust
I'm all for taking risks with romance. But if you're going to be "the other woman," the sex had sure as hell be worth the ensuing head (heart) ache. The last time you saw this man face to face, things were completely platonic. But somehow, through the course of your long distance relationship, you've fallen in love with him? As much as we hate to admit it, we must remember not to discredit the effect physical chemistry has on the likelihood of a relationship working out. I think the question is not "what if he backs out?" but rather, "why do I think there'll 'be anything sexually there' for me this time round?"
- Hana Lang, Ottawa
THE FINAL WORD
When a letter writer's question provokes in me nothing but more questions, it's a clear indication I haven't been fed enough data - haven't been given the tools,to dislodge my usual earthy nuggets of down-home wisdom. So the first question I have for you is fairly broad. That question is: Huh?
You spend a whole summer with a guy and feel zero attraction. He goes away, you start talking on the phone (and over e-mail I presume - or maybe Skype? Details, people!) and suddenly feelings of the squishy variety come squelching to the fore. What's changed? See, if you had at least made it clear what communications medium you've been using I could extrapolate from that. If you'd specified e-mail, I would have assumed the guy must be the second coming of John Keats, in terms of his way with a wooing word. If you said Skype, I might have gone with something more prosaic, like naked messaging.
If it's the phone, that's different altogether. There's something particularly intimate about a person's voice in your ear - more intimate, even, than playing peek-a-boo on Skype. If this guy long-distance wooed you the old-fashioned way (and yes, these days that's via telephone), I'm guessing you were pretty lonely. You missed his physical presence, even though by your own admission, his physicality did very little for you close up.
So here's my cautionary word, even though I'm kind of working in the dark here: The alleviation of loneliness can feel a lot like being in love. Loneliness sucks. It's a slog. It feels wonderful and exhilarating when someone makes it go away. But love is a whole different ball game. Love requires what our friend Hana discreetly calls "chemistry."
I'm not going to even go into your man-friend's domestic situation, even though I have questions around that too (e.g. is his wife aware that they are now merely "friends"?) Let's focus on you. You don't necessarily have to bail out as Darby recommends, but Stephen's six-month moratorium may well make sense for you both. I'd just ask that you don't make a decision about this guy - and for God's sake, don't describe yourself as 'desperately in love'- until you've had him in front of you for a respectable period of time.
Lynn Coady is the award-winning author of the novels Strange Heaven and Mean Boy, with another one currently in the oven.
Next week's question
I'm convinced that my husband has an iPad gaming addiction. Last night he came to bed at 5:30 a.m. He said he was preparing for a meeting. Actually it was a half hour of meeting prep and five hours of gaming. While on vacation, after he skirted his household and parental duties in favour of Angry Birds, I hid his iPad (perhaps a questionable idea). He literally tore the house apart, like a crack addict searching for his stash.
He doesn't think he has a problem but it's affecting our marriage and his work and most importantly I feel he's setting a poor example for our school-aged children. What should I do?
Let's hear from you
Do you have an answer to this question or a dilemma of your own? Weigh in at firstname.lastname@example.org, and be sure to include your hometown and a daytime contact number. (We will not publish your name if you submit a personal dilemma.)