"Ask Dr. Tracy"

8/18/96 Advice Column

Older and Unrequited at 30,
Wannabee Swinger,
Slept with an ex

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am a single 30 year old woman and I have recently been spending time with a 20 year old man that I work with. We began a friendship because we were both ending bad one-sided relationships and needed someone to confide in. He is extremely mature and intelligent for a person his age. I have more fun with him than I have with any man I have ever been with.

Out of this friendship a closeness has developed that is hard to explain. We have had sex several times. We both enjoyed it and were happy with our arrangement. He has recently told me that he wants to slow down with this aspect of our relationship and just be friends again. This is going to be hard for me because I have developed deeper feelings for him.

We have discussed this and he does not feel like there could be a practical future for us. He is in college and I have concentrated on my career for the past several years. I have told him that I could get past the age difference and that I don't care what other people think, but this seems to be the main thing that holds him back. His mother and our co-workers' opinions mean the world to him.

I am not putting pressure on him and I told him I understand but I can't help but want this relationship. Am I being totally unrealistic in thinking that this could ever work? My best friend and co-worker is married to a man 10 years older and they are very happy.

I know I can't make him love me but the potential is there if he would just let it happen and not worry so much. I have stepped back and I am trying to follow the advice I read in your library. I am happy at work and when I am around him and he is aware of other men who call and flirt with me. He does date other people but says he has the most fun with me. Am I a complete idiot for feeling this way? Should I give up this fantasy and stop hanging around with him? Please help.

Old and Unrequited

Dear Old and Unrequited,

At 30, you're not old, but you could begin to feel like it if you keep pursuing a much younger man who's telling you he wants to "just be friends." My friend The Old Seducer says, "if sex doesn't keep a 20-year-old man coming back, nothing will."

You say your young lover is mature, but if he's not sure of what he wants, and peer pressure is still very important to him, how mature can he be? The only thing about him that sounds mature to me is his conclusion that there's no practical future for the two of you.

So, yes, I'm afraid you are being totally unrealistic, especially if you're drawing a hopeful parallel with your best friend's marriage. Assuming your friend is about your age, her marriage to a 40-year-old man is vastly different than your relationship with a 20-year-old man. For one thing, your young man is certainly not ready for commitment.

The best way to have a lasting relationship is to find a man who really wants you and is mature enough to appreciate you. I suggest you follow your young man's advice and mine: leave the fantasy behind and get on with your life. Read "Developing Realistic Criteria" in my Library to get you started in the right direction.

Dear Dr. Tracy,

First, I must tell you that this is a serious letter.

I am a 35 year old male and married to a 35 year old female. I am hurting so bad by my feelings, that I felt the need to write here.

For the past 6 years or so, I have had feelings of bisexuality and loving friendships with other couples. I have told my wife of this, and as we are in the midst of lovemaking, she is very excited. But when the lovemaking is over, so is her excitement of getting together with others. In the meantime, I still have the feelings and cannot get over them.

I know in my heart that that is the life I should be leading. I love my wife, but my feelings are so strong. There is so much more to it than just sex. There is the emotional caring and sharing of good friends, the trust, and the helping.

I think I am probably doomed to this life. I cannot hurt her by leaving. First, it would probably destroy her. She threatened to kill herself the last time we had a fight and I left. But I left at her request. Second, the children, ages 16 and 14, both girls. I love them all!!

I cannot be talked out of these feelings, because they are me. But maybe I could see a counselor to help me deal with the fact that I will probably always live my life not as I wish. There are tears in my eyes from the pain I feel about this situation.

Dear Wannabee Swinger,

Over the past twenty years I've counseled many couples who've gone into swinging. Very few of them have been able to handle the swinging lifestyle and stay together, although there are couples who manage to do so.

Swingers who are successful in sharing their lives with a select group of other couples have very strict rules about participation. The single most important rule is that both partners must want to swing. If not, you're asking for trouble.

Another important factor in the lives of successful swingers is that they don't have relationship problems. Swinging doesn't solve problems couples have, it makes them worse. So you will have to solve the problems between you before you risk swinging, since it adds new stresses on even the tightest of couples.

If you can solve the existing problems and get your relationship on a loving secure level, then perhaps you could look into sharing your love with others. However, you should know that very few male swingers are bisexual, although many of the women are. Bisexuality among women swingers is much more accepted than among men, so you may not be able to live out your bisexual fantasies even if you do get into swinging.

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I've been with a wonderful man for over a year. We love each other, and our relationship is wonderful. We fight sometimes and I know he isn't perfect. He is a good friend to me, is supportive and a wonderful lover. Although we live on opposite coasts we visit each other as often as possible and are in contact constantly. I know we have about as good a relationship as I could possibly hope for. But I have a problem. A few months after we first started going out, before we agreed not to see other people, he slept with his ex-girlfriend who came to visit him in California.

This woman is someone I consider a personal enemy of mine - she's hurt me, and tried to break up our relationship when we first started dating. I begged him not to do it, and was devastated when he did. We broke up for a day or so but then I took him back. He said he was sorry then, but now whenever I bring it up he acts like he isn't - he feels he didn't do anything wrong because we were 'allowed' to see other people. I should point out that I did not like this, and wasn't doing so. Technically he's right, but I still feel that he treated me very badly.

The problem is that I have not gotten over this. I still don't feel like I can really trust him. For example, I keep hoping that his ex will visit him again as a kind of 'test'. If she did, I don't trust my boyfriend to not fool around with her. He argues that the situation is totally different now and I have no reason to worry.

I know he loves me, and I know that probably he wouldn't betray me now. But I can't convince my guts of that. Deep down, I have doubts - and anger. I really resent the way he made me feel and esp. the fact that now he doesn't want to acknowledge that he was wrong to do so. It's been almost a year since this happened but I can't get it out of my mind. I love him very much. He is a wonderful person and has supported me through a lot of hard times. I am happy with him, except when I am thinking about this. I really feel like he is a person I would want to marry and have children with. But there are so many barriers - the distance and also there are religious and political issues. I would be willing to tackle them but how can I if I don't know whether I'll be able to deal with this burden of resentment?

Should I get therapy or should I break up with him? I don't want to feel this way.

Dear Resentful,

You have no right to feel angry. Your guy slept with his ex before you had an exclusive relationship. So what. He was entitled. And he said he was sorry. So let it be.

A good relationship requires a good forgiver. If you can't forgive, you can't love.

If you keep this up, you won't have a relationsip to worry about. No man will put up with constant harping over something he did wrong. What do you want him to do? Crawl on broken glass?

So it bothers you. You don't have to take your resentment out on him. Get therapy to help you get it out of your mind. Use thought stopping and reframing (see love library).

Get over it or you won't have to worry about the other issues. They'll disappear along with your wonderful man. Try reading "Love-Building Strategies" in my Library to re-focus on how to make this relationship work.

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