Dear Carolyn: I have been seeing a married woman for 15 years. I know I need to break away, but whenever I try I get pulled back in (I know, I know).
She doesn’t know if she can ever leave her marriage. I know she wants to, I have no doubt. I just don’t think she has the strength to.
She is “content” with our relationship the way it is, but I want more. I just read a letter I wrote her nine years ago explaining I need more, and it could have been written yesterday. I feel like my life is passing me by.
I know in my heart it will never work out, but it is hard to imagine my life differently. Is counseling something I should consider? – Tell Me I Am Stupid
Yes, counseling, but skip the “consider” stage and just go.
I’m not going to call you stupid, though. I actually think you’ve been quite … well, I won’t say smart, but effective at getting what you want. For whatever reason, you want to be the loving-only-one-person- for-40-years guy. You get something out of the pining, even.
Why do I say that? Because otherwise you wouldn’t put up with it. People are unique little snowflakes and all that, but we’re all quite consistent on finding ways to do exactly what we want. (See, “she wants to” leave her marriage, above. Ahem.)
Changing what you want is wrenching, but possible. Ask people who have broken out of ruts of all kinds – generally you’ll find one of three catalysts at work. One is necessity, where someone dumps you or dies or fires you, or life otherwise cuts stasis off your list of choices. Another is the surprise appearance of a healthy alternative. A course-changing opportunity can end a 15-year drama inside of a week.
The third is achieving a state of self-loathing – or just abject boredom with your own stalled self – that inspires you to tear the list into little bits and just DO something.
You’re on the doorstep, I suspect, perhaps wishfully, of No. 3. Go see if counseling can heave you over the threshold at last.