Advice on Intimacy and Relationships
I’m a 56-year-old divorcee dating an about-to-be 66-year-old widower. We have been dating for nearly a year and spend most of our free time together. I attend his work functions, and we have mutual friends in common. My companion’s birthday is around New Year’s, and he is planning to retire from a high-profile law practice soon thereafter. There will be a major celebration in his honor, and he has asked me for my opinions about venues and entertainment (I’m an event planner.). But I will not be invited to the party because his three grown children will be there, and he has not introduced us yet. Although he told me they knew he was dating, it has come to light recently that they do not know he’s been in an exclusive relationship with me since January.
He has no plans to tell them and shuts down the conversation every time I bring this up. I know he’s not ashamed of me; his friends and coworkers all know my name. I think he’s just not willing to upset the kids’ memories of their mother, who died 10 years ago. I’m trying not to feel embarrassed by the situation, but I really don’t like the way this makes me feel about the children, his deceased spouse, or him quite frankly. Any advice?
-Feeling Backburnered in Burleith
I understand where you’re coming from. He’s only willing to bring you into his life to a certain point, and that is painful and somewhat embarrassing now that there’s a very public event about to showcase those boundaries. Of course you are struggling with your feelings about his wife and their children, but, if you’ve been reading my columns at all, you know where this is going; I think we need to focus more on your feelings about him and vice versa. You say that he shuts down communication each time you try to broach this subject. First, I’d suggest that you decide whether this relationship is important enough for you to work through, and if it is hightail it to a couples counselor ASAP. People only “shut down communication” when they are feeling threatened by another person’s demands, so take the time to learn how to have this conversation sans the fight and flight. If that doesn’t work, we have to start looking at your motivation for staying in a yearlong relationship with someone who lied about whether his kids knew you existed, who asks for your event planning work product without payment or invitation to said event, and who responds to your emotional needs by cutting off communication. If those red flags aren’t enough to get you to slow down, then I’d recommend spending some time with your own relationship needs and expectations. Is this what love has always looked like to you? Is that still good enough? I’m rooting for you to say “no more” to being taken advantage of in this way, but this kind of realization is a process. Finding someone to talk it through is always a great start.
I’m in love with my married boss. He knows it and flirts with me incessantly. I used to think this was his way of moving toward a relationship or an affair, but it’s pretty obvious he just enjoys playing this game. While I truly hate that part of him, I’m still in love with him, and this saga continues. Please don’t tell me to quit my job; I love what I do, and I’m very good at it. Plus, the economy makes it hard to find something comparable. I’m just miserable each day and want some ideas for how to make life more bearable.
-In Love with the Boss
Dear In Love:
To summarize: You say you are in love with him, he’s an incredible jerk, and you do not want to quit your job. Well, there’s a very simple fix: Just fall out of love with him. It’s not going to be easy. You have maintained your affection for this person, despite his obvious disregard for your feelings, so I’d conclude that willpower is your strong suit. But if you refuse to take yourself out of the same situation that generated these feelings, you are going to have to redirect that determination toward keeping safe from harm. I’d start with blinders and earplugs at the office. If those efforts don’t appeal to you, please consider finding someone to talk to about why you fell in love with him in the first place. What does the unavailable, manipulative boss-figure represent to you? Is your unrequited fantasy powerful enough to override all your natural, self-care impulses? You are reaching out in an advice column, which shows some sense of self-advocacy, but I know you can be more effective. A friend, a family member, a therapist; just make sure the person is able to hold the mirror tightly so you can truly see the impact of your decisions.
Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing at the Imago Center of DC in Georgetown. www.therapygeorgetown.com. This column is meant for entertainment only, and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Please send your relationship questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.