Tuesday, November 23, 2010

To Tell---or Not to Tell---Her Husband She Has a Male Friend

(NOTE: Jim's blog is now devoted to answering relationship questions submitted by readers. Please send any questions you may have to jim@attorneyatlove.com).

DEAR JIM: The letter from the lady who likes to dance but her husband doesn't [see blog entry dated November 19, 2010] is a bit like my situation. I, too, am retired and have become enthusiastic about watercolor painting, something I used to do but never had enough time for when I was younger. My husband, though, has never had any interest in art. That's OK with me, but I've met a really nice man in my class who is a very good painter and who has invited me to a couple of art openings and receptions. A part of me would like to go, but I haven't said anything to my husband about having a male friend, and I don't know how he'd react. My friend, by the way, is divorced, but he's been nothing but a gentleman and I'm sure he's not looking for anything other than friendship. Should I say something to my husband, or would that just be asking for trouble? ("CJ")

DEAR CJ: I definitely believe that it's possible for a man and a woman to have a Platonic friendship, provided that they're both careful about crossing the line from friendship to romance. However, because some people do cross that line, I believe that married people should be honest with their spouses about such friendships, and, if necessary, hash out any issues that may arise.

Your husband hasn't told you he doesn't want you to go places with your friend, and for all you know he might be totally agreeable to the idea. So, coming out and telling him might resolve the problem on the spot.

And even if your husband reacts negatively, at least the situation is out in the open. My guess is that, if you didn't say anything to your husband, eventually you'd go to one of those art events anyway, because that's what you seem to want. And if that happened and your husband heard through the grapevine that you were there with a man---a man he had never heard about---your motives would immediately be suspect.

If you can present the facts to your husband the same way your presented them to me---that you and your friend have a common interest in art but that neither of you is interested in anything more than a friendship---he ought to react in a mature way. If he doesn't, you'd still be within your rights to go to the occasional art opening with your friend, although you'd want to be careful not to rub salt into your husband's wounds. So, don't go out to dinner afterward with your friend, don't start seeing him for drinks, etc. At some point, your husband would realize that he has nothing to worry about.

Good luck, CJ, and please let me know what happens.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Her Dancing Makes Hubby Jealous

(NOTE: Jim's blog is now devoted to answering relationship questions submitted by readers. Please send any questions you may have to jim@attorneyatlove.com).

DEAR JIM: My husband and I have been retired for three years. We moved to an age-restricted community where we have met many other couples, and we frequently socialize with them at our community center, especially on weekend nights when they have live music and dancing. I love to dance but, unfortunately, my husband doesn't. I've tried everything to get him interested, but he won't even go to the free lessons they have here. I could live with that---after all, I don't enjoy everything he likes, such as golf---but I can't stand the fact that he gets jealous if I dance with other men. He won't say anything at the time, but after we leave he'll ask me why I can't just do line dances the way a lot of women who don't have partners do. Jim, I enjoy dancing with a man! Is that so bad? All the men I've danced with are happily married and their wives don't mind. ("Phyllis")

DEAR PHYLLIS: Your husband is being unreasonable and immature. Unless you're doing something inappropriate out there on the dance floor---dancing way too close, for example---or unless you've been unfaithful in the past and your dancing with men is reminding him of that, you have every right to enjoy yourself when you're out listening to music. And you've done your best to bring him into the world of dancing. If he's not interested, that's his choice, but he has no right to stop you from doing something that's perfectly innocent.

Of course, you still have to deal with the fact that you're married to a man who is at least sometimes unreasonable and immature. If this is the only situation that brings out his jealousy, it's probably no big deal: just stick up for yourself, ignore his petulance, and dance all you want with a clear conscience. Of course, it probably wouldn't hurt if you showed him extra attention when you're not out on the dance floor, and avoid making unnecessary comments about the men you were dancing with.

But if your husband's pouting gets worse, or if he starts getting suspicious of other interactions you may have with men (questioning you at length if he saw you talking to some guy at the supermarket, etc.), you may have a more serious problem on your hands. Be watchful for any red flags that may be telling you that he's got control issues, which may well require the help of a professional counselor or therapist.

I hope it doesn't come to that, Phyllis, but let me know if it does. In the meantime, have fun!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

She's Tempted by an Ex-Lover

(NOTE: Jim's blog is now devoted to answering relationship questions submitted by readers. Please send any questions you may have to jim@attorneyatlove.com).

DEAR JIM: I need some advice in a hurry. The other day, out of the blue, I got an e-mail from a guy I was involved with nearly twenty years ago, telling me that he's coming out to my city on business for a week and would like to see me. Back then I was very much in love with him, at least until I found out that he was seeing two other women at the same time. He and I supposedly had a committed relationship, and it hurt me deeply to learn that he had been unfaithful. We had a big argument, and never contacted each other again until now.

We both eventually married other people, but now I'm divorced and he's still married (unhappily, he says). I normally wouldn't get involved with a married man, but the truth is he was a great lover, and right now I have no sex life whatsoever (I've got two teenage kids who take up most of my time). Would I be crazy to see him again, or crazy not to? ("On the Fence" in Florida)

DEAR "ON THE FENCE": I don't know if you'd be crazy to see him, but I think you'd regret it.

Do you honestly think you could have sex with this particular guy without becoming emotionally involved with him all over again? I suppose it's possible, but I tend to doubt it. And if those feelings were to come back, how would it feel to have to break up with him---in a sense---a second time? It hurt bad the first time, and it could still hurt bad now---despite the fact that this time you'd know all along he has someone else.

Being hurt a second time would be a genuine concern even if he were unmarried. But his marital status only makes the situation worse. If he's telling the truth that his marriage is an unhappy one, do you want to get pulled into the drama of whether he should stay with his wife or leave her? Could you handle being the "other woman" in a divorce case, or simply knowing that you've violated your principles about not getting involved with someone who's married?

And if he's lying about his "unhappy" marriage in order to make you feel less guilty about having sex with him, how will it feel to know you've been lied to (again)?

All in all, I see this ending badly for you, one way or another.

I'm not ignoring what you said about your nonexistent sex life. That's a legitimate problem for you and countless other women in your situation. Having a fling with a married man may appear to solve the problem, at least temporarily, but it's only going to create new problems. If you have time to be thinking about, and sleeping with, your former boyfriend, you have time to take some steps to meet men who are truly available. And who knows? Some of them might be great lovers, too!

Good luck, "On the Fence," and please let me know what happens.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

His Girlfriend is Micro-Managing her Adult Daughter's Life

(NOTE: Jim's blog is now devoted to answering relationship questions submitted by readers. Please submit any questions you may have to jim@attorneyatlove.com).

DEAR JIM: I'm 59. I've had some relationships in the ten years since my divorce, but until I met my current girlfriend ("Marti") most of them were pretty casual. I really like Marti and I think the feeling is mutual, and I can forsee a time when we might move in together.

The only thing that bothers me about Marti is her relationship with her 26 year-old daughter, who is unmarried but has two kids. I don't think an hour goes by---even when we're having dinner out---without either Marti calling her daughter or her daughter calling her. Most of the time, the calls are about trivial things that could wait until after dinner or even the next day. For example, just last night the daughter called to tell Marci about some new guy she had met on a dating site. That took up ten minutes. A half hour later, Marti called her back because she had forgotten to ask about how her granddaughter's dental visit had gone that day. And then a half hour after that, as I was driving her home, Marti called her again to remind her that she had to set her alarm early for a job interview in the morning.

The daughter is an only child, and Marti is a widow, so I can understand that the mother-daughter relationship here is a close one. But I feel sometimes that the relationship is too close, and that I'm the odd man out. Any thoughts? ("Bill" in California)

DEAR BILL: I think mother-daughter relationships often seem too close to men who are observing them. And when you add grandchildren into the mix, the relationship can get even closer, and more complicated. So, if you're going to be involved with a woman with kids---any woman with kids---there's a certain amount of mother-daughter communication (and sometimes mother-daughter craziness) that goes with the territory.

However, from what you're telling me, Marti's relationship with her daughter goes beyond what I would consider normal limits. It appears she's micro-managing her daughter's life, or at least is over-invested in the details of her life.

It also appears that Marti has no idea of how rude it is to be constantly taking and making non-emergency calls when she's having dinner with someone, especially when the "someone" is a man she's supposedly involved with romantically. That would be a huge turn-off for me, and I would think for just about any man. Usually, people are trying to make their best impression in the early stages of a relationship, so if nothing changes in this regard you can only imagine what things will be like if you move in together.

You don't want to criticize Marti or lecture her on the dangers of over-involvement in an adult child's life. But you have to let Marti know how you feel about being the "odd man out." My guess is that Marti and her daughter have had this 24/7 kind of communication pattern for so long that neither of them sees anything unusual about it, or stops to think about how someone else might be affected by it.

I know it's never fun for a man to have a "relationship talk" with his wife or girlfriend, but this is a talk you really need to have. (And maybe you should tell Marti to turn off her phone before you begin).

Good luck, Bill, and please let me know what happens.