by Wendy Olsen, MFT
Q: I’ve recently begun a relationship that couldn’t be better. He is everything that I need in a partner: complimentary, compassionate, and extremely intelligent. However, the but is that he is thirty years my junior. I’m the kind of person who usually doesn’t allow what others think to bother me, but it has become difficult to not be affected by the stares and snickers people give us when we go out. I have actually begun to avoid public outings with him altogether out of embarrassment. This has of course put somewhat of a strain in our relationship. I really think that what we have is love, but there is a part of me who can’t put it out of my head that I’m dating someone who is the same age as my son. Do you advise that I just chalk this up as a fling and move on, or do I try to make it work, and if so, how?
Wendy: Whether he be 30 years your junior, 30 years older or your age, there’s no telling how long it can last. Yes, it’s not a common pairing and there will be whispers (and maybe a few shouts) but all relationships have unwanted opinions to manage. If you are enjoying this relationship, keep enjoying it. Time will tell whether the two of you can weather this coupling. It sounds like you have a clear idea of what will be challenging. Keep your eyes and your communication wide open and see what will be.
Q: My wife and I have been married for almost 7 years now. We’re happy, or as happy as you can be after seven years anyway, and have finally decided that it’s time to have a child. With that understanding, my wife came to me the other day and revealed that she had been propositioned for sex by a colleague of hers. She basically stated to me that this was an “itch” she would like to scratch before we had a child and she was fully in “unselfish” mode for the rest of her life- whatever that means. She told me that once it’s over, it’s over, however I’m not really sure what to do about it. On one hand I’m like, “No way!” But, on the other I’m thinking what if she doesn’t scratch it and it continues to bug her long after we’ve had our child? This is a real life 7 year itch!
Wendy:Let me start by dispelling a myth that seems to exist in at least your wife’s mind: a desire to have sex with someone else isn’t a simple itch. In addition, children do not necessarily turn you into faithful, dedicated lifetime partners. There is absolutely no way she, or you, can predict with certainty that her tryst will be over once she’s gone for a roll or ten. People have a funny way of getting attached to others that they share intimacies with, both physical and emotional. Having said that, I also want to applaud you both for being so open with each other. Many people have these same desires but keep them hidden for fear that it will cause irreparable harm to their partners. This is an opportunity to talk about your relationship and maybe address some things. A quickie here and there with someone new is not the right salve for that particular itch. Explore it more with your wife. Is there any discussion about you having a desire to seek something outside of your marriage? Is it a quid pro quo? It may seem scary, but these discussions are good for relationships if there is honesty and safety. Spend a little time scratching her back while she scratches yours.
Q:I’m a 22 year old recent college graduate. My girlfriend and I have been together since High School, but it looks like we’ll be split apart for the next couple of years as she is doing a mission with the Peace Corps. I understand the whole thing about, “having my entire life before me,” and that you shouldn’t put your life on hold for someone, but I really love her and I want to marry her one day. She’s told me that she thinks that we should end things, just while she’s gone, and let life unfold as it will because it’s not fair to either one of us to “wait” for the other. “Whatever will be, will be.” I’m scared to let her go because I’m afraid that I’ll lose her. I’ve even thought about trying to join the Peace Corps myself so that we could be together. She’s the only person I’ve ever been with, and I feel the only person I want to be with. Shouldn’t I do whatever it takes to be with her?
Wendy: No, you shouldn’t do whatever it takes to be with her. She has very graciously given you the gift of potential new experiences. I believe you when you say that you love her and you have no interest in being with anyone else. You have options. Living a celibate life until her return is an option. I don’t recommend it, but it is an option. On the other hand, I don’t believe you when you say “I get it that I have my entire life before me.” You can’t possibly understand that concept until you live an entire life (or most of one) and you can look back on your life. That’s okay. You’re not supposed to get it until later. Let me tell you this one truth, you are capable of loving more than one person in your life. She has told you what she wants and you have shared your desires with her. Do the best that you can do for yourself by giving yourself the opportunity to have new experiences, whether they be in love, travel, education, volunteer work, careers or any or all of the above. Who knows, at the end of this time apart, life will unfold and you may find yourself wanting something of a completely different flavor.
Wendy Olsen is a Marriage & Family Therapist, specializing in Sex Therapy. You can find more of her advice at http://www.talk2wendyolsen.com