1. Archive

Epiphany or apathy?

Question: Recently I began an invigorating flirtation with a woman at work. Movies, jogging after work, dinner at home, etc. Last week she told me she had been involved in an extended affair with a married man three or four years earlier. She was also living with another man at the time.

The news came as a huge disappointment and I'm wondering how much importance to attach to her history of lengthy deception.

Answer: I think there's a risk of your blowing this out of proportion, so I'll be conservative and put its importance somewhere between "staggering" and "colossal."

Integrity isn't just a four-syllable word. If this woman doesn't have it, the jogging better be awfully good.

Note the flagrant use of "if." I could argue that her long-term deceptions guarantee she's integrity-starved, but that would deny her the opportunity that almost every one of us wants out of life at least once: to be able to make a god-awful mistake, to have an epiphany as a result, and to be accepted ever after for both the epiphany and the mistake.

So about that epiphany. Did she have one? Specifically, did she treat her behavior with the appropriate dose of self-loathing, and is she living proof that it worked? It isn't too early to tell; just recall what else she said when she delivered the news of her ugly behavior. Context speaks louder than words.

Go the unselfish route

Question: I'm in a long-distance relationship with someone younger and still in school. I know I want to spend the rest of my life with this person, but I worry that I am a crutch keeping the person from getting to the same point in life that I am at now (maturity- and independence-wise). How can I stop enabling dependence without potentially harming our relationship?

Answer: Be willing to harm the relationship. Sounds callous, but look at it this way and it's the only unselfish course: Which is better, to want what's best for each other at the possible expense of your relationship, or to want the relationship at the possible expense of each other?

If you believe your student belovedness isn't ready for long-term commitment, end the commitment. I know some will cry condescension since it appears you're deciding unilaterally what's best for your younger, less-mature partner. And that's a fair accusation.

But you're really deciding how best to look out for yourself. Either you're comfortable with this person's maturity and independence, or you think she/he has a ways to go. Either you think staying together is healthy, or you think freedom will be. Either this person makes you happy as-is, or it's better, for you, to stay in touch but see other people. Just be careful how you word that: "I want you to choose me after you've lived more of life."

Reigniting the spark

Question: Can "hot" feelings be rekindled?

Answer: It's not so much about reheating the feelings as it is reversing whatever it was that cooled them. You can undo stress or long days at work; you may be able to undo anger or even boredom, if you both work really hard to address it. Disillusionment, disgust, catastrophic loss of respect? Ding-dong, the spark is dead.

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