Hax: Time to imagine life differently

The Washington PostJanuary 8, 2014 

Dear Carolyn: I have been seeing a married woman for 15 years. She was my childhood sweetheart and we never really got over each other. 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 have woken up alone for 15 years, don’t vacation, don’t do the things a “normal” relationship would include. 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. Help! Is counseling something I should consider?

TELL ME I AM STUPID FOR WANTING ONLY ONE PERSON FOR 40 YEARS

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.)

Again — I don’t know what emotional vacancy this vigil of yours fills; I just see the consistency and certainty of your choices.

Try framing this not as an unrequited-love story, but instead a misapplication-of-free-will story. The mind is so powerful that if you don’t enlist it as your ally, and don’t turn it to something that it has the power to achieve, then you’re royally stewed. Changing other people’s choices isn’t in your mind’s power, right? And yet it’s trained on that.

Please break the spell by recognizing the reason you haven’t been able to “imagine my life differently”: You haven’t actually wanted to.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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