Old Flames Burn Hot
Q: I met a man 11 years ago and we were instantly and deeply attracted to one another. Still, he married his high school sweetheart three months after we met, and I married mine two years later. But all this time, though we are still married, we can't seem to stay away from each other. He comes by my work at least twice a week to see me, and I think about him constantly. What is going on here? I'd think after 11 years the feelings should have gone away but instead they are just as strong as before. Is this lust or love or what is it? -- Janice, 35
Dr. Susan: Love it's not, Janice. Call it playing with fire, or being unwilling to commit to your mutual spouses, or even call it outright betrayal. Almost any two people, in the right circumstances, can share a flash of chemical attraction, lust, what-have-you, but that means nothing about their ability to form a loving relationship. You and your old flame each married other people soon after you met, and right after that you both decided (yes, you definitely decided, though you may deny it) to titillate one another rather than devote yourselves to the people you had vowed to be true to. Stop analyzing the feelings, because they don't actually mean anything important. It's all basically a big tease your hormones are playing on you, so you have to enlist the smarter part of your mind to take charge of your actions. Tell your would-be loverboy to stop visiting you at work because you've decided to make a go of your marriage, which you can't do if your emotions are all a-twitter about him. Stop fanning the fire by being near one another. You're not playing fair with your husband, who would be devastated if he knew. Finally, if both you and your flame decide to give up on your respective spouses by divorcing them, only then should you and he begin dating.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.