Bored to Tears

Q: I am a 55-year-old woman who has been married for 23 years. We have a teenaged daughter. The marriage is intact and we remain true to each other. Unfortunately, from my point of view, it has become routine, stale and mostly platonic. I have been celibate for the last 16 years, for a variety of reasons that would be too time-consuming to go into. I find myself wanting to branch out and form friendships with other men now. Mostly plain friendships, but a sexual relationship with someone special would be nice also. Unfortunately, I'm attracted to my physician of 22 years. He's very nice and we get along well on a professional level. I would like to be friends with him, not just doctor-patient. He also is married with two children, but he stopped wearing his wedding ring a few months ago. I kid him about it all the time, but he won't verbally address the situation. I think he likes me a little, but probably is not able to go beyond the "professional barrier." Is there a way I might get him to consider being just friends? I like being around him, and I especially enjoy the intellectual stimulation that I reap from him. I am totally lacking this in my marriage. Any suggestions? -- Beth, 55

Dr. Susan: You'd be much better off meeting new people than trying to twist old relationships into something other than they are. There are good reasons a doctor won't suddenly allow you to change the professional context of your relationship. He's married, he won't talk about why he stopped wearing his ring, and he probably gets hit on by female patients often. Not to mention that you're confused. Very confused! You're a married woman who want to find male friends, with whom you're open to forming sexual relationships. That's your choice, of course, but think it through. Things could get very messy. Don't you think your feelings could get involved? As in, "falling in love"? Men typically aren't going out of their way to find women to be "just friends."

I appreciate your craving for intellectual (and other) stimulation. Does your husband know (or care) how stale things feel to you? Ideally, you'd tackle the problem together. Meanwhile, why not look into some book groups? Or volunteer at something civic or political. Sometimes a small reaching out like that will wake you up and help you take charge of your own "stimulation." Your doctor is handy, sure, but that barrier you sense isn't something you ought to push against. It's not fair to him, for one thing.

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