Wishing He'd Dated More

Q: My wife and I married pretty young after a "fling" that ended in pregnancy. In many ways, I feel incredibly lucky. Though we didn't know each other all that well when we started our family, we found we have a pretty happy marriage. I still love her and our kids, but I often find myself wondering "what if." I envy my wife, because she'd had many previous boyfriends and was okay with settling down when we did. But I was pretty inexperienced when we met and can't help feeling that I missed out on a lot of experiences. I don't want to break up my family, so how I can get over this feeling? —Andre, 37

Dr. Susan: Welcome to the world of midlife crises. They can happen early and they can happen late. And more than once. Your marriage is good but not exciting, and you imagine that if you'd dated more women before you met your wife, you would have had a number of exciting and/or growth-producing experiences. What you probably don't realize is that many people who have had numerous early dating experiences don't retain such happy memories of those days. A lot of those dates and relationships were endured for the express purpose of finding someone worthy of loving and being loved by. So you skipped some of those steps and got lucky anyway.

Now, having said that, I wonder if your marriage and your life have been allowed to grow less satisfying and nourishing over time. If you don't want to break up your family, you'll have to find other ways to answer that persnickety question of "what if." Believe me, no matter how much dating a person does, that fantasy of "what if" occurs at various points in life. Regardless, it's time for you to get your wife on board with your current slightly unsettled state of mind. Find some new ways to connect erotically, plan a trip with her, talk about what'll do when you have the time and freedom, change your job, take up a hobby you've always wanted to get into, realize that if you'd married someone else you wouldn't have this particular set of kids to cherish. Be realistic. Know that an alternate life could be much much worse than the one in which you find yourself now.

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