More than Friendship
Q: About 5 years ago I met a woman at work. My first thoughts were "OMG she is stunning." My second reaction was she's probably with someone so I ignored my feelings. Fast forward 4 years and I was diagnosed with what might have been terminal cancer. Another year later and I've beaten the odds and am cancer free. This woman from before came back into my life because of all this. She asked me to help her learn something and I told her it would be my pleasure. For the next couple weeks she and I talked and emailed back and forth and went on a couple of dates. Then her ex-boyfriend came back into her life. Nothing has changed on his end and she is confused. By the way, she has said that I make her laugh, make her feel like a little girl again, she says she loves me and that I'm this terrific guy but she needs to work it out with him because she says she's not the kind of person who can ignore people even after they have done her wrong.
She has issues with the fact that she is just this side of 60 and she worries about her finances. She also keeps telling me I should find a young hottie but I like my older hottie and don't want to leave. She won't see me but will email me every day. I'm trying to be her friend as she says that's all she can give. But it's hard. I don't understand why he can treat her like he did and I treat her the way I do and yet she is going with him. What is your advice? I think I know, I just want to hear it from someone else. -- Joe, 51
Dr. Susan: You're dealing with a co-dependent woman who can't let go of someone who wasn't good to her. Women go back to men who beat them and abuse them in all kinds of horrific ways, and there's nothing you can do but offer your friendship and hope she comes to her senses. Her ties with him are longer and more convoluted than hers with you, and that gives him a kind of edge. She claims "She's not the kind of person who can ignore people," etc., but what she may be doing is enabling bad behavior because of some sense of misguided loyalty. You will have to respect her wishes even if she doesn't quite respect herself. As a friend, urge her to talk things through with a therapist to determine if going back with this guy is in her best interests.
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Advice for Her
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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.