I had an affair with a woman who works out at the same gym that I do. She’s married, I’m divorced (five years), and although I liked the sex, I never wanted a relationship with her. She’s a lot older than me and not really my type. I was clear about this when she pushed for contact beyond just getting together for sex. When I said no, she stormed off. The next thing I know, she calls me three weeks later and says that she told her husband about the affair and he wanted to talk to me. I refused but ran into him outside the gym one day. He wanted to thank me—[he said] the affair and me dumping his wife was the best thing for their marriage. They’re like newlyweds again, he said. Problem is, I feel really weird about the whole thing now and can’t get her out of my mind.
That’s because she’s got the muscle now. When you were in the position of being desired by her but only responding when you wanted your itch scratched, you felt powerful. Sadly, your ego translated that experience as positive. But lording power over someone else is unhealthy and unkind. So is disrespecting the boundaries of a committed relationship. If you were a man of integrity, your willingness to question her proposition might have been the prompt she needed to talk to her husband. Yes, it is possible that their marital issues could have been resolved without all the intermittent drama and corresponding adrenaline rushes. Are you willing to live in a world with that much peace?
The good news is that, at some level, you chose the affair so you could see a truth about yourself. Fear of intimacy leads people to have affairs. A person in a committed relationship may believe that it’s much easier to seek satisfaction outside of a marriage than to observe, admit and alter how he or she contributes to the relationship’s problems. And you might believe it is easier to control intimacy by only engaging in sex, rather than being vulnerable to the wholeness of the mind, spirit and body connection that true relationship demands from us. But I believe you’re ready to be a true lover—a person who cares selflessly for others.
I am turning 50 this year and feel like my life is a total failure. I tread water at work in a job that I’m good at but wish I could afford to retire from. I haven’t had a real relationship since my divorce 15 years ago. I know that I have problems, but I have friends who have no trouble finding women to put up with them. Why can’t I?
(Um, can you sit down for this?) It could be your attitude. Yes, it’s often frustrating and lonely for us—and startling to our egos—to be on the planet without a mate. But when you are not thinking about seducing a woman who possesses the capacity to put up with you (OK, I gotta say it, “Raise the bar, brotha!”), how do you spend your time? Working, hanging with friends, volunteering, riding your bike? Increase the time you engage in those activities, add a few hobbies you’ve always yearned to try and let yourself become a more interesting person. Then join a men’s group or go to therapy and clean up the problems that keep you from the love you want. Or if it’s retirement you desire, downsize your life and move to a country where you can live cheaply and well. Be a creator of your life, not a negator of it.