When you hear hooves, do you think horses or zebras? I think a few male readers of this column imagine zebras. Recently, the grandmother of a 15-year-old girl wrote me for advice. Her granddaughter is dating a college sophomore, and she disapproves. A family friend told the grandmother that the young couple had spent the night together with parental permission. I advised the grandmother to open lines of communication with the granddaughter and guide her into discovering whether the dating relationship is really right for her. (It obviously is not, and I’ve written many columns warning parents and teens about the predatory potential of such relationships.)
A few young male readers reacted to the column angrily, accusing me of failure for not pointing out that sex between the college sophomore and the teen girl is a crime. Hello! The sex story was gossip or, in court, hearsay. My intuition suggested I give it no weight.
After the column appeared, the grandmother investigated and discovered that the gossip was a lie. This young couple is always chaperoned, Grandma learned, and are still virgins. Wait, did I say zebras? Actually, some of you hear hooves and imagine unicorns. Try this spoonful of sugar: When someone tells you about a problem she or he is experiencing, try listening to the person confiding in you without projecting your own deepest fears on to the situation. Your demand that the grandmother contact the police to report the young couple’s relationship was bad advice, indeed. (“Hello, officer? I have a rumor to report.”)
Now, a personal message to the young man who left a voice mail to say I was going to hell for my advice to that grandmother. Honey, ponder this: There is no hell for people like me.
One of my co-workers is such a brown-noser that she volunteers her daughters to baby-sit our boss’s kids at no charge. Of course, she gets the best assignments and is first in line for tickets the senior partners don’t use. I am sick of working hard and being passed over because I don’t have anything to offer my boss except dedication. Why isn’t this enough?
Your hard work is sufficient to secure the position you are in, but you want more. Why not pray for increased insight? It will help you to see how your co-worker gives away everything she has, perhaps without any expectations. In return, she receives the gratitude of others in the form of plum assignments and fabulous evenings out. It’s your jealousy that inspires you to demean her generosity. Challenge the belief that you are not good enough to score the life you desire. When you believe in yourself, contentment will bloom.
My husband had an affair with a co-worker, and we are in counseling to save our marriage. The other couple is divorcing, and this woman will continue to work for my husband. Do you think the affair will resume? I am worried because she will be divorced and available.
My Magic 8-Ball is in the shop this week, but I can assure you that love is always a risk. Despite vows, well-managed life plans or romantic expectations, there are no guarantees. That’s partly why life is so exciting. So trust your commitment to marriage. Keep moving toward transcendence over the pain of the past. Deepen real intimacy by telling the truth unadorned. Awaken your internal observer and be present with your thoughts and emotions throughout the day. Develop the mental and emotional distance to differentiate between reality and your fears. Eventually you will fall into deeper love with your husband, yourself, life or the trio. That’s a risk worth taking.