Ask Joey: Fireballs of exhilaration

Joey Garcia

A handsome but married consultant attended a work-related meeting at my home. He and I had chatted previously and discovered amazing connections. After the meeting, he lingered. I cleaned up after he left and discovered a cellphone. Early the next morning, he called about the phone. Two minutes later, the doorbell rang. I was still in my bathrobe. I handed him the phone, but he pulled the door open and stepped in. He didn’t want to leave. I’m attracted but don’t want to cross the line. His wife is pregnant with twins. Do you think he is trying to start an affair?

It’s possible that he’s just a friendly, forgetful person. Or he could be a guy with no sense of appropriate boundaries. But he is probably a man who is aching because he is no longer the center of his wife’s attention. Many people are startled to discover the selflessness that parenting demands. The transition can be particularly painful for some men. A pregnant spouse can be so wrapped up in her own health and the preparations for the baby that she temporarily neglects her partner. That’s understandable. Her partner must realize that the baby’s arrival is an invitation to grow in love. Without this awareness, emotional immaturity will prevail.

It doesn’t matter if your colleague is trying to start an affair. It’s your values that are important. So far, you have been present, curious and self-disciplined. Be grateful for your integrity. Continue taking steps to avoid becoming involved. His friendship may feel special, but it just complicates his relationship with his wife and with you. He is married, he’s not separated, and he’s not headed toward divorce. If he tries to flirt, call him on it like this: “What would your wife think if she heard you say that to me?” Or, “You might be lonely now, but if we were involved, that loneliness would be replaced by guilt, regret and fear with occasional fireballs of exhilaration. Is it worth it? I don’t think so.” Show him this kind of backbone, and he will be in awe of you. Yes, that means he will either back away nervously or grow in respect. Either way, you’ve done the right thing.

My 15-year-old daughter says she loves her boyfriend. I told her that she is too young to understand what love is, and that she is just feeling hormones. I want to make sure my kid does not do anything with this boy that she will regret. Any ideas?

Talk to your daughter like a parent who trusts her to tell the truth about her feelings, thoughts and plans. After all, she’s right: Two teens can be in love. And, yes, you’re correct, too: The love between two teens is different than the love experienced between two adults. Or, at least it should be, but, hey, let’s be honest, some adults behave childishly at times in intimate, committed relationships. Age is not a guarantee of maturity or of the capacity to love.

I also want to caution you about blaming hormones. We want teens to understand that they are capable of making self-preserving decisions. By insisting that hormones are the reason for her connection, you are, in effect, saying she has no control over the whims of her body or mind. That’s not a useful life lesson. Instead, have an open-minded conversation with her. Talk about your dating mistakes and concerns for her future. Don’t accuse or act like you can predict her future. Teach her what to look for in a boyfriend by being a man who communicates with respect for her intelligence and with trust in her ability to make smart choices.

Meditation of the week

“The invention of the teenager was a mistake. Once you identify a period of life in which people get to stay out late but don’t have to pay taxes—naturally, no one wants to live any other way,” said Judith Martin, a.k.a. Miss Manners. Which direction are you growing?

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