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Midlife Crisis Forum

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May-July 1997 August-October 1997 November-December 1997 Jaunuary-March 1998 April-June 1998 July-September 1998 October-December 1998 After January 1999

with

Mike Bellah

Questions

And

Answers

(August--October 1997)

Please feel free to ask any question you want on this page. If I don't have an answer, I'll try to find someone who does. So click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.

Notice: The answers on these pages are offered as a free and supplemental service to readers. They are not intended to substitute for individual and professional counseling. The opinions of guest responders do not necessarily reflect my own thoughts. And, speaking of my own thoughts, they are not the advice of an expert but a sympathetic fellow-struggler in this experience we call midlife. I hope they help.

October 29, 1997

Q Dear Mike,
I need to know if my husband is going through a midlife crisis. He's 31 and president of his own phenomenally successful business. We are high school sweethearts and have been married almost 10 years. We have a 2.5 year old and I am 7.5 months pregnant with our second child.

My husband has become disillusioned with our married life. Although he has helped provide me with a fairy tale life, I have made him feel as though he has failed me. He also believes I do not recognize him as others do - powerful, successful, etc. He feels very trapped by the responsibilities of children, especially the lack of spontaneity.

Most of this past summer, he was incredibly stressed with both work and family issues. It was during this time he became close with a girl (23 years old) in his office. He now believes he has found his perfect mate. At this point their relationship is platonic, only because she will not get involved with a married man. However, they do talk on the phone and at work at length, mostly about her troubled life.

My husband wants to be with her, but also hates to see me be hurt. He believes however that if he were to leave us, we would be okay since he says he won't abandon our children and there would be no financial worries. He finds it very appealing to be with someone new, someone he can start all over with, someone he can help and really make a difference in her life. Ideally, he'd like to split into two people, this way everyone would be okay. I should also say he has read a book on personality types. It says we're incompatible whereas he and this other woman could be a perfect match.

I am doing all I can to salvage our relationship by being honest and expressing my true feelings and by giving him almost total freedom. We are communicating very well and our relationship is already better. But I need to know if he could really have met his true love, as he believes.

Tracy

A Dear Tracy,
Although I consider myself a romantic, I just don't buy the "true love" thing, by which most mean the person of their dreams who perfectly fits them and meets all their needs. That may happen in books (not very good ones in my opinion), but it just doesn't come off that way in real life.

In the very best of relationships, no one meets all our needs, and, frankly, if we're honest, all of us must admit that we clash with our lover in at least one area.

Of course, the problem is that those involved in romantic affairs are not honest. They're too caught up in the euphoria of the moment to see any "blemishes" in their new lover. I'm betting your husband doesn't have a personality clash with you; he's just infatuated with his new interest.

My advice is to seek counseling for yourself. You'll need help to get through this ordeal. Try to get your husband to do the same, but don't' nag him. And pray that something will happen (not caused by you) that will help him see the light before he throws away a precious relationship.

Mike

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.

October 19, 1997

Q Dear Mike,
My name is Meivy; I'm 20 years old. I am very worried about my Dad. He is 48-years-old and just retired. He also had a heart attack last year. Now, he is looking at life as if he is just waiting to die, and he had accomplished everything possible.

He is not as much fun as he used to be; he is picking on everyone for every little thing and is not willing to change.

I'm getting worried because I learned in my Psychology class that when someone is not willing to live anymore they end up dying sooner.

I hope you understand my point. Please give me an advice on what to do with my Dad.

Thank you very much for your time,

Meivy

A Dear Meivy,
I talked to my friend Mary Harrell who is a Cardiac Rehabilitation Specialist at Baptist-St. Anthony's Hospital in Amarillo and she told me some things to share with you.

First of all, your dad really needs to get involved in a cardiac rehab program. Most hospitals have one (you could look in the yellow pages of your phone book or maybe do some calling). Also the American Heart Association has something called "Mended Hearts," which is also a good support group for people like your dad.

Mary told me that a lot of the recovery from a heart attack is mental. The patient needs to make some major adjustments to the way they live--things like exercise and diet. It sounds like your dad may not think he can or maybe doesn't want to make these changes. Maybe he thinks life cannot be as good as it was before. But I've spoken to heart rehab patients, and they are some of the happiest, most fulfilled people I know.

Mary says that it might be a good idea to talk to your dad's doctor, or if you can't get through to him or her, talk with the nurse. Tell him or her how your dad has changed and why you are worried about him. This person will know what to do from there.

Finally, Mary reminded me that nothing works like love does. Maybe you just need to confront your dad face to face and tell him that you love him, that you miss the person he was before he became so depressed, and that you want him back. Ask him if he will check out a cardiac rehab program, and tell him you will support him if he does.

I hope this helps. Keep us up on your progress.

Mike

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.

October 11, 1997

Q Dear Mike,
Your web pages are like talking with a wise friend, no hype, no frilly Java wigglies, just sincere advice, and a cathartic sharing of others' pain. Thank you.

Next week I'll be 46. Wife 45, kids 13 and 7. I am a success: Nurtured a business in the US for 12 years, then sold it 4 years ago for a very good price. Then it was Fantasy Island time, so I moved with family to a tropical paradise, got a house on the beach and thought I was set for life. One small catch however. My wife and kids hated it and told me so every day. After a year, I couldn't take any more of that, so moved to a major European capital and have been here for 3 years.

Only problem now is, I have only about half the money left from the business sale. The rest we spent or invested badly. Now it looks like I'll have to start another business, or go to work or something. (I know, I know poooooor baby...) So I guess the purpose of this letter is threefold: First, to let others know that achieving the fantasies of success is not the key to happiness or life-long security. Second, to ask how I can make the adjustment back to work mode after 4 years of "early retirement".

Third, even though I've read every page you've written, I still wonder how to find my 'passion' for the second half of life. The first half, I just worked at whatever would make the most money, whether I enjoyed it or not. I suppose I could do that again, but certainly would rather feel good while making money.

Sorry no burning affairs to report, but just the excruciating doubt that wakes me up at 2 am every night asking 'what am I going to do with the rest of my life?'

thanks for providing a forum for us frustrated boomers,

Later

Looking for the Passion in London

A Dear Looking,
I'm glad you like the web pages. Actually, my columns are the result of my own search for what you are seeking: a passion for the second half of life.

Thanks for the insight about "the fantasies of success." It helps to hear from one who has "been there," and your words may help the rest of us to remember that success and contentment are two different things.

Now about your search--of course, neither I nor anyone else can tell you where you will find the passion that you desire, but I can make a couple of suggestions.

One, you may find this fulfillment in an avocation rather than a vocation. If you can find something "on the side" that will tap the interests and abilities that most fully define you, then working at a less-than-ideal job to make that happen shouldn't seem too bad.

And two, many of us midlifers have found our passion in what psychologist Carl Jung called "generativity"--activities that allow us to pass along what we have learned to a new generation.

Of course, you have opportunity for this as a father. Maybe you will find your passion in a recommitment to use the next several years to invest fully in your children's lives.

Also--and maybe in addition to the above--you will find a job that will allow you to be a mentor, to share with others (perhaps a nonprofit organization with a worthy mission) the abilities you seem to possess.

Good luck in your search. Keep me posted.

Mike

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.

This week's question is answered by Susanne Beier, a professional counselor and a regular contributor to the Best Years' pages.

October 6, 1997

Q Hi,
My husband is 39 years old. Due to be 40 in June. He has definitely hit the midlife crisis early. Or I should say unexpectedly.

My husband really hurt me big time yesterday. We have been married for 14 years in April. Our marriage, as most marriages, have had it's wonderful memories and then again the stormiest. I am a Caucasian and my husband is Vietnamese. We both fell in love with one another after working together for five years. I said that I wanted to know everything I could know about the Vietnamese Culture to be sure that our marriage would last. My two older sisters are both divorced. they have sad, lonely lives and have had tough times. I didn't want that to happen to me.

Besides that I really never had a serious relationship. But my husband was so sincere and tender. I admired his respect for me and my family and friends. That was hard to find in all the other men I have know through school. They will ask you out once, if you turn them down they'll not ask again. There are too many fish in the sea. My husband appreciated life. He had his future planned out. He had a good head on his shoulders and still does. My husband has never been a romantic person. I have always thought someday I wanted a romantic person to marry. My brother in law is romantic but he is not as caring about his children and wife as my husband always has been. My husband has always made sure that we will have a secure and stable future we can retire and enjoy life to it's fullest. to make a long story short, I still am madly in love with my husband. I guess, he still loves me.

I have brought him frustration with my unorganized ways. I still try adamantly to be more organized. It is just so very hard to change old habits that were made 20 years ago. or longer. Can Men go through midlife crisis at age 39? please answer me back quickly. My marriage is on the breaking point. I can not seem to do anything to please my husband anymore. My husband has never been a talker or one to tell what his likes or dislikes are until you have gone too far. Then he blows up and starts yelling and life seems so dark and dim.

Afraid

A Dear Afraid,
To answer your questions whether men can go through midlife at age 39, yes they can and do. In fact the period of time that men are most in "danger" of going through this type of crisis are the years from 35 to about 57. No, that does not mean that they stay in this frame of mind the entire years, instead it means that WITHIN that period of time it is a pretty sure thing that they will experience an identity crisis. From your letter it sounds like you both have some identity issues to deal with. You seem to be more focused on not ending up divorced and "sad and lonely" like your sisters. You should know that not all divorced women are lonely and sad when they get divorced. The actual divorce is painful and sad, yes, but many women and men, pick up their lives and learn from their mistakes and often end up in happier situations.

I am certainly not suggesting that you should run out and get divorced, I am saying that maybe you need to learn how to have a more realistic idea on what real relationships are all about. It sounds like you have may unexpected needs in your marriage, and end up comparing yours to others (your brother-in-law for example). This only can cause difficulties in your relationship because you do not see the full picture of that relationship. He, for example, may be romantic and nothing else. So wouldn't it have been better for you to learn to communicate with your husband to let him know what you are missing in your relationship?

Realizing that there are cultural issues in your relationship does not take away from the fact that there is a huge communication gap in yours. Your husband is obviously questioning his life in general. Is he happy at work? You mention that your husband has never been a romantic person, yet you also say that "someday you wanted a romantic person". There is a big conflict right there. If you truly have been thinking like this, then your frustrations must have been building up as well and perhaps you are more upset at this point in your life because you are more concerned about the "future security"?

Have you ever mentioned marriage counseling to your husband? He probably won't go or admit that there is a problem, since in his culture such issues are rarely discussed. If he doesn't go, then YOU need to. If for no other reason than to learn what you are really afraid of, and how to build up your self-esteem. I suspect that your sense of self has taken a severe beating since you make reference of trying "to be more organized", etc.

Has your husband been critical of you for many years? How long has it been that you "haven't done anything right" in his eyes? All of these are factors which you need to discuss with a counselor. If you don't know of a counselor, then check with your minister, or a local women's group/organization. There are many programs out there for you. By the way, you do not tell, but do you have children? How old? And what are they saying? Hopefully I've been of some help to you. I wish you the best. Stay strong. It can and will get better, especially if you get some help (counseling{ in dealing with all of this pain. Good luck..

Susanne

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.

September 29, 1997

Q Hi,
so where do i begin (cliche!) ? my name is bob and i'm married with a great daughter of 8 and i'm 42. the way that i look at it is 20 years ago i was 22 and just finishing college and in 20 years from now i'll be 62 and want to retire. actually, if i could i would today. so if ya got a few extra bucks to help my cause you can send them my way.

i feel blah! nothing excites me, i feel bored all the time, i'm very apathetic, and really need that spark!! it seems that life is a struggle and has really flattened out. and i keep thinking about having an affair!!

how do i find myself?? how do i find things exciting?? how do i make sense of things??

bob

A Hi Bob,
Sounds like you need to find an identity that will work for the 2nd half of life as well as a fresh passion to sustain your journey (You might look at my columns "Reinventing Yourself," and "Identifying Your Midlife Passion").

Also, I understand your contemplating an affair. At first glance, it seems the quick answer to the midlife doldrums (revived passion, purpose, self-esteem and feeling alive again), but believe me it is no answer. You might want to hear my friend Jeff's story in "The Addiction of Midlife Affairs" and "Overcoming a Midlife Affair."

Actually, the feelings you are having now can be good for you if you will let them lead you to personal reflection and renewal (You'll find a number of columns about each on this web site). So, in the words of midlife authority Mark Gerzon, I hope you'll turn your questions into a quest. And if you do, I expect you will find what you seek.

Keep us up on the progress.

A fellow-seeker who is beginning to find--Mike

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.

This week's question is answered by Susanne Beier, a professional counselor and a regular contributor to the Best Years' pages.

September 19, 1997

Q Hi,
I do feel I am in the middle of a mid life crisis...I am 41...married for 24 years..have two children, ages 18 and 21, work full time and have been chatting on the internet for the past 15 months. Before I started chatting it never occurred to me that other men would find me attractive..and once I started I found all kinds of men wanting my attention...I have met several as friends..and recently met one whom I engaged in very heavy petting with...he and I had been spending time together on the computer and phone for hours at a time.

I love my husband but have been feeling very restless and am very confused at this time. I don't want to end my marriage as I adore my husband but am afraid I am headed for an affair...any suggestions as to books or articles?

Thanks

Confused

A Dear Confused,
You say that you "love" and "adore" your husband, yet you still are feeling quite tempted by these other men. I feel that you, in spite of the fact that you say you love and adore your husband, have been feeling very neglected and in a "rut", perhaps without you even knowing it. When have you and your husband last done something romantic for just the two of you? I mean, other than going out to dinner every week. When did you last put a "silly love note" in his lunch box/brief case?

I can understand your confusion as you are at this stage of your life where women tend to want to focus more on themselves and want to have "others" nurture them and tell them how wonderful they are, etc. you've been the nurturer for many years and I'm quite sure, like many of us, put your own needs/dreams on the back burner. Right? This is why you are feeling this way. Did you perhaps quit school when you got married, or never went because the family came? What dreams of yours did you put aside?

Taking the risk of sounding "canned" I am recommending that you and your husband seek marriage counseling. There is a big chasm in your relationship and you need to work on it before either of you fall into it! If you don't want to go with your husband, then go by yourself. Or, you can join a women's group something that gives you an additional perspective to this feeling that you have.

Finally, you need to put a stop to the "flirtations" on line. Think of all the energy that you are taking away from your relationship with your husband and your marriage. If you put the same amount of time on "enhancing" your relationship, the other options won't be quite as sexy or tempting. As far as books are concerned. I suggest Passages by Gail Sheehy. She pretty clearly explains why and how we end up in these situations.

By the way, if you do go to a counselor, be sure to ask whether they have any experience in dealing with "mid life issues". If they tell you that there is no such thing, go to someone else. SHOP for a therapist like you would a doctor. OK? You can call the National Board for Certified Counselors in Virginia (don't have their number handy), or the American Psychological Association. One of those should be able to recommend someone to you in your geographic area. I wish you good luck. Keep in touch and let us know how you're doing.

susanne

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.

September 15, 1997

Q Hi,
I turned 40 last october and I still haven't gotten over it. That number is so awful. At 39 I still felt I had the world in my hands. Soon I will turn 41. Does it get any better?

Dave

A Hi Dave,
What you are experiencing has happened to many of us (it did to me). I think there are several reasons, among them a youth-oriented culture that equates happiness, success, love, and almost everything else of value with being young. Also at midlife we usually come to terms with our own mortality (we're not going to live forever--in this life anyway) and the mortality of our dreams (we're beginning to realize that we probably won't ever become "king" of this or that).

However, to answer your question, it can get much, much better. Youth really is wasted on the young. There is so much of value we don't see when we think that we're invincible, that our carefree days will last forever, and that every dream (however unrealistic or unworthy of our effort) will come true.

Midlife is a time for reevaluation, a time for letting go of some dreams so we can embrace others, a time for time itself, for learning the value of a minute for reflection or embracing someone we love. And, perhaps most important for you to realize right now, midlife is a time for joy--for experiencing a richness of life unknown to our youth.

All of this won't happen automatically, without your own effort. You'll have to do some searching, of the opportunities around you and of those yearnings and gifts inside you, in your own heart and soul. This web site is a good place to begin.

So good luck on your quest. I suspect that you have some incredible surprises awaiting you. Keep us up on things.

A fellow pilgrim--Mike

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.

This week's question is answered by Susanne Beier, a professional counselor and a regular contributor to the Best Years' pages.

September 5, 1997

Q Hi,
Just found your web site. I am 41 and my husband is 40. We have been married almost 22 years and have two sons, 20 and 17. My husband is a good hard-working man and I feel sure he loves me. He has always had a very strong sex drive and I've tried to keep up with him. In about the eighth or tenth year of our marriage (because of his seemingly constant prodding) we experimented with "open sex". He insisted sex could just be a physically exciting activity and I rarely, if ever, expressed any jealously. I, on the other hand, found it somewhat difficult to participate.

He fantasizes about people we know or meet and sometimes wants to pursue the possibility of threesomes, etc. He has been unfaithful to me a couple times but insists he loves only me and is just fascinated by sexual variety. Recently, the 24 yr old sister of friends of ours was in town. After a day of boating, the five of us returned to the home of our friends. I needed to get home to finish a resume I had been asked to submit and he said he would like to return to the friends' house to take Greg out for a beer or two in our new (to us) car. The car is a conv. Jaguar which he was really excited about. (Another crisis warning sign?)

He left our home at about 7pm and returned at about 4:30 am. I was irritated- he has to get up for work at 5am and didn't speak much till the next evening. He then told me how he spent the evening. Because the girl had recently broken up with her boyfriend (10 or so years her senior) it was suggested he take HER out to the bar so she could "scope" out the men. He did and was pleased to tell me that she let him know she found him attractive, liked his chest, arms, legs, etc. etc. He also told me that she said she was attracted to ME and would like a threesome. Apparently, they had spent much of the evening discussing orgasms, g-spots, etc.

After all these years, I thot that stuff was behind me. I would just like a normal marriage with a man who wants me and me only. I was hurt and angry, instead of receptive. I said maybe a divorce would make him happier. At this comment, he stormed out and as it turns out went to the friend's house and again took the girl out. I went out alone, did a little shopping, and on the way home, I realized I had locked my house key inside the house. Then, passing by, I saw his truck at one of our favorite places. I was hurt and stopped in. They were at the bar. I went in and asked for key. He accompanied my outside to get it out of his locked truck. I began to cry and asked him how he could do this. He said YOU'RE the one that wants the divorce- it's your fault.

I left for home, hoping he would come. He didn't. He came in at 4:30 am just in time to get ready for work. I had been crying all night, fitfully sleeping, checking the clock, beeping him over and over with no reply, so that when he arrived, I began crying and hitting him almost hysterically ( I could see myself doing it but couldn't stop) That night we talked and he said if it upset me so much he wouldn't press the issue. We make up and had great sex. Today, he called me from work and said he was "bummed". He was having a bad day at work, etc. I saw him after we both got home from work and he seemed to be feeling a bit better. I had to go back to work for two more hours due to a special project. When I got back home, he wasn't home. I finally reached him on his car phone. He said he was at the beach (about 45 min. away) because he needed to think. He said he was alone and just happened to be back at his vehicle to get a beer from the cooler when he heard the phone. He said he was overwhelmed with family responsibilities and would always love me forever but he wanted to be alone right now.

I'm feeling hurt again- and rejected, I guess. I'm scared, too. I've been married ever since I was 19 years old. He has been my best friend and confidant and now I feel so alone, like I don't know him anymore. What can I do?

Troubled

A Troubled,
Mike forwarded your letter to me. I'm sorry it took so long to answer but my computer crashed in the meantime and I couldn't send anything out. Again, my apologies. As far as your situation is concerned, it sounds like you have been the one all these years agreeing to go along with sexual agendas that basically went against your own belief system. Is that correct or did you in fact enjoy these three-somes? If not, then you should have long ago sought out counseling to help you gain some of the self-respect that you've given up to "please your man". Women often go to the ends of the world basically sacrificing themselves and their beliefs in the hope that their "security" will not be interrupted. As you can see, there is no security. You cannot hold on to someone who does not want to be "held".

It sounds to me like your husband was never really invested in this marriage in the emotional commitment sense. His need for other women and sexual experimentation is a sign of someone very insecure and probably angry at women in general. Are you passive in all areas of the marriage? How do your sons treat you?

I suggest that you seek out professional counseling immediately to help you deal with the feelings of betrayal that you are going through and of course the loss of identity and self esteem that this situation has brought on. You need to find out what it is that allows you to totally disregard your own needs to the point where you feel that you "sold out". It sounds like you have a deep fear of abandonment to the point where you will do anything to not have it happen. Ironically, that fear itself will bring about exactly that!

Your husband is a selfish boor! That is coming from the woman in me, not the therapist. As a therapist I know that there are many issues that he should be dealing with, but has chosen not to. That was and is his choice. YOU need to get your self-esteem shored up!. Your sex drive, from what you've described here, is quite normal. So don't let him tell you that you are frigid! No one should be made to perform or participate in sexual acts or activities unless THEY want to....you didn't! So don't do it now.

I wish I had better news for you and truly wish you success in your path to find yourself again. Go for counseling right away. Join a women's group, but DO something for yourself before you totally get lost!

susanne

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.

August 30, 1997

Q Hi,
I don't know whether I'm happy or dismayed to read that there are so many others working through such frustration and pain. I guess I have the symptoms - flipping between mania and indifference at work, wrestling with being 39, and not 19, and watching my kids grow up and away.

I even had the textbook affair, and that's my question. Through a string of liaisons with younger women, a young friend gradually became my mistress. It was a different kind of relationship to my marriage, more gentle and loving. For the first time in a long time I felt cared for and completely absorbed, mentally and physically. She was sixteen years younger than me. We never asked each other the question about the long term, nor ever said the words that would change everything. After nine months, inevitably, my wife found out about the affair. I never felt so loved by anyone else, but I never had a doubt that I would do what I had to for my family.

So began a harrowing eighteen-month journey through sorrow, anger, violence and eventually reconciliation with my wife. In many ways our relationship is closer now than at any time in the sixteen years of our marriage. For me, however, the story of my young lover is unfinished. She would call me at work every couple of months, but the last call was six months ago. It's slowly dawning on me that she's gone. I see her occasionally - but I feel she's finally made the decision to move on. I was so busy facing my guilt within my marriage that I never mourned the end of our affair.

Now, eighteen months since we last kissed and six months since we last spoke, I think of her every day. My wife is my best friend and lover, and my children are beautiful, clever individuals. The strange combination of ups and downs have energized my work, and I'm more successful than ever even though (and maybe because) I don't care as much as I used to. But in any day which is otherwise fine, I will suddenly nosedive emotionally. I can't tell anyone why.

How will this end?

CD

A Dear CD,
I think that emotional affairs like the one you describe (where the attachment has more to it than just sex) are the most difficult to break off, especially if they end, as yours did, with the decision to return to a spouse.

The reason for this is that the fantasy part of your affair was not allowed to die a natural death (nor should it have been). My guess is that if you had left your wife for this other woman, your feelings for the mistress would have changed (for sure become less intense, maybe even stopped altogether or changed to resentment and anger). In that case, you would now be mourning the loss of your wife and children, which I think would be both more intense and more long-lasting.

What needs to happen is for you to find a way to let go of the fantasy. Perhaps a professional counselor would suggest some strategies. For now, just know that you did the right thing for everyone: your wife and kids, your mistress (she needs to get on with her own life), and yourself. And given time, you will recover emotionally.

So hang in there and good luck.

Mike

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.

August 15, 1997

This week's question is answered by Susanne Beier, a professional counselor and a regular contributor to the Best Years' pages.

Q Hi.
In the office I met a man. We worked for different offices under same roof. The first face I was seeing was his. He used to make coffee which I was in very much in need of after all these sleepless nights. He was a coffee giver to me during my difficult times. His smile used to brighten up my day a little bit. We both almost used to leave the office together. I started developing feelings for him. God separated us. My office moved to a different location. I couldn't resolve my feelings with him. In the new office I missed him, his coffee and his smile which was brightening my day. I spent a week like this. Couldn't do anymore I called him and told I need to speak to him. I told him I need to speak to him with regards to how I feel about him. First he didn't agree but later I begged him then he told he would think about that. I waited for his call that day he didn't call. I felt like sharing all my personal things with him for the first time in my life. I don't know why I felt that way. That was the worst day of the last winter. With all the snow and slippery of the road I went out to buy Christmas gifts for him and to my husband. I got the engraved gifts to him and to my husband. I got his gift engraved as "To My Brother ----" . I decided to meet him next day near his office.

[TIFYA goes on to tell how she loves her husband and family, how she is especially close to the brother who raised her and now lives far away, and how her "brother" in the office rejected all her efforts to talk about her feelings for him]

What am I going to do this Christmas? Would I be able to wish him? I don't want Christmas to come at all this time which brings all the memories back. I always recall the things he said to me and get depressed. Is there a way I can touch his heart? Does he have any bad feeling about me? Does he have my Christmas gift still? (I have put all my feelings into that)? How long this is going to take? Would I be able to concentrate on more important things in my life which is my family? He was my motivation now he is the cause of my depression. My mind won't be clear until I find him and talk to him. How can this be done? Is there a way out?

Please Help!!

'til I find you again

A Dear TIFYA,
The confusion and pain that you are feeling comes across loud and clear in your letter to Mike. It looks to me as if you "transferred" your feelings for your husband (that you say you've been verbally unable to communicate) to the other person. It could simply be that this other man looked at you as a friend and no more than that. However, I do suspect a little flirtation on his part towards you did take place. You are at this time obsessed by this man, not so much the man himself, but your perceived rejection of you and your taking a risk of showing emotions to him that were not returned..

This has to be very hurtful for you. It also sounds to me that you have been living with unrealistic impressions of your husband and your marriage relationship. Perhaps, this is why this "rejection" by the other man is hurting so much. The essence of your letter very clearly communicates that much abandonment of you, realistic or perceived, has taken place in your life. You say that your brother raised you; what happened to your parents? The worship that you've felt towards your brother as a little girl has been transposed to the other significant male figures in your life. That would be your husband and the other man.

I STRONGLY recommend that you immediately seek out a therapist who can help you deal with the issues I referenced in this letter. You cannot do this on your own; too much pain is clouding your judgment right now. Do you have insurance that covers mental health counseling? If not, check with a your local women's center, your clergy, etc. This situation will not get easier until someone helps you to put the various relationships (brother, husband and "friend") in a healthy perspective. By the way, are there children involved? What has happened to them?

Finally, I too come from a different culture than America and I believe one of the main issues that you need to confront is leaving behind your "brother/father figure" and assimilating into a new culture with different expectations and appropriate behaviors between men and women. What could be simple communications in one culture, could be harassment in another. I truly hope that this letter helps you a little bit, and in closing I again want to recommend that you seek counseling right away. I wish I could do more for you. Good luck.

Susanne

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August 8, 1997

This week's question is answered by Susanne Beier, a professional counselor and a regular contributor to the Best Years' pages.

Q Hello.
What happens when you are the other woman? I am the other woman; at times I feel that I am dying. He is not willing to let go, and I keep hanging on. It is destroying my life. I am having trouble getting past this. I can't talk to anyone about it.

Have any suggestions? Are there support groups for people in my situation?

Thanks

The Other Woman

A Dear TOW,
Being the "other woman" is definitely not an easy or painless experience. In fact, it may be almost as painful as being the "spouse" that is being left behind. Both of you are under the control of one person's whims or emotional state. The spouse though probably has a good support system from the family and friends as she will be seen as the "victim". However, you too are a "victim".

I don't know of any specific group that focuses on the issue that you are referring to, but suspect that most women's support groups at one time or another (especially if you bring it up), will deal with this. My suggestion to you is to go for individual counseling to explore what I suspect may be a problem you need to work with. That is, "fear of intimacy". No, I am not referring to sexual intimacy, rather emotional. People who are continually attracted to "unavailable" partners (this could be emotionally unavailable as well as physically unavailable), are at a deeper level afraid of letting someone in emotionally. They at some level feel that if they do let someone in to see their vulnerable self, that person will leave...and they will be abandoned.

My initial question as a therapist to you would be to find out if there has been abandonment in your history, either by parents, grandparents that you were close to, etc. Also, I think you would need to find out why your self-esteem is so low that you will "settle" for someone else's "property". Perhaps there is also an unhealthy need to compete within you...all going back to low self-esteem.

As you can see, there are no easy answers. I highly recommend that you seek a counselor out. Don't stay with the first one you meet. I recommend "shopping" for counselors until you meet with one that you've developed a rapport with. Ask them if they have experience in dealing with problems like yours, and ask them whether they are "Freudian" (you talk-they listen), or "Cognitist/Behavioral" (they give you homework assignments and other concrete suggestions), THEN make an appointment.

If you need additional information, just send e-mail to Mike, he will forward it to me and I will try to help you more. I wish you the best. I know this is hard for you to deal with. By the way, how old are you? How old is he?

Susanne

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August 3, 1997

Q Dear Mike,
I'm a 41 year old, father of three, who has been married to the most loving, caring and beautiful woman I've ever known for the past 21 years. Our oldest child in almost 20 and our youngest is 14. I think I'm going through a mid-life crisis and need some advice. By way of background-I grew up in the South, graduated from college in New York at age 20, graduated from law school at age 23, and began working for a relatively large (45 person-large by local standards) law firm before my 24th birthday. During the course of the next 11 years, I worked extremely hard and long hours (13-15 hours a day, 5 1/2 days a week) in a self-induced, high pressure environment, in order to pursue what I thought I wanted; a successful legal career. By 30, I was a partner in my firm, making a mid-six figure income, had great clients and lived in a beautiful, expensive, custom built home. However, I suffered from insomnia and found that when I wasn't sleeping I was thinking of work. I always felt "stressed out" and became very unhappy with the life I had created for myself. So after 11 1/2 years of private practice, one day I notified my partners that I would be leaving the firm to pursue a different line of work.

[The next 2 paragraphs talk about SINY's experiences since 1992, in which he has operated a large family business, worked in an investment banking firm, and now as a consultant to an international telecommunications company. SINY worries whether he is addicted to the rush that comes with high pressure business and he wants to work in an environment consistent with his personal ethics.]

In the last few months, I've found myself spending most of my day (and night) at home on the internet either researching various stock market research or just plain surfing. I have almost completely stopped "networking" except for a few calls a day, and feel that I'm beginning to suffer from depression. At this point, I'm not really sure where to turn for help. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely, Sleepless in New York

A Dear SINY,
I've always said that a man (or woman) can have a midlife crisis for one of two reasons: one, because he doesn't reach his dreams in life, or, two, because he does.

When we establish our dreams, we expect meeting them to do something for us--for instance, to make us financially independent or to give us a voice in our community or profession. You seem to have realized these expectations.

But we also expect success to bring immaterial reward--to make us emotionally rich, or, as the psychologists put it, self-actualized. My experience is that this second goal requires skills and insights most of us don't learn in the business world; nor do many of us acquire these in our youth

To me, this is our quest at midlife. Thus the greatest challenge before you is not to find your next place of employment but to find your identity, your passion, your inner, immaterial, and spiritual resources. Once you've discovered (or rediscovered) these, I think you can be happy and productive in any number of ventures, maybe happier than you've ever been.

Good luck on your journey. And keep us up on your progress.

A fellow-traveler,

Mike

P.S. If the depression persists or becomes more severe, I'd also seek some professional help.

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