Is this a narcissistic midlife-crisis crush? That's my take on it, but you decide...
I am a 48-year old man. My wife of 23 years discovered that I was communicating with my college ex-girlfriend, who sought me out and reconnected with me last summer by e-mail after a 25-year separation (she broke it off). My ex is married (she says happily, but I'm not so sure, otherwise why contact me?) to a famous Hollywood filmmaker, and has two older teenagers. Three months ago, my wife intruded into my BlackBerry, saw that we were flirting nostalgically, and disrupted our reconnection by sending her notes, pretending to be me. My ex is now afraid to communicate with me for fear that my wife will intercept her messages that are meant for me.
I love my wife dearly, but I still have strong feelings for my ex and do not want to lose touch with her. I hate the silence and miss her terribly. I'm concerned that she might be in an unhappy relationship. I also want to see her someday. I've talked to my wife several times about this situation (she has been somewhat understanding), and even though I'm honestly committed to our marriage, she doesn't want me to stay in touch with my ex at all (my wife thinks my ex is trying to manipulate me and build a second life after her nest empties).
Can I keep my wife happy and also keep in touch with my ex, who I still love deep down? Also, I can't believe my ex would try to manipulate me - how do I know if that's the case?
-- Steve M., Washington D.C.
Steve M., you’ve asked, “Can I keep my wife happy and also keep in touch with my ex who I still love deep down?”
Here’s my answer: No.
Your ex is a fantasy. After 25 years, you don’t know her. She was probably bored and daydreaming when she looked you up. And you were just bored enough to answer. It doesn’t mean she’s your long lost soul mate.
This “concern that she might be in an unhappy relationship” … come on. You’ve made it clear that you hope your ex is miserable and thinking of you. I’d hate to call you a stereotypical, 40-something man experiencing the most predictable midlife crisis ever -- but, well, I guess I just did.
Sorry. It’s tough-love Friday.
I understand that this blast from your past is exciting, but take a look at what’s in front of you – the wife you “love dearly.” Stop playing pretend. Stop getting caught up in a make-believe drama involving an ex and her high-profile husband. You’ve been married for 23 years. Respect the history of that union. It trumps a college girlfriend, who, by the way, has told you that she's happily married.
When you’re ready to accept reality, talk to your wife about seeing a counselor. Approaching 50 is an emotional ordeal for most people, and it would be helpful for both of you to have a safe space for honest discussion.
If your wife was comfortable sending e-mails from your BlackBerry pretending to be you, she could probably use the professional help, too.
Readers? Thoughts? Is Steve M looking for permission to leave his wife? Do you think he really has feelings for his ex? Share your thoughts and advice here. Leave a letter to the right.
Speaking of Love
"Love drains from you, takes with it much of your blood sugar and water weight. You are like a house slowly losing its electricity, the fans slowing, the lights dimming and flickering; the clocks stop and go and stop."
Lorrie Moore, "Self-Help"