Q. I have a tricky problem going on right now. I am married and have been for a while – 20-plus years. It’s been a typical marriage, with its ups and downs, but I’d say I’ve been fairly content and things have been pretty good. Right now, I would say I am in the middle of my life, so this issue could very well be a midlife crisis. I have a great relationship with my husband’s ex-wife. We have always gotten along famously. Lately, I have been having strong feelings for her that I shouldn’t be having. I have four stepchildren, and there is always some function or get-together with all of us. We typically have a wonderful time together. I find myself thinking about her all the time when I’m not around her. I know that nothing can come of these feelings, and it seems ridiculous to me, but I can’t seem to stop them.
I never felt this way in the early days of my marriage. It started a few years ago. I’m not sure what brought it on, but she is a great person, and maybe I’ve just started to realize that. I’m even dreaming about her at night. I have had same-sex feelings off and on my whole life and was in a brief relationship with a woman before I met my husband. It was quick but intense. When I met my husband, I only had eyes for him, so I didn’t think anything more about women until now. I am sure I should probably talk to a therapist because this can’t be normal. I’ve tried everything to stop the thoughts, but they just seem to be getting stronger. I don’t want to be consumed with this any longer.
My husband and stepchildren would be shocked to know about this, but I am very good at hiding my feelings and would never say a word to them. I wonder, though, whether any of my feelings show when I am around the family. I’m open to any suggestions you might have. – Pining Away Day After Day
A. Before deciding whether to act on your feelings, you should talk to a therapist, as you acknowledged in your letter.
Developing strong feelings for another person could be a sign that there is a lack of intimacy in your own marriage. If that’s the case, then the next person you should talk to is your husband.
The type of uncontrollable thoughts you have could also be a sign of obsessive-compulsive disorder. The way around them is through them. The more you resist intrusive thoughts the more they come. That which we resist persists. You sound pretty calm, considering the catastrophic potential of your acting on your feelings, and you will know so much more and be ready to act – one way or the other – after you have talked this through with a professional.
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