I'm touch-deficient

I declared love too soon to an unhappily married former stripper with two kids, and now she's gone.

Published January 24, 2003 8:23PM (EST)

Dear Cary,

Please help! I have destroyed a perfectly good and much needed casual relationship by declaring love even though I don't feel it.

Here is my situation. I am 28 years old and recently started sleeping with a 32-year-old married woman who has two kids. This woman, who is very intelligent and was once a part-time stripper and also a world-class athlete, is unhappily married and is a swinger (but not actively since she no longer has sex with her hubby). We both work at the same low-level job, and we both used to make fat bank in better days. Since meeting three months ago we have become great friends and companions. About two weeks ago things became sexual and we started a passionate six-day affair despite some trepidation on her part. For me this was a gift from God, because I have been living in social exile in a relative's basement while I try to get back on my feet, and my friend is a wonderful woman and her beautiful touch was the elixir my weary, touch-deficient body needed to energize me for a wonderful career opportunity that lay ahead.

During our three-month friendship we have enjoyed a lot of written correspondence and this is the medium through which I cast the stone that broke the fantasy. During a three-day away period, I wrote to her a long-winded letter, wherein I schizophrenically intimated that I was possibly madly in love with her, but not really, but kinda maybe. It was a letter of desperation since I was unsure of my feelings and of her feelings, and in my weak emotional state I couldn't bear waiting two weeks to let things play out. My brilliant plan was to measure our place from her reaction since I was content to be occasional lovers or companions. Unfortunately, she reacted far more vigorously than I anticipated and she was so stunned that she had nothing to say except that I was obviously a weak and emotional man. All somewhat true at this time in my life, but I never wanted to kill the goose and that is what I think I may have done. My reply to her was an indignant but true exclamation that I am not in love with her and that I wrote that letter so she would open up to me. Of course, she says she is the most open and direct woman in the world and that we knew this was just a casual thing. But, I swear her feelings for me run deeper than casting me to the sea over this -- the look in her eyes, the way she says my name, the daily contact, the manner in which she has confided in me, it just doesn't add up to a normal casual sex fling. (Besides, she is a total hottie and could easily attract someone much better-looking than I, so her interest in me definitely was not physically driven.)

Fortunately, today, in our first day back together, I was able to rectify things so that we are at least sociable and friendly. But now she unflinchingly says our affair was a mistake and that she doesn't like cheating on her husband, feels this is different from her swinging days because it's not just about sex and that we shouldn't sleep together again anytime soon. I am in dire need of physical companionship (even if just sleeping together without sex) and I turned away two other women to be with my friend and I am 90 percent certain that it will be a long time before I meet anyone else since I am a difficult match due to what some consider my extreme life bent. I feel so touch-deficient; it is as if I am about to slouch into a mild psychosis -- the pain is just unbearable.

So what can I do to win back the physical affections of my friend for whom I still have significant, if not marriage-level, feelings? Only two weeks ago she was totally enamored of me and asking me all kinds of future spouse-type questions. Additionally, she was always phoning me, she asked me to move to a distant land with her, she wrote a poem about lovers reunited (where she and I were the characters) and she told me she was not just into me physically but mentally. Is it possible that in one event, I have ruined everything? I cannot imagine her smile being as warm as it still is, if she didn't have some measure of feeling left for me. What is the best course of action to take and how long do you think it will take?

If I sound desperate it is because I am.

A Lonely Dude Who Would Save the World If Only He Could Get Laid More Often

Dear Dude,

In the scientific method, we create a hypothesis, then we design an experiment to test it, and then we carefully observe the results and try to draw conclusions from them. Your communications experiment had an unexpected outcome, but it's one from which you must draw some unavoidable conclusions if you are to be a good scientist. You frightened your quarry back into her nest is what you did; you miscalculated.

The safe course would have been to say as little as possible, to play from a position of strength, to keep a lid on it. Instead, you unwittingly made yourself appear to be a loose cannon.

Look, you and I are very similar. I hate to admit it, but I can see myself doing exactly what you did. I'm a compulsive discloser, too. You and I have to remember that people judge us on what we say, not what's in our heads; they can't see inside our heads to understand the subtle and complex way in which what we say was intended. If you say something inappropriate just to see what the response is, then you have to accept what the response is; there's no take-backs. You don't get to put things in parentheses or italics, or add footnotes. Once something is said, it's said, no matter how you intended it. Sad but true. So when you're writing an e-mail to somebody, you have to test it out on someone else first. Get a second opinion. Because it's too easy to get caught up in some fantasy of how your little missive is going to magically transform your world. It did transform your world, but not the way you wanted it to.

The economic crash has put a lot of people in tough situations; you need to lower your expectations and try to dig in for the long haul. If you really need physical companionship, why don't you go and see if you can get something going with one of those two women you turned down?

Take care of yourself. Give a backrub. Get a backrub. Stay out of the basement during daylight hours. Eat your greens. Watch your drug intake. You'll be OK.

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Want more advice from Cary? Read yesterday's column.

By Cary Tennis

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