Trying to be adult

I'm a woman involved with a woman, but I'm infatuated with a married man.

By Cary Tennis

Published August 16, 2004 7:02PM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I am a 26-year-old woman involved in a three-year relationship with another woman. It's the most fulfilling, healthy, intimate relationship I've ever been in, and I love her very much. Our sex life has slowed down some, but I try to tell her that's natural in a long-term relationship. She knows I've dated men and is pretty paranoid about my past. I've tried to explain to her that I enjoy sex with women way more than with men. Our sex, when we have it, is great. I think my low sex drive is due to the depression that I've struggled with on and off for 10 years. That'll wreak havoc on your libido.

There's another problem: I feel an incredibly intense attraction toward a mutual friend of ours, a man, who is about to get married in a couple of weeks. My girlfriend and I socialize almost exclusively with this man and his fiancée, and we really cherish our friendship with them. I love his fiancée and honestly think that she's too good for him. He's self-centered and narcissistic and depressed, and he's not really going anywhere with his life. Much of the time I don't even like him as a person.

But I can't deny these feelings I have. It's more than just physical, and it's not just a crush. I've had crushes on people before, and I generally get over them pretty quickly. But this is different. It's been going on for almost a year, and try as I might, I really can't get over it. I've never felt this way before. I've been in love a couple of times, but these feelings are different. It's what I always expected from love and had convinced myself was only the stuff of movies and fairy tales. I'm almost certain that he feels the same way, even though nothing has been said. I mean, I'm not the kind of person to be attracted to someone who isn't attracted to me. For one thing, I have way too much pride.

I feel like it's getting to be obvious to other people. Whenever we're around each other, we end up ignoring everyone else and talking only to each other. Like I said, sometimes I can convince myself that I don't like him very much, but there's an undeniable connection. He's a couple of years older than me, and I feel like he represents the future I could have if I let my own depression get away from me. I think that if we were together, we would probably drive each other crazy.

I don't want anything to happen here, but I'm nervous because instead of dissipating, it seems like our attraction keeps growing. I really don't want to have some sordid affair, especially after he's married. I'm beginning to think that I should talk to him about this. Perhaps if we admit what's been going on, the smoldering stares and the "accidental" touches will stop. Should I just try to ignore it and soldier on like a good little monogamist? It's really not in my personality to approach someone in that way. I don't think we should both just throw our lives out the window and run away together, but I can't pretend like we're not attracted to each other. I'm trying to be an adult here, but I'm pretty new at the whole thing. Can you help?

Confused, Conflicted and Confounded

Dear Confused,

I'd be very interested to know what this man represents to you. Perhaps if you thought about the contradiction between your attraction to him and your lack of respect for him, you would see how he fits into a pattern of your relations with men. Sometimes erotic attraction has an element of profound destructiveness in it. Perhaps you would like to dominate him, destroy him with your sexual power, or perhaps you would like to be debased by him, to become his victim, to dramatize a feeling of worthlessness.

One way to find out what you are really looking for might be to picture what kind of sex you would have with him. What would happen if you found yourselves alone, say, in a room in a big house somewhere before the wedding. What would happen? Do you picture yourself conquering him, or giving him a blow job, or being fucked by him? What is the form of sex that you imagine when you imagine getting together with him? What would you do with him if you could? That might tell you what is going on. For instance, if you want to dominate him, perhaps he represents a threat to you; perhaps his heterosexual relationship and its impending consecration in a marriage represents something you feel an ambivalent attraction to but would like to obliterate in order to make it more comfortable between you and your partner. Or perhaps you want to show your partner the heterosexual side of yourself.

I wonder what is the significance of his being in a couple? Are you attracted to the woman as well? Could you be trying to take him away from her for some reason? Do you want to have sex with both of them, or just with him? Do you want your partner to watch, or do you want it to be a secret?

Though it feels unique, it may be part of a repeating pattern in which frustration and boredom build up and then find an outlet in an impulsive act. The summer thunderclouds that tower over the Florida sky are remarkable in their variety, but they all bring rain. (I miss those clouds; they were always different but always the same, like obsessions.)

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Cary Tennis

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