I fell for a man on the train

I'm in a relationship and he's recently divorced; we're attracted but confused.

Published January 9, 2009 11:32AM (EST)

Dear Cary,

I have met a guy commuting on the train. It quickly became obvious that he was interested in me until he discovered that I am living with somebody. Thereafter he withdrew a bit but was still friendly. There was definitely a mutual sexual attraction, which both of us ignored, and we decided to be friends. However, the friendship only consisted of talking on the train and e-mailing one another on a daily basis.

Then one day, I decided that this had to go one way or the other. I wanted to know what he was feeling toward me and invited him for coffee during lunchtime. He agreed but it turned out to be a disaster as we suddenly had nothing to say to one another. He became more reserved during our e-mail chats as well but would indicate on our train chats that he disliked my living partner without even knowing him (they have met, though). I could only ascribe that to jealousy. I've found out that he was recently divorced and is now living on his own and it appears that he isolates himself and only keeps close friends around and is not interested in a new relationship.

What really gets to me is that he easily chats to other people, both males and females, on the train, but when it comes to me, it's very forced, albeit very friendly. He is not shy.

I am too proud to tell him that I am interested in him. I've gone out of my way to send out the right signals and also do not want any rejection, but I am curious to know why he treats me different than other people. I asked him (per e-mail) and he avoided my question by saying that he has got nothing against me. I am not used to this kind of male behavior. It's not good for my ego. Do you possibly have any idea what is going on in his head and how I can diffuse the situation?


Dear D.,

The most likely explanation is that he is attracted to you and you are attracted to him but you are living with someone and he just got divorced so neither one of you is in a position to do anything about your attraction. So each of you is trying to manage your conflicting emotions on your own. It's not working. Of course it isn't. How could it?

There is no mystery about it. It is just an unfortunate situation. There is nothing you can do about this. You are not in a position to get involved with him. You are not available.

It sounds like you have not fully accepted the fact that you are not available. I suggest you simply spell it out, for yourself and for him.

You say you are too proud to tell him you are interested in him. This could mean two things. It could mean that you are ashamed of your attraction. Or it could mean you are afraid of rejection.

It's no blow to your pride to be attracted to someone. If you don't act on this attraction, there's no danger. You cannot be rejected if you are not available. You can't screw up your current relationship if you don't act on this attraction. And you can't act on it because you are not available.

So I suggest you do this. Arrange to have lunch with him again and just spell out the situation to him. First, tell him emphatically that you do not want to know how he feels about you and ask him to please not tell you. You don't want to know. Make sure he agrees to this.

Then just tell him the simple truth: that you were attracted to him but you're in a relationship so nothing is going to happen and maybe you wish it would but that's the way it is and that's that. And ask if he wants to be friends.

Don't ask him how he feels. Just tell him what the situation is: You feel attracted to him and you wish you weren't in a relationship, but you are, so nothing is going to happen between you. End of story.

Who knows what will happen in the future. Things could change. But for right now, you're not available so that's that.

Being not available, you have a safe perch from which to be perfectly honest with him.

Let me repeat: In order to eliminate the possibility of rejection, you need to tell him upfront that you do not want him to speak about how he feels. Now, he may object, and insist on telling you that he is crazy for you. That's OK. If he insists on telling you that he is crazy about you, that's OK. It doesn't change anything. You are still unavailable for a relationship with him.

But I see your paranoid thoughts at work already: If he says nothing, does that mean he has no feelings for me, and isn't that the same as a rejection? No. He may just respect your wishes. Don't push it. Insist on not knowing. Nothing is going to happen between you, so it does you no good to know what he feels. Trust me.

Here is another reason to insist that he not tell you how he feels. If you ask him how he feels, and he is attracted to you, he might lie about it and say he's not to protect himself. If he is not attracted to you, he might also lie about it, to spare your feelings. So either way, by asking him to speak of his feelings, you are opening yourself up to more confusion. There is an element of frustration and anger in this attraction between you two, and in some twisted way he might think he is getting control of the situation by lying.

Why else might he lie? Sometimes the truth can sound stupid. Sometimes the truth can open us up to people trying to talk us into or out of something. For instance, say he were to tell you the truth, that he is attracted to you but concerned because you are in a relationship. He might fear that you would then use this admitted attraction to draw him into something that he feels is wrong, or dangerous. For that reason, he might lie and say he's not attracted to you at all.

Take, for instance, when salespeople ask you questions. Have you ever felt that when a salesperson asks you a question that you are being pushed into a corner, that the question is part of a larger campaign intended to make you do something you do not want to do?

Say the salesperson says, "So, you're attracted to me, right?"

And you answer honestly. You say, "Yes, that's true, I am attracted to you."

"And you like to have fun, right?"

"Yes, sure, I like to have fun. Who doesn't?"

"Fun doesn't hurt anybody, does it? Fun is a good thing, right?"


"So let's have some fun. Let's go out."

"I don't know," you say.

The salesperson looks hurt, and puzzled. "I don't understand," the salesperson says. "If you're attracted to me and you like to have fun, is there any reason you wouldn't want to go out with me? What reason would that be?"

You might not want to admit your true reasons for not wanting to go out with the salesperson. You might feel that your true reasons make you look weak. You might feel it would be wrong, or you might be afraid your boyfriend would find out, but these reasons might make you seem unadventurous or timid, so you don't give them. Instead, you want to come up with some reason that is better. So you say you're going to be out of town.

So then the salesperson gets out his calendar and says, "Well, if this weekend won't work, then what weekend are you in town?"

By saying you'll be out of town, you have given the impression that in principle you're all for going out with the salesperson, it's just this unfortunate impediment. That is a big mistake. That's when you're hooked. The salesperson then becomes your ally, helping you overcome this unfortunate obstacle. You and he join forces. If you backpedal now, the salesperson may rightly object that you have not been straight with him.

Basically, by answering the salesperson's questions, you've put yourself at his mercy.

So if people are wary of being sold something, they often will not answer your questions, or they will lie. So don't ask this man to tell you what he feels.

Just tell him your truth. It's no blow to your pride to be attracted to somebody. You're human. That happens. Accept that it's an unfortunate situation and move on.

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By Cary Tennis

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