Dear Neil: I am a 29-year-old man who has never had a serious relationship. Expressing my feelings for other people has never been one of my strong points. About six months ago, I became very good friends with a woman I work with. She is 42 and divorced, with two teenage children. She divorced four years ago and has been in two bad relationships since. We have talked endlessly on the phone and sometimes in person, but we have never formally dated.
Since I met this lady, my feelings for her have grown from friendship to love. I think about her constantly, and believe that she is the most beautiful woman I have ever met. The problem is that she does not feel as strongly about me. There is an invisible wall up between us, and I’m afraid someone else is going to come along and take her away. I don’t know what else to do.
Hopeless in Kentucky
Dear Hopeless: It may be that the age difference between the two of you is too much for her. It could be that she just doesn’t find you her type, or it’s possible that she’s feeling burned out on men and wishes to take a break from being in a relationship for the time being.
But regardless of her reasons, if you want a romantic relationship with her, you’re going to have to ask her directly and specifically what it would take for her to take down her wall and give you a chance. You’re going to have to tell her how you feel and what you’re hoping for, and then see if she opens toward you. I she does, invite her out—and behave as a male, not just as a friend. I am not implying that you should be inappropriate or boorish, just that if you are going to convert a friendship to a romantic relationship, you need to take the romantic lead.
If her answer remains “no,” let her go. Few things hurt as much as wanting someone who doesn’t want you back.
Dear Neil: I’ve been in my second marriage for five years. But I married a stranger! All the qualities I thought my husband had before our wedding don’t exist. When we were courting, my husband pretended to be what he thought I wanted, and he put on a great act. Six weeks after our wedding, I started to realize that all the good qualities I thought he had—weren’t there. I have struggled to make our marriage work over the last five years, not willing to admit that I failed again in marriage. Is there anything else I can do to save my marriage?
Tricked in Christchurch, New Zealand
Dear Tricked: Perhaps. You can start by being very honest and tell him how you are feeling, and specifically what it is you want differently.
If you want him to change his personality, or to have traits he doesn’t have, you are going to fail, because he’s not going change who he is for you. But if you want specific and concrete changes in his behavior, that may be attainable. Be sure to convey to him your sense of dissatisfaction, and be clear about how urgent these changes need to be for you.