Dear Dr. Romance:
I am a happily married man in my mid-forties with two small kids who has become overwhelmingly infatuated with a 22 year old co-worker. She is friendly but certainly not coquettish and there is no suggestion she reciprocates. I have no intention of trying to pursue a personal relationship with her.
My problem — cliched as it is — is that over the past six months or so, I have been completely felled by incredibly strong feelings for her. I am sexually attracted to her but beyond that, I now seem to have all the symptoms of puppy love: I can't eat, I can't sleep, I get butterflies when I'm around her, I'm idealising her. Basically, the works are in effect.
My rational mind sees that this is completely ridiculous. I would ideally just avoid her, but I am one of her supervisors and the nature of our workplace (which is a professional organization) means we are more or less obliged to work together most days in a fairly structured way.
I'm not really asking for reasons why I shouldn't try to take things further with this girl.They're all pretty obvious. What I am mostly hoping for is any advice on how I can cope with my predicament. I feel utterly wretched and if I could rewrite the whole script I certainly would. Please help if you can.
You already realize that this is not an unusual situation. It's a common part of the human experience, and what happens when we are bored. Your mind and heart seize on something to get excited about. I congratulate you for understanding that it's not real, and it would be disastrous to pursue it. This indicates you are emotionally mature. What you need to do is take the energy this fantasy gives you and pour it back into your marriage. When you imagine things you could do to woo this woman you have a crush on, do some acceptable version of it for your wife. You say you are happily married, so pour your heart into wooing your spouse, as you did when you were first together. Her response will amaze you, and you'll be even more happily married.
In addition to that, find a new challenge for yourself. You're probably secure and an expert in your work, so there's not much challenge there. It's probably not practical for you to change your job or career, so find a worthwhile pursuit that will generate meaning for you. Get involved in a charity outside your professional organization (you and your wife can do this together), help mentor some young people other than your own children, write a fictionalized version of your "puppy love" and sell it as a story or a novel; take up a new sport, try something you've never done before but always thought about. The point is to become a beginner at something, learn and grow. When you are appropriately stimulated an challenged, you won't need the "drug" of puppy love to make you feel alive. Read "Anticipating Change" and do the exercise to help you figure this out.
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