Enjoy It for What It Is / This Too Shall Pass
Dear Dr. Hurd,
I have been happily partnered for over two decades. Recently, a business associate has been coming on to me in a friendly but assertive manner. I really have no interest; mainly because I am indeed happily married. But I am concerned about our business relationship and how my turning her down might affect that. Furthermore, I don’t know what I would say to my boss if I lost this woman as a client.
Dr. Hurd replies:
Let’s look at this rationally. A business relationship is for the benefit of two parties. Each person stands to gain financially; otherwise there would be no business relationship.
So as long as your associate stands to gain financially, I foresee no major problem here. If she walks away from your business relationship solely because you don’t return her romantic interest, then maybe she wasn’t the most profitable person for your business in the first place. But I doubt that will happen.
When we’re afraid, our minds sometimes default to the worst-case scenario. Though the worst case rarely happens, let’s project for a moment that it does. What would you do? The facts are on your side. Your boss, if he or she is at all reasonable, will understand it’s not your fault. You haven’t done anything wrong. If the risk seems high that your client will exit the business relationship because you don’t want a personal fling, then consider discussing it with your boss now. If your boss would actually blame you for what clearly isn’t your fault, then maybe this isn’t the right job for you.
That being said, go ahead and take her interest as a compliment. Someone finds you attractive and appealing. It’s not the end of the world. You wouldn’t be happily married now if attraction were not a normal part of the human experience. The wonderful thing is you don’t have to act on it; just take it for what it is and get on with business. Be graceful and flattered, but set your boundaries and keep them.
Dear Dr. Hurd,
I graduate high school this year. Though I don’t make a major effort to hide my gayness, I have been very private about a strong attraction I have for one of my male teachers. I totally get that I had to keep this a secret while I was in school and a student of his, and I don’t even know for sure if he is gay. But in a few weeks I will not be at the school anymore. This is way more than a physical teenage crush. I admire him and like him; when we speak it is as if we are friends, and there is not all that much difference between our ages. Should I approach him? I think about him all the time and I just don’t know what to do.
Dr. Hurd replies:
What you’re describing is infatuation. It happens at 18, and can happen later in life, too. What is infatuation? You meet someone. You’re attracted to them—physically, of course, but for more reasons than that. You fall in love with all kinds of qualities which, when considered as a whole, result in your being excited, in love and maybe even a bit obsessed.
There’s nothing inherently invalid or valid about these emotions. There are people who are still in love with their spouses after 30 years, and their feelings started out that way. Conversely, plenty of infatuations end up in disappointment or pain. Infatuation is an exciting feeling. Regardless of where it ends up, it would be a shame to go through life without having this experience; intense feelings and all.
But at the same time, we have to be realistic. There’s obviously an age and professional issue here. Most importantly, there’s the question of whether your teacher is or is not gay. If he’s simply not interested in the same sex, then he won’t be interested in you. Yes, that will be a crushing disappointment, but it’s certainly not a personal rejection.
I like the expression, “Keep your feet on the ground and your head in the stars.” Be a grownup. Decide for yourself if the risk of revealing your feelings to him is worth it. The risk is that you will be disappointed or hurt if he doesn’t feel the same way. In all honesty, that’s more likely than not. But we grow and emerge as mature and rational human beings by way of such upsets and disappointments; they seem like catastrophes at the time, but they rarely end up that way.
In the arena of love and romance we don’t always get what we want. But that’s okay, because it’s how we grow. Sometimes, when we do get what we want, it’s usually not exactly what we expected, because our subconscious minds very often make people into something different from what they actually are. Though that’s not necessarily a bad thing, wishful thinking and reality have to become acquainted at some point. Weigh the risks objectively, and proceed with caution. It’s all part of growing up.
Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D., LCSW is a psychotherapist and author. His office can be reached at 302-227-2829. Email questions or comments to Dr. Hurd.