Dear Ms Peirano,
26 years ago, I unexpectedly and unhappily fell in love with my then deputy boss. Unexpectedly, because almost a year earlier my first great love had committed suicide and I didn't believe that I would ever fall in love again. Unhappy because he was my supervisor, 15 years older, married, two children. He was also looking for a job close to home (approx. 250 km away), which he should be able to do about six months later.
Even then it was clear to me that there was more from both sides, but for the reasons mentioned and the fear of rejection (I simply couldn't have coped with that in my unstable state at the time), I never confessed my feelings to him. We kept in touch sporadically, every call, card or email from him made my heart beat in my throat. At some point I found out that he was married for the second time and had two children again. All of this was like a stab in the heart, even though it was years later.
A few years later I fell in love with my current partner Tim, who is a few years younger than me. We've been together for almost 18 years now, not married, no children, but together we've achieved a lot financially.
About 2.5 years ago Jonas and I wrote again, it became a constant, daily and very familiar exchange. I then told him that I was madly in love with him at the time and was heartbroken when he left. He confessed to me that he felt the same way, but I was so young and that's why he didn't do it.
Now the whole thing is of course something like an (emotional) affair, sex inevitably plays a very minor role, honestly due to a lack of opportunities. We barely manage to meet three times a year. Jonas is very emotional, so my emotional side comes out strongly and I now know what I have been missing in my current relationship for many years.
Tim and I have almost everything, only loving feelings are rather scarce. We get along, we laugh, and we function as a successful "business team," but I don't remember him ever saying he loves me.
Of course, I'm aware that it can't stay like this forever and that I'll have to make a decision at some point, which I find very difficult. I don't want to do without Jonas anymore, but I also don't want to do without the independence of my current life.
Jonas would leave his family for me immediately. But I'm realistic and convinced that it wouldn't be a bed of roses. His wife got wind of us about a year ago, which would make things even more difficult. The children are 12 and 14, that doesn't make it any easier, as does the rest of the environment, of course. I've told him several times that I'm afraid that our love won't be able to withstand the "external influences", he doesn't see it that way at all. Apart from that, of course, I haven't completely given up my rational thinking and I know that the 15-year age difference isn't without it, my life would be completely different, I would have to adjust myself to the children, among other things, and I don't have many of the advantages that I currently have would have more. I would be very happy about a little help!
Very dear thanks
Dear Merle T,
it sounds to me as if not only do you have two completely different love stories with completely different men, but you also have two completely different parts of your personality reigning in you.
One part is more rational, likes things to be comfortable and pragmatic, orderly - and maybe this part is secretly quite content with the fact that in your long-term relationship with Tim there aren't too great and passionate feelings involved. Has this thought ever crossed your mind?
I work as a behavioral therapist and love coach in private practice in Hamburg-Blankenese and St. Pauli. In my PhD, I researched the connection between relationship personality and happiness in love and then wrote two books about love.
Information about my therapeutic work can be found at www.julia-peirano.info.
Do you have questions, problems or lovesickness? Please write to me (maximum one A4 page). I would like to point out that inquiries and answers can be published anonymously on stern.de.
I can imagine that you experienced the suicide of your boyfriend at the time as a serious breach of trust. He left you for good by committing suicide, and he probably didn't tell you anything about it beforehand (otherwise you would have prevented it). It's an incredibly traumatic way to lose someone.
Maybe after that you wanted to play it safe, and Tim offered that in his rational, dependable way. He seems like a good companion and you two make a good team.
For years, her feelings for Jonas were more on a fantasy level than real and threatening. Maybe it was even some kind of emotional lightning rod?
And for over two years, the emotional side of you has been making itself heard. You've ventured out of your emotional shell and are allowing yourself to feel big - and that's probably better because Jonas is someone who can show emotion too.
But now, after 2.5 years, your rational side wants to know how to proceed. It becomes clear: the thoughts of a future with Jonas trigger strong fears in you. I can understand that well! I have accompanied similar processes, and they were mostly very stressful and grueling for everyone involved for years.
When Jonas reveals to his wife that he wants to separate from her and live with you, things will be emotionally high. And chances are his kids will blame you for destroying the family. Your relationship (which has so far been based on a few meetings outside of everyday life) will probably also be severely affected by Jonas' stress. It could be that he will then have even less time and attention for you than he already has.
I can also imagine that your orderly, comfortable, predictable life would soon be over. And your order-loving part of your personality, which has worked hard to make life exactly like this, wouldn't be satisfied with that either.
How about doing the obvious thing first, taking heart and talking to Tim about your relationship? Does he feel the same way you do that your relationship is lacking in love? Does he want to change anything?
Would he be willing to open up the relationship and accept that both are also erotically or emotionally open to others? Perhaps it would not be the worst solution, at least for you, to have both men in your life with open agreements.
Because if you choose a man, it would probably cause a lot of unrest inside you. Your quiet, pragmatic side would be driven to despair by life in Jonas' shambles, and your longing, emotional side withers away at Tim's side, longing for more love.
However, Jonas would then also have to see whether he can open his relationship or whether he deliberately continues to lead your relationship secretly - at least until the children are out of the house. That sounds like a very stressful and difficult situation. But the alternatives—either cutting off contact between the two of you, or separating from his wife and destroying the family—are not easy options either.
I hope I was able to bring you some clarity. It will definitely remain difficult for the time being.