DEAR AMY: I have been happily married for almost 50 years, until this past summer. My husband and I visited our hometown and I saw an old boyfriend for the first time in 52 years. The attraction between us was immediate. It was an emotional attraction more than a physical one — Amy, we are both old! I saw him without my spouse on three occasions, in public places. These encounters have left me with an addiction/obsession that I cannot shake. It is really making me miserable. I think about him all day, every day. I am not exaggerating! What makes it worse is that he is single now and would love to have me in his life again. I never expected anything like this to happen to me. I am an educated, sensible person. Daily and repeatedly I try to talk myself out of thinking about him, and it does not work. When we parted years ago, it was his doing, not mine. He is actually the only other person I ever thought I might marry. He has had several significant others and one wife, but claims he has never forgotten me, and regrets our breakup. I am so desperate to return to my former happy self; any suggestions you can give me would really be appreciated. I have a wonderful husband who would be devastated if he knew what these past few months have been like for me. It is extremely stressful — torture, really — and I so want it to stop. I need him out of my head, and out of my heart. So far, the passage of time has not made any difference.
DEAR MISERABLE: It is possible that pushing these thoughts down is only making them more powerful. A change of perspective might lead you toward feeling more joyful and less stressed by this development.
According to you, you have had 50 years of marital happiness with your wonderful husband. Are you prepared to leave your marriage and blow up your life in order to try to cheat time? If you peel away the fantasy, what would this realistically be like for you?
If you permit yourself to think about this, you might be able to understand the impulse, while rejecting the behavior.
I must point out that your hometown honey has absolutely nothing to lose by pursuing you. Realize this. If you embrace your reality and cannot shake this obsession, a therapist could help.
You might benefit from reading the new book, “Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life,” by Susan David (2016, Avery).
DEAR AMY: I often see young moms involved with their cellphones either while pushing a baby in a stroller across the street (with traffic all around), or my favorite — walking down the side of a street that has no sidewalk for her morning exercise. I fear for the baby’s safety and want to yell at her to wake up and concentrate on the precious cargo in her carriage. Or am I just an old fogy?
DEAR OLD-FASHIONED: There are a number of tragic incidents involving babies in strollers being hit by vehicles, but in reviewing news stories, these accidents seem to be mainly caused by drivers not paying close enough attention when driving through intersections or legal crosswalks. Drivers not using cellphones might prevent some of these tragedies.
I understand the silent judgment that occurs when you see a mother doing this. I’ve felt it myself. But then I remember that I used to prop the newspaper on my daughter’s stroller so I could skim it while strolling, and that my mother and her friends all smoked in front of the kids. Children are precious. Parents aren’t always perfect.
DEAR AMY: You gave sound practical advice to the “Upset Parents,” whose 20-year-old daughter was in love with her (much older, married) former soccer coach. Never, ever cut ties with your child. As you said, continue to feed and educate her. Let her know she is loved. Remain mum when the conversation turns to him. If she’s joyous, calmly say, “That’s good.” If she’s beginning to see the light and complains, simply reply with, “That’s too bad.” No advice at all! After this is all over, never say, “I told you.” Simply say it was part of her growing process and you’re proud of her.
DEAR PARENT: Loving detachment is the key.