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Jodi Angel, author of You Only Get Letters from Jail and Matthew Spektor, author of Amerian Dream Machine reading at Powell's Books Monday, July 22, 7:00pm
Happy Valentine’s Day!
This Valentine’s Day, psychoanalyst Anouchka Grose, author of Why Do Fools Fall in Love: A Realist’s Guide to Romance is here to help with all your love questions.
I don’t know if I’m even a Valentine this year…I have recently become sexually involved with a guy who is in a relationship with another woman. What is my responsibility to her?
Without knowing the details of your situation, it’s very difficult to answer. But even with all the details I don’t think it’d necessarily be any easier. Your responsibility to the other woman is something only you can gauge. It would seem to depend on a number of variables. Like how inclined are you to feel guilty? How likely is she to find out? Do you want the guy to leave her? Do they have an arrangement where that sort of thing is allowed? Do you feel sorry for her/envy her/hate her? Sometimes when people have affairs they go back to their partners with renewed respect and passion. In those cases you might even want to claim that the third party had done the couple a service. Having said all that, it would of course be civilised to use condoms.
One person you certainly have a responsibility to is yourself. It’s as well to know, as far as you can, what you want from the situation. Will you be devastated if he stays in his relationship? Or do you like the fact that you don’t have to put up with him full-time? It may be wise to try to keep tabs on how competitive and/or destructive you feel about it. If you’re in it just because you happen to like him, that’s one thing. But if you spend the whole time obsessing about the other woman, or about their relationship, then it may be that you’re getting a kick (either pleasant or unpleasant) out of the triangular situation itself. If this is the case it’s probably time to worry. You may, out of pure, rivalrous mischief, persuade him to dismantle his entire life, only to discover that having him to yourself is actually a bit boring. Or you may find it terrifying to be with a person who is plainly capable of ditching his partner when a better offer comes along.
Only you know how much suffering you can take – and how much you can bear to inflict. Or perhaps this can be one of those special instances where everything turns out well…
I hope so!
The last two relationships I’ve been in have seemed liked mirror opposites. With the first guy, we had great sex, but were not emotionally compatible. The next guy I dated felt like my intellectual and emotional equal, but the sex was unfulfilling. All this has gotten me thinking—how much, if any, can a relationship grow sexually or emotionally. Or, do you just have to pick one and make the best of it?
I love your question. It’s like asking how to play roulette better. It all seems to depend on how much you’re prepared to win and lose. Because you can’t know where the ball is going to land, the only reliable tactic you can apply is to how much money you are prepared to toss down the drain. Seasoned gamblers suggest you set a winning limit, not just a losing limit, so that you are obliged leave the casino as soon as you rack up a certain amount. This means you won’t be tempted to keep aiming higher, thereby losing everything you gained.
These exact same rules can surely be applied to love and sex. You just need to have some idea of how miserable you’re prepared to be, and also how cheerful you can hope to be. Then if you reach either limit you’ll know exactly what to do. This is of course a bit too logical, and one day you may find yourself betting your house, your children, and your friends on a new relationship — only to find it’s a total loser. Or you may accidentally find yourself far better off than you had ever imagined possible. Perhaps it would be fair to say that if your winning and losing limits are too narrow and safe, you’ll probably never get a huge thrill out of playing. But if they’re wildly extreme then you risk finding the highs and lows addictive. (In either case it’s probably a good idea to study Jane Austen’s ‘Sense and Sensibility’…)
Another very sensible gambling tip is never to bet against a piece of software. Real-world roulette wheels let you win sometimes, virtual ones don’t. So…er…only risk your heart with real people?
I hope you find someone who seems like a good bet.
Happy Valentine’s Day,