Some Context for Therapy
Dear Annie: I have an old flame who has been happily married for many years and lives across the country. I would never cross the line, as I have been on that end, and I wish that pain on no one.
How do I get my heart to stop wanting him? I have tried, but out of the blue, I find myself wanting him in my life. How do I let the feelings for him go away? This is the short version of my dilemma. -- Stuck on a Feeling
Dear Stuck: There's a difference between missing a former friend and longing to rekindle an old flame. You mention feelings of both. Evaluate the situation and decide which is true in your case.
If there's any hint of romantic feelings on your end, leave him be. There's a reason he's an "old" flame and you two called it quits all those years ago. He is, as you said, also happy in his marriage. Don't play with fire. To settle the struggles you feel in your heart, try getting back out there and finding a new flame. Your next love match is out there waiting for you.
Dear Annie: My wife and I have been together for 22 years. Like many couples, we have experienced problems where we have consulted a therapist and have also enjoyed, over the years, reading and trying to apply your various tips.
Our experiences lead me to suggest a few lessons that might also apply to others:
-- You often suggest therapists. Yet in very important situations -- like divorce or separation -- I feel it is important to have "second opinions," even if that means hiring a second therapist.
-- If one is lucky enough to have close, intelligent, perceptive friends, they should be included in the advice-seeking. Active listening and questioning skills should be a focus for you.
-- Behavioral change is not instant. Even if friends or therapists "hit the nail on the head" with observations or recommendations, one should not expect that the ability in everyone exists to change behavior overnight. It may take many months, or longer. Tips for handling this often long "transition period" are valuable.
-- One should also expect the possibility of recurrences. That is, sometimes when a problem is solved, it comes up again months or years later. Critical here is the ability to constructively use the memories of the first problems and their solutions to help solve the recurrence.
These thoughts are offered to complement the excellent ideas in your column. -- Making the Most of Therapy
Dear Making the Most: Thank you for your superb suggestions. While therapy is certainly helpful (and often essential) in coping with our emotions, it is not a magic pill. It often takes time, and the right therapist, to be effective.
You raise another good point, which is that progress is not always linear. We often stumble before we get where we are trying to go. If you are frustrated by your progress -- or perceived lack of progress -- remember to have patience and grace for yourself.
"How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?" is out now! Annie Lane's second anthology -- featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.