| 10°C Dublin

Dear Patricia: I'm unhappy at home and fancy my boss

I have been married for 22 years, have three children and am basically quite happy in my married life. The problem is that I have fallen for my boss and feel discontent with life, and my home life in particular. I have strong feelings for him and am only happy when I am at work and with him. It is the only thing I look forward to in my life. I daydream about him when I'm not with him and feel sad.

We get on really well and I know he is attracted to me too. He is married and has a young family. I have felt like this for about six years, even though nothing has happened between us. I know the right thing to do would be to leave work, but I need the job. I would also miss him terribly.

My husband knows nothing of this, although I suspect he has an inkling that something is wrong. But he never asks. He is a good husband and I know he would do anything for me. I suppose, too, if I'm honest, I would say I love him, but I am not in love with him.

I do make an effort and we still go out together, but sometimes my heart just isn't in it. I feel you can't help who you fall in love with, even when you're married. I mean, you can't just switch off your feelings simply because you're married.

I don't know what the solution is, but it gets harder all the time. I wonder how long I will feel like this. It has been such a long time and I wish something would happen either way, good or bad. Just to put an end to it.

I am in my mid-40s and am putting a brave face on it, and am good at covering up how I really feel. I can't confide in anyone and have been carrying this around for years.

Patricia replies:

I hate to sound unsympathetic, or harsh, but you are kind of sticking around, taking the punishment so to speak, aren't you? Put more bluntly, you've chosen to live in this situation, rather than changing it. You say you wish, at this stage, that something would happen, one way or the other. But you don't suggest that you make something happen. No, you can't help who you fall in love with. You can help what you do after that.

For the past six years, you've stayed close to a married man whom you've fallen for. You feel he's attracted to you too, but he's married and has a young family, and has never made a move on you. So, two things are possible. You may have got it wrong. Perhaps he really enjoys working with you, but doesn't fancy you in any romantic way. Or else he does, indeed, fancy you, but wants to keep his marriage and family intact. In that scenario, you're continually tempting a good man whom you profess to love.

Either way, you are seriously endangering your own marriage by continuing this situation. At the very least, you've diverted your emotional energy away from your husband. If you like, you've robbed your marriage of oxygen.

Yes, I know you still make an effort, but by staying with the job, and the close proximity to the man you love, you're depriving your marriage of something important, whatever you might like to call it. And you're running the very real risk of hurting your husband to the point where he does ask, and you do answer -- with all the havoc that will bring.

You need to ask yourself why you're doing this. You know in your heart that this is not about needing the job. Even in these economically troubled times, your marriage is more important than any particular source of income. Why would you wallow in unrequited desire? It sounds like such a self-destructive path you're on. Have you any notion why you would choose this path?

You say several things which don't easily make any sense. What do you mean when you say you're quite happy in your married life? You seem ready to chuck it all in, so what's going on? What do you mean when you say you're not in love with your husband? Is it that you don't fancy him sexually? And what have you done to improve that situation?

It sounds to me as though you feel your marriage is so safe, your husband so devoted, your lifestyle so secure, that you take it all for granted, totally underestimating how devastating the consequences would be -- not just for your husband, but for you too -- if things went belly-up.

Until now, you've settled for daydreaming -- leaving your marriage impoverished, but without risking anything beyond that. And now you find it's not enough. That's not surprising. Daydreams are never as good as a vibrant reality.

The problem is, you don't sound as though you're in touch with reality. Which means you may make a huge mistake.

Think about taking your life in hand. At the moment, you're merely drifting, and could end up on seriously rocky terrain.

Sunday Indo Living