Q: The last girlfriend I had, six years ago, I was very deeply in love with, and when she ended up leaving me for our boss, I was devastated. I've struggled since then to find someone decent enough to be in my life, but my search has been very disheartening and demoralizing. Recently I met someone who is very spectacular to me in every sense of the word: looks-wise, personality, certain quirks. In fact, we match up perfectly. There's only one problem: she has a boyfriend. He's someone she's been with a decent amount of time and loves, but she is very openly friendly, she is always giving me hugs and kisses on the cheek, and it is obvious that she holds feelings and appeal for me in her heart. She works around the corner from me as a bartender, and the only way I can see her is when I stop in there for a drink on the weekends after work. The thing is, I am a man of moral principle and would not want her to anything against her boyfriend, and I know she feels the same way, but neither does she deny the feelings she shares with me. With each visit, our relationship grows stronger, and I fear that something terrible, or perhaps really good, will come of this. I don't want potential chemistry with someone for the first time to be lost. I don't know what to do except to continue being a friend to her and waiting to see what happens. With each passing day, though, I think more and more about her. What should I do? --Ken, 27
Dr. Susan: You're on your way to a full-blown obsession, Ken. Never having spent time with this woman outside her job as a bartender, you've fantasized her as the perfect partner. She's flirty and friendly, and undeniably you're both feeling physical chemistry for one another. Which means zilch, I have to tell you. So it's the first time in six years for you. That only tells me you haven't been looking very hard, or you're very very hard to please. This one has a boyfriend whom she claims to love. Deep down, you know it wouldn't be fair to him, or to her either, to pursue this attraction right now. Certainly you're entitled to drive yourself mad by seeing this virtual stranger as often as possible and drinking yourself into a tizzy so she can keep serving you drinks. You will accomplish nothing of substance. She's a bartender, so of course she's friendly, and I doubt you're the only one to misconstrue her intentions. But you will keep yourself out of the dating market and reduce to zero your chances of ever finding someone available and "decent enough." My advice is to find another place to spend your off-work hours, rather than pursue a relationship with a woman who, if she's not going to betray the boyfriend she says she loves, is toying with your heart (and other parts).
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.