Q: I met this man, and it was instant attraction. I’m a 40-year-old woman with my own place, a car and a good job, and he’s an ex-convict who served four years in prison for selling meth. He’s very loving, but he has no car or driver’s license (it expired during prison), has a minimum-wage job, and is too needy — always checking up on me and doubting where I am. I pay for our meals, etc., and drive him everywhere. It’s like I’m taking care of a child. I’m trying my best to forget about the material things and just base this on love.
A: It’s a good thing you think the guy’s hot, or you might try to trade up to a serial murderer with a driver’s license.
It must’ve been a kick to get it on with a real bad boy instead of the kind who pulls up on a Harley wearing a leather jacket he bought at the mall. But, assuming you don’t have all the conscience of a dirt clod, how could you make this more than a one-nighter? Sure, officially, he’s “paid his debt to society,” but he wasn’t in prison for growing pot, the gateway drug to lying in a beanbag chair and reinventing the wheel. He was selling snortable slow suicide, complete with rotting teeth and a “meth mite” bonus — nonexistent but seemingly real crawly bugs that users try to dig out from under their skin with their fingernails or sharp objects, leaving some really sexy open sores.
Beyond what he’s done to make a buck, he’s now about as independent as one of Paris Hilton’s purse dogs (although he probably asks his “mommy” to buy him a cheaper class of sweater). You can’t possibly respect him, and if you can’t respect him, you can’t love him. You’ve just been calling this “love” to cover for a bad decision that you let give birth to a whole litter of bad decisions. You did have help — the flawed machine known as the human brain. When we do something dumb, our brain encourages us to ignore evidence we’ve made a mistake so we can hang on to our shiny image of ourselves as smart people making wise choices. This feels good in the moment but can, say, leave a person working hard to convince herself that she’s shallow and materialistic to want her equal.
If you can accept making mistakes as a normal, expected part of being human, you can put your braying ego on mute, critically assess all your decisions, and admit your mistakes instead of getting into a committed relationship with them. (There’s no time like the present to start.) As wonderful as it is to feel needed by a man, it’s best if it’s simply because he loves being around you, not because without you he’d have to eat raw hotdogs out of the package and take two buses to make the meeting with his parole officer.
Q: I persuaded my friend and his ex-girlfriend to get back together, as I’d never seen a more loving couple. The problem is, I started finding her sexy. She and my friend are now inseparable whenever they’re not at work, and I’m racked with guilt for looking at her like a sexual object. (I’m not in love with her; I just want to sleep with her.) Hanging out with them has become awkward, to say the least.
— The Creep
A: You aren’t attracted to her because you’re a horrible person but because you’re a man, not in a coma, and you probably find it dangerous and inconvenient to go around blindfolded. Like breathing or digesting a burrito, attraction is involuntary. (Whether you drool on her shoe or refer to her as “Hey, sex puppet!” is up to you.)
As for why you feel so guilty, men are told it’s a thought crime to ever view women as sex objects. Of course, that’s exactly how women think of themselves when they’re dressing to attract a man. Oh, did you think women wear plunging necklines and a little gold charm dangling in their cleavage to frighten away mosquitoes?
As annoying as it is to want what you can’t have, assuming you have no plans to leave your friend pinned under a tree in bear country, what’s the problem? Keep reminding yourself that his girlfriend’s a no-go, and seek a woman you can have. If you can’t be around these two without your eyeballs crawling all over her, you might pare back your time with them. Otherwise, consider their utter inseparability your best defense against bad acts. It’s not like your friend’s going to turn to you and say, “Hey, man, I’m right in the middle of something. Mind toweling off my girlfriend?”
Advice Goddess Radio: Dr. Mark Goulston on fixing faltering relationships and making okay relationships wonderful.