Dear Amy: My wife has advanced dementia. After being her sole caregiver for four years, I had to place her in assisted memory care last year.
After five months of psychotherapy and antidepressants, I finally got over my deep guilt and feeling that I’ve let her down.
Time has shown that this was the right thing to do. Our 55-year history together and our four children have faded from her memory.
That is the source of my dilemma. Our graduating class has a virtual group on social media. I posted there about my wife’s dementia and my loneliness without her.
Last week I received an email from a woman with whom I had a long, very steamy, lecherous affair in 11th grade, suggesting that we could restore our acquaintance. We haven’t communicated since we went our separate ways many decades ago.
I am strongly tempted to accept her suggestion.
I have a picture of us at our prom, my arm around an exceptionally beautiful girl in a strapless dress who loved making out in secluded places. She played my teenage libido like a yo-yo.
I know it’s a fantasy memory. She’s probably gray, wrinkled and overweight like me. But still….
I haven’t responded yet because I took an oath of allegiance to my wife ’till death do us part’, which I have honored.
But I wonder if her dying brain isn’t up to that standard?
Am I not entitled to a bit of luck, even if my wife descends into an ever-deepening fog?
Can you help me?
Extremely conflicted husband
Best Contradictory: Your decision to place your wife in a memory clinic was so painful that you plunged into severe depression. It was wise to seek therapy and treatment.
If you ignore your own values and respond to these assertive advances, your mental health would likely be compromised. Discuss this in therapy (use your therapy to discuss your choices beforehand, versus reacting to events afterwards).
Communicating with old friends from high school will help you reconnect with the man you once were, before this illness took so much on your family.
But anyone who would respond to your report of sadness and loneliness by immediately implying a sexual reconnection is once again “playing your libido like a yo-yo.”
The older libido is strikingly similar to the teenage libido. The attraction feels dangerous and wild.
As long as you don’t abandon your wife, I don’t consider this situation adultery, but I believe that your emotional needs are best served by a relationship that is supportive, kind, and careful.
Yes, you definitely deserve some luck, but you have to discern where you are likely to find it.
This may be the kind of problem you crave right now, but keep in mind that any relationship you enter can have far-reaching consequences for your entire family.
Dear Amy: Some of my loved ones are going through difficult times.
It breaks my heart. I help financially and am emotionally supportive, but it doesn’t seem enough.
I’m so sad. I’ve heard the term “emotionally distant,” but I can’t free myself from their pain. Now it affects my health.
Dear JW: One aspect of healthy detachment is realizing that while you can and should be supportive and compassionate, you do not have the power to change the course of many human events.
Detachment is a humble surrender to reality, and when you achieve detachment you will come to love people “through” their painful trials, without overwhelming attachment to a specific outcome. The vulnerable person may not survive his illness, the house may be confiscated or the divorce may take place despite your best efforts.
Getting overwhelmed and sick with worry won’t help anyone – in fact, it lowers your own ability to be of service. In this context, your deep attachment to your own thoughts makes you sick.
Meditation and training to feel your own feelings and then let them go will help you regain your strength.
Dear Amy: I was extremely disappointed with your response to “Open Minded Daughter” who found out she was conceived via sperm donation, even though her parents never told her.
You should have reprimanded her for contacting her DNA donor before talking to her parents about this!
Best upset: The culture of privacy/secret in her family led her to take matters into her own hands. I understood her impulse.
You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, PO Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.
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