Doctor’s Note: one of the letters for this week’s column involves the description of a sexual assault.
So… let me ask you something LIL. Did you two actually discuss your attraction to one another? Like, actually said “I want to date you and totally would if you weren’t older than me?” Or is this you rounding a close, maybe even flirty friendship up to attraction? Because, frankly, phrases like “you still love me, right?” don’t suggest romance, they suggest friendship or even quasi-familial love.
I see a lot of people who have that kind of close, even intimate friendship and someone assumes that the emotional intimacy there also translates to actual, romantic attraction. And when they find out that no, it really is just friendship – even friends that say “what would I do without you” or ask “You still love me, right” – they’re devastated because they’ve built this into something it’s not.
I mean, if I were going to turn someone down as gently as I could, “the age difference is so great” would probably be one my first go-tos. Nothing to be done about it, nobody’s fault, oh well, who wants Chinese?
You’re going to need to be the one to answer that, LIL, because I’m not there. And if this is friendship that you’ve been reading too much into and one that you’ve been holding a torch for… well, that’s going to cause some unnecessary heartbreak.
Now, assuming that there is an actual romantic and sexual connection there… well, there are complications, not the least of which being that you at least partially own the building she lives in. That ain’t the most equitable start to a relationship, to be perfectly honest. I mean, if you have the power to evict her (subject to tenant/landlord laws in your city and state) that’s kind of a big club to be wielding over someone.
And then there’s the fact it’s only been nine months since the marriage ended. You don’t mention how long they were married for but something tells me she’s still working on processing being single again. Hell, she may well not want to be dating anyone for a while.
My advice is that you’re better off letting this be and pursuing other relationships, with people who don’t live in a building you own. And if you’re going to insist on asking her out (seriously, I think it’s a bad idea), then go slow. Don’t assume that she’s interested in you romantically and leap in with both feet. Start with a date – an unequivocable date – and work from there.
But seriously. I don’t think this is a good idea. There’re just too many complicating factors here.
Dear Dr. NerdLove, I need your help.
My wife was on business trip and had to stay over weekend. I encouraged her to go out and enjoy drinks with friends. She didn’t really want to because she is an introvert, but after we talked she agreed to try to make new friends.
A male co-worker met her at a restaurant and from there he drove her to a few night spots where they met up with several more new people. She isn’t much of a drinker, but her coworker continue to give her drinks. He told her that she could really drink well. It was just about closing when he left her and brought back one last drink. Minutes after sipping on this drink she felt extremely drunk. He suggested they get some food. She was surprised the restaurant was part of his apartment and he got the food to go.
She was now nervous as they got on elevator to his place. After they ate, she asked to go but he insisted that they talked and he then made a move on her. She said “NO”…I want to go…If you don’t take me I will find another way”. He said it’s late just stay and sleep nothing will happen. I am tired.”
He then left and went to his room leaving her alone. She sat there 30 minutes and finally walked to his room and again asked to be taken back to her hotel. He pulled her down on bed and again started things but this time she said “I passively consented. I knew I wasn’t getting out of there”. He started the intercourse and she told him “Stop …I am married…you have ruined my marriage.” He stopped but didn’t seem particularly sorry and drove her back.
This has affected both of us deeply. We have a beautiful Christ centered marriage and now we are left to figure out how and why this happened. She certainly blames herself and I am hurt as well.
Do you have any advice for me on how to view this and help her.
I’m not going to mince words Traumatized: your wife was raped. Her co-worker got her drunk, took her back to his place and assaulted her. She didn’t “passively consent”, she was forced into a situation where not only could she not give consent, but where she couldn’t leave and almost certainly felt that trying to do anything else might have ended up with her being hurt or even killed.
So I want to be abundantly clear here: this is not her fault. Let me repeat that for emphasis: This. was. not. her. fault. This happened because a co-worker abused her trust, plied her with alcohol to make her compliant, trapped her at his apartment and raped her.
Once again: this was not her fault. She is not to blame here. The only person to be blamed is the rapist.
What you need to do now is focus on your wife’s healing. She’s been through a traumatic experience and, frankly, she’s likely going to need help processing what happened and accepting that this was not her fault. One thing I would suggest is that she call RAINN (The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.4673. It’s open 24 hours and completely confidential. They have support specialists who can help her find therapy, give her tips for effective self-care after her trauma and advice on what she may want to do next – whether it’s to talk to the police and press charges or not.
I would also suggest checking out their resources for recovering from sexual violence for both victims of rape and sexual assault and their loved ones. This can give you a number of options on how to heal, how to move forward and how to avoid triggering any emotional aftershocks, as well as give you resources on how best to talk with her and to help and support her.
One thing I would strongly suggest she do is to tell her manager and the HR department at work. Not only should she not have to keep working with a predator, but the odds are good that he’s done this before, to other women. Telling management and the HR department can help her feel safer and more secure, as well as bring some measure of punishment down on this guy.
I’m so sorry this has happened to her, Traumatized, and I want to reiterate this one more time: THIS IS NOT HER FAULT. She’s going to need love and support right now, so be the man she can depend on for love, for security and for compassion.
I have a problem. I’ve read your article “How To Make Friends (When You’re Out of College)“, which is good ’cause pretty much that exact same thing is happening to me: all my friends are moving to other cities and the like.
The logical step is for me to make more, but I have a few factors that complicate it.
• You mention joining clubs and so on. Whenever I do that, the same thing happens; I almost always wind up in some sort of leadership or administrative role (I’m pretty responsible?), and then, well, I’m in that role, it’s pretty fun, but in that role I don’t feel I can act in any other way than professionally towards everyone else and, uh, the whole ‘friendship’ thing kinda stalls.
• For non-club stuff… I’ve discovered I’m actually pretty reluctant to engage with anyone. Like, I’ve noticed I’ll tend to stick my nose in my phone / computer / book / looking at scenery and can shut down pretty hard if anyone comes to talk to me… Yeah. I like staying at home and doing solo activities – even as I’m aware it completely hurts my social life and is going to cause me serious problems soon. But I don’t know how to train myself out of it, as even without a phone, computer, or book, I’ll shell up introvertedly when in public.
Do you have any advice for these complications?
Resting Responsibility Face
First: you don’t have to take on any sort of leadership or administrative role, RFF. You’re perfectly free to say “no” when people ask you if you would take on responsibilities for the club or what-not. And honestly, even if you do end up being the club president or something, that doesn’t mean you can’t be friends with people. You’re not an officer in the military and they aren’t soldiers under your command. These are extracurricular activities you’re doing for fun. Don’t take things too seriously, especially if it’s something like a book-club or a gaming group or whatnot.
Second: well, to start with, you could always make a point of leaving your book at home when you go out and keep your phone in your pocket. In fact, it may be good to turn your phone off completely so you’re less tempted to pull it out and check on things “just in case”.
But more to the point, if you want to train yourself out of turtling up and actually come out of your shell, then start going to events where being social is the whole point of being there. This is one of the reasons I suggest things like MeetUps or silly get-togethers like an amateur kickball league; the whole point is to actually hang out and interact with people. It’s kind of hard to keep your nose in a book when you’re expected to be guarding second base or help your Skee-Ball team get into the quarter-finals.
(Trust me, I’ve tried.)
The biggest thing you need to do is just relax RRF. This ain’t life or death, this is fun and friendship. Don’t overthink things. Just take a step or two to get out of your own way and then go with the flow of the situation.
I want to say thank you for your advice and support earlier this year with my creeping ex and faux friends. I’m really carving my place as a citizen of Mars, I’ve met some incredible people in a literary crevice that suits me very well and now my boundaries are strong enough to handle creepers, stompers, snipers and drama makers.
I’ve passed my semester at university, I’m on the home stretch to finishing my masters program and I’m feeling like I’m in recovery from the cPTSD for the first time in my entire adult life and I can sleep at night without feeling like someone is lurking outside my door with the intention of making me tender the prey of a creeptacular creeper creeping.
I’m not doing impressions of a successful human anymore, I actually feel like a pretty okay job of adulting- which has reflected on my research successes at uni and in spoken word poetry. I continue to read your advice because a lot of it makes for good transferable skills that totally increase my emotional intelligence in my other platonic relationships. I’ve decided to stay single for a few years and really keep on working on being the best queen bitch I can be on Mars, for Mars.
the Happy Martian
Good to hear from you again, and I’m glad things are going so much better for you, THM! And congratulations on all the progress you’ve made. You’re doing awesome, so keep it up!