I’m a 50-year-old, happily married man who values his marriage and would not change that for anything; however, I’ve fallen love with one of my co-workers. At first I thought it was just sexual attraction, and because she’s a lesbian I thought I was “protected” from developing any stronger feelings; that, however, was not the case, and once I really got to know her I was smitten. I’d appreciate any insight you can give.
People who believe that the human psyche and human culture are both the products of Divine ordination have either never fallen in love, or else they think God is a sadist. Alas, one of the sad by-products of human evolution is that people often develop very powerful sexual and romantic feelings for others that human culture says they absolutely shouldn’t be having those feelings for, and there is very little that can be done about it without causing a major scandal. The feelings themselves aren’t wrong; as Captain Kirk said to Charlie Evans, “There’s nothing wrong with you that hasn’t gone wrong with every other human male since the model first came out.” But though romantic literature has celebrated the pangs of unrequited love as a wonderful experience for over 600 years now, the truth is that it’s awful. And though both men and women can suffer from it, in men it’s mixed up with sexual frustration and the protective instinct and duty, honor and all that other glorious masculine craziness.
In a way, you’re very lucky that she’s a lesbian because it presents another barrier to your pursuing the tremendously bad idea of trying to make this go someplace it really can’t go (if you’re to remain happily married and gainfully employed). Dealing with the feelings, however, is another matter; the world is full of art, music, literature and other beautiful things created by men in situations not dissimilar to yours for the love of women they can never have. Even if you’re not the creative type, you can still borrow from their playbook by immersing yourself in your work whenever thoughts of your inamorata get to be too much to bear. For you, work itself presents a problem because that’s where you see her, but if you’re like most people the work you do for money isn’t the same as that you do for love; it’s the latter I’m suggesting you pursue more diligently. I made a Star Trek reference above, and that was not merely to lighten the mood: On those occasions when Captain Kirk actually did fall in love with some woman he couldn’t have, the Enterprise was always his antidote, because his love for his work was strong enough to eventually pull him away from his love for any woman. You need to find your Enterprise (or your music, or your novel, or your Sistine Chapel), the thing you care about deeply enough to pour your heart and soul into. It doesn’t make the pain of unrequited love (or any of the other slings and arrows of outrageous fortune) go away entirely, but it’s the best coping mechanism anyone has discovered yet. And in this world of pain and woe, I’m afraid it’s the best solace I can offer you.