Dear Amy: My wife has advanced dementia.
After caring for her alone for four years, I had to place her in assisted living memory care last year.
After five months of psychotherapy and antidepressants, I finally got over my deep feelings of guilt and failure.
Time has shown that it was the right thing to do. Our 55-year history together and our four children have vanished from their memories.
This is the source of my dilemma. Our high school class has a virtual group on social media.
I wrote about my wife’s dementia and my loneliness without her.
Last week I received an email from a woman I had a long, very hot, lustful affair with in 11th grade, suggesting that we could get back together. We have not communicated since we went our separate ways many decades ago.
I am very tempted to accept her suggestion.
I have a photo of us at our prom, my arm around an extraordinarily pretty girl in a strapless dress who likes to make out in out-of-the-way places. She played my youthful libido like a yo-yo.
I know it’s a fantasy memory. She’s probably gray, wrinkled, and overweight like me. But still….
I have not yet responded because I made an oath of allegiance to my wife “till death do us part,” which I have kept.
But I wonder if her dying brain doesn’t meet that standard?
Am I not entitled to some luck, even if my wife descends into a thickening mist?
Can you help me?
– Extremely contradictory husband
love conflicts: Your decision to place your wife in a nursing home was so agonizing that you fell into a severe depression. You were wise to seek therapy and treatment.
If you override your own values and respond to this assertive push, your sanity would likely be compromised. Discuss this in therapy (use your therapy to discuss your decisions in advance rather than reacting to events after the fact).
Communicating with old friends from high school will help you reconnect with the man you were before this illness took so much from your family.
But any person who would respond to your account of grief and loneliness by immediately hinting at a sexual reconnection is once again “playing your libido like a yo-yo.”
The libido of older people is strikingly similar to that of teenagers. The rush of attraction feels dangerous and wild.
As long as you don’t abandon your wife, I don’t see this situation as adultery, but I do believe your emotional needs are best met through a supportive, kind, and caring relationship.
Yes, you absolutely deserve some luck, but you should know exactly where you’re most likely to find it.
This might be the kind of trouble you’re craving right now, but remember that any relationship you enter into can have far-reaching consequences for your entire family.
Dear Amy: Some of my loved ones are going through tough times.
This breaks my heart. I help financially and support emotionally but it doesn’t seem to be enough.
I’m so sad. I’ve heard the term “emotionally distant” but can’t seem to separate myself from her pain. Now it affects my health.
Dear JW: One aspect of healthy detachment is recognizing that while you can—and should—be supportive and compassionate, you lack the power to change the course of many human events.
Detachment is a humbling surrender to reality, and when you achieve detachment, you will begin to love people “through” their painful trials, without overwhelming attachment to any particular outcome. The frail person may not survive their illness, the home could go into foreclosure, or the divorce could happen despite your best efforts.
When you become overwhelmed with worry and become ill, it doesn’t help anyone – on the contrary, it reduces your own ability to help others. In this context, your deep connection with your own thoughts makes you ill.
Meditation and training how to feel your own feelings and then release them will help you regain your strength.
Dear Amy: I was very disappointed in your response to Open Minded Daughter who found out she was conceived by sperm donation even though her parents never told her.
You should have spanked her for contacting her DNA donor before you spoke to her parents about it!
dear annoyance: Her family’s culture of privacy/secrecy prompted her to take matters into her own hands. I understood her impulse.
Cash previous Ask Amy columns
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