Ben Claassen III (For Express)

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Q. It is not something that many women are willing to admit, but I am most attracted to unavailable men. This has resulted in affairs that make me the other woman. This dynamic is pretty satisfying for me, thrilling even — I know people would hate me for this but I get just the attention and excitement I want, and don’t have to deal with the drudgery of a relationship. I know it is wrong on some levels, but I’m not sure I can convince myself to settle for something more conventional.

People make the choice to “settle” for healthier paths every day. Gambling, drinking, binge eating, heroin, cheating on taxes: It’s not like having affairs is the only thing that humans have ever had to decide to do without, for the betterment of themselves and/or society — and yes, forgoing what they perceive as a thrill in the process. Ultimately, you’ll choose to stop if and when you decide that the costs are worse than the benefits. It’s a calculus that varies by person but ultimately comes down to this: What are your values? Not just ethics, though that’s important — but also, what do you value in life? For most people, the “drudgery” of conventional relationships is outweighed by the trust, stability, emotional intimacy, love and companionship they can provide. There may very well be a reason why these things seem unattractive or unattainable to you — hence their inability to take up major real estate in the “benefits” column. It’s worth exploring, because my guess is that if you truly didn’t care about the negatives, you wouldn’t have written in.

The teasing of the nice nephew

Q. My sister likes to tease my teenage son about a lot — his grades, love life, friends, parties she thinks he’s going to. She doesn’t have children and I know this is her way of trying to be close. But I can see it grates on him immensely. He is a private kid who struggles with finding his way socially. As his mom, I know he would be too nice to ever tell her to cut it out, but it makes me uncomfortable every time we are together. I thought she would stop when she doesn’t get a positive response, but nope!

It’s nice that he is nice, but it would be a very good lesson for you to help him brainstorm things he can say to her when he is uncomfortable. And to teach him that standing up for himself is not un-nice. Perhaps you can have a signal between you, where you set up the shot and he slam dunks it. (“I don’t think Peter’s interested in having that conversation, right, Peter?” “Yup, Mom. Lately I’ve been into XYZ though. Aunt Sarah, have you seen that movie?”)

Direct, private sisterly intervention, of course, is well within your Mama Bear rights. Be respectful and loving but firm, telling her you know she is looking to connect but you worry she is sabotaging that. Then give her some ideas that might work better.

Send your questions for Baggage Check to Dr. Andrea Bonior at baggage@wpost.com. She may answer them in an upcoming column in Express or in a live chat on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. at washingtonpost.com.

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