We had one son together and over the years we have been together for milestones in his life. He has been highly successful in his career, but his current job is stressful. He confided both to his mom and me that he has had some very dark thoughts, including of suicide. He is getting professional help.
I called the ex and suggested the three of us sit down to do whatever we can to help him. She responded that she could not do that due to her hatred of me.
I think we need to be a united front for his well-being. What can I do?
R.: I am so sorry to hear your son is in crisis. No doubt you are terrified, and the impulse to work together as a family to help him was a good one.
Unfortunately, to the question of creating a united front, you already have your answer: No with a capital No.
Few looking at this objectively would agree that a decades-old grudge takes precedence over the needs of your imperiled son. But this story isn’t being written by objective bystanders. It’s in the hands of the real and the flawed, and the flawed reality is that your ex-wife wants no part of any page you’re on. Okay then.
And the last thing your son needs is for you to highlight the family’s fractures by forcing the issue of unity.
So, it’ll have to be Plan B. Which is: Be present, be loving, be respectful of your son’s needs and boundaries, and, just as important right now, be informed. #BeThe1To has good, accessible information on “5 steps” to get you started, at bethe1to.com. Also: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-8255.
Dear Carolyn: It's been a quarter century since my only real adult relationship, which ended in heartbreak, and I'm afraid I may have missed my window for romance. I've never dated much — social anxiety, general anxiety — and now I find myself a middle-aged spinster who hasn't had sex in decades and feels starved for intimacy, both emotional and physical. It feels even worse since I'm a novelist and many of my books contain love stories, yet my sense memories of being kissed or held by a man are decades old.
I suspect my only recourse is online dating, since my favorite pastimes are either solitary or don't put me in contact with a pool of potentially datable men, and my friends are tapped out as far as setting me up. But I know I won't be an attractive prospect online; when you get down to it I'm a stout, shy, inexperienced, nearly 50-year-old woman.
At the same time, I can't bear that I'm missing out on one of the most meaningful things in life. I feel like I have so much untapped potential — that I could be a loving, supportive, fun partner and maybe even (who knows?) a latent sex goddess. But year after year passes and I'm alone, and I feel the pressure of time running out. My therapist doesn't seem to have much to suggest after years of talking about this. What do you advise?
— Reluctant Spinster
Reluctant Spinster: “Years of talking about this.” How many of doing something about it?
It’s time. Not to put yourself online, necessarily, but to wrench yourself out of your comfort zone in some way you find bearable. Or least unbearable. Those “favorite pastimes” seem like an opportunity you may have breezed past too quickly. Since the ones you have aren’t suited to mingling, why not acquire some new ones?
Or: You’re a novelist, you say. Have you ever taught writing? Schools have communities, communities have people in them. New ones. Some of them possibly even single, stout, shy, inexperienced and nearly 50 themselves, or open to being wowed by someone who is.
On that, by the way: When was the last time you sat down in a busy public place and people-watched long enough to see a good sampling of coupled people? It’s not just that there are a few who aren’t TV-pretty. Most aren’t. Our critical inner voices be damned, people still mate for personality (or, alas, lack thereof).
And windows exist only because we make them.
You think you need a man, but what you need more is a shove, emotionally speaking, from the pigeonhole you’ve made for yourself. Not because it’s bad — friends, writing career, favorite pastimes, sly sense of humor . . . it seems objectively enviable to me — but because you want things it can’t give you. Common complaint.
So, put your therapy toward anxiety management, then pick something to shake up. Seek adventure as end, not means.