Help! I’ve developed feelings for a friend whose wife is in care

Q: I have a friend whose wife is in care and I have been supporting him by going out for meals and texting. I am not in a relationship but now find I have feelings for him and want to know what to do. We are both late 60s and I really like him. Please help me. My feelings are genuine. I worked with his wife prior to her early onset dementia.

Thank you for your courage to be vulnerable and ask for help. I know it is not easy reconciling the strong romantic feelings you have for your friend and the guilt or shame you may be feeling that he is the husband of a former work colleague.

Firstly, I want to celebrate the feelings you have for him! The sensation of feeling excited, attracted, and even turned on by someone new is such a wonderful and intoxicating experience. I would love you to embrace those feelings and enjoy the flood of hormones through your body. It can be a unique and special thing to develop feelings for someone new at this stage of our lives.

On the flip side, I do want to acknowledge the guilt you feel is very real and a normal response for anyone going through what you are. So many clients come to my practice in a similar position and often try to shut down their feelings or want to find a way to help them not act on those feelings. However, trying to overcome strong desires, wants and needs is almost impossible and usually leads to more pain and unnecessary hurt.

The most effective antidote to guilt or shame is communication. Talking about how you feel is the best way to help you and your friend find the way forward together. Whilst this can also be quite scary and you may feel self-conscious, talking about what you each want is a great way to build the intimacy between you.

Being intimate and getting close to someone can be an extremely profound and fulfilling experience. It can also be very challenging since opening yourself to intimacy means opening yourself to being more deeply affected by another person. There are a couple of steps to building intimacy that I like to suggest to clients and please, take the time that you need to help you feel comfortable.

The first step in learning how to be intimate is opening yourself up to trust. Taking the trust leap comes with risk, but also with the intense reward of a deeper connection. To be intimate, you need to get to know someone on more than a superficial level. As you deepen your emotional connection, you may begin to share parts of yourself that are more tender and private.

You may even begin to show or verbally share some of the feelings you have towards your friend. You might tell him how much he means to you, or that you love him. As you share these parts of yourself, it’s most helpful to build intimacy if you offer him a safe place where he can share vulnerably about who he is, what he hopes for, and what he feels.

Of course, the most devoted way to be intimate is through physical intimacy. You can start this with a simple hug, holding hands, and kissing, before you even begin to think about having sex. Physical touch is a very bonding part of intimacy that significantly deepens your connection to another person.

Being truly present matters too. The more present and aware you are of one another when you are touching, the deeper the shared intimacy can grow. Letting yourself feel truly connected to your desire for him, paying attention to how you are touching him, and how his skin feels while looking into his eyes, can trigger a wonderful deepening of intimacy.

Take it gently, be kind to yourself and enjoy the relationship as it grows.

Much love and desire, Polly. Xo

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