Where have all the good men gone?

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My 45-year-old husband left me for a 25-year-old crank addict. I have been involved with two different men since my divorce: Both were slackers who contributed virtually nothing, either emotionally or financially, to the relationship. I let them mooch until I realized it wasn’t really a relationship. I’m lonely. I work for a small company and earn a reasonable salary. I meet men through my job who are attracted to me, but they are either married or just want sex. Where are all the good men?

You initially believed that your ex-husband and two boyfriends were good men. Did your desire for a relationship block reality and inspire that illusion? If so, a good man will arrive after you have reduced your capacity for denial. Replacing denial with a passion for truth will require support from a personal coach, spiritual director or psychotherapist. That’s because a neutral third party has the capacity to see and call us on the attitudes, behaviors and beliefs we mindlessly employ. Once we see our self-sabotaging habits, we are better equipped to free ourselves from them. It’s not an easy path—society generally operates in opposition to truth—but liberation is possible.

One other thing concerns me: categorization. People are complex. Some of their choices may be “good” or “bad,” but rarely is a person wholly a monster or an angel. I’ve noticed in my own life that when someone likes what I have accomplished despite numerous personal or professional obstacles, they call me “persistent” or even “courageous.” When a person dislikes my path to those same accomplishments, they call me “stubborn.” I gladly embrace both descriptions—why not? What someone else thinks of me isn’t really my business. What’s important is that I follow the path to self-realization and complete the work that God has given me to do.

So, with that in mind, were these men truly mooching? Or did you see them as “projects”? And, when you decided that they failed to live up to your expectations, did you become angry and kick them to the curb? You were actually angry at yourself, of course. You had imagined that your donations and attention would turn these men into princes. Alas, that’s only in fairy tales. Here on Earth, if you heal your fear of being alone, you will lose all sense of loneliness. Finding joy in befriending yourself means you will make better choices in romantic relationships, too.

Our son will be celebrating his 17th birthday in December, and my husband wants to buy him an expensive sports car. I don’t agree. Teens, especially boys, drive recklessly, and a sports car will only encourage this dangerous behavior. I also think that a gift like this sends the wrong message to our son about material possessions. My husband (we were both married before and each have one child from our previous relationships; this son is ours together) is hurt and angry that I am not supporting him. Should I?

Yes, but not by giving in on your core values. Support your husband by lovingly reminding him of the values your marriage and child-rearing are based upon. And consider this: Your husband may be having a midlife crisis. During midlife, the immature parts of our personality rise to the surface for maturation. People who lack self-awareness act on those impulses. Affairs with partners who are 20 years younger occur because we enter relationships with people who match our emotional age. Extravagant purchases, like sports cars, suddenly seem sensible. Happily married adults frequently live out their midlife crisis through their children. Showy presents and permissiveness become the unfortunate norm. Don’t let that happen to your son. Stand your ground.

Meditation of the Week

“How has it happened that the social sciences view the human strengths and virtues—altruism, courage, honesty, duty, joy, health, responsibility, and good cheer—as derivative, defensive or downright illusions, while weakness and negative emotions—anxiety, lust, selfishness, paranoia, anger, disorder, and sadness—are viewed as authentic?” wrote psychologist Martin Seligman. What is your delusion?