She already has a boyfriend

-- Question for John --

18 months ago I started my job. I became friends with a girl there I have a lot in common with. I instictively knew something would happen between us. We played the flirting game and after a few months we kissed. Then it calmed down but then the games started again. She already has a boyfriend and at first I had a wife but we separated last summer.

I took 12 weeks off work to sort out my personal life so I broke all contact with this girl. I returned to work and things go back to normal. Flirting games. Ok so we also talk a lot, about each others feelings for different people, what we want from life, and general conversation. We take every available tea break, smoke break, any chance to spend time together.

Recently we had a opportunity to be alone together at her home. I didn’t want to stay there for long because I had something else to do, but I sensed something, as if we both knowingly knew we would end up alone together at the end of the night. I stayed, and we did. We didn’t make love, we decided it would be wrong. We kissed hugged and talked.

It seemed more intimate than sex to me. We have talked since. She still wants to try more with her boyfrind and I guess I can’t commit too much to her. She has told her boyfriend what happened. He guessed anyway because I know he was fed up of her talking about me. We have again decided we are just friends and can’t have a relationship but I have picked up feelings for this girl.

I have had dozens of affairs so I’m no angel, but I never had feelings for any of them. Please advise me on what I should do expect and if it’s worth pursuing this relationship.

-- Answer from John --

Your experience of connection with this woman is opening up a new area in yourself, and it is also giving you a glimpse of a new possibility in intimacy besides the kind of affairs or relationships you have had thus far in your life. This is very good. She has been like a messenger, delivering a new message of possibility for how you can show up and experience a loving relationship. Her message is showing you the possibility of mixing together a greater sense of wholeness in yourself, combining emotional and physical intimacy all in one place. Her message is a hint to the answer to that unasked question: “What is love and attraction really about, anyway?” (Besides getting laid, that is).

However, the timing of pursuing her is off. And if you do pursue her, you may not be acting in full accordance with the true message she has delivered to you. Her message is about authentic intimacy, where real feelings connect with sexual attraction. This is the world where vulnerability also shows up. You cannot have the upside without the complementary downside. And perhaps, as a messenger, she has delivered to you the message that you are more ready now in your life to open up to this fuller version of love.

But this fuller version of love also brings along with it the desire to respect the sanctity of relationship as a container for love. Simply put, if you are really going to open up your heart and vulnerability — in order to also reach this fuller sense of loving and connection — you really don’t want some other guy to come along and rip away your beloved. Right? I mean, the basic reason we try to avoid vulnerability in the first place — and play love games instead — is because of the fear of loss and the pain that would take over if we did lose our beloved.

So to play in the arena of fuller love, you want to make sure you abide by the rules you intend to set out for yourself. If it works for you to open your heart fully to a woman, and then have her be taken by another guy, then go ahead and live your life that way from the start — and pursue this woman. If, however, you really do not want to set up your life that way — and if your true intention is to explore the possibility of longterm, deep, committed and passionate intimate connection — then you will want to respect through your own behavior the rules of that way of being — and you will not find yourself attracted to pursue a person involved with someone else — because that will run against the grain of what you truly want to set up in your life.

What goes around comes around, basically. And if you want to graduate into the arena of more mature love, where heart, feelings and sexual passion merge — you are also graduating into a more conscious way of loving. You will need to think through the consistency of your behaviors — and even question the wisdom of acting upon all your attractions.

In this case, you might just want to see her as the messenger of a new level of love. And know that you are the one who is understanding this message. It is your message. Probably coming up from within yourself. Don’t confuse the messenger with the message. Knowing that you want to have this fuller sense of loving in your future, let that message sort through and guide you as you encounter the ongoing stream of romantic options that will pass your way.

Look for the woman who is not involved with anyone else — and who is maturing enough in her life that she also is hungering for that fuller sense of love. Start off clean from the get go — and do not waver from that path. I hope this does not sound too preachy. I know I have that tendency. It comes from a long past filled with affairs, games and pain — I have explored most of those avenues myself.