Advice

I tried to leave a love note in my girlfriend’s wallet. She said it violated her privacy.

Dear Wayne and Wanda,

I’m a divorced man in his mid-60s who is currently involved with a woman of the same age. I met her at a work seminar and we have been together ever since. We had a first date that I won’t soon forget. We held hands and spent hours wandering after dinner. Early on, intimacy became very important in our relationship. She was very open about things she lacked in previous relationships, and I made it a point to hold her, to be attentive, and at her request, to always sleep in the nude together. She said this made her feel closer to me.

We recently exchanged house keys with each other and have talked about eventually moving in together. Suffice to say, it felt like things were going really well. She was leaving for a work trip and I thought it would be romantic to tuck a note in her wallet so she’d find it later. It told her I’d miss her and would be excited for her return.

Well, that backfired. She called me when she got to Denver and unloaded on me for violating her privacy by going into her wallet. I was surprised by her reaction but still apologized and said it wouldn’t happen again. I didn’t hear from her again that week until the night before she flew home. I met her at the airport and she only hugged me — no kiss. She said I didn’t deserve one after what I did. It’s been a week since then and not only has she insisted on sleeping clothed, but she we haven’t had sex at all, and barely even kissed.

Am I’m missing something? Was I in the wrong? How do I fix this?

Wanda says:

This seems like a massive overreaction on the part of your girlfriend. I mean, unless you took everything out of her wallet, examined the contents, stole a photo or credit card, reorganized her stuff, and snagged some cash in the process, I don’t see the harm in sliding a sweet love letter into a spot where she’d spy it. Obviously you weren’t being sneaky about getting into her wallet — you put something there with the intention of her finding it, after all.

Who’s to say why she’s so upset by this well-intentioned gesture? Safe to say, it stems farther back. Maybe a past relationship was damaged by an invasion of privacy? The only way to know is to ask. Because there’s one thing that hasn’t changed across your decades of maintaining a romantic life and that’s that communication remains central and foundational to any successful relationship. You can spend all the time in the world mooning around missing your naked cuddle buddy but it won’t get you any closer to understanding why she’s upset and how to get past this.

So stop speculating and sit down with your lady friend for real talk. Tell her you’re serious about this relationship and you need to know what she needs to feel and hear to move past this. But maintain some dignity and realism here: you didn’t do anything horrible and she shouldn’t be raking you over the coals for it. Stand your ground. If you’re a romantic at heart, you also need to feel safe in making sweet gestures without fear of being beat up for it.

Wayne says:

Wedding receptions. Girls’/boys’ weekends. Business conferences. There are certain gatherings where the accepted rules of romance no longer apply, while a strict but unwritten policy of “don’t ask and definitely don’t tell” is in effect — sort of a “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” statute. Drinks flow, of course, while inhibitions get low. Mingling can quickly turn to flirting. There’s an escapist energy in the air. Folks are more fascinating than usual because they’re sharing a connected experience together, they’re usually dressed up and looking their best, and if you want you can play a role as if you’re cooler than you are back home. Basically, it’s a perfect storm for hooking up — for singles, cheaters and everyone in-between.

Now, not everyone is in it for, or gets, some action — some are contentedly committed, some just aren’t that type, and others simply strike out despite their best efforts. But if you enter this arena and play this game you have to accept the abnormal norms of these fantasy worlds. And you also have to understand that once you leave the reception/party weekend/conference realm, returning to your old life is a very immediate and cold splash of reality.

So, all of that typing was to get to this point: you two met under these unique circumstances, and when she left for her business trip in Denver, she was returning to that space. Doesn’t mean she was going there with intentions to cheat on you, and also doesn’t mean she was right to freak out and leave you Rocky Mountain high and dry. But her reaction is not a surprise. She left the real world and you remained there. Your seemingly harmless and heartfelt gesture broke the fourth wall, if you will. Fantasy and real worlds collided. The universe imploded and she melted down.

Or, maybe you guys just moved way too fast, don’t really know each other all that well, should slow it down just a little, give one another some space to think for a bit, and maybe talk things over.

[Sex and intimacy issues are driving a wedge between me and my spouse. How can we find a middle ground?]

[My spouse’s relationship with a coworker has dredged up old trauma. I’m in counseling. Should he be joining me?]

Wayne and Wanda

Wanda is a wise person who has loved, lost and been to therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at wanda@adn.com.

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