Q. Shari, after raising my son (alone) and making certain he has a solid foundation, I've decided it's time for me now, and have been exploring these online dating sites. My preliminary experiences have been pretty disappointing, and I'm starting to wonder if I'll ever meet someone sound enough. Almost as soon as I think I've made a connection, it evaporates. Usually, the woman doesn't write/call back, and I'm left wondering what went wrong. I must tell you, this is pretty disconcerting! You'd think these people are looking for a relationship, but I'm now questioning it! I guess I'm wanting to know what to do, when my emails or phone calls go unreturned. Advice, please?

A. Dear Sir, online dating can (unfortunately) be like fishing in contaminated ponds. When you encounter a non-response after a reasonable period, remember this four letter word; "NEXT!" Singles venues might be useful for meeting people, but can yield more quantity than quality. A lot of these folks seem ambivalent about closeness; they may be licking their wounds from a recent failed attempt, but be craving the interaction, stimulation and ego refueling this "safe" contact offers, while never leaving their bathrobes! With so many options just a click away, a sort of kid-in-a-candy-store fickleness is tough to compete with or surmount. Some people have a strong sense of what they need in a partner, and won't respond if you don't fit their criteria--but mostly, I view dating sites as relationship purgatory for people not yet ready to bond; some have unfinished business from a prior romance that makes them afraid to re-engage, and others have avoided intimacy their whole lives. Often, what humans say they want, is different from what they're ready to create, and the subconscious mind always gets its way (our behaviors reflect our true desires). Try getting involved in new activities or taking classes in your areas of interest, and you'll likely meet women with whom you're compatible.

Q. I am a man "caught in the clutches of a borderline disordered female." This is my second relationship like this. I had gotten over a marriage, and fell right back into the same type of relationship. Your description; "He'll come to think of her like a drug he can't live without, because he feels alive and buoyant when she's loving, attentive and available, and empty and tortured when she's cruel and detached" fits me perfectly. How can I seek help with this situation? I am 50 years old, she is 40. I've become emotionally dependent on her, and have realized that I'm being used financially. 

A. Dear Sir, 'dependency' on someone means they're supplying something that you don't already have, or cannot supply for yourself. When this woman comes closer, you're able to feel lovable/worthy--but when she retreats, you virtually cease to exist; no connection to your Self, no way to access joy or pleasure, and no self-esteem. This serious matter is left over from your childhood and requires solid professional help, as underneath your pattern of attraction, are abandonment and self-worth issues. To understand the depth of this problem and resolve it, find a therapist who works with core issues. This female you're involved with is not the source of your pain, she just keeps pulling the scabs off some very old, deep wounds that have never had opportunity to heal. [More letters like this are archived here.]

Q. A friend of mine always hounds me about not being in a relationship. She thinks that everyone should be coupled, and that there's something wrong with people who aren't. I have absolutely no regrets about my life, and have had wonderfully satisfying relationships along my way. I've often explained that my priorities are different nowadays, and that I'm happy and content--but she keeps initiating this same conversation each time we talk, and it's infuriating! How do I get her to stop doing this?

A. Your friend's inability to relate to your needs/feelings, or see this issue from your perspective speaks to her narcissism (lack of development). She sounds considerably younger than you (emotionally), and could be projecting her own needs/desires onto you. She might feel inadequate or think she has little that's important/compelling to share, so this has become her default conversation. Let her know how annoying/distancing this has felt, and that you may have to limit your contact if it continues. People with whom you have more in common, will likely make more gratifying friendships.

Q. I've been a CPA for many years. I'm turning 52 soon, and feel like I need something more, but haven't got a clue what that is. I'm feeling burned out, uninspired and kind of dead inside. Even after getting away from it all with vacations, these feelings remain. I've got a very successful tax practice, and my wife keeps saying I'm crazy not to be satisfied with that--but for some reason, I'm not. Is there something wrong with me?

A. What you're describing is mid-life crisis, which is uncomfortable, but very natural/normal. These feelings can assert themselves at various ages (mine came up at 39), but they're generally experienced in our mid-forties to sixties. You may have already been putting these sensations aside for a few years, in hopes you could avoid making changes that felt uncertain. Mid-life crisis is a developmental issue that's somewhat unavoidable; nobody's designed to do the same work for several decades, and stay challenged and stimulated by it! The "crisis" part of this, is that you've mastered the tasks at your present stage of growth, and need to move on to something more rewarding/fulfilling--but you "haven't a clue" about what that looks like, or what's involved in the next endeavor (scary!). If you've struggled most of your life for financial security, it's unsettling to feel no passion for a career you've successfully built (this happens to lots of doctors and attorneys, incidentally). Do you remember activities that intrigued or fascinated you as a child? Did you have talents or abilities that were pleasurable or made you feel alive/inspired--even if they weren't nurtured or encouraged by your parents? Passion can reside in our innate capabilities; hobbies or avocations that allow for expression of these, can nourish/replenish you in ways an existing occupation may not. Try taking classes in areas of interest, and play more. A career transition could be a viable option--but instituting changes to your existing practice may prove just as satisfying, and help you regain vitality and enthusiasm.

Q. I have been taking lithium, wellbutrin, and zoloft for Bipolar Disorder. After 25 years of medication, I seem to be getting worse. Is this a disease that can get worse as one ages?

A. As your body ages, you may require adjustments to your existing meds, or need to switch to others. Your physician's careful/diligent monitoring of your medications (and how you're feeling on them) is essential for the treatment of bipolar issues. Solid therapeutic intervention/support (talk therapy) can be extremely useful in helping you heal emotional material that has contributed to this picture--and tends to get worse over time, if not addressed. [More letters like this are archived here.]

Q. It seems like no matter what I do, I'm not able to get ahead financially. This has been a life-long struggle. It has even cost me relationships, as women always want to be with a guy who's well-off. For years, I've thought this problem could be related to some sort of Karmic retribution (if such a thing exists). I'd sure like to get to the bottom of this! Any advice is welcome.

A. It seems as if you're getting involved with the wrong women, or this 'deal breaker' you assign to them, may be masking your commitment/attachment concerns. Your beliefs surrounding "Karmic retribution" can block abundance, and give you convenient justification for not achieving your goals. This self-defeating mentality presumes you're a victim of something beyond your control, and undermines your capacity to visualize/construct a more plentiful reality! There's no such thing as an overnight success. Prosperity in any arena (personal or professional), takes methodical and tenacious pursuit that entails setting achievable goals; this often means taking 'baby steps' daily/weekly that bring you a bit closer to your aspirations. Surviving and thriving are mutually exclusive; they're two distinctly separate energies that cannot be held at once. Make up your mind to thrive. Decide what steps may help you toward this aim, and commit yourself to these endeavors. Do not give up at the first sign of failure; implement a specific plan at least three times before abandoning it. Engage others (friends or professionals) to help you accomplish your goals. Not one individual is adept at everything, and nobody's successful without any assistance.

Q. Dear Shari; I've recently been diagnosed with Anxiety Disorder, and find this very troubling. Nothing like this has ever happened before (I'm in my mid-fifties) and it's a mystery to me that it's happening NOW. I sent away for some tapes on how to get rid of this problem, but I don't seem to have the patience to listen to them, and I'm not convinced they'll help even if I do! I'm really wanting some insight as to why this condition suddenly manifested, and is there an actual cure--or do I have to take these pills for the rest of my life? RJ

A. Dear RJ; it seems that everyone diagnosed with this disorder regards it as mysterious, because it appears to "come out of nowhere." Anxiety and Panic Disorders are prompted by strong feelings that are trying to break through any/all emotional controls we've erected throughout our lifetime. Anxiety impacts the autonomic nervous system of your body, prompting sweating, heart racing, dizziness, chest pain, a sense of going crazy, etc., and it's impossible to ignore these feelings! Anti-anxiety medications help your brain quiet these responses, and the tapes might give you useful tools to work through panic episodes, but in my experience, chemical and/or behavioral methods don't eliminate this issue. Effective treatment involves reclaiming feelings that you've abandoned. As you grow more comfortable experiencing a variety of emotions, your anxiety will diminish, as should your dependence on these drugs.

Q. Hi Shari, I have heard or read somewhere, that when faced with a dramatic abandonment in their 40's, borderlines usually realize that there's something wrong with them, and seek treatment--or does some kind of latent ego maturity wake them up? Is there any hope for these sad people, or do we really have to give up?? I'm currently going out with one who has tried to tell me (in a roundabout way) that she's not "all there." She's very intelligent, but I wonder. I'd appreciate your views on this. 

A. Borderlines carry significant abandonment wounds from infancy and early childhood that undermined their sense of Self, and they've built powerful defenses that have helped them survive those early traumas. These defenses generally become more entrenched with age. Any "dramatic" event in adulthood might motivate a Borderline or Narcissist to seek therapeutic assistance--but once the crisis has passed, they seldom remain for the work that involves growth or healing. Their terror surrounding dependency and closeness, keeps them from engaging a therapist who can help them gain authentic ego strength and form healthy adult attachments. It's always a good rule of thumb to pay close attention to what people say (about themselves), as well as trusting your own perceptions and instincts! [More letters like this are archived here.]

Q. Shari, I'm in my fifties, have been unattached for years and I've recently met a man I'm extremely attracted to. Due to his out of town business trips and our respective schedules, we've spoken on the phone several times and have had just one date over the course of a few months. I'm wanting more than just a sexual relationship, but I'm so turned on to this guy I think my judgement's clouded. He says he's a "monogamous type," hasn't been with anyone since he met me, and keeps stating that we've "known each other three months" when I say I need more time (to get to know him) before getting closer! I don't want to screw this up and I'm not sure if it can be more than sexual, but I (also) know how easily I attach (and want more) when I'm strongly drawn to someone. How should I handle this? "Conflicted"

A. Dear Conflicted, I think you already have a sense about this guy, and your ambivalence is probably warranted--still, there's no reason to deny yourself physical pleasure. Since you know yourself well enough to realize how easily you attach to someone when you're sexually involved, let that be your guide in how you proceed: Exercise SAFE sex; when you have unprotected sex with a man, you're automatically setting up an implicit trust that he won't be sexual with anyone else while he's sleeping with you, and that's premature and unrealistic (no matter what he says) at the onset of a relationship! The two of you haven't yet built a foundation for emotional trust, so you're putting the cart before the horse in trusting him physically. Also, naked (skin to skin) sex facilitates an emotional bond for women far easier than if you have a barrier in-between, partly because you're choosing to ignore premature trust issues, and partly because you are opening yourself to someone you barely know. An element of 'danger' can make this situation more exciting, but his lack of availability is not likely to change once you sexualize the relationship. Be sure to factor this into your decision, or you might be trapped in yearning for contact that can only be satisfied when it's convenient for him. If you decide to pursue this, frequently remind yourself to listen to your intuitions and instincts (they'll never lie to you) and try and remain CLEAR about whether this relationship has a chance to develop into something more meaningful, or not. Remember; you can't make a fruit salad out of a banana! Just because a man makes you happy in bed, it doesn't mean he can be responsive to your other needs. Finally, condoms take the worry out of being close, and keep you safe from acquiring sexual souvenirs like genital warts, herpes and bacterial or parasitic infections (that don't show up on an AID's test). Enjoy your sexuality and this sensual connection, but be smart about it! [More letters like this are archived here.]

Q. My mom's in her mid 70's, and really shouldn't be driving. She's had several 'fender benders' this past year or so, and my sister and I are terrified it'll get worse! The awful guilt we'd feel if she harmed someone would be unbearable for us. In addition, if she injures or (God forbid) kills someone, we're afraid we could be at risk for a law suit. Mom's lived in a retirement community for a couple of years now, but she's still pretty feisty, and won't listen to our concerns--or much less, consider relinquishing her car. Please advise, if you can.

A. Surrendering our freedoms is never easy, but if we're endangering others, something needs to be done. Call the Department of Health and Safety; speak to a representative and explain your concerns in detail. Let him/her know that whatever measures are taken, your involvement in this situation must remain anonymous. Ask if they'll issue a letter through the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) requiring that your mother come in for a "routine driving test,"due to her advanced age. Either you or your sister must drive her to the DMV for this test in her car, and hold onto the keys! Once there, she'll be asked to take the standard written test, before being allowed to take her road test. She probably won't feel prepared/equipped to pass this, and they'll send her home with a study pamphlet. Your mother will be encouraged to return when she feels ready to take her written driver's test. As this may not occur for quite some time (if ever), she'll stay safe, and so will the rest of us! Anticipate that she may have some depression in response to losing her driving privileges, and seek medical attention for her if needed. If 2 or 3 months go by and she's not making efforts to study, sell the car. Thank you for being a responsible citizen!

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