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Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012 11:54 am

The dark mite

I’ve been separated from my wife for three years, but I find myself craving her. I say “crave” because I don’t think I ever really loved her. We only got together 15 years ago because she asked me out. I would never have approached her, as I’m not attracted to her. She is overweight, has a 10th-grade education, and is wildly irresponsible with money. I’ve been in five one-sided relationships that started like this one, with my fear, insecurity, or laziness allowing me to be led in. I’ve been spending time with my wife and realized that nothing about her has changed, and there’s little chance of our being happy together. I guess I should’ve had a bunch of dates and physical intimacy with attractive single women, but I haven’t been with anyone since our separation. What is my problem?  –Chained

The Declaration of Independence talks about “the pursuit of happiness.” Hint: You actually have to chase it. That takes having the guts to go after what makes you happy instead of going home with whatever plucks you off the dessert table and drops you in her purse like a miniature cupcake among men.

Unfortunately, on the alpha male scale, you’re pretty much Hello Kitty. Let’s be clear: You don’t crave your wife; you crave the easy way out. You’d rather go back to a woman you find physically repellant than risk being rejected by one you actually want, probably because you feel your worth is determined by whether people like you (what other people think of me-esteem).

In The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem (a book you need to read), therapist Nathaniel Branden writes that self-esteem – feeling worthy of happiness and competent to deal with what life throws you – comes out of self-acceptance: choosing to value yourself, to treat yourself with respect, and to stand up for your right to exist.

If you’re shipwrecked on one of those little islands in a New Yorker cartoon and you ask the lone woman there “You wanna climb the coconut tree with me?” and she says no, you have a problem. Otherwise, a no is just reason to ask the next woman out – and the next, and the next – until one you like says yes.

Statistically, if you approach a lot of women you want, you should eventually get one – and, in the meantime, get to the point where rejection is something you mostly find boring. Yes, you do need to work on your self-worth, but you can’t wait for it to be all shiny and great. Fixing yourself takes time. Acting fixed takes only guts and a clean shirt, and then, if all goes well, making moves that suggest you’ll be an animal in bed, and not the kind that stands frozen in headlights in the middle of a country road.