Desire is a strange thing.

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Can you contain desire behind bars if you throw away the key?

At times it surges as if it were a game of whack-a-mole. The more you fight it and try to suppress it, the faster and more furiously you find yourself trying to stamp it out. The actions are all in vain, like trying to sweep away flood water when the levees have failed and the water level is only rising.

You can’t force it. Can you have a relationship without it? What happens when desire arises for someone you are not in a relationship with?

I was out with J and M again when the topic came to this one. J was relating his latest relationship drama. He had fallen for a girl (another one! Each week it seems that it’s a new girl — and they say women are fickle!) who is already in a relationship. He met her at a concert. They exchanged numbers and emails. They had been flirting, and when looked up her social media, he saw from her Facebook and Instagram that she has a boyfriend. She had mentioned it was their anniversary, but the message was very generic and unremarkable: it wasn’t one of those sappy Hallmark messages that made me want to puke when I went card shopping. J wasn’t sure if it meant intentional deceit.

She could be unhappy in her relationship, I say. Or she could be conflicted and  trying to figure out her own feelings.

J wanted to make it clear he was interested in her if she ever broke it off but to make a clear boundary between them. The question was how because he felt she was giving him so many mixed signals.

How do you tell someone you have feeling when he or she is already in a relationship? Is it ever not appropriate to tell someone you have feelings for them, and how do you determine when to tell? Is it by the amount of time that has elapsed since you have felt this way? Is it the intensity of your feelings? Do you measure it by desire?

And does the answer change from person to person?

M offered a solution to J: “Just tell her you are interested in her but you realize that she’s in a relationship right now, and you will respect that relationship and can be friends.”

“That was very elegantly said,” I told M.

“I know, I’m good at advice for other people, but when it comes to my own relationship, uhg!” He replied.

Two weeks (and two girls) later, J has moved on to falling for his next girl. Me, however, I am still watching and saying nothing. I am still thinking about these questions and struggling to answer them.

I have tried to give my relationship with JL the best I can give it, but the fire has been out for some time. Where flames once burned are cold lumps of coal.

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