Summer Fling

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Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC offers advice on family planning and parenting, LGBT issues, disability issues, education and work issues, relationships, ethics and “unusual” social issues. Send questions to Tim for future columns through his website

Hi Tim,
I am a 26 year old woman, and I just finished my junior year in college. Just last year I had a very painful breakup from a relationship of 4 years. I have been volunteering this year on a research project headed by a much older and tenured member of faculty who is single and oh so hot. It is very unlikely he would teach any of my classes in my last year, but very likely I would be taking his classes in graduate school when I start in Fall 2015, if I am even accepted here at the same school, and I also applied elsewhere. He does not know I am applying here, and we have been going out for drinks, getting personal and carrying on a flirtation for weeks now that is making me crazy. This is summer, I’m single and I want to have this fling! Am I wrong or unethical? 

– Carnal College

Hi Carnal,
So you are hot for not-your-teacher-but-may-be-someday? My first concern was the rebound relationship factor, and if the symptoms sound familiar I recommend a visit to the counseling center. But, maybe you have moved on and you would just like to have some fun. There is certainly nothing wrong with that. Dating is also nothing illegal between two consenting adults, even if they happen to be student and teacher at the same college or university, and even in the same class. You should check your particular school’s policies, though, as this may violate a code of professional conduct for him. 

Now here comes the bad news. The proposed relationship, however brief, is unethical. The student body is not a dating pool for the faculty. This fellow, having accepted and maintained a mentoring role with you is already behaving unethically by letting this flirtation escalate. If this relationship were to be brief or even blossom into more, would you really want to have to watch and listen to him lecture for a whole semester? Hot or not, he is behaving unethically and taking advantage of the power differential between you. You can do better. 


Hi Tim,
I am a man, 38 with a very stable career, a wife and two boys, 10 and 12. I was diagnosed about 10 years ago with Asperger’s Syndrome, and I have struggled since that time to figure out how to proceed with my life and minimize problems that my condition causes. I have read books and gone to therapy and I did all the right things and it didn’t work.  

My wife left me for what she calls “emotional starvation,” filed for divorce, and she is only letting me see my sons on the weekend. I can tell by the way they act that they are afraid they have inherited Asperger’s from me, and the connection between it and recent mass murderers has made the whole family afraid of me! I have never and would never hurt anyone. I am starting to feel hopeless and scared I will lose my family forever because I have this horrible disease. 

– Aloner

Hi Aloner,

I am sorry to hear about your separation. I understand your condition comes with a unique set of challenges, especially with regard to social skills. However, I want you to remember that marriages end and family members sometimes alienate one another without any help from autism spectrum disorders. That condition does not categorically define your character or your future.

Tell your doctor or psychiatrist what is going on and how it is making you feel. Please keep seeing your therapist, but ask him or her to invite your family to join you both for a few sessions. Therapists are not only clinicians, they are also great educators who can help families understand the truth about the autism spectrum and avoid some misconceptions and stereotypes. I recommend letting your actions speak for your character. Do not let some temporary hysteria drive you to hysterics. Be stable, be consistent, be the good guy you have always been and continue to put your children first. Over time, your family will recognize your effort.

Hard-Hearted Hannah

Hi Tim,
I am a 17 year old girl who just got her heart broken for the first time. I dated a guy my age for a year, he was my first love and I lost my virginity with him, then caught him cheating and broke up with him. My friends are kind of progressive and they want me to forgive him and be friends with him, like some of them have done, so we can all hang out together and he wants to as well. They can’t understand why I want nothing to do with him, and say I am being immature about it. I just don’t feel like I can be friends with someone I have slept with, much less who cheated on me.

– Hard Hearted Hannah

Hi Hannah,
I can almost hear all the “Awwws” from every reader, and I would be included. It really does get better. I am so sorry this lousy boy broke your heart, but remember the flip side; you are a loving person who is willing to share her heart with someone. Some unfortunate folks never share theirs at all, if they even know how. Now that is hard-hearted. I think their loss is much greater.

Good for you getting past the breakup in your own way. Your friends may be hip and cool and able to still pal around with their ex-lovers, but plenty of other people are not. Others, even from amicable splits, recoil at the very notion they may run into an ex on the street, or even catch a one-way glimpse of him or her from afar. It is better to have no hard feelings if possible, and it is also perfectly acceptable to have no soft feelings. No one will ever patent a fool-proof formula for how to deal with exes, so listen to the best authority out there; your own heart. You do not owe anyone an explanation about your feelings. If you want nothing to do with this teenage Lothario then politely decline his company and avoid him completely. Consider your choice validated.

Cell Shocked

Hi Tim, 
Making it brief. Female. 22. Sister text bombs the whole family all the time. Break-ups. Pregnancy. Laid-off from her job. We hurt her feelings. She drops massive news and drama by group texts or sends everyone slightly different ones, then disappears for a few hours. Will not answer her phone, though. What to do?

– Cell Shocked

Hi Cell Shocked,
I. feel. Like. I am reading. One of those. Telegrams from an old movie. All that is missing. Is the word. STOP. Instead of all those periods.

I see you like to get straight to the point so I will try to respond in kind. Some people cannot handle social media and/or communication technology. If you go over two or three sentences in a text you have created an email; over two or three paragraphs in an email and you have created a document. A quick phone conversation would be most effective, but we have all become so avoidant! Likewise, the cryptic micro-mini mystery messages: “hurting so bad,” “best day ever,” or “soul on fire” that provide a blurry snapshot of some event we will never see another reference to or explanation of are non-effective and frustrating to the receiver.  

When one cannot handle social media or other communication technology, one should not be enabled to use it anymore and torment the responsible among us. I recommend no negotiations or compromises; cut her off. Bad drivers get their licenses suspended; bad texters and posters get a return message from all their family members saying, NO LONGER ACCEPT YOUR TEXTS SO PLEASE CALL FROM NOW ON AND CONSULT EMILY POST ON TEXT ETIQUETTE HERE. STOP. BLOCKING YOU NOW AND ANY FUTURE MESSAGES WILL NOT BE READ. STOP. LOVE, CARING RELATIVE. STOP.

Editor’s Note: The opinions offered in this blog are the author’s alone. Tim White, and any experts he may consult and/or quote in responses to letters, will never provide medical or psychological advice, diagnoses, treatment, or counseling of any kind. General advice, opinions, and suggestions may be offered with no obligation on the part of readers to accept or act upon the content published within this column. Anyone in immediate crisis and/or mental/physical distress should call 911 or related resources of assistance.

Photo courtesy Paul Stocker, licensed under Creative Commons

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