Dear Alma, I’ve got the hots for my new ensemble partner…

Dear Alma, I’ve got the hots for my new ensemble partner…

Daily Comfort Zone

norman lebrecht

August 26, 2023

From our agony aunt’s bag:

Dear Alma,

I have been fortunate to have an excellent career as a member of a small touring ensemble for many years. It’s financially stable, has a university position attached, is based in a good location, my colleagues are tolerable, and I have a good family with two teenage children.

Last year, a member retired and a younger, idealistic and energetic person joined our group. It has ignited a new energy, and old, stale repertoire now has a fresh take. This new colleague and I have been experiencing some sort of escalation of romantic interest, and on the last tour, we were dangerously close to acting on our mutual desires. She has no family or obligations beyond our ensemble.

What should I do? I feel happy and excited to be at “work”, more than I have in years, and I dream of a new chapter. My home life is fine. Nothing wrong there. But I can’t stop thinking about a new leaf.

can’t stop thinking

Dear Can’t Stop Thinking,

The situation you find yourself in is as old as time itself. We have it, but see the other thing, and want that instead. No one has been in a relationship and not fantasized about someone else, something else. It’s an obsessive, cyclic thought process, and about as opposite as you can get from logic.

You are standing at a crossroads, and no matter what decision you make, your life will never be the same. If you don’t act on your impulses, you will forever wonder “what if?” And if you do act on them, you will also wonder what life could have been if you had just kept your cool.

Firstly, there is no rush on this decision. There is no life-threatening illness, no injury which needs to be tended. I know that love or infatuation feels like a time bomb, but if time indeed feels like it is pressing in on you, you need to step off and regain your senses. My advice – make a note in your calendar for two months from now. Force yourself to not think about it, and when that day comes around, see if you feel the same as you do today. If it is worth examining this affair for validity, two months will not matter. You may need to speak to the object of your desires to let them know about your plan, if things have progressed far enough for the two of you to be able to speak about this.

I’m not here to tell you “no”. We all know enough situations with people who have left their first families and have found a new, wonderful life. Babies at age 70. A new lease on life. Happier than they have ever been in their lives. But let’s see what’s at stake. If you take this step, every single thing that you have in your life will change. You have to believe in this enough (even if you have just a casual fling with this person) to be able to give everything up. Your partner, your kids, your future grandkids, your ensemble, your colleagues, your friends, your university position. She will face ostracism, and if there is a standoff in the ensemble, she will be the first to loose her job. It’s possible you may retain some of the things listed above, but certainly nothing will be the same, ever. This will be a pivot point in your life, and something your kids will never forgive you for.

You may step through a porthole with true paradise on the other side, but there is no re-entry to your life as you know it. Take your time. Still the drumbeat of your heart long enough to be logical about this. And good luck to you!


  • Gerry Feinsteen says:

    Is this meant to be taken seriously?
    I think someone here will end up on the cover of SD and sued for every conceivable misunderstanding possible.

    Don’t get involved with your colleagues. Done.


  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Dear “Can’t Stop Thinking”,

    A no-brainer: Having an amorous relationship with a work colleague often results in no work and no long-lived love. In your case, you obviously have more to lose than the other part (a family).

    Best wishes,


    • Realistic says:

      Agreed. But as we can see from so many examples, there is a choice here. How many men do you see in classical music (no need to mention any here) who have a second family. Maybe they should have cooled it, or maybe they are happy (of course making their ex wives miserable). People who married their students, people with babies at age 75, people who married the babysitter.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      The vast majority of people met their life partners at work; that is, until comparatively recently. Now it’s the internet. I know which is the more healthy option and it ain’t the internet!!

      Be careful with any new relationship, especially you males. Girls can be very nasty when things to sour!!

  • tp says:

    Somewhat dreadful advice.

    How about trying to stay professional and keep your mind on other things. The more time thinking about your job (making music), the less time you’re thinking of that other person.

    How about not putting yourself into positions where you spend too much time together outside of rehearsal. Again, the less time together, the less time you’re thinking about the person.

    You do have some control over your emotions.

    • The truth. says:

      Some people have control and some don’t. I know of (and you might know who I am talking about) an ensemble where two members have been having an affair for years while in tour.

      • Corno di cacca says:

        “Those who subdue their passions do so because their passions are weak enough to be subdued.” (Said you know who.)

  • Monogamy is a social construct says:

    It’s always funny to me how Americans, who claim to be the world’s paragons of progress and liberalism, are so incredibly conservative when it comes to social mores, even among the radical left. Here’s a hard and uncomfortable truth: the heart is big, and one can love many, without repercussions on the quality of the love provided. Sexual exclusivity is not a foundational quality to a full-filling and long-lasting relationship, unlike friendship and communication.
    If you are hung up on sexual exclusivity, then ask yourselves why?
    Are you scared your partner can find better than you?
    Are you scared you wouldn’t be able to replace your partner in case they left you?
    Do you feel entitled to the exclusivity of their affection?
    In all cases, insecurity is the source.
    By the way, fun fact. In 2007 in the US, one third of women who were murdered were killed by a current or former spouse or partner.

    • Not the 90’s anymore says:

      I agree with this. Especially with longer life spans, long-term monogamy is so last year.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      And how many children were murdered by their mothers? Oh, look over there…!!!!

    • Bone says:

      You seem lonely

    • No it's not says:

      No, actually monogamy is really about integrity, commitment, honesty and simply being a decent person. It is much more about who you are than what society expects of you.

    • Paul Brownsey says:

      “Sexual exclusivity is not a foundational quality to a full-filling and long-lasting relationship, unlike friendship and communication.”

      Isn’t it about time sometime questioned the dogma that communication is vital in a relationship? Agony Aunts go on and on about how important it is to communicate. Many things are best not communicated.

      Your analysis of why someone might be, as you put it, “hung up on sexual exclusivity”, is interesting. First you wheel on *insecurities*, as though these were dismissable or unAmerican or something. They’re not dismissable, anyway, though perhaps in some cultures one is supposed to strut around declaring one isn’t at all insecure, no, no, that’s for losers. Second, there are other reasons why one might object: first, that one doesn’t want to be infected with STDs your partner picks up while making hay; second, one coesn’t want the mess that might arise if your partner impregnates or is impregnated by someone encountered in their bold pursuit of non-exclusivity.

  • gotham says:

    “Good luck to you” ?

    Terrible advice.
    You’ve got a crush. Be professional and stop it before you hurt people and families and ruin professional relationships.

  • Cecily says:

    It’s a true saying, there’s no fool like an old fool….

  • Zarathusa says:

    Excellent advice…but not really “advice”. You’ve suggested healthy and agreeable “alternatives” which make absolute common sense in an emotionally charged situation…albeit mainly one-sided. The older party (whose sex is not revealed) seems to be experiencing an adolescent “crush” (perhaps a throwback to a time of suppressed/repressed early sexuality) somewhat “late” in life now. The young woman, on the other hand, does not seem to share this “enthusiasm” and that’s understandable: she’s just beginning a new career-move and this is her main focus, not any work-related emotional attachment with some older person. My “advice” (from one who’s been there!) is: Enjoy the thrill of creating beautiful music together in your ensemble only and keep the “what ifs” locked in your imaginations and memories!

    • Never happens says:

      When have we ever seen a woman act like this! The person asking for advice has to be a man. I can’t think of one “autumn” second marriage where it was a woman leaving a man for a much younger man. Just doesn’t happen. Happy to have an example in the comments of one such situation.

    • gotham says:

      Giving suggestions of what to do IS advice. No need to afraid of the word advice. No need for ” ” around the word.

  • Alice Nelson says:

    Marriage vows are real. It won’t be easy, but don’t act on these feelings.

  • Violist says:

    Please speak to your wife about what you are feeling! You have already emotionally chosen someone else and she deserves to be included and involved in decisions about her future. Everyone is human, but truth and honesty help so much! Even if you (and your wife) decide to move forward together, speaking to her about it is the most trustworthy thing you can do!

  • Paul Brownsey says:

    It’s good to see the advice doesn’t bother with anything like behaving responsibly and decently towards the present family and subordinating your desires to their needs. That is seriously outdated.

    • Life is short says:

      Crushes happen. It’s just how you deal with it. What your moral compass is, what you want ultimately from life.

      • Paul Brownsey says:

        I didn’t deny crushes happen. You tell us that “how you deal with it” depends on “what your moral compass is, what you want ultimately want from life.” Is that controversial? The thing is, though, that despite all that there are some things that decent people would do. How you *ought* to deal with it and how you *do* deal with it can be very different.

  • Gustavo says:

    Hand job and cold shower.

  • sabrinensis says:

    Basileus Quartet…

  • David says:

    Why a person should need one more love counselor from a classical music blog site? Why should NL chose such a mundane matter? It leaves an impression that classical music has become boring enough.

  • Prima Diva says:

    Don’t leave your wife. You’ve got a great life many musicians would die for. Don’t ruin it.