Adapted from a recent online discussion.
DEAR CAROLYN: I have two loves — how do I forget one?
Before last Thursday, I was happily married with no intentions of ever leaving or straying. Then I went camping with a group of friends (but not my husband), and a night of deep conversation with a close friend led to three nights of cuddling and kissing with some sexual activity, but not intercourse. I have loved this man for 10 years but kept up a wall because I never thought he’d feel the same way. He is also averse to relationships due to his family history, so I stayed with my sure thing — my now-husband.
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Since we’ve taken this leap, I can’t stop thinking about what might have been. The friend and I have agreed that I should not leave my husband, but I fear this man is the love of my life and that I can never be truly honest with my husband again. How do I reconcile my fears with what must be my future?
DEAR Q.: This man is no “friend.” He is a shiny bit of foil you mistook for precious metal, someone who enjoyed your affection with no regard for your unwitting husband or for what it would cost you, and with no intention of making more than a weekend of it. That’s what “averse to relationships” means.
So you don’t have “two loves.” You have one love and one, I dunno, bottle of something intoxicating that you had forgotten about but recently and very unfortunately stumbled across last weekend.
What you say to your husband, if anything, is a complicated question that you need to put aside until the feelings churned up by your weekend have settled a bit. How you look at your marriage, though, is something you can start taking on now:
There’s no “must be” when it comes to your future, except that you’re in it. Everything else involves some degree of choice.
To include this other guy in any way in your choices about your marriage — “the friend and I have agreed that I should not leave my husband”?! — is such a stunning insult to your husband that it arguably eclipses your campground canoodling as the worst crime against your marriage committed last weekend.
The only thing this other man gets to decide is whether he’s interested in you and what he wants to do about that. Whether you stay in your marriage or leave it is about no one but you and your husband, and up to no one but you two.
If you can’t get your mind and heart back around to seeing this, then I’m not sure staying married is the best thing for your husband.
Because of the stakes here, because of how off-kilter this whole episode knocked you, and because you can’t exactly hash this out with your usual confidants, I urge you to find a good therapist, stat, and start talking. Please at least see that you were duped: A man leveraged your attraction to him for sack time. He’s a louse, not a love.
RE: TWO LOVES: “How do I reconcile my fears with what must be my future?” Ugh. Put down the Victorian romances, and step away …
DEAR ANONYMOUS: from Heathcliff. Agreed.