I had a brief but very intense love affair several years ago. The relationship ended for one big reason that I can’t discuss, but when we broke up it was very hard on both of us. I am a middle-age man who has been in love before and I am married, but I have never had a connection with anyone like I did with her. I miss her and I think about her almost every day.
Sometimes I reach out to her with a text or an email, and over the past few years we have had a couple of lunches together. Every time we speak and every time I see her, the old feelings come flooding back. It makes me angry with myself for letting her go and angry with my wife for the simple crime of not being her. I know that doesn’t even make sense, since the end of the relationship was my fault.
She is married too and has made it clear she will not have an affair with me, but I feel pretty certain that, like me, she is not over our relationship and that she still loves me.
Should I stop reaching out to her? How do I forget about this woman who I consider the greatest love of my life?
-Pining Away in P-Town
Dear Pining Away in P-Town:
The name you selected is really corny. I can’t…I just…can’t. I’m going to have to address you with a different moniker. How about Lance? OK Lance, let’s name the woman in question Sheryl and get on with it.
I’m pretty annoyed with you, Lance, because you left out a hugely critical piece of information in your letter: why you and Sheryl split. You say the liaison was brief but intense, that it ended for one big reason that you “can’t discuss,” (um, why are you writing to me if it’s all so damn private?) and you note that the relationship’s demise was your fault. Interestingly, you refer to the relationship as a love “affair,” which, when added to the other information you did include, leads me to believe that this was a woman with whom you cheated on your wife.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument and because I’m always right that I am indeed correct: you had an affair with this woman while you were married, either to a previous wife or the one you are currently schtupping. My guess is that she gave you an ultimatum: leave the wife or it’s over. And you, not being one to accept ultimatums, chose Door #2. Sheryl ended your affair, moved on with her life, and at least one and possibly both of you still have feelings for each other. Pining, in other words (gag).
Before I continue, please open up this link in a separate browser window so you can listen to this song while you read my words of wisdom: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5J-DtKldpE
I’m not going to get all judge-y about the circumstances of your time with Sheryl: that shit is between you and your wife/wives and your God, if you have one. You asked me for advice and I’m going to try to give it to you straight:
I don’t know what you should do.
What?? Huh?? What the hell is going on here???
I suppose what I mean is, I don’t know how to advise you on what seems to be your real problem, which is forgetting about this woman. For some reason, you two (if your assumptions about her are correct) are still connected to one another, despite the end of your relationship. I know many people who still have feelings for someone they shouldn’t – feelings that aren’t enough to trash their current relationship but which nevertheless are still very real. It’s things like this that lead to the coining of stupid phrases like “The One that Got Away!” and “The Love of My Life!”
One reason why both of you may continue to harbor feelings for each other may be that the romance had an abrupt and unnatural ending based upon an independent and objective incident, namely your long-suffering wife’s stubborn refusal not to perish in a tragic but well-timed tractor accident.
Do you follow? It is far easier to move on from relationships, be they with friends or romantic partners, when there is a natural progression from birth to death. For lovers, the progression generally goes like this:
Ask DesCamp Relationship Stage Progression Theory™
- The “Meet cute”
- Get boner/lady boner for the other person
- Go on dates
- Commit to each other in a formal or informal way
- Fornicate some more
- Have some kids
- Don’t fornicate
- Stop appreciating each other
- Fornicate, but not with them
- Slam some doors
- Get irritated by their mere existence and eye color, which you never noticed was an awful shade of puce
- Humiliate each other at a dinner party (she will imply he sucks in bed and doesn’t make enough money, he will imply she spends like a drunken sailor and her ass is getting too big so why is she grabbing another dessert?)
- “Meet cute” someone new
- Rinse, repeat
You didn’t get to go through all of that. I read once that a drug user who starts heavy abuse in their teens suffers from a weird age suspension, so that they never mature beyond the age they were when they started using, even if they get sober later in life. This explains why Lindsey Lohan is such an immature asshole.
It sounds like you and Sheryl were still in the early phases of your relationship, or as a friend of mine used to say, the “Salad Days.” ‘Cause you were tossing her, oh, never mind…
Anyway, she made a demand, you rebuffed her, and poof! Good times were over and you were back to the Don’t Fornicate relationship stage with the wife. Clearly, you both have chosen to remember this relationship in the best of light, freezing it in what was likely the early Fornicate stage, rather than in the cold light of day that it deserves.
You had an affair. The two of you probably spent less time together than Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphreys did, and yet you seem to have idealized what this was and perhaps blown it WAY out of proportion. It’s easy to do that when we forget why things ended, and in this case, it ended because you wanted it to. And that’s ok, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that you and she could have ridden off into the sunset together and lived happily ever after. You just had too much bullshit baggage stacked against you.
That picture? Wasn’t gonna happen.
Should you still reach out to her? Again, I’m not sure. Maybe. Lunches? Probably not the best idea. However, before you start blowing up her phone because I said it’s OK, I would add the following caveat: be honest with your wife if you plan to have lunch with this woman, and make sure she is honest with her husband as well. With your history, an innocent meeting to catch up with an old “friend” could be wildly misconstrued if you aren’t both transparent about it with your spouses.
Hell, maybe you could all be friends and go on vacation together! More likely, your wife will threaten to batter you with a baguette for trying to be so god damned French about the whole situation.
Best of luck, Lance!