I had a six-month affair last year that felt like a whole lifetime spent with a soul mate. I don’t regret our mutual decision to return to our marriages, but I can’t let go. I love my husband and we have made progress on our relationship, but I am facing a stumbling block: I miss my ex-lover constantly. Every time the weather changes, I think of what I was doing a year ago with him. Every place I go reminds me of him. I feel like I’m in constant withdrawal from the most addictive drug in the world. I even fantasize about what we will do when we are together again, even though this is impossible. I know that it is easy to romanticize a relationship that never had to stand the test of time and family pressures. How can I go from this intellectual knowing to changing my heart so I can get on with my life?
Like Sleeping Beauty, you used a liaison to awaken previously denied parts of your personality. You miss the self you were in the affair, but believe that you cannot be her again without revisiting the past. This is not true. Do the emotional healing needed to mend the split life that you created by having a secret relationship and lying about it.
Any relationship that we enter deeply profoundly changes us. But it’s important to remember that you have lost nothing. You have gained a deeper level of insight about yourself. When you begin to journey backwards, wake yourself up by thinking, with specificity and concreteness, about what you miss or fear that you’ve lost. Then determine what you can do for yourself that would provide similar joy. It could be imaginary (I’ll see myself in my mind’s eye getting a hug from Buddha) or reality-based (I’ll remind myself that I am all that I need). Just guide yourself back to the present gently but firmly. This ritual can transform your obsession about the man you had an affair with into a healthy focus on yourself.
Your response to the man who wanted a romantic relationship with a lesbian exotic dancer was perfect. I was in a similar situation with a gay man. I, too, provided money and dropped everything if he wanted to spend time with me. Soon we argued about how he never gave enough emotionally and I gave too much. When he started a serious relationship, I was devastated and angry. I did it to myself. My friend never promised anything but friendship. After seeing his happiness and how unrealistic I was, we became true friends. I still get a little angry inside because he never met my expectations, but he never promised to do so. I have learned a lot about myself and about friendship. Your advice was awesome, but I’ll bet the reader won’t follow it. He will suffer terribly and emerge a wiser person.
Thank you for a powerful testament to the benefit of experiencing painful emotions and still choosing to dive deeper into them in order to strip oneself bare of the defenses that obscure truth. I also appreciate your honesty about continuing to struggle. Perhaps you have high expectations of yourself and, when they prove overwhelming, you unconsciously project those expectations onto friends. Examine your expectations to determine whether they really serve you. Then give yourself the gift of meeting your own expectations before desiring friends to fill in for you.