I was involved with a man a few years ago while I was married to another man. It was a very passionate and loving relationship, but my guilt eventually ate at me – and I stopped it. Several months later, I realized that I’d made a mistake by pushing away the most romantic man I’d ever known and tried to rekindle what we had, but he (understandably) put up walls, and insisted that he couldn’t return to where we were until I was no longer married. Even though my marriage no longer has passion, my husband and I are still very good friends, we are very comfortable with each other, and we have a child who absolutely dotes on his father. I eventually found I just couldn’t risk my child’s happiness for an uncertain relationship.
My former lover is now married, and even though I know he had strong feelings for me, I get the sense that all he ever wanted was a partner – not necessarily me. I’ve come to the realization that we are not meant to be in this lifetime, and I’ve tried to move on… But every time I get to a point where I feel I’m “over” him, I get bombarded with signs that remind me of him… And those old feelings come crashing over me again. Even if I were to leave my husband at this point – my lover is recently married. I’m sure that it’s over between us… and I’m really tired of feeling these feelings for him.
I realize I made several mistakes here, now I just really want to do the right thing for everyone involved and move on. Why can’t I? Is there some kind of unfinished business I need to attend to? I’m willing to try anything to end these very painful feelings of loss and regret.
Dear Carmen, thank you for your inquiry. In reading it I wonder what it is you’re asking. I fear you come to me for comfort knowing full well I cannot provide any. Your story is a perfect illustration of the warning I have repeatedly given in this column; That thing people call “true love” always comes at great price. Love is an insanity that takes us not only to the highest realms of our ideals, but deep into the furnaces of our darkest selves. It encompasses the whole of who we are not just the parts that we prefer. All too willingly, you plunged yourself headlong into this fray without understanding the nature of the thing you were surrendering to.
A man entered your life and you opened to him. You peered into the depths of the heart and like so many you became terrified of what you saw: the annihilation of the comfortable illusion you had built for yourself and the crucifixion of the social persona you spent years constructing. So you tried to take it all back. But it doesn’t work like that. You cannot give yourself to someone with impunity. You have a lot of important justifications for choosing partnership with a friend over this love, but I fear it will be of little consolation to you from here on out. I hear the desperation with which you make the moral plea that you did it for your child. But the truth is you turned away because you were afraid. You gave up on love, because what other people think is more important to you than following the madness of your heart. That was your choice. In turning away from your lover, you closed the door on the forbidden kingdom. He wasn’t simply looking for “any relationship.” He asked you to come and be his and only his and you destroyed him when you chose as you did. He had to find solace somewhere. A woman came to him; eager to console. She knows he is not in love with her. Just as you know that he was only ever in love with you.
I can’t lie to you and pretend there is some way you can banish what you feel. You started a journey you refused to finish. All that is left is the remnants of your passions. Having made your choice, you will have to live with it. The man you love will go forward with a woman he cannot fully love. You have shackled yourself to a man you never really loved. Four lives deprived of vitality pass into numbness. If you are asking what you can do to avoid the suffering, I can think of nothing that will spare you completely. You might find some sense of relief in writing a letter; from the woman who was to the man who is now. Don’t explain the reasons for your choices. Just stroll with him down the lanes of enchantment for a moment or two and then release him to his new life. He will never be yours again, but you can give him something to carry with him through his pain. And in this gesture you yourself may find a small smile of contentment from time to time.
Do you have a question for Liam? Ask Liam your question now.