Are you deeply into your New Year's resolutions? Can I add a little more to your task?
1) Try this thought experiment for the new year:
Make a list with 2 columns.
In one column, count and list only the days, the moments in those days, when you were happy in your relationship -- the person was with you (how many days?); you had happy time on the phone or texting (how long out of each 24 hour period, how many days?).
In the second column, count and list all the days, all the times in a day, when you worried about the relationship, obsessed about it, missed it, were in crisis about it (sad, angry, confused, scared).
Which column is longer? Were you happy "with" that person this year? How long do you want to spend having most of your days, your time, unhappy?
2) There is no such thing as closure. Closure is magical thinking. There is no way to close anything that really happened to you. It happened. You cannot undo the past just by talking about it. And understanding doesn't always solve the problem either, because it happened. At some point you just have to accept that.
3) Some choices and events from years ago can be undone, but most cannot. You can dream when you are young, but getting older involves accepting limited choices. At some point in your life, you accept that you don't have all the time, all the opportunities you had at the beginning of your youth, and some of those dreams were never realistic anyway:
You will not be one of the 1% of wealthy people, suddenly late in life.
You will not be able to go back to school and be a doctor (for example) in middle-age: you don't have the time, you don't have the means to earn a living while doing this training, most med schools won't take you, your mind may not be as sharp as years ago to concentrate for hours to memorize all you have to know, you need more sleep than you used it, and even if you completed the degree and residency, how much time would you have for this new career?
Can you have more children with a new partner? Do you want to?
Some relationships are gone for good, even if the person is still alive: the past cannot be undone, nor is the future a blank slate, as if a breakup had never happened. Life intervened and getting someone back, even if you could, means you and they will live with events and choices of both of your intervening histories. If you had that person all to yourself in high school, you won't now: what will it be like to be a stepparent? How will you balance where you live?
Think about what it would mean if it could be undone -- all of it: you would not have these children whom you love, you may not have lived where you chose to live, or accomplished what you have accomplished with that other person. Especially baby boomer women: would you have catered to that person, if you had married them when you knew them first, at the expense of expanding your own life as you have done?
3) "Relationships are hard work." That's the popular saying. How hard? Are you twisting yourself into a pretzel to get it to work? Working at a relationship means making compromises, keeping communication open, listening to your partner (and taking whatever they say as valid). It doesn't mean being miserable most of the time because there is a fatal flaw between you.
If you are in an affair, the fatal flaw is that you are already married. Maybe another time you will be in a better position to be together. Forcing it now, secretly, will not work and hurts you on a daily basis (see #1): the stress needed to hide a big secret and the lengths you go through to do that; the obsessive thinking that pushes everything else away, including your children and your career.
4) Think about this objectively: is your affair an addictive way to get a high, rare but hoping like an addict for the next fix, and crashing with withdrawal in the meantime?
5: Yes, some people do marry their lost loves after many years. But be realistic: will that really be you? Do you even want that? if not, what are you doing in this situation? Sometimes the loss that happened years ago needs to be grieved -- it happened years ago! - -and then let go.
Copyright by Nancy Kalish, Ph.D.
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