My 8-year relationship was a secret

I know that I am setting myself up for judgement, but I'm OK with that because I really need advice.

Eight years ago I began an online relationship with a high school friend. (We are now 45 and 46). For a while we just talked, then flirted, and then about four months in, it became physical. It didn't take long for me to fall completely in love with him. The problem is, he was married. Over the eight years, we maintained a secret, crazy-hot relationship. But he was controlling and not always nice to me, I gave more than he did, and it was always on his terms. Always.

I could not message him unless he messaged me first, and I could never call. I lived by these rules for eight years. Until it ended.

Its been over for a few weeks and I am having a hard time moving on or letting go. I can't properly mourn the loss of a relationship that no one knows that I was even in. He is still married and I am miserable. It was a weird and awful relationship that should not have been, but I still love him. How do I move on from this? How do I let go and stop hurting? I have unfriended him on Facebook and stopped following his other social media. And thanks to the coronavirus, I don't see him out now, but that will change eventually. Any advice on how to not love him anymore?

– Still in love

It's difficult to get over a relationship when all of your feelings about it are trapped inside your brain. I suppose that’s why you wrote to us – to get it out in an email – but I’m not sure that will be enough.

You need to talk through and process your decisions and experiences. If you don’t feel comfortable telling anyone in your life about what happened, consider telehealth therapy. It's time.

Also think about who you can talk to in your friend circle – maybe it’s an out-of-state friend who has nothing to do with high school, or someone totally disconnected from your inner circle. Really, it would be nice to build a small community of people who don't know this man at all. A scenery change – and a broader world – helps with a breakup.

Please remember that any new/old friend will want you to ask about their lives too. You have so much to say about the last eight years of our life, but this is a great time to ask people about what they're experiencing right now. Practicing empathy can remind you that the world is bigger than this breakup. It can also prove that your connection to other humans goes beyond what you had with this man. He made you feel isolated. Now you can live without rules.

I know it hurts, but this was a necessary ending.

– Meredith

Readers? Can you get over a breakup without talking about it?