Still in love with my married best friend

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I'll try and keep this as short as possible. I'm in love with my married best friend. Yep.

Rewind four years and I was going through so much with alcohol, a small kid, and my now-ex. My married best friend and I connected more at work (add coworker to the list) and began texting and spending lunches together. One thing led to another and here we are. His wife (also a former coworker/friend) found out. We tried to patch things up. We tried to fix things and stop talking. Things never stuck.

Then COVID hit. We went home and didn't talk to each other for 18 months. Eighteen long, anxiety fueled, heartbreaking months. We never texted or called or even contacted each other through work stuff. It just felt pointless to get in more trouble. Then one day he called to tell me he was leaving our company and wanted to say goodbye. And wouldn't you know it, at that exact moment, his wife walked in on us talking on the phone. She called me and said she knows he'll never give up being friends with me.

I love him and know he loves me but I know this isn't healthy for me. I left my 14 year partnership because I wasn't in love anymore (and I'm recovering from alcohol, ex still drinks, it wasn't working.) I worry I'm holding myself back from finding someone because I'm waiting for best friend. But what if he never comes? What if it's all ruined because we started off in an immoral way? I feel stuck.

I know I need to enjoy being single (in a pandemic). But I know what I want and I miss him every day. I truly believe we love each other. This might be a few questions in one. My missed opportunities in life, my inability to be alone. This might not even be a question at all. Maybe just a rant. But how do I get over this or move through it? I do all the things (exercise, spend time with my kid, work work work). Nothing takes him off my mind. Maybe I'll keep reading here and someone will have this same dilemma and show me the way. Thanks for listening.

– Stuck

Your life needs to change, even in small ways. You miss him every day because that's your set routine. You've trained yourself to think about him. It's time to undo that.

His wife says he won't let go of the friendship, but he's managed to avoid you for the better part of the pandemic. He only reached out to give you big news.

Right now you do need to keep busy, but I'm not sure that exercise and "work work work" are the best things for your brain. Yes, spend time with your kid (of course!) and take care of yourself, but what about talking to friends who don't even know this man? What about training yourself to think about different things and people? What if when you find yourself thinking of him, you call or text someone else who can actually answer? The more your world changes without him in it, the less essential he becomes. It’s time to demote him. That has to be a choice.

To be clear: this relationship isn't ruined because at the moment, it's not a relationship. He's your married ex; label him as such. He is not your best friend because if he were, he'd be in your life. I know you want to preserve him in your brain as something wonderful, and he was, but again, we're talking about the past. A lot of this is about you not being ready to get over him. But with this letter, I think maybe you are. That is good.

For the record, you can be alone. You've been by yourself – with only thoughts of him – for more than 18 months. You are capable of this. Admitting that will lead to opportunities.

– Meredith

Readers? Next steps for this letter writer?