We married other people, but I still want closure

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I was inspired to write to you after seeing this similar issue from another reader. I'm really struggling. I met this person decades ago and we instantly connected, but the timing was always off in terms of who was in a relationship. Years after we met, this person confessed his feelings for me and we launched into a relationship right away, but it faded as quickly as it started. Part of it was my job at the time, and that we lived an hour apart. Both were more issues on his side. I wanted to make it work and always accommodated him. We got into a small fight over the phone a few months in. We were both stubborn with bad tempers when we were younger, and didn't speak to each other for a few months. We essentially never broke up.

Soon after, I moved even farther away for a job. After some months passed, we patched up our friendship and had an on-again, off-again friends-with-benefits situation. It wasn't good for me because I continued to have the same feelings for this person. He also would regularly tell me via text and sometimes in person, usually while drinking, that he wanted to marry me and that he loved me. He also mentioned he wanted children with me. But never when he was sober. I did eventually share how I felt a few times, including how our friends-with-benefits status wasn't helping me and vice versa. His feelings were reciprocated but he didn't want the pressure of me moving back and feeling we needed to date, especially if it didn't work out. He also told me he decided after thinking about the mutual hurt that he wanted to keep me in his life "always" – and the best way to do that was to stay friends only. Something he decided without consulting me.

We’ve both been in several other relationships. I also tried desperately to get over him, including telling him I was just so I could believe it myself. It was never true. We're now both married to other people and he even has a kid, but we consider each other close, if not each other's closest friend. The issue I'm having is that my feelings never changed – partly because we make good efforts to see each other, with our partners, often. We are also in frequent contact with each other. He had me meet his now wife when they first started dating. He told me he wanted my approval and input on her. I think we both married the right people for each other and that our partners balance us and support us in the right ways. I'm also aware of the grass is always greener issue.

I’m not trying to break up marriages, but I'm realizing a big part of my struggle is that we never really had closure or broke up. Part of me wants to tell him how I still have these lingering feelings, but the only outcome I want is to really just lift the weight off myself and also to hear from him how he has felt, even if it means hearing some hard truths. I also want to apologize or explain my shortcomings with communication during our relationship. Again, not to do anything now, but so that I can stop feeling that regret. I worry that this feeling of wanting to share all this is just selfish and could hurt him or our friendship. He’s important to me and I don’t want to jeopardize that. Any advice?

– Friends Only

"Part of me wants to tell him how I still have these lingering feelings."

No. You can get closure on your own. You don't need to say these things to him because 1) it's confusing and b) it's possible he already knows. He watched you struggle with your feelings for years. Instead of thinking about what was best for you, he decided he wanted to keep you – and that meant not giving you what you wanted. If you were writing to me back then, when he wasn't consulting you about what was best for you, I would have told you to walk away from him so you could see the relationship more clearly.

It would be awkward to box him out of your life now without raising big questions, but I do think you should give yourself permission to minimize him. You open a wound every time you see him. Meanwhile, you never gave yourself a moment to accept the truth. You did break up. You didn't have a clear conversation back then, but you stopped communication for months. Then, during a real talk – sober – he basically told you he didn't want to go back to a romantic relationship. He said he'd rather have friendship. Unfortunately, he didn't ask if that worked for you.

Stop worrying about making him uncomfortable and do what you must to get your own closure. If that means seeing him less, fine. If that means writing yourself some notes about what's real in your life, grab a pen. If it means moments of anger about what he said while drunk, OK. You can be angry about the mixed signals and how they affected you. If this requires therapy, go for it. And if you want to text a different friend when you would otherwise call him, that's good. Friendships evolve.

I will repeat: you broke up, and the closure was him choosing another path. Now it's just about accepting that and letting yourself get over it. It might change the friendship, but that's OK. Your comfort – and your marriage – are more important.

– Meredith

Readers? Bring this up? How do you let go of it on your own?