I had an emotional affair and still think about the person

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I am married and have two adult children. My marriage is good. Not great, but good. The problem is that I had an emotional affair with someone that began four years ago. It was very intense and lasted about a year. We love each other in a way that is truly indescribable. We told each other how we felt. Because of our intense feelings, I walked away.

This other person had a young child and was hoping to have another child. I didn't want to jeopardize all that I had. We had one communication a year after we parted, but that's all. I continue to think of this person all the time. Every day. I love this person more than I thought I could love anyone. Now I feel like a fraud. I'm in a good marriage, but I'm truly in love with someone other than my spouse. I don't feel like I can tell my spouse because it would ruin my spouse's life – to know that I am in love with someone else and that I think of that other person all the time. How can I possibly be truthful? It would destroy my spouse and would hurt my children as well. Yet if I continue to keep it hidden, I am continuing the charade.

I've gone to therapy but it has not helped at all. I feel like there is no way out. I'm not happy, and I don't see how I can ever be. I want to reach out to my emotional partner but feel like that may cause chaos in their world. I don't want to create that, yet our connection was something that most people only dream about. I can't imagine living the rest of my life without knowing how this other person is doing. We were so strongly connected. And I will think about this person every single day of my life. Now my heart aches constantly. It's as if a portion of it is completely dead. It's a life sentence for me. Maybe we can be friends and be in each other's lives at this point? But I'm not sure if that would work or not. I feel trapped.

– Trapped

You continue to allow yourself to be in love with someone you don't know right now. She is perfect – your soul mate – because you've never actually been her partner, and because you can imagine a life with her to look any way you like. A lot of this is fiction.

I would tell you to seek therapy and talk about why your marriage is good but not great, but it seems you’ve done that.

You could reach out to this person. I do wonder what rules you set when you left. If she asked you to stay away (with the exception of an annual check-in), don't push that boundary.

Assuming the rules weren't specific, there is a part of me that wonders whether reaching out might help you return to reality. She's got a life and you're not in it. I don't think you can be best friends, but perhaps knowing her – getting a better sense of what she's doing (again, if she's open to this) – will prevent you from imaging her as the solution to all of your problems.

If she's not open, that’s an answer too. It would mean that it's not meant to be and that you're using the memory of her as a placeholder for something new – for anything else.

It might invite chaos, but this letter is chaotic. It's about being so stuck on a concept – your vision of her – that you've disrupted your life. I’d continue with the therapy, but also consider how you can get a better sense of what's real. This happened three years ago. Your kids are older and you're considering what’s possible for the rest of your life. It doesn't seem like she's the answer, but it would be nice to find out what is.

– Meredith

Readers? Is this all fantasy? Is reaching out a bad idea? What does all of this say about whether the marriage can ever be enough?