Relationship Connection: I’m married but can’t quit fantasizing about an old high school boyfriend

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Question

Many years ago, when I was way too young, I fell in love with a very cute boy, who was also too young. I was stupid and foolish, but very much in love, and I gave myself to him, whole heart and soul, and body.

We had quite a torrid love affair until just before our junior year in high school when his recently divorced mother moved her family, and my lover, many miles away. I was devastated!

We tried to keep in contact through the years and both dated other people. I even became engaged at one point but broke it off because all I could think of was him and how he loved me. So I contacted my former flame, we started dating and once again became sexually active.

I was desperate to get married and used everything I could think of, including my body, but the more desperate I became, I only turned him away from me, and he broke off our relationship and broke my heart. Now I felt used and cheap.

Not long after he left me, I met my husband, a wonderful man. We’ve been married now for almost 50 years, and I do love him dearly.

My problem? Through the years, I’m ashamed to say, my old flame and I have occasionally been in secret contact with each other. A few years ago, I finally found the strength to quit contacting him. I told my husband about it. Understandably, he was very hurt but very forgiving and only asked that I never contact him again.

But I can’t quit thinking and dreaming of him. And I’m ashamed to admit, but I think of our lovemaking sometimes. Am I guilty of adultery by my thoughts?

Please, please, please help me to stop thinking of him and wanting to contact him again! I do love my husband, and I hate myself for being “unfaithful.” Please help me!

Answer

It’s tragic to hear that you’ve been emotionally tortured for decades, unable to find closure with this relationship from your youth. I’m glad to know you have started making steps toward not only ending this relationship but also claiming the privilege of a loving marriage, which appears to still be within your reach. You have work to do, but you’re headed in the right direction.

Even though there isn’t anything you can do to reverse your memories of your youth, you can put these memories and experiences in the proper perspective so they don’t continue to pull you back into this euphoric fantasy that disconnects you from reality.

Please don’t expect these thoughts and feelings to disappear immediately. You’ve split and attuned your heart, mind and body to this relationship while married to another man for decades, so it’s not going to be wished away quickly.

Thankfully, you’ve done the right thing by breaking off contact with this other man and revealed the truth to your husband. It’s important that you continue to turn to your husband and others for support when you’re feeling pulled into this former fantasy. It’s likely you’ll feel pulled toward this old relationship in one way or another for the rest of your life.

Recognize that you’ve spent your entire life thinking about and nurturing this other relationship. You brought this competing attachment into an engagement and then a 50-year marriage. This isn’t something your brain, body and heart are just going to instantly jettison.

In fact, the appetite for this connection to your former lover isn’t coming from a twisted place. We all have an inborn need to be seen, touched, comforted and loved. You jump-started this in an intense way at a very vulnerable age when your brain and body were still developing, long before you were physically and emotionally ready. This longing for connection was misplaced and misdirected both at the beginning and throughout the past five decades.

The reason it is confusing for you is because the need to be connected is good but not in the way you’ve been doing it.

If you want to heal, you need to have a willingness to stay completely open with your thoughts and temptations toward this old relationship. You’ve gone too many years giving back into the pull of this unrequited fantasy.

If you’re truly going to be united with your husband, he needs to know that you not only have sexual fidelity to him but also emotional and mental fidelity. I recommend you work closely with a therapist who specializes in affairs to help you learn how to communicate with him about these strong feelings.

Your willingness to keep your struggles in the open will not only protect you from further secret rendezvous with this man, but it will also help you restore trust with your husband. Instead of protecting yourself and this other relationship, you’re reassuring him that you will stay faithful to him.

Sharing these struggles with your husband and professionals will also help you begin to understand your own unmet or unacknowledged emotional needs that continue to live inside you. Instead of ignoring or misdirecting these powerful emotional needs, trust that you can understand how to meet them in healthy ways.

When the thoughts and urges overwhelm you, it’s best not to fight them or suppress them. Researches have found that mindfulness strategies are a powerful way to eliminate cravings and powerful triggers. One method called “Urge Surfing” is an effective way to cope with these strong reactions. You can read more about it here.

Early in your life you became overattached and possibly addicted to the attention of this other guy. Openness with your husband and professionals will help you stay accountable and break the trance of this former relationship. You’ve already made significant steps toward ending the powerful grip this relationship has had on you since you were young.

Turn to your marriage and give your husband your full measure of affection and connection so you can enjoy the privilege that has been unavailable to both of you.

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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4 Comments

  • ladybugavenger October 10, 2018 at 10:00 am

    This is a sad story. I’m waiting for the next episode….

  • Hataalii October 10, 2018 at 1:02 pm

    From the letter: “Now I felt used and cheap.” You were cheap, you still are. But YOU were the user, not the used.
    From the letter: “Am I guilty of adultery by my thoughts?” Oh yeah, for sure.
    You sound like the original drama queen. Go Away.

    • Redbud October 10, 2018 at 7:35 pm

      I agree, cheap is the best word. Nothing I hate more than drama, so glad I am not her husband.

  • Mike P October 10, 2018 at 8:46 pm

    To be continued?

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