Sunday, April 22, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

Old extinguished flame could be back to burn again

Old flame, once extinguished, could be back to burn again

Q: Guy meets Girl in D.C. and pursues her for a few years. They date and move out of the area together. Guy moves in with Girl.

After a year or so, Girl goes to a relative's wedding without Guy. Three months later, Guy happens upon a stack of passionate love letters written by a man whom Girl met at the wedding. When confronted, she admits, but says there was no physical relationship begun at the wedding. But he will be coming up so they can spend a weekend together and she can "figure things out." Guy understands and agrees, but it takes a toll on him.

Girl has a passionate romantic weekend yet decides she does not want to be with the man from the wedding and cuts it off when he comes and tries to visit her for a second time.

Guy and Girl get married, have two kids and move back to D.C. Twenty years later, the man from the wedding asks Girl to connect on a professional networking site. Girl tells Guy he has been in touch and wants to get together. He is now married with many children and is going through a career change. Girl is successful in a related career, so he wants to catch up and get advice.

Guy thinks it is a bad idea. Girl needs to meet with him, she says, to be courageous and not run from her fears. Guy asks why she needs to open the door that has been shut tightly for all these years. What should Guy do? He trusts his wife but has a bad feeling about the whole thing.

D.

A: As does Advice Columnist.

The obvious problem is that she's making plans with an old flame who torched you once. Badly.

The less obvious problem, but the one that speaks to some righteous nerve on your wife's part, is that she's framing this rendezvous as an act of courage. Seriously? How about being courageous enough to admit her impulse to see Wedding Man is a selfish one and to stand up for her marriage?

Maybe that's an overreaction to a career-related inquiry from a man she rejected 20 years ago. But I'm not reading the situation so much as I'm reading you, and you're showing me that reopening this wound will cost you and your marriage more than Wedding Man stands to gain professionally from Girl's advice — or than Girl stands to gain by scratching this itch.

If that's indeed how you feel, then you need to say so. You earned the right 20 years ago to say to her now, "Two decades ago, I ate dirt for you. I didn't like it, but I love you, so I did it. I never asked for anything in return (. . . right?). Until now: I'm asking you not to do this."

Or, an abridged version: "How is it brave to hurt me twice?"

I expect her response will be revealing.

Even more revealing, arguably, would be her response if you decide not to ask her for anything, and instead let this drama play out. If that's what you've decided to do, then I won't try to talk you out of it. Oddly enough, though, I think your asking her not to go is the option that's in her best interest. That's because it will tell her exactly how you feel and, by implication, what it will cost her, should she choose to meet up with this man.

If instead you choose to let it play out, then she won't know how strong your feelings are about it — and she stands to get a nasty surprise if your feelings for her change as a result. If, say, you realize you can't look the same way at someone who maintains that it's some kind of sacrifice to check up on a particularly compelling old flame.

As with just about all of these difficult situations, this comes down to figuring out what your priorities are, and what serves them best. Namely: Is it more important for your truth to be heard, or for her truth to be revealed?

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