Dear Mary: I've reconnected with my first love who has helped relight my fire
I'm a married woman in my forties with teenage children. Many years ago, when I was a student in Dublin, I began a relationship which lasted five years.
I loved him deeply, but he just could not commit to a future together. So we went our separate ways, both of us devastated but knew that marriage was not on the cards for him at that time. I was heartbroken but fairly quickly met another man - a wonderfully kind, good man to whom I have been married for 21 years. Throughout our marriage I never forgot this other man. Thirteen years ago, my ex wrote to me at my parents' house to tell me that he has never gotten over me, realised he had made a huge mistake but he had just left a long-term relationship when he met me, and, as a young man new in Dublin, was drinking too much and could not commit to anyone. He was writing to apologise for the past. I replied politely, saying I was happily married and wished him well. I didn't hear from him again until after a close relative died seven years later, when he sent me a sympathy card.
Last year my mother died and he came to the funeral. My heart stopped when I saw him. My family welcomed him and I chatted to him for a while but it wasn't the time or place for proper conversation. He asked if he could write to me and I agreed. Several weeks later, he wrote a lovely letter about my mother, saying how it was over 23 years since we had seen each other and I hadn't aged one bit. He again apologised for the past and said how wonderful it was to see me. I replied and, whatever possessed me, I asked if he would like to meet for coffee as I was going to be in Dublin. I made it clear that it was purely as friends and it had to be that way.
We met for lunch and I was like a 16 year old getting ready for a date. We sat in the restaurant for three hours talking. He told me he had never married, but for the last number of years has had a relationship with a woman. He lives with her but he also has his own house in the country and he goes there every week for a night or two. She wanted to get married but he didn't - he said this is because the only person he ever wanted was me and I was gone. They never had children. He told me he is racked with guilt about the way he treated me and very accepting that I am married and was not asking anything of me. We finished up with a hug and later that night he texted me, thanking for meeting him. I found myself constantly thinking of him and longing to be with him and in the days that followed we texted each other and he suggested we meet again. We met down the country at a secluded spot and went for a long walk and kissed and cuddled and I found myself wanting him so much. We have continued to meet like this on an almost fortnightly basis and it has now progressed to his house. On our last meeting we spent the whole day in bed. It's not even about sex - he actually has erectile dysfunction - but we pleasure each other in other ways and it feels so lovely to be in his arms again. When we are not together we are texting all the time.
His partner has no idea of my existence. My husband knows about him as an ex-boyfriend who came to the funeral.
We both know that we are in an impossible situation and want to be together but we can't. We would cause carnage if we were out in the open, yet we cannot stop. We feel an intense need for each other and I just don't know where this will end. I love him and he loves me and always has, but realises it is 20-plus years too late. What a mess.
Mary replies: Your letter was like a page-turning novel where I was longing for a happy ending. But there is no happy ending - just two souls with a shared love that the years have not dampened.
I am always struck by how many people have kept track of their first loves. It may only be a card at Christmas, or as in your case the death of a parent, but they seem to know what happened to them and where they are now. One's first true love is an incredibly intense experience, and one which is seldom replicated. So I'm not surprised that you are reliving all these early feelings right now - because it seems that the flame never really died for either of you.
There are four ways the story can end. You continue the affair and eventually get caught. You continue and do not get caught. You stop seeing each other and try to get back to life as you knew it before you got reacquainted. You leave your respective partners and move in together. All four possible outcomes can cause heartache - if not to yourselves then to those who love you.
I am not going into the morals of what is going on, because you know already that it is wrong. You wrote to me for advice and I think that it all depends on how desperately you want to be together. If you feel that you cannot live without one another and would be prepared for the carnage you describe, then that is what will happen. However, you must be prepared to deal with a lot of guilt because neither of your partners has done anything wrong but they will be suffering hugely because of your actions.
If you decide to end things, then it should be with no further contact, no texting or writing and no meetings. Even though it would be quite harrowing and difficult to enforce, it would be easier for you to have a clean break rather than prolong the inevitable.
Ultimately it is up to you both to decide what to do.
You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.
Sunday Indo Living