Dear Prudence

Help! The Man I Secretly Loved for Years Finally Confessed He Loved Me Too—After We Married Other People.

Should I make him reconsider the past?

A woman holding a phone makes a thinking gesture.
Photo illustraion by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

Our advice columnists have heard it all over the years. Each Sunday, we dive into the Dear Prudie archives and share a selection of classic letters with our readers. Join Slate Plus for even more advice columns—your first month is only $1.

Dear Prudence,

I was secretly in love with a close guy friend of mine for many years. We’re now in our 30s and both married (to other people) with children. I haven’t heard from him in a while, despite reaching out to him about once a year. I just received a response to my latest attempt to reconnect, in which he admitted to pushing me away because he had been in love with me and it took him a long time to accept that things were not meant to be! I no longer have feelings for him and am happily married. I’m just angry with him for only saying it now. I’m having trouble shaking the feelings of anger and resentment. I haven’t responded yet, and I’m wondering—should I respond and say, surprise, I felt that way too, or just let it go? Even though I’m angry, I don’t know if it is a good idea to basically do the same thing to him at this point in our lives and make him reconsider past actions. But I wonder if being honest will give us both some closure. Or maybe it would just make me feel better to tell him the truth, finally. What do you think?

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I don’t believe in closure. I understand your anger, although I think you are equally at fault for never saying anything to him about your feelings, just as he never spoke to you about his until it was too late. What’s the good in having him reconsider his past actions? The best possible outcome has already occurred. You’re both happily married with children; and hashing out your potential lost relationship together would only lead to guilt, self-recrimination, and anguish. Better to deal with your anger (and some small satisfaction, surely!) in private, either with a therapist or a close-mouthed friend; tell him you wish him the best and hope his family is doing well. —Danny M. Lavery

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From: “Help! My Secret Crush Says He Loved Me Too—but Now We’re Married to Other People.” (April 7, 2016)

Dear Prudence,

Several years into my widowhood, I think I’m going to die if I don’t have sex soon. Before I was widowed I had always had a vigorous and enthusiastic sex life, but now it’s like I’m dead to the world in my 50s. I’m lively, reasonably charming, interested in the things going on in the world, and not a dog. I’m self-supporting and self-reliant, so it’s not like I’m looking for a sugar daddy. It’s true that I don’t get out as much as I should, but when I do meet men around my age, they seem to be so weary. But at the same time they appear to be angling for women 10 or 20 years younger than I am! I live in a young and lively area, and I must confess that I am getting somewhat entranced by a few men around here who are a couple of decades younger. I know it’s a ridiculous fantasy, but a one-night stand would be fine. Am I weird, perverted, crazy? I miss rolling around with and holding a male body. I want to get laid. Help.

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Maybe one day you can contribute your own experiences to the literary subgenre of the adventures of older women seeking a firm male body. Here’s a summary of the book by 60-year-old Brit Monica Porter of her year spent seeking casual sex with younger men, My Year of Dating Dangerously. She was able to take advantage of new hook-up apps, such as Tinder, to find local men interested in experienced women. A few years ago teacher Jane Juska also wanted to connect with many male bodies. The sixty-something put a personal ad in the New York Review of Books explaining what she wanted, and wrote about what happened in A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late-Life Adventures in Sex and RomanceYou are not weird, perverted, or crazy. You’re a woman who loves sex, who has lost her husband too early in life, and who shouldn’t be consigned to celibacy. If you pursue this, you must do so with an awareness of attending to your safety, and an understanding that, as with anyone searching for sex partners, the majority of your correspondents will be creeps and cheaters. (One of Porter’s hook-ups had a “mummy” fixation and tried to strangle her.) But I guarantee if you want partners, you will find them. This article gives some tips on how to convey on dating sites what you’re looking for—and what you’re looking for is going to be a lot more popular than a lifetime commitment. —Emily Yoffe

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From: “Help! I’m a Woman in My 50s, and if I Don’t Have Sex Soon I’ll Explode.” (July 3, 2014)

Dear Prudence,

I met my husband at the end of 2011. We married in 2014 but separated six months later due to infidelity on my part. After some time apart, I realized how stupid I’d been, we both realized we loved each other and wanted to fix things, and the past year has been mostly glorious. We’re both working hard on our marriage, and I’m happy. The problem is his family. Although they’re never blatantly rude to me, they’re never any more than civil. I completely understand their need to punish me a little—I did very much hurt their son and brother, after all—but I also feel that clinging to the past doesn’t help anything, and it really bothers my husband to feel he must continually defend his decision to “take me back.” We’ve got a big family gathering coming up in two weeks, and I want to say something to let them know that I know I messed up, but my husband forgave me, we love each other, and I really want to start trying to rebuild my relationships with each of them. What do you think?

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I think it would be a mistake to announce, “I’m not cheating on Derek anymore” at a family cookout. It’s terrific that you and your husband are working on your marriage and are happier than ever together, but it’s also an enormous red flag that you cheated on him almost immediately after your wedding. This was only two years ago—your in-laws aren’t exactly “clinging to the past.” They’re still wary of the fact that you were unfaithful to your new spouse before you even had the chance to send out thank-you cards. Not just unfaithful, but unfaithful to the point of separation. Presumably your in-laws saw your husband during that period and were deeply saddened by the fact that the two of you could not even live together only a few short months after getting married. I agree that you shouldn’t be punished indefinitely for something you and your husband have both decided you can move past, but I also think that your in-laws are well within their rights to treat you civilly but coolly. They’re not being rude to you, but I think you might see that change if you tried to demand (particularly during a public family gathering) immediate forgiveness and reconciliation from them. Trust, as they say, is gained in drops but lost in buckets. Only time will be able to prove that you’re not the same person you were two years ago and that they can trust their beloved son and brother with you. —D.L.

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From: “Help! My Husband’s Family Won’t Forgive Me for Cheating on Him.” (June 27, 2016)

Dear Prudence,

Four years ago my mother-in-law had a stroke and lost the use of her right arm. She felt that she couldn’t use much of her jewelry anymore so she gave me a few of her pieces. Although the gesture was sweet, the jewelry was not my taste. I had kept it put away for many years, but finally this past winter, money was a little tight and I decided to sell some of my least favorite. I ended up using the money for groceries so we could have a little extra money for Christmas and a birthday for our youngest child. Just a month or so ago my mother-in-law called me up to asked if she could borrow for the very hoop earrings I sold and my heart sank! I told her the clasp was broken from a one time use and were unusable, and she left it at that. Then a couple of weeks ago she asked my husband if he remembered the heart necklace she gave me, he told her he did, she also asked for that back so she could wear it again. Well, I sold that one too! My husband has no idea I sold these items and I don’t think he would say anything about it if I told him. Now I’m hoping she doesn’t ask for it again, but I know she will. Do I fess up?

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I understand that such a gift could be considered handing down an heirloom, but unless the point is made explicitly that this is something that should be kept in the family, a gift is a gift and people are free to do with a gift as they like. There is also an informal statute of limitation on such things. If your mother-in-law had realized a few months after she had given you the jewelry that she had acted too abruptly and wearing her beloved pieces made her feel better, then surely you would have understood and handed them back. But this is now four years later. So if your mother-in-law is enjoying wearing jewelry again, that’s great, but it’s not fair at this point to ask for things back. Especially since you don’t have them. What you do depends on the kind of relationship you have with her. If it is warm and friendly, you just need to tell her the truth. If it’s not so warm and friendly, have your husband be the go-between. It might be easier to hear from him that things are a little tight financially, and you both thought it was fair to turn the jewelry, lovely as it was, into something more immediately useful for the grandchildren—emphasize the grandchildren. —E.Y.

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From: “Help! I Sold the Jewelry My Mother-in-Law Gave Me, but Now She Wants It Back. Oops?” (April 29, 2014)

More From Dear Prudence

I’ve been co-managing a rather ambitious project for our company with a female colleague in another department. In the months we’ve been working together we’ve become friends, and I’ve developed a little bit of a crush on her. Because of the scope of our project and the fact that our families live across the country, we both opted to stay here and work through the holiday weekend. At one point she made a joke—“All we need is dinner and wine and this will be a date”—but stupid me, I took that literally.

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On Saturday I arrived at the office with takeout and a bottle of wine, which she seemed happy about, but then I said, “We should finish our ‘date’ at my place,” and tried to be charming by making a joke about taking our project to bed. The look of horror on her face pretty much tanked what I thought would be a smooth move.

In a nutshell, I’m an idiot, and I’m incredibly embarrassed. I want to clear the air, but another part of me thinks maybe the best thing to do is just pretend it never happened, since she’s acting normally and hasn’t mentioned anything about it. Please advise, I’d really appreciate your input.

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