I’ve been friends with another woman for about a year. Early during the lockdown, I struggled emotionally and reached out to her for support; she helped me through this difficult stage, and we became closer. Recently, I realised that I felt more than friendship towards her. It turns out that she has felt the same for quite some time.
We are both in committed multi-decade relationships with men with whom we have children (hers are grown up, mine are very young). I am in my early 40s, she in her mid-50s, and she worries that I may only have feelings for her because of my decade-and-a-bit less life experience and my vulnerability at the start of the pandemic. I am not convinced this is true.
For both of us, the feelings we have for each other do not replace those we have for our husbands. Betraying our husbands by acting on our feelings is not an option, nor is leaving them. Instead, we are trying to concentrate uniquely on our friendship. But are we naive in thinking that we won’t damage ourselves emotionally by taking this approach?
During a lifetime, a person may go through one or more alterations in their sexual identity, temporary or permanent. These may be experienced as surprising, unsettling or exciting. However, a person may also experience a change that seems radically, fundamentally threatening, and presents impossible choices. If there is a genuine and strong erotic connection between you two, it will probably play itself out anyway. And avoidance attempts only tend to increase the erotic charge.
But very often there are important nonsexual reasons for becoming strongly attracted to a “forbidden” partner. Who a person newly experiences herself to be in the context of another person can be such a revelation and so powerful it can lead to radical relationship changes and destroy families. Try to analyse the meaning of this new courtship. Ask: “How does the person I am in the context of her differ from who I am in the context of my husband?” The answer will help you.
• Pamela Stephenson Connolly is a US-based psychotherapist who specialises in treating sexual disorders.
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