Ask Amy: Sudden reappearance opens old wounds

January 22, 2013

Dear Amy: For several years I had a best friend, “Steve,” with whom I had quite a tumultuous relationship. Although he claimed to be straight and I am gay, it ultimately transitioned into a sexual relationship quite unexpectedly, leading him to break up with his girlfriend. A few months later, my friend skipped town to try to sort out his conflicting feelings.

Overnight, he was never heard from again — by me or other friends. He really did disappear, having told me that his sexual feelings and his behaviors were things he needed to sort through.

Cut to 13 years later. I’m in a good, stable relationship with “Danny.” We really love each other but don’t have a satisfying sexual relationship.

Now, out of the blue Steve called me to say he is moving back. He said he’d love to see me and “get our friendship back on track” and get together with his girlfriend and my partner.

I acknowledge fully (and have worked through with therapists) that when Steve added sex to our relationship, I developed emotional feelings for him. But that was a long time ago.

My current partner knows all of this. I’d like to see Steve separately, to know why things happened the way they did. I know that by rehashing the past I’m potentially opening old wounds. I’m also sending a signal to my partner that someone from my past matters as much as he does.

Am I doing something wrong by seeing Steve when he’s in town? Am I cheating? Should I allow myself to explore the wounds that were left in an effort to understand myself more?

-- Confused

Dear Confused: If you’ve worked this through with therapists and worked this out with your partner, I’m left wondering what, exactly, you hope to work out with “Steve,” and how much work is required before you are finally free of this relationship.

It is not cheating to see a friend separately from your partner, but it is wrong to see someone with this sort of sexually charged shared history without your partner knowing about it. I agree with you that this is risky. A phone conversation might be best.

Dear Amy: Four years ago, after 30 years of marriage, my wife divorced me. We get along but are living in separate cities and only see each other if there is an event involving our adult children. Neither of us has remarried.

I never felt close to my in-laws. Since the divorce, three of my nieces on my ex-wife’s side of the family were married, but I was not invited to their weddings.

My former mother-in-law is in her late 80s, and as I anticipate her death, I wonder if I should attend her funeral. I would rather not. Travel would be a significant expense for me, and I would be very uncomfortable. Is it important that I attend for the sake of my children?

-- Divorced Dad

Dear Dad: The way you describe the dynamic within your family, it seems that your sudden presence at this funeral would create more discomfort than the comfort you might hope to provide to others. When this event happens, you can express your sympathy from a distance.

Dear Amy: I’m responding to the letter from “Frustrated,” who was accused of being overly protective and neurotic in supervising her 4-year-old son at the grandparents’ home. Your suggestion was to “let your child have some freedom, but watch the perimeter.”

In September, my 2-year-old granddaughter was killed trying to climb a stand which held a television. Albeit the television should not have been on that particular stand to begin with, I believe in my heart that had she been supervised at the time she started to climb, she would be alive today.

Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon incident. Merely watching the perimeter would not prevent an injury or death to a child. Kudos to “Frustrated” for knowing that it is her responsibility to keep her son safe.

-- Amaya’s Gramma

Dear Gramma: Thank you for warning parents of the danger posed to toddlers by unanchored televisions. My deepest sympathy to your whole family.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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