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Carolyn Hax: Visit with old flame could cost a lot

Dear Carolyn: Here’s the basic version of the story:

Guy meets Girl in D.C., 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 on a stack of passionate love letters written by a man whom Girl met at wedding. When confronted she admits, 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 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 – won’t even see him.

Guy and Girl get married, have kids and move back to D.C. Twenty years later, 18 of them married, the man from the wedding asks Girl to connect on a professional networking site. Girl ponders for a week, then tells Guy he has been in touch and wants to get together. He is now married with many children and in a career change. Girl is successful in career related to his, so he wants to have coffee and catch up, and get advice about their shared careers and about starting a business.

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. Girl feels the need.

What should Guy do? He trusts his wife but has a bad feeling about the whole thing. – D.

As does Advice Columnist.

The obvious problem is that she’s making plans with an old flame who already 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 decisively 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, in the dirt-eatingest kind of way, 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, abridged version: “How is it brave to hurt me twice?”

Either way, I expect her response will be revealing.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 9 a.m.each Friday at www.washington post.com.


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