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I wonder what could have been

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  April 18, 2011 08:30 AM

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Happy running.


Q: I am a married mother in my early 30s with a great husband, the best kid in the world, a strong career, and a nice house. But to me, it feels like something is missing. I am a Facebooker and every once in a while I catch one of my old friends online. Let's call him Joe. Immediately when I see Joe's name pop up, my heart skips a beat.

Backstory: During high school, we were very close friends. We had all the same classes, lived in the same neighborhood, and had an overall great high school experience. I was one of the only girls who hung out in this group, and there was always an underlying emotional connection between him and me. But we never acted on it, ever. Not even a kiss. I think we were too afraid to mess up our great friendship.

Off we go to college to different schools, but still keep in touch. We would always reach out to each other for advice about family issues, dating, and even what classes to take that semester. I saw him frequently, me going to his school, and him coming in to the city to hang out with me and our other friends.

One night, we had a few drinks and started talking about regrets. How much we both regretted not acting on our feelings and now it was too late. I was in a very serious relationship with my now husband and he was dating. But I have never forgotten that discussion and the feeling of how things could have been. After all, this was my best friend for over 10 years. Would we have worked out as a couple?

Fast forward to present day: We are both married and living in different states. Sometimes we go months without chatting or seeing each other, but when we do, I still feel that same feeling that I felt back in high school. My heart leaps. I wonder, does he still feel anything for me?

Should I just let this go and try to suppress these thoughts forever? I love my husband very much and we have built a great life together and I would never put that in jeopardy. But I always felt that Joe was the one that got away and I wonder what could have been. I think I am just torturing myself and need to let this go, but I would like to hear your thoughts.

– Thinking of old times, Boston


A: You don't have to suppress these thoughts, TOOT, but you do have to define them. They're just simple what-ifs. They're normal and not at all problematic. You and Joe never made it happen and that was a real choice. You didn't really date in high school, you didn't do it in college, and then, when it mattered most and you actually admitted your regrets, you did ... nothing. You guys could have jumped all over each other the night you had that talk but you didn't. You kept on trucking -- separately.

Make peace with these feelings by calling them what they are -- shots of nostalgia mixed with flirtatiousness. They shouldn't be crippling if you allow them to be normal.

You said in your first paragraph that you feel that something's missing in your life. I don't think that's true. I just think that you need some good dates with your husband and an occasional reality check. Most married people will tell you that there will always be what-ifs. You can get through them.

Readers? What's going on here? Is this about Joe or her marriage? What can she do to stop thinking about the unknown? Is Facebook giving her FOMO? Discuss.

– Meredith


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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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