Q: Fifteen years ago, I broke up with my long-time boyfriend after a very intense physical and emotional relationship. Our parting was extremely angry and uncomfortable. I have since married a good man and had three children.

The other day, my ex called out of the blue. I thought that my feelings for him were dead, but the phone call stirred something in me that I cannot explain. We have been chatting nearly every day and realize that our feelings for each other are still there. I am certain that I don't want to pursue this relationship because I am happy with my husband, but I still want to talk and maintain contact with this guy. Am I being naïve? Can we ever have a platonic relationship?

Dear Confused,
You are indeed confused. You are asking if you can renew a platonic relationship with a man whom you never had a platonic relationship with in the first place! What you are really asking is whether it is possible to transfer the intensity of feeling and familiarity that you had in the past with a lover into something safe, comfortable, and predictable. In other words, can you keep the closeness and remove the sex?

In some instances, I would say this is a possibility. If you had run into this former flame in a supermarket, and he was buying Tater Tots for the four kids he had in the cart while his wife picked out a video, I would say maybe--maybe--you could establish a relationship as couples and form a friendship between the two families.

But what happened is very different from a chance meeting. He called you. He must have had a reason. Is he recently divorced and lonely? Is he single and going through his old Rolodex to see who is around to boost his self-confidence? Or is he married but feeling dissatisfied with his marriage?


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No matter what the answer, he called seeking you out as an individual. But now you're part of a couple. This change in your autonomy may be hard to accept, but embracing it is the only way to make your marriage work.

It is clear from the confusion you express that you do not feel particularly good about this budding relationship. This makes me suspect that you know already that it is built on feelings that are not completely platonic. Sexual relations are only one manifestation of an affair. An affair is actually any relationship that takes time and intensity away from your marriage. Is that not already happening here?

Think about it. If your husband told you that he was speaking daily on the phone with an ex-lover, would you wish him well and think nothing of it? No. It is a dangerous action.

I think you already know what I am about to say. This relationship is not appropriate. The fact that you still have feelings for him, that "stir" when he calls you, should be an immediate danger flag. If you were totally beyond such feelings, then it would be a different story. But you are not. And neither, I suspect, is he.

Break off relations with this man and tell your husband about what you were feeling. Assure him that you have taken the necessary actions to end this potentially damaging relationship. Otherwise, you risk sacrificing the trust that you have established with your husband and the life you have built together.

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