Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas: My partner died a year ago and I have been having an affair with his friend. He recently had a one-night stand with a mutual friend - should I take him back?


Dear Virginia,



My partner died a year ago, and I’ve been comforted by an old friend of his. We started an affair, but didn’t talk about commitment. Then he told me he’d had a one-night stand with a mutual friend, and I dropped him. Now, I’m more unhappy than I was over my partner’s death. Do I take him back? He wants to see me on whatever terms.



Yours sincerely, Nona

A drama like this, while always agonising, can be, at the risk of sounding Pollyanna-ish, quite useful. It's as if a new beam of light has been shone on a relationship, enabling you to look at things from a completely different angle.

You've been puttering along for a while in a vague, non-committed, open-ended way, and now his action has put the whole thing on the line. You're surprised by his action, and you're surprised by your reaction. So what exactly is going on?

Are you perhaps a lot more involved than you thought you were? And is he, knowing now how much he risked losing, suddenly aware that you mean much more to him than he thought? Whatever the answers, they're bound to be useful.

Now, it's very rare in life that we come across someone we feel comfortable with, both conversationally and sexually. So it does seem a terrible shame to throw this man aside, a man who remembers your late lover, and who shares with you, presumably, something of your past. Now he is actually begging you to get back together "on any terms".

Which sounds as if perhaps his reaction to what he has done, and how you have reacted, have surprised him, too.

It would be useful to find out what this brief fling meant to him. Was he actually aware that he was in danger of falling in love with you, and had this one-night stand as a way of testing your feelings for him? Funny way to do it, I'll grant you, but there it is. Or did he sleep with this woman protectively – to show himself that he was still free and not hooked on you emotionally?

There's also the fact that he told you. Why would he do this? If he didn't feel remotely guilty, there would have been no need to confess. Perhaps this was a way for him to say: "Look, I like you and am fond of you, but by doing this I'm telling you loud and clear that I have no interest in you as a long-term partner."

Either this incident will have made it clear that you are both far more deeply involved than you both thought, or it might, like a horrible dowsing of cold water, make you realise that he's not interested in the way part of you, clearly, is.

Either way, if you do consider seeing each other again, it will be on very different terms indeed. The relationship has now changed chemically. Perhaps you will no longer want to sleep with him. Or perhaps, as I suspect, you may try to return to the old relationship but this time you will realise that this man isn't who you thought he was. Maybe he is the cad you suspect him to be. Maybe not. It may well be that in future you will just find you're not getting enough out of it all to bother continuing.

I know all this sounds a bit glib – one door closing, another opening, that kind of thing – but actually it is probably more a case of your getting used to an entirely new set of circumstances in an entirely new relationship – a relationship that might be completely unfulfilling and not worth maintaining, or one that's fruitful and inspiring. But it's only by returning to it, and finding out where you both stand, that you can find out.



Readers say

Don't pursue him

When a partner dies, the bereaved can feel abandoned and let down. When your lover slept with someone else, this opened again a wound that has not yet healed, and it needs time to do this. If you did not discuss commitment with this man, he may have thought that yours was an "open" relationship. Still, do you really want to be with someone who is into casual sex and can so misread your character and needs, after years of friendship? You deserve a lot better. Please don't pursue him. You don't need to add to your grief. When you are ready, you will meet someone who shares your values. I don't know if you have already considered this, but bereavement counselling can provide great support and comfort through the dark times.

Christina Burton

St Leonards, East Sussex

***

Try to start afresh

Sadly, and perhaps in grief because of the loss of her partner, Nona has allowed herself to drift into another relationship (or affair, as she puts it) without thinking about how exclusive she wants it to be. This may have been a source of comfort to her at the time, but a shoulder to cry on has led to something else, something more serious. Since both parties are adults, it is unfair to lay the blame for her boyfriend's one-night stand solely on him – neither of them spoke about commitment before.

Nona should now take some time to go back to basics. It is not simply a matter of taking him back or dropping him; rather that they should both assess if and how they want this relationship to progress. It appears that they both want to see each other again and it would be a shame not to start afresh, with clearly defined boundaries to avoid any further misunderstandings in future.

Mei Ling Mak

Hampstead, north London

***

Face up to your pain

In the first year of grief, it is really hard to believe that the person is actually gone, which is why it can get harder, not easier, as time goes by. Perhaps your upset over this man's action is not really about him but the start of the real pain for the loss of your partner. Maybe you need to talk to someone about your partner.

As to your friend – can you keep him as a friend without any sexual involvement? Do you really want to be committed to someone who has one-night stands? And, in truth, was he not in fact some kind of distraction for you? If you allow yourself to face up to the pain of your loss, you will be much better equipped emotionally to cope with new relationships in the future.

Karen McMullan

Ballyclare

***

He's not a nice man

He doesn't sound like a very nice man, or a very good friend to your deceased partner. I know these things happen, but to then sleep with a mutual friend beggars belief.

John Stroud

By Email

***

Talk it over with him

It's possible you have been blocking out your grief while having your affair with your partner's friend. So it is hitting you harder now that you have dropped him. Please don't shoot yourself in the foot; if you are happy with him, and he was honest with you about his one-night stand, why not talk with him? Explore each other's feelings; why did he want to do this? How do you really feel about each other? Gentle exploration and time will help you both see how things are. You have both lost someone close and dear to you, and you need to communicate to find out if what you have is real and strong enough to overcome what you have both been through with the loss of your lover/friend. I wish you both the best.

Caroline Bucknall

London

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford attends Blade Runner at Target Presents AFI's Night at the Movies at ArcLight Cinemas on 24 April, 2013 in Hollywood, California
film... but Ridley Scott won't direct
Sport
Hughes is hit by a bouncer from Sean Abbott
cricketStephen Brenkley on batsman's tragic flaw that led to critical injury
Sport
Dejected England players applaud the fans following their team's 3-0 defeat
football

News
people

Actress isn't a fan of Ed Miliband

Life and Style
Stefan Gates with some mince flies
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Rooney Mara plays a white Tiger Lily in forthcoming film Pan
filmFirst look at Rooney Mara in Pan
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HRO - £70k+ ote

    £35000 - £450000 per annum + £3k car, £70k ote: h2 Recruit Ltd: Do you want to...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Assessor

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Operating throughout London and...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior and Experienced iOS / Android Developers

    £40000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Senior and experienced iOS/Andr...

    h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - IT Managed Services - £65,000

    £35000 per annum + OTE £65,000 +Pension: h2 Recruit Ltd: A fantastic opportuni...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
    Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

    24-Hour party person

    Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
    Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

    A taste for rebellion

    US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
    Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

    Colouring books for adults

    How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
    Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
    Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

    Call me Ed Mozart

    Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
    10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
    Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
    'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

    'I am a paedophile'

    Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
    Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

    From a lost deposit to victory

    Green Party on the march in Bristol
    Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

    Winter blunderlands

    Putting the grot into grotto
    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

    London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital