Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine

dear mrs salisbury

I’ve been having a lesbian affair…

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Dear Mrs Salisbury, I’m married and love my husband, but I’ve also had a long and arduous ‘friendship’ with a woman. It was very out of character for me to get involved with someone else and even more so that that person is a woman.

Now we both agree that our relationsh­ip is just platonic and that’s okay with us both. We’ve maintained a friendship but it’s been terribly hard work. She means a great deal to me and, along with my husband and one other female friend, is the closest friend I’ve ever had. We’ve shared a lot and been through heaps together over the years.

My problem is that there’s a vast difference in our maturity levels and it often leads to me getting hurt. She allows far more closeness in email than in person and that frequently throws me. She imitates my behaviour, I think because she’s trying to learn new things and be more like me, but that can be irritating too and doesn’t feel real.

I’m very grateful that my husband has never known about this and, since making a clear commitment to my marriage, our relationsh­ip has grown from strength to strength. I know that I should be ashamed for betraying him but that’s in the past. I just want to get my head straight about whether I should continue this friendship or not.

Battle Weary Dear Battle Weary, You sound hungry for intimacy. Are you looking to feed a hole inside you by any chance? It’s often those who haven’t had their fill of parental love who tend to persist forever in relationsh­ips that may not be fulfilling but offer glimpses of what’s longed for. It’s great that you’re now recognisin­g and valuing what you get from your husband and I also understand your yearning to make your friendship­s healthy and satisfying.

Have you taken on a coach role with your friend? It’s terribly tricky trying to help her become more emotionall­y sophistica­ted while having your own emotional needs caught up in the deal. Offering closeness over email then being unable to match that in person suggests that the kind of closeness you seek is scary for your friend or perhaps beyond her capacity right now. Ask her what she feels capable of offering you in person. Can she make eye contact with you? Is she comfortabl­e with a hug as a greeting? Can she be attuned to what you’re feeling? Is she open to receiving empathy? Perhaps you get hurt because you expect more than she’s capable of. Your decision to continue or end the friendship needs to be based on the current reality. Robyn Salisbury is a registered clinical psychologi­st and the director of Sex Therapy New Zealand Ltd (www.sextherapy.co.nz). Email questions to MrsSalisbu­ry@sextherapy.co.nz.

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