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Suggestion of Sex Cools Longtime Warm Friendship

DEAR ABBY: For the last 12 years, I have been married to a good man and a great father. I have also been friends with a different man I'll call "Sam" for nearly 20 years. Sam and I have been through a lot together. He helped me through a rough teen-age period and my husband's infidelity. I helped Sam through his divorce and his affair with a married woman, who happens to be a close friend of mine.

My husband has never understood how a man and a woman can be "just friends" and never have any kind of sexual contact. But to me, Sam has been like a big brother. I have always defended my relationship with him by saying neither of us has those kinds of feelings for each other.

I believed that until recently, when Sam said something to me that makes me think he does. We were discussing the married friend he had an affair with, and he mentioned that she had asked him if we ever had sex. He said, "No, we never did -- but I wouldn't mind if we did." He then asked me if I ever had those feelings for him. I told him, "No, that would ruin a good friendship."

My problem now is defending my friendship with Sam, knowing he does have those feelings for me. I used to be comfortable around him -- like a buddy -- but now I'm uneasy. I don't want to lose his friendship, but I'm not sure I can talk to him the same way. It's almost like I did have an affair with him.

If my hubby even suspected Sam had these feelings for me, he would insist the relationship cease. Abby, you're the only person I can confide in. What do I do now? -- INNOCENT IN ILLINOIS

DEAR INNOCENT: First, accept the fact that Sam's friendship may have served its purpose. Frankly, that Q and A session was a betrayal of the platonic friendship you have enjoyed with him. That's why you are uncomfortable. Second, set a clear boundary -- and if it's crossed again, say "adios" to this "old amigo," who may never have grasped the concept of brotherly love.

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