DEAR ABBY: My husband, "Garth," and I have been happily married for more than three years and have an infant son. Five years before I began dating Garth, I became friends with a man I'll call Herb. After a few years, we grew very close. Herb and I acted more like a couple than mere friends, escorting each other to parties, carrying on hour-long late-night phone chats before saying goodnight, finding excuses to be close and to touch, and a mutual jealousy of any potential suitors for either of us.
Eventually, I realized I had fallen in love with him, but I didn't tell him for fear of ruining my relationship with my best friend. While I was never certain, I suspected that Herb felt the same way about me. Except for a few occasional kisses and tender moments, however, our relationship remained strictly platonic.
As the years went on, I grew restless. It became apparent that even if Herb did have feelings for me, he would never act on them. It was at this point that Garth entered my life. He was wonderful to me, and I knew it would be unfair to both of us to continue the friendship with Herb, so I consciously let our friendship slip away while I fell in love with Garth.
Today, my life with Garth is happy and fulfilling, and I know that he is the love of my life. Despite this, I still miss the close relationship I had with Herb. While I would never attempt to contact Herb, I feel as if I am emotionally cheating on Garth because Herb crosses my mind several times a day, and I feel the absence of what was my best friend. These constant memories make me feel guilty. How can I find emotional closure from my past relationship? -- NEEDS CLOSURE IN THE MIDWEST
DEAR NEEDS CLOSURE: It will take time and understanding on your part that unfertilized romances such as the one you had with Herb can be hard to shake. Anyone who has had a relationship of the duration and type you have described has similar feelings -- and these feelings can "pop up" when we least expect them. (It's almost like the craving for a cigarette, long after a person has quit smoking.)
My advice is to stop feeling guilty about your feelings. Herb was the center of your life for a long time, and in a way he became "imprinted" in your electrical circuitry. This does not mean you are still in love with him, or that you are betraying your husband because Herb pops into your consciousness. Furthermore, the harder you try to suppress it, the more he will appear.
So please, remind yourself every time that Herb "appears" why the relationship ended. He was not your Prince Charming. He was your learning experience on the way to finding happiness, preparing you for the man you finally married.