‘I slept with my dying friend’s husband – we feel guilty but have fallen in love’
In Lalalaletmeexplain's hit column, readers ask for her expert advice on their own love, sex and relationship problems.
With over 200k Instagram followers, Lala is the anonymous voice helping womankind through every bump in the road. An established sex, dating and relationship educator, she’s had her fair share of relationship drama and shares her wisdom on social media to a loyal army of followers. Every week thousands turn to her to answer their questions (no matter how embarrassing), and her funny, frank approach to love and relationships has made her the ultimate feel-good guru.
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My best friend has stage four breast cancer and is nearing the end of her life. Things have been really tough for her and everyone who loves her for the past few years since her diagnosis. Her husband is an amazing man, and he has gone above and beyond for her. You couldn’t ask for a more supportive partner.
In May he had organised an event for our local hospice and my friend, his wife, was too ill to attend. I went to support him and when we went for a drink after. We both got extremely drunk and ended up sleeping together. We have seen each other several times since, we both felt extremely guilty about sleeping together but the truth is that we seem to have fallen in love. We haven’t slept together since that first time, we both agreed that we should wait until she passes to do it again, but we are becoming rapidly closer. I think the stress and sadness has created a bond.
I realise that people will probably think I’m a b***h and that he’s scum, but it really isn’t like that. Obviously, we aren’t going to run off together whilst she’s still alive, but I can see us having a future together once a few months have passed. My question is: Do you think that his feelings for me will change after she goes? I’m willing to wait for him but I worry that her death will be a turning point. And if things do work out, how long should we leave it before going public?
I predict that you’re going to get a terrible reaction in the comments on my Instagram post about this question. On the surface this is a huge betrayal, an infidelity between two people who should be offering unbridled loyalty to a woman who has been suffering for five years and who is facing an untimely death. She deserves better. You must both do everything you can to ensure that she never ever finds out.
I’d say that you should stay well away from each other in her presence because there’s a strong possibility that she will pick up on the energy between you, and the last thing she needs now is to have intrusive anxious thoughts about whether her husband and her best friend are having an affair. If you can stay away from each other full stop that would probably be better, but your commitment to never letting her find out should be your utmost priority.
Below the surface, whilst this is still a huge betrayal, it is one that is very understandable from a psychological perspective. Cancer and terminal illness don’t just affect the person who is unwell, it is a huge deal for everyone close to them. You have bonded over the trauma. You’ve offered each other solidarity and support and feelings have grown unexpectedly. If her health has been deteriorating then it’s likely that the grieving process has already started for you both, you’re coming to terms with the fact that she’s going and the fact that you’ve already lost a lot of who she was before she became very unwell. For him, intimacy may have ended some time ago as their relationship has moved into him becoming a carer, that’s a lot to cope with. But it’s better to get therapy and support than it is to run into the arms of your wife’s best friend.
So, it’s both a cruel thing to do whilst she’s still alive, but it’s not something that means you’re both scum because it’s obvious how you could trauma bond and become each other’s support system through this difficult time. To answer your questions, I think it’s hard to predict how he will feel after her passing. It could bring you closer together or it could make him run. It could consume him with guilt and make him never want to see you again or it could make him feel driven to connect even more deeply. I think it’s important to understand that your need to feel loved by this man is a secondary issue to him needing to prioritise his own emotional and mental health, you can’t treat this like a normal situation where you might be telling a man that he needs to communicate his feelings more or where you question where you stand.
I don’t know what her family or your social circle is like, but I would guess that your love affair won’t be met with a fanfare by the people who love your best friend regardless of when you go public. I think that people may judge. I don’t think it would be at all sensible to go public until you’ve been together properly for a while after the grieving process has begun to settle. That can take a long time. You may well find that you bond further in the aftermath but then things change when normality begins to resume a bit. So, I’d wait until you’re really sure and certain that this is going to become a long-term thing before you tell anyone. There is no point in throwing a grenade into your social circle if you don’t even know whether this is going to last.
Your best friend doesn’t have long left and it’s sad that the last months of her life are being spent with you worrying about whether her husband will still want you once she’s gone instead of you being focused on loving her and making the most of the time you have left. No matter what happens once she’s gone, put her first whilst she’s still here.
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