Love Letters

I’m married with kids but still pining for the one that got away

Twenty years after our breakup, I’m back in touch with my old boyfriend and feeling confused.

Submit your question to Meredith here.

Q. I had an on-and-off-again relationship for six years, and he was the love of my life. I reached a point where I knew he wasn’t going to commit, so I moved on. Two years later, I got married and had two kids. But I never could shake him.

More than 20 years later, I reached out to him — still married but wanting to see him. The feelings were still the same. It was so weird. He never got married but is in a relationship. He says the woman is not the one for him. It’s made me think about divorce so I can explore these feelings.

When I see him it’s great, and then he pushes me away, and then comes back again. Kinda the same way it was when we were dating. What should I do? Let it go or continue?

— Try Again?

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A. Let it go — for the same reason you did two decades ago. He is unreliable and pushes you away when he feels like it. He tells you his girlfriend is not the one for him — but he’s still with her, right? He’s the same person, and you’ve already rejected that guy. The answer to your riddle is that he hasn’t changed.

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It would be more productive to focus your energy on figuring out why you felt the need to reach out to him now — and what that says about your marriage. You mention divorce as if it isn’t a massive decision. Maybe it isn’t. What does that mean?

No matter what decision you make about your husband, assume that it will not result in a romance with your love from long ago. You can work on your marriage or start a life on your own. Those are the practical options.

— Meredith

READERS RESPOND

Umm  . . .  what? You’re going to divorce your husband so that this guy can continue to not commit to you 20 years later? SHRTC8KE

Have you asked your husband what he thinks you should do? CRUCIFIEDZEOFF

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It’s important to remember that when you reached out to your old boyfriend, he wasn’t looking for you. Even if he doesn’t love his girlfriend, he still did not seek you out to replace her. COMMENTOR2

I recently watched three different women blow up their marriages while going through a mid-life marriage slump. NONE of their husbands took them back after they realized the error of their ways. NOMORESCREENNAMES

What Meredith said. He’s still the guy who can’t commit. This is about you being bored, unhappy, discontented — and the solution is not going back to someone you discarded decades ago. WIZEN

You need to rewrite this letter if you want a blessing to pursue this relationship. Please add the following: 1) Husband is abusive, cheating on you, or an unemployed, compulsive gambler. 2) Children need out of dysfunctional household created by husband’s character flaw. 3) Former boyfriend offered undying devotion, but you dumped him to fulfill your foolish and immature need for a “bad boy” you could reform by marrying and having children with. 4) Former boyfriend has monkishly waited for you to return. Without these elements, you are just selfish. HEYITHINK

Meredith Goldstein is in her eighth year writing Love Letters for the Boston Globe.

Columns and responses are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters. Send letters, questions, and comments to meredith.goldstein@globe.com.