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I'm married - but attracted to my best friend

The question:

I'm a 43-year-old woman, married 17 years, with young teenagers. In the past few years I've become increasingly attracted to women, and to one in particular (my best friend). I don't want to throw my life away and leave a terrific marriage, but I can't stop thinking about falling in love with her. I can only orgasm when I close my eyes and pretend it's her, which isn't fair to him. Should I have my hormone levels checked? See a therapist? Tell him? Tell her?

The answer:

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If only it were as simple as hormone levels; think of what we could explain away.

Hormones do not bully us into behaviour. While they may be our chemistry set, we have other things in our book bag: our histories, expectations, fears, genetics, angst, and dreams - to name a few. As Natalie Angier writes in Woman: An Intimate Geography, "If hormones do anything, any little thing at all, they merely raise the likelihood that, other things being equal, a given behaviour will occur." In other words, hormones cannot take all of the blame. You must adopt a much broader view.

As per your second and most astute suggestion, you should see a therapist. Counselling will give you the space and privacy to catalogue your interior life so as to better understand it. This is clearly your first step. You have to take the time to reflect upon the recalibration in your attractions before you involve your husband or best friend.

Why? As a mother of two young teenagers and in a marriage 17 years in the making, you have far too much at stake. Do not, in the messy rush of premature disclosure, upset the familial balance you have worked so hard to achieve.

There is something telling in your wording: You "can't stop thinking about falling in love with her." This is very different from being exasperatedly and irretrievably in love. Moreover, having an orgasm while picturing someone else is not treason. In fact, as Dorian Solot and Marshall Miller remind you in I Love Female Orgasm, fantasizing is "fine, quite common and another way to increase the likelihood of orgasm."

Your husband does not need a full parsing of your sexual response cycle. What he needs is a wife completely committed to the marriage. Given how "terrific" it is, I will assume your relationship has the flexibility to accommodate your wayward thoughts. A lover is entitled to her own imagined erotic life; acting upon it is another story.

A new attraction is breathless, heady fun. That is not for a moment to diminish it. But only through therapy can you give it the weight it deserves and answer the question: Does it warrant changing the course of my life?

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Claudia Dey is the author of How to Be a Bush Pilot: A Field Guide to Getting Luckier.

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