I'm a 34 year old bisexual woman from London. I'm wondering if you can help me.

In my early 20's, I embarked on an affair with a woman, not long after my long term boyfriend left me. It was a reckless endeavour as I was clearly still in love with my ex-boyfriend and I was in no place to start a new relationship. Although it was fun and refreshing at first, my gay affair turned into an emotionally turbulent, sexually charged, destructive union and not long after we got together, I began dating my ex-boyfriend again (at his request) while still seeing this new woman. It was a clash of two worlds that I couldn't decide between and lasted over a year and a half. Inevitably it ended when my affair was exposed. I was a mess and I never saw either of them again after that. As a cathartic exercise, I wrote a book about my experiences in the hope that one day I could publish my story so others could learn from my mistakes. It took seven painful years to complete, and after working with an editor, she essentially dismissed my work. That was six months ago; I'm struggling to return to it.

Jumping forward: I'm now engaged to a wonderful woman after dating her for 2.5 years. I count myself as very lucky to have her, however, I feel lost again. Since moving to London and realising that I spent so long on my book, working in a job i didn't love to support that book, I now find myself in a new city, unskilled, unemployed, anxious, and bereft.

My partner is very supportive, yet I haven't disclosed to her just how terrible I feel about my past and and the person I've become.

How Do I Start Over?

It's Affairs & Their Aftermaths week around here—it wasn't planned, but all of this week's SLLOTDs have been about affairs and this week's column is, too.

Okay, HDISO, the first thing you've gotta do: give yourself a break. Most peoples’ 20s are characterized by relationships that fall somewhere along the turbulence/tumult spectrum. "Early 20s" isn't an excuse for deceit or relationship assholery and we are all responsible for our choices and blah blah blah. But the rational part of our brains—the part that weights risk against reward—isn't fully developed until age 25. We should have the decency to feel bad about the poor and/or selfish and/or self-destructive and/or other-destructive choices we made in our early 20s, HDISO, but we can't spend the rest of our lives beating ourselves up about them. We take our lumps, we learn our lessons, we move and try to do better.

As for feeling adrift and directionless, HDISO, you're still so young. (Or 34 seems that way to me.) You have a loving partner by and on your side and you have time on your side, too—time to figure out what you want to do now, time to get your ass into school, time to find a passion you can turn into a rewarding career or a career you find reasonably tolerable.

As for returning to the book... don't. While bookstores are crammed with books that were dismissed by scores of agents and editors, and while that may tempt you to go off in search of another editor, it doesn't sound like working on this book provided you with the catharsis ("the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions") you sought. It sounds like working on this book kept the wound open and fresh. And while the book not getting off the ground is understandably frustrating-as-fuck, working on this book has kept this affair (which wasn't technically an affair when it started) front and center in your life/mind for the the last seven years.


You need to put some distance between yourself and that part of your life. Set the book aside and focus on who you’re with now and what you want to do next. Maybe you can pick that manuscript back up in 10 or 15 years and turn it into a work of fiction—a novel, a play, a screenplay. In the meantime, put it in a drawer and leave it there until after you've gained a little more perspective and emotional distance from the events of your tumultuous 20s.

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