I'm inching up on 49 years old with a girlfriend 20 years younger than me. I was married to another woman for 10 years before we split/divorced (amicably after a little time. She is non-negotiable family for me now. Loved dearly. Totally non-sexual.) Before my ex-wife and shortly after we split, I had an intense relationship with another woman. Let's call her Nina. We were together for two years and separated for two years when I met my ex-wife. The main issue, really the only issue, between me and "Nina" was her fear of commitment. After two years together she couldn't commit. After two years apart, she resurfaced on 9/11, looking for comfort in a dark time. We got together a few times then she disappeared. At the same time I was building a new relationship with the now ex-wife. As my marriage was crumbling for unrelated reasons, I coincidentally reconnected with Nina. She was partnered at the time, essentially married, but the spark was still there between us and we engaged in an affair I'm not proud of for a year before I broke it off when she made clear her intention to marry her partner.

As you can imagine, there are all kinds of details in between that I need not go into. And I had all kinds of personal growth and other relationships after my separation from my ex wife. I maintain an occasional communication with Nina. Though about two years ago she came clean to her wife and promised to cease communication with me.

All of this said, I struggle with the concept of the "love of your life." I feel that Nina is that for me. I get that we will never be together again in the real world and I'm not at all certain that it would be a happy ending if we could. BUT... when I think about life on the whole, she is the one I think of as the "love of my life." So when my current GF asks and says I'm the love of HER life, I just don't know what to say.

Am I a jerk if I tell her what she wants to hear, even if it's not really true? Lying has never been my style. (The affair was a short-term lapse I did not enjoy.) But also, I can't see the good in telling every potential partner that the "Iove of my life" position has been filled and might not change. Or it might. I don't think so, but maybe it could. What are your thoughts?

Only Nina Ever

The "love of my life" is just another way of saying "the one" and—if you've been a reader for a while—you should know that "the one" doesn't exist. It's a fantasy... kinda like your perfect/perfectly imagined/perfectly imaginary relationship with Nina.

You say Nina's had a "fear of commitment." Did she? You were able to find a wife after your relationship(s) with Nina ended, ONE, and she was able to find a partner, too. Forgive me if this is harsh... but Nina clearly wasn't afraid or incapable of making a commitment to someone, she just wasn't—for whatever reason—willing or able to make a commitment to you. Now I don't know you, ONE, and I don't know her, but there have to be some pretty good reasons why the two of you didn't pair off permanently and eternally—reasons other than "I'm getting married to someone else." Giving some thought to what those reasons might be could help break the Nina spell.

More harshness: Nina was never yours and will never be yours. That doesn't mean you two didn't have successful, enriching experiences together—successful short-term relationships. (You've also had shit experiences together that you both regret.) But it's over, ONE. Stop obsessing about who is or isn't the "love of [your] life" and start focusing on the woman in front of you. She's the love in your life—and who knows? If you treat her like the love of your life, ONE, you may start to feel like she is.

And every long-term relationship involves a little telling someone what they wanna hear—usually two or three times before breakfast, in my experience. Good luck, ONE.

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