Dear Amy:

About three years ago, I moved across the country to start a new life.

Among my new friends is a woman, Catherine. We share the same hobby and similar senses of humor, and we enjoy a good visit and a meal out every few months.

We have both been divorced for more than 20 years. I left my abusive, alcoholic husband. In her case, her husband left her for his secretary. This is where the issue arises.

Shortly after my divorce, I had an eight-year affair with a married man. It ended 12 years ago, and I have no intention of ever doing that again. It was wrong and hurtful to all involved.

Every so often when I am with Catherine, the topic of extramarital affairs comes up. She launches into a tirade, the gist of which is, "How can a woman do that to another woman?"

She is obviously still very angry about her situation, even after all this time, and she blames it on the other woman.

I feel certain that if she knew my background, our friendship would end. However, I enjoy her and would hate to see that happen.

When this comes up, I feel as if I am dealing with her under false pretenses.

That part of my life is long over. Do I need to come clean? Or should I just consider this part of her unresolved past and ignore it?

The older I get, the more I treasure my good women friends.

- Melody

Dear Melody: I don't want to cause trouble, but I do think that, "How can a woman do that to another woman?" is a natural question to ask of a woman who values other women but who encroaches on a marriage (obviously, the man plays a part, too). You have said that your longtime affair was a mistake and hurtful to all involved. Your friend's feelings give you an opportunity to grab the karmic ring and gain some more insight into your own behavior. Surely you and your friend can learn from sharing your perspectives.

Each of us has to decide what parts of our lives to share and what to keep private. However, if you continue to feel that you are friends under false pretenses, then you should disclose your past and consider it the start of a conversation that two mature women with a strong friendship should be able to survive.

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