My story is one of not having the conversation until it was too late.
I come from a very large and very close family, with many first cousins. One in particular whom I have been close with since we were teenagers, and for about that long I have had these feelings for her that I never knew how to deal with. I have been endlessly mesmerized by her deep eyes, golden skin, and flowing hair, combined with her fierce loyalty and fun personality. Only recently did it ever occur to me to explore the topic of cousin marriage. I always assumed that this was something that was simply not done.
Even when I got married, these feelings didn't go away. What I believed at the time was "dealing with it" was nothing more than sweeping it under the rug and assuming it would just go away on its own. Then, when she got married, the feelings all came rushing back. On the one hand, I was truly happy for her, that my best friend had found someone to make her happy. On the other hand, it felt like something inside me died, knowing that someone was making her happy, and it wasn't me.
As we have gone on in our adult lives, I continue to find out that her husband takes her for granted, doesn't accept responsibility for much, and is neglectful and distant. My wife is a good mother, but has had little romantic drive to begin with, and has gradually decreased to almost nothing over the years. The combination of these things, you may imagine, led to a lot of mental anguish for myself, that I simply felt I could not tell anyone who would understand. I was left, I thought, to look on from afar and wonder what might have been.
After years of stuffing these feelings, I wrestled with the idea for many months of even discussing with my cousin these long-hidden feelings and attempting to bring some measure of closure to them. This week, I finally asked for an audience with her to discuss something that would not be easy, and I finally laid bare over a decade of bottled-up feelings that had plagued my heart, every day of my life. The anticipation turned out to be 10,000 times worse than the conversation. The only thing that she was upset about was that I had carried this pain for so long. She wasn't freaked out, and it was not the first instance she had heard of, of cousins having feelings for one another. She was not upset or shocked. She knew, as I had also come to recently find out, that it is far more common than society makes it out to be. For closure, I asked her if at any point she ever felt the same way. She did not, but said that I should not feel condemned or allow these feelings to hold me back any longer. This weight is off my chest and I am free of this pain. We remain best friends and will continue to support one another's marriages.
If you do have these feelings and you believe you are both mature enough to have an honest conversation, you need to have it. Even if it doesn't lead to anything, you owe it to yourself not to live day and night in emotional turmoil.