I wrote you the letter titled "A Question About (Almost) In-Laws." I'm a little embarrassed to admit that you saying "I think it's time to get help from a counselor" was the push I needed to find help. In truth, I let myself become isolated due to the pandemic and allergy season, and was burnt out from working two part-time jobs in addition to a full-time job. I've joined a support group and have met with a counselor twice, and they've really helped me find some clarity in how I was feeling. So, thank you.
I'm not sure you're that interested in my revelations, but I was able to pinpoint an insecurity in friendships stemming from not great childhood experiences, and that the college friendship that fell apart happened when I was very vulnerable (I had gotten sick with pneumonia and had to quit a lot of extracurriculars that were contributing to my social life, and that friend never checked up on me when I thought she would). At the time, I was reliant on the artwork I was making to help reframe my self-worth, but I couldn't go to the studio due to the pandemic. My increased use of social media due to social distancing definitely made it worse. So, you're right I was being haunted. I don't think I've fully healed from the experience of feeling abandoned and isolated while being physically sick. I have an illogical habit of thinking that I went through that experience because I was a bad person and a bad friend. I'm trying to retrain that into thinking that I just wasn't the friend she wanted and she wasn't the friend I needed at that time, and that's OK. The mismatch doesn't say anything about how good I am, or how good of a friend I can be. It just didn't work out.
Anyway, thanks for letting me use this email as a way to kinda repeat things I need to eventually believe to keep going in my journey. When you said "build a life that's so happy you can show up at a wedding and shrug when you see someone you don't like," it really helped frame the goal I wanted. I want to be happy and content enough where I don't care what other people who don't care about me think about me. I don't want the fear of and lingering negative emotions from bad friendship endings to prevent me from making new ones. I really want to be happy and content, in this moment, not thinking about the past or worrying about the future.
I will also say, because I was seeking professional help about insecurities, it encouraged me to share them with my partner, and that's helped our communication and patience with one another a lot. So yay to the extra benefit of having a stronger relationship! Also, we'll see how my friendship with my partner's sibling goes. I'm working on not projecting my bad mental habits onto our friendship, but I'm also trying to let myself be OK that our friendship will be cordial at best, and maybe the energy I was originally putting in to try to be closer is better used towards an activity or relationship that gives me much more happiness in return.
The next update is from 2018, from a person who didn't want to wait.
Hello Again Meredith,
I wanted to write in with an update that has a little bit of a twist to it. I wrote this letter almost three years ago.
The great news is the divorce has been finalized, the kids are happy in healthy living across two homes, and wedding bells are ringing again. Just not for me. And that’s OK.
You were right when you said that the man I wrote to you about was going to want something new when he was finally ready to date. Shortly after my letter was published, he called me late one night to talk. He told me that he really liked me and cared about me deeply, but we had terrible timing. He wanted to let me know that he didn’t want to lead me on and wanted to call an end to our romantic relationship. He of course wanted to stay friends because I’m an amazing person but agreed to give me the time and space to process everything.
I cried. I cried for about three days, then I was angry for a week or two. Then I realized he hadn’t been perfect, but he’d been as honest with me as possible and that might mean he was an OK guy. Eventually I texted him and we began to talk, as friends, and build a solid friendship. He of course met someone and eventually began telling me about her. I expected it to hurt. It didn't. I was completely over him, and very happy for him.
We are still very close friends and I am almost as close with his new fiancée. She and I make it a point to plan girls nights and double dates regularly.
I will happily be attending my friend’s wedding next year with my current boyfriend. I am beyond lucky to call him mine and am very happy with the twists and turns our paths took to lead us to each other.
Thank you for yours and your readers’ advice.
Loving happy updates. Here's one from May, with some more information and a final question.
Hi Meredith, thanks for responding to my letter on age gap hate. Your answer really struck at the heart of the matter. You said "talking about a relationship that began in a legal and healthy way." She was 19 when we began dating. The thing that is in question, was and is it healthy? She was my daughter's friend, most are not seeing that as healthy. She is a codependent empath (emotionally needy) and I am a codependent rescuer (strong need to be needed) both conditions predated our relationship. It's highly questionable that either of us would be able to live independently, though I would probably fare better than her right now. This is the thing we get a lot of flack about. We do tend to isolate, but that's her desire not mine. I'm the extrovert but at this point in my life whatever makes her happy, and we had isolation down when the pandemic hit (yet came out of retirement soon after it struck). The question: after 22 1/2 years as happy and still hot for each couple, what do we do now? Our online critics are quick to scream "unhealthy !" My question to them is: "what do you want us to do?" Dissolve a very happy marriage because society is uncomfortable with it?
I'd say this: get the help you need to make this a consistently healthy relationship now.
If you're a different letter writer who has an update, we love them. So send an email to [email protected] with "update" in the subject line and tell us what's happening now. I love to hear from former letter writers, the older and more recent ones. It gives us all some perspective. And new questions from those letter writers are welcome.