DEAR CAROLYN: I’m a 33-year-old widowed guy, a good listener, patient, and I empathize well. Recently, I have become a magnet for female friends with relationship issues. Two separate women, both in long-term relationships, have told me all about their problems. My take is that both boyfriends are controlling, and I told them they need to get out of these relationships, like, yesterday. They both give me the, “Yeah, but … ” story, and I roll my eyes. Both stories come back around to where both women are afraid they will never find anyone else “as good.”
This is also where it got awkward. Both essentially said it would be easy to get out of their relationship if they knew they could be with me. That doesn’t interest me.
What can I do to help these women get out of their bad situations? Probably nothing, right? And am I the problem here? Should I not let them get emotionally attached to me?
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DEAR COLUMNIST: Oh, no – you’re catnip for the cowering.
You’re still young, you listen, you have – fates forgive me for what I’m about to type – tragic proof that you’re a death-till-you-part guy. You’re a top prospect for women whose priority is not getting hurt.
This would be bad for you, except your lack of interest says your natural defenses have worked.
So mainly this is bad for your friends. Your brief description says they’re choosing away from what they fear instead of toward what they want, and that’s a perfect way to find themselves a decade hence dead-end droning about bad husbands vs. bad boyfriends.
You can try to lift them from ruts of their own creation, yes, or withdraw a bit to discourage deeper attachments – but the real satisfaction is in truth-telling: “You’re choosing this unhappiness. No one can help you if you’d rather be safe than brave.” Why not give that a try?
DEAR CAROLYN: When do you accept a Facebook friend request from an ex? Twenty-one years ago, the woman I thought I was going to marry left me for another man when I was experiencing health problems. Never was there the slightest show of contrition for her actions, which were cheating by any standard. She married the other guy, justified her actions by saying she had no other choice since I was sick, and I hadn’t heard from her since, until today.
My only rationale for accepting her friend request is the off-chance that she wants to take responsibility for what she put me through, but my gut says apologies don’t matter at this point. My vote is to decline her friend request. Do you concur?
DEAR S.: Sure, decline. Enjoy doing it, even.
She could easily tell you she’s sorry without the friend request.
Apologies always matter when someone directly causes harm. You may think an apology won’t be adequate, and you’d be right – but that’s an impractical standard. The wrongs too profound to be undone are the ones that most urgently demand to be recognized and regretted.
So I concur on declining because you don’t want to be in touch, but I still hope she apologizes to you. If it makes you feel better, you can delete her apology, too.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com or follow her at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax.