• Resolving Problems

A college reunion sparks a flame

February 28, 2017 | By | 15 Replies Continue Reading
After attending a college reunion, a man tries to reconnect without success to someone he knew.

QUESTION

Hi Dr. Levine,

I recently went to a 35-year college reunion and met a friend that I have not seen in 38 years. She was someone that I deeply cared about but I was never able to tell her or get to know her well because of circumstances.

When I saw her again and spoke to her briefly, she told me she was divorced, showed me pictures of grandkids, and talked to me about some personal family things. I related my current circumstances, showed pictures of my family, told her I was married, and related other personal family things. When we spoke, it seemed as if we really connected after all these years as if no one else was there.

This was great for me because I had never thought I would ever see her or speak to her again. She gave me her email and I sent her some information she was interested in, and tried to contact her periodically with things going on in my life and wishing her greetings for the holidays. If she would respond, her responses were very terse. I expected her to be a bit more chatty than that but accepted it.

In the last 3½ months, I have not heard back from her in any way at all. I am worried about her because she has not responded and am not sure how to interpret her silence. I do not know if she blocked me or if she is just ignoring my emails. While I have strong feelings for her I know that I am married and am just trying to stay in touch and be friends with her.

In the past she influenced my life in very significant ways as an unintended consequence of our interactions. I will always be grateful to her for her inspiration but never told her. That is one of the reasons why she is so special to me and why I am worried about her and her silence. I was hoping I could build up a strong enough friendship to be able to tell her how she helped me and what it meant to me but feel like I will never get that chance. I don’t know if she sees me as a pest or maybe she cares for me and is just trying to respect my marriage. At this point I just do not know what to do or what to think.

It is very personally painful to me as I feel like I have to tell her about the good things she did for me, and to be there for her to help her in anyway that I can. While I used to think and hoped that she got the fairytale, she didn’t and as it turns out I did. Her life was much more troubled that I could have imagined. While I know she had some happy times, she also had a lot of problems that were serious that I will not get into for privacy reasons.

Part of me wants to send her a snail mail letter and tell her how I feel and what she meant to me. Part of me tells me that she would not be able to handle it. We are both 58 years old and I feel like the adult here dealing with someone who has the emotional quotient (EQ) of an 18-20 year old. (I have six kids so I know about this).

What I am hoping for is your perspective on this. How do I need to handle this? Should I write her a letter and just get it out there? Should I take it slowly and reveal only enough to get her to open up? Should I do nothing? This is really keeping me up at night and actually causing me emotional pain and anxiety. I have so much going on that I need to attend to but cannot seem to bring this to any type of reasonable conclusion. Can you please provide some guidance her? Thanks in advance.

Signed, Frank

ANSWER

Hi Frank,

If this woman hasn’t responded to your post-reunion emails in the way you wanted or expected, it suggests she’s just not that interested in you and wants to move on. While you are searching for ways to “interpret” her behavior, the message seems clear. She has no interest in maintaining a relationship with you.

It’s common for people to meet at reunions and only have not much more in common than the past. You mention, too, that you barely had a relationship with each other while you were at school.

Most striking was your mentioning that that this once-friend seems to have an emotional intelligence of one of your children. At this point in your life, why would you be interested in a relationship with someone who seems in your own estimation to be so limited?

Your strong feelings and one-sided interest in this woman certainly borders on being obsessive. That you can’t achieve closure on your own—and that this situation is making you anxious and keeping you up at night—suggests you might benefit from speaking to a mental health professional to help better understand your feelings.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

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Category: Disappointing friends, RESOLVING PROBLEMS

Comments (15)

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  1. Joe says:

    I certainly feel for you. I am amazed the doc thinks you are being obsessive. Since when is caring deeply for someone an obsession? Sounds more like you are seeking closure for something unresolved so many years ago more than anything else. My guess is that she is consumed with her own world right now. Most women I know would tell you in no uncertain terms to piss off if they really did not want you to contact them again. From what you say she is not doing that. That is good because it leaves the door open. She is properly just trying to deal with life being on her own after being married. The stuff I have read on line says that it takes women a bit of time to deal with that. Be patient. Let time and god do their thing. Just be patient and be there for her as would any good friend. Once in awhile send her something to cheer her up or brighten her day. It’s all about moving forward for her. Love like a parent would for a wayward kid. This means expecting nothing in return. At some point even wayward kids recognize those who care. It is going to be tough , but hang in their. She will come around and most likely you will run into her again. My prayers are with you!

    • Frank says:

      Thanks Joe! Nice to receive a sympathetic reply and the perspective of a male. What you are saying really hit home for me. I asked around at a bar that I recently visited to see what kind of response a woman would give if they felt like they did not want to speak with someone by email. Most of the lady’s agree with what you indicated in that they would tell them directly to get lost. All agreed that a non-response does not close the door. All also agreed that they thought that she just needed space to deal with life after her divorce. So most thought as your advise indicates which was comforting to hear. Nearly everyone one of them thought it was sweet in that I cared and tried to extend myself to be a friend. They hoped that someone would do that for them in a similar situation. I think the hard part for me is going to be the waiting part. Being that I do not live anywhere near her means that I do not have any visibility to what may be going on in her life. So I have to pray a lot and hope that god watches over her and helps her when she needs help. I hope that she knows that I care. Silence is so hard and painful. I will endeavor to be there for her as I cannot help but think that god has some purpose for all of this that I do not understand. Thanks again for the kind words!

  2. Lynn says:

    Hummmmm, OK. Well, I wish you luck frank.

  3. Lynn says:

    . It is not a pessimistic view we are giving it is the Female view. Most of us have been where your friend has been one time or another in our lives as a Female. As a male I think you are not getting her message through her silence. I feel for you, but I also feel for your wife.

    • frank says:

      It seems like you are implying that this is an emotional response and only an emotional response. If that is the case then wouldn’t it be presumptuous to think that all women would respond in the same way? At some point logic has to enter the picture here. While I appreciate your point of view and those of the other responses, I am not looking for an emotional explanation, rather an explanation based upon some type of logic that I can understand and deal with. While I appreciate your empathy towards the situation, I am not sure why you would feel sorry for my wife. My wife knows about my friend from school. I told her the evening I saw my friend again. She does not have a problem with this. She actually found her silence puzzling as well and did not seem to feel it was based upon emotion. In general, I talk to my wife about everything. I have other friends who are women as well that she knows all about. She even talks to them and is good friends with many of them. You know that married guys can actually be friends with women who are not their wife. As for “moving on”, I think that I have a course of action that I can follow that will respect her silence and need for space while providing me a logical framework under which I can understand and live with. If on the other hand, if everyone is implying that I completely erase my feelings and thoughts of my friend, it is unrealistic to think that will ever happen whether I be a man or a woman. We are the sum the total of our experience both physical and emotional. It is what makes us who we are. I could no more erase her from my being then I could try to erase the memories and feelings of my wife or parents. When you truly care about someone, it is forever unconditionally. I have been so blessed in my life to have people in my life that I care deeply about who have had a profound impact on my being. I hope everyone who reads this has people like that in their life that they never forget and who they will love unconditionally whether reciprocated or not.

  4. Lynn says:

    frank,

    I don’t think you are wanting to hear what these ladies are saying. Your friend is NOT leaving you hanging, she is wanting NOT to encourage you and is wanting to move on. It would probably help if you had someone to talk to like a Mental Health counselor so you could learn to deal with your feelings about this. As far as your friend , you need to let it go and move on also.

    • frank says:

      First of all I would like to thank everyone for the responses. I hear what the others ladies are saying but I do not accept it. The view points state the obvious in that the effect of the action or lack thereof is exactly what you say. What I am looking for is the motivation behind the action. The motivations put forth so far are pessimistic view points that presume that you know the exact intentions. One of the views had innuendo that I found to be personally offensive. I think my responses were appropriate, measured and polite. Two view points that two friends put forth to me recently are as follows; “she is respecting your marriage because she just went thru a divorce…; “she just went thru a divorce and still has some emotional baggage and potentially other things to deal with where you are just low on the priority list…” Both of these things seem more realistic and more plausible in my view. As an optimist, I believe in possibilities. My actions are clear in that I do nothing. This does not stop me from praying for her or even sending her holiday greetings from time to time. She just needs time to deal with things. I really do appreciate the responses because they provoked my intellect to think about this more clearly. I don’t think there is a need to see anyone about this. There are several teaching moments here as follows;” communicate, clearly say what you mean; it is ok to care about people and be concerned for their well being; be optimistic and open to possibilities; and know that you can by with a little help from your friends.

      • Donna says:

        Frank – I feel for you, but you cannot control another person’s actions. If she is not responding, that means that she is not interested in pursuing the friendship. Her lack of communication is telling you there is no interest. I’m sorry that you are not getting the closure that you want, and it’s not easy when you are ‘ghosted’ like that, as it has happened to me, but it is clearly her issue and not yours. You did everything you could, and if I were you, I would move on and not look back. I wish you the best of luck.

        • frank says:

          Thanks for your understanding. Please keep in mind that we are both at the age of being grandparents (she is) and we are not 20 something year olds. Maybe in that setting, the entirety of your response would be true. I do agree that I cannot control her actions and never intended to. I think my issue was with understanding the motive and readjusting my expectations accordingly. While I understand the effect of the action, the motivation is another issue entirely. Your premise is that the communication stopped because she intended to never want to talk to me ever again. That is a value judgement based on the assumption of the consequence of the action. Would it not be equally probable that she is not communicating for less drastic reasons? While the effect is the same, the rational is not as I spoke of earlier. I also agree that the issue is her issue and not mine. It is refreshing to have at least one person understand that I am not the bad guy here. It seems like someone always has to be the bad guy and it usually ends up being the guy. Your response has offer me some comfort with this situation so I do very much appreciate it. I am hoping that with time, maybe things will change. They may not but I can be open to the possibility. Thanks again! 🙂

  5. frank says:

    I find it interesting that in today’s world that when a person acts with humanity and with noble intentions that it so often viewed as inconsequential or having a hidden agenda. We seem to have forgotten that the proper response for such gestures is gratitude and appreciation not suspicion, and back biting. We minimize people thru silence and think that the world revolves around us 24×7. While I may never get closure on this, at least I know I tried to do the right thing and will always have fond memories of my experience with her. I hope that someday she learns one of the lessons that she taught me and that is we are all connected and can have very positive impacts on each other if we would only be open to the possibility and engage with one another. Everyone deserves a chance at friendship and compassion.

  6. ruth s says:

    Did you not say you were married? Perhaps it would be more appropriate to ask yourself why you feel the need to wonder about this potential friendship. I don’t mean to sound harsh (or maybe I do), but there may be a reason you have created this fantasy. Personally, were I a single woman facing the possibility of future continued communication with someone else’s husband, I probably would shrink back as well. My take: She was being friendly and enjoying reconnecting with an old classmate. That was it. She doesn’t want the complication. My advice: Move on. If you ever become single, then that might be the time to pursue her.

    • frank says:

      It’s amazing to me how people think in such absolute terms. So if I am friends with my female married boss at work and have to talk to her about work or my family or anything, I must therefore be an adulterer. God forbid that a married man should actually have women friends in this day and age and actually talk to them. God forbid that a single woman should ever talk to a married man under any circumstances. The horror of it! Fact is we were friends in school so there is no fantasy here. We just fell out of touch and I wanted to rekindle the friendship because she helped me then and now in very profound ways that made me a better person. I can’t image why it would be taboo to actually care about her and want to help her or want to share how she helped me. I guess I should just be an unfeeling uncaring robot and make her feel like a worthless piece of trash. If this is the norm today, then I see no hope for interpersonal relationships on the horizon. Silence is just that silence. Why not have some consideration and simply communicate through the common language we all know instead of assuming I have psychic abilities. At least I would know what she is thinking and can adjust my reactions and feelings accordingly. To communicate what you are suggesting through silence is dehumanizing, disrespectful, and disappointing to say the least. I would like to think that as caring human beings we are all better than that.

    • frank says:

      One other thing to consider, friendship does not translate into someone wanting to be someone’s life partner or with sex. It always seems to come down to that in the end with many people. If your mind is in the gutter, I am not sure how you will ever have any meaningful friendships with anyone. I like to see people as unique spirits with something to offer intellectually and spiritually; ie I look for the good in all things. I never saw my friend in a sexual way. I always viewed her as someone who had a unique ability to bring out at least the best in me and I suspect others. To me she was someone worth knowing and getting to know better. I had hoped that just maybe I could pay her back for all the good she did for me. Right now it seems that it may never happen, only time will tell. All I can do is pray for her and hope that one day she sees the possibilities. It is all I left along with my memories. I hope it is sooner rather than later as all we both have left is another 20-30 years or so before we are no more. I would like to leave this world not having any regrets. I think she would be richer for knowing how she helped me and we would both be richer being friends.

  7. Amy F says:

    I’m sorry, but her nonresponse is a response. She’s not interested in pursuing the friendship. It hurts when feelings aren’t mutual, but if you care about her, you won’t keep pursuing her. I don’t see any way continuing to communicate with you has an upside for either of you.

    • frank says:

      Then why not just say so instead of silence? It is very immature to leave another human being hanging. Silence to me is like leaving the door ajar. It is neither closed nor open. Interpersonal relationships are so much easier when people actually talk instead of leaving tea leaves to interpret. I have found this to be very frustrating.

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