Fun commentary today!

Dear Amy: I’m at a complete loss right now.

I am an asexual person in my late-30s. I am in a five-year relationship and am in school pursuing a degree.

About six weeks ago, an adult classmate of mine started pursuing a friendship with me (he has a wife and children). We’ve become really close during that time.

We talk about our feelings, hopes, dreams, fears, etc., and there has been an amazing level of what I thought was honest and healthy communication.

Recently, he caught me off guard with a conversation about how “this relationship will never be anything but platonic” and “we can’t be anything more than friends.”

I know. I was never after anything else.

Amy, I feel like I just got dumped and that really stinks because I’ve been very careful to monitor my friendship with him and not ever push it because I didn’t want him getting the wrong idea.

It just hurts, because I don’t make friends easily, and I don’t know how to fix this.

I don’t even know if I can fix it.

I guess I just need a little help seeing the light. My head knows that I didn’t actually do anything wrong, but my heart isn’t getting that message.

— Adrift

Adrift: I hope my take on this will help to illuminate things for you.

You did nothing wrong. He did nothing wrong.

You have not been dumped. You have been confronted — very awkwardly — with the conflicted thoughts and feelings of a man who (it’s quite possible) cannot fathom having an emotionally intimate friendship without it becoming sexual.

My theory is that your friend has jumped into this close friendship, which doesn’t hew to the usual playbook of his other friendships (with men), where he exchanges greetings and sports scores for several years, before moving on to more personal topics, like the weather.

(I realize this is an extreme exaggeration of the stereotype but bear with me.)

Do you remember the juvenile “comeback” from childhood: “I know you are, but what am I?”

He is now asserting — way too emphatically — that he is not and never will be attracted to you, because his previous experiences with friendship have not prepared him for a unique friendship without a sexual component.

The fact that he might actually be attracted to you is another dilemma for another day.

Talk about it! (c) Ask Amy

Huh. I think Ask Amy overshot on this one, not that I blame her, because the urge to analyze this is strong. Like, what the freak is going on here?!

  1. Is he in love with the letter writer and trying to stave off any sort of marriage-wrecking interactions? 
  2. Is he specifically not in love with the letter writer but afraid she’s in love with him, and so he’s trying to prevent any sort of hurt feelings? 
  3. Is his wife the one with the concern, whereas he has no clue how he or the letter writer is feeling? 
  4. Does the letter have romantic (albeit not sexual) feelings for him? (I’m going on the assumption that you can have romantic feelings separate from sexual ones.) Thus, was the letter writer ashamed at being called out for having feelings for a married man? 
  5. Was the letter writer feeling nothing untoward but felt accused of such? Like, why would you think that?! 
  6. Was the man just trying to clarify some boundaries with her? 
  7. Or, was the man trying to convince himself never to cross the line? Like a chocolate lover saying, “Don’t leave me alone with the chocolate!”  

I have absolutely no idea. However, my advice would be to talk about it. She says she’s not good at friendship. This is the time to develop those skills. 

I’m not a believer in emotional affairs as being a problem. In my opinion, we can never have too many relationships in our lives. I think the important thing, if one party (or both parties) is married, is that the married parties are the closest to their spouses. Like, you and I can have a close emotional relationship, but I’m closer to my spouse. This is a rather simplistic view on my end, though, and it might not work for every situation. 

Dear Amy: My husband and I get anxious as we see pumpkins appearing in shops.

You see, both of our children have late-November birthdays.

They are the only grandchildren/nieces on both sides of our families.

Neither of our families live local to us, so beginning in mid-November, we start to feel a tidal wave of gifts entering our lives.

Last year, both kids ended up with stuffed bedrooms and a mountain of toys in the playroom by the end of the holiday season.

It was overwhelming.

We have decided that in our immediate family, we are going to have birthdays and a Christmas that is more focused on experiences and less focused on gift-giving this year.

My question is: Is there a polite way to encourage our extended family to do the same?

I am not blaming them for our clutter problem, but would love to somehow discourage the tidal wave, especially because it has been such a big project digging out and it feels really good to be more organized.

What do you suggest?

— DeCluttered

DeCluttered: Congratulations on your clean sweep!

Many distant family members actually look for practical suggestions when it comes to children’s gifts. It is not impolite to offer ideas, but you should also anticipate that some family members will not comply.

You could send out a group email, offering direction. Tell them: “The season is upon us, and we are anticipating birthdays and holidays. This year we are trying to reduce the material abundance in our household and are encouraging people to send only one gift per child — or offer them “experiences” instead of material gifts. If you’d like ideas, we’d be happy to supply them, and as always, we are so grateful for your thoughtfulness and attention. Our children are very lucky!”

I’m not one to complain about “first-world problems”, but this sort of rubbed me the wrong way:

My husband and I get anxious as we see pumpkins appearing in shops.

This problem is causing autumnal anxiety?! Seriously? I sincerely hope the letter writer was being glib or dramatic for effect, because if the pumpkins are seriously causing her anxiety due to incoming gifts, then something’s wrong here. 

And this is such an easy problem to solve. Someone (the letter writer and her husband, or their kids, depending on how old they are) needs to make a list of desired books. Kids can NEVER have too many books. And it’s fun to arrange them on a shelf and read them. 

When I was growing up, my parents (who were abusive in other ways) bought me every single book I ever wanted. And God bless them for it! I read voraciously. Of course, this was before that newfangled internet. 

Let’s see what Annie Lane is up to!

Dear Annie: After 32 years of marriage, I still battle daily with what the truth is. My husband, who I have been with since I was 17 (over 36 years), had the “shining star syndrome.”

Many of his co-workers found him to be their go-to guy when having relationship troubles in their lives. Only after being told by some female co-workers who were not in his fan club of his lies, disrespect and family-changing damage did I start to connect the dots.

I’ve had difficult times in my life, such as the diagnosis of a chronic illness, the death of a twin sibling, the death of my mother and a stressful job. It was only after he could not handle the difficult moments that affected me that I realized his behavior was narcissistic. 

My biggest heartbreak was that I thought that I was not good enough, and the same for our children. I am grateful to those who finally spoke up about his friendships with other women. 

I work at saving our marriage every day, and he has become accountable. It took years for him to realize the amount of damage that he caused our young adult children. I will never be completely secure, but I am not a quitter.

I am glad I can stop blaming myself for not handling everyday realities like Superwoman. Any hurt partner should know the truth. It actually saved our marriage and our family. — Grieving Loved Ones and Lies (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com

And wait until you all see Annie Lane’s commentary on this: 

Dear Grieving: Thank you for sharing your letter. So many people feel trapped in narcissistic relationships and need to hear that there is a way out of them and a path to freedom. It’s great that you acknowledged all the people who helped you along the way. Congratulations.

Okay, that’s nice, Annie Lane, but the letter writer clearly hasn’t found the way out to freedom. Instead, she’s hanging in there because she’s “not a quitter.” 

I would quit. 

It’s weird that quitting is seen as being non-virtuous. The only times I see quitting as being wrong are: 

  • If you’ve made a commitment to someone. (And I realize she took marriage vows here, but… no. Just no.) But, like, if you tell someone you’ll do something and then you flake out and lose interest, that’s kind of bad. 
  • If you’ve got a tendency to start projects and never finish them (although that’s not non-virtuous as much as just lacking the follow-through, since it probably doesn’t hurt anyone).
  • If you quit a job without giving two weeks’ notice (unless there are extenuating circumstances). 

But in a broad sense, why is it wrong to quit? If you try something and it’s not a good fit, why not quit? (Wow, did that rhyme?) I tried violin lessons as an adult, many years ago. I’m a pianist, so why not? But it turned out that you have to train your left arm to bend like that as a child, because if you try it as an adult, your arm won’t bend. Also, the teacher confessed to me that she’d lost a lot of her hearing from playing the violin, and I’m already part-deaf. Of course I quit! And there was nothing morally wrong about it. 

On the other hand, if you’re being paid, it’s best not to quit. I told my dad I’d clean out the garage recently, and then I did! Go me. But he made it clear that if I wanted to quit, he’d just pay someone else to get it done, while paying me for my time. So it would’ve been no harm, no foul. 

Another thing he paid me to do was to organize my late grandmother’s estate back in 2012. Oh my goodness. I’ve never been so overwhelmed in my life. He paid me hourly. She had STUFF all over her house. My mom helped out from the goodness of her heart. What we wound up doing was categorizing things. The sewing scraps and supplies all went into one room. Stuff for donation went into another room. Stuff for the estate auction went into one wing of the house. Stuff to be kept by anyone in the family went into another area to await being collected or delivered. Several bags of trash (just little things that no one would want) were collected each day. And that’s how we got it done. Maybe it was virtuous of me to see it through, but hey, I was getting paid. Nothing offers the same incentive as money! 

But why is it so wrong to be a quitter? Within a marriage, one person can’t control how well it will work. Both people need to be committed and, ideally, not narcissistic. I don’t see anything morally wrong with divorcing a narcissist, although it’s best not to marry one in the first place.

I think the letter writer has deluded herself into thinking that her husband is making progress. More likely, he’s pretending to make progress. But even if he is indeed making progress, it’ll never be enough.  

It was always like that with my sister. (I’m not saying she’s a narcissist. I’m not sure what’s wrong with her exactly.) People have always been telling me, “She’s taking baby steps toward becoming a better person,” and I’m like, “Do I look stupid to you? She’s taking you all for a ride that I’ve disembarked and have no intention of boarding ever again.” 

But, anyway, Annie Lane’s response to this letter is mystifying. Congratulations on getting out?! [Facepalm.] The letter writer sounds like she’s grateful to people who’d stepped in and helped with her marriage. Nothing wrong with that, but why isn’t the letter writer getting the heck out of there? 

Oh, right. She’s not a quitter. 

*****

My vacation is going well!! Tonight, Sonya and I are going swing dancing. (My mom believes I keep visiting Sonya because she and I are lesbian lovers. Not true, but I might just tell her that Sonya and I are going swinging tonight.) 

I’ve had plenty of time to catch up on my rest, so it’s been a well-paced vacation. I’m not sure why I need so much rest, but I just go along with it. Rest is essential. 

I hope everyone out there is doing well!! 

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