Carolyn Hax: Coming out of an abusive marriage, hoping friends didn’t give up

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Comment

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Caroline: I just left my 15 year marriage with a controlling and emotionally abusive spouse. The last few years, I had no energy, barely for my two young children, and certainly not for the people who asked me out. I blew them all up, not even necessarily because my spouse said anything about me going out, just… I had nothing in the tank.

Now that I’ve left him, my energy level is at an all-time high. (Apparently he was super exhausting!) I still can’t sleep – kids, remember – but, like, now I want to go to parties. I want friends and buddies!

But I’m sure no one wants to invite me again, because I’ve been a flake for so long. How can I catch up with these people and regain a social life without appearing pushy or desperate?

How to mingle? : Stop beating yourself up! Please. I know the sting of being repressed is familiar, so it will be hard to get to the point where you recognize it as free. But kinder self-treatment is a small way to start trusting your worth again.

Then: Pick the one or three friends you most regret wiping, contact them and tell them why you ducked, that you’re sorry, and that you’d like to see them. One on one, venture out.

In the worst case, you are absolutely right: that you have scaled once too many and they are cooked. But: 1. You are ready for it. 2. Not what, for the record, most people I know would do to someone just coming out of a long-term crisis. (You wouldn’t want their friendship anyway if they can’t figure out that you were in survival mode all these years.)

You also don’t have to make anything up to anyone. Just be honest and present. That you let yourself be vulnerable, after what you’ve been through, is enough for now. I hope they see this.

Re: Mix: I wouldn’t be surprised if some of your people are happy to know you got away with it and would love to see you again.

Dear Caroline: The son of longtime family friends got married in a big wedding last year out of state during the height of the coronavirus in our area. They were very lax on covid protocols. We declined to attend the wedding, and since we were both unemployed at the time, we were unable to send a gift.

Since then, the mother of the groom has been very distant and limited in her communication, especially with me. We are both now employed and can afford a wedding gift, but it seems like it would be awkward to give a gift at this late date.

We will see the family at a group meeting. Would it be appropriate to give the couple a wedding gift at this time? Or would it be better to send a gift before that? And how do I deal with my perception that the mother of the groom is very upset with me for not attending the wedding/sending a gift and she doesn’t really want to communicate anymore?

Anonymous: Send a gift if you want to send a gift. Now it’s better – less to carry around with you and less awkward “Here’s your overdue gift” conversation. Moreover, the value of the gift is the gift, not the moment.

As for the mother of the groom, she can work alone [stuff] out. Really. Be yourself. You haven’t done anything wrong.

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