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Advice | Carolyn Hax: From an abusive marriage, hoping friends wouldn’t give up

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Adapted from an online discussion.

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

Now that I’ve left him, my energy levels are through the roof. (Apparently he was super tired!) I’m still not sleeping – kids, remember – but now I want to go to the parties. I want friends and buddies!

But I’m pretty sure no one wants to invite me again because I’ve been a flake for so long. How do I make amends with these people and regain a social life without seeming pushy or desperate?

How to mix?: Stop beating yourself! Please. I know the sting of being put down is familiar so it will be hard to get yourself to recognize it as unnecessary. But kinder self-treatment is one small way you can start trusting your worth again.

Next up: Pick the one to three friends you most regret swearing at, get in touch and say why you fluttered, you’re sorry, and you’d like to see them. One on one, take your chances.

Worst case scenario, you’re absolutely right: that you made one too many flakes and they’re done. But: 1. You are prepared for that. 2. That’s anecdotally not what most people I know would do with someone fresh out of a protracted crisis. (You wouldn’t want their friendship anyway if they can’t understand that you’ve been in survival mode all these years.)

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

Re: Mixing: I wouldn’t be surprised if some of your people are happy to know you got out of a tough situation and would be happy to see you again.

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

Since then, the groom’s mother has been very distant and limited in her communication, especially with me. We both have jobs now and can afford a wedding present, but it feels like it would be inconvenient to give a present at this late date.

We will see the family at a group reunion. Would it be appropriate to give the couple a wedding gift at that time? Or is it better to send a gift sooner? And how do I deal with my perception that the mother of the groom is very angry with me for not sending to the wedding/gift and not really wanting to communicate anymore?

Anonymously: Send a gift if you want to send a gift. Now is better – less to lug around, and less awkward “Here’s your belated gift” conversation. Moreover, the value of the gift is in the giving, not the timing.

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

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