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


Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: I just left my 15-year marriage to a controlling and emotionally abusive spouse. The last few of those years, I had no energy, barely any for my two small kids, and definitely not for people who invited me to hang out. I blew all of them off, not even necessarily because of Spouse saying anything about me going out, just … I had nothing in the tank.

Now that I’ve left him, my energy level is through the roof. (Apparently, he was super exhausting!) I’m still getting no sleep — kids, remember — but, like, now I want to go to the parties. I want friends and buddies!

But I’m pretty sure no one wants to invite me out again, because I’ve been a flake for so long. How do I make it up to these people and get back into having a social life without coming off as pushy or desperate?

How to Mingle?: Stop flogging yourself! Please. I know the sting of being put down is familiar, so it’ll be hard to get yourself to the point where you recognize it as gratuitous. But kinder self-treatment is a small way you can start to trust your worth again.

Next: Choose the one to three buddies you most regret flaking on, get in touch and say why you flaked, that you’re sorry and that you’d like to see them. One on one, venture out.

Worst case, you’re exactly right: that you flaked one time too many and they’re done. But: 1. You’re prepared for that. 2. That isn’t what, anecdotally, most people I know would do to someone who is just emerging from a long-term crisis. (You wouldn’t want their friendship anyway if they aren’t able to grasp that you were in survival mode all those years.)

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

Re: Mingling: I wouldn’t be surprised if some of your people are happy to know that you’ve gotten yourself out of a bad situation and would be delighted to see you again.

Dear Carolyn: The son of longtime friends of the family got married in a large wedding last year out of state during the height of the coronavirus in our area. They were very lax about covid protocols. We declined to attend the wedding and, because we were both unemployed at the time, 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 feels as if it would be awkward to give a gift at this late date.

We will be seeing the family at a group reunion. Would it be appropriate to give a wedding gift to the couple at that 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 doesn’t really want to communicate anymore?

Anonymous: Send a gift if you want to send a gift. Now is better — less to haul with you, and less “Here’s your late gift” awkward conversation. Plus, the value of the gift is the giving, not the timing.

As for the mother of the groom, she can work her own [stuff] out. Really. Be yourselves. You’ve done nothing wrong.

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