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Dear John: A Rocky Transition From Girlfriend To Friend

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


What’s your problem? Write to John at [email protected].

Dear John,

I moved to a new area about 7 months ago, joined a church and immediately met a girl there. We dated for about 4 months, during which time I became close to her and her family. Because of the lack of people our age in our area, each of our social lives revolved around the relationship and we became very good friends. Eventually I realized that while her feelings for me were very intense, I had none for her and so I ended it. The break up was extremely hard on her, and I tried to give her as much space as I could. However, because of the nature of our relationship and how much we each valued the other's friendship, we both maintained that we wanted to remain friends. I have since moved on without her knowing and am trying to maintain the friendship as best I can, but she has developed a habit of telling me all about how many parties she's going to, how many guys she's seeing, how late she stayed out, how drunk she got, etc. She has even gone so far as to suggest I go have a one-night stand with somebody else, something I would normally not do. I know that I don't have feelings for her, and if it were anybody else I wouldn't mind at all, but I can't help suspecting she's telling these stories with the intent to hurt or shock me. Truth be told, the stories do anger me because she tells them in such a way that they're meant to hurt, and I am a little jealous even if I no longer have feelings for her.

As I said, I have started seeing somebody else and I am very happy, but I know if I shared that with her then it would be hurtful and that's something I'd very much like to avoid. How do I tell her that what she's doing is hurting our friendship without causing a blow-up? Or should I just reciprocate and tell her about my love life? Or is trying to be friends with an ex just not a good idea?


Trying To Take The High Road

Dear Trying To Take The High Road,

Breaking up but staying friends is possible, but it’s very hard. If it’s going to work, the most important thing is that both people involved be truly over each other. Too often – usually, even – staying friends is a way for one or both partners to avoid the pain of really letting go and accepting that it’s over. It’s the last, desperate gasp of a dying relationship. And it’s an especially seductive thing because it wears a mask of maturity and healthy emotional adjustment.

I think that’s what you have here. Every detail in your letter, from your reluctance to be frank with your ex to her attempts to get a rise out of you with tales of her exploits post-you points to this.

If the two of you are going to be friends, I think you should take a good long time away from each other – if you wanted to quit drinking, you wouldn’t keep beer in the refrigerator, right? Stay away from each other, cry, listen to sad songs, grieve, but really break up emotionally. Only when there is none of the old connection remaining can you start to rebuild a platonic one. Although a lot of couples find that once the desire to hold onto that last shred of what you had is gone, staying friends becomes much less of a priority anyway.


Dear John,

My son is thinking about joining the Marines. Though I have tried not to show it, I am heartsick over this. As his mother I fear for his safety, and as a compassionate human being, I did not bring him into this world to learn how to kill some other mother’s son! My husband is not overly supportive of this plan, but he is not nearly as negative about it as I am. His reaction can be summed up as, well at least he’ll have something productive to do for the next four years. I want to try very hard to talk my son out of this plan, but my husband won’t join me. Frankly, I feel like he’s being a bad husband to me and a bad father to our son if he doesn’t take a stronger position on this. I feel we will have a much better chance of changing our son’s mind if we do this together. But he won’t. Your thoughts please.


Sad Mother

Dear Sad Mother,

This must be very hard for you. You sound like a loving mother who is understandably concerned about her son’s well-being. But he’s no longer just your son; he’s also an autonomous adult who is free to make his own presumably well-informed choices. You may not approve of the decision he’s made, but your disapproval is due to your personal beliefs, not to some intrinsic flaw in his plan. If you respect the man you’ve raised him to be, you have to respect his right to make his own decisions, even if you don’t agree with them. That’s not to say you can’t object; in fact, I think you owe it to yourself to do so. But once you’ve stated your case, the choice is his, and I think you should accept it no matter how vehemently you disagree with it.


Dear John,

This is in response to a recent column (and others you’ve written) in which you encourage the acceptance of homosexuality, even going so far as to say such a stance is loving.

While I realize yours is the fashionable view, I would like to offer a perspective you seem unaware of – even ignorant of, if I may use the pejorative term with which people who share my views are so often derided. I am curious what your response will be.

I am a devout Christian. My particular denomination is irrelevant – anyone who takes the Bible seriously and accepts it as the Word of God is compelled to reject homosexuality. The Bible, Old and New Testament alike, is unequivocal on this point. What I wish, what would be “nice,” what would be “loving” – none of this matters. As a Christian, I must “hate the sin, love the sinner.”

My own daughter has a friend who is a lesbian. I am very fond of this young woman, and I pray for her every day. I am very, very worried about her, and yet according to you, my attitude is the very opposite of a loving one. And you are 100% wrong. I am certainly not expecting to change any minds by writing to you about this, yours or anyone else’s. I just hope that in the future you won’t frame this issue in such simplistic, black and white, and yes, ignorant terms.


A Believer

Dear Believer,

If your faith requires you to adopt certain views, whether they’re “fashionable” or not, then only you can decide if you’re okay with that.

However, I don’t share your faith, so the demands the Bible places on its followers are irrelevant to me. I believe consenting adults should be free to enter into sexual relationships with whomever they please. I don’t think that’s subject to my judgment or anyone else’s – I believe you’re entirely free to dislike it; I just don’t think you or people like you should be able to forbid it or to create a climate of hostility towards it.

I will say, though, that your claim to be doing nothing more than what the Bible asks of you is very disingenuous. Unless you confine yourself to a hut when you’re menstruating, you’re choosing to abide by some dictates and ignore others. Have you read the Book of Leviticus lately? It’s positively bursting with insane, homicidal requirements for “believers.” If it were included in the sacred text of any other religion, you would be horrified. And rightly so.

John is a middle-aged family man from Providence. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. Write to him at [email protected].

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