DEAR HARRIETTE: I got a social media message from one of my college professors. It was so nice to hear from him after more than 30 years, especially since he was a big help to me when I was struggling with some social issues at school. He believed in me and pushed me to stay focused. I hadn’t thought about him for a long time, and then I got this really nice holiday greeting.
On one hand, I feel bad about not staying in touch with my professor over the years. On the other hand, I am happy that he is still alive and doing well and thinking about me. I want to respond to him. Should I apologize for being MIA for so long, or just jump in and start talking to him? -- Reconnected
DEAR RECONNECTED: Stay in the moment and respond to him with all the joy that you feel. Tell him about what you have been doing with your life, and ask him about his own. Thank him for getting in touch with you. Suggest that the two of you stay better connected moving forward. Then take the initiative. Send him emails or give him a call from time to time. You may want to include it on your calendar or as an alarm on your smartphone. Perhaps you can call this professor once a quarter, or something like that. It will be meaningful to him for you to reach out with some consistency. You can always fill the time with stories about what’s happening in your life. As he was your teacher and encourager, he will surely be thrilled to hear what’s happening and offer advice as needed. Just make sure that you find out about his life as well. If he needs support, do your best to offer help.
DEAR HARRIETTE: A good friend of mine just told me that her husband wants to get a divorce after more than 20 years of marriage. This is totally rocking my world. They have been the example of a happy, loving couple and solid parents for me and my husband -- and a whole bunch of other couples -- for years. We have been friends for at least half of their marriage. My husband and I like them both. This is so weird.
My friend doesn’t want to break up, but it sounds like her husband is done. I feel so sorry for her, but also worried for all of us. Really, they were the example of how to do it. It looked like they worked through challenges well and seemed to always figure it out. I want to be there for my friend, but I also want to think about what to do to shore up my own marriage. -- Shaken to the Core
DEAR SHAKEN TO THE CORE: It is always devastating to hear of the end of a marriage, especially one that has flourished for so long. Be an avid listener for your friend. Do not give advice or pass judgment. Just make sure she knows that you want to be there for her during this tough time. Be sure to keep what she shares with you confidential.
For your own marriage, use this opportunity to talk openly with your husband about what’s working well and what could be improved. Check in with each other to determine if you are doing well -- from both perspectives -- or if you need counseling or any course correction. Your friend’s crisis can serve as a wakeup call to the rest of your group. Take heed.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)