DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a friend who is very difficult to get close to, but he’s very sweet sometimes, too. He is always posting touching images of animals or babies and children doing nice things to and for each other on social media. In person, he is hard to reach. He does not return calls often. He is a flake. That is, until he chooses to spend time with you; then you feel like the most important person in the world. I think I crave the attention that he sometimes shows me, but it hurts my feelings that everything is on his terms. How can I manage my expectations differently? I don’t like the downside of how our friendship makes me feel. -- Distant Friend
DEAR DISTANT FRIEND: It sounds like you need to accept the reality of this man’s friendship. He has shown you how he behaves and how he engages people. You seem to crave more than he is willing to give. That doesn’t necessarily make him a bad person. It does say that you have not accepted the terms of this relationship.
You already know that the way that people interact on social media is not necessarily reflective of who they are and how they engage in “real life.” Social media is a way for people to posture. It sounds like your friend chooses positive images to share with the world, but they are not of him or about him. Stop trying to read between the lines to find a way to get closer to this man. Instead, either be OK with the time and attention that he affords you, or decide that it is not enough and walk away.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I had an affair during a time in my marriage when everything was going to hell. When my husband found out, we decided to get a divorce. Now he has come back to me saying that he forgives me and wants to try again. He says he knows things were bad, and that it wasn’t all my fault. He admitted to the things he was doing that were unkind to me. I was surprised at how forthcoming he was.
So now he wants to reconcile. I’m not sure that I do. He is a nice guy, but I think it was a mistake to marry him. Now that we are being more honest, do I tell him the truth, or should I try to make it work in spite of some of my lingering feelings about walking away? -- Reconciliation
DEAR RECONCILIATION: Now is the time for you to be honest with yourself first. What do you want? There was a reason you chose to find companionship outside of your marriage. What was it? Tell yourself the truth about your decisions, and ask if you think you can be fulfilled and faithful if you recommit to your husband. What will it take for you to be able to start over and be 100% in?
If you can find those answers, discuss them with your husband. Be honest without being cruel. Tell him what you want and need in chapter two of your life together.
If you cannot find a way back to your marriage that you believe will work for you, do not pretend that you can. Apologize to your husband for not being able to reconcile. End on a high note by pointing out what was good about your marriage. Let him know that it is time for you to walk away.
(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.)