Ask Amy: Friendship breakup receives a poor grade

Dear Amy: I recently ended an emotionally abusive relationship with my best friend of one year. We met when we were both very lonely. We are in a challenging graduate program together.

Our friendship progressed rapidly but turned toxic.

She has high emotional needs, and I started to feel more like her therapist than her friend. I encouraged her to seek therapy, and she became incredibly angry.

Over time, she became increasingly controlling, and I decided to end our friendship.

I debated about how to end things and ultimately decided to write a letter (1) because I thought I could better convey my feelings, and (2) she often twists other people’s words in conversation.

I dropped the letter off in her mailbox weeks ago, and we have not spoken since. Our final exams start next week.

I have had friends tell me that she only read the letter this week and is upset that I “decided to do this right before finals.”

I think some of these friends believe her and think I’m in the wrong.

I just want this part of my life to be over, but now I feel guilty about how this played out.

Was I responsible for making sure she read the letter? How do I finally get her out of my head for good?

— Cutting Ties

Dear Cutting Ties: The only mistake you’re making here is continuing to believe on some level that you actually have some control over how your words or deeds are interpreted by others.

This belief in your own control is a reflection of the high-achieving side of you — that part of your intellect that led you into a challenging academic program. This quality might help you in some professional ways, but your need to control the outcome — and guilt when you can’t — will hold you back as a person.

You wrote the letter. You are not responsible for this person receiving the letter, reading the letter, or using the timing of the letter to whine to your mutual friends. Voila! Her current behavior is exactly why you can’t be friends! She is giving you the benefit of access to her drama-by-proxy.

Grab a glass of your favorite beverage. Raise it to your choice to let this go. Say, out loud: “Byyyeeeee, Felicia.” And start the next academic semester fresh.

Dear Amy: My spouse and I have been together our whole adult lives — ever since high school.

Over the years, he has hurt me in different ways, big and small.

He thinks that I have not forgiven him for these harms because if, in conversation, he brings one of them up, I am not emotionally neutral.

Sometimes, I will get tearful or sometimes I will try to explain again why there was harm to begin with — because he still doesn’t seem to get it.

He says that if I really forgave him, there should no longer be any sensitivity to reflecting on all this stuff.

I say that I have forgiven, but I have not forgotten the hurts.

What do you say?

— Struggling

Dear Struggling: Old wounds are still wounds. When these wounds are irritated, you feel pain.

It seems completely logical that bringing up past hurts also brings up some of the feelings these hurts originally brought forth.

Your husband seems to believe that you should no longer express strong feelings about old events. Why is he bringing up these incidents? Is he testing you? Or is he “poking” your wound in order to reinjure you and then relitigate the original incident, recasting it as your problem?

You should tell him that not feeling emotion is simply not an option for you. Can he think back to times when he has felt hurt — even going back to childhood?

One of the things that makes us human is the ability to recall happiness or pain, and to actually feel those feelings.

The opposite of love is indifference. You should tell your husband that you feel these feelings because — even after all this time — you still care.

Dear Amy: One more comment on the question from “Baker,” who didn’t seem inclined to offer gluten-free and sugar-free dessert options for a family member.

I don’t have celiac disease, but I’ve found that eliminating gluten has really stabilized my always-sensitive stomach. I’m always touched when hosts offer foods I know I can safely eat.

— Grateful

Dear Grateful: The large response to this question is a reminder of how important food is in terms of emotional nourishment.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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