I traveled to go to a friend’s big birthday party last weekend, and it was a blast. What was surprising, though, is that an old flame of mine was also there. Now, we haven’t seen each other for more than 20 years, but I swear I got the same butterflies in my stomach that I had when we were dating years ago. We were together for three years, and we broke up when he went to graduate school. It turns out that neither of us is married. It sounds like he has had a good life, as have I. But seeing him again got me to thinking “what if?” Do you think it’s worth it to find out?
— Old Flame Rekindled
Dear Old Flame Rekindled: Before you take action, rewind and think about the life you once had with this man. What was good? What was not? Do you remember his values and qualities? Do they generally match yours? If you think you are likely compatible, go for it. Reach out to him and be honest. Tell him that you would like to rekindle your friendship. Express how nice it was to see him again and that you would like to see what happens if you spend some time together. Don’t be cagey about it. You are both adults, and he should know your intentions. If he is interested, he will let you know. If not, at least you put it out there.
Dear Harriette: In the Dec. 13, 2018, column, “Boyfriend’s Daughter Causes Strain in Relationship,” there was a letter from a 28-year-old woman dating a man in his mid-40s. The girlfriend complained about her boyfriend’s 21-year-old daughter changing her mind about becoming a cosmetologist after he had paid for it and her father’s continued support of his daughter’s needs. Acknowledging that this was a sensitive situation, I like the way you addressed it by pointing out to the writer that her boyfriend was doing the best he could to care for his daughter, and most important, that he was also trying to do right by her and her child. I had to agree with you that if the girlfriend had stepped in to make comments, it would’ve likely caused conflict.
With your sound advice in mind, I was reminded of a woman I dated. “Natalie” always wanted me to spend time with and do things for her family. When I’d talk about or do things for my family, she would make selfish and ugly comments. Though I would not mention it, many times her comments would upset me and hurt my feelings. What could I have said to her to get her to stop that behavior?
— Writing From Prison
Dear Writing From Prison: Thank you for your note and for your support. While spending time in prison, I imagine that you have a lot to think about. It is good that you are using your time constructively to evaluate your life. What you could have done with Natalie is to let her know that you have feelings, too. In a relationship, reciprocity is important. Both partners need to feel heard and respected. Both of your needs must be addressed; otherwise, someone will feel left out.
You could have told her that her unkind comments about your family were hurtful and mean, and you could have asked her to stop.