He was ‘smothered’ but won’t stop calling
Dear Annie: My husband and I had a wonderful relationship, and he was a great man. A few years after he died, I reconnected with a divorced male friend whom I knew as a young person. We were doing things together, and I enjoyed his company. He’s 80. I am 78.
He lived in another town, and we would see each other every few weeks. We were beginning to get kind of close, but when his family started asking whether we were serious, I think it frightened him.
One day, he called and said he felt “smothered by the relationship.” I was hurt and embarrassed. It seriously affected my self-esteem, and I withdrew from my friends.
Every few months, he calls and wants to talk. I don’t feel comfortable talking directly to him. Why is he calling? What can I do? The breakup occurred about six years ago. I haven’t seen him since. Why does he still want to call and chat? I do OK texting and emailing with him, but I feel uncomfortable on the phone.
I did find out he’s had a serious drinking problem. I don’t drink. I realize it would have been a terrible mistake to have gotten into a serious relationship with him. He also has an anxiety disorder and is on medication for that. One day he is one way, and the next day he’s another way.
Do I need to talk to a therapist? I have curtailed my activities and pretty much stay close to home. I love people, and after I do finally get out, I am OK. I am on an antidepressant. Part of me wants to ask him, “Why are you calling if you feel so smothered?” — Faithful Reader
Dear Faithful Reader: If you are feeling too anxious to go far from your house, yes, you should absolutely talk to a licensed therapist about it. As for this man, I don’t know for sure why he is calling, but I do know that it’s time for you to stop answering. His continued presence in your life seems to be causing you significant mental strife. You yourself said you feel uncomfortable talking to him on the phone, so don’t talk to him on the phone. You have no obligation to do so; in fact, you have an obligation to yourself not to. Allow yourself the space to heal and move on.
Dear Annie: I’d like to respond to the letter from “Hoping for a Better Family Dinner,” about a boisterous uncle who ruins family gatherings by talking loudly and not doing any listening. He may be covering up his being hard of hearing. We learned that two of our relatives who only talked and didn’t listen were doing just that. They could not answer our questions because they couldn’t hear them well enough, so they kept the conversation on themselves and what they knew. — Claire
Dear Claire: You raise an excellent point. I’ve heard from several readers over the years who have experienced this. Perhaps hearing loss is the culprit in “Hoping for a Better Family Dinner’s” case, too. Thanks for writing.
Dear Annie is written by Annie Lane, a young, married mother of two. Send questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.