I need help with a love-hate relationship. In high school, I had a friend I alternately hated and put on a pedestal. We picked on each other and fought. After high school, I forgot about her. It’s 30 years later, but recently her mom said my friend wants to hear from me. I wrote her twice and said I now realize that I had always been jealous and that’s why I was mean to her. I never heard back. I heard that she made a conscious decision not to contact me. My old feelings of hatred and jealousy are flooding back. I need to deal with this demon inside me. How do I do that?
Stop thinking in black and white. Falling in and out of love with someone is not love at all. It doesn’t matter whether the relationship is with a platonic friend, a business associate or a committed partner; extreme emotional swings are a sign of entrenched thinking errors. The work here is to see others as they are with special gifts, unique beauty and distinctive life experiences plus shortcomings, eccentricities and unhealed emotional wounds. After opening your eyes to the truth of a person, your task is to accept that person as one (potential) expression of the Divine.
It is difficult to accomplish such a spiritual endeavor, however, until you have embraced who you are. One obstacle: jealousy. As anxiety’s stepchild, jealousy taunts us about losing or being separated from the person we obsess over. The antidote is reminding ourselves of the capabilities for self-care and socialization we had before the troubled relationship and recognizing our enhanced skill set afterwards. Both black-and-white, inflexible thinking and jealousy are the spawn of low self-esteem. When you honestly assess and acknowledge your abilities, your self-esteem builds muscle.
Your decision to send a confessional email did not take anyone into consideration except yourself. It was selfish. A more loving choice is to write the email to your friend and send it to yourself. Open it a day or two later and, with the help of a trusted friend or therapist, edit out the blaming, accusing, attacking language and any other drama. Then email it to yourself again. Repeat the process until the document is clean and can be sent or until you realize the issues are yours alone. In the latter case, there is no need to email. When your heart is open again, call to reconnect as you are now, not as the child you have been.
I am a 33-year-old gay man. My family accepts me completely with the exception of my dad’s brother. He regularly emails me articles about the sin of homosexuality and either avoids me at family gatherings or drops snarky remarks. I never respond. My partner and I are organizing my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary party. We do not want to invite my uncle to our home. My parents approve of this, but I wonder if I am really doing the right thing.
Absolutely. Your parents have decided they want a peaceful evening surrounded by people who love one another. That decision automatically rules out your uncle. If your uncle wants to honor your parents’ anniversary, he can send them a greeting card or take them out to dinner on his own.
That doesn’t explain why you feel so uncertain. This does: You have a compassionate heart. Excluding your uncle echoes, in a small way, the exclusions you might have experienced in life or that you occasionally feel now as a gay man in the United States. You know the pain of being marginalized and hesitate to impose it on someone else. Be grateful for having such pure instincts.