Ask Amy: Secret online friendship ends abruptly

July 11 at 12:00 AM

Dear Amy: I’ve been married for many years. A few years back I started an online friendship with another woman. We’ve emailed back and forth, and I really enjoyed our correspondence over the years. She’s had a much more exciting life than I’ve had, but I found our shared knowledge and experiences made for an online relationship that’s better than anything I’ve had with my wife.

I knew we’d never meet in person. I never attempted a face-to-face meeting with her and was perfectly happy with that. Then, two years ago, her writings to me became less frequent and much more politically tinged.

She attributed this to an injury she suffered, and the subsequent recovery from it.

Her correspondence to me has since dropped down to nothing, I miss it and feel truly hurt by this. My wife knows nothing of this, and I find that my wife and I have less and less in common anymore.

Should I continue to correspond with her and hope things will go back to normal, or should I just end things altogether and try to move on?

— Hurt Online

Hurt Online: When I comment on the insidious effect (and often damage) that secret “friendships” have on a marriage, people often respond: “But married people can — and should — have friends!”

YES, committed partners can (and should!) conduct their own friendships, but when the friendship is a secret, over time the secrecy amplifies a feeling of intimacy between the friends, leaving the primary partner out.

Your situation is a perfect example of this phenomenon. As your online friendship grew, your in-person relationship shrank. And now — unfortunately, both relationships have dwindled.

Maybe you pursued your online friendship in the first place because you believed that something important was missing in your marriage. But — if you aren’t at least going to try to be a full partner to your spouse, then you should own the consequence.

You should respect your online friend’s choice to maintain some distance from you. You could express concern about her but then you should respect the choices she is making.

Then — you could take the extra relationship energy and recommit to trying to reconnect with your wife. You might start by sending her a warmly written email.

Dear Amy: My granddaughter is barely scraping along. She is divorced from her vindictive and nasty husband. They have three teenagers for whom she is mainly responsible.

She had a good job when she divorced, so the court-ordered child support was low. She has a part-time job now, but with no benefits, and she has had some serious health issues. I help her out by sending her about $1,800 a month.

My husband and I are retired and are comfortably well-off. There is nothing that we need or want that we can’t get for ourselves.

However, our granddaughter sends us gift cards for things that we don’t want or would not get for ourselves.

To me, that is akin to robbing Peter to pay Paul.

The last time she sent me something, I wrote to her and asked her not to send us anything of monetary value. A card or a Zoom call would be more than enough to make us happy.

We are also very old and try to go out as little as possible until there is a vaccine for the virus.

Well, she has just sent my husband a Father’s Day card for $25 to spend at Starbucks. He doesn’t want it.

I have sent it back to her and asked her again not to send us such gifts.

I am sure that I am hurting her feelings, and I don’t know what to do about it.

Do you have any suggestions about how better to handle this?

— Grands

Grands: You are so generous — and your granddaughter obviously appreciates it very much. She is trying, in her way, to thank you and reciprocate.

I realize this is frustrating for you, but after your second admonition and correction, I think it’s time to let it go. You might be able to regift or donate any gift cards to someone who might use them.

Dear Amy: “Too Nice” described being so nice that people always take advantage of her.

That used to be me! Thank you for telling her that people will react poorly when she attempts to establish boundaries. This is just their way of struggling to adjust.

— Been There

Been There: It’s hard to switch it up! People will push back.

2020 by Amy Dickinson distributed by Tribune Content Agency