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Dear Jane,

I left my husband four years ago when I met the new love of my life who I am now married to, but every day I realize what a terrible mistake I made, and I would do anything to turn back the clock.

I am not exactly unhappily married, but I know this isn’t what marriage should be, and I am burning with regret over leaving my former husband, who was – I now know – the true great love of my life. He is with someone else now, and my current husband would be devastated if he knew how I felt, so I am carrying this alone.

Last week my daughter asked if I thought I had done the right thing in leaving Dad, and I didn’t know how to answer, but even she can see the pain I’m in.

Dear Jane, what am I supposed to do? 

From, Regretful in New York

Dear Jane, I left my husband four years ago when I met the new love of my life who I am now married to, but every day I realize what a terrible mistake I made

Dear Jane, I left my husband four years ago when I met the new love of my life who I am now married to, but every day I realize what a terrible mistake I made

Dear Regretful,

First of all, let me start by saying that I am sorry, truly, for the pain you are in. As a dyed-in-the-wool romantic, who grew up watching Hollywood movies and reading endless romance novels, the phrase that jumps out at me in your letter is this: ‘I know this isn’t what marriage should be.’

I have been thinking about our expectations around romance, and how horribly unprepared we are for the institution of marriage.

We go in bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, caught up – many of us – in a fairytale wedding where we feel at our most beautiful. We assume that now we are finally going to get our happy ever after.

Isn’t that what every woman has been told since she was a little girl? 

How I think about marriage today is a world away from how I thought about marriage when I first set foot down the aisle, 24 years ago. I grew up believing in destiny, and soulmates (or, as they now call them, Twin Flames). I believed that once you had found your person, the rest was easy.

I never imagined the rollercoaster that marriage is, nor how cyclical. That we would hit tremendous bumps, where one of us (and when I say one of us, I mean me) would lie in bed every night grinding their teeth, dreaming of divorce, wondering what it would be like to live alone. No-one would ever ask what the dinner plan is, nor talk loudly on the phone when you are trying to read, nor leave a sink constantly filled with dirty dishes.

The thing is, Regretful, marriage very quickly loses the romance, particularly when children are involved. You can get it back, at times, but it requires commitment, and work.

Marriage is a carousel. There are times when you get on like a house on fire and when love is ever-present. I imagine that even in this second marriage, there are probably moments that are good. Maybe even great.

And there are moments that are terrible, which is true of most marriages.

And I get it! I never understood why people had affairs until I hit a particularly bad patch in my own marriage.

Around that time, I went to a conference and met a handsome younger writer who seemed to have a bit of a crush on me.

Oh, it was delightful! He would send these smart, funny emails which made me feel beautiful, and alive, and it had been a very long time since I felt either of those things. I have never thought of myself as the sort of person to have an affair, but with every email and text, with every wave of dopamine and feel-good hormone that I hadn’t felt in years, the more I wanted.

Until I realized that I was very close to a precipice that would not be good for my marriage at all.

This, I realized, is how affairs start.

It’s not because you want to be unfaithful, but because you want to feel this alive again.

Should you jump off the precipice and into the affair, you justify it by convincing yourself this is your soulmate, your Twin Flame.

But Regretful, as you have discovered, that hot fantasy of the affair, should it turn into something long-term, very quickly becomes… well… dinner plans and dirty dishes again.

In short, the fantasy becomes reality, which in your case, is leading you to think that things would be better elsewhere.

But were you to leave this marriage for another fantasy, thinking that this time it will be true love, I rather suspect you will find yourself in exactly the same position.

My advice to you is to stop with the fantasies. Instead, focus on what does work in your marriage.

Remind yourself of the things that attracted you to your current husband in the first place, and (this is advice you are going to hear a lot from me), start a gratitude list.

Instead of thinking about what makes you unhappy, start each morning thinking of three things about your husband that you appreciate. It may be as simple as ‘he hangs his towel up every day’.

Say it. ‘I am grateful that my husband hangs his towel up every day.’ Focus on the good, and it will always bring more good.

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You cannot change the past, but you can prevent yourself from making exactly the same mistake again, and I promise you that this will bring more happiness into your life.

Dear Jane,

A friend of over 40 years has often ghosted me, but this time it’s been a year since I last heard from her on February 23, 2022. 

She responds to my children’s and mutual friends’ Facebook posts – and sometimes mine, but otherwise I’ve had no contact for almost 12 months. 

I visited her in California and we made aspic (of all things! We had read about it!) when she left her husband; I sent her professional dresses when she started a concierge job and began her life over in Galveston; I spent a week with her following her heart transplant; we’ve celebrated Christmases and birthdays together – until this year – ending with the meals I took her to last year when she broke her wrist. 

We’re both former high school English teachers, avid beach reads readers, and moms. I’ve seen a Facebook post that makes me think she’s moved away without even saying goodbye. I am deeply hurt and sad.

From, Ghosted in Ohio

Dear Ghosted,

I have been ghosted myself by a woman who – like you – I considered one of my closest friends, and it was one of the most brutal, heartbreaking things I have gone through. 

My heart goes out to you, because until it has happened to you, you cannot understand the unique pain of being abandoned with no explanation. 

I have come to realize that sometimes in our friendships, the little things we think we can overlook, blow into very big things. 

Most people are terrified of confrontation and it can feel easier to walk away, even though it is the most cowardly, cruel way of ending a friendship.

I have also ghosted someone myself. It was a woman I had known all my life, who was indiscreet, demanding, and would gossip viciously about mutual friends whenever I saw her, ending up – of course – with her gossiping viciously about me. 

Dear Jane’s Sunday service

The Grass is Greener Where You Water It

It is so much easier to focus on what’s wrong in our lives than what is right. 

We expend our energy on all the wrong things, instead of putting the time, attention and care into something that may not feel like it’s working, but that can bloom into loveliness with the right amount of care and attention.

After I understood the brutality of not allowing a ghostee the courtesy of an explanation, I wrote to her, explaining that I had loved her for many years, but her duplicity and demands had pushed me away. I’m sure it was hard for her to read, but telling her why I’d abandoned her was the right thing to do.

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When we don’t know why we have been abandoned, all the things we secretly believe to be true about ourselves – the secret shame we carry, the belief that we’re not good enough – are confirmed. Why else would someone abandon us?

I need you to know that this is not your fault. No matter what you may or may not have done to make your friend ghost you, the fact that she didn’t have the courage to tell you means this is not about you, but entirely about her.

Like all relationships, friendships require commitment and work. Small resentments can quickly metastasize into something insurmountable, and if you did anything, or said anything to upset your friend, it was her job to tell you about it and give you the opportunity to acknowledge it, apologize, and move forward. 

Incidentally, friendships in which honesty and communication are paramount, often end up being stronger when you hit a bump and are able to talk about it openly.

You have done many thoughtful things for your friend, and I am sorry that this has been rewarded with thoughtlessness. I can’t say cruelty, for I don’t believe that was her intention; most people don’t understand how cruel it is to ghost. 

I suspect your friend may not have the capacity to tell you why she has walked away, but it is now time for you to let her go. I would start by muting her on Facebook. Not blocking – that is petty and passive aggressive – but if seeing her posts upsets you, mute her. You need to stop her from holding space in your life.

It has been two years since I was ghosted by my best friend. Although I still miss parts of our friendship, the pain has gone, and I have learned a huge amount about friendships, not least that I deserve the kind of friends who are not afraid to tell me if I upset them. 

We all deserve the kinds of friends who are honest enough to give us the opportunity to right perceived wrongs. I wish you well, and I wish you a group of friends who are emotionally secure enough to not only receive the many gifts you bring, but are able to bring them to you too.

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