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After marriage, can we be friends?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  February 14, 2014 08:27 AM

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I'm getting a lot of spam through our Love Letters entry form. Send your letters directly to meregoldstein at Gmail to bypass the system. And if you sent a letter that didn't get posted, please resend to the Gmail address so I can see it.

Also, no matter what wins the Romance Rumble, it'll be a good screening. The winner and the event information will be announced Monday.


Q: After a little over four years of marriage (and 10 years total of being together), my marriage is coming to an end. Not my decision. There were communication problems and things unsaid that I took for granted that she knew. We tried couples counseling for about six months, but all it revealed was that things were not going to improve. I did try to improve, but it was either too little, too late, or she didn't fully trust what I had to say. She felt we had become, at best, just excellent roommates, and while I agree, I thought it could get back on track and she did not.

Anyway, we are separating on our way to divorce. But before we dated, we were friends. We met in graduate school and knew each other for about a year before we started dating. At that point, we were best friends. Even now, through everything, we still get along and still can have fun together. She has said that she does not want to be married anymore but that she wants to be friends -- that she cannot imagine me not in her life.

This leads me to my question -- is it an awful idea to try to remain friends after all this? I too can't imagine her not in my life. But, if it were up to me, we would stay married. I don't know how the friendship works if we are just friends. If we hang out and have fun, either it will upset me because I will want more or think more may still be possible, and/or it may upset me that she can be perfectly fine just being friends. And thinking ahead, what happens when either one of us start dating someone? I know at this point I wouldn't want to hear about her dating life. How can a friendship work if there are parts of our lives we can't share with each other?

Almost every day since she moved out, I am tempted to text or email about my day, and I already miss talking to her and seeing her tremendously. But at the same time, I worry about mixed signals and that if she is friendly, I am going to take it as a sign she might want to get back together.

I just am really torn. I don't want her out of my life, I know she wants us to remain friends and it makes me feel pretty mean and cold to say, "OK, we can divorce if that is what you want, but if so, that will be the end of anything between us." It sounds mean in my head and very selfish. But I don't know if any other option works.

– Can we be just friends?, Boston


A: You don't have to make a big, final decision about this right now. You're incapable of having a friendship with her at the moment, but maybe that will change down the road. I think she'd be OK with you saying, "Right now I need space, but we'll see how it goes."

Your gut is telling you that if you talk to her right now, you'll want her back. Listen to those instincts, because it's too early to think about anything beyond self-preservation. Shutting her out now does not mean that she's gone forever. Your relationship has evolved into many things over 10 years -- you've been close friends, partners, and exes. That evolution hasn't stopped.

Focus on the immediate issue, which is getting through the day and finding new people to text and call when you feel like you want to talk. And let her know, if she asks, that your relationship is a work in progress. You want her in your life, but you need to build a life without her before you can invite her in.

Readers? Can they be friends? Should he be thinking about friendship right now? What is their future? Help.


– Meredith



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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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