Dear Amy: I recently reconnected with a man I was engaged to, many years ago.
We have not gotten together in person because we live several hours away from one another and are both in our 70s.
The problem is that he blames me for our break-up, which happened 50 years ago! (His perception is incorrect, by the way.)
We do love one another and spend hours texting together.
It is a “virtual romance,” and we are happy with that, but his constant reference about how I destroyed his life gives me a debilitating migraine, and I can’t function afterward for 24 hours!
I have told him that I’m not responsible for how he lived his life after we parted, but he simply says that he’s sad, and then we move forward, only to have the same outburst (all caps, as though he is shouting) happen within the next day or two.
How can we resolve his anger management issues without breaking up again?
Frustrated Old Lady
Dear Frustrated: I’m not sure I can help you to help this man resolve his anger issues. That’s his job.
Is he experiencing some cognitive decline? Does he have untreated anxiety? Is he drinking when he does this? If so, he should take on the responsibility of taking care of his health.
His reasons for behaving this way are actually immaterial.
Imagine that — instead of being yelled at textually — you two were actually in the same room when he did this. What would you do? How would you react?
I imagine that you would leave the room when he raged. And then, once you had left the room, you might reconsider being in the relationship at all, because it has become a Groundhog Day reenactment (and a biased one, at that).
Imagine further that you had a friend or family member witness one of these rages. That person would say to you, “Myrtle, this is abuse. Look at what it’s doing to you! It is damaging your health.”
Abuse does not only happen in person. It can happen online, through text, on the phone, or via Zoom, FaceTime, or postal mail.
I suggest that when this happens again, you respond: “I want our relationship to succeed and proceed peacefully. I completely dispute your memory of this. But regardless, I’m telling you now that if you ever communicate with me this way again, I really will break up with you. Do you understand?”
If he responds in any way other than to acknowledge and apologize, then you should break up.
If he acknowledges and apologizes, but then reverts to his previous behavior, it’s over.
Dear Amy: I have a relative, “Steven,” whose father passed away on Steven’s birthday.
Five years have passed, but yet it still feels odd when texting or writing out his card with a big “happy birthday!”
While I want him to enjoy his day, I know the feelings are mixed with missing him and guilt of celebrating his birth on an anniversary of his father’s passing.
What are some appropriate messages I could use in lieu of the standard “happy birthday”?
Dear Wondering: This is tough. I suggest that you convey: “I understand this might be a day of big and mixed emotions for you, but I hope you find good ways to celebrate. I’m always thinking of you, and I carry many very happy memories of your father.”
Dear Amy: A recent statement in your column, which I read in Seattle, struck hard!
You wrote: “You mourn because you experienced the privilege of being loved.”
As a widow of five years, and someone whose husband had dementia for five years before that, it really hit home. I realized that I was so lucky to have him for the time that I did. Sometimes it seems like a dream.
I have passed this phrase on to my grief group. Four of us have been together since 2017, and we continued to meet through the pandemic.
We all agreed that we were privileged and lucky to have been loved.
Thank you for your writing.
Dear Grateful: Thank you. My own experience with intense grief has led me to frequently explore the tougher emotions, looking for ways to learn from them.
Grief groups like yours are a true lifeline — a safe place to mourn, to commune, and to form friendships forged from tough steel.
Carry on, move forward, and continue to support one another.
You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.