Don’t Settle For Being The Emotional Friend



Name: Curious Male
Question: What do you think about a married woman with children who still carries on email conversations with a someone who is a friend, but she also had a crush on 20 years ago?

She rebuffs or brushes off flirting attempts from this man, but still brings up things that did, didn’t, or should’ve happened between them back then.

The conversations are usually every other day and sometimes lasts until very late in the evening.


I would say she’s enjoying the attention. As speculation goes, that’s really all I can say. She obviously enjoys emailing with you, but she draws the line when you flirt because that’s a line cross. At least, that’s how she’s rationalizing it. As long as she doesn’t return the flirting, it’s okay.  It’s safe to assume that – if she’s talking to you at night –  her husband is either not around, very inattentive, or doesn’t care.

As others have said, relationships are not the antidote to loneliness.  Relationships help, but they are not the cure. Loneliness stems from a deep desire to connect. Since no relationship is perfect, there will likely be times when two people are not connecting. I’m going to guess that’s what is going on with this woman. She and her husband just aren’t connecting anymore. You’ve become her emotional friend.  It’s very easy to become dependent on that attention. What I fear will be the case for you is that – once she no longer needs your attention – she’ll just pull away. For me, that can be devastating.  The real question isn’t why she’s engaging in this secret affair of sorts. The real question is: why are you? You know on a conscious level this is a recipe for disaster, and yet. And yet.

Loneliness is a motherfucker. It can make us do things we know are counter-productive because we want to believe we matter to someone and that we’re not in this alone. One of the more difficult aspects to being single is going through a hardship and not having anyone to rely upon. That kind of isolation can exacerbate the sadness and make us vulnerable to situations that will ultimately hurt us.

I’m not going to judge you for exchanging emails with this woman. I’ve done it. I’ve been where you are. That heady buzz you get from seeing their name in your inbox can be intoxicating. But then they leave you, be it temporarily or for good, and you feel empty again. What I would suggest to you is to find outlets where you can form connections with people, even if it’s online.  I was having a really rough day yesterday. A fight with my sister set off a chain reaction of emotions that left me feeling very…insignificant. Weekends aren’t great for me. Work slows down and people are away, which makes my feelings of isolation that much more intense. I decided to go to a yoga class, not just to get some exercise, but because  there’s a sense of support in those classes I don’t feel in my day-to-day life. In the beginning of each class the instructor leads a chant of “Ohm.” When I first started taking yoga, I felt way too self-conscious to join in. I just sat there with my eyes closed, listening. Then one day I decided to give it a go. There’s some unifying in that chant that makes me feel less alone and like I’m part of something.

I would do what you can to find group activities and social circles to join. Volunteer to walk dogs. Volunteer, period.  Go find that connection somewhere. It might not be the relationship you crave, but it will get you through the rougher times, the times when you want to break down and contact this woman. Oh yeah, did I mention you probably should cut this woman off? Yeah, that’s a must. If you don’t. it’s going to be like Lucy with football. She’ll tease you with the attention then rip it away when she no longer needs it, leaving you flat on your back, too much in pain to move.



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4 Responses to “Don’t Settle For Being The Emotional Friend”

  1. John Says:

    Agreed in that attention is wonderful but unfulfilling in the long term. Like the owner of this forum, I have also done similar things out of neediness. We lower the expectations we have for ourselves, just to feel the validation of someone paying attention to us. At least, I have done that. It’s a temporary fulfillment and weak, at that.

    Dealing with people who are not available emotionally is a no-win situation….even to trade a few e-mails. What is in the past should stay in the past. No Monday Morning quarterbacks looking back in 20-20 hindsight saying, “We should have done this….we should have done that”. The past is the past. Leave it there.

    The only path is forward. I agree — volunteer somewhere, find groups to join….but move forward.

  2. KK Says:

    You can be in a relationship and still go through hardships alone. Those are romantic relationships you don’t want. You can also be single and have great support.

    This woman isnt your friend. Stay away. The attention is intoxicating but you need more.

  3. mxf Says:

    Any chance this guy is asking because it’s his spouse who is emailing someone? The third person comes off a bit strange (“She rebuffs or brushes off flirting attempts from this man”). I read it more that he was wondering if it was normal behaviour or something he should be worried about in his own marriage. That does beg the question about his access to her correspondence, but people can get lazy about passwords and things after a long time together.

    Either way, sometimes people indulge in nostalgia because it’s easier to escape into ‘what might have been’ than be in their present-day lives. 20+ years would give a crush or relationship a nice soft focus, whereas reality is probably a lot more mundane. I’m not critiquing longterm relationships, just being an adult in general means a lot more responsibility and a lot less carefree time. So maybe talking about the past is like a little mental vacation.

    Otherwise, I’m with Moxie. If the OP is on the receiving end of this dialogue, he should know it won’t go anywhere. I’m sure she sees it as a harmless diversion, especially if she’s being vigilant about not being flirty. If the OP is with this woman, then figure out how to make both of you want to live in your present day, instead of the past.

    • fuzzilla Says:

      I’d think the LW would be way more angry if he was the husband (although if that’s the case, there’s the added layer of, “Well, I know I shouldn’t have been snooping and I didn’t catch her saying anything outright sexual…”).

      I suppose a mostly-harmless Facebook reuniting isn’t that big a deal and is fairly common, but the frequency of the messages seems kind of alarming. Really, going over what might have been every other day, late into the night? If I was on the receiving end of that, I’d feel like the other person wants me to read between the lines and take it upon myself to escalate things (not saying that’s a good idea, tho, just what it looks like to me).

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