I got a love letter of sorts tonight.
It was really just a Facebook message from a married woman who’s a friend, but it’s not what it sounds like. She wasn’t suggesting a secret tryst or anything of that sort. Instead, she was just lamenting that she didn’t pay more attention to me before she got married — to the wrong man.
I met Amanda online at least 15 years ago. We met in person a couple of times, but there was no real spark between us, so we never dated. We eventually became Facebook friends and I’ve watched as she moved through life — with career success and then marriage. She hadn’t reached out to me for many years.
But it turns out that she’s been watching me, even though I didn’t know it. And even though she has no intention of leaving her husband — and he doesn’t know she’s unhappy — she wanted me to know that she wishes she had noticed more about me before it was too late.
With her permission, I’m sharing her message here. There is no way that anybody would ever connect the two of us, so she’s not concerned that anybody might know she wrote this.
“I don’t mind if you share it,” she said when I asked her. “If it could help someone avoid what I’ve done to myself, it would be worth something to some girl.”
With very light editing for length and style — as well as to hide a few things about her identity — here is her message:
I’ve been debating for weeks whether to tell you this, but I decided it doesn’t really matter, so I might as well. Nobody really knows this, but I’ve been unhappy with my marriage from the beginning. My husband is a sweet guy and he has no idea how unhappy I am, so he doesn’t know I think we were a mistake. He hasn’t done anything wrong and I don’t plan to leave him, cause it would destroy him.
I knew since shortly after we married [eight years ago] that I wanted something different from what I chose, but I didn’t know what. In the last year, I’ve been noticing you in a different way than before and I realize someone like you is what I needed. You’re smart, funny, kind, introspective and caring in ways I didn’t know mattered until now. I knew you since even before I met [my husband], but I was young enough that my priorities were different. If I had known then what I know now, I would have come after you.
I don’t know if you would have been interested in me, but I see now that you have the qualities that matter to me. I guess I was too immature to understand my needs or who you are. I married someone all my friends love and my parents adore, but he doesn’t know the real me any better than he knows [my pet dog]. That makes me sad since he doesn’t seem interested in changing that.
Like I said, I’m not leaving [my husband] so don’t take this wrong. I just wanted to tell you how much I wish I had noticed what you really are and how different that is back when it might have made a difference. Whoever marries you is going to get a wonderful partner and father for her children. (I love how much you seem to get along with kids.) I hope you don’t mind me letting you know.
I have no idea whether Amanda and I might have been good as a couple. That’s not what I’m interested in right now.
I’m just fascinated by the realization that we often don’t know what we want or need when we’re young — and by the time we gain enough maturity to know better, it’s often too late.
I don’t know if it’s possible to live our lives any differently. I don’t know whether we can find maturity before we make our mistakes. In fact, I wonder whether it’s only through our mistakes that we gain the maturity to know what really matters.
The only thing I’m sure about is that the things which seem important before you marry the wrong person — or spend years in the wrong career or make a similarly difficult detour in life — seem very unimportant afterward.
When you finally figure out what matters in life, it might be too late.
Or maybe it’s never too late. The best time to do the right thing might have been 10 years ago, but the second best time might just be right now.
I appreciate Amanda for being vulnerable enough to share her thoughts tonight.