It’s a big week for Love Letters.
At the end of every December, I find out which letters in my advice column were the most popular of the year. Then I jump to conclusions about what those letters say about the state of dating and romance. I try to stay optimistic.
I should clarify that by “most popular,” I mean most read. The online traffic for the Top 10 entries suggests that the letters — or their headlines, at the very least — resonated with many.
In 2022, one letter stood out from the rest. The No. 1 question on the list had hundreds of thousands more views than the rest.
Why was it so popular? The answer might be bleak. But let’s deal with the other letters first. The Top 10, In descending order:
10. “I want to talk to the person my spouse cheated with,” April 21
Rounding out the pack is a letter about the aftermath of an affair. The letter writer explained, “I know my spouse is at fault ... and I blame my spouse completely for what happened. And yet, I want to tell this other person how much they hurt me.” My advice was: Don’t do it. I said, “I get the sense you’re looking for some peace — dare I say it, closure — but I’m not sure it’ll come.” Commenters agreed.
9. “I haven’t made it past a first date in months,” Feb. 11
This letter writer described himself as a “straight man, employed, love dogs, bearded, a foodie, a nerd.” He was in his 30s with little dating experience. “The conversations I start rarely turn into dates, and inevitably end with me being ghosted,” he said. “I dove into [app dating] headfirst, assuming I’d need all the practice I could get, but I have nothing to show for it.” I tried to give this letter writer a pep talk, as did the commenters. One person in the comments section told him, “Many folks don’t even get to first dates, so you’re doing something right.”
A letter writer was living with a boyfriend in his father’s rental property. At some point, the father went into the rental — without permission — and cleaned it. The act of service, passive-aggressive or not, was seen as an invasion of privacy by the letter writer. “Aside from breaking and entering, he touched my belongings. I can’t let this go and I am dreading seeing his dad in the future.” The question taught us all a lesson: If you’re going to live in a place owned by your significant other’s parents, make sure the rules are clear. On the flip side, if you are renting to a loved one, you are still a landlord. Don’t go through people’s things.
“My partner grew up in another part of the world where clothing is more restricted for women. He’s asked me to be considerate of his family’s cultural background when I choose my dress for our big wedding.” The letter writer was OK with that request. But for the quick civil ceremony, before the main event, she wanted to choose a dress she loved — even if it was on the shorter side. I figured the tension here was really about what his family would see in pictures. I said, “If this is about family comfort, maybe you can meet in the middle and do a costume change. One dress for family photos, one for you.”
6. “I’m suffering from ‘dumper’s remorse,’” Sept. 16
This letter writer told me many terrible things about an ex, but still had to ask: “How do you avoid looking back with rose-colored glasses?” I assured them that there are no glasses rosy enough to change this specific view.
5. “My husband wants an apology from my mom,” Jan. 21
Please note the date of this letter. Someone had a rough holiday season with extended family last year. I expect to receive more in-law-related letters over the next few weeks. Feel free to send yours.
I understand why so many people clicked on this letter. The drama! Many commenters said: probably not. I said: Give it time.
“My wife decided to give me an ultimatum about the inheritance,” the letter writer said, of their family home. “She has become so spiteful. Doing and saying things I would have never expected. She’s gone as far as saying that she’s going to sleep with other men now.” I recommended counseling — because the problems in this marriage couldn’t have started with the inheritance. Commenters advised: Do not put her on that deed!
A long marriage. A bad divorce. Many apologies. Then ... a second chapter? “So far, we’re friends,” the letter writer said, “but this is getting emotionally complicated for me. Should I back off the friendship? Or see where it goes?” The commenters and I were worried that this letter writer wanted to rekindle the romance, while the ex simply wanted forgiveness and friendship. Commenter CUPPAJOESEATTLE said, “You didn’t mention that he even wants to rekindle anything. So far it’s all fantasy.”
1. “At 30, men fall into three categories,” June 10
This letter had so many online readers. Hundreds of thousands of readers. In fact, it’s one of the top letters of the year on the entire BostonGlobe.com website. I assume this means that people in their 30s — those who date men — are having a difficult time finding good partners. (Wild understatement.) Does this mean there are no good 30-something men out there — especially in Boston? Of course not. But I do believe it can feel that way. Consider that 2022 was the 10th anniversary of Tinder. If you’re 32 now, it’s possible you’ve been swiping on similar apps for a full decade.
For the record, this letter writer said that the three categories of men at 30 are: those who just got married to longtime partners, those who won’t get into serious relationships because they just broke up with longtime partners, and those who are available but are “unable to consider pursuing professional accomplishments and a relationship at the same time.” I told this letter writer not to be so reductive. I said that when I was in my early 30s, I was more focused on work than love, but my experience and perspective were unique — as is everyone’s. A commenter named TERMINATER5 said, “Nobody wants to hear that they fall into a ‘category,’” and I agree. Also, let’s all consider the ninth most popular letter of the year. He’s proof that there are men in their 30s who are looking for more.
If only I could set up my letter writers.
Send your own relationship and dating questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out this form. Catch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.