My friend’s obsessed with this guy…

Q:  Last year, my friend met this guy and they were friends for a while. When she asked him out, he basically denied her by walking way. On summer vacation, she tried to talk to him, sending him emails and comments on myspace, but he wouldn’t respond. And my friend would keep on talking and talking about him, never shutting up about this kid (I hate his name now because of it). We told her to leave him alone, which she never did. At one point, she said that she was “over” him and that she was moving on. But she never did.

We finally told her that if she’s not going to listen to the advice we’ve been giving her since summer vacation, that she should stop talking about it.  Now that it’s a new school year (I’m a junior in high school now), she still wants to talk to him!!!!!! He’s said hi to her, which is basically all he’s ever said but what should I do? Friendships are being torn apart because of my friend’s ‘obsession’, her and one of my friends having a fight because she wouldn’t stop talking about her problems with this kid. It’s driving me absolutely crazy and I have no way to stop her from talking about it. She’s sensitive, so I don’t want her to hate me because of what I want to say. Can you help me?

A:  There are two problems here: One’s yours (that you have a friend who’s driving you crazy) and the other is hers (that she can’t seem to accept she’s not going to get that guy and she’s alienating her friends in the process.)  You can only deal with your problem, and it sounds like in a way, you have: You told her not to talk to you about this if she isn’t going to listen to you.  I think you should stand by that.

The best thing to do is to take that a little further by talking to her again.  Otherwise, it’s just going to continue to eat away at the friendship.  A good way to handle the conversation is to express concern for her (why can’t she seem to let go of this fantasy?  why is she letting this guy take over her life?)  You can let her know how it feels to watch her put her energy into something that’s never going to work out, and that because you care about her, it’s difficult for you to keep listening to this.  You need to figure out your own words, but doing it with concern rather than anger or accusation is key.  And no matter how well you do it, it’s possible that she’ll feel really upset with you, at first.  If the friendship is worth hanging onto, though, she’ll come around and hopefully, change the way she’s acting. 

Girl, 15, Plain and Insane (note: her words, not mine!)

Q:  My whole life, I’ve always felt like an outsider to other kids my age. I have no problems talking to adults or little kids, but when it comes to my peers, I feel like they won’t like me or when I attempt to talk to them they think I’m some loner who isn’t worth hanging with. I have good, true friends and I’m comfortable with people I know, but when it comes to cute guys or meeting others, insecurities just crawl inside me like some beast I have to control.  Do you have any advice to help me be bolder and more secure socially?

A:  I’m glad to hear you have some good friends, and that at some point, you do get more comfortable with people.  That means you’re already on your way.  You should know that pretty much everyone gets a little nervous when meeting new people; making friends is mostly about having faith that you’ll get through that initial tough part, and that you are worth getting to know.  It probably seems like socializing should just be effortless and come naturally, but you really can get better through practice.  Every time you push yourself to talk to new people and get a good reception, the more confidence you’ll have for next time.  And if it doesn’t go so well in the beginning, you need to keep trying until it gets better.  Some of that is going to be finding the right audience and targeting people who have common interests and/or seem especially friendly.  Also, do some observing: Pay attention to people who seem really skilled socially, and try to figure out what they’re doing and how it can work for you.  That’s the thing—It really can work for you, just hang in there.

Something missing

Q:  I’m 14, almost 15.  For a while, I felt that something was missing from my life, & now I know what that something is.  I think I need a boyfriend, not as a partner for, u know, but as a friend.  Anyway, I have noone to love and trust.  I don’t feel as connected to my bff as I was before, I only have one younger sister(no go), I can’t talk to my dad about girl stuff & I can’t talk to my mom because I don’t trust her.  I do have an older cousin I feel I could talk to, but she’s getting married, & she just graduated from college & I don’t really have time to talk to her.  Sorry for that long story.
Okay so I feel that I need a boyfriend who I can trust but I don’t know any guys like that, well I do know 3 people come to mind, curt, kyle & dustin. I really hope you can help me please =)
* I’m not the most popular person in school, so I can’t just ask a person to go out w/ me, & if I did they would most likely say no.

A:  It sounds like it’s a lonely time for you right now, but in reading your letter, there are a fair number of people in your life.  Maybe your older cousin, for example, would make time for you if you let her know you could really use someone to talk to.  And maybe you could talk to your BFF and see if she’s feeling less connected, too, and if there’s anything you two can do about it?  (I mean, the “F” is for forever, right?)  And I don’t know anything specific about Curt, Kyle, and Dustin but they came to mind as guys you can trust so maybe you should seek them out more as friends and then see if anything develops romantically.  Also, do you have any particular interests that you could pursue, things where you might naturally meet new people? 

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t said anything about boyfriends yet.  That’s because while I think boyfriends can be a great thing, they’re not the only thing.  It’s important to have a variety of people in your life, people you can connect with on all sorts of levels, and not to rely totally on one person.  If a boyfriend becomes a part of your life, that’s good; if not, you can have a full life without him.  Open yourself up to people and see what happens.

How to move on?

Q:  I’ve liked my best guy friend for about 6 months before we even became friends. Once we became friends I liked him even more, but it was easier to control my feelings. This summer changed that. We dated and had a beautiful romantic summer. But we talked and now he’s back at college (as a sophomore) and I’ll be in college soon (as a freshman) and we discussed how we can’t have a relationship with 400 miles between us and it’s better to stay best friends. I understand completely. It’s just that now that we’ve kissed and dated, it’s even HARDER to control my feelings and move on. He seems fine, I bet if we went to the same college he still wouldn’t date me then. But the thing is, I don’t know HOW to convince myself to get over him. Every time I get close, there’s this piece of me that remembers him leaning in to kiss me in the moonlight and I can’t let go. How can I remain his best friend but stop my heart from constantly breaking?

A:  You might not like this answer, but I think for now, you can’t be his best friend.  I know there’s already physical distance between you, but for you to move on, there needs to be more emotional distance.  What I mean is, if he e-mails or calls a lot and you do the same, that keeps him in the front of your brain.  (If something funny happens, he’s the one you want to tell it to, for example.)  I’m not saying you can’t be friends with him at all or that you can’t be best friends again someday.  For now, though, I think you should be honest with him about how hard it is for you to get over him romantically when there’s a lot of contact; then you should reduce the contact, and see if it helps with moving on.  If you were e-mailing every day, only e-mail once a week and then see how that’s going.  If you find yourself thinking more about other things and people than him, you’ll know it’s working; if you’re still thinking about him all the time, you need to have even less contact.  In the meantime, fill your life and your time with more friends, interests, and activities.  Keeping busy and distracted can help a lot.  Be open to new people, and try not to compare them to him too much.  And be patient with yourself; it takes time to get over a perfect kiss in the moonlight.  But there will be more, trust me.

Teen love with an angry mom

Q:  I’ve been dating my boyfriend for about 8 months.  We’re only sixteen, and we think we’re in love.  Recently he gave me a promise ring.  My parents totally freaked out about it, made me give it back, and they say I’m too young to be in love and make this sort of commitment.  My mother doesn’t like my boyfriend, and does everything she can to point out mistakes or something wrong with him.  If he makes a mistake, ex: leaves his phone at my house and has to come back for it at night, she won’t forget about it, and will bring it up every single time she sees him.  I don’t want to lose my boyfriend because of her. I love my mom, but I can’t stand it.  She also accuses me of sleeping with him.  I hate these false accusations.  I can’t defend myself either, since I’ll get in trouble if I talk back. She’s really sensitive, and twists my words around if I do talk back. What do I do???  I really like this guy, and possibly want to spend my life with him. But what can I do about my mom?

A:  It sounds like your mom isn’t actually forbidding you to see your boyfriend, so maybe there is some leeway here.  What I’d suggest—since it sounds like having a face-to-face dialogue is difficult—is writing her a letter telling her honestly how it feels to be trapped between her and your boyfriend.  That way, you can write a few different versions, do some editing, make sure it says what you really want it to say.  Try not to use any accusatory language (ex: “You’re making me crazy!”, “Why do always have to….?”), and instead, focus on your feelings.  I’m not sure what kind of relationship you had with your mother before your boyfriend came along, but it sounds like this is doing some damage.  Let her know that you want to improve the relationship between the two of you, and that you want to talk about how you can do that.  If it’s too hard to talk just the two of you, maybe you could involve a neutral person (like a family therapist.) 

Finally, I don’t know if your mother would find fault with any boyfriend, or if there are things that worry her about your boyfriend in particular. Even though your mother’s way of talking to you isn’t the best, try to consider if anything she’s saying might be a little bit valid: if you are moving fast, for example, or if maybe your boyfriend isn’t always treating you as well as he could.  Sometimes other people notice things we can’t (or don’t want to) see ourselves.  That’s the point of conversation—so they can learn more about us and how we see things, and vice versa.  Maybe you and your mom will ultimately have more in common than you think.   Stranger things have happened.

High school

Q:  I go to a high school filled with spoiled rich kids who find torturing the middle class kids a fun filled recreational activity. The school year is approaching, and I can’t afford new clothes, which I feel will just be handing the snobs a loaded gun. What should I do?

A:  Ah, high school.  I’ve got to tell you, I don’t miss it.  It’s the time when we give the most power to people who don’t deserve it.  By that I mean, we let ourselves care about the opinion of people we don’t even remotely respect (like spoiled rich kids.)  Know that it won’t be this way forever.  Figure out who you really do like and respect, and then put your energy toward them; give none of your energy toward the type of crappy people who would find torturing anyone for any reason to be fun.  *While this in no way invalidates my other advice, something you could try is buying trendy accessories, since that’s a cheaper way to update your look than investing in a whole new wardrobe.  Buy only the ones you like.  Never wear anything just because it’s popular because you’ll walk around feeling like an imposter and you’re just too good for that.