Welcome to Friendzone, Jezebel's column devoted to dealing with the valuable people in your life who you're not humping. Got an issue and looking for guidance? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have a female friend (a few years older) who has been single and independent for years, and she has a handful of male friends she knows she can call up whenever she's in the mood for sex. She's made it clear she's not interested in me in that way, and I accept her decision (as difficult as it was since I did have romantic feelings towards her for a while). At the same time, I've told her that I don't want to hear about all the awesome casual sex she's having with those dudes because it makes me uncomfortable. Many of them are my friends, and I'd prefer their business stay their business. But she still gets really graphic about it with me. I can't figure out why, and I don't know what to do. I certainly don't share my sex stories with her. Am I just a prude?
Let's give this gal the benefit of the doubt. It's possible she didn't realize how serious you were when you laid down that no-sex-talk boundary. I recommend having a frank chat with her once more. Be honest about the part of you that feels uncomfortable because of your past romantic interest in her. And remember, it's not her fault you used to have the tingly feelings for her. But if she persists in constantly telling you about her various and sundry fuckenings, you have my permission and encouragement to step away from this relationship. It may not be good for your heart.
By the way, I don't think she's doing anything wrong in her sex life. And she may not want a friendship in which she doesn't feel fully welcomed in her sex talk, and if that's so, you two clearly aren't designed for buddy-hood. That's okay. Everybody doesn't fit neatly with everybody else, and there's no need to feel awful about that. You can certainly still have a nice, polite, mutually respectful "Hello, how are you?" type relationship when you run into each other in future.
My best friend just revealed that she has been in a 3-year relationship with a married father, 25 years her senior. I don't think that what she is doing is healthy for her because of her history of inappropriate (as in illegal) relationships with older men. I've let her know how I feel about the issue as non-judgmentally as possible. I am also kind of hurt because she has more or less been absent during times when I have needed her support and made significant efforts to reach out to her. I want to tell her that I can't deal with what she is doing. I realize this might mean the end of our friendship but I'm not sure what else to do. What should I do?
In the middle of all this handwringing over your friend's consensual sexual activities, you slipped in something about how you felt abandoned by her. Ding ding ding! To me, that's the more pressing issue at hand. There is a crack in the foundation of your friendship. You've already tactfully confronted her about the affair, but have you addressed these feelings of abandonment with your friend? Because even if she takes your advice and breaks up with this fellow, you'll still have those lingering bits of resentment and doubt related to her absence during the times when you really needed her.
Maybe she didn't realize how seriously you needed her help (I have been on both sides of that type of situation). Maybe she's a great person who just flakes sometimes. Or maybe she doesn't care about you as much as you care about her. We have no way of knowing the answer unless you talk to her directly about this issue. So for now, put aside your feelings about her affair and find a good time to have a frank, loving chat. Use a lot of "I" statements, just like they taught us in conflict resolution class in middle school (my school seriously had these. The '90s were wild!) If your truth-telling session naturally leads to you confessing the enormity of your distaste for her choices, so be it.
I'm a 24-year-old woman who's dealt with fairly severe depression and anxiety on-and-off for over four years now. I decided I need to try to take steps to change my situation and am quitting smoking, drinking and recreational drugs in the hope I'll get back to grips with myself, as I felt particularly in social situations I was developing a bit of a dependency on these things. My wonderful friends want to help and hang out, but 90% of the time I find the thought of even grabbing a coffee really uncomfortable. I don't want to do anything but hide away with my partner, who is confused about the whole situation but thoroughly supportive. What should I do?
Ladyfriend, do not fear. Your situation is entirely familiar to many of us, and it's also quite treatable! Take it from a girl who used to be housebound (actually, bedroom-bound) due to her agoraphobia: there are people out there just waiting to be of assistance. I am one of them. So thank you for writing! We are members of the same tribe and it is very nice to meet you.
First things first: it's time to visit a therapist. Well, first, it's time to call a therapist up and say, "Hello, I'm dealing with some anxiety issues and I was wondering if you were accepting new clients." Well, okay, even before that, it's time to ask some of those great friends if they've got any suggestions for excellent therapists. Your family may also be a resource. And there's always the lovely Internet, which can really be quite helpful when one is too anxious to leave the house.
I want you to make sure this therapist is a good egg and not some quack who will tell you to stick a colonic irrigation tube up your butt to flush out anxious toxins, so be sure to ask him or her plenty of questions about where he/she studied psychology (or social work, or psychiatry), as well as what his/her general philosophy is when it comes to therapy. If cost is an issue, recognize that many of these folks are open to bargaining (working on a sliding scale). This process may actually make you feel a bit more in control than you've felt lately. It's like shopping, but infinitely more important and ultimately more beneficial to your well-being.
I also recommend reading a great book called "Full Catastrophe Living" by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. Learn about his program of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) to see if it sounds right for you. I really dig it, but it's just one of many methods for treating anxiety and/or depression. I also enjoy the work of the self-help author and cartoonist Bev Aisbett. And I'm sure our mighty commentariat will have some great suggestions for you, as well.
As for your friends (and partner): tell them exactly what is going on. And tell them that you love them and appreciate their kindness, and that your reluctance to go out of doors has nothing to do with your feelings for them. Invite them over if you like, just for a cup of tea or something (chamomile and mint can be soothing, FYI). Maybe invite them on a little walk around the block, just to get you outside for 15 minutes. If none of that feels doable right now, don't worry; it will soon. Keep in touch with them via email, text, etc. They're going to want occasional updates on how you're doing.
Good luck! This will take some effort on your part, but you will reap incredible rewards. When I was just a couple years younger than you, I had trouble even leaving my home. I thought I would never be able to live apart from my parents or another caregiver. And now I do! Life can get so much awesomer than you can even imagine right now. You just have to start with a little step. So go therapist-shopping. I am rooting for you.
Update: last week's Friendzone included a letter from a teenager dealing with some psychological difficulties. She wrote to me, "I really appreciate all the support I saw in their comments on the actual article." Thanks for being so awesome to her, commenters.
Image via langhoff99/Shutterstock.