Tuesday, December 16, 2008

And your question would be....?

Often people who write in to advice columnists seem to just want a chance to vent, receive justification for their feelings, or confirmation for a choice they've already made. Too many of their letters end with "Was I right?" (How boring...at least give the columnist more wiggle room than "yes" or "no")

But sometimes I really have to wonder. Did you need help with this one? This is from "Annie's Mailbox," an advice column maintained by the women who were Ann Landers' editors. And they were more patient and generous with this chica than I would have been.

Dear Annie: I'm a sophomore in college and live far away from my hometown, so I rarely see my friends or family. I wouldn't mind so much except that I'm in a long-distance relationship with "Rob," whom I have known since I was very young.
I know such relationships can be difficult, but this one is completely over the top. Rob has always been emotionally and verbally abusive, but now he has gotten so bad I'm afraid he's becoming mentally unstable. Schizophrenia runs in his family, but he refuses to seek counseling.
Here's the real problem. I've met another guy. "Alex" is funny, sweet and kind, and he loves me a lot. The feeling is mutual. What do I do now? Should I dump Rob and risk making him angry? Should I ditch Alex and be miserable? Should I throw away my life for the wrong guy?

— Didn't Mean To Two-Time

I'm sorry. The "real problem" begins with the fact that you've met an apparently normal human? "Should I throw away my life for the wrong guy?" Yes. Yes, that sounds like an excellent plan! What???

Marcie and Kathy picked up on the fact that this girl is likely afraid of her scary boyfriend, and mostly talked to that issue. Wise and kind of them, as I mentioned:

Dear Didn't Mean: So you've outgrown Rob, who is unstable and abusive, but you don't want to make him angry because he's a little scary. You can talk this over with one of the university counselors. Then tell your parents that you want to break up with Rob, but you are worried about his potential for being abusive.
It would be best if you could find a way to separate yourself gradually and naturally. Be nice on the phone and in your e-mails, but not too friendly or romantic, and don't contact him too often. Don't say you miss him or love him. Talk about class to the point where he's bored. Your aim is to convince Rob he'd like to move on, too.

But I sort of feel like a potentially schizofrenic, undiagnosed, untreated, manipulative person is not going to get bored and move on if she turns cool, cordial, and really really academic. He'll just get mad about how little attention she pays to him and freak out that she doesn't love him anymore. Which is true. She should just make a clean break, as soon as possible. (Also, it's weird that she's known him since SHE was very, very young, not since WE were very very young. Sounds like there's potential for a creepy age discrepancy here.)

Also: do not jump right into a relationship with Alex! If he's macking on you when you're clearly already in a relationship, and one that is unhealthy, there's something weird going on. Is he drawn to your neediness? Sadness? His ability to comfort you and make you laugh when you're being made miserable? What's he going to do when you're no longer in misery? You want to be with someone who wants you when you're healthy and happy. And even if Alex turns out to be cool, and not into suffering, stifled girls, you're not going to get healthy and happy jumping right into something else. Be single for awhile.

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