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October 25, 2017

How Do I Help My Super-Anxious Friend?

Hey, Bonita…

Bonita,

My friend has anxiety and feels like they will never find romance. I take them out regularly to meet people, but lots of times they just give up early in the night without even trying to mingle much. We were supposed to go to a big event where meeting other people is almost a given. Now they’re vacillating, saying maybe they’ll go, maybe they won’t, citing the fact that every time we go out, they clam up and retreat anyway. I want to keep my boundaries and say, “Look, go or don’t go, but I feel like I’m planning my weekend around your anxiety.”

I do push like this sometimes and think it kind of works, but wonder if I’m really just causing more damage. They are in treatment, but also don’t feel like it’s helping. Can I safely stick with a “fuck you, you’re my friend” dynamic because it seems to motivate them and allows me to say what I feel, or is treating someone vulnerable in this way just abuse? Sometimes I wonder if people don’t respond to gentle open-heartedness. I love my friend, but I want them to have more than just me, and I know the way to have more friends is to get out and meet people.

Sincerely,

Jerkpal

Hey Jerk,

You're not a jerk. You care. But I do think that you're probably making this person even more anxious when you push them to do things that trigger that reaction. Also, don’t make assumptions about the effectiveness of your friend's therapy. Lots of times the benefits are internal and personal, and their influence takes a while to be seen in our interactions with others.

Stop planning social events centered around cruising for ass with your anxious friend. That's a lot of pressure, and it's not working for them, obviously. Just go out to dinner or for drinks, and socialize with them that way. The pressure and expectations around cruising are so nerve-wracking that I can't imagine your friend is in any shape to meet someone once they hit the town anyway. Instead, set them up with someone. Zero in on a cutie, and invite that cutie to join y'all for drinks one night. If they hit it off, invite the cutie out again, but you should flake and not show up. Boom—you've just gotten your anxious friend a date.


This is a follow-up question from my inquiry a few weeks ago. We're very tentatively moving forward together. We have a new therapist (we had one previously, but husband didn't click with original therapist). My support system (best friends and family) got the full story of his shenanigans, and are understandably concerned about me.

My question is, how do I move forward with my husband without alienating my support system? I know they are on my team and have my back. Based on his actions, I fully understand why they are hesitant to be supportive of this decision. Repairing our marriage is going to be extremely difficult, and I will need my best friends and family to get to the other side of this. How can I frame this/pitch it to them without having them feel like they need to put some space between us because they can't bear to watch me go through this again if it doesn't work out?

Sincerely,

Now What?

Hi Hun,

Look, I'm going to level with you here. I'm very concerned for you, too, and very wary of your husband in all this. But it's your life and you're doing what the hell you want, and you're doing it smartly with a therapist and a healthy degree of cynicism and caution.

I respect your ability to make decisions for yourself, and so should your tribe of family and friends. They should be worried about alienating YOU, not the other way around. Remind them (in loving, fun, respectful language) that you're a grown-up and you can make your own decisions. Maybe we'll all end up eating crow when you and hubby renew your vows. You’ve gotta try to find out.

Need advice? Email advice@flagpole.com, use our anonymous form, or find Bonita on Twitter: @flagpolebonita.

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