Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Refugee Love Story

Today's advice was requested by a man from Lebanon who we'll refer to henceforth as D. D asks:

"Hello Inari!

I've seen enough of your posts to know you are very down to earth about a lot of things. I'm not trying to sugar coat it, I really think you are a voice of reason.
I'd like your opinion on something that happened to me a while ago. A feminine opinion at that!

OK so here goes:

In July 2006, the Israelis where bombarding Lebanon, and a lot of countries where evacuating their citizens from the country. Since I happened to have both the Lebanese and French passports, I was allowed to evacuate with the French. The plan was to meet up at the capital, board a ship to Cyprus, and from there take a plane to Paris (because the Lebanese airport was badly damaged). I was 18 at the time, and it was my first time leaving my parents for good, and when my mother dropped me off at the High School (which was the meeting point), she was crying.
As it happens, a French mother saw the whole thing, and promised my mom that she would take care of me during the travel. So here I was, staying with that very nice woman and her family. I met her husband, her son, and most importantly, her daughter!
She was a pretty little thing, and after one look, she never left my side during the whole day waiting for the the boat to arrive. Always smiling, always laughing at everything I said, always staying close to me wherever I went (she was 17, and her name was M). Her parents saw she was interested, and curiously, did everything they could to leave us alone together! Always sending us to do errands, just the two of us. So anyway, I had a great time with her, and I was starting to like her as much as she liked me.
Night came, and so did the boat. We boarded, left our stuff in a cabin, and climbed on the deck! It was amazing, it was a bright starry sky, Lebanon was all in lights and slowly fading away as the boat advanced. We went to the back of the boat where we could see everything. And that's where she started crying. I asked her what was wrong, and she said she was sad because of all the people dying, because of the country getting bombed, and because everything was unfair. I wanted to kiss her, but seeing her crying stopped me. If I kissed her now, that would be taking advantage of her, and that would be a horrible thing to do. So instead, I hugged her, comforted her, told her everything was going to be all right.
So everything's fine, she's better, we go down to have a bite to eat. I find some of my friends and I hang out with them for about half an hour (I was REALLY happy to see them on that boat alive).
I come back to see M, and I see her talking to someone. I go to meet the guy, and it turns out she just met him too. At first, I didn't get what was going on, but as time went by, I understood that she was FLIRTING with this random other dude.
I tried to do something about it, because I couldn't accept it, but then I could feel I wasn't wanted, and I left then alone and went back to my friends, broken, confused and angry. They spend the whole night trying to cheer me up. At 5 AM, I went to bed, slept about 2 hours, and when I woke up, I went back on the deck, and saw M kissing that guy in the sun... (what I originally had planned).
Then when we docked, boarded the plane, arrived at Paris, and I left the nice family to meet my uncle. She didn't say a word to me during the whole trip...

To this day, I'm still wondering what happened. What I did wrong, why she changed her mind all of a sudden.
I'm hoping you could have an idea about it.

The reason I'm bringing this up, is because I'm meeting her tomorrow, after 5 years without seeing her, and completely forgetting her. I'm a bit stressed, a lot of emotions are coming back. What should I do?

Thank you if you ever answer.

Love, D

Wow, talk about database error. The sent date on this message claims it was sent to my inbox exactly one month ago, on November 15th. I check my inbox regularly however, and this morning is the first I've seen of it. So please accept my apologies if you indeed sent this a whole month ago. It does not normally take me that long to respond to people, especially not to people in need of advice.

First of all, I'm glad you managed to get out of there. That was a sticky situation. Leaving home for the first time is always a stressful experience, I can only imagine how much more tense it was with the bombardment going on. It sounds to me like you had amazing luck that day, having not only both passports available to you but also that kind French family to look after you during the journey. It must've been a huge relief to your mother especially, knowing there would be someone on the boat to keep an eye you.

Her parents more-than-likely saw your relationship as a good thing -- a well needed distraction from the current events. Which is probably why they not only didn't mind your hanging out but also encouraged it.

She opened up to you on deck that night and was probably hoping you'd do the same. She felt a deep connection to you at the time, and wanted or needed that connection to extend beyond its current level. You offered her comfort in her time of need, but she was probably hoping that you would cry with her. I know many men are raised to think crying in public will make them look bad... but in situations like this, where you're being ousted from your home and forced to flee into another country, a few tears are to be expected even of the manliest men. When instead you played the strong role and comforted her, she likely felt that the connection she felt to you wasn't reciprocated. At least not to the same degree.

When you returned below deck to eat and went to hang out with your friends, glad to see they were alive, it only reassured her that your connection wasn't as she thought it was. Which isn't fair of her to assume, but she can't really be blamed for being unreasonable at a time like this. She was probably an emotional wreck on the inside. A lot of the time when a girl feels spurned by her love interest she'll act out, try to capture his attention by making him jealous. This is accomplished primarily by, you guessed it, openly flirting with other guys.

What you perceived as her pushing you away may have actually been her final attempt to draw you closer. When you gave up and went away, she gave up too. Likely thinking you never liked her in the first place and were only hanging out with her until someone better came along (in this case your friends). When you went to bed, she sought comfort in the new stranger, culminating in a kiss that you happened to stumble upon when you woke up.

She may have realized that you actually did like her when she saw you as she was kissing the other guy. This may have made her feel too guilty to bring herself to speak to you on the plane. Another possibility is that she had wanted you to be that guy kissing her but since you didn't she was felt resentful and thus didn't speak to you because she was angry. It may even be as simple as her perceiving you as too young or too old for the long term relationship she wanted, whereas the other guy was just a fling. Regardless of which reason, it seems to me that the entire thing was a misunderstanding and it is unfortunate that you've only gotten in contact with her now. It's clear to me that the two of you shared a connection and whether it was romantic or platonic, it seems to me like it would've been good. Hopefully you can pick up where you left off that handful of years ago.

So what should you do? Keep an open mind. I doubt very seriously that she ever intended to hurt you on purpose. It seems to me that you both inadvertently hurt each other that night. The mistakes of youth. Test the waters with casual conversation, "How've you been?" and things such as that and if you feel any hint of that old connection -- confess to her your feelings of that night. How you had hoped to pursue a relationship but were afraid you'd be taking advantage of her. In return she'll probably confess why she did what she did. Even if this doesn't result in picking up where you left off, at least you'll both have closure. Closure is very important.

I hope it all works out.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Should I Cheat?

Today's advice was requested by a man from the U.S. who we'll refer to henceforth as V. V asks:

"I have one girlfriend of 4 months who I've been drawing away from lately because of a new girl who I met in class. I'm going to let her know I'm single even though I'm not and ask her out in a few days. If she says yes, I'm going to stay with her. I thought about having 2 girlfriends in different social circles but I know something would go wrong.

I don't want to outright dump the 1st because I don't think she could handle it. She was devastated when I even brought up the possibility a month back and it took the whole night to get her to stop crying. I figured just saying I need a break and not bringing up the other girl would be easier for her, then maybe I could flip flop between the two. Turn it into a more casual but still closed, short term dating.

I'm going to study abroad next year with new girl and my current girlfriend still lives at home. So at that point breaking up with her is a given. I gotta loosen up the bond between us sooner than later either way. I don't want to hurt her because I do still care about her but saying I love you back when I don't mean it feels terrible.


Break up with your current girlfriend properly before asking out a second. You don't have to mention your lessening feelings for her or even the other girl, if you don't think she can handle it. Simply, "Our lives aren't headed in the same direction," would suffice. As that seems, more or less, to be the truth of it. Especially considering you've brought up breaking up in the past. Before this other girl was even in the picture.

She lives at home still, so now is a good time to do it as she'll have the support she inevitably needs to get her over it. You may also want to be a man and send one of her friends over to her house after you leave to stay with her. Just in case she doesn't have a stellar relationship with her parents/siblings.

Seeing both simultaneously is a recipe for disaster, and, makes you look like an asshole. Something you'll want to avoid if you plan on having a serious relationship with either of them, ever. Your current girlfriend can forgive you for breaking up with her. She will not however be likely to forgive you for cheating on her.

If the new girl finds out that she's essentially the other woman, that won't go over well either. You may think that'd she'd find your choosing her over the other girl to be flattering, but what it really does is show what caliber of person you are. In short, if you cheated on your ex she'll think you're just as likely to cheat on her someday too. And she's probably right.

You need to be confident enough to make a decision and follow it through like a man. Flip-flopping between both girls is flaky and can only ever end badly for all three involved.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Opportunity: Anxiety

Today's advice was requested by a young man from the U.S. who we'll refer to henceforth as L. L asks:

"Hey, i need some advice. i don't know what is wrong with me I've been out of work for a few years now and I finally got a chance to enter a career path that I have been waiting for for years. A few weeks ago I was called by my county telling me that I have been accepted into my local city police academy. At first I was exited. Half of my family are police officers and it seemed like I couldnt go wrong with it.

Now as the day draws near I feel very panicked and anxious. Every morning I wake, puke, cry and get super nervous of the day I have to go in to academy. I'm a few days away now and I can barely sleep. I wake up shaking in the middle of the night almost like im terrified of it. I dont know what my problem is, if you could give me some advice I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you."

It's probably the fear of making it this far and then failing. A lot is riding on this, especially after being out of work for as long as you have. Add int he pressure you feel to excel due to your family consisting of so many police officers and it's no wonder you're thoroughly panicked. Just relax. I know that sounds cliche and obvious, but it's honestly all you can do. Try to stay away from stimulants such as caffeine for a while as they heighten anxiety.

Remember, even if you were to fail the first time around which is unlikely, you can still try again later. Your family wants you to succeed, they won't hold it against you if you don't succeed your first time through. It's not the end of the world. If you have to try a second time at least you're pretty much guaranteed to pass, as you'll know exactly what you need to do and how to achieve it.

I recommend talking to your family. They'll undoubtedly have a wealth of information and advice to offer you since they've been where you are before.You don't have to confess how nervous you are, but doing so may help. They'll probably tell you about how nervous they were when they got into the academy too. You aren't alone, don't forget that.

It'll be hard work and you'll have less free time for yourself, but it'll be worth it once you're gainfully employed and helping people.

Some things you can do in the meanwhile to chill out:
  • Watch comedies. It's hard to be stressed out when you're laughing.
  • Take a bath before bed time. People underestimate the power of a nice hot bath.
  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine. They'll only make your anxiety worse.
  • Listen to your favorite musical artists. Music can take your mind off of many things.
  • Do some research. Going in with a head start will boost your confidence level.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Self Mutilation

Today's advice was requested by a young man from Italy who we'll refer to henceforth as S. S asks:

"We recently found out my 13 yr old niece cuts herself. When her mom asks her where she got the cuts from, my niece says the pets scratched her. But we all know its not from the pets. Her dad was always away because he's in the navy and after affairs and marriage problems, her parents are now separated in the process of divorce.

She likes being by herself and watches tv shows like 1000 Ways to Die and stuff. I just thought she was in the angsty teenage stage of her life. I read online that cutting is due to emotional depression.

I'm not sure what to do but I know our family can probably handle this and make it go back to normal.Should we also seek professional help? We don't want to push her away or anything like that.

 First there is something you should know about cutting: cutting is a coping mechanism. This means one may cut their self for a variety of reasons, not solely due to sadness or depression. Anger, anxiety, sadness, even joy in some cases. Cutters will often feel the compulsion to cut when faced with an outside stimuli they find too emotionally overwhelming to deal with internally. So they externalize their inner pain much in the way an artist or a musician would. Only the method of release they choose is destructive rather then constructive.

Not to trivialize it, but it is also comparable to when a young child who cannot yet understand the appropriate way to deal with anger might break their own toys. Or an exceptionally anxious person might bite their own nails.

Essentially the cutter doesn't know how else to deal with how they are feeling. To them, cutting is the only effective way they know of to improve their mood in times of distress. This makes getting them to see what they're doing as a bad thing difficult, because to them it is helping and helping has to be good, right? That said, they are aware that it isn't normal or acceptable behavior because they will go to great lengths to hide what they're doing from others. Either with concealing clothing or by lying about the origin of their scars. This implies that deep down they know there must be an alternative, they're just ill-prepared to accept it.

Which is why a professional's help is often required.

Try as you might to get her to see the error of her ways, familial advice is often viewed as judgmental. Which will inevitably provoke an adverse reaction. If you can even get her to admit to what she's doing in the first place. Telling a stranger you may never see again that you cut yourself is simple, telling someone who you'll see daily for the rest of your life that you cut yourself is not. You could try talking to her about methods you use for coping, just remember to broach the subject very carefully. You don't want to seem like you're accusing her of anything.

It sounds to me however that the entire immediate family could benefit from therapy given current circumstances. So family therapy may be a keen way to get her help without singling her out. Family therapy usually consists of a group session and several one-on-one sessions with a therapist so that the family can work on issues together and individually in private. In my opinion this would be the ideal approach to her cutting.