If you live in the New York City area, I am speaking at an event that might interest you. Along with a group of expert panelists, I’ll be discussing the impact of the opioid crisis in New York City and what we can do as a community to address the crisis.
This was a rough week.
Or rather, it was, for me, a week of highs and lows. The two high-profile deaths by suicide of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, left many of us reeling
I put some thoughts together in the wake of Kate Spade's death: Depression Doesn't Care How Much Money You Have.
Upworthy published my thoughts on depression and compassion for self: I Have Compassion For Everyone Struggling With Depression — Except Me.
I don't have all the answers, but I have hope.
I know you may feel alone. But I am here, if you need to talk, vent, scream, cry, or laugh.
As we set off into a new week, a roundup of things I love, things that make me smile, things that make me think, and things that make me feel less alone.
The Hidden Queer History Behind “A League of Their Own” by Britni de la Cretaz for Narratively
How I Learned to Stop Judging And Love Insta-Witches by Lilly Dancyger for Catapult
To Kate Spade’s Daughter...From Someone Who Has Been There by Melissa Blake for Harper's Bazaar
To a deeply depressed mother, suicide isn't selfish by Jen Simon for NY Daily News
For single working parents like me, summer isn’t all fun and games by Stephanie Land for The Washington Post
To Listen (I guess I'm feeling the 90s... what's new?)
Well, the end of May is upon us, and the energy of the world feels like a balance of two extremes. There has been absolutely loveliness — Meghan and Harry and their surprisingly inspiring wedding, the approach of summer, and so much to be grateful for in my personal life. And, there has been horror — another flippin’ school shooting, our dysfunctional and dangerous administration, and more bloodshed in the Middle East.
So, how do we find a balance between these extremes?
Where is the gratitude when it feels like the world is imploding?
For me, I find it in the people I love. I find it in art — words, music, visual arts. And I find it by going outside and connecting with nature, of getting myself grounded in the physical body of Earth. (Yes, even in New York City, this is possible.)
To that end, I put together a list of some stuff that made me think, made me smile, or just made me feel this week.
What I'm Listening To
So I've recently started seeing this girl, and she is amazing. We have the same values, same beliefs, and care about the same things.
The problem is our conversations can be a little slow at times. We don't have a ton of common interests (in fact we have opposite interests in some things, which is not always bad), but I feel like we are not clicking the way I want.
I am afraid one reason is that I am subconsciously and consciously comparing her to my ex-girlfriend whom I dated for two years and had a ton in common with.
I know it’s not fair for me to compare two very different people, so how do I stop comparing them and let myself really get to know this other girl? Or is my comparing them a sign that I shouldn't be with this girl? HELP!
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Okay. I think there is one of two reasons that you are stuck in this comparison mindset.
Either you have unresolved feelings for the ex-girlfriend or your current girlfriend is not the right match.
When I first read your question, my initial thought was: We all compare people; it’s natural and not necessarily a big deal. But then I realized there is a difference between a natural sort of passing thought of comparison and what you’re talking about.
You didn’t mention how long ago you and the ex broke up, but since you didn’t say there were unresolved feelings, I am going to assume there are not. Frankly, my gut tells me that’s not what the problem is.
The new girlfriend sounds lovely in terms of matching with your values and belief systems, etc. But, there is clearly something missing.
What’s likely missing is chemistry.
She’s good on paper. She ticks all the boxes. However, sometimes a partner can have all the qualities we want in someone, but our pheromones don’t sync up. And that’s not anyone’s fault. The spark is just not there.
Because she’s got qualities you want in a partner, it seems like you’re trying to talk yourself into having feelings that can’t be manufactured.
So, to answer your specific questions…
I don’t know how to tell you to stop comparing the two. If you were head over heels for this person, you wouldn’t be spending all this time in comparison land.
She’s likely not “the one.”
Again, that’s not because there is anything wrong with her or wrong with you. Sometimes, partnerships are just slightly off. If the conversations have felt slow for you, they probably have felt slow for her, too. She may be having similar thoughts.
All this said, don’t lead her on. Don’t drag this out. I would end things with kindness and compassion. Let her know that you think she is an amazing person and that you care about her, but there is a romantic connection that is missing for you.
That may sound harsh, but I don’t think it is. This is not because she did anything wrong or is not worthy.
Letting her go will allow both of you to find someone with whom that chemistry just clicks.
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I'm not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I've gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendship, depression, sex, consent, what I’m watching, Amblygonite, or anything at all, use the contact form or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo
So I do have feelings for two guys at the moment, and it is very confusing. I’m hoping you can shed some light on the situation.
I recently started dating this guy. Things were good, but he has gotten very clingy, something I don't like. We have been together for less than a month, and he says he loves me and wants to be together forever. I never thought we were gonna last long, to begin with.
I have had feelings for my best guy friend for about three months now. I have been open about it and have found out that he feels the same.
I feel like this is cheating — having feelings for him, so I feel bad. I have thought about ending things with my current boyfriend, but I don't want to hurt him.
I spend more time with my best friend than the boyfriend. Every time my phone rings I hope it’s my best friend calling or messaging me. I'm disappointed when it's not him, and I get aggravated when my boyfriend tries to be very lovely with me.
I recently lied to my boyfriend about being busy to hang out with my best friend. I have never fought with my best friend but have my boyfriend. I'm not sure if I should just go ahead and end things or let it play out.
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You are making this situation way too complicated.
Yes, this is 100% emotional cheating.
You clearly want to be with the best friend, not the boyfriend. You know the feelings are reciprocal. What are you doing?
Well, first I think you may be afraid to make a go of it with the best friend. There’s a whole lot more at stake with him than the boyfriend. How do I know? Because I was that jank that got in relationships with people who felt emotionally safe for me and spent time pining away for someone else. Of course, I wouldn’t actually be with the person I had real feelings for because that was emotionally risky.
But, what I did, and what you’re doing now, is not fair to anyone. No good can come of this.
I know that no good can come of this because I made the mistake you're making, more than once or twice or three times.
Also, there may be a little of that “I don’t want to be the bad guy/girl/person” in the situation. You said you didn’t want to hurt your boyfriend. But, staying with him while you really want to be with someone else is hurting him.
Setting him free is the kindest thing to do.
Sidenote: The boyfriend does sound clingy.
I don’t trust anyone who says they want to be with you forever after knowing you for a mere few weeks. I mean, I am sure I was the person at some point, but I was a mess, ya know?
So let’s make it super simple. Break up with the boyfriend. See what happens with the best friend before you attempt to get involved with anyone else. And, know that sometimes our fantasy of what it would be like with someone we are friends with is a lot better than the reality of it. When we’re not in the healthiest places, that type of longing can look a whole lot like something it really is not.
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I'm not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I've gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendship, depression, sex, consent, what I can’t stop eating and somebody please take them away, Blue Muscovite, or anything at all, use the contact form or email me at email@example.com. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo
You've answered so many "do I tell them that..." inquiries lately, but I really hope you'll help with mine, too. I'm in an awkward situation, and I would love to hear your thoughts because I don't know how to tell them this uncomfortable info!
I'm a kinky girl. I especially like to exhibit my body to others, mostly by taking somewhat artistic nudes of myself. Since exposing myself to unsuspecting strangers is a sex crime and I'm all about being safe, sane, and consensual, I am really careful about how I exhibit myself.
I am on a website specifically for voyeurs and exhibitionists. (Think FetLife but kink specific.) Since this is a risky kink, there are rules in place to protect member's identities. We can't share anything that could identify the person in the photo. Even recognizable decor in the background is discouraged.
Awhile back, I started a thread seeking like-minded friends in my area. One of the guys who answered and I shared a few emails and PG13 pics before deciding we weren't a good match and moved on. We never discussed details like our names or jobs.
He recently shared a photo with the group in which his face is visible. I don't think it was intentional. There's a mirror behind him, and you can see his profile in the reflection.
The problem is, when I saw this photo I realized I used to work with him!
We were co-workers very briefly about three summers ago. While we joked and got along at work, I don't remember any sexual tension between us. If he had a thing for me at all, I was oblivious. I'm pretty sure neither of us was interested in the other. I don't see this as a really crazy meet cute.
I don't think he's going to be excited to know he's accidentally been recognized. All the same, as awkward as this is for both of us, I think I'd want to know if someone ever recognized me. And if he didn’t mean to show his face, he might appreciate a heads up. We talked about trust and not showing photos to others without permission, so I'm not concerned about him outing me at all. If he did, I have far more juicy dirt on him anyway. But it seems like I'm doing something naughty (and not fun-naughty!) by knowing about this and not telling him.
How in the world do I go about letting him know that he was exchanging dirty pics with someone who is not a stranger after all?
Ohmygod this is so uncomfortable! Pretty please help!
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There are few things less pleasant than seeing unwanted junk. And, yes, more awkward if you know the person attached to said junk IRL.
You know the old expression that it’s better to rip the band-aid off than peel it away slowly? Well, that applies here, too.
You should tell him.
Why? Because, as you said, he may not be aware that he is recognizable in the pic and you would want someone to give you the heads up if the situation were reversed.
How to tell him?
Be thankful we live in the age of electronic communication. Send him an email or message through the site. Just get straight to the point.
“Hey! Hope you’re well. I wanted to give you a heads up (no pun intended) that your face is recognizable in the last pic you posted. I recognized you from us working together awhile back and thought you should know because if I recognized you, others might too. Take care!”
And the beauty is that how awkward can you possibly feel over email/message?
Lastly, I doubt he is going to out you for giving him the heads up.
I wouldn’t pay that much mind. Let me know how it goes! And here’s hoping that soon you’re feeling the fun kind of naughty again!
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I'm not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I've gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendship, depression, sex, consent, my current fave snack, Citrine, or anything at all, use the contact form or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo
Is sexting cheating?
I've been with my boyfriend a little under a year. I love him an awful lot, but I have anxiety, so sometimes trust is a major issue for me. He knew this and still started to make it obvious he was being secretive regarding his phone.
Then one evening he left it aside, and I decided to look despite my reservations on snooping. I found he had been messaging a woman twice our age with sexual implications. When I confronted him, he said it was stupid harmless fun, but me going through his messages was much worse.
He refuses to acknowledge what he did as cheating. I'm not sure what my next step should be, or if I'm overreacting.
Any help would be much appreciated.
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The short answer is yes, sexting is a form of cheating.
But, it’s a little more nuanced than that.
The Internet has recently been abuzz with articles about “micro-cheating.” What is micro-cheating? Well, I don’t think of micro-cheating as I flirted with the cute barista when I pick up my coffee, or I thought about someone else during sex, or I scrolled through my ex’s Instagram. No.
I liken micro-cheating to slippery-slope actions — small actions that take attention and focus away from your partner and towards someone else who you could potentially have sex with.
The slippery slope goes a little like this: Innocent interaction between someone you might be attracted to (probably via the Internet or text). You don’t mention this interaction to your partner, although no line has technically been crossed. More and more attention goes towards this other person. One day, a dick pic shows up on your phone. See? Slippery slope.
Is it akin to actually having sex IRL with someone else? No. Is it still a betrayal and a red flag? Yes.
What concerns me is that he is not taking responsibility for doing something that hurt your feelings.
Further, I think of relationship anxiety like this… If you feel constantly insecure in a relationship, get out. It doesn’t matter if it is all in your head or if it's because your partner is doing something sketchy. What matters is that you’re feeling crappy in the relationship and that tells me this is a bad fit.
Do I think you should move on? I do. Do I think you should also see a therapist to work on building your self-worth, so you don’t bring the baggage from this relationship into the next one? I also do.
I always think of this scene from an episode of Sex and the City (and I have mentioned this before)…. when Samantha states, “As far as I’m concerned, the test of a good relationship is are you like this :-( or like this :-)?"
As simplistic as that sounds… I think she’s right! I have said this repeatedly: My relationship is not always perfect. Sometimes we piss each other off. But, overall, it’s the least stressful part of my life. And, I think that in the big picture, that’s how relationships should be most of the time.
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I'm not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I've gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendship, depression, sex, consent, what’s getting me through Mercury Retrograde, Sardonyx, or anything at all, use the contact form or email me at email@example.com. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo
How much sage advice is too much sage advice?
I am the "advice columnist" of my friends' group.
I have been in therapy for years over my non-existent self-esteem, which contributed to a slew of depression, anxiety, and codependency problems that I now know the answer to.
I have slept with nearing 100 dudes and some babes (self-esteem of a napkin...remember?), so there's nothing sexually I haven't encountered.
I'm a starving artist, so I've held over 20 jobs...blue collar/office/arts/marketing.
I've had 2,000 friends on Facebook at times (I culled it down to 400 for health reasons), so I always have a lead or a contact for a friend, whether they want to adopt a hairless cat or find business partners for a consulting firm.
Lastly, I have rampant ADHD, a loud mouth, and freakishly fast cognitive reasoning, so if a friend expresses ANY kind of problem I usually instantly scream the answer at them like a cocky drunken 411 app without thinking of their feelings or the consequences.
I know the moody boys that I skateboard with all have warnings about me like I'm some kind of voodoo witch who's "only tryin' to get in your head" from the amount of times I have played freelance hot-guy therapist. Funny enough they still ALWAYS slide into my DMs with the heavy shit. I never hunt for problems...I've seen 'fixers' in group therapy.
How much helping is too much helping?
(Keep in mind, I'll move apartments for pizza, and I am fostering some friends' dogs ATM so I am not *just* obsessed with fiddling with other people's mental health…it's just my strong suit.)
Can I keep giving out spoons if I have an endless supply? (I'm not burnt out or tired, and I love taking self-care time.)
What are some personality traps I should look out for in myself?
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Dear Helplessly Helpful,
As someone who gives advice on the regular, both in this column and IRL, I know how natural it can feel to have the answers, lend a hand, and give support all the time. But there are a couple of things that struck me that I think you need to consider and look out for.
Good advice is solicited.
When you’re used to being the one people come to, it can be really easy to dole the advice out, even when no one asked for it. Initially, you might think, That’s not me! I only give advice when asked. But is that true? You said in your email, “… if a friend expresses ANY kind of problem I usually instantly scream the answer at them like a cocky drunken 411 app without thinking of their feelings or the consequences.”
That leads me to believe that there have been consequences, there have been hurt feelings. I think it's important that you recognized this. I mean, you wouldn’t be reaching out to me if you didn’t think there was an issue, right? Although you might not be “hunting for problems,” you may be too quick on the draw to tell people what they might not be ready to hear.
Sometimes, the kindest thing to do when someone has a problem is to listen.
And I would venture to guess that there are times when your friends just need to vent, to have a sympathetic ear while they work the problem out for themselves. I know that’s worked for me many times — once I started talking out what the problem was, I could see the solution for myself. I just needed a conversation, not advice.
Another thing that stuck out to me in your email is that you wrote out a rapid-fire list of all the reasons you give advice. And I get it. My tagline is “She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to!” BUT, I also know enough to know that I don’t have all the answers.
As an advice-giver, I look at what I do as guiding people to truths they already know.
I help them find the answers themselves. I tell them what I would do, but encourage them to look to their intuition.
It concerned me when you said, “I have been in therapy for years over my non-existent self-esteem which contributed to a slew of depression, anxiety, and codependency problems that I now know the answer to.”
I believe we spend a lifetime (or lifetimes) figuring out those answers. I sure don’t have the key to understanding my depression. Sure, I have tools I didn’t have before. I can see things I couldn’t see before. But, I’m a work in progress. And so are you.
My advice (since you asked) is that you need to slow down.
You don’t have to have it all figured out. You don’t have to know all the answers and solve everything for everyone all the time. Listen. Listen to your friends. If they ask for advice, give it thoughtfully.
And please, don’t kid yourself, no one has an endless supply of “spoons” to give. I know you’re coming from a good place, but consider this… maybe all this focus on being the “perfect” friend who gives advice and fosters dogs and helps people move and has all the answers…maybe that’s all because you’ve yet to learn how to sit quietly with yourself. I say this with love, not judgment. You are undoubtedly well-intentioned, but this is what my intuition tells me.
To put it another way, pretend you're me; what would you tell you?
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I'm not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I've gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendship, depression, sex, consent, what’s getting me through Mercury Retrograde, Bixbite, or anything at all, use the contact form or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo
This is the first time I've ever asked anyone online for advice like this, but I wanted some different input, and really like your work.
After surviving six years of daily sexual assault from age 10-16, which I recently remembered now at age 20, I am currently working with my anger. I have a supportive family and a wonderful therapist, who are all trying to help me express my anger over what happened.
The thing is, I am unable to physically show any signs of anger — I’m too scared, too well-trained not to.
My therapist suggested we try hitting a cushion with a tennis racket, and I was unable to do more than a few light taps. I never realized just how much my abuser squashed down my fight response until these past few weeks, but it's pretty drastic just how hard it is for me to even punch at our punching bag.
My abuser is no longer in the picture in any way, so this is all work I'm doing to physically show my anger on things like inanimate objects and so forth. Ask me to write about my anger, and I can do that no problem — or even talk about it. But ask me to physically show it, and I shut down, and it's sickening to realize I'd rather keep hurting myself (like through my eating disorder) than express physical anger.
So, I would simply like your input on how you might go about working on expressing your physical anger and some steps you might take. I'd love to hear another's opinion on the subject.
Thanks so much!
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First, I am so happy to hear that you have the support of family and a good therapist. That makes my heart smile. And I’m proud of you for doing the work to heal. At 20, I could not confront that stuff, and I wish I had been able to. I would have saved myself years of self-destruction!
It’s not uncommon for victims of abuse to shut down the ability to express anger.
I was also sexually abused as a child, and I turned all my anger inward. When I was 16, before I told anyone about what had happened, I was seeing a therapist who noticed that I was always assuming guilt for things. He said something to me that resonated so deeply and has stuck with me all these years.
“All that guilt is unexpressed anger.”
At the time, I thought, No, he’s wrong. The only person I’m angry at is myself because I’m a real piece of sh*t.
Our minds have complex ways of protecting us. If we can’t access that anger, it’s a backward way of protecting our minds from the horrible truth. So, this functioned well for you (in a dysfunctional way) for many years. It doesn’t surprise me at all that you can access the anger when speaking or writing but not in a physical way.
I can tell you what worked for me.
Years of therapy and talking and writing DID help. But, I also needed ways in which I could unlock the anger that was stored in my body. After I had my first son, I started going to Kundalini yoga twice a week. Yoga was vital for me to get in touch with spirituality and my psyche. There is something about the mediation and breathing and body movements that literally and figuratively unlocks things for me. I have often burst into tears during yoga because that crap I’ve held onto is getting released.
As I moved through those physical releases, I found that I was able to connect with that unexpressed anger inside me.
Now, maybe yoga is not right for you. Try some different physical activities out — running, swimming, boxing, yoga, dance… whatever interests you. Take some quiet moments to sit with yourself and think about what you might want to try. Don’t worry about whether or not it will yield results. I believe that the universe pings us when we are looking for answers, and I believe you will get the ping you need.
Another thing that some therapists suggest is the old screaming into a pillow. This might take some warming up to happen. But, it feels good to scream with abandon like that. And obviously, the pillow is so that no one calls the police thinking you’re in harm's way!
I’m not sure if you’ve already done this, but with the help of your therapist, you might try writing a letter to your abuser, reading it aloud, and then setting it on fire (safely, of course!).
Lastly, forgive yourself.
I’m sure you know intellectually that this was not your fault, but sometimes it takes a minute for your psyche to catch up. Let that little child know that it was not her fault and let her know that you are protecting her now — by standing in the truth, by getting help, and by expressing the things she was unable to express.
Stay the course with your therapy and be kind to yourself along the way. You’re doing an amazing job.
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I'm not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I've gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendship, depression, sex, consent, shortcuts to accessing your woo, Chrysoprase, or anything at all, use the contact form or email me at email@example.com. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo
I’m dating a guy, but I like a girl.
I recently got back together with my ex-boyfriend, who has also been my best friend for a very long time. Last time we were dating, I broke up with him because I was questioning my sexuality (which I didn't tell him), and I came out as bisexual to some of my other closest friends (not my boyfriend).
He and I got back together about a month ago, and I was the one who initiated the relationship. I don't know why I did it. I really do like him, but I think it may have just been an excuse for me not to have to face the reality of my sexuality.
One of my friends is also bisexual, and I have been talking to her a lot about coming to terms with this. We were driving home about a week ago, and I realized that I like her. I've liked her since I met her over the summer. I don't think she likes me, though, because she has other relationship stuff going on — but I still like her.
I feel really awful about this because I'm dating a guy who I don't think I feel sexually attracted to anymore. But breaking up with him for a second time would ruin our entire relationship — something that I don't think we'd be able to recover from. Then again, I feel like I need to explore my sexuality because I haven't felt sexually attracted to men for a while.
I know that this seems very odd and is an awkward situation, but do you have any advice for my dilemma?
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Oh, my dear, this may feel awkward — but your situation is not all that odd. I’ve had many friends who were in similar situations as they were coming to terms with their sexuality.
Don’t feel guilty about your sexuality and the confusion you’ve had around it.
From what I have known, that is a regular part of the process. And yes, you got back together with him (probably subconsciously) because you were afraid of facing the implications of your sexuality.
You need to break up with him, as soon as possible. It’s not fair to him or you to pretend that you’re in this when you’re really not; you’re just biding your time. You mentioned that you were afraid of ruining your entire relationship, but prolonging this is going to do far more damage. He might not be ready to be your friend now (or ever), but that’s not a reason to stay. I would bet that with some time, you can have a friendship with him, but that shouldn’t be the driving factor here.
The kinder thing to do is let him go.
Now, as for your friend, the girl, she may just be the catalyst for your sexual awakening. If you do have feelings for her, you could certainly tell her, but break up with your boyfriend first and get a little time and space from that relationship.
Be prepared that your feelings may not be reciprocated. However, it sounds like she is someone you can confide in and relate to — someone who can be there for you as you face the reality of your sexuality.
Lastly, lean on friends and family you can trust as you go through this process. There are so many resources available online, as well. I’ve listed a couple below. If you need any other resources, don’t hesitate to reach out again. Now, end things with the boyfriend gently and with love, and explore who you are and what you want in a partner. XOXO
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I'm not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I've gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendship, depression, sex, consent, what I’m loving, Emerald Stones, or anything at all, use the contact form or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo
I can’t cope with my husband’s demands.
I'm 29, and I've been with my husband for five years, married for two. It has already been established that he can be verbally and emotionally abusive. By established I mean that we once had a conversation where I went through a 25 point list from an article about "These are the signs you're in an emotionally abusive relationship" and he even agreed he was doing something like 22 of them on a semi-regular basis.
I love him dearly, and we have been trying to work things out and have gone to counseling. But every time we try to talk about it, even when we've been at the counselor, I've been trying so hard not to point fingers and "accuse him." It feels like I always walk away with more stuff I need to be doing to make the relationship better, while he walks away feeling vindicated because, according to him, our real problems are things like "I don't listen to him enough,” or "I don't pay him enough attention,” or "I don't feel like his money problems/debts are my problems,” or even "I complain too much."
He never tells me directly at any point when he has an issue with my behavior, and only brings it up when I try to talk to him about something he's done or how his behavior has upset me. There is nothing that he can't turn around on me and make my fault to the point where I feel like I walk away from every argument feeling lost and depressed because he makes such compelling arguments regarding what I'm not doing/providing.
I don't know how much longer I should be trying to work things out (it's already been something like six months since the "abuse" conversation) or if it's time to give up on us. It’s getting to be so difficult even finding the courage to bring up something with him because I feel like I already know the conversation won't go "my way" and I'll just end up feeling worse.
What do I do?
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I think you know what I’m going to tell you. Often when people write to me, they already hold the answers to their questions. They just need someone else to “say it out loud.” Well, I’m here to say it out loud for you.
The love you have for your husband is not enough in the face of abuse.
And make no mistake, you are in an abusive relationship. As you pointed out, he even admitted that he acts abusively towards you. You’ve sought counseling, and still, those abusive patterns have remained.
The sentence in your email that stuck out to me the most was this: “There is nothing that he can't turn around on me and make my fault to the point where I feel like I walk away from every argument feeling lost and depressed…”
This is gaslighting. And the thing I want you to remember is that this man and this relationship have you feeling lost and depressed. Life’s too short for this.
I hope you don’t have children (I am hopeful you don’t since you didn’t mention any in your email). I am doubtful this man will change this behavior any time soon, and I would hate for you to bring kids into this toxic environment.
I have posed this question time after time in my column when someone is so clearly in a toxic or abusive relationship: Is this the relationship you would wish for your sister or best friend or daughter?
I would guess no.
You are walking on eggshells in your relationship. Your spouse is aware of his behavior but still does not change it, even with counseling. You deserve better than this.
Get out of this abusive marriage.
So, how to proceed?
Plan this out, but don’t take long to do so. Decide if you’ll be leaving or asking him to leave. Tell your trusted friends and/or family members what is going on, and lean on them for support. Continue counseling on your own, without him. Lastly, a support group could be beneficial. CoDA is a 12-step group for people who are working on developing healthy relationships. If you need any region-specific resources, please email me again.
You can do this. You deserve to be in a partnership with someone who makes you feel seen, heard, and emotionally safe.
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I'm not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I've gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendship, depression, sex, consent, what I’m watching, Kammerite, or anything at all, use the contact form or email me at email@example.com. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo
I have been in a same-sex relationship with my partner for just under two years now. We are in our mid-20s and have known each other almost our whole lives.
She came out in college, and her parents were not supportive of her lifestyle choice. My experience coming out was the opposite, and my parents are very supportive and loving.
Flash forward to now — we are in a very serious, committed, and loving relationship. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been with a partner and excited for our future together.
BUT her parents, more specifically her mother, seem to have these microaggressions towards our relationship and I don’t know how to handle it.
She has older siblings who are either married/in long-term relationships with kids. It is no question that the SO’s are invited to family dinners, to be in the family picture at Xmas time, introduced as so-and-so’s husband/girlfriend and given a card on their birthday. Obviously, the first year we were together I was totally fine with being excluded, but as time goes on, I just feel like this is never going to stop.
The big deciding factor for me was at a family event I was introduced as her daughter's ... *awkward pause* ... friend. Apparently, her mother always does things like this and tries to present a picture of a ‘perfect’ family to the world … but like everyone at the party knows her daughter is gay?! So what’s the difference being introduced as the partner or GF of her daughter!?
My girlfriend was pissed off too, and we spoke to her mom and told her the proper way to introduce us. She says she’ll try to do better in the future, but I’m skeptical.
I don’t want to rock the boat, but I feel like because we are in a same-sex relationship we aren’t as valued in her eyes.
They don’t seem to think we want to get married or are capable of starting a family. I fear for the future of awkward introductions and misunderstandings about our relationship.
What should I do?!? Am I overreacting, and should I let it be?
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Okay. My answer is two-fold.
You are not overreacting. But, you may have to realign your expectations.
This situation sounds sucky. It’s hard enough dealing with our own complicated family relationships, let alone someone else’s. While I think it’s part of being in a partnership to be there for family events which may not always be the most fun, this is another level of standing by your woman. There are a few things to consider.
Her parents’ (or mother’s) attitude and crappy behavior is on them.
This is about their baggage, their dogma. I know it must feel challenging not to take this personally, but it’s not about you as a person. This is 2018. They do not sound like particularly evolved people. And that’s unfortunate, but that’s not on you.
There’s no point in trying to sort out why they’re homophobic.
I mean, we could be here all day talking about religion or generations or culture or whatever. As I said, it’s 2018. Not down with making excuses for anyone too stubborn or ignorant to open their hearts and minds.
You can absolutely set boundaries with her parents.
It sounds like you did this by letting her mom know how you expect to be introduced. However, you may want to get even more specific regarding wanting to be treated the same way the rest of the significant others are treated. Now, for the future, you and your girlfriend should decide what to do if — okay, probably when — her mother does the crappy introduction thing again. Because it’s okay to…
Remove yourself from the situation.
Your girlfriend is unlikely to want to cut ties with her family, or she probably would have done so already. However, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to make your own boundaries for how much interaction you want to have with them if they continue treating you this way. I certainly wouldn’t want to spend time with people who treated me like that.
It’s worth weighing the family factor as you plan for the future.
When you marry someone (and more so if you have kids with them), you inherit their extended family (unless they are estranged). I do think it is worth considering this if you are making a lifetime commitment. What do you want your future holidays and family gatherings to look like? And, keep the communication about this going with your partner as you move forward.
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I'm not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I've gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, recovery, friendship, sex, consent, what I’m watching, Aegirine, or anything at all, use the contact form or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo
I’m the “other woman.”
A couple of years ago I met this guy at my office, and we hit it off pretty quick. We started flirting which led to hooking up casually and sometimes going on mini dates afterward. I ended up moving about an hour away, and we continued to sext/send nudes and even hook up whenever we were in each others area, but then things got weird.
He started blocking and unblocking me all the time on his social media when I didn’t respond to his booty calls right away. We ended up hooking up again, and I asked him if he was seeing someone, and he said he was talking to a girl, but they weren’t official, which I took as an okay to keep doing what we were doing because he said he wasn’t committed to her. And then I found the next day through a friend that not only was he officially with this girl, but they were also practically living together.
It’s been almost a year since I found that out and while I haven’t confronted him on it, he hits me up a lot, and a mutual friend between his girlfriend and me has told me that his girlfriend has no idea about me and his frequent cheating.
My dilemma is that I don’t know whether or not I should let her know.
On the one hand, I really want to have her back girl to girl, and because we all have mutual friends between the three of us, I don’t want her to get misinformation (such as thinking that I knew about her when I had hooked up with him). I also want to do the right thing morally. Plus, I’m not scared about losing him from my life because he hasn’t really contributed much to it nor am I that close with his social circle. But on the other hand, I feel that I should just leave it be and hope that karma will take care of things.
In full transparency, I do have some feelings for him, but I know it’s mostly based on lust. I just actually feel really bad for her when I see her posting about how great he is and stuff when I know she has no idea that he’s a chronic cheater (there are other girls beside me too).
Any advice for me?
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I often advise people to stay out of getting into the mix with other people’s relationships. The reason being — psychologically it’s complicated and more painful to get that type of information from someone you don’t know, particularly when that person participated in the infidelity. But, in this case, her boyfriend is a chronic cheater (you mentioned other women), and from all accounts (your mutual friends) she doesn’t know this.
I think you should tell her that her boyfriend has been cheating on her.
So how to proceed? I would get her email address from one of your mutual friends. Write her a thoughtful and kind email — one that doesn’t give any unnecessarily hurtful information but lays out the facts, much as you wrote them to me. My caveat is that by reaching out to her with this information, you are potentially inviting more drama into your life, and you need to be prepared that she may not believe you and/or displace the blame entirely on you.
I was in a relationship with a chronic cheater. I caught him/found out repeatedly, even confirming with one of the women who he cheated on me with when we confronted him together (he’d been lying to us both). Even after that, it took me a bit longer to believe he was really that bad, to comprehend that he wasn’t going to change, and to untangle myself from that mess.
Cut your ties with him.
His behavior is not the behavior of a healthy person. There are plenty of people out there with whom you could have casual sex (or an actual relationship) who are not cheating on someone to do it.
Lastly, you acknowledged that you might have some feelings for him, albeit they are blurry and mixed in with lust. Participating in infidelity is not the mark of healthy self-esteem. I speak from experience. I have been the “other woman” too. I thought that I was a strong, sexually liberated young woman. But really, I had low self-worth. Before you jump into your next relationship or hook-up, please take some time to invest in yourself.
What does investing in yourself look like? Talk therapy, focusing on yourself and what you want and need want from a partner, self-care, goal-setting, volunteering, spending time with people who make you feel good, and last but not least learning to set boundaries.
While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with casual sex, you are worth more than being someone's booty call.
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I'm not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I've gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, recovery, friendship, sex, consent, what I’m putting on my lips, Sugilite, or anything at all, use the contact form or email me at email@example.com. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo
I'm really conflicted and upset and confused at the moment and just wanted some advice.
My best friend sexually assaulted me, and he doesn't realize it.
So a couple of months ago my best friend was drunk, I was sober, and it got to the point where I needed to carry him home to our uni campus residence. On the walk back he had tried to kiss me a bit, and I had said "no" and just kept walking with him, thinking he's drunk and nothing else of it.
My room was on the ground floor, so we went there first so I could get some water into him then take him to his room a couple of flights up. When we were in my room, I sat on my bed to take my heels off, and then next thing I know, he's pushing me back and getting on top of me, kissing and touching me and telling me to “Shh.”
I kept saying"no" and pushing him off and oh god I was so scared when it wasn't working, and he wouldn't budge... eventually, he did, and nothing penetrative happened thank god. After that, I just took him to his room and put him to bed.
The next morning I went to check up on him and told him what he did which he apologized for, but I don't think he really got what he had done.
It was never spoken about again between us.
A couple of months later, after the inquiries into sexual assaults on university campuses in Australia, "I stand with survivors" shirts started circulating, and for an event, he thought it would be a great idea to wear one as he "stood with survivors.”
I was sickened.
How could he stand with survivors when he had sexually assaulted me, had made me feel so scared and sickened and not safe?
Since then, our friendship has really deteriorated, but we're still mates. It's the start of another year, and we're both living at the same uni residential colleges again, and the awful feeling of being assaulted keeps coming back, and I don't know what to do because I honestly think he doesn't know or realize what he's done.
But how do I tell him??
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I wish I could say that yours is a unique situation. But sadly, this blurred line of consent and intoxication — especially in pre-existing friendships — is so common. I am so glad that it stopped short of penetration.
But, you were violated, and I think you’re right — your friend doesn’t understand what he’s done.
This is the crux of the problem here with the whole consent conversation. A painful re-education around consent has to happen. It’s the only way forward. And that conversation needs to include men who may not be outright rapists, but through their societal programming and silent entitlement, are unaware of just how violating their behavior has been.
I’ve been in similar situations. Three times, I’ve woken up to a friend’s hand down my pants. In all three instances, we were in a platonic group sleepover situation, they were intoxicated, and when I woke up and said some variation of “What the fuck are you doing?” they stopped and acted remorseful/embarrassed for their behavior.
And what did I do? I said it was okay. It was no big deal. I ended up consoling them because they felt bad.
WHAT. THE. HELL.
I didn’t have agency over my own damn body. I felt like I had done something wrong. I cannot tell you the number of times a man has acted inappropes with me (which is so many) and I have brushed it off, made them feel better about it. And that’s not the way forward.
The way forward is letting them know just how very wrong what they did was.
If you feel safe enough having this conversation in person, do that. It’s harder for people to shirk responsibility when they are face to face with another human. If you do not feel comfortable doing that, then write him an email. You should write down what you want to say either way, leave it for a couple of days, and then come back to it.
It’s okay if you want to end your friendship. It’s also okay if you want to work through what happened and remain friends. You are in control here. Remember that. You hold the power.
If I were you, I would tell him that what he did still haunts you — that you felt violated and scared and unsure of how far he was going to take things. I would tell him that it makes you sick to see him wearing an “I Stand With Survivors” t-shirt. I would tell him that you want to be sure he never does something like this to anyone ever again, because it is sexual assault. He pushed himself on you — after you said no, without your consent.
There is no gray area here.
Lastly, I highly recommend seeking some therapy or support through a group. You mentioned in your email that you are in Australia. You can access resources in your area through ReachOut Australia. Additionally, there may be services or support groups through your university. If you need any more guidance in finding some support, please do not hesitate to reach out.
*If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please seek help. You can chat live now online or by phone at 1-800-656-HOPE, through the Sexual Assault Hotline. It is free and confidential. If anyone needs region-specific resources, RAINN has a page where you can find centers near you, or you can email me.
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I'm not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I've gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, recovery, friendship, sex, consent, what I’m watching, Blue Chalcedony, or anything at all, use the contact form or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo
Hey Girl, hey.
Tuesday is May 1st. Wha?? My April was a whirlwind of work, work, work, work, baby, and more work. How was yours?
One of the things I realized last week was that I have not been making the time to read for pleasure. I mean, I read for work ALL THE TIME. But, I haven't been making that space to just read what I want to read. And reading, for me, is A BIG part of self-care.
So, I made reading a priority again and started last week off with Terese Marie Mailhot's exquisite memoir Heart Berries. I urge everyone to read it. You can read it in a day or a weekend and you won't want to put it down and will be sad when it's over, because it's so damn good.
Oh, did you catch the #oldheadshotday social media wave last week? No? Well, then you missed this gem...
That's right, I look like I just walked off the set of Party of Five, no? Anyhow...
I also read some beautiful and moving stuff on the Internet the past couple of weeks. So, check these out (and you're welcome)...
- Alexander Chee's On Becoming an American Writer for The Paris Review
- Lauren DePino's When You and Your Partner Have Very Different Approaches to Discussing Exes for New York Magazine's The Cut
- Marissa Korbel's Sometimes You Make Your Rapist Breakfast for Harper's Bazaar
ALSO.... Holy Moly they caught the GOLDEN STATE KILLER, you guys.
AND, AND, AND.... I have been listening to this on repeat....
Do you believe in the powers of Mercury Retrograde?
I don't if things truly go wonky when Mercury goes retrograde....but it sure seems like it. Below is a list, in no particular order, of things I'm digging this week (that may or may not help get us through until Mercury turns direct again on April 15th).
What I'm Reading
Kelly Thompson's: Terese Mailhot: Truth Is My Aesthetic for Guernica.
A captivating Modern Love essay, First Try the Pastrami, Then the Polyamory, by Debbie Weiss for The New York Times.
What I'm Slathering On My Face And Body
What I'm Listening To
And an oldie but a goodie....
What I Made For Dinner Tonight
Seriously this is an easy go-to for us from one of my favorite old food blogs, Dinner: A Love Story... Chicken and rice for Beginners.
What are some of your favorite things? Tell me what you're reading, watching, listening to, eating, slathering on your body, etc...
I've compiled a go-to list of shortcuts to accessing my woo, the side of me that is in touch with the flow of the universe and at peace with the things I cannot control. Maybe some of these will help you, too.Read More
Music is magic is art is self-care.Read More
A List (in no particular order) of things I'm loving this week...Read More
In last week's Ask Erin, a woman wrote in to ask if her marriage is really over or if she should keep fighting for it. Separations are tricky territory, especially when there are children involved.
An important thing to remember is that a separation is not the same as a divorce. A separation gives you breathing room to figure out what each of you want and need, and to assess if your marriage can be salvaged.
Whenever someone is going through any sort of breakup or separation, I encourage them to take the focus off of the other person and onto themselves.
You can read the question (and my answer) in its entirety HERE on Ravishly.
If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, recovery, friendship, sex, consent, what I’m watching, Rose Quartz, or anything at all, use the contact form or email me at email@example.com. As always, your anonymity is golden. xoxo