Q: I’m in college, and my roommate and best friend is funny, smart and so kind. But she’s not particularly physically attractive, and she dwells on the fact that she’s never had a romantic relationship. She has all these crushes on guys that she’s weird about and they never turn into anything and she gets down on herself. I want her to chill and let it happen when it happens. But I don’t want to make her feel worse.
A: Most likely, she is defining herself by this lack of romance precisely because other aspects of her and her life don’t seem big enough. So you can help make them so.
Let her know how much she means to you (not in an “even if you’re single!” kind of way.) Encourage her interests. Don’t let conversation veer to guys too much, even if you’re giving her advice to ignore them (few actually heed the “It will happen when you stop thinking about it” mantra). Join her in a new passion. Lead by non-guy-obsessed example. Boost her confidence in subtle ways. And if it’s really severe, of course, your role might be to encourage her to get a professional to join the cause.
Q: My father was recently diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing treatment, but his prognosis is not great. We’re spending Thanksgiving with my in-laws and seeing my parents the following weekend, but I know my mind is going to be on my parents the whole time and I just really don’t feel like dealing with my drama queen sister-in-law. Every time it has come up in conversation with her since my dad’s diagnosis, she says “That sucks,” and then launches into something about herself.
A: I’m sorry to hear about your father. Presuming that you’re set on this visit, it’s important to build up the support you DO have – the uncle-in-law who can be tasked with cutting her off when she starts insensitively me-me-me-ing, or perhaps a mother-in-law who can make sure you have a quiet place to escape. Enlist them beforehand, or have your spouse talk to them so they know about the emotional challenge you’re experiencing and the need to show extra sensitivity. Your sister-in-law could be alerted as well, in a general way with everyone else. Perhaps that would give her the opportunity to surprise you.