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March 5, 2014

Help Me, Rhonda

Advice for Life's Persistent Questions

Second Thoughts

I broke up with a wonderful guy about a year ago. He was great, but he wasn't right for me, and I felt like he deserved to be with someone who was as excited about him as he was about me. I still beat myself up about it, though. I'm 31 years old—who am I to be so picky? How do I let it go and stop beating myself up?

Too choosy

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Who are you to be so picky? You’re someone who values her own happiness, knows her own feelings and honors both. Breaking up with a boyfriend you’re not excited about isn’t being picky; it’s doing the kindest thing for both of you. If you’re a 31-year-old woman, you can reasonably expect to live to be 80. Fifty years is a lot of time to find someone and a lot of time to spend in a relationship with someone you feel only lukewarm about.

When you start to beat yourself up, remember a few things.

• The uneasy and bordering-on-sick feeling you get from being with someone who likes you more than you like him. Being on either end of that inequality is difficult, but being the less interested party is its own brand of unhappiness. That feeling is not one to build a relationship on. That feeling is also your mind’s and your heart’s way of telling you that you don’t want to be in this relationship. That feeling is always worth listening to.

• You’ve freed him up to find someone who reciprocates his feelings. That was the fairest and kindest thing to do. Would you want to be with someone who didn’t want to be dating you?

• Not wanting to date someone is a valid reason to break up. Sometimes people lose sight of that and think their partner has to have an objective, glaring flaw in order to justify a breakup. This is the misguided road you’ve gone down when you find yourself having daydreams about your partner cheating on you. You’re wishing he would do something objectively awful so you’d have no qualms about breaking up with him. You don’t have to wait for that to happen. Again, not wanting to date someone is sufficient reason to break up.

• General greatness is overrated; you want someone who’s great for you. The person who’s great for you might not look as objectively perfect as a Great Guy, but that doesn’t matter. The rest of the world isn’t dating him (I mean, you hope not). You are.  

You were only too picky if you start with the premise that you must get married and you must do it quickly. But neither of those things is true. The only prize for staying in an unsatisfying relationship is more unsatisfying relationship.


Hard to Make Friends

My husband and I moved to Athens in the beginning of January, and I am struggling to make friends. I haven't found a job yet, as it was my husband's work that brought us to town. I am volunteering, but I haven't had much luck in forming any friendships within the organization thus far. I'm on meetup.com, and my husband and I are planning on looking for a church to go to. Any advice? I've even started conversations with strangers, to no avail. Is there some secret to making friends in Athens?

New in Town

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You don’t say this outright, but it sounds as though without a job and without a social network, you are lonely and bored. And that’s an unhappy place to be, especially since your husband has a job to go to every day and coworkers to interact with and get to know. So how to get out of this place?

There’s some transience in Athens, and that’s a good thing and a bad thing for you. Sometimes it seems as though as soon as you make a friend, he moves away. I think that makes people cautious. The flip side of this transience is the good—people in Athens are used to newcomers and are often looking for new friends. The secret to making friends anywhere is to meet as many people as possible and be patient. It sounds like you’ve got a start on the first part with volunteering, church and Meetup. You’ll need to go to as many events, meet-ups, etc as possible, though. You may have to go alone sometimes since making new friends won’t have the same urgency for your husband as it does for you. Going alone can be uncomfortable, but it feels much more awkward to you than it actually is. 

Last week, Grown Up was looking for places to meet someone to date in Athens. You can look for friends in all the same places.


Encouragement or Advice?

I have a good friend who is trying to start his own health and wellness business. The idea is that he would offer yoga and qigong classes to groups of people in and around town. He is currently doing some part-time work at a job he doesn't care about to pay his bills, and then spending the rest of his time making plans for his business venture: advertising, designing a website and things like that. 

My friend is very talented and good at getting things done when he puts his mind to it. He is also in his mid-20s and has little formal training in this kind of work. I have my fingers crossed for him, but I'm also worried that it's going to be hard for him to make his business work financially. It seems to me that he might be better off securing a full-time job that speaks to his interests, and then trying to break off on his own somewhere down the line. But I'm worried that if I say this to him, he will think I am being pessimistic and not believing in his dream. Should I keep encouraging my friend in doing what he's doing, or should I be blunt with him about my reservations? I am trying to be… 

Realistic

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I hear that you are worried about the uncertainty associated with your friend’s success, so let me resolve it for you: Your friend’s business probably will fail. Not spectacularly, necessarily, but it will almost certainly not generate enough income for him to live on. And that is fine. Unless he’s taking on a huge loan or spending his child’s college fund on this plan, failure won’t be catastrophic. What it will be is his first attempt and first step towards building a successful business. This successful business will likely come years from now, but the only way for him to get there is through equal parts research, planning, trial and error.

Now, I don’t think you need to say that, exactly, to your friend. Nor do you need to give him a falsely cheerful perspective on his business plan. The choice between unedited criticism and unquestioning support is a false dichotomy. There is a middle ground—that absolutely is honest—between the two. In fact, any course of action that is truly encouraging has to include your outsider’s perspective of the potential pitfalls of this business venture. Your aim is to frame what he’s doing in the most positive light possible while still being honest.

There are three things to keep in mind when you’re sharing your concerns with your friend. One, you want to frame them as questions. Two, these are your concerns. Three, all of your questions should have a tone of sincere curiosity. Assume your friend has considered the same dangers you see and has resolved them; you’re curious what his solutions are. Something like: “I’d be nervous about starting a business without formal training; does that ever bother you?” You might also find a book on entrepreneurship and give it to your friend. In a nice, not heavy-handed way: you saw this and thought he might be interested in it. You’re helping him figure out how to build a successful business. It’s probably not the one he’s currently working on, but one he builds down the road.

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