DEAR NATALIE: One of my best friends lost her mother recently and she’s been having a very difficult time navigating her grief. She breaks down and cries whenever we are together and hasn’t been interested in doing anything fun. I hate to be “that person” but it is really hard to be around someone who is so depressed. I shared with her the names of a few therapists that I thought could help, and she was really insulted. She said to me, “I don’t need a therapist. I need a friend.” But I can’t be that friend every time we are together. It has been a few months and it’s just all she talks about. How do I help her without getting sucked into the negativity spiral? –SAD FRIEND SITUATION
DEAR SAD FRIEND SITUATION: People have to come to terms with how they process their grief in their own way. Currently, she may be too close to the situation for therapy to be of use to her. In a year, she may feel differently. In the meantime, she does need a friend. But maybe navigating grief isn’t your strength. You may ask yourself what makes a good friend. Is it someone who is there through the hard times? Is it someone who can shed new perspective and be a voice for reason or support when needed? A good listener? All of these things are so important to have when someone is in the throes of grief. Find ways to help her navigate these waters and also set boundaries so that you don’t feel overwhelmed yourself. As hard as it is to be there for her right now, think of how hard it is to be her. Lean into that empathy and work on doing what you can. One day, she'll turn to you for fun again.
DEAR NATALIE: My partner moved in with me after we had been dating for a couple of months in stereotypical “U-Haul lesbian” fashion. We live together very well and our sex life is about the same as it was before sharing a living space. But it’s hard for me to feel like I get enough alone time – when I come home from work I need some time to decompress alone. While she totally gets that and is willing to give me space, our one bedroom apartment can only do so much. And honestly, sometimes I do want to sleep in a bed by myself. We both think that having separate space is important. Having separate rooms in the same apartment is a goal we’re working towards, but moving into a two bedroom apartment isn’t in the budget right now. How can we share space more graciously until our financial situation changes? –NEED TO STRETCH OUT
DEAR NEED TO STRETCH OUT: What I love about this is how honest and transparent you both are with your communication around this topic. Instead of letting something like this fester and build resentment, you are just sharing what your needs are and working towards a resolution. While you may not be able to have all the space you need or want right now, there are solutions here. For instance, do either of you have family near by? Is there a way that once a month she can spend a night with her family and then you can have the apartment to yourself? And then vice versa? Or, can you plan quarterly stay-cations and get a hotel room with separate beds so you can stretch out? On a smaller daily level, is there a way to set up a schedule where you have time alone in the bed once a week, perhaps for a few hours so that you can nap or relax for a while alone? Small spaces can create challenges, but they can also be great tests to see how much you are willing to compromise and share, too. If you can survive, and even thrive together in the one bedroom, one bath, then that is very telling for the future of your relationship. Work on a schedule as a couple, find alone time when you can, but relish in your togetherness, too.
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