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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Relationships » Friendship Strained

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Author Topic: Friendship Strained
copper86
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Hello!

Happy Easter to everyone! I hope everyone has a great weekend!

The problem I'm writing about here is not necessarily urgent, but it's been an off and on issue for about three years; and I'd like to end it once and for all - though I've tried to end it more than once and to no avail.

I have a very close male friend who is a few years older than me. We met through church. For some reason - maybe because we're both single - my church friends have always made comment like, "you two should date" or that we make a cute couple. When this first started happening, I had made an indirect cue that I didn't want to date him. Then, as time went on, I told my friends I didn't want to date him. It had gotten better for over a year or so, but I still get little comments about how people think we should date. This is very uncomfortable for me, as he is almost always right there when comments are said, and because I am almost always the only one who stands up for myself and says "no, we're not dating" or some other disagreeing statement. I've even had sex jokes made about him and I, or someone in authority in the church saying - with him there and others in the room - that we make a cute couple. He had added, "I can see it" and I then said, "I can't." I don't know if my friend heard this or not, but I'm sure my other friends did; and I don't want to hurt him, but we both feel the same way, but I feel like it's always me who gets embarrassed or mad over this.

Whenever this happens, I tense up and if I'm with him after the occurrence happens, I don't talk to him for a few minutes because I feel so uncomfortable. My friends just don't get it. Even if th sex jokes are just jokes; or even if the "you should date" comments are just made in fun, it actually really aggravates me. It's made worse that most of the young people in this church are couples and my friend and I are the only single ones who go. I'm sure this is one reason why people think we should date. That is not a reason, though, to me.

I admit that I'm being a bit passive about this, as I could talk to the pastor and just tell him to cease the comments or to talk to my friends; but that group and family do not keep things to themselves and I don't want any more gossip or comments about him and I. I also wonder if my friend would hear about my talk with the pastor, and I don't want that to happen. My mom told me to talk to the pastor, or talk to my friend and make him bring it up; but I'm too uncomfortable to talk to my friend. I don't even know if he hears these comments and gets upset by it - he never tells me. I just hate the comments and the jokes. If I want a boyfriend, I will find one without others' help.

If anyone has any ideas on how I could get through this, please let me know. I am considering talking to the pastor, but based on past experiences I don't trust talking about sensitive situations to many people there. I've been bitten a few times and I'd rather just diffuse it without talking to my pastor; but again, speaking up in public hasn't worked.

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"I do the best that I can. I'm just what I am." - Rush (Best I Can)

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Heather
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Hey there, copper. [Smile] You may perhaps be delighted to know that tomorrow, it's my job to be the Easter Bunny for all the kids on the island I live on. [Big Grin]

Have you ever been able to talk to the friends doing this about how, if nothing else, their endless suggestions about this really devalue your friendship with this person and also tend to suggest or say outright that people of different genders who like each other MUST have romantic feelings or relationships, rather than other kinds, like being friends, being brother and sister, mother and son, etc?

I also hear you saying you've said you don't want to date him: how about following that up from now on with a "And I really wish you would please stop asking me that or making sex jokes that make me feel uncomfortable: can you please?"

[ 03-29-2013, 02:46 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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copper86
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Heather, that is amazing! I would LOVE to do that! And I'd love to be the kid receiving the treats! [Smile]

I've never said that those comments make me uncomfortable or devalue my friendship; but I'd like to. The issue with that is that it is guaranteed that my friend will talk to her parents about it, so the pastor would find out and probably other people who don't need to know about it. I've been around this girl when she talks about others, and though we're close, I don't trust her with sensitive information; and I'm afraid my friend will find out about me talking to my friends about this. He's depressed and doesn't think much of himself, so I also feel bad about saying - sometimes in frony of him - that we're best friends and nothing's going on. It's just so frustrating. I'd never ask two people if they were dating while they were in the same truck as me, or make a sex joke with them right there, or say they should be roommates and that they're a cute couple. I'd LOVE to say that just because two genders like each other, they shouldn't have to date. This isn't the 1700's! I just hate how I'm the only one who defends the friendship. Maybe he does when I'm not around, but I don't know. But I love what you suggested in your last sentence: that's a great way to say it without talking to anyone privately. But if he is there when I say it, I don't know if I'd have the guts to say it. He doesn't like me romantically, but I don't want to hurt his feelings. I don't think this is relevant, but he did like me a few years ago and we talked about it and we didn't start a relationship - and he's had girlfriends since then - so I really don't think it's an issue. But I do admit that this makes it uncomfortbale for me to talk to him about confronting our friends or if he's affected by the jokes.

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"I do the best that I can. I'm just what I am." - Rush (Best I Can)

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Heather
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Seriously, I don't even celebrate Easter and I have been waiting my whole life to be the Easter bunny. [Razz] I suspect everyone around me will be glad when it's over so I'll shut up about it already. [Smile]

You know, this has come up before, as I recall, with you, but you can't control who your friend tells when you speak up for yourself. That's just out of your hands.

I also don't think telling someone something they're saying offends us actually is sensitive information: this is common courtesy stuff here, not federal or personal secrets, you know?

Also? It sounds like this guy is your friend: I highly doubt he'd be offended by you stepping up for the value of that friendship. Eben if he does have a romantic interest in you, asking people to value the relationship you have is just that: it doesn't say anything about any romantic feelings or interests he might have.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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copper86
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Hi Heather,

How was your Easter? I bet you did a wonderful job being an Easter bunny! Please, feel free to talk about it some more if you want!

I'm trying to accept the fact that I can't control what people do. It's something I struggle with, because I feel helpless when I realize I can't always fix things. But I know I gotta get past that.

I have a bit of an update. Last Saturday, one of the friends I have who keeps bringing up jokes did something else - with my friend standing right near us. He said, "You shouldn't get too close to me... What if you want to kiss him?" I hit him (not in a violent way, but a friend-like annoyed hit) and said, "Anytime you want to stop would be great" or something like that. I think I even said something like, "It's not happening"... I was just so angry and upset that I can't remember what I said. But the guy who said it got really surprised and a bit scared or apologetic; but I don't know if he accepted what I was saying. My friend about whom this is concerning didn't hear, as far as I know. I'm so sick of this. It's so frustrating. Sometimes I just want to give an ultimatum, like "If you guys can't stop making these kinds of remarks, I'm leaving," but I don't think I want to do that. It just infuriates me, as I don't get involved in other people's dating lives; and my friends still make comments about someone I love so much as a friend. I might consider talking to this person about the remarks and see what he thinks about saying something.

Thank you for listening!

--------------------
"I do the best that I can. I'm just what I am." - Rush (Best I Can)

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Heather
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(It was WAY too much fun, thanks for asking. The fact that the Easter Bunny could hula-hoop was an especially big hit. [Smile] )

You know, there's a word for a healthy boundary that isn't ultimatum: it's LIMIT.

And people need to set limits. It's a thing we need to do to establish and keep healthy relationships between people.

Telling someone that you don't want to stay in their company if they keep teasing you isn't an ultimatum or being a jerk: it's setting a healthy limit and boundary.

Like we've done with you with things before, and which seems to work well with you, put your shoes on another foot. Would you NOT support someone you cared about asking someone to please stop teasing them, and making calmly -- no hitting required, btw -- clear they wouldn't want to keep hanging around someone who couldn't or wouldn't respect that?

Of course you would. You might even suggest they do just that because that's what we do when people are harassing people in any way: we do the healthy, courteous things we can to get it to stop.

And really, if you start setting clear limits like this and holding them, it gets awfully hard for people to keep up. And it's usually a lot more effective than being sarcastic and play-hitting. Someone who takes their own limits seriously tends to be someone who others take the limits of seriously.

Extra bonus: this isn't you trying to fix things you can't or control others via inaction. It's you taking proactive steps to control the things you CAN.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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copper86
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ATTENTION: the following post may contain offensive content... I apologize for this in advance. They are quotes from a conversation, but no swear words or negative names are used. This is just a warning, as I feel horrible even repeating this; but I need to get some kind of comfort from this conversation, as I feel as if I cannot disclose this to anyone in my personal life.

Hi Heather!

You're welcome! I'm glad you had so much fun! Oh man, I'd be one of those skipping and happy kids if I had seen the Easter bunny doing a hoola hoop presentation! [Smile] I bet you got pictures taken!

I agree - a limit seems better than an ultimatum, and I now know I need to be serious about this and not hitting or mean-toned. I just get so mad and this has been building up for years... I'm afraid I'll explode.

I have a very strained relationship with this friend right now - at least, on my side of the friendship. I'll call him Ned, just so I can call him by something else other than "my friend." Ned and I have been close friends at least three years. We've almost always gotten along. We've only had a few small disagreements. Lately, though, I'm finding it really hard to tolerate his attitude and behaviour. I know this sounds cruel, but it's true. Ned is depressed, and does not think highly of himself. He thinks he's unappealing and that girls don't like him. I love him as a friend, and I tell him all the time I think he's great, funny, smart, cute... But he always dismisses it, saying he won't feel better until things change (getting a girlfriend). I tried telling him that changing his attitude about himself might help, but he says he's tried and it doesn't work. He can change himself physically if he wanted to - or at least changed how he carried himself or how he feels about himself - so his being adamant about how he's not getting what he wants, to me, is starting to sound a bit upsetting if he can change his perception of himself or maybe take better care of his health in order to feel better about himself.

I've done everything I possibly can in order to cheer him up. I've listened to him, I've told himi think he's a good person and that he has the qualities he thinks he doesn't have (I.e. Attractiveness, intelligence), I've tried to offer solutions, I've stayed up texting him and I've tried suggesting dating sites or talking to his male friends (who might be better at giving him more male-oriented comfort). I've tried to be sympathetic, for months. And he dismisses me every time and refuses to listen to me. He says he won't think better of himself until things change, and he even once said that he didn't care that he was depressed or unhappy. Today I asked him how he was, and he said he wasn't happy. I finally just said, "Things can be worse." And he said, "No. How?" This really sent me over the edge, as I have friends with health problems who are happy, and he is perfectly healthy and can easily change his outlook if he wanted to. I haven't answered him since.

(Warning: paragraph where offensive quote is mentioned) Ned drives me to and from church events, as he does with other males and females. We are alone in the car for most of the ride to the building and back. Ned and I have a lot of shared, confidential information between us. He knows of my partner, and I know of his past partners and other things. I trust him, and he trusts me. But, there have been a few things he has said to me recently that have really hurt me and have made me think of not riding with him again. First, our church had asked me to help out with a certain project, and I had said "no," for personal reasons. Ned got asked to take part and said "yes." The day it happened, he said to me, "I'm doing it because you said 'no.'" I had told Ned myself that I wasn't going to do it, but this offended me. It was as if he was trying to make me feel bad for not accepting. Then, he said it again the next week, and I was honest with him and said, "Please don't say that. It really hurt my feelings when you said that last time." This next incident is where I got very angry. We were talking about my partner. Ned doesn't like him, which is alright - I haven't liked some of his partners and have told him, and he can dislike anyone if he wants to. That was not what bothered me. He had said, "I wouldn't touch him with ___________." He said the name of someone we both knew. Not only was it insulting to use this person's name, and my partner's name, he truly hurt me. He is certainly allowed to say that my partner may be "x," like, "loud" or whatever kind of trait; but to say that... I just couldn't take it. I'm still upset over it now and it's been almost a week since. He is the friend I cried to a few months ago, so for him to say that and know what I had been through... Well, it has left me very wounded. It's to the point that if he says anything else insulting, I feel like saying, "This is the last time you say something like that about me. Next time, I'm getting a cab and I won't ride with you again." I'm so upset I could cry.

I love this person but he has been so disrespectful towards me and I'm sure if he knew how hurt I feel, he'd stop; but what he did has truly made me question whether or not I should tell him anything else. I'm sorry that I had to be so rude about him, but I needed to get this out. I'm praying about it, as it's been really affecting my everyday life.

--------------------
"I do the best that I can. I'm just what I am." - Rush (Best I Can)

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copper86
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Hello,

I feel so awful to bump this topic, but I would really like to hear any insights of comments about this. Also, I have something to add about this friendship, something that definitely makes it a bit difficult for me to express myself with this person in terms of any discomfort I have within our relationship.

My friend and I tell each other a lot of things. I know a lot of things about him that no one knows, and he knows a few things about me that not too many people know. I treat this as a good thing, as we trust each other and we both know we know things about each other that we don't want others knowing. However, I'm afraid that if I ever snap at this friend for either saying hurtful things about me, or finally tell him to try and be more positive and proactive about how he lives his life (I.e. Taking better care of himself emotionally and physically), he'd hurt me by telling people what I've told him in confidence - about my partner, or other things I don't want people knowing. I highly doubt he'd go that far, but I've seen how vengeful he can be regarding former partners and friends; and I'm quite scared at times of him maybe going the extra mile to get me if I snap at him. Of course, I am paranoid and he would almost certainly never do this, but I just know from what he's told me that people don't mess with him. I guess I'm afraid to confront him for fear of him hurting me. I guess he might not, especially since I know things about him that he wouldn't want to be found out (which I would never tell to anyone, even if I was mad); but Ned's behaviour towards others who have hurt him has made me cautious.

I could always politely ask him not to say any sexual comments that make me uncomfortable, so that might be the best course of action. I would just like some neutral parties to look at this and give me some input. I feel like I'm in a drama series.

--------------------
"I do the best that I can. I'm just what I am." - Rush (Best I Can)

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copper86
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Hello,

I feel so awful to bump this topic, but I would really like to hear any insights of comments about this. Also, I have something to add about this friendship, something that definitely makes it a bit difficult for me to express myself with this person in terms of any discomfort I have within our relationship.

My friend and I tell each other a lot of things. I know a lot of things about him that no one knows, and he knows a few things about me that not too many people know. I treat this as a good thing, as we trust each other and we both know we know things about each other that we don't want others knowing. However, I'm afraid that if I ever snap at this friend for either saying hurtful things about me, or finally tell him to try and be more positive and proactive about how he lives his life (I.e. Taking better care of himself emotionally and physically), he'd hurt me by telling people what I've told him in confidence - about my partner, or other things I don't want people knowing. I highly doubt he'd go that far, but I've seen how vengeful he can be regarding former partners and friends; and I'm quite scared at times of him maybe going the extra mile to get me if I snap at him. Of course, I am paranoid and he would almost certainly never do this, but I just know from what he's told me that people don't mess with him. I guess I'm afraid to confront him for fear of him hurting me. I guess he might not, especially since I know things about him that he wouldn't want to be found out (which I would never tell to anyone, even if I was mad); but Ned's behaviour towards others who have hurt him has made me cautious.

I could always politely ask him not to say any sexual comments that make me uncomfortable, so that might be the best course of action. I would just like some neutral parties to look at this and give me some input. I feel like I'm in a drama series.

--------------------
"I do the best that I can. I'm just what I am." - Rush (Best I Can)

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Molias
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Hi Copper,

I've seen this post and struggled a bit about what to say about your situation, but this last update reminded me a lot of a former friendship of mine.

This friend and I were really close for about a decade; she went through some really traumatic stuff for a while and confided only in me, which brought us closer together but also meant I was trying to support her through some events that were WAY too big and complex for me to handle. We shared a lot of personal stuff with each other, in a way that sounds a lot like what you're describing above, and we were very close and leaned on each other a lot. It was a very intense friendship and I got a lot of good out of it.

However, the downside was that she had a lot of depressive problems (which were exacerbated by the rough stuff she went through in secret), and the dynamic between us was such that it was generally my job to manage her feelings for her, comfort her, make sure that her problems took precedence, etc. If I had a problem and tried to talk with her about it, somehow the conversation would turn around into a way for her to explain how her problems were worse. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to please her and make things easier for her, and to calm her down if she got snappy and mean. It took a long time for me to realize it, but it wasn't a healthy friendship for me in the long run.

We grew apart when we left high school, but every time she got back in touch with me I felt myself slip back into that old habit of wanting to please her. She tried to make some plans with me but flaked out every time, and around then is when I was really able to think about the dynamic we had and how it was actively harmful for me. I decided about two years ago to not engage with her any more; I wish her no ill will now but my life is better off without her in it.

This doesn't discount the strong love I had for her, or the wonderful things we did together. I can hold some of those good memories close to my heart and be thankful for her friendship while also having no desire to talk to her again. It's complicated. But I do think that sometimes it's better to walk away from a toxic friendship even if you can recognize good things that have happened in it, and I wonder if that's the sort of situation you're in at the moment.


To be honest, Ned doesn't sound like much of a good friend right now at all. He's complaining at you (it kind of sounds like he's trying to use you as a therapist), saying rude things to you, and not stopping those comments when you let him know they bother you. You say above "I'm sure if he knew how hurt I feel, he'd stop," but in that same post you say you did tell him that what he said upset you, so it seems pretty clear that he DOES know and is CHOOSING not to change his behavior. And that's a big red flag that something is not right here.

If you worry that Ned will react to a reasonable discussion about setting boundaries and not being hurtful by lashing out and retaliating against you - and from what you've said it could very well be a reasonable worry - I think this is a pretty good sign that no matter what your history is, he may not be in a great place to be a good friend to you right now, and maybe not even a great person to be around in general. And maybe that would change if he addressed some of his health issues, but unless he wants to take that step, it isn't going to happen.

If you don't want to directly confront him or stop interacting with him at all, what would happen if you just stopped initiating contact for a while, or removed yourself from the conversation when he starts getting into negative self-talk or insulting you or your boyfriend? Is there another way you can get to events without relying on him for transportation?

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copper86
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Molias,

Reading your post, I am sorry if by bringing up your past friend, you caused yourself any pain; but I truly appreciate you sharing your past with me. To be honest, some of the similarities between the two situations have frightened me. Ned only comes to me for support as far as I know, as he says his parents don't care (I'm not sure if I believe that or not, but I can't know that they don't since I don't live with them), and he's afraif of our mutual friends talking about what he tells them; so he talks to me. I've tried my best to be sympathetic with him, and it hurts me so badly to thibk that I'm not being a good friend to him by running out of energy and sympathy for him. I just feel like I can't deal with his feelings anymore. I feel so badly for feeling like this, because he's helped me out so much too; and I know I'd feel terrible if a good friend of mine couldn't put up with my feelings anymore. It's so complicated. I want to help him, but I can't - especially since he does not listen to me or care about what I say, because he never believes my assertions of him being a good person, and his waiting for something to happen just doesn't make sense to me - and that makes me angry at myself and at him for not trying to change his attitude or his physical health.

I agree that he's not acting like a good friend to me. It's now at the point where we don't text as much. I almost always start the conversations, he doesn't always as how I am or if he does and I give him a listening ear, he doesn't bother to say something like, "you never said how you were doing." I feel selfish in being mad at him for these little things, but I get ticked off easily now.

I'd love to just get other transportation, but I can't always remove myself from these conversations. Usually, we're alone in his car when he goes through this negative talk about himself or when he insults me. I've thought about just not answering him, but I'm not sure I like such a passive role. I'm also in a bit of a bind - like I'm stuck in a box - because our church has a rule that no guy can be alone with a girl(s) when they are in a car. Since Ned and I are so close and the church knows I'd never make a complaint about him and he'd never hurt me physically, I act as a kind of proxy and therefore he can have other girls in the car. Of course, all these girls and males are not minors and I can most likely just say that my brother or parents can take me; or I can try and see if I can bus there. Ned would have to take me home - which is when some of this occurs - but I will try my best to figure out what to do about it.

I sometimes think I'm overreacting about him, but my mom tells me he's making me nervous; and that I am not overreacting. I feel trapped. I love him so much but he also makes me so mad and upset.

--------------------
"I do the best that I can. I'm just what I am." - Rush (Best I Can)

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Molias
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Don't worry - any sad feelings that I have about this friend are things I've sat with for a while, and it didn't bring anything new or stronger into the picture to talk about it last night. It just seemed like an appropriate time to share that story, especially because before I made the decision not to interact with her any more I felt a LOT of guilt about it because of our shared history.

There's a point in which you can't help someone who just wants to drown in their own sadness and misery. Supporting a friend is wonderful and admirable but it's clear that he's putting way more on you than you can handle. And I'd say this even if he wasn't being hurtful to you too; I think the two issues are related, sure, but separate. Even in friendships that are great in other ways, it is not healthy for one person to lay out ALL of their troubles on another person, especially when it's wrapped up in a lot of negative self-talk like that.

It is understandable that you feel like this is too much for you. It would be too much for anyone. It sounds like he needs to pursue other avenues of support, but if he isn't willing to take that step then no one can make it for him. But his reluctance shouldn't mean you're trapped into hearing every problem he has OR being insulted.

You are literally a captive subject when you're in a car with him. I realize that your church has given a special dispensation based on your closeness with Ned but (and this reminds me of your statement above about him not being aware that he's hurting you, when he actually is) even if you aren't worried about him physically hurting you, it sounds like those times when you are alone with him are frustrating and unpleasant. I'd say it's probably not in your best interest to be alone with him at all right now, not because he's a man but because he's not being kind and respectful.
I'd absolutely encourage you, if you have to be around him and he starts up a line of conversation you aren't interested in, to say "let's not talk about that" or "I've told you before that I'm hurt by those comments, please don't say things like that to me" or any other polite-but-firm refusal fits in the moment. It may be helpful to rehearse or think about some beforehand. And if he reacts to any of that with escalation of the behavior, then you KNOW this guy is not safe at all.

Your mom sounds like a smart lady in this regard! Gut feelings about people are really really good to trust. Is she someone you feel safe talking to about this in more detail, if you need more support in avoiding him?

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