First of all, let me assure you, I feel like a huge asshole just for asking this, but I've been chewing on this question on and off for more than a year without any real resolution, so I thought I'd turn to you. Here's the deal: I'm wondering whether I'm abusing feminist ideology in order to justify a natural shyness around women and, if so, whether you could find me a new narrative that would help me feel less bad about acknowledging and acting on attractions.
I've always been seriously shy about any aspect of dating, sex, hooking up, whatever. It's not that I have trouble interacting [...]
I’m writing with a deceptively simple question. How can I be vulnerable? Some pertinent background: I’m an academic, working in a field that requires me to live in very remote places for extended periods of time. I find my work incredibly engaging and rewarding, and I know I’m lucky in this regard. Still, the life of an academic (particularly a traveling academic) is often isolating. I don’t have a place to call home. My family is deeply dysfunctional; although I love my parents and siblings, our relationships are fraught and I have never felt unconditionally loved by my parents. I was diagnosed as a child with OCD, and [...]
I think my husband is spineless, selfish, and prioritizes his convenience over my emotions.
Background: My husband is from another country. We visit for a month or so every summer, when he catches up with friends and family. I am cool with this. (I do wish he might also, I dunno, set some time aside for his *wife* during our only vacation time, but that's another letter). However, he has this one friend whom I would actually happily feed to rodents of an unusual size.
I had a stillbirth almost five years ago. It took a year to figure out what the problem was, during which I had two more miscarriages. They diagnosed [...]
I don't really know what my real problem is. I can name an array of problems that I have, but I don't know if they are symptomatic, causal, imaginary or just plain over-analyzing. I don't have childhood traumas from which I can say everything started. I only know that these issues manifested themselves when I started university. I've kept diaries on and off for long periods of time and am seeing a therapist regularly for the last 1.5 years. Self-help books gather dust because I don't know if they actually address a problem I have. Or I lose motivation. Ultimately, I feel like I am in stasis.
One of the goals I have set for myself this year is to be a kinder person: more supportive and forgiving of my friends, more friendly and open to people I've just met, more approachable and compassionate with strangers. The problem is that this is a huge struggle because I am not naturally compassionate with people I don't already like.
I have two reasons for wanting to be kinder: to ~make the world a better place~ in an abstract karmic kind of way, and also (this one is selfish) to fight against my depression, defensiveness, and general negative attitude toward life by opening myself up to more experiences. [...]
Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.
I've been dating a guy for about four months. We’re madly in love, despite being different in more ways than we are alike. Politics, education, socio-economic status, religion—you name it, we’re on almost opposite ends of the spectrum. However, we’re best friends through and through. A month or so into our relationship, he sat me down and shed a tear telling me how in love and how certain he was that he wanted to marry me. I am right there, too. Then shit started to get weird.
One night at a party, he got so angry about my friend and I laughing about this [...]
I don't even know where to start, because for some reason I'm HORRIBLE at articulating my emotions. I feel like as soon as I have an "epiphany," it only opens up the door to another warehouse of issues to sift through. I'm so exhausted and worn out from an entire lifetime of extreme neuroticism and self-consciousness, and I need some clarity.
You seem to always have some advice that I can apply to my own life, so I have been wanting to write to you for a while. But I can't decide what to ask advice for since I really could use help in all areas of [...]
Dear Polly, I have sort of a backwards problem, in that the better things are going in my life, the worse I feel. I know a good bit, or think I do, about why this happens. My mother committed suicide; my brother who tried to; and my father taught me that my sole purpose and value in life was to make them feel better and stop them from killing themselves. When I tried to care about myself and my needs as much as theirs, I was told this made me a terrible person, and no one would ever love me.
So I grew up to be extremely empathetic and [...]
I'm 23 and I feel like I've come a pretty long way already. I grew up in an abusive and poor-as-hell home; went to live on my own when I was fifteen; struggled with depression and a terrible relationship; and made (and paid off) a huge amount of debt. All the terrible things happened. ALL OF THEM.
However, I think I did a lot of cool things as well: I raised my sister to be a happy, normal person, and I finished school with really good grades even though I did not know at the time where food would come from and I had to sleep on the [...]
How can I put away the fact that when I got married ~1.5 years ago, my now-estranged mother-in-law's unchecked borderline personality disorder detracted from the whole event?
I'm not a wedding person. I never was. My partner, The Boy, and I got married for health insurance after I successfully defended my thesis in 2011. Sounds cold, but we'd been living together for several years at that point and were completely happy continuing our relationship that way. We were both fried from my grad school experience, during which everything up to but not including actual physical assault occurred. I had to play an absolutely horrifying game of being the bait, [...]
I was with my husband for six years before I found out that he cheated on me with a co-worker—as well as classmates and women at bars. After I divorced him, we didn't talk for almost six months. Then we were off and on for probably two more years. At a certain point, we were both tired of not working through fights like adults, and he got down on one knee and said he didn't deserve for me to marry him again, but that he'd do anything to prove it to me if we could spend our lives with each other and not like two people who just [...]
I teach a Popular Criticism class to MFA students. I don't actually have an MFA, but I am a professional, full-time writer who has been in this business for almost two decades, and I've written for a wide range of impressive print and online publications, the names of which you will hear and think, "Oh fuck, she's the real deal." Because I am the real deal. I tell my students that a lot, like when they interrupt me or roll their eyes at something I say because they're young and only listen when old hippies are digressing about Gilles Deleuze's notions of high capitalism's infantilizing commodifications or some such horse [...]
Last year my father, who was 56, died suddenly of a heart aneurysm. He took me out for my 24th birthday dinner, and then two days later he was dead. I feel like the past months have been a mess of every emotion possible. I'm a great big ball of pain, and it seems as though grief is the one thing no one will talk about with me. My dad was the parent who showed up for me, who supported me as a writer. We shared so many similarities: a tendency to overthink and undersleep, a need for long intellectual conversations, a deep and sometimes painful sensitivity, and [...]
I want to know how I can make my boyfriend a better listener.
It has happened several times that when I want to talk about something serious (the future, exes, fears, hopes, etc.) my boyfriend often gets distracted. It's not like he means to hurt me—I think it's just his nature, and possibly mild ADD—but it does hurt me.
I'm 24 and he will be 30 next year. We both see each other as potential life partners. But how can I be with someone who gets distracted by a squirrel when I'm telling him about my father's funeral?
That's the other thing: I have some [...]
I've been with my current boyfriend for three years. We're really great together—similar interests, senses of humor, great sex. I love him so much—the only issue is that of our respective backgrounds. He grew up in a tony suburb, went to prep school, then to a very prestigious college, and finally the very prestigious graduate school where we met. I went to public school in a bad neighborhood, put myself through a not-so-prestigious college, made a name for myself in my field, then got into that same prestigious grad school. Our families could not be more different. I didn't think it would matter so much, but something happened [...]
I’m not really sure why I’m writing you. Actually I am. I need to feel ok with being single at 33 while still maintaining hope that I can find a solid, real, lasting relationship. Every time I read one of your columns on this subject, I feel empowered. I apologize for being unoriginal but this stuff is hard and I am at a loss!
I embrace being single. I appreciate being on my own and dictating my own schedule, I do a ton of yoga and look great (might sound conceited but it's true), I own my own successful business, I own my condo, I save money, [...]
The amazing man I'm with told me to improve my looks when we first got together. We've been together four years now. Here's the story:
When he first met me, he had fallen for me straight away, always coming in for coffee on my shift at the local cafe, always texting first, offering rides home, asking me out first. He was very sweet and persistent.
I was hooked and I said yes, yes I will be your girlfriend. Then some shit started…
He never complimented me on any of my physical traits, yet every weekend we hung out, he would somehow manage to tell me that [...]