Dear Captain Awkward
I have two friends, let’s call them Jane and John, who have been in a long distance relationship for the last few months. She’s 18, he’s 25 and they met online – same way I met both of them. They decided to meet face to face but at the last minute Jane freaked out about it and called it off. The reason she freaked out is because she has decided that if he meets her “in real life”, he will find her disgusting (her exact words) and dislike her, and even if he doesn’t break up with her that’s only because he’s too nice a guy.
Now, for context, they Skype often and have seen each other in photos and through webcam, he’s perfectly aware of what she looks like and there’s no reasonable reason to suppose he’d feel any differently if he met her face to face. I’ve tried telling her that she’s being silly (which I’m aware may not be the best approach…) and that she’s lovely and even if she weren’t, he’s in love with her, not with what she looks like. She is very self-conscious about the way she looks and feels that her “real life” friends only are friends with her because they grew up together and so are used to her appearance, and if people who know her online (we’re all gamers) were to know what she looks like, they would stop being friends with her and stop being interested in having her around.
I feel that in my attempt to make her see what I find obvious (that she’s in no way ugly or repulsive and that even if she were, people wouldn’t stop being friends with her over it, and that John loves her for who she is and not by how closely she resembles a vogue cover girl) I am simply pressuring her into a situation she doesn’t feel comfortable with, and I’m not actually making her feel any better about herself.
Now I realise this is none of my business and I shouldn’t meddle, but she’s my friend and I feel very protective of her, and it breaks my heart to see her so uncomfortable in her own skin and being unable to fix it – even if it’s not my place to fix it! I guess what I’m looking for is some advice on how to be supportive without being pushy, and on how to help her deal with this whole mess of a situation.
Meddlesome friend in desperate need of advice
This is a two-step process.
Step 1: You said it best: It’s none of your business, so disengage totally from this long distance love-affair. For whatever reason, she decided not to meet up with this guy in person. Could be jitters. Could be a FEELINGSBOMB of some kind. Could be she decided she likes the whole thing better in theory. Could be what she told you: worries he won’t *really* like her. You can’t fix any of that, so disengage. If Jane tells you something, say “Huh, sounds like you should talk to John about that.” If John says something, say, “Huh, sounds like you should talk to Jane about that.” Say stuff like “That sucks, are you ok?” and “I like you both and want you to be happy – together or separately.” This thing isn’t happening until both the people involved tell you it’s happening.
Step 2: Be more like Commander Logic, who is the friend that says “Whatever, you’re great.”
But I don’t think I’m great! Whatever, you’re great.
But I’m not great at this one thing? Sure. But overall? You’re great.
But I’m not pretty! Whatever. You’re pretty. And great.
Would I be friends with someone who isn’t great? No, I thought not.
You can’t make anyone do or feel anything, but you can refuse to indulge the cycling of their Jerkbrains. It’s possible to overdo it, as in this short film (which is pretty awesome until, like all romantic comedies, it turns into stalking and “getting” the girl). But tell your friends you like them, and remove yourself from the urge to meddle in their affairs.