Ask Ciiku: Am I a Coward?

Hi Ciiku,

My partner says I’m a coward and I took great offense. Perhaps you can help me see whether it’s true or not. I tend respond “late” to things people say or do to me that I find uncomfortable or offensive. Meaning, if someone offends me I won’t let them know they’re offending me the moment it happens. I’ll sort of brush it off, think about it later. Then when I’m satisfied in my mind that it was an offense, I’ll go back to the person days, weeks, or even months later to let them know that I was offended by what they said or did. Sometimes I can get pretty emotive. At times I let offenses slide.

So a few months back, my partner did something that I repeatedly asked them not to do because I didn’t like it (sexual). One time after I had expressed this, they did it again. While they were at it I just lay there feeling disgusted. As usual, I didn’t express my displeasure while it was happening. I told them much later, a few days later. They wondered why I didn’t speak up. I TOLD HIM,REPEATEDLY THAT I DIDN’T WANT OR LIKE IT BEFORE IT HAPPENED! We got into a very heated argument. I told them that if they kept disregarding my feelings I wouldn’t put up with it any longer and that I’d “raze them to the ground” . That led them to say that I’m all talk and I wouldn’t do anything about it because I’m all talk. They believed I couldn’t do anything about it because I don’t speak up the moment my boundaries are crossed. And for that reason I’m a coward. I was, and still am deeply hurt by those words.

Am I indeed a coward? Or were they just coming at me from a place of anger. Or guilt. How can I learn how to respond IMMEDIATELY I’m offended by someone? Of all things to be in life, I certainly don’t want to be a coward. Please help. I’ll appreciate your insight.

Concerned

Hi Concerned,

First of all, I am very sorry for what continues to happen to you. Your partner does not respect you, does not seem kind and for all intents and purposes you did not consent to what your partner did.

A definition:

Sexual consent is an agreement to participate in a sexual activity.

Consenting and asking for consent are all about setting your personal boundaries and respecting those of your partner — and checking in if things aren’t clear. Both people must agree to sex — every single time — for it to be consensual.

via: Planned Parenthood

Based on what you have written to me, you indicated that you were uncomfortable with a certain act which you made clear to your partner. At that point, your partner being aware of what you have said, should not have done it. So the fact that you mentioned it days later shouldn’t even be the issue here. You had already said you don’t them to do it. That should have sufficed and their refusal to respect this is absolutely worrying and wrong. Even you having to tell them repeatedly about something you are uncomfortable with is a red flag to me.

To then come round and state that you are a coward and that they know you will do nothing about it when you tell them you will leave is not only a red flag but is outright manipulative. Please read this post on gaslighting.

Let me also mention that there is no need to justify their behaviour as
“coming at me from a place of anger. Or guilt. “ If anything you are justified in being the angry party here.

Do you feel like you are being treated with kindness? Are you affirmed in this relationship? Are you understood? Especially when your wishes are not being listened to? What does an ideal partner look like to you? How would this ideal partner be in this particular situation?

In reference to your question about being a coward? Do you avoid confrontation? If so, do you know why? I know it is easy to dismiss this as your personality, but like much else, personality is learned. And therefore how you react is a product of something learned. I think you need to spend some time alone thinking about why this is the case. Therefore in deciding to react immediately, it means unlearning how you have been. It has to start with stepping out of the box, and with time, it will become easier. Take that first step.

I wish you the best.

Ciiku

Ask Ciiku: I need to define boundaries with my friend with benefits

Dear Ciiku,

I have a FWB who is also a very close friend. I would like to ensure that it remains that way without feelings getting caught in the process but to also not treat them poorly in order to maintain this. How do I/we build the boundaries this relationship needs?

Anon

Dear Anon,

A dilemma of the ages if ever there was one. A close friend, a sexual relationship and boundaries. Will your friendship exist after the sexual relationship ends? That’s what the boundaries are supposed to ensure? From your letter I’m reading that you don’t want this to develop into a romantic relationship, that it remains a friendship plus sex. Is it possible that feelings can be caught by one party? Yes. Is it possible that the friendship might not exist once either of you get different sexual partners (on the assumption that it is monogamous)? Probably.

I’m glad that you acknowledge that one doesn’t and shouldn’t treat a FWB poorly. A FWB is like any other relationship in the sense that communication is key. And when I say communication I mean that conversations need to happen about what is happening, what is wanted, what isn’t. From your short note I see that you are clear about what you want, something you have thought about and this must be expressed to your FWB. Relationships work when the people in it are on the same page and have the same understanding of the expectations of each other. Not when we make assumptions of what the other person must be thinking or feeling. I must stress that this is achieved through honest, open communication. Talk with your friend. Lay your cards on the table. Soon. And remain true to yourself. Always.

All the best,

Ciiku

Ask Ciiku: How do I deal with a toxic friend?

Dear Ciiku,

So I’ve had this friend for about 10 years. I use the term ‘friend’ very loosely here, reason being she’s very toxic. We were very close in college but drifted apart soon after. We lost track but she somehow managed to find her way back into my life. Thing is: she gossips a lot. The stuff she says about other people is so horrible and sometimes made up. And no one is safe, even her own parents & siblings have been trash talked. My way of dealing with this has been to ghost: I avoid her completely (I haven’t physically seen her in years but she always reaches out by phone). I tell her absolutely nothing about my personal life so she doesn’t have material to spread. I suspect there’s a bigger problem. Some mutual friends have told me that the issue may also be mental/psychological and the more I assess her behaviour over the years the more I think there may be some truth to it. My theory is she’s become so ostracized by friends and family cz of this behavior that she feels there’s nothing to lose by being a total bitch. So my question is this, how do I communicate that I think she needs to get therapy or some kind of help without offending her and without becoming a victim of her shenanigans? I think it’s a very sensitive conversation and I don’t know how to broach it since we’re no longer close (I’d rather not meet her to have this talk). Or should I just forget trying to help and continue to avoid her like everyone does?

Regards, Remote friend

Dear Remote friend,

I think we can both agree that she is not your friend. I don’t believe that just because you have history with someone that they deserve presence in your life as they please or even to be called friend.

Also, without a professional diagnosis, there is no need to say that this person has mental issues because they exhibit the behaviour you mention in your letter. People can be and are not good, they lie and are vile. I think assigning this to a mental issue to try and explain certain behaviour stigmatises those who genuinely suffer from mental illness. I understand that people tend to assign mental issues because they want to believe in the goodness of others. We really should not.

Let me repeat that: terrible, bad people exist. It is not your job to “fix” them. What you can do, what is truly in your control in this case and for your peace of mind, is accept that this person is not someone who exhibits behaviour you would associate with a friend and remove her from your life to the extent that if others begin to talk about her, you refuse to be part of the conversation. Completely dissociate yourself. So no, I don’t think you should have any conversation with her.

All the best,

Ciiku

Ask Ciiku: My friend drugged me

Dear Ciiku,

My friend drugged me and I found out later. How do I confront this?

Maddie

Dear Maddie,

I am so sorry that this happened to you, that someone broke your trust in such a manner. Not only did they do something illegal, but as someone you call friend, they broke boundaries of trust on which friendship relies on to function. This is terrifying.

Your question to me is very open ended because asking “how can you confront” can be viewed as follows:

  • How do I confront my friend about what they did? How do I find out what the motivation behind drugging you? Because a part of you must be wondering how your friend decided that drugging you is something that they could do.
  • How do I deal with this invasion? How do I move on and trust people again? Because a part of you must be wondering how someone you consider(ed) a friend could do this to you

When you hear of stories or people being drugged for example in the bar, most times people sleep it off and continue with life because it is something that happens and you don’t know who drugged you.

When you find out that it was someone you know drugged you, the circumstances are completely different because of course you must ask them why.

There is some clarification I would like from you before I give a concise response and if possible, let me know what you mean by confront in your instance and maybe give more details? I know it may be difficult for you but your question is very loaded and without details I fear I may not be of assistance. Thank you.

Wishing you peace,

Ciiku

Ask Ciiku: I feel like a dial-a-friend

Dear Ciiku

I have a friend who spends some months of the year out of the country. We talk a lot and whenever she’s having a problem I try be supportive and help her out. However, I’ve noticed that whenever she’s in the country the friendship changes. We talk less and there is little if any effort to meet from her end. Efforts from my end often end up in a cancellation. It’s not uncommon for her to be silent for days and text me when she’s out of the country again. But it is more than that. Even how we talk. The best way I can put it is that I can almost feel the dial of the friendships priority moving down and up depending on where she is. It is upsetting to be so close for so long and then suddenly feel like hi-bye friends.

I am beginning to suspect we are not truly close friends, only that I can be relied on for emotional labour when most of her other friends are not around. If she does not want to be close that is fine, but I would rather not share and be as open if our friendship is not that deep. My question is how to approach this conversation. I am realising that discussion on boundaries and defining friendships has a lot less information and guides than in relationships. I don’t know how to start this conversation without it seeming like an attack. What I really want is clarity but most of things that I can point to as changing are hard to put into words.

A friend

Dear Friend,

You deserve clarity. In fact, both of you need to be on the same page regarding this situation. And yes, a conversation must be had. It seems you have accepted that the friendship may not be as you viewed it. That’s a good place to be so that the conversation doesn’t revolve around how to make it deep but rather, how to get to the same page in your friendship.

The thing is, you can’t control how she reacts to the conversation. You can use the most pacifist approach and it may still be deemed as an attack. I think what you must focus on rather is ensuring that when the conversation is had, (and it must be had), that everything you are thinking and feeling is expressed. That, in my opinion, is the crux. Since it seems that you have better communication when she isn’t in the country then I think it’s best to have it then, in whatever medium is comfortable for you.

My opinion on this is you shouldn’t preempt the conversation by issuing a “we need to talk” notice. Just dive into it during any regular conversation you are having. And ask all the questions you believe will provide you the clarity you seek…… “how do you view this friendship? How come we never meet when you are in country? What kind of friend do you need me to be? How do you see this friendship? What defines this friendship?”

Both of you must be honest with each other to figure out where you will go in the friendship. And I wish you well.

Ciiku

Ask Ciiku: I Distrust My Friend

Hi Ciiku,

I’ve had a rough couple of months and in this period I made a friend who seemed to have come into my life at the point where I had given up on people. We have grown rather comfortable with each other, we share details of what is happening and talk at least once a day.

It has been a fun time and it’s great that he respects the boundaries we have. My issue is that with time, I still mistrust my friend, and it shows. There are days I go without talking to him, not because I want to, but because I want him to do it first- and he usually does. I have put him through tests to check his loyalty and he does not seem to know. I know it’s manipulative but I need to be shown that he cares genuinely and not just a man playing out some sick twisted long game. I guess my question would be, how do I let go of doubt and be a better friend? Is it fair to him that I do all this or am I simply protecting myself?

Savage G

Dear Savage G,

Thank you for this question and I am sorry you have had a rough couple of months. I also need to apologise for taking so long to respond to this question, I didn’t want to give you a cliché answer because I’VE BEEN HERE. Also I find when I mull over a letter, what I think becomes clearer.

I think that part of self preservation, especially based on previous experience, is that one doesn’t trust people easily. I understand why you would be doubtful of people. And sometimes the people don’t deserve it but because of some things that may have happened to you previously, you cannot trust immediately.

You are aware that you are being manipulative and I think that this is something you need to work on with your friend. You say that you share details and talk every day, I ask you, do these conversations include talking about how you feel about the friendship? Your misgivings? Previous experiences? If your friend is this friend who makes you believe in people again, then these kinds of conversations have to be part of the experience. You have to been honest enough with yourself and I think it’s only fair that you be honest with your friend.

What I believe most is that we should be having fair relationships and this is one way of achieving this.

If you’ve been reading this blog you know my stance on friendship and the heartbreak that comes from betrayal by friends is painful. That aside, there is great joy to be derived from fulfilling friendships but this comes from work and honest conversations. I implore you to have and continue to have these.

All the best,

Ciiku

Ask Ciiku: Am I overreacting?

Dear Ciiku,

Hey. I’m in a relationship with someone who claims to love me wholeheartedly but will still do things that I’ve repeatedly told them I’m uncomfortable with e.g he’s best friends with a lady friend that they used to stay all night on phone with but he’d delete their interactions. I caught him flirting with her on text a few times but he now claims he’s stopped and it’s just a platonic relationship 🙄. I feel like he loves me but can you really claim to love someone if you are still so selfish? Or am I overreacting and should I just accept their friendship?

B

Dear B

You know what I like about your letter. That you said “he claims to love me wholeheartedly“. You use the word claim. That means while yes he says you, you are not sure you believe it, you aren’t sure because his actions do not match his words. Am I correct in my deduction?

I have to ask: Is there anything he can do at this moment to make you believe fully and without a doubt that he loves you and that you can trust him and that nothing is happening with anyone else? Is the issue with the best friend the only issue the two of you have? What concerns you more: that there is a female best friend that he flirts with, the deletion of the texts, or many other things not mentioned in this letter? I mean, it is quite suspicious that he deletes them and that you know he deletes them (I assume you go through his phone) which means you already don’t trust him anyway (also using the word “caught” speaks volumes B).

My opinion? Let this relationship go.

Love is many things, and more so, it is more than what positive feeling you have for someone. Being loved is easy. Being loved the way you want to be loved? That’s when work needs to be done.

Why do you feel like he loves you? Is he because he says so? Or is it his actions that show that he does? Do you love him?

Sometimes, because we are with someone, the feeling of being chosen or the fact of being in a relationship is termed or labeled as love. That being in a dysfunctional relationship is better than being single – that somehow the fact that we are with someone means there is love. But that is not what love is. I think we assign things to love that shouldn’t be considered love. And even more than that, we tend to ignore people’s actions and focus on their words, which seems to be the case here B. For example, what compels you to check his phone? Is it because you don’t trust him?

If someone declares that they love you, wouldn’t their action indicate that they would do things that wouldn’t jeopardise the relationship or make the person they are in a relationship uncomfortable?Trust must accompany love, being able to trust someone you are in a relationship with is seminal to peace of mind.

I think you need to look long and hard at what you believe love to be, what you would want from an ideal relationship and what you are getting from this person. And remember, above all, love should be fair – to you and for them.

You deserve to be loved the way you want to be loved B. You deserve to love someone worthy of your love. And the truth is, from how you describe it, as little as you do, doesn’t seem to be it.

Ciiku

Ask Ciiku: How do I get ready to turn 30?

Dear Ciiku

I turn 30 soon. I’ve always felt a tad nonchalant about birthdays especially after I threw out all those goals I had that were age – milestone based (e.g. the moved out by 25, car by 28, married by 30 etc). This has helped me live life year by year without the added external and internal pressure and I am a very see as we go along type of person (but I still do love to make plans and I am strategic with my actions when I feel I want to go to the ‘next level’) For some time I’ve felt that my 30s are just gonna be like my 20s perhaps with worse knees, and even worse hangovers, hopefully with less mistakes etc but the closer I get, the more I feel like it’s a big thing and I should be ready for it…for something…or more (I’m not sure what) but I feel this overwhelming feeling every day as it gets closer. Any advice on how I can ‘get ready’ for my my thirties?

29 going on 30

Dear 29 going on 30,

Imagine turning 30 is a big deal. This life is such a scam that you have to celebrate surviving as long as you have. You should celebrate.

The sense of apprehensiveness that you feel is probably all the years of socialisation in you that makes the 30s A BIG FUCKING DEAL. Even when you have released yourself from the societal pressures, they always find a way to sneak back into our psyche. If you have people around you who have followed the script (school, job, marriage, kids) it sneaks in even more.

Perhaps it’s also moments of “oh my god life is moving fast” even when you are living with intention and purpose and free from what is expected from you.

I am hurtling towards 40 and to be honest, your note made me smile because who is ever ready? I believe in doing your best and finding joy.

That being said, I can offer some things that I think could be of help.

  • Work on knowing yourself – who you are, who you want to be, how to continue knowing yourself since change is always happening, what you want, how to get what you want, why you think what you think, what you believe in etc
  • Find joy – Find the things and people who bring you joy. Then do the things and spend your time with those people.
  • Forgive yourself for the things you had hoped to achieve and haven’t yet. Be gentle (continuously) with yourself.
  • Spend time with yourself. A lot of time. Figure out why you are experiencing what you say to be feeling that you should be ready for something.
  • Do you believe that happiness is a goal? Do you believe in love? Then spend time thinking about why those things (among others) matter and how it looks like for you.

Finally, Happy (early) Birthday. I hope you celebrate it in a way that means something to you.

Ciiku

Ask Ciiku: I don’t want to be lonely

Hey Ciiku,

So my issue starts with a question. Do you believe that everyone has a person out there and eventually they’ll find them? Because I’m at that place where I don’t think this is true anymore, and some people really end up alone. And like, I’m learning to accept it, I’ve decided to give up dating and I’m starting to imagine the rest of my life like this but I’m also terrified of ending up alone. Not right now, I have a lot of things I can focus on, I’m building my career, I have great friends, so the loneliness is easily masked. But I keep thinking about 10-20 years from now, when all my friends have built their lives with their partners so of course we’re no longer as close as we used to be, and basically they won’t be as available to me as they are right now. And I’m terrified that being alone then will be awful. Can you imagine being 50-60 yrs old and you really have no one? It sounds so sad and lonely and I really don’t want that. One of my biggest fears is ending up like that woman who was found alone in her house having died for like 2 years and no one knew who her people were. Can you imagine being dead for 2 years and no one even noticed? Whew. I guess I know what the root cause for this is, I’m scared of not mattering, not being valued. And as much as I know romantic love isn’t the be all and end all, there’s also a level of companionship and intimacy that you get in romantic situations that you can’t get elsewhere. When you have your person, and the two of you are committed to each other, there’s a way you can ward off most feelings of being alone. So my question then will be, do you believe in a person for everyone, and if not, then what can you tell a person whose entire life has shown her that there really is no one for her. How would this person then build a life where she will not end up sad and lonely in her old age? (As context, I’m in my late 30s so I’ve lived life, and these thoughts are not just panic led hysteria caused by “if you’re not married by 30, you’re useless) Thanks for listening and apologies for the long ask.

Regards,

A

Dear A,

To answer your first question: Personally, me, myself and I, I do not believe that there is that one person out there for someone, nor do I believe that people will eventually find that person. I believe that there are people who come into your life and then we see the possibility of spending the rest of our lives together and then we put in the work. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t.

The concerns you raise are not new to me. I have heard them before even from my friends. And only recently, I read this article which you should read if you have not yet.

Let me say firstly, this was a hard question to answer. And as someone who is in a committed long-term relationship, it would be remiss for me to speak about romantic relationships as something that doesn’t matter. It has to be more than me saying that you need to be self aware, enjoy your company and all those other things.  I am aware of the privilege I have in that case as well as probable blind spots I may have as I respond to you.

That being said, I think we need to re-imagine companionship and intimacy inside and outside of romantic relationships.

The statistics show that for women, they feel lonely in their marriages and seek companionship from their friends. Being married does not preclude you from loneliness and does not ensure that you are valued or that you matter. Those are the facts. I think what is more important is to create fulfilling, reciprocal, kind and empathetic relationships.

We need to make a life in this world as is and part of that means seeing and acting on relationships – romantic and platonic- differently. It means having honest conversations about companionship and intimacy, it means thinking of relationships outside of societal norms, it means asking more from our friends, married or not.

I have read stories of communal living where women friends are opting to live together. I would like to see how it works out. And I know the issue of sex will arise, but that is a whole separate issue, isn’t it?

If you think about it, capitalism is the reason we opt to live separate lives. It keeps us in a state of want and benefits from loneliness. It makes all the sense then, to think outside of the boxes that capitalism keeps us in, to speak with each other about loneliness, companionship and intimacy, to seek out people who enrich our lives and to demand reciprocity.

Be loved,

Ciiku

Ask Ciiku: I am being manipulated

Dear Ciiku,

I like a girl. She has a boyfriend. Has had one for 6 years. I know I shouldn’t be fucking with her, but here I am, nonetheless. We go on dates, we’ve had sex on 3 separate occasions, and we talk pretty much all the time, telling me things she doesn’t feel comfortable enough to tell her boyfriend or any of her close friends. But it doesn’t look like she’ll ever leave her boyfriend, and I feel like I’m in love all by myself. I need to walk away but I don’t know how to without being rude about it, because every time I suggest time apart, she says no, and that she enjoys our conversations and the time we spend together. I’m pretty certain that this is high level manipulation, and I don’t know why I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt in believing that she would hate to lose me as a confidante.

Please advise me on the best way forward, specifically, how to go about cutting ties with her.

Matt

Dear Matt

So basically she wants to have her cake and eat it?

I am glad that you know you need to walk away so that I do not have to tell you. Is it high level manipulation? Likely. She knows you want to be with her, are in love with her and uses this to get what she wants from you. You see that, don’t you Matt?

Why indeed do you think you are giving her the benefit of the doubt? Is there a part of you that hopes she will see different and choose you instead? I am not going to give you false hope Matt. I am going to tell you that cutting ties with her will not be neat and clean. You have tried to talk to her about it but it didn’t work. And you stayed. It does show in your letter that you care for her. But you know, you deserve the kind of relationship where someone listens to you, cares for you and above all your time, attention and emotions are reciprocated.

I feel you need to be as honest to her as you have been to me. Tell her via text that you are choosing yourself. And that in choosing yourself, you can no longer be her confidante and that you need to not be her friend. That you feel like you deserve better. And that you are going to find better. After that, I suggest you block her in all platforms. Sounds drastic perhaps but it really isn’t. You have to keep reminding yourself that you matter and that you are making this choice because you need to choose yourself. So do that Matt. I wish you the best.

Rooting for you,

Ciiku