All the people who taught her card tricks are dying..
January 26, 2010 7:29 AM   Subscribe

The woman I am romantically interested in has had an extremely taxing couple of years. Her long term boyfriend disappeared and committed suicide last year, and now her chief support/best friend/roommate has been given only 2 months to live. Both of her pets have cancer and will die soon. And me.. well, I'm moving out of country for at least 4 months in about a week >< Her family is all living overseas until mid summer. She says she doesn't think she can handle the pain and doesn't think she can live after the impending death of her friend. She basically has no one to turn to and I want to be a support for her without trying to replace her past. The question: How can I show my care for her without coming off as a looter during a vulnerable time?

Additional details: Both 20 years old, already established that we like each other both physically and emotionally. She has basically given up on the world after so much disappointment and has a very limited support network (sketchy drug friends associated with late boyfriend and some college kids caught up in their own lives). I love talking with her and care deeply about her. It seems like I should take some action to extend our relationship before I leave, but all common sense says that this is the wrong time to make such a move (esp. that she is so fragile). Bonus points for those who were in a similarly trying situation or experienced the suicide of someone close and can explain how someone affected you positively without being pushy or making you feel vulnerable.

Throwaway e-mail:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Separate 'support from her' from 'romantically interested' for a good while.
posted by mippy at 7:42 AM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

She says she doesn't think she can handle the pain and doesn't think she can live after the impending death of her friend. She basically has no one to turn to and I want to be a support for her without trying to replace her past.

Is she still in college? If so, please encourage her to see a counselor there. If not, encourage her to locate a therapist nearby. At the very least, make sure she knows that if she ever feels like hurting herself or is suicidal there are hotlines she can call and place she can go to.

She is dealing with some deep, dark stuff, and sometimes it is difficult to know whether "I don't think I can live" actually means "I'm thinking of killing myself" but it is far, far better to be safe than sorry.

Other than that - make her meals sometimes, play her music, see if she wants to go out with you and do things like walk in the woods or go to a concert or anything that might remind her that life can still be good and that there are still people who love her and support her.

And I agree, don't make a move. If she makes a move, reciprocate, but don't make things more complicated than they have to be.
posted by shaun uh at 7:55 AM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

If it helps, I had someone there for me in a friendly way during a difficult time (though not as rough as hers by the sounds of it) and it helped a lot - eventually it did turn into something romantic, but I think if that had happened from the off, it would have ended with me feeling worse, or unable to trust that person. It can be done. I think you just need to make it clear that you are looking out for her outwith any romantic possibilities (and if you aren't, then I'd stay away for a while).
posted by mippy at 8:03 AM on January 26, 2010

Sorry, forgot to dad died when I was 'seeing someone' and I had the very difficult experience of seeing my sister call her kids and my brother call his partner while knowing that phoning the guy I was with would lead to an awkward, truncated phone call from someone who didn't really want to talk about anything - I don't think I've ever felt more lonely. Make sure she knows she can call you if anything happens, and, crucially, when nothing has but she just needs to talk about something else.
posted by mippy at 8:05 AM on January 26, 2010

It seems like I should take some action to extend our relationship before I leave, but all common sense says that this is the wrong time to make such a move (esp. that she is so fragile).

I'm a bit inclined to say that this question seems to be more about you than her.

It would be nice if the world were simple and you were sure of your feelings towards her - or at least sure enough to give it a go - and then you could drop all of your plans to be with the person you loved when she needs you most. And then sort the rest of your future out together. Every great book has a great beginning right? Sometimes the best thing to do is jump in with both feet.

But if you are unsure, then it seems trying to start a relationship with this woman in this way, at this time, is the worst of all possible choices. Be a friend - a genuine friend - or be nothing.
posted by three blind mice at 8:23 AM on January 26, 2010

When I was about 20 a lot of my friends died. I spiraled into a really dark place. My romantic relationships from that time where a string of people who cared a lot about me, but I clung to because I was sad, none of them lasted because it was just coping, and miles away from a balanced relationship.
I found a school counselor who I could talk to and talk to her I did. A lot. Once I was able to separate the grief and pain from Everything Else In Life I was able to have balanced and reasonable relationships with other people again.
She needs someone who absolutly doesn't want to sex her up to be her person to talk to about this. her shoulder to cry on.

Because otherwise your romance will be about her pain.

...and that's only fun when there's a safety word
posted by French Fry at 8:56 AM on January 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

Sorry, no relationship advice, but I encourage counseling for her. If there is a local suicide survivors or grief support group , that would be great, too. A friend of mine felt the support group to be of much help after her sister committed suicide.
posted by iceprincess324 at 9:03 AM on January 26, 2010

I'm going to sound like a dick for even bring this up, but have you confirmed that everything she has told you is true? I have a neighbor who cultivated a number of sympathetic stories only for attention. It took us a while to figure it out.
posted by tfmm at 9:07 AM on January 26, 2010 [4 favorites]

It seems like I should take some action to extend our relationship before I leave

It would probably be better if you didn't. Be her friend; that's the best support you could give her; this is what helped me through very difficult times. Since you're leaving the country, maybe you could plan on writing to her (letters can be wonderful to receive when you are very unhappy), call her, let her know you're thinking of her. But let any possible romance wait.
posted by violette at 9:11 AM on January 26, 2010 [4 favorites]

tfmm - I popped in to say the exact same thing.

Frankly, this girl's story sounds an awful lot like the early career of this now convicted felon (thanks!)

Something about this story... it just sounds like she's laying it on a bit too thick. Since you are set to leave the country shortly, you're kinda the perfect person to scam because you won't be around long enough to verify details, etc.

Also, you sound very very caring.

Please do a little digging before you get side tracked from your own goals.

If this is all true, than your friend should be in therapy.

posted by jbenben at 10:00 AM on January 26, 2010

She could really use some professional help; she's experiencing way more loss than is reasonable. Offer to help her get & pay for some therapy. Not because she has a mental illness, but because she's experiencing a crushing load of loss, and could use help getting dug out.
posted by theora55 at 10:50 AM on January 26, 2010

have you confirmed that everything she has told you is true?

Something about this story... it just sounds like she's laying it on a bit too thick.

Have we not read our Dave Eggers? Sometimes when shit happens it pours. I knew someone with this kind of luck in high school (only worse: substitute the cancerous pets for a molester stepfather). My 12 year-old cousin just had a year in which our grandma died, her best friend was killed in car crash, and right now her replacement best friend is having something like her 6th operation for probably-fatal tumour.
posted by Beardman at 12:29 PM on January 26, 2010

I lost you at the part where both of her pets have cancer, and even before that how she's in any state of mind to be/want to be in a romantic relationship with someone when her ex committed suicide. Two months for an early-20-something year old roommate to live with no pre-existing issues? It happens, but all of these things combined just seem.. much.

Perhaps I'm being a negative nancy here, but my best friend's brother committed suicide last year, and he has been such a wreck that he can't even focus on taking care of himself, no less wanting anything to do with anyone else.

Have you met her family? Do you know they're actually overseas? Have you met her roommate? Do you know she is ill? Did you know her at all when the situation with the ex happened? Have you seen statements from the vet saying both of these animals are terminal?

Do some research and save yourself some drama.
posted by june made him a gemini at 12:35 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

If she makes a move, reciprocate...

I'm not even sure I'd do this then. People who are coping with grief can sometimes process it in uncharacteristic ways -- note that I didn't say "wrong" ways, I said "uncharacteristic" ways, as in "not usually their personal M.O." -- and then change their minds about things later.

Mind you, I'm not saying to second-guess her motivation for each and everything. But there's a difference between her making a move in the midst of a huge breakdown like Halle Berry did in Monster's Ball, and her making a move after you've had a warm conversation about how you've been a supportive friend and she really appreciates that.

Basically, be a friend first and foremost. Don't be "a friend but just for now so I'm right there when things get sorted out and then I'll get promoted." Let whatever relationship that may come of this grow organically, is all, rather than assuming any overture is a 100% green light.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:41 PM on January 26, 2010

I'm with june made him a gemini. This sounds like someone who is desperate for attention. I've known several people (all female and late teens to early 20s, fwiw) who claimed situations like that. None of them were true.

That's not to say it's impossible (and if it is, she's in a terrible situation and I wish you and her the best of luck), but verify some of those before you take them as pure fact.
posted by thekiltedwonder at 1:22 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wow, I'm on both sides of this one. I agree that sometimes when it rains, it pours, but there is something about the type of situations put together that make this suspicious to me. Please do check out her story.

If you really care for her, then be a friend and forget about yourself.
posted by micawber at 1:53 PM on January 26, 2010

I'm probably the most cynical person I know, but even I didn't immediately assume she's making this stuff up for drama and attention. I guess that would be because when the universe decided to shit on me it did so in a way that was breath-takingly thorough. So, yes, a lot of bad things can happen to you at once. And yes, she could be making stuff up. Either way, it sounds like she could use a friend.
posted by violette at 2:23 PM on January 26, 2010

follow-up from the OP
Thanks to everyone so far for the great insight and personal advice. On the issue of wanting attention and exxagerating, I have personally seen concrete evidence for everything she has said. This is definitely a, "'when it rains, it pours," situation, unfortunately.
posted by jessamyn at 2:33 PM on January 26, 2010

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