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Khanti
12 Dec 13, 20:11
Hi everyone. I wonder if anyone could help with my dilemma – it’s driving me to distraction.

There is a woman I bump into occasionally while dog-walking. Over the years we have gone from talking about general topics to more personal subjects and about a year ago she told me that she was in a relationship. I was happy for her, despite the age gap – she’s around 60 and he’s about 15 years younger – and despite the fact that it was a long-distance relationship. Gradually she revealed more details and I realised that she was kidding herself that it was a relationship; she had only met him a handful of times in two years (seemingly at her instigation) and the rest of the time it was simply texts.

In recent months every time I see her – hoping for a good chat – she has only been able to talk about how long it’s been since he last contacted her (weeks, then months), how upset she is, how much he means to her. She obsesses over the tiniest details of his texts. I’ve started to feel irritated by and impatient with her. When he recently texted her (after 3 months) he asked her to send photos of herself naked – and for some reason this did not even register with her as, er, pervy :neutral:

She is clearly suffering: she looks and sounds unhappy and has lost a lot of weight from an already slight frame. The cause of her suffering is her clinging to this man, or perhaps to the idea of being in a relationship with a man. To end her suffering, she should let go of him. It seems so simple! I have tried to say this to her, in non-Buddhist terms. (I really feel like telling her just to take up Buddhism :lol: but I doubt she’d be open to it.)

I feel for her and would like to help her, but I don’t want to be a “compassionate idiot” – I mean, I don’t want to support her delusions. It seems to me that my options are:

a) To be honest with her.
It’s good to be honest, ideally in a non-hurtful way. However, I really don’t know how to do this. How can I tell her: “you are deluded” “he is using you for … whatever” without it hurting her? Also, when someone is clinging to an illusion which in some way gives them hope, how do you go about shattering their illusion with destroying their hope? I don’t know… it just feels so cruel.

b) To say nothing.
In order to say nothing I would have to avoid her because if I see her she will inevitably start talking about him and I will probably not be able to bite my tongue; I've already blurted out stuff that, looking back, sounded a bit brutal. But avoiding her also seems like a hurtful thing to do.

If anyone can think of a way in which I can help her, I would be grateful.

[By the way, I will take this opportunity of saying thanks to people on this forum; I joined a while ago and have been quietly reading and learning since – it’s been very, very illuminating, more than words can say.]

:hands:

Lumen
13 Dec 13, 04:07
b) To say nothing.
In order to say nothing I would have to avoid her because if I see her she will inevitably start talking about him and I will probably not be able to bite my tongue; I've already blurted out stuff that, looking back, sounded a bit brutal. But avoiding her also seems like a hurtful thing to do. :

Hello Khanti,

I am a Buddhist novice like you, so it may be presumptuous of me to offer this, but, …. Here it is. I think you almost have it: it is your option B – but with a twist.

In my opinion, this is a Buddhist answer based on the recognition that people only believe what they want to believe and that there is nothing well-meaning friends can say to change their mind, UNLESS the person with the problem is READY to listen. Your friend is not yet ready to listen, so the listening has to come from you. You listen compassionately, and not condescendingly but truly compassionately with your heart and feel the pain she is feeling AND NEVER SAY ANYTHING. It may take a long time for her to come to the realization that she is deluded or she may never come to that point. Nevertheless, that is not your problem. The only thing you can do is to be a sounding board for her, which is obviously, what she needs by talking to you every time she sees you.

When and if she does ask for your opinion, I would personally answer with a counter question. (I think this is Buddha strategy that he employed). For example, if she did asks, what do you think or what would you do, why not ask back: ‘this is an excellent point you have raised. What do you think is the best option here?” What you are essentially doing in this way is helping her to come to the realization that she has to come up with solutions that make sense to her and thereby lessen her own pain.

Good luck to you! Lumen

Khanti
14 Dec 13, 23:03
Hi Lumen, thanks so much for your reply - it's good advice. It's funny, after writing my post my thoughts seemed to clarify and I had come to more or less the same conclusion as you, not to say anything. You're right, she's definitely not ready to listen; though I'd felt guilty about being somewhat abrupt with her, I realised it didn't matter, cos she wasn't taking my comments on board anyway!

So, I'll take your advice and give your "tactics" a go if I get the chance, but first I think I need to give my reserves of compassion and patience a chance to replenish!

Thanks again.
:hands:

PS Isn't it sad though, how clingy/needy people have the effect on others of pushing them away, the opposite of the desired effect.

Element
15 Dec 13, 11:34
hi Khanti

often, saying nothing & being patient is OK. this can give us the chance to meditate upon our own mind to be aware how painful the suffering of another is for us. but then if she starts to ask for your advice, then you can give your opinion.

however, there can be things others say that raise a 'red flag', where we should act, such as:


When he recently texted her (after 3 months) he asked her to send photos of herself naked – and for some reason this did not even register with her as, er, pervy

to me, this is more than 'pervy'. this is very dangerous for your friend because such photos can be published anywhere. if you can draw to her attention how extreme & dangerous this request for photos is then possibly this can awaken your friend so she can see for herself her predicament

kind regards

element ;D

Khanti
15 Dec 13, 15:12
Hi Element, thanks for your message. You make a very good point. However, when she told me (twice!) about the man's request for nude photos, she immediately followed this by saying that she did not comply, she sent him a photo of herself clothed instead. This indicated me that she does have enough sense to be aware of the risks involved in sending nude photos. To be honest, it was her seeming unawareness that the guy just seemed to be "bored texting" and using her for his entertainment, that struck me.

You say "this can give us the chance to meditate upon our own mind to be aware how painful the suffering of another is for us..." I must admit, I've been wondering why her predicament is getting to me so much... I thought perhaps I was being overly sensitive and/or over-identifying with another person's problems, possibly being a bit neurotic ;) ... but, basically, it just seems to me that she is wasting her life.

:hands:

Jacaranda
21 Dec 13, 06:48
Does this lady even know this guy is actually single????? He could be married with kids,or living with a partner???

I'm more inclined to feel sorry for this lady because if I had been in a relationship for 2 yrs,only met the guy a couple of times at my own instigation and only recieved texts?Thats pretty poor imho!I'd also be requesting a visit to his actual home to validate this guy was actually single,and to meet his family??? Ok if you're happy doing this type of r/ship long distance but really?Its not something I would tolerate myself.

Khanti
22 Dec 13, 11:12
Hi Jacaranda

Well, she told me he lives with his parents. She turned up at his home one time, his father answered the door and said he wasn’t in but she thought he was, as the light was on in his room! Another thing: when she was telling me about one of his texts and asking what I thought it meant, I asked her why she didn’t just ring him and speak to him direct. She said that she couldn’t do that, he wouldn’t answer!

I know, the whole thing sounds ridiculous, more like the behaviour of teenagers. However, I was particularly concerned about her as she is rather isolated: both parents dead, no siblings, no kids, and quite new to the area, so no network of friends. Hence her clinging to the idea of being in a relationship and clutching at straws. Putting myself in her position, I wonder what I would be like.

Jacaranda
22 Jan 14, 20:09
Hi Khanti,well she is an adult,and I guess she can make her own decisions.Its her life so if I were you I would take a back seat from her.Yes talk to her if you want to,but if she mentions the guy?I would brush it off and change the subject.