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Dear Friends,

I believe we can learn a lot from each other’s difficulties and accomplishments. I created the Ask Dr. Michelle column to share my advice with many people at the same time, who although they don’t know it, are often facing some of the same challenges. I hope that my comments provide you with some insight into situations that you are facing in your life. If you have a question that you want me to answer, submit it below. I wish you all the best. (I try to answer as many questions as possible, but please understand that due to the number of questions that I receive I am not able to answer every question.)

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How do I listen to my friends’ problems without stressing out?

  • I recently ended an eight year relationship and I am slowly but surely moving on, but my friends won’t let me. They aren’t mentioning him or anything, but they constantly come to me with their problems. I just don’t need to hear that right now because hearing their stories at times, make me feel like I should have stayed with my ex. My friends are going through abusive and cheating situations right now. My ex never did that to me which was the reason why I always stayed with him until I realized how emotional he was. I always told myself if my man didn’t cheat or hit me, those are two good reasons to stay with him. I didn’t think about anything else. My mother, sister and friends all went through that. So having a man without dealing with that just sticks with me and I am “Ms. Rose-Colored Glasses” when it comes to everything else. I am dealing with that, but how can I be there for my friends and not listen to their negative stories about their relationship? I love your book by the way!

  • I think we need to limit how much we go on and on about relationships. Sometimes the more we talk about it, the worse we feel, instead of better. For the person sharing and the person listening, you both need to figure out how long you can discuss dating problems before you start to get stressed out by the conversation, instead of feeling uplifted. If the talking isn’t making you feel better or helping you come up with solutions to your problems, then what’s the point of constantly focusing on what’s wrong?

    As a listener, I know you want to support your friends but there is nothing wrong with deciding that you won’t talk indefinitely. Sometimes you probably stay on the phone or discuss one topic for too long. Pay attention to when you start feeling bad about yourself or your situation and try to end the conversation before it causes you to have a downward spiral. If you are going through a tough time in your own life, you may not be able to take on your friends’ problems along with your own. Sometimes you need some space to get yourself together before you can be a good friend or a good listener. You’re coming out of an eight year relationship–it’s going to take you some time to heal and get your head and heart into a good space. Imagine what kind of advice you might give when you are feeling bad about yourself and your own situation. (Sometimes women are so busy talking, they don’t even think about how what they are saying is affecting the listener.)

    Even if the talks weren’t making you think too much about yourself, sometimes listening to other people’s problems can stress you out or give you a headache if you sit on the phone for hours just rehashing the same problems day in and day out. The same negative effects can be true for your friend who is sharing. Women like to just talk and express their feelings, but at some point, you have to stop complaining and start acting. Sometimes our friends help us stay stuck in a pity-party by constantly listening to our problems without encouraging change. Continue to support your friends, but establish your own boundaries for how often and how long you can discuss problems.

    Good luck!

    Dr. Michelle