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1072 | lurking

Hi Ally A (short term) relationship recently ended. Ive noticed i spend a lot of time looking at the former flames ex girlfriend on social media. I know its not good for me, I know this woman isnt the one responsible for his actions, she never snuggled up to me and took me out to dinner, yet I keep going back and just staring at pictures of her. Why am I doing this? How can I work on NOT doing this?

Dear Lurking, 

You have great insight and the fact you know your behavior isn't about your Ex's ex is great. It has nothing to do with her and little to do with your Ex. Here is the thing: you are having feelings. Of course. It is rare for a person not to get triggered at the end of a relationship. The problem is you can't heal and act out at the same time. Social Media stalking is just your way to distract from your own issues and emotions. It is time to build some emotional muscles. So, if possible, you break the habit - as you would with quitting anything. Expect yourself to have urges to lurk. Create a plan. Make a list of things you are going to do to replace the photo frenzy. Call a friend. Take a walk. Get away from your computer or phone. Put yourself on an extinction program. Remind yourself that if you want to understand yourself, get the goods of learning from experience, you can't look. Remember, an urge is not a command.

If you aren't ready to stop yet, then you aren't. You will continue to act out until you are ready to grow, heal, get to know yourself better. That is OK. Just make it a concious decision. You have everything it takes to do this peice of work. Be good to yourself in the process.

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1071 | concerned

hi ally, im am umdergrad student, however i am in my late 20s making me older than my classmates. i recently discovered [through a mutual friend] that a friend of mine has been hit by her boyfriend. she has had black eyes and scratches on her face from his outbursts. this makes me sad and angry. especially since i am a bit older, i feel obligated to try to help but i know this is a messy situation. any recommendations on how to approach this? should i/shouldnt i consider contacting authorities? it breaks my heart that such young women go through such things.

Dear concerned,
It is, as you say, heartbreaking to see a woman abused by her partner.  I am glad she has you there, as witness and as ally.  She, however, may not be glad. She may be defensive, humiliated and scared that you understand her situation. She may welcome it. You have no control over how she responds or what she wants.

Things to guide you:
- You cannot fix her situation - you can only be available if she is ready and wanting your help.
- Either way, treat her with respect.
- Whether it makes sense to you or not, she is her own expert, just as you are yours.
- Interact with your friend from a place of esteem.  Remember, and acknowledge, the things you admire about her, the strengths she has, the reasons you wanted to be her friend in the first place.
- If she is willing to talk about it, remind her that no matter how much she loves her boyfriend, there are behaviors that are never OK.  Nothing changes that - not his lovable side, not his own abuse history, none of his issues - and she has the right to have boundaries and limits.  In addition, none of us, no matter what we do, are ever responsible for the reactions that another person has. Each of us, alone, are responsible for our own actions and reactions.
- Do not judge your friend. There are many reasons why a woman stays in an abusive relationship.  Even when a woman choses to leave, it may take many attempts for her to follow through.
- Do not promise things you cannot do and do not try to take over her choices. 
- If she is willing, help her come up with options and a safety plan.
- If she is interested, have resources available - or help her find them - but understand that you have no control over      whether she uses them.
- Do not become attached to her decisions.  
- No matter how she proceeds, keep doing fun things together. If possible, stay connected - and if she distances, remind her from time to time, that you are there.
- Your goal is to be supportive, not to fix things FOR her. (That is a truly impossible task that ends in resentment on all sides.)
- Honor your care and your own triggers as you support your friend.

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1070 | Heart Achy

Hello, I love my partner, dearly. She is currently going through outpatient treatment for an eating disorder. She restricts. Over the past few months, I have come across MANY lies that she has told me. I have not confronted her, as it feels like the ED is the primary issue to be worked on at this point, but I am slowly pulling away in a protective shield and she feels it. Painful for both of us. The lies are varied: 1) ordering two books and then covering it up when two are delivered and giving one to a friend to 2) some texting with a co-worker that is on the fringe of inappropriate - then denying it. I think in all of it, she wants to feel special in other relationships. I actually support that but want the honesty This is a woman I want to marry, and now I am wondering if this is an issue that can be addressed and resolved or if it is there now, will it always be there...sigh...would love your thoughts.

Dear Achy,

The eating disorder, the lies, needing to feel special and becoming inappropriate to achieve it - they are all connected. Confronting, while scary and painful, can also be loving and intimate.

Pulling away as if it is in the service of being caring, does nothing more than create a false sense of safe. 

I know it is hard. Don't let that stop you.  Proceed, knowing you are both competent people who appreciate and cherish each other - who, as a team, can handle the messy, uncomfortable, ugly truths.

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1069 | lost

Hi Ally Ive suffered with bad self esteem my entire life. I was bullied a lot as a kid for how I looked and I was very shy (still am actually). It has only become worse, I guess I always thought as an adult it would get better, but I have suffered through long periods of unemployment/underemployment and bad relationships. It is hard to keep going but I am unsure how to get better.

Dear lost, 

Being bullied and treated badly is a horrible and humiliating experience.  I am sad you have lived with that in your life. I am even sadder that you are now being your own bully. It seems you have taken up where the original bullies left off.

When you walk around feeling like that kid who got bullied, you present yourself as that kid, as well. You talk to yourself as if you are that kid,  You trust/mistrust your own competence, worth and desirability. You are unemployed and underemployed because you see yourself as someone who is unable to fit in or perform well.  Your relationships fail because you already have decided it won't work and no one would really want you.  Am I wrong?

You say you "thought as an adult IT would get better."  That sounds passive. IT won't get better until you stop waiting for something outside of yourself to change. The world, for the most part, will see you as you see yourself. You deserve to be seen - truly seen - in all your skill and insight and care and hope.  No one will see that until you believe it.

When you enter a situation expecting to be rejected and seen as less-than, that is exactly what you will get. I want you to be real with yourself, grieve your hurts, confide in loved ones and those you trust - and then I want you to fake it till you make it - at least a little.  Sometimes - sometimes - behavior needs to lead us.  Sometimes, we need to put on the costume before we can fill the role.

When I walk into a party feeling shy and overwhelmed and ugly, I have set up my evening for failure. Few people are drawn to me.  If I go into a party assuming people are going to be jazzed to see me, I feel looser and friendlier and funnier - and not surprisingly, I have a great time.

The real goal here is to trust yourself enough so that you can be real and not pretend - so that you can connect from an authentic place.  You, however, need to build some kind of path.  There are two parts.  One is the part I have mentioned above. The "fake it till you make it" zone of giving yourself a chance.  The other is to embrace your truths and let them lead you. This second part, however, is not usable until you have gotten out of your own way. 

We all live by beliefs and perceptions that we don't often question - or even acknowledge. Sometimes these are useful and path building and loving.  Sometimes they are like big rocks, boulders and branches that trip us as we try to move forward. When we don't even acknowledge them, we are in danger and often have "accidents." When we see them and consider all the alternatives, we find many ways to proceed - we are no longer stuck.

Ask yourself what you honestly believe about who you are.  Be real.  Let yourself acknowledge the stuff that is painful. Wonder what is actually an inadequacy and what is a protective layer.  What is the stuff you decided and adopted from the bullies?  What are real deficits you have? Then make decisions. What do you want to change and what do you actually like about yourself? 

It is time to stop being your own bully and welcome in your internal ally!!

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1068 | Foresaken

Why do I get angry when I think about my ex?

Dear Foresaken,
Without knowing more details, it is hard to answer this.  What I do think is - when we get hurt, it is hard to forgive. When we feel humiliated, it is even harder.  And - when we actually feel bad about something we did ourselves, it is hard to forgive the other person until we stop trying to defend ourselves.

I got another question from someone who is having trouble posting but has a relationship question.  I am going to answer that question here as well:

"I think my partner of 6 years and I are going through a slow motion breakup. We talked about making a firm decision in June about either getting married or moving on. He told me about a week ago that he is probably going to break up with me, then he said he put his decision on hold while he considers it more.   Ever since then, I'm melting down.  He still kisses me and cuddles me and I barely feel it, I feel like my heart is being wripped apart.   I  don't want to lose him.  I haven't dated anyone besides him in decades, and haven't been through any breakups since high school.  I don't know how to stop feeling so anxious and clingy, like every two minutes I want to hold him or be held by him, which is ridiculous because even when he does hold me, it doesn't make it feel any better because I know he is still rejecting me.   How do I move through this?  I try to hang out with other people and I'm just anxious the whole time and want to call him and somehow try to fix this, but there is no way to fix this.   I don't know what to do with myself."

Dear Kissed and Rejected,
The two of you need to talk - and talk honestly.  Allow your vulnerability to be upfront and center.  Now isn't the time to act out - it is the time to be direct. You sound like you are searching for reassurance and trying to protect yourself at the same time.  It makes sense but that combo usually ends up being edged with manipulation - which just pushes the other person further away.  You are in a painful dance right how. Be really gentle with yourself and TALK to your partner.

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1065 | mamsler

Hi Ally, So people have been saying things about me behind my back. I thought I could trust them. Whenever I go to them they stop talking and stare at me. They often ditch me while we are walking and say things that are not true about me. These people are also popular so I want to be around them but I cant let them keep picking on me! The worst part is two of my friends started talking to them and now are best friends with them and gang up on me. Is there any advice you can give me?

Dear mamsler,

First I want to say that it sounds really painful and anxiety producing.

Second, There are two ways I want to answer your question. I am guessing you are under 18.  If I am wrong, I am so sorry and I hope you will write back and we can discuss my assumption.  If I am right, keep reading.

As an adult, I want to say you should talk to these people - be direct and check out your fears.  However - I think that would be a really bad answer.  I know many high school students and I don't think that approach would work well.  I think it would backfire. While I do believe in empowering ourselves through honest communication, I don't know that teenagers actually have the... whatever - to respond to that.

What I think would actually work better is to behave as if you have the relationships you want to have. As kids try to figure out how to fit in, they sometimes find a common person/target to bond over. That common target might be you right now, but it will probably become someone else fairly quickly. Stay kind of low key, connect when you can, be supportive of these people when it feels possible and pretend a little. Being a teenager is really hard (it can suck) - and your world right now lives on drama - don't feed it.

Hopefully there will come a time when you can talk to your friends about it.  I don't think it is wise to do it now.  Find support wherever you can, try to keep a sense of humor and act as if your friends are not being jerks.

I promise everyone, at some point, goes through some version of what you are going through. It will pass. Other readers, reading this, will be filled with empathy for you.  You have a whole bunch of people on your side - even if you don't know it. Hang in there.

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1064 | feeling old and stupid

Hi Ally, Im 30 and Im single. That doesnt really bother me as Im not someone who feels I have to be in a relaitonship, if I meet someone great, if I dont its better than being with someone not right for me. What does bother me is when I am seeing someone I like and I think they like me and they just disappear. Ive seen "hes just not that into you" so i take it thats what the deal is. The last two guys who I really like disappear after a couple dates. I have had great times laughing and talking, I feel physically attracted and they disappear. I replay everything over and over wondering if I said something wrong or if they bailed cause I didnt put out right away (also likely). Its hard thinking maybe this person could be something more and thinking he felt the same and then he just vanishes. Am I that bad at reading people? Are they that good at faking a connection? How can I deal with this without feeling bad about myself? I feel like I am too old to be letter this bother me, however I usually dont click with many guys and when I think I do, they obviously dont feel the same.

Dear feeling old and stupid,

First, you are not old and you do not sound stupid.  It sounds like dating is a trigger, and you are not alone.  It is hard to put yourself out there. It's vulnerable.  It brings up past hurts. It's a risk.

Second, it sounds like you get ahead of yourself.  Again, you are not alone.  The problem is, it hinders the process, making you more vulnerable than you need to be.  The first date should actually be an exercise in you having fun.  Of course, you are sizing up your date but make it your priority to just have a fun night. Your goal is to come home liking yourself.  

Truthfully, that is a good goal throughout the dating process.

Your job is not to impress the guy, say and do everything "right" (whatever that is) or put out.  Your job is to be yourself and give him room to be himself.  

It sounds as if the discomfort, the going over everything many times, the fear you have done something wrong, is more about the act of dating than the actual guy.  After going out with someone a couple of times, you don't really know him well enough to care that much.  The hole that is created by his disappearing is not about the amount of space he actually took in your life, but the place you went in your head.  

I wonder if worrying about this pattern, this hurt, doesn't keep you from just being in the moment.  It is time to regroup and find out.  Decide that you are going to spend time with a guy - not to find out if he is going to like you - but to practice being your own best friend on the date.  Next time, worry about impressing yourself - not the person you barely know.

One more thing - you say you do not feel you need to be in a relationship but your dating practices suggest otherwise.  I believe in your head you know you are fine without a man but it sounds as if your triggers lead you to care a lot.  The more real you are with yourself, the less you will act out the fears/longing/self doubt.

OK - so go have some fun.  You deserve it.

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1061 | M

Hi. I have a quick question involving terminology. A couple of months ago, "friend 1" gave me a peace of information. Around the same time,"friend 2" gave me the same peace of information. Yesterday, I was asked to recall that peace of information by "friend 1", but I had forgotten that "friend 1" had given it to me; I had attributed the giving of the information to "friend 2". Is there a Specific term for describing such false memory? Friend 1 is suffering from social anxiety disorder and thus does not have many friends. Could that be one of the reasons why Friend 1 got cross, over me not remembering that he had given me the peace of information too? Does that sort of a behavior have a scientific term? I just wish to know the terms and require specific scientific explanation, Thanks in advance, M.

Dear M,

I can not imagine why having a label or a scientific term would be useful.  I'm  not even totally sure what you mean when you say you require specific scientific explanation.  This is what I can say:
- It sounds as if the information you got from "friend 2" was more satisfying, interesting, clear... to you than the information you got from "friend 1" so that is what became salient OR you didn't think a lot about how you got the information and "friend 2" was the last and therefore more prevalent source.
- Either way, "friend 1" got hurt in some way.
- You have some choices: 
1. Find out more about why your friend got hurt so you can develop a closer
No matter what, you don't need to analyze and come up with your own explanation.  This is relational, not scientific relationship. If you choose this, do not spend your energy getting defensive. You are asking so you can get to understand your friend better. Your friend's reaction is about your friend not whether you did something wrong.
2. You can just be generous of heart and apologize for forgetting "friend 1's" contribution.
3. You can decide "friend 1" is too high maintenance for you and back away.. 

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1059 | Acespades24

Hi, I been having problems with suicidal thoughts lately and that I have been having trouble with my confidence and self worth as an African American. As I am typing this I feel like I have failed.

Dear Acespades24,

First, I want to say that just reaching out and naming your experience means that you have not failed. It is a brave and bright thing to do. While you were not very specific, I have a few thoughts:

- You deserve to have company as you struggle with your thoughts and feelings.
- While I am not African American, it is clear that being an African American male in our society, is scary and complicated at best.  You are not alone in struggling with confidence and self worth. And I am so sorry.
- I wonder if you would reach out to a therapist who could talk to you face to face. Suicidal thoughts can be very lonely. I wish you as much connection as you can tolerate.
- Feel free to keep in contact right here at Ask An Ally - but don't let that stop you from talking with others as well.
- I also hope you will research organizations that are created to support African Americans.  I looked on Google and found a number of groups that you might find supportive. I also hope you will go to the Resource section of Ask An Ally and look under Depression.  You may find additional resources that will be helpful.
- I'm glad you wrote in.  Feel free to write back and tell me more.

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1058 | C

What is the best natural supplement to treat social anxiety?

Dear C,

I am so sorry - this is out of my field of expertise.  While I commend your interest, I am the wrong person to be asking.  I wonder if consulting a nutritionist or Psych NP, might be a better fit.  I wish you the best.

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