The Pool's agony aunt Viv Groskop

Waving, Not Drowning

Dear Viv: How can I reclaim my social life, post-divorce?

In this week's podcast, Viv discusses when a friend owes you money, when banter in a relationship goes too far, adapting to a high pressure promotion, and how to reconnect with old friends after a divorce

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By Viv Groskop on

Dear Viv,

About six months ago a friend invited me to a gig, we both love the band and I said yes straightaway, even though the gig wasn't until July. Come July, I realised I'd double booked myself with a family wedding the same day. I was gutted about the gig, but clearly had to go to the wedding. When I told my friend, she was really upset as she'd been excited about going with me, and said she didn't think any of her other friends liked the band. She ended up going with her boyfriend, in the end. The problem is, I'd already transferred her my share of the ticket money for it (£60, so not an unsubstantial amount). I didn't say anything at the time about her transferring it back but assumed she would - of course, two months on, she still hasn't transferred the money, and hasn't mentioned it at all. She's still a bit touchy about the whole thing so I'm quite reluctant to bring it up, but at the same time I do need that money back! To some extent I think she thought that because I 'bailed' on her, I was giving her my ticket for free. What do you think?

Oooh, awkward. Except it isn’t really awkward, it’s simple. You just need to ask for the money. It doesn’t really matter whether your friend has interpreted that the ticket is for free, whether she’s punishing you by making you pay or whether she has simply forgotten or let it slip her mind -- which I think is, in fact, the most likely option. The fact is: you need to ask. Just send her a message or call her and say, “Are you OK to transfer that £60 to my account? Do you have my details?” Ask her at the same time whether she wants to do something nice with you or add in some questions about her life.

Basically just ask for the money, make it easy for her to pay you and resume your friendship as normal. Yes, there has been awkwardness here and you’re both right: you were right to go to your family wedding and she was right to be disappointed that you couldn’t come to the gig with her. Now it’s time to put that behind you and get on with your life. At some point this band will do another gig and you can both go together. Get the money and move on. This does not have to be as awkward as you think and in six months’ time you will be having a laugh with her about how you were worried that she wouldn’t pay you for the ticket.

Dear Viv, 

Me and my boyfriend have always been the kind of couple where taking the piss out of each other is hilarious and taken as a bit of a laugh rather than taken personally. But lately it seems to have been getting a bit more sharp than usual. I've put on a few pounds since starting a new job, and let's just say he's noticed - he's constantly making fun of my pot belly and double chin. Once upon a time it would have been funny, but something about the frequency of the comments, and the regularity with which he says them (any time he sees me naked, for example - what a turn on) is really getting me down. I've said to him that I'm feeling self conscious about it and explained that I'd rather he didn't make so many comments, but he hasn't stopped. It's like making fun of each other is hard-wired into the way we interact... apart from I know when to stop and he doesn't. I know the right course of action is to tell him how I feel when he says these things, but I already have, and nothing has changed. He apologises, but he'll do it again regardless. I'd be grateful for any advice.

Hello Beautiful Lady, I am just reminding you of your beauty because a few pounds here or there is just not a thing. Hmm. What to do here? I can feel from your letter that you’re feeling guilty and conflicted because you feel complicit in this situation. You have tolerated this banter for a long time and it has become part of your relationship. I wonder if you’re starting to wonder if the relationship exists without the banter. As you say, “It’s like making fun of each other is hard-wired into the way we interact.” But it isn’t, is it? And you’ve asked him to stop. This is the bit that worries me. Not that this happened in the first place -- relationships have all kinds of ways of surviving and we all fall into strange habits -- but the fact that you have specifically asked him to stop and he hasn’t. I wonder if he really heard you or he really understands what you mean.

Before you get too stressed about this, I think you need to give him one more chance. The next time he breaks the rule you set, say “Hang on a minute -- I told you to stop with those kinds of comments. Did you forget?” If he laughs and says, “What are you worried about?” explain to him why you’re serious. If he still does it after that then there’s a problem and it’s not about the banter, it’s about him not respecting your feelings. You need to make it clear that it’s not OK to do something, be told not to, apologise and then keep on doing it. If that continues, it’s veering into bullying and you need to call him on it. If still nothing changes - and you won’t want to hear this - you need to be prepared to walk away. I’m serious. We all fall into name-calling and being silly but as soon as the other person says, “I’m not OK with this anymore” in a good relationship the name-calling and silliness will stop. This isn’t about whether you can take a joke or not, it’s about whether you have a proper relationship or not. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and your feelings. But give him a chance to really hear you and register what you are saying and how serious you are about it. All the best.

You can hear the answers to these and the following questions on Viv’s podcast, Waving, Not Drowning, above.

Dear Viv, 

I’ve been promoted and feeling overwhelmed by the responsibility being offloaded onto me by my boss. I’m a perfectionist so will always strive to deliver, but I need to be able to push back on my boss….how do I do this without looking like I’m not fit for my job?

Dear Viv,

I’ve been divorced for two years now but still haven’t been able to reclaim my social life from before I was married. On top of that I spend every night on social media enviously scrolling through other people’s accounts of their perfect lives. How do I a) stop obsessing over other peoples lives and start focussing on my own and b) reclaim my old social life and reconnect with old friends without sounding needy?

These questions have been edited for length. 

Got a question for Viv? Email her at The Dear Viv podcast airs fortnightly on The Pool at 5pm on Tuesdays. All letters will be edited for length. Unfortunately Viv cannot reply to your emails personally. 

You can subscribe to The Pool's podcasts on iTunes.

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