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Dublin: 9 °C Saturday 15 December, 2018
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A flaky boyfriend who won't meet the parents, difficult friendship break-ups and skincare regimes - this week's Dear Fifi

And just like that, it’s Dear Fifi time again.

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I’m writing this from my third stop in my Burmese adventure – from the town of ancient pagodas and stupas, Bagan. You can read about a train journey I took in Yangon right here, if that sounds up your street. Or down your tracks.

I’m not sure where is next from here. Wherever it is, you can ask me anything you like right here

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I started going out with my boyfriend just under half a year ago. In both of our last relationships we’ve been cheated on and I think this is having an impact to how our relationship progresses. He’s hesitant to introduce me to his family, and doesn’t talk about the future much, even if to make plans a month in advance. I tried to tell him I loved him and he stopped me.

I’m insecure that I feel like he’d up and leave with a moments notice, even if things are good. I feel like I’m not good enough for him. We’re on opposite sides of our twenties and I feel like he thinks I haven’t enough life experience. I don’t want to lose him, and I want to make this work but I can’t stop thinking this way.

I think there are a few intersecting problems going on here. One is that your boyfriend is not, fundamentally, meeting some of the important needs you have in this relationship right now. The second is insecurity – not only just from previous bad experiences but also (let’s face it) what is going on right now with your current boyfriend too. The third is the more nebulous question of age. 

Let’s answer the easiest one first. You’re different ages and you always will be. That’s not something that is going to change. Ever. It may be time to accept that the age difference isn’t really what’s causing the problem: it’s your boyfriend’s lack of clarity and communication to you and how (naturally) worried that is making you feel. 

So we’re back to issues 1 and 2. I think you need to have a proper sit down and chat with him about the relationship. It may seem scary but it’ll be worth it to get onto the same page. It’s been six months – it’s not a bad time to stop and check in and see how you’re both feeling about how it’s all going. If you feel afraid to ask some straightforward questions and tell him how you feel, you’ve got to wonder why that is. 

Ask for what you need. Being rebuffed in expressing your love is very tough. Perhaps he’s not ready to make a declaration of love, and that’s fine. But you need something concrete to go on, all the same. Even just an acknowledgement you’ll be together to get Christmas presents! I mean, that’s not unreasonable, is it? I’m afraid you’ll have to take the bull by the horns and just ask. 

(And look: you deserve to be treated well. We’ve all had bad experiences in the past but that’s not an excuse for hurting people in the present. Him withholding commitment and certainty from you is clearly driving you nuts. I know you feel strongly about this person, but take care of yourself in all this. Make sure you know how worthy of affection and trust you truly are. Don’t be afraid to pursue that, even if it’s ultimately with someone else who can be more open with you. )

I’ve had my first real friendship break-up – she was a new friend but it was incredibly intense for about a year. I miss her. Nothing really bad happened between us, but she doesn’t want to see me cause I’m friends with a guy she used to see who didn’t treat her very well. So I get that. Bad memories, doesn’t want to associate etc. 

But the thing is she’s clearly not mentally well – I’ve had her friends contact me from her home country asking me to check on her and she won’t see me. She mentioned she has BPD to me on a few occasions. My invitations to see her have been consistent but casual (pint tonight/invite over for a film etc) but I’m worried about her and who else she is cutting out from her life. Not sure what to do.

Honestly, I think you probably need to back off a bit. Ask her friends to make contact themselves or find a better way.

She’s made clear why she doesn’t want to be friends with you – it’s because you have ties to this other male friend, who is a dealbreaker figure for her. I think you’re dismissing that whole thing too easily and potentially unfairly using her previous mental health against her here. She’s outright told you the reason she doesn’t want to see you and I think you need to respect that. Do tell the friends from her home country what’s going on with your friendship, but remember that this is not your responsibility, for good or bad. 

One positive thing you can do is let her know in a pressure-free, pleasant and no-strings-attached email or text that you understand and respect her decision to cool things, that your friendship has been important to you, and that you’re always there if she needs you. Maintain an open avenue of communication with that message, but then leave her to it. She knows where you are if she does want to resume hanging out, and right now it seems she’s clearly chosen not to. 

Your heart is in the right place and I know it’s really, really sad when a friendship doesn’t work out. But you can’t take on the burden of managing someone else’s life or worrying about their welfare, especially when they’re resisting contact from you.

You seem to be someone that’s very interested in skin care. I’m a man whose skin care regime consists of using face wash in the shower, can you help me out?

Oh man, skincare is the tits. It’s a real passion of mine. 

There’s always a long and a short answer to entering into the rabbithole of starting a skincare regime. One of my favourite aspects about it is reading about the latest development and what exactly they lie to you about what it does to your face. That said, I accept that not everyone wants to go as in-depth as I do, nor has the time, money or inclination to bother. 

So first, the sorta-long answer. First you need to figure out what kind of skin you have – be that dehydrated, dry, oily, combination, sensitive, congested, acne-proven, and what have you. What does it look like? How does it feel? How would you want it to look? Is there an issue you’re targeting? A good place to start is Reddit’s Skincare Addiction for fact sheets and looking up specific keywords on a blogger like Caroline Hirons’s website. Research and look into what ingredients are recommended for what specific skin issues.

And secondly, the short answer. Exfoliate, cleanse, treat, hydrate, SPF.

  • Exfoliate using an acid – physical exfoliants remove the good skin with the bad, whereas chemical exfoliants just take dead skin. Look into glycolic and salicyclic acid.
  • Cleanse with something that doesn’t foam, ideally – sodium laureth sulfate, or SLS, is a detergent that can make the skin dry.
  • Treat any specific skincare issue you have – rosacea or sun damage, just to take two examples, can be targeted with particular ingredients if you look it up.
  • Hydrate with a moisturiser, ideally one rich in hyaluronic acid.
  • Put on broad spectrum SPF sun protection before you leave the gaff.

You don’t need to spend much money. Try cost-effective, ingredient-focused online brands such as The Ordinary and the mid-priced aisle in Boots for brands such as Avene, Bioderma, Vichy, La Roche Posay and Eucerin. They are almost always on 3 for 2, so wait for that to come around. 

Worst comes to worst, just add an SPF to your routine and you’ll already be on the up. 

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Want to talk?

Confess a story, ask for help or just shout into the void for a bit and see if that helps. All welcome. Anonymity totally guaranteed always.  

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