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Dublin: 0 °C Wednesday 23 January, 2019
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Secret wedding woes, making pals, a commitment-phobic long-term fella, keeping the friends after a breakup - it's Dear Fifi

Farewell to Cambodia and hello this week’s Dear Fifi.

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I’m writing Dear Fifi for the last time in Cambodia. My visa is up this week so I’m moving upward into the southern part of Laos for the next while. On to the next.

January is a miserable old month, all the same. If you’ve got a problem or three to share, remember I’m always here – no matter the country or post code. Or continent. Get at me right here.

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We’re planning on getting secretly married this year and we’re going to hold a reveal party disguised as an engagement party to tell friends and family afterwards. Is this a terrible idea?

Not necessarily, no. I think in these types of tricky situations, where you risk offending people but also want to put yourself first, it can be helpful to tot up the risks versus the rewards. 

The risks are maybe pissing off your loved ones – frankly, I don’t think friends etc have a leg to stand on with being annoyed, and only really parents/close family should fall into this bracket, but of course your mileage may vary. The rewards are doing your own big day on your own terms, exactly how you want it to be. Which is more important? How bad is the risk? How big is the reward? Only you and your partner can answer this, so give it a good think. But when you make your decision, commit to it.

(And now for my personal answer… I say go for it. It’s your wedding, your life, your relationship, your battle to fight. The dust will settle over any potential upset eventually, and besides, you’ll be having a catch-up hooley at home. Life’s just too damn short to have someone else’s ideal wedding. Plus, you’re the one bloody paying for it. Older family members aside, your friends will probably be low key delighted to get all of the session and none of the expense/hassle.)

I’ve been with my partner for nearly 8 years. We’re very in love despite having our differences and I can see myself spending the rest of my life with him. However, he never ever talks about our future together and cuts the conversation short or changes the topic when I try to.

I’m not desperate to get married or have kids (not even sure if I want to) but it hurts me and makes me feel very insecure that he won’t even allude to our future in even the most minor way. It’s making me conscious of everything in our relationship to the point where I find myself feeling quite pessimistic about it all.

After 8 years of your life spent in a commitment with someone, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask questions about where you’re headed and what a future together may look like. Maybe that’s not marriage or kids, but it could be travel, emigration, change of careers, hobbies, studying, other passions… The thing is, he won’t communicate with you at all, so you just don’t know how he sees the future. 

Cutting the conversation short or changing the subject is unfair. Frankly, it’s not good enough. I think you need to make that clear. Stand your ground. There’s no need to put him on the defensive, but be firm. What does the future hold? Where does he see himself, or you as a unit, next year? Or a few years after that?

I think opening up clear, calm lines of communication is key here. At first, give him the benefit of the doubt that he may not be aware of how his evasion makes you insecure and sad. Explain that to him. Tell him how you feel in plain terms. If he refuses to listen or won’t communicate back, then I think you’ve got a much bigger question on your hands.

Don’t forget: your feelings are valid here. Planning a future together should be exciting and mutual at this stage in a relationship, not dread-inducing and painful to drag out of him. If he knows how him blanking on your future affects you and continues to do it, you might need to reassess where this is going. The best of luck. Hope it works out.

I broke up with my girlfriend a few months ago. We have a lot of common friends who I still want to see, but I have no interest in maintaining any contact with my ex. How do I navigate this without making things awkward for our friends, or isolating anyone?

Well the answer to this, put simply, is meet those common friends in a one-to-one setting. There’s no reason why meeting them for a coffee, chat, lunch, pint, whatever should isolate anyone else or indeed even involve anyone else. If these people are joint friends, who are equally pals with both you and your ex, the chances are they’ll just begin to see you both separately – as you become separate friends, rather than a unit. That’s natural. 

The only issue I can see is parties or other gatherings that by their nature involve the wider group. To avoid maintaining contact with your ex, I think the only way to do this (and not just ditch the parties) is to be civil, but not engage. “Hello, how are you doing?” is a totally grand bare minimum in these kind of situations. Then just give her a wide berth. Once you do a few of this occasions, it’ll become normal. If you really can’t do that right now, maybe skip the parties for a while until you feel ready.

But I think because these are your feelings, it has to be you skipping the parties. Be careful not to put pressure on mutual friends to take sides or skip events for your benefit. It’ll stand to you in the long run, because they will see you’re being fair and won’t wind up resenting you or your ex.

Now that said, if these are her friends, then maybe you shouldn’t be expecting to keep them in your life as they may feel their loyalties lie elsewhere. That’s really tough, but that’s part of the wrench of many breakups. 

How do you make new friends?

This is a question that crops up a lot on the column in various guises. I’ve answered it here and hope that helps. However, if it doesn’t really answer your question or there’s something more specific about making pals you wanna ask, lay that specificity one me, chief! I can take it!

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