Ask Elizabeth

Elizabeth BrennanMy boyfriend and I broke up amicably after five years together. While we’re fine leading our separate lives, I’ve realized that our break up is challenging for our mutual friends. People now make sure that we’re not invited to the same parties and when we catch up they never mention him, even though I know they’ve been seeing him. How do I tell my friends it’s OK to mention his name?

This is a very common theme in all types of human relationships – possibly even non-human, although I can’t speak from personal experience there!!

One of my firm beliefs is that, basically, most people are nice people in as much as we don’t like hurting people.  When some of our friends’ relationships break up, we don’t want to hurt them. We try hard to refrain from accidentally inviting them to the same event; we try hard not to mention one person’s name to the other; we desist from asking questions in fear that we may cause some discomfort to one or other.

The problem is – our niceness is often the problem.  So, as you say, what can we do?

You are fortunate in as much as your breakup with your partner was amicable and you’re happy leading separate lives.  So in reality, your mutual friends don’t have anything to worry about – but it is you who needs to tell them.  Until you do, they will automatically think that the break-up is one of sadness and grief and will continue being nice people.

So – when you are with your friends, drop in a humorous story or two about something you and your ex were involved in; when you know that your friends and your ex have attended the same event, next time you see your friends ask them how your ex is; over drinks or a meal, casually mention his name. 

By you encompassing his name into conversations, you are sending a message to your friends that it is OK for them to do so as well.  Your friends are nice people: they don’t want to cause you pain.  You need to show that mention of his name does not  upset you, that you enjoy being able to talk about the good things of that past relationship, how you grew from it, how happy you both are leading separate lives.

No only will you be relieved – they will quietly utter a sigh of relief also. 


My girlfriend is too gay – is that possible? She only ever wants to go gay events and gay venues. I like heading out to straight venues too. How do I ‘straighten’ her out?

Yes, a good question: is it possible to be too gay?  Is it possible to be too straight? Is it possible for any of us to ‘gay’ someone out or ‘straighten’ someone out.

I don’t think so.

Your question opens up so many possibilities, some of them quite profound.

•    Does your friend experience some form of inner homophobia?

•   Does she only want to attend ‘gay’ events out of an unacknowledged fear that if she attended ‘straight’ events she may be ridiculed in some way?

•    Does she feel safer at ‘gay’ events than she does at ‘straight’ events?

•    Does she think that attendance at ‘gay’ only events enables her to be more freedom to be herself?

•    Or is it just simply that this is where she is most happy – that this is what she likes to do most of all?

Whatever, discard your belief that there is perhaps a way in which you can ‘straighten’ her out.  There isn’t and you can’t.  But you can attempt to reach her, to deepen your relationship by coming to know her more intimately – and subsequently she coming to know you on a deeper level also.  How?

Communicate with each other. Be honest with her; share your feelings, your confusion, your needs and desires to attend other events.  Speak for yourself – use the word ‘I’.  Then ask her what she feels, what she wants, give her permission to use her ‘I’.  Listen to her.  Enter the experience with the desire to get to know each other better rather than wanting to change her, to ‘straighten’ her. 

If you reach out to each other, open up to each other, listen to each other with the intent to deepen your knowledge of each other, you will find a solution to this ‘problem’. It will cease to be a problem. You will find a way in which both your needs can be met, in which both of you are free to be yourselves.  I promise you.  Hallelujah.

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