Dear Worrier Princess: As We Hold the Mirror
Dear Worrier Princess is a queer advice column based off The Ex-Girlfriend of My Ex-Girlfriend Is My Girlfriend, an advice zine by Maddy Court (a.k.a @xenaworrierprincess on Instagram).
Queery #1: I've recently fallen prey to the all too accurate trope of queer U-Hauling. After dating my partner for a little over 6 months, we'll be moving in together next week. While I really enjoy spending time with my partner (it feels like hanging out with a best friend), I'm starting to realize that we may not be as compatible as I initially thought. I'm type A, financially savvy, and always planning five steps ahead (read: neurotic and annoying to some people, I'm aware). My partner tends to forget plans and details, has significant credit card debt, and is stuck in a job they dislike but haven't put much effort into changing. What are my options for the next year of my life as we share this apartment together? Breaking up at the beginning of a lease because I perceive potential difficulties seems like it will bring these troubles up faster. How can I ask my partner to change some of their actions without asking them to completely change who they are as a person?
Money is looming over this queery like the clouds of Sils Maria. I’m not surprised—our relationships to work, spending, and debt are deeply personal and rooted in our families of origin. Money is e•mo•tional and the cynical, unsexy truth is that you have to talk about it if you want a healthy, reciprocal relationship. For example, I’m a stay-at-home ghoul who loves delivery apps. My ideal date is ordering pizza and watching Vine compilations. A few years ago, I dated someone who rarely made non-essential purchases. Although her income was significantly higher than mine, her personal relationship to money meant she didn’t enjoy takeout or restaurant food. When we discussed our personal spending habits and money feelings, we realized it made more sense to go grocery shopping and cook meals together. This sounds like a small thing, but it was a moment when money was an issue in my relationship and I didn’t even realize it.
Sharing an apartment means navigating rent, bills, and household purchases together. This is a big adjustment for any couple, but it’s especially daunting if you and your partner have conflicting approaches to money. As soon as possible, discuss your individual spending styles, socio-economic backgrounds, and financial goals. If you’re not sure where to start, a quick search for “money questions for couples” yields tons of ideas and resources.
I thought a lot about the final line of your queery: “How can I ask my partner to change some of their actions without asking them to completely change who they are as a person?” It’s complicated because we all want things for the people we love. I want all my friends to find financial security and work in their chosen fields. But there’s a thin line between being real with someone and overextending yourself into their life. Here’s what I’m wondering: does your partner’s job actually impact you? Do they complain about it frequently, or seem distant and exhausted when they get home? Not everyone centralizes work or views it as an essential part of their happiness. Some people just hate working. Money is quantifiable and fixed. It’s infinitely easier to cite your partner’s credit card debt than, say, their passivity and forgetfulness. It’s fair to say something like, “I’m worried your credit card debt will prevent you from owning a home and retirement. If you want, we can make a plan together.” But you absolutely cannot be attached to any particular outcome. Your partner is an adult. They were surviving and navigating the world long, long before you came into the picture.
Your queery is brimming with hypothetical problems. Don’t be so preoccupied with what could go awry that you forget to enjoy day-to-day life with your best friend. Remember that this is someone you care about deeply—instead of trying to change them, focus on understanding and loving the person who already exists.
Queery #2: Earlier this year I started dating this woman who is pretty cool and I liked a lot, but things got way too serious when that wasn't what I was looking for. I ended things after about 5 months, which was hard because I did like her! I genuinely want(ed) to be friends with her afterwards and she did too, but she has just been way too aggressive! She texts me constantly, tries to hang out with my friends, and relies on me way too much emotionally. This isn't the kind of friendship I wanted! She's having some mental health struggles and is relying on me in an inappropriate way even though I try to make my boundaries clear. What do I do? Do I have to cut her out of my life completely? She says that everyone tells her that she is "too much" for them, and I don't want to be another person to add to that list but she's being too much!
When I read Worrier Princess submissions, I try to remember that every queery contains more nuance and complexity than can be conveyed in a few dozen words. Situations like this are especially difficult because we live in a world where mental illness is disparaged and stigmatized. Professional mental health care is wildly inaccessible and oftentimes, it’s not sufficient to just refer someone to resources. So while I can point out that you used the words “aggressive” and “inappropriate” to describe your ex-girlfriend’s behavior, I’m aware that this is complicated situation for which there is no easy answer.
You’ve known this person for less than a year and she’s already blowing past important boundaries. She contacts your friends in unwelcome ways. She tells you that other people in her life are turning away from her, which injects your friendship with guilt and obligation. She needs friends and support right now, but you sound exhausted and overwhelmed. The designation “too much” strikes me as especially worrisome—is she asking you to commit or make promises of support? Do you really feel an obligation to care for her? What if you overextend yourself emotionally and blow up at her? When I was faced with a similar dilemma, it helped to ask two questions: what do I owe myself and what do I owe my friend? You owe yourself healthy relationships, self-care, and control over your emotional energy. If your ex-girlfriend is jeopardizing these things, it’s a sign that you need to walk away from this friendship. This might be difficult and messy to communicate, so go into the conversation with resolve.
are you in a pickle regarding your love life? do you have a crush you can't figure out how to talk to, an ex you'd like to reconnect with but don't know if it's appropriate or the right time?
dear worrier princess answers your qs about love and strife in relationships in this complex and modern queer world.
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All illustrations for this column are done by Sid Champagne. Sid is a freelance illustrator based in Baltimore by way of the Gulf Coast. You can find them on Twitter @sid_champagne, or Instagram (more cat pics) @sidchampagne