Sunday 17 December 2017

Dear Rosanna: 'Rumours are ruining my life'

Our new agony aunt Rosanna Davison offers advice on Internet lie, third-level loneliness and how to fathom the mysteries of the male mind

Dear Rosanna, I’m a 15-year-old girl and I’ve heard that some of my so-called friends have been saying terrible things behind my back and spreading rumours about me.

I’ve also had some nasty things written about me on the internet. Now I’m scared of getting a reputation that I really don’t deserve. I know you can tell me to ignore it, but it’s ruining my life.

Rosanna says:

Have you ever heard the saying, “If you've nothing nice to say then write it on the internet?” Unfortunately, the anonymity of cyberspace is a bully's playground. I'm so sorry to hear that you've found yourself at the receiving end of unprovoked and undeserved gossip from those you thought were your friends. I still clearly remember the pressures of being your age, the immaturity of many of my peers and the uncertainties of everyday life.

I won't be suggesting you ignore it as something so hurtful will always linger in your thoughts, but do try to resist the temptation to click onto these nasty websites. What I do strongly suggest, however, is to try to alter the way you view the situation. As you have done nothing wrong here, I believe that this all stems from the insecurities or jealousy of those spreading the rumours and lies. This is not your problem, it is theirs and it is, unfortunately, manifesting itself in a way that is designed to cause you utmost hurt. It is the work of cowards and fragile egos.

My advice is to be mature, don't react to the bait and try to address the situation, or else phase these people out of your life. Also, I would urge you to speak in confidence to an adult you trust, whether it be a parent, sibling or teacher. There are plenty of people who will be more than willing to support you through this difficult time. Good luck.

Dear Rosanna, I’m in my second year of college and I’ve never been lonelier in my life. I was never part of ‘the gang’ in secondary school but thought that throwing myself into third level and all the social opportunities that it might offer would change this. I’ve tried joining different societies, hanging out in the canteen and going to student nights but while everyone is very nice at these events, I don’t click with anyone.

Rosanna says:

Feelings of loneliness and not fitting in are widespread, as highlighted recently by Ireland’s Mental Health Awareness Week.

While you don’t suggest that depression is a factor, it’s definitely worth being aware that it can creep in. Luckily, there is plenty of support available and you should never have to feel isolated.

Universities can be big, lonely places, particularly when you find yourself as just a number in lecture theatres of 500 or more students. You’re certainly doing the right thing by exploring the social opportunities on offer, but it sounds like you haven't found anything that really works for you.

Are you interested in sports? Becoming involved in a team sport is one of the best ways of meeting and building a rapport with likeminded individuals. I played netball for UCD and loved it as it was an opportunity to leave behind the stresses of assignments and study, and work together as a team.

Alternatively, drama groups, debating societies or any frequent gathering that allows you to form a bond with other students, develop it on a regular basis and express your personality would be far more beneficial than just open social events. Stay positive, and continue to take every opportunity available. I'm confident you will find the happiness, security and friendships that you deserve.

Dear Rosanna, Is it wrong to hedge my bets with my boyfriend? I am only 18 and I want to pack in as much life experience as I can before I settle down. Basically I’ve been seeing my guy for the last few months — he’s lovely and we have a great time together. But recently his friends have started to hang out with us a bit more and one of them is really hot. He’s totally gorgeous and I think that he likes me, too. I’m not sure that I want to lose my boyfriend. So is it okay to encourage this guy and see what happens before finishing with my boyfriend?

Rosanna says:

While I completely understand your predicament – you're so young and raring to experience all that life has to offer – believe me, there's no rush to settle down. You will have enough time to build your career, travel the world and develop as a well-rounded individual before married life looms close. And being settled down doesn't mean you have to stop experiencing the many joys of life!

I would strongly urge you not to play with the minds and emotions of these guys, especially as they're friends with each other and you're uncertain of how he actually feels about you. My concern is that you would end up hurting them and losing them both from your life, not to mention the potential damage it could do to their friendship.

If you're happy in your relationship at the moment, as you tell me you are, then focus on that and enjoy being with a lovely guy. Part of growing up into adulthood is making responsible decisions and sticking to them. It's all too easy to give into temptation and the thrill of an ego-stroking flirtation, but you must consider the consequences.

The grass isn't always greener on the other side.

Dear Rosanna, I’m in fifth year and my boyfriend recently told me that “we need to take a break for a while”. Is this just a nice way of saying that we have to split up or will we get back together later on? I’ve spoken to him about it and am still not clear on it. I’m so confused — why are boys so difficult to understand?

Rosanna says:

Men can be frustrating to figure out, but they often say the same about us girls! I suggest that you ask to speak to him about his decision and tell him that you simply don't understand exactly why he has taken this step.

Was your relationship going smoothly before? If you can see no reason for this step then I would assume that he just needs a bit of space for a while and you, most likely, will end up getting back together.

If he's also in fifth year, then the pressure of the Leaving Certificate would probably have been a strong catalyst.

Plenty of my friends have gone on breaks from their boyfriends for a month or two and have all said that it gave them the opportunity to stand back and fully assess the relationship with their partner.

Most reported that it really made them appreciate each other and injected a fresh spark into their relationship. But the key is communication; try to agree on a common ground, trust your instincts and concentrate on just going with the flow. If it's meant to be, it will work out for the best.

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