Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas: My flatmate is always moaning about her love life

Q. Dear Virginia, I share a flat with two girls. One is fine, and keeps herself to herself. But the other is constantly moaning about her love life. She’s got two boyfriends – one’s in love with her and she can’t bear him, and the other she loves but isn’t that interested in her. But I have no one and find it painful to be always advising her and supporting her. She seems insensitive to the fact that I’m lonely. How can I stop her doing this? Or do I have to move out? Best wishes, Nadine

A. Haven’t we all had friends like this? And, if we’re honest, no doubt, sometimes in relationships, we’re the ones causing the imbalance, completely insensitive to the needs of our friends as we bang on and on about our own troubles.

It sounds to me as if you got off on the wrong footing to start with.

For some reason this girl’s got the upper hand and you’ve been left with the role of listener. It’s a pattern that’s been established and, though I don’t like to sound as if it’s your fault, you must be responsible for some part of it. You don’t say how old you are, but it often takes years of experience of these sorts of “friends” to realise what’s going on. Soon, you’ll be able to dodge out of such relationships before they’ve even begun. You’ll be able them spot them a mile off and race away shouting, “So sorry, terribly busy”, before they’ve even started on some ghastly self-pitying whinge.

For the moment, you may find that the pattern is so set that even when she hasn’t got anything to moan about, she’ll tell you the troubles of friends of hers you’ve never met, and expect you to commiserate about some stranger’s problems.

From your letter I imagine that your ideal would be for you to listen to and sympathise with her problems and then for her to listen to and sympathise with yours. There’d be some give and take.

And if you felt bold you might indeed initiate such a pattern. After she’s gone on for 10 minutes about her various romances, you could simply say, cheerfully: “Ok, time’s up! Now I want you to listen to me for a change! It’s only fair!” If she looks astounded, you’ll know that in future you’ve just got to start avoiding her, clearing up your things and moving into your own room if ever she comes near you. But it might be that she’ll agree.

And you’ll end up with what I call a “dumping” relationship, one in which each of you takes turns to “dump” on the other. And true, it’s a relationship of a kind. And it can work, up to a point. But real friendships not only consists of each person moaning their heads off to the other and getting, in return, sympathetic noises, but also of shared enthusiasms and jokes and interest in things other than affairs of the heart or depression or loneliness.

It doesn’t sound as if this kind of relationship is possible with such a friend, since you seem to have little in common, so my advice to you would be either to have it out with her, which could cause a very unpleasant atmosphere, or get out.

Or look at the third person in your flatshare. How does she somehow manage to remain her own person while you get sucked into your friend’s vortex of emotional turmoil?

Watch how she does it. And take a leaf out o her book.

Tell her to go

That young woman is a disgrace. Selfish, immature in her childlike showing off. “I’ve got two boyfriends. See how pretty/sexy/desirable I am!” You are right to think she has absolutely no consideration for others. But why should you be the one to move out? Get together with your other, more reasonable flatmate if you can and ask Miss Naughty politely, the two of you, if she wouldn’t mind leaving.

And explain why. Who knows? If she wants to stay, she may even get wise to what she has been been doing and how upsetting it all is. An apology, a promise to stop doing it, might even follow.

Life is too short to put up with such awful behaviour. As long as she goes on knocking your self confidence with her thoughtless, conceited words you will not have a happy one.

Helen Rogers, London NW3

Get a life For goodness sake, get a life. If you were not sitting around moping, feeling lonely and sorry for yourself, she would not be behavng in this nasty hurtful way, using you as a sounding board. I’m guessing perhaps you are not very well off. But there are libraries and parks and free concerts in most of our cities and you would certainly meet people if you made the effort.

Tell her how hurtful her behaviour is. But please don’t move out. Why should you? And you could end up being even lonelier. Confide in your other flatmate, make it clear to both of them how you feel, but don’t let this accelerate into an impossible situation. You are a sensitive person. Miss Two Boyfriends is not. It takes all sorts to make a world.

Mrs J Starling, London, NW1

She’s lonely, too

I think it’s possible that this girl is just as lonely as you, but is falling back on total involvement in a complicated love life rather than facing up to it. You might have more in common in this regard than you both think.

Tell your housemate that you’re lonely and that you’re a little jealous of her love life. Perhaps you can still spare time to listen to her sometimes, but try going out and meeting some guys for yourself.

Perhaps shell see things from someone else’s perspective and understand how she’s behaving.

Lucy By email Help yourself Your flatmate seems to have one boyfriend too many. Offer to take one off her hands.

Sally, By email

Next week's dilemma

Dear Virginia,

I am so upset. My son, who’s 25, recently became very depressed and ended up going to see a therapist. He’s been fairly cold over the last few months, but last week he wrote me a letter saying what a dreadful mother I have been and how he doesn’t want to see me any more. Quite honestly, I’m heartbroken. I can’t understand it.

I have two other children who also feel baffled by it – they say I’ve been a great mum to all of them and they love me. My ex-husband doesn’t help, by feeding him nasty stories about me, which aren’t true. What can I do?

Yours sincerely, Teresa

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