As I’m entering my fourth year of blogging (wow, time flies) something that continues to confuse me is the sheer number of emails I get asking for relationship advice.
Part of me understands it, I guess. Relationships are tricky and it can seem easier (and less risky) to reach out to someone over the internet than to confide in a friend, family member, or therapist.
Some of the messages are from people in a long distance relationship, who found my blog through any of the articles I wrote while Ryosuke and I were doing our year and a half of long distance. They think their partner is cheating or wondering whether the pain of separation is worth it. They want me to tell them what to do, to tell them that it’s worth it, and share the “secret” of long distance relationships.
The other half come from men and women who are in a relationship (or trying to get into a relationship) with someone who is Japanese. Or women who are married to a Japanese man and experiencing a domestic violence situation, wondering what to do (and whether the abuse is something cultural and/or can be fixed). They want me to share the secret of getting Japanese people to love them, or how to solve any argument, or how to make their partner believe in their religion, or to tell them that it gets better.
These messages are… hard.
I am not qualified to give relationship advice. I am not a therapist. I am not a relationship counselor.
It blows my mind that so many people reach out to me over the internet to ask relationship advice because I’m not actually that good at relationships. My husband is the first (and only) person I’ve been in a relationship for longer than a month with. He’s the only person I’ve introduced my family to, the only partner I’ve fought with, the only person I’ve moved in with, and the only person I’ve given a piece of my heart to. He’s also the only long distance relationship I’ve done and the only Japanese person I’ve dated.
I have no basis for comparison.
I am in a happy, healthy relationship right now not because I know everything (or magically have my act together) but because I got lucky. I took a chance on someone who happened to take a chance on me. Right place, right guy, right time.
When someone turns to you for advice, your first impulse is to make them feel better.
Agree with them, tell them that yes their boyfriend is a lying scum, or that no that doesn’t me he doesn’t love you. Or tell them I know it seems bad right now but I can tell he really loves you and he’s going to change over time.
Except comforting someone isn’t always the right thing to do.
Early on in my blogging career someone asked me to weigh in on their relationship with a Japanese man… and I gave the same advice I’d give to a friend, saying that part of it might be cultural and if they talk about it, they can reach an understanding. A couple months later I got another email from them – it turned out they omitted (and lessened) some of the details in their first email and that it was actually a highly abusive relationship. After my first email she decided to give him another chance, they talked, she stayed, it got worse, she was angry and she blamed me for telling her to talk it out with him instead of leave. I felt guilty for about a month after (even though a part of me knew it wasn’t really my fault).
That was the last time I gave relationship advice over the internet.
Shortly after I removed the “contact me” section from this blog and disabled the ability for people to send me messages via the Texan in Tokyo Facebook page because these messages were causing me so much stress. Six months later I opened messaging up again, with a clear notice that I wouldn’t answer or give relationship advice.
I’d rather give NO advice (and ignore your email) than the WRONG advice (based on an incomplete set of information, making the problem worse).
It’s more than that, though. Really it all boils down to the fact that I’m not qualified and it’s not fair to ask me to weigh in on or fix someone else’s relationship.
Healthy relationships have more to do with the person you’re with than “magically” being some sort of relationship guru.
I won’t skype with your girlfriend and try to talk her out of leaving you. I won’t ask Ryosuke to email your Japanese boyfriend, so he can tell him how to date an American girl.
If you want relationship advice, find a counselor or talk to a friend/family member.
Don’t ask me. I’m just a blogger.