I want to abstain from masturbating

Dear Suzie, For personal reasons i want to abstain from masturbating, but recently am finding it increasingly difficult to control my thoughts, especially when i am in bed or alone. I’m only 13 and I’ve not been able to find any advice as most websites say it is OK and I don’t agree. Please help.

I’m not sure why you might have got the idea that you should abstain but whatever has effected you I’m sad and sorry about it. You say you’ve not been able to find “any advice” because most websites say masturbation is OK. And I’m not going to be any different. Masturbation is OK. It’s normal, healthy and harmless. It helps you explorer, discover and get to know your body and its reactions and that’s a very positive part of your development.

The one time when masturbation may be problematical is when people are so miserable about other aspects of their lives that they retreat into constant self-pleasuring as a way of giving themselves some comfort and release. If that’s the situation, then counselling to deal with the problems is the key, not avoiding masturbation. But I don’t think that’s your issue, is it?

If you had been looking for “advice” 50 or 100 years ago you might have found the sort of thing you seem to be saying you want. In the bad old days, ignorant and prejudiced bigots scared the life out of young people by spreading lies and misinformation about something so utterly natural and undamaging. Kids were told masturbation would drive them mad or make them unable to have sexual relationships later in life. All sorts of ridiculous methods were suggested to stop it – none of which really worked but all of which made people feel frustrated, guilty and confused.

The irony is that the more you try to stop, the more obsessed you will probably become about the issue. I suspect you spend much of your time thinking about it. If you just relaxed and accepted this as a very normal part of being a 13 year old you could give yourself some relaxed pleasure in a few minutes and then put the whole issue aside until the next time. Self pleasuring several times a day is perfectly normal for teenage boys of your age. You’re not going to harm yourself – there’s a natural limit to how often and how much you’ll want to do it. Bu there doesn’t, sadly, seem to be a limit to how miserable you can make yourself by trying to hold back.

You say you ‘don’t agree’ it’s OK. Well – if you’re saying you disagree that it’s harmless and normal and natural – you’re wrong, and that’s that. If you’re saying you feel it’s wrong for you, that’s your right. but I think you need to ask yourself why you are denying yourself something so common and even necessary for a teenager. If you’re abstaining for religious reasons, then all I can say is that that’s your choice and you’ll have to deal with it. It’s one of the reasons I have little respect for some religions; their strictures on sexuality and sexual expression are cruel, stupid, mindlessly out of date and have no connection to real people and real lives. Masturbation is something that people of both sexes and all ages (but especially 13 year old boys!) enjoy and so they should.

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My best friend’s friend is nasty

Dear Suzie, I have been having trouble at school with this girl. She’s best friend with this girl I became best friends with this year. She was super nice at first, but now, she seems to suddenly hate me and has been bitching about me to all our friends. I honestly cannot think of anything i have done, i am very very nice to her, especially because she seems to hate me so much, i make a real effort. about 6 months ago she started giving me lifts to school when she was being nice. and now she’s nice in the car with her mum, but literally the second we get out she blanks me and gives me bitchy looks. Her dad lives in spain and doesn’t seem to care about her, as he has a new family, but her mum is really nice. I had a word with her about it, she didn’t want to talk about it but admitted she doesn’t like me very much. I don’t really know what to do. its very awkward at lunch time when we hang out in a kind of three. Thats not the main problem though, because evertime something like this happens, i shut down into a state of bad depression, and i can’t concentrate untill everything is sorted out, i know i am going to have to try and get over this for future life, but its really hard, please, please help me!

It is hard and you have my sympathy. I know how important friendships are, and how much it can hurt if they seem to go wrong. I can, however, see a way through this. But it’s going to take a leap in understanding on your part. I think you’re grown up enough to make – let’s see. What it needs is for you to be able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes; not just to be sympathetic – which is when we say “I see how that feels” but empathetic – which is when we can say “I feel your pain.”

What I want you to imagine is that I have two mails here; the one from you, and one from this girl. Because, believe me, I’ve had plenty from girls in both your situations so I think I can guess what she might say. Yours says you have a new best friend but her best friend doesn’t like you and even though you’ve done nothing to her, she still bad mouths you and won’t be nice.

What might she say? Probably, that she had a best friend and all of a sudden, this new girl came along and joined in. Perhaps she’d say that this new girl seemed nice at first. But then it got hard. Maybe it got hard because, 6 months ago, her relationship with the father who has abandoned her for a new family hit an all-time low. Maybe she feels so rejected and second-hand and unwanted and worthless because of that, she really needed to feel first in someone’s regard. She had this friendship – it was where she felt valued and special. And now she hasn’t even got that.

You’re seeing it as an attack on you, and since you don’t feel you did anything wrong you don’t understand it and feel angry and wronged. But when you realise it’s probably more about how she’s feeling, you might be able to see why she’s behaving this way. Haven’t you ever had a situation where you’re fed up or unhappy or scared about one person but take it out on someone else?

I think this is more about her unhappiness at losing her Dad to another family than anything else. It’s become about you because she sees you as a rival for her friend’s attention – attention she probably need desperately. And it’s become a competition because you see your mutual friends notice as something you both need to compete for. You could turn this around if all three of you could see this as a threesome where each of you supports and is behind the other two equally.

You say you have spoken to her. If you concentrated on “Why don’t you like me?” I can see you wouldn’t have got very far. If you try “It feels as if you’re having a tough time at the moment. I’d like to help – Is the anything I can do?” you might do better. And you would feel a whole lot better if you could stop thinking the world revolves around you and understand her unhappiness has very real and justified roots…that have nothing to do with you. Help and support her and be a friend rather than demanding you’re the centre of it all.

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I found a lump

Dear Suzie, I hope your well, I need some advice please. I round a lump in my breast, now I have to go for the usual tests-mamogramm etc etc, my daughter is 22 and my son is 12, am divorced but my kids live with their dad… I have noone to confide in as everyone else has their own problems. What I want to know is should I tell my daughter and son about the lump or should I wait for the results? I just dont know whats the best thing to do. thank u

I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for you. The good news is that most lumps are benign – harmless, not cancerous. And that even when it is malignant the odds on coming through treatment and staying well are getting better and better. I’ve had several friends and relatives diagnosed with breast cancer – all are thriving.

There seem to be two issues here – how to get some support, and whether to tell your adult children about it. You need someone to talk to, whether the diagnosis is hopeful or scary. Your own doctor should be someone you can talk to and you can also contact Macmillan Cancer Support.

And I also think you should think again about dismissing those around you by saying “everyone else has their own problems”. So they do. And so do you. And what we do when we live in a community is share those problems – you listen and help with theirs and they listen and help with yours. Give those around you the chance to come through for you.

But about your children. Well, it all depends on your motives for telling them. If you’re in touch they need to know to understand why you may be on edge and worried. Clearly, if the motive for telling them was to make them feel guilty or bad about not being with you, to blackmail them into making or keeping contact or as a way of trumping their fathers relationship with them it would be unethical and not very kind. But keeping the fact that you are struggling with a difficult situation out of a wish to protect them is both counter productive and patronising. They’re big – they can cope if they need to know. And I would think any family member who loves you needs to know, either that you’re waiting such tests nervously and would appreciate some encouragement; or that you’ve had a scare that fortunately turned out ok; or, that you need treatment and would welcome support.

Having a cancer scare or finding you have such a condition is often something that turns people around. It sounds as if, whatever the reason your children were living with their father, you and they might have missed out on a close relationship. Maybe this can be the catalyst for making it stronger.

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My mum and dad are fighting

Dear Suzie, I am thinking of leaving home. My mum and dad are fighting all the time and my younger brother and sister are too young to understand what is going on. I have got exams coming up and coursework due. I used to get on so well with my mum but all she does it cry and cry.. What can I do??

I’m really sorry to hear this – it’s an awful situation to be in and I do feel for you. What can you do? Well, it’s not up to you to solve your parents problems – that’s for them to sort out. But perhaps both of them need to hear how much their behaviour is affecting their children – all of them.

Just because your younger brother and sister “are too young to understand” – and I’m not so sure about that – doesn’t mean they don’t find this frightening and disturbing. In fact, they more they may be presumed not to understand, the more they may be left in the dark to muddle through their own interpretations of what is going on. And that usually involves deciding it was all their fault – because they were ‘naughty’ or worthless.

So ask your Mum and Dad to hear you out and tell them – not as an accusation or in blame but a calm explanation – that their fighting is really hurting you. Say it’s none of your business why they fight, what they decide or what they do but you ask them to see someone who could help them deal with this in a way that is best for all of you. Tell them you love them both. Tell them this must stop, one way or other.

They could approach Relate or the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy or their own doctor for a counsellor. But that all of you really, really need them to act like adults and get help to stop this, one way or other. If you don’t think they’ll give you the chance to say it, write them letters. They need to hear that however sad or angry they are, they have a responsibility as parents to act like grown ups.

And you need some help and support too. Speak with another relative – an aunt or grandparent – who won’t take sides or see it as their job to try to sort out your parents but realise what you need is a shoulder to cry on and someone to be there for you. If you don’t have a suitable relative, what about the Mum of a friend or a teacher? You should get help – you deserve it.

Don’t even think of running away. But perhaps telling your parents that you, and your brother and sister, need some time out from suffering their problems could be the wake-up call they need. Find out if you could go and stay with a grandparent or aunt for a short time to give them space to come to some resolution.

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Our relationship was meant 2 b very discreet

Dear Suzie, Last month, i bumped into my ex… we sadly split 6 months ago becuse a lot of people began to interfere with our private lives when our relationship was meant 2 b very discreet. we got back 2gether as we both thought we could give things another try. Only on the condition that we dont tell anybody and keep it a top secret. Howveer, last week. he rang me and told me there was a problem and somebody had found out. He is accsuing me when i havent told anybody, he is refusing to answer my calls and is calling me a liar. He dosent even reply 2 my texts and says things are over. I dont want this to happen and i refuse to move on without him by my side! plz help

Why is your relationship “meant 2 b very discreet”? I can think of only one reason why this would be understandable and acceptable; if you come from different religious/cultural groups and were at real risk of violence from either of your families.

Other than that – why would you want to keep it secret? Most families and friends try to poke a nose in the lives of the people they love. Being an adult may mean acquiring the ability to say “Thanks for your opinions but this is my business”. They’ll persist in two situations. Either, they have a problem and are persistent, selfish, domineering and interfering and you can’t break away and manage your own life. In which case, you may need help and support from someone such as a counsellor to gain the ability to run your own life. Or, because they have damn good reason to be making their feelings heard. Is this relationship an affair? Is this man a user and abuser? His behaviour suggests at least the second if not the first as well to me. Which means that these “interfering” people are the ones who have your best interest at heart, not this man.

You refuse to move on without him by your side? Sounds like you’re stuck, then. Actually, it sounds to me as if you’d be stuck a lot worse if you did have him by your side – in the shadows, insisting on secrecy. For heaven’s sake woman, listen to yourself! What sort of a man demands your relationship has to be secret? What sort of a man calls you names and won’t listen to you? What sort of relationship is it if it has to be in the dark? If I were you, I’d heave a sigh of relief and move on. Find yourself a man who wants to shout your relationship from the rooftops. Or go back to the person from whom you want this kept a secret and sort it out.

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I am falling in love with my friend’s sister

Dear Suzie, I feel foolish, but love makes fools of us all. So here goes. Im a bright single man, without children or previous marriages but with quite a few relationships.

My last relationship started 10 yrs ago, this relationship fizzled out but we remain close friends. We spend most of our time together and often visit her sister who is married. Simply put, I think I am falling in love with my friends sister. I do not know if these feelings are reciprocal. My gut feeling is she feels something, but this instinct is unreliable.

I spent 5 minutes with her yesterday in her garden, the wind blowing her hair, the sun lighting its colour , I was shocked by my own feelings for her and tried to be nonchalant and disinterested while my insides were in tumult. All I wanted, was to touch her and kiss her, not being able to, was dreadful.

She is married to a professional wealthy man, who provides her with everything she needs and wants (I am poor) but have many qualities. (modesty aside:) I understand that any kind of relationship with her is improbable (she is married after all )but I would like advise on how to deal with the situation and how to cope with the pain of unrequited love?

You deal with it the same way you deal with a stubbed toe or a broken leg. Bite your lip, swear and wait for it to heal.

It isn’t love that makes fools of us. It’s the myth that if you want it you should have it, and that any sort of suffering or denial is somehow intolerable. It isn’t. Small children who scream to have all the cookies they can eat won’t die from starvation. Nor will adult children who think just because lust has them in thrall they either should have the object of their desire, or expire.

She’s married. She has children. Why do you think your desire, however poetically phrased, is more important than either her husband’s, her children’s or indeed her feelings in the matter? She may have noticed you. She may like you. She may even think you’re a dish. That nowhere near means she is interested in having an affair with you.

And even if she did, the point of being an adult is this; true grown ups know that sometimes we want something but other issues are more important that our wants. Things such as fidelity, promises and children. Adults know that being married doesn’t mean you never notice other people, but it does mean you weigh up what is really important.

Do I sound harsh and unsympathetic? Maybe. I do sympathise with your feelings but over the years I have heard from so many people whose lives have been ruined by this excuse; “The wind blew through her hair and we couldn’t resist”. Oh yes you can. You may not be able to control what you feel but you can damn well control what you do.

Leave it alone. Go away and lick your wounds. Stop fuelling this fire and look for someone who is free to respond to you. Have a think about why you’ve fixed on her, anyway. Because she’s the sister of someone you once loved – is she a substitute for her, or is it simply that she’s a known quantity and you’re feeling scared about launching yourself on the open market again? It might help to ask for a chat with someone from Relate, just to get yourself on an even keel again.

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He abused her and now she wants us to meet up

Dear Suzie, I’ve known my friend since we were 17 years old. She’s like a sister. She gradually became dependant on alcohol and prescription drugs but sought help from a local drug and alcohol unit and successfully gained sobriety. During this time she began having sex with one of the male counsellors at the centre. It later transpired that he was having sex with and had moved into the home of another female client while still having sex and ‘dating’ my friend. She found out about them and was distraught as she believed he was the one. On her request I helped her persue a formal complaint and the counsellor was dismissed on the grounds of gross misconduct, that was also the end of their relationship. About 3 months later I learned that they had both sorted out their differences and are now a happy couple and I’m truely pleased that she is happy. But she’s has hinted at us all meeting up and having a night out. I’ve told her that will never happen as what he did was morally and ethically wrong and I strongly disagree with his betrayal of trust and nmanipulative behaviour when she was vulneravle. Consequently I don’t visit her at her house anymore I keep my distance and our friendship although sisterly, lacks the respect I always had for her. How can I get it through to her that I will never condone their relationship. Thanks.

It sounds as if you have! And I strongly support your having done so. It’s really sad that it means your relationship has changed, but relationships usually do. If she was now living with a decent bloke whom you liked and hadn’t exploited her, you’d probably have found that some distance developed. It does, when primary allegiances switch from friends to partners.

If I were you I’d make a strong statement to her that it’s the man and the relationship you disapprove of, and that while the door might be open for her it isn’t for him or them as a couple. That would mean that if – I hope it’s if rather than when, but I have my suspicions as I’m sure you do – he abuses her again she’ll feel able to renew your relationship.

If, that is, you want her to. It sounds as if she is someone who seeks out punishment, whether it’s addictions or abusive relationships. Maybe while she has successfully gained sobriety, you could also look at moving on from having a friend who asked for much and gave – what?

It’s a sad and hard fact of life – just because it’s lasted since you were 17 is no reason why it should go on lasting. You’ve changed, she’s changed. Life has a way of doing that.

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He could kill his auntie

Dear Suzie, my friend has been in prisson befor he is 15 he is my boyfriends best friend and i care about him but he goes mad easaly he is tring to run away from home because he could kill is aunti so what can i do to help because i cant sleep knowing this

If I understand you correctly, you’re saying your boyfriend’s friend has a temper that scares you, and that he’s been locked up because of it. He wants to leave home because he doesn’t trust himself – at any time he may blow up and harm someone. Is that right?

OK – the good news; he seems aware enough about his problems that he’s trying to get away from the situation where he feels he could lose control. The bad news is that this pretty serious stuff for you to feel is on your shoulders. You shouldn’t feel you have to come up with a solution.

You have a couple of options. You could talk with the young man himself, and say you’re concerned and care about him and don’t want to see him harm himself or anyone else. Urge him to get some help. Young Minds would be a really good place to look for help – he could be in touch, or someone could on his behalf.

But I don’t think that someone should be you. Frankly, I feel your best option is to get some help for yourself because this is a heavy weight for you to be carrying. You should sit down, calmly and quietly, with an adult you can trust and explain the situation. I’d suggest a parent or a teacher – someone who trusts you and will listen to you and not just dismiss what you are saying, and who would be prepared to take over from you.

They could then pass this over to someone who really could help the lad. I’m not sure if the police should be alerted to the situation, or the probation services, or social services – it all depends on who might already be trying to help him. Please don’t sit on it, though, or try to deal with it by yourself. He deserves some help but so do you.

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We argue about silly things

Dear Suzie, I am at the end of my tether with my current relationship. When we first got together, everything was perfect and we got on so well, but then after about 5 months, things stated to go wrong and we would argue about silly things. About
10 weeks ago, we decided to take some time out because he felt he wasn’t giving me the time I wanted due to other commitments. We still see eachother quite a lot but this last week or so, the arguments seem to be happening all the time. I want us to work at it and get back togther because I love him so much, but I don’t know how much more we can take. Please help.

If this was a relationship of some 5 years standing, where the two of you had established a shared history and had some experience of living and being together, I’d suggest you seek some help and support in finding out what went wrong and how to mend it. When you’ve invested time, effort and emotion in being a couple it would be a terrible shame to throw it all away. But 5 months?

5 months tells me that you started on the usual high of sex and lust and having fun – anyone can stay together through that period. What has then happened is that reality has bitten. Perhaps both of you have discovered that you have little in common beyond the fact that you’re opposite sexes, straight and were into each other at first. He seems to be either saying that his work, friends or family is the more important aspect of his life at present – or that this is a convenient excuse to duck out of having to say “Listen, this isn’t doing it for me.”

I know it feels like love – but love is something that builds between people over a period of time longer than half a year. You fancy him and still fancy him. You long for this to work. Perhaps you have invested a lot in him – an investment of dreams and hopes and fantasies,. But that’s not the same as having a relationship. And the key point of what makes a relationship is that it’s mutual – and this doesn’t sound mutual to me.

I’m really sorry, and very sad for you. But just because you want it with all your being won’t make him want it too. Stop taking the pain and misery and let go. Invest your time, effort and energy – and eventually, love – on someone who returns it.

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He wants sex!

Dear Suzie, I am 14 years old (turning 15 in about two months) and i have a 16 year old boyfriend. We have been together for almost three months and we love each other more than the world. the problem is, he is ready to do sexual things that i am not. I am fine with him doing things to me, but I dont know if i am ready to have sex with him. He is not the kind of boyfriend who asks me to have sex with him, but you can tell that he wants me to. I once talked to him about it, and i was right. He was expecting me to give it up to him very soon. We talked it over though, and he was so sweet. He said that he didn’t mind at all and that he just loved me so much. However, I can still twell that it’s bothering him. I just don’t know what to do because i love him so much and… I feel like i should be ready there are just so many things in the way. any suggestions?

Yes, I do have suggestions. Number one – wait. Number 2 – wait. Oh – and number 3; wait.

Number 1; you’re 14. You’re likely to live to 90+. I know everything feels urgent and now and today in your world but seriously – why not leave some things for later. You’ll be having sex for the next 80 years. You can leave starting for a few more. Don’t feel you ‘should’ be ready. you’ll be ready when you’re ready and for most people that’s not for at least two years. At least!

Number 2; since you are 14, he would be breaking the law if he had sex with you. OK – the law is there to protect young people from exploitation and you could argue that two teenagers expressing their live isn’t exploitative. But he is two years older than you and that puts him in a position of some power and authority over you. When one of the couple can pressurise the other it isn’t an equal relationship.

Number 3; just because one of you wants, wants, WANTS something it doesn’t mean the other should give way. That’s like saying just because a little kid desperately wants to jump in a bath of sweeties he should be allowed to. He’d get a stomach ache, and make a terrible mess.

Of course he wants sex. He’s a teenage boy. Hormones, his mates, the media – all are pushing him on to get it on. You too may be curious and even aroused but you have more to lose, and you are saying “Not yet”. That’s the voice you should be listening to. It’s not your responsibility to sexually satisfy him. What – you thought you were put on this earth to give him relief? Think again!

Tell him until you’re ready, until both of you have agreed it’s the right time and, incidentally, both are prepared to get and use a reliable method of contraception every time, you’ll say “Thanks but no thanks”.

And let it be a good test of a boyfriend; if he goes on putting on the pressure, he’s saying his pleasure is more important to him than you are. I wouldn’t give someone so selfish the time of day.

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