June 7, 2017

Question: A number of years ago, my partner told an older woman in our village that he was not interested in her romantically. Ever since then, the woman has been spreading false, nasty rumors about him to everyone she knows. Because my boyfriend refuses to speak to her, she would have no way of knowing the things she says about him unless she has been stalking him. I do not believe that he’s sending naked photos of himself to some girl in Europe, and I doubt he’d even be capable of stringing along two different women at the same time while he is dating me exclusively.

I’ve been ignoring her for a couple of years, but it’s now at a point, at which people in our village who don’t know him and me well, ask him – and sometimes me – if he’s cheating on me, or if he really did these things. It’s hurtful to be confronted with these rumors or with pity for being the girl whose boyfriend is cheating on her. I’d like to just confront this woman, but it is not my place to create such drama in the village. Do I speak to her, or just ask people to stop inviting her to events because she is obviously suffering from some kind of mental illness? She has made it clear that she will not dislike us quietly. Help!

Dr. ZZ: Mental illness aside, you cannot control what this woman will say or do. If she says nasty things in front of you or to you, you can tell her they’re not true and ask her to stop repeating them; but it’s best not to go out of your way to “confront” her. When people become fixated on someone like this, they hear only what they want to hear. Any attention, even negative attention, only deepens the fixation.

Ignoring her is the best strategy. When she walks into a room, walk out, and avoid as much as possible going places where you know she will be.  Your only other two options are: 1.) set boundaries with your friends and neighbors about how much you are willing to talk about her and her rumors, and 2.) control your own reactions. If someone starts telling you a certain rumor, cut them off at once (“Let’s not talk about her and her rumors”); change the subject, and ask them a question about themselves.

It’s also up to your partner to enforce these same boundaries and to stop all rumors in their tracks, to talk frankly with your mutual friends and acquaintances and let them know that a few years ago he refused to date this person, and since then she has been spreading rumors. If the two of you decline to listen to what the rumors are, they won’t be able to send you into a tailspin. Insulate yourselves from her, and remember that the power she has in your lives is mostly the power that you give her. She may never stop being fixated; but eventually, if she is not getting any attention, she will go away and fixate on someone else. So stop engaging with her, stop hearing out the rumors, and stop hanging out where she’ll be. Focus on each other and on building friendships with people who understand about boundaries.


Question: I’m a 23-year-old female solo traveler, who is often approached by men. When this happens, my gut instinct is always “AVOID! ESCAPE!” Even if they seem nice and aren’t creepy, I feel as if they are usually approaching me with some sort of sexual agenda. Then, because I am generally charming and accommodating when I first meet people, they often get the impression that I am enthralled with them when all I really want is to get away. If the situation is extreme enough, I am good at setting boundaries and exiting gracefully, but I often resort to giving these guys a fake phone number even when they are not pressuring me or being particularly persistent. I know this is a dumb move, but I can’t seem to just say no. I try, and then the moment comes, and I find myself unable to do it. I’m hoping you may be able to offer some insight.

Dr. ZZ: There is value in being direct and in acting as if the other person will respect your directness. There is also power in being able to receive another person’s disapproval without internalizing it. If you carry in your heart the assurance that “no” is a complete sentence, and that anything that happens after you say “no” is just noise, you can focus on your own enjoyment within any given interaction and teach yourself to be okay with disappointing another person. Saying no is not easy, but it’s an essential part of growing up. It comes with realizing that not everybody is going to like you, and it is impossible to please everyone; so you might as well please yourself.

To learn to be direct in expressing yourself, you need to be willing to live with others’ fleeting disappointments. The more time you spend dodging or explaining yourself, the more you give the impression that you are uncertain and are open to negotiation. Power doesn’t need to repeat itself. Hinting, apologizing and over-explaining don’t work. They simply create a milieu of deniability for clueless or importunate people to capitalize upon while your own rage heightens. Being concise and direct commands attention and respect. You will gain so much personal power when you state a clear and direct “no,” and then move on without rumination or self-doubt. Above all else, develop tenacity for yourself, and exercise a concise “no.”


Dr. ZZ has a Ph.D. in Counseling and a doctorate in Natural Healing. Drawing on a background of  over thirty years as a professional therapist, she offers self-help in the areas health, relationship and  personal  growth.  All queries are answered by email and, if they appear in print, are subject to editing. Please email your questions : <ba.saywhat@yahoo.co.id> All identifying information is kept strictly confidential.


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