on taking risks in love
October 10, 2010, 9:23 pm
Filed under: advice, life, love | Tags: , , , ,

Dear Spoonah,

I’m hesitant to ask about this because it’s somewhat of a difficult issue, but maybe you can offer some perspective. My friends have given me advice, but I can’t help but feel like their opinions are mostly subjective. I’m hoping you can help out.

I’ve been in a relationship with my partner for almost a year. I do care about her a lot, and I want this relationship to work, but…in moments when I’m being honest with myself, I notice problems. Things have been up and down for a while, we’ve been on and off for the last few months. Every time we break up, I just want to get back together with her, but every time we get back together things are only good again for a few weeks before I start to remember why we broke up before. I feel a lot of pressure to make it work. I really don’t feel like I have my shit together enough for other people to be in a relationship with me, and I’ve already invested almost a year in this, you know?

I have a friend that I’ve been hanging out with a lot recently, and I feel like maybe there are sparks there. When things happen and my relationship with my partner kind of sucks, she has been there to listen and give me advice. I don’t know what to do…maybe there is potential with her for things to be really good, but I feel so overwhelmed by what’s going on with my partner that I can’t even think about it. I don’t want to hurt her, I don’t want to hurt my partner, and I am tired of getting hurt. I want to go to a therapist but I already feel crazy, so I don’t think it’s going to really help.

What can I do? Sorry to be the debbie downer of your blog. ):

Heartbreak Hotel

dear heartbreak,

it sounds like you have two separate problems here. first, you need to deal with your current relationship. second, you need to figure out what feelings you may or may not have for your friend, and what you want to do about them.

as for your first issue, your current relationship, I think you know what you need to do. you are at a point in your relationship where it is high time to do some stock-taking. what is it about this relationship that is worth all of the pressure and stress of going back and forth? know that you can love and care about someone but not be able to have a successful relationship with them. I will refer here to the masters of all thing love: singers of rock ballads in the nineties. in the words of Don Henley and Patty Smythe:

I don’t want to lose you
I don’t want to use you
just to have somebody by my side…
…but baby sometimes love just ain’t enough.”

ask yourself, do you see yourself with this person long-term? does she light up your heart? does she support and inspire you? because it sounds like you’ve been with her long enough at this point to know what she is really like and to have a feel for what it is like to be with her. if it isn’t what you need, it is going to be best for both of you to end things before they go on much longer. you both deserve someone who is totally supportive and right for them. do yourself a favor and end things before you hurt yourself or your partner any further.

as for your other issue, your (potential) feelings for your friend. what it sounds like to me, not knowing the whole situation, is that you are feeling like you aren’t worth having a relationship that might work. that might be part of why you have stayed with a partner that you have continual problems with, and why you are so hesitant to pursue something with someone who sounds like she has your best interests in mind and really wants you to be happy. you mention that you feel like you don’t have things together to be with anyone other than your current partner, and that you’ve considered therapy. maybe it would be worth taking some time alone and trying to figure out what it is you really want in love. if what you really want might be taking a chance with your friend, give it a try. if she is a good friend, you can take things slow and see where they go. start by asking her to spend some more time together. watch a movie together (always a good bet for making a move) and try snuggling up, or holding her hand.

in both of these situations, it sounds like you know what you need to do and want to do. that’s the easy part. the hard part comes now: having the courage to go for what you need. love is all we get in life. go for it. always, always go for it.

I leave you with this:

“Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. That’s why people are so cynical about it…It really is worth fighting for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don’t risk everything, you risk even more.” – Erica Jong

good luck out there.



on going to grad school
September 11, 2010, 9:46 pm
Filed under: advice, career, education, life | Tags: , , , , ,

dear spoonah,

I finished my BA a few years ago and have a decent job, but am feeling unsatisfied with my life. I don’t make very much money and there’s no real room for growth in this job. I love working with young people, especially high school age people, so I have been thinking about becoming a teacher. I applied for an accelerated M.Ed graduate program and was accepted, and am supposed to start in a few months. Recently I’ve been feeling like maybe this isn’t the right choice, and that I am not sure that I want to be a teacher or even stay living in this area any longer. Am I signing up for a life of debt and disappointment?

-worried at work

dear worried at work,

it sounds to me like you are stuck in a situation that may not be all that bad, but is not where you want to be right now, regardless. my advice when you are stuck is to move in any direction, even if that direction is backwards (or feels that way). it’s like if you’re in quicksand, you can’t be picky about branch that pulls you out. the key is to get out of the situation so that you can see things more clearly, and make a decision without feeling bound to it. perhaps that graduate program really is what you want and will be happy with, but it sounds right now like you aren’t in a position to make that decision. if you go into it thinking you might be making a mistake, it will color your whole experience, and an accelerated graduate program is no place to be if you aren’t committed to the outcome.

my advice is this: do something that is nothing like what you are doing now, for a little while. maybe you want to move, try out a different kind of job, or travel. spend a few months to a year doing something you think you might want to do more, and find out. if your worst case scenario ends with you moving back and going to that program in a year or so, I think you’ll be fine. there’s no point in doing anything that intense (emotionally, mentally, and financially) while spending the whole time wishing you were working as a waitress in Mexico. I mean, you’d probably hate that, but at least you’d know.

on where to put your money
July 23, 2010, 7:20 pm
Filed under: advice, financial | Tags: , , , , , ,

Dear Ask Spoonah

I recently sold my car to cut back on expenses and am looking to put the money from the sale to work. I heard that online banks have higher interest rates for savings and money market accounts, but I wonder are they better than a brick and mortar bank in the long run? Also is there a big difference between a money market account, savings account, or certificate of deposit?

~Savings Newbie

dear savings newbie,

first, congratulations on having the courage to make such a big move to support your financial goals! that’s a tough choice.

to answer your first question, there are a number of differences between traditional brick & mortar banks and online banks. obviously there is the issue of convenience and time, in that traditional banks allow easy access to our money just as soon as we can get there, where online banks are accessed online only and can often take up to several days to transfer funds to an account you can “get at”. this can be a good thing if you are trying to use the online account for savings (as it keeps you from making impulse withdrawals). the other main benefit, which you brought up, is online banking often offers higher rates on interest bearing accounts such as savings and money market accounts, and often offer interest on traditionally no-interest accounts (such as checking accounts). so to answer your question, the benefits to using an online bank for savings accounts are higher interest rates, so it can definitely be a good decision in the long run, especially if you plan to deposit large enough sums of money or for long enough periods of time that the difference in interest rates will make up for the lack of convenient access to the funds. I use online banking for my emergency savings accounts myself, as well as when I’m saving for other things and want to “hide” the money from myself so that I can’t take it out for impulses.

as for the differences between savings, money market accounts, and certificates of deposit (CDs), there are again a few benefits and drawbacks to each. the differences are primarily in terms of interest rates and liquidity (ease of access). savings accounts are the most liquid but generally offer the lowest interest rates. these are great for things such as short-term savings (of a year or less) or when you think you might need the funds within a few days (i.e. emergency savings). CDs are purchased for a set period of time before maturation, and the longer the time (from a few weeks to several years), the higher the interest you will gain. CDs promise a fixed interest rate determined at the time of purchase. they are a safe investment with a rate you can be sure of, but they lack access to the funds before the maturation date. money market accounts, on the other hand (not to be confused with money market funds, which are not FDIC insured and are riskier), are more liquid (like checking or savings accounts), and offer a competitive interest rate (which may vary). these often have a high minimum balance and limit the number of times in a month you may withdraw from them.

to summarize:

in order of liquidity, high to low—savings, money markets, CDs
in order of interest rates, high to low—CDs, money markets, savings

if you’re sure you won’t need the money for a specified amount of time (like a year or more), then I say put it in a CD. otherwise, shop around for the best going rates on a savings or money market account. all three of these options are FDIC insured.

happy saving!