Hi, I’m Antonio and I’m 33 years old. I’m writing to discuss with you an issue which causes me great pain and embarrassment: one evening, more than a month ago, my friends and I were joking around on Whatsapp. At some point, C., a female friend of mine, showed us one of those pictures in which the image of a naked man of color isn’t entirely visible unless one taps on the picture. We all laughed, yet, C. got into an argument with another female friend of ours, G., they were essentially discussing their tastes in men, so I contacted G. on a separate chat and sent her a picture of a blonde woman surrounded by black men with the caption “this is what C. likes”. We both laughed and it ended there. An explanation is in order: I’m severely obese and have lots of trouble expressing my sexuality, I’ve exchanged explicit pictures with male friends of mine in the past and I really don’t know what got into me but I ended up asking G. if she wanted to do the same with me. She flew into a rage, telling me that I didn’t know her at all and that she felt very much offended by my proposal. I literally begged her for forgiveness and she accepted my apologies, we haven’t spoken in more than a month, though. This is incredibly distressing for me, I think about this all the time and just can’t find peace. I fear G. might tell the other members of my group and I’m greatly troubled by the prospect of meeting her in person again. I wonder what should I do. Haven’t I paid enough for what I did? Thank you for your kind help and support.

All that you can do is attempt to explain to her what happened. Thus far, it seems as though you’ve tried to communicate your feelings via an app and/or text. The problem with this type of communication is that it is impersonal. In addition, it is a lower quality interaction style when compared to face-to-face interaction. Low-quality interactions can decrease the quality of relationships. Text messages can leave individuals feeling devalued, shortchanged, or may inadvertently give them the impression that you don’t care enough to speak to them in person. Text-like communication does not allow you to see an individual’s facial expressions or reactions, or hear the intonations in their speech. Missing those important elements of communication can lead to confusion about what you are trying to say and what you mean.

If you’re serious about having a relationship with this person, and you want to attempt to repair it, then meeting with her in person is the best solution. I understand that you are “greatly troubled by the prospect of meeting her in person”, but it may be what is necessary in order for you to repair the relationship. Avoidance might only make it worse. You should not rely on text messages to communicate important information. Text messages can be confusing and muddled. If you want to avoid making the problem worse, the best solution is to meet with her in-person. It may not be easy, but it would be the right thing to do.

Give that a try and hopefully it will help. If that is not an option for you, then consider writing her a letter in which you attempt to explain your feelings in great depth. A letter is not a replacement for in-person communication; however, it is better than texting via an app or a cell phone.

If you have tried writing her a letter and/or meeting with her in-person, and she still does not understand your position, then you’ve likely done all that you can. Perhaps she is an unreasonable person or perhaps she simply thinks you have crossed a line that, in her mind, violates her personal values. If so, you will have to respect her wishes and potentially stop communicating with her. Sometimes, we don’t connect with someone for a variety of potential reasons, none of which may have anything to do with us personally. Not everyone is compatible with one another.

I would highly recommend counseling in this situation. The therapist can analyze the situation to determine what role, if any, you played in what happened. Therapy is also good for practicing one’s communication skills. It’s also a good place to discuss issues about sexuality and body image. With the right attitude towards therapy (open mindedness), and a good therapist, these issues can likely be rectified. Good luck with your efforts, and please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle