HELP ME, HARLAN!: Reach out to old friends this Thanksgiving season

By Harlan Cohen

Harlan Cohen

Dear Harlan,

I’m having second thoughts about a friendship from the past. My former best friend and I got into a fight several months ago over a girl. The problem is that neither of us are even dating her now, but we still don’t speak. Is there even a point in reaching out to him again?

Former Friend

Dear Former Friend,

Yes, there’s a point. Best friends are like warm hoodies that you keep forever.  Sometimes you use them every day; other times, you reach out for them only when you need them. Time doesn’t change how comfortable they feel. Best friends are always there when you need them. They know you better than anyone else. They know what to say when you are having the worst day of your life. They know how to make a great day even better. They are rare, precious and too special to let go of without a fight. What people don’t know is that best friends fight — fighting is part of having a relationship. They can fight over women, money, power and everything else that matters. The only thing that keeps best friends apart is pride. I don’t know exactly what happened or how it happened, but it sounds like you know your role in the situation. Take the first step and reach out to your friend. Don’t expect an apology, and don’t expect him to want to be friends again. Simply reach out to him because you want to explain how bad you feel. Share what you wish you had done, and explain what you miss about him. Who knows – you might talk about this in 30 years and laugh about the time you let that girl get in the way. But to get the next 30 years of friendship, you need to reach out to him today.


Dear Harlan,

My boyfriend wanted to commit suicide last year, while he was still dating his ex. He is now my boyfriend, but he doesn’t want a long-distance relationship with me; he wants me to come back home and transfer to a local school. If I don’t, he will join the Marines, break up with me and try to commit suicide while deployed. What should I do?

Boyfriend Trouble

Dear Boyfriend Trouble,

When your boyfriend says, “I’m going to kill myself unless you do XYZ,” it means, “I need help — not a girlfriend.” Here are 11 things you need to do ASAP:

  1. Know that you are not responsible for your boyfriend’s mental health.
  2. Know that he’s 100 percent responsible for his own mental health.
  3. Recognize that it’s manipulative and wrong of him to try to make you responsible for his living or dying.
  4. Remember that threatening someone is NEVER loving.
  5. Find people (and professionals) who love you to help you work through this situation.
  6. Do what YOU want, not what he wants.
  7. Do not transfer to a school closer to him. This will just give him more control, and will isolate you.
  8. Give him permission to respond however he is going to respond. Again, he’s responsible for himself.
  9. Tell the people closest to him that he needs help. 
  10. Give his friends and family this suicide prevention hotline: (800) 273-8255 (
  11. Let him go. The Marines might be the best place for him. It could be the place where he finds a support system and gets the mental-health resources he needs.


Harlan is author of “Getting Naked: Five Steps to Finding the Love of Your Life (While Fully Clothed and Totally Sober)” (St. Martin’s Press). Write Harlan at harlan( or visit online: All letters submitted become property of the author. Send paper to Help Me, Harlan!, 2720 Dundee Road, Suite 226, Northbrook, IL 60062.

© Harlan Cohen 2017
Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.


HELP ME, HARLAN!: Reach out to old friends this Thanksgiving season–