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Monthly Archives: April 2011

The right time to do this in a new relationship is never.

Dear Captain Awkward,

First I would like to say hello! And also, thank for you being so awesome and wise. And special thanks to Feministe for introducing me to your site a few weeks ago.

This morning I was writing an email to a friend about some dating angst I’m having and I found myself wondering “What would Captain Awkward have to say about this?” and figured I’d ask. So, Captain Awkward, what do I do about my dating angst? I’m not worried about getting the dates, exactly. I’ve joined an online dating site and it’s not my first time at this particular rodeo so I sort of know the ropes. I guess the problem I have is more…once I have the date. How do I avoid overthinking things? Getting too wrapped up in people too quickly? The last two times I tried dating I wound up in relationships with the first guy I met IRL (granted, the second relationship was pretty great and lasted three years so I clearly wasn’t doing everything wrong). Obviously, I told myself, I need to get better at DATING. I need to learn to be pickier (or less pickier?) and more casual, meet with more men before settling down.

Then, very recently, I went on my first date in over 3 and a half years. (I dated my most recent ex for 3 years, we were in love, it was wonderful, I thought he was “the one” and then he fell out of love and broke up with me 8 months ago, in case you were wondering why the recent dating gap.) Miracle of miracles – the gentleman was even cuter in person, charming, sweet, intelligent, funny. We hit it off fantastically, and ended the night promising that we would definitely have to get together again, though we didn’t make any concrete plans. He texted me a couple days later just to say hi, I texted him today regarding some story he’d told me on the date. . . but no 2nd date yet. It hasn’t even been a week yet, so this is no big deal, right? And yet. . . I am starting to get Crazy Brain. Crazy Brain is not being helped by all the annoying and sometimes conflicting and definitely unsolicited advice I’m getting from well-meaning friends: Women and men should be equal and shouldn’t play games, but don’t call, text, email him, let him always initiate. Don’t be afraid to ask him out but don’t make plans for Date #2 as I’d been the one to suggest we meet in person the first time (though he did initiate contact with me first, for whatever that’s worth) and now it’s his “turn”. Take things slow (Um…too late for this. When I said we hit it off, I meant we REALLY hit it off. If you get my drift.). Date other people, but don’t get too “loosey-goosey” (I’m actually not entirely sure what this means). Meanwhile, my gut is telling me to just go for it. If I know what I want, why not try and get it? (Even if that “it” is just a 2nd date.)

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I am a straight married man who plays on a coed softball team.  There is a woman on the team who is very nice and friendly and we stand around talking often.  Unfortunately I have a habit, especially when the conversation gets a bit animated, of reaching out and touching people on the arm or shoulder in punctuation of things I say.  This usually isn’t a problem (in fact to be honest until recently I didn’t really know I had this habit) but this woman gives out VERY clear signals that she does not like to be touched – blocking my hand, shaking her head no, etc. 

I’ve come to be much more careful of this with her, and I’m getting better.  But invariably I slip and catch myself doing it.  Obviously this is my problem and not hers.  However, I’m wondering whether it would make sense to simply say to her “look, I know that it makes you uncomfortable when I put my hand on you when I’m talking, and I’m trying to stop, it’s just hard for me to break this habit.”  Saying that sounds like the most awkward fucking thing I can imagine, and when I think about her hearing it, I think it would put her in a really strange position where she would either have to say “yeah, I really hate that you do that, please get better at stopping” or “no, no, it’s fine!” (when it’s clearly not fine.)

So I guess I’m saying my instinct is to keep trying to stop this behavior and not to mention it to her, but I’m also questioning my instincts.  What do you think?

Touchy Teammate

Dear Touchy,

A quick easy question, thank you!

Good for you for noticing her body language and for figuring out that you are a Gregarious Toucher and working on the problem.

True story:  When I was in kindergarten there was a boy who always wore velour pullovers to school and I used to chase him around and pet him until he cried and the school had to have a talk with my mother.  If I can change, so can you!

Good for you for recognizing that it’s on you to fix the problem and that the best thing you can do is just stop the behavior.  Stand a little further away from her from now on, and maybe wear a rubber band on your wrist like my grandma used to do when she needed to remember something or break a habit.

And it’s worth bringing up, like so many things at Captain Awkward Dot Com, in the moment.   Next time you catch yourself reaching out toward her, stop it, and say, “I’m so sorry to make you uncomfortable, that’s a terrible habit of mine.  I’m really working on it, and I appreciate how patient you’ve been with me.”  Snap that rubber band against your wrist if you need a little reminder.  Delete the “It’s just hard for me” sentence.  Your instinct is right that that’s not working.  It’s because how hard it is for you is not her problem, so that’s the part of your script that puts her in the position of maybe feeling like she has to say “Oh no, it’s fine.”  We missed Blanket Statement Monday this week (which I’m thinking about re-naming Captain Obvious Monday…thoughts?) but I feel comfortable making a brief blanket statement here and now:

When apologizing to someone, do not try to get them to feel sorry for you.

That’s not really about you, Touchy – just something that’s a peeve of mine in general – but that’s why that part of your statement was sitting so well.  You knew it, though, so we’re good.

You might also ask your wife to gently break it to you if you have other endearing/annoying gregarious habits.  It might be painful to find out that you are also The Guy Who Makes People High-Five Him or The Guy Who Overuses Finger Guns (though those are preferable to unwanted touching, and may be a way to recover, if you reach out and then catch yourself…oooooooh…Finger Guns!)  And you might also have to check your assumption that the touching is usually not a problem, especially if you are the boss at work and you like to give employees that encouraging pat on the arm or if you’ve ever walked up behind someone and just launched into a backrub (not good).

A lovely reader alerted me that “Subscribe in a reader” function  is broken, and I can see that it is broken, but I don’t know WHY it is broken or how to fix. Any smart nerds want to help me out?  Is it affecting those of you who already read it via RSS, or just new subscribers?  Thanks!

Career Day at the Vengeance Academy

Hi Captain Awkward;

I have a boyfriend.  We’ve been together for 7 years (next month, anyway – so 6 years and 11 months).

In those 7 years, obviously, things have happened. His dad died, right after I met him (and man – I felt like Typhoid Mary, for a bit!); my dad developed diabetes and I freaked; my mom remarried; my sister married – things. Things, with a capital T.

One of those Things that changed is *ME*. Shortest version I can think of: I have a genetic disease, acute intermittent porphyria. what means, realistically, is A) I hurt all the time (constant chronic pain) B) there are LOTS of things I can’t eat/take/be around C) pregnancy will kill me, D) photophobia (15 minutes of sun without 50+ sunblock equals a HORRIBLE rash) and E) doctors have spent my entire life ignoring any and everything else wrong with me.

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If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you...duel it to the death? Wait, that can't be right.

Good day Cap-i-tan!

I come to you now with the story if my current relationship, which is very very….. very awkward.

Bit of information to note. She was 19, is now 20, I am 24.

We met through friends, and first started out to be roommates cause mine was leaving me in a month and change. After a few weeks of talking we gave in to the sparks that where there. So she moved in as my girlfriend. By this time I had already learned so much about her that told me the time was not right. But, stupid me, I went ahead and did it anyways. She was currently with two other guys, and seeing another two on the side. She was in the process of getting rid of them all. However the most immediate boyfriend stayed because he was in another city.

Fast-forwarding…

She is moving down to the other guy in September for schooling, and where a large portion of her friends reside. They know nothing about me other than I am the roommate.

I have taken the time to learn her needs, what she loves and how she likes to be treated, and I know that I cannot try to hold onto her. Yet she says she will come back to me when she’s done her classes in 8 months after September. I don’t know what the chances of that are, and it’s biting constantly at me.

Some final notes, she suffers from depression a bit and is on meds for it. The meds have cause her libido to drop. To nothing. We have had sex once in three months and in our 11 month relationship, at least 5 have been dry spells.  To cover one loose end, it was defined as a open relationship at the beginning.

What I ask you is simply for a woman’s view of this, feedback, assessment, thoughts. I’m just curious. What do you make of all this? At the end of the day it’s a messed up story that I’m sharing with you. Cause I can. That’s about it I guess.

Thanks!

Mike

Dear Mike:

Let’s say I am magic and I can predict the future.  Let’s say that when this girl goes away to school, you just let her go.  “Of course I’d love to see you when you get back, but let’s not commit to anything.  Let’s enjoy the time we have, and then you should go live your life and have fun.”

You’ll miss her for a little while.  Things will be sad and gray for a month or so.  Someone who can successfully juggle five guys at a time has a lot of personal charisma, and you’re going to miss being around that charisma.

And then after a little while you will start to feel relieved.  It will be like you’ve woken up from being under a spell.

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I have a dream that someday all dads will shine only love and acceptance on their queer kids.

Dear Captain Awkward:

I’m not in an awkward situation yet, but I probably will be soon, and I want to be prepared for the awkward. My current fiance is probably going to be starting to transition into being my fiancee pretty soon. This is not a problem for me. However, I think it will be a problem for my dad, who is kind of controlling and generally bigoted especially about gender and sexuality.

He was NOT HAPPY when I told him I was bi, (I now identify as pansexual, but I didn’t know what that was at the time.) He said a bunch of stupid things, and then mostly seemed to be over it, or assumed it was a phase when my girlfriend and I broke up. He was even less happy when I told him I didn’t believe in his God anymore, but once again managed to deal after much arguing and stubbornness on my part. When I told him I was in an open relationship and had a boyfriend in addition to said fiance, there was less yelling, but he did tell me that he thought I was steering the car of my life into a tree, that my lovers are untrustworthy sluts and implied strongly that this could only end in tears and STDs for me. However, he was magnanimous enough to let me know that when I came crying to him about my poor life choices, he wouldn’t say “I told you so.” (Can you tell I’m still a little pissed about it?) He hasn’t continued to object, but he’s definitely not over it. For a while I thought he was going to stop speaking to me altogether.

He’s also said some nasty shit about trans people in general to me. What I’m saying is, dude has a bad track record. If he decides to out my fiance to people who don’t already know him out of spite or just pig-ignorance and general asshattery, that could be really really serious and a safety issue for him. I feel like I might have to cut Dad off for that reason. Our relationship has never been very good and required many years of therapy to deal with, so if I did cut him out of my life, a part of me would say “and nothing of value was lost.” But despite how crappy he’s been to me, I know he loves me and wants the best for me and all that. He just thinks I can’t figure out what that is on my own. So is there something else I could do that won’t risk my love’s safety? And if I do need to just bite the bullet, how do I tell him to gtfo now that we’ve got an uneasy truce going on?

Thanks for your help,

Daddy Issues

Dear Daddy Issues:   I’ve turned your question over to a trusted advisor who has definitely walked a mile in your shoes, so I’ll just say congratulations on your engagement and let our first ever Guest Poster take it from here.  Love, Captain Awkward

Greetings and salutations, Daddy Issues! I am Lieutenant Trans, a support troop from the Captain Awkward army who has direct experience with transitioning, living poly, coming out to family, and repairing communication with parents after estrangement. Reading your letter, I actually see two separate issues: first, your relationship with your Dad is strained; second, you have a partner who is transitioning, which requires you to now ‘come out’ as well to your family and friends. Your partner is generally absent from this letter, so my first piece of advice is to go to them in a low-pressure manner and say, “Hey, I’m thinking about how to talk to my dad about your transitioning, so I want your guidance on how to go about this – what are your suggestions? What is the best case scenario and worst case scenario, and how will we respond to the latter?” Let your partner marinate on those questions, while you focus on your own relationship with your father.

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The commenters in this thread are just killing it with wise advice.  I think I got caught up in the “how do you communicate in a situation that is already happening where you’re in the same room (not text messages)” side of the problem, but sort of missed the “Oh yeah, you don’t ever have to see that guy again if you don’t want to” thing.  Thank you, smart commenters!

Which brings me to the general topic of breaking up and trying bravely to be friends with your ex.  We’ve talked about how to survive a breakup when you’re the one who was dumped and you run into your ex everywhere.  But not how to handle the “but we can still be friends” thing.

You can definitely still be friends with an ex and make it work if both people want to.  This works best, I will argue, with relationships that already ARE friendships, where you share a lot of common activities and a common social circle, and where the relationship petered out on its own due to lack of chemistry and passion.  The “I like you so much, but we haven’t slept together in I forget how long” breakup.

Here’s maybe when you should hesitate to fall into the “Let’s be friends!” trap:

  1. The two of you were feverishly fucking and fighting right up until the day of “I can’t take this anymore!”  You’re not friends, you are people who fuck and fight.  If you were more friendly towards each other, you probably wouldn’t fight so much…but you might not have fucked so much, either.  C’est la vie.  C’est l’amour.
  2. One or both people was mean, petty, small, selfish, and abusive and the breakup involved a lot of soul-destroying things being said.  Get this person completely out of your life as quickly as possible.
  3. One person really wants to break up and the other person really doesn’t, and there isn’t anything definitely WRONG, per se, but the break-upper is just not happy anymore and needs to leave, and the final breakup conversation involved a lot of “But why?” from the break-upee trying to make the breakup Not True.

The “But whyyyyyyyyyyy?” kind is the biggest trap of all, because the break-upper probably DOES like the person and feels guilty and wants to offer some kindness and it would be nice to be friends, and the break-upee is feeling raw and torn and doesn’t want to have to go through withdrawal all at once, and maybe the other person doesn’t really mean it.

You guys, I have been on both sides of that one, and just like I eventually learned not to blurt out my feelings for crushes in the form of a letter like Mr. Darcy, I also learned that the best way to handle getting dumped in the moment of getting dumped is roughly this:

1. When someone breaks up with you, believe them. That’s not a conversation you just have without putting some thought behind it, okay?  The other person has been thinking about this and dreading it for days and maybe weeks and possibly months.  So when someone says “We need to break up,” the best thing you can say in that moment is “That’s really sad and hard to hear, but okay.”

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Reading:

Watching:

  • Mildred Pierce.  I love a Depression-era women’s picture, and this one is getting a beautiful reworking and letting a bunch of amazing actresses just go to town.
  • The Killing.  Smart protagonist, smart writing, beautifully shot, great use of rainy Seattle, and a very real portrait of how a crime tears apart a family and a community.

Eating: 

  • Pork and beautiful fresh eggs from C & D Family Farms.  Do you live in Chicago?  Do you like humanely-farmed delicious meat?  Perhaps the magical white van comes to a parking lot (and soon, a Farmer’s Market) near you.

Listening To:

  • Sprawl of Glass (Arcade Fire’s The Sprawl + Heart of Glass = Awesome)

Over The Moon About:

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