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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Dear Captain Awkward, 

At the beginning of this year, after much agonising and a deep depression lasting several months, I broke up with J., my boyfriend of three years. We lived together, we had friends in common – it was messy, but I tried very hard to be honest with him. This included telling him that I had developed feelings for an old friend of mine, P., who had recently become friends with J. too and spent time with us as a couple. Years ago I had feelings for P., but I moved to another city for a while, I met J/, and I thought that was in the past. J. was aware of this history.

After the breakup, P. and I tried for a short while to avoid seeing each other. But having admitted my feelings to J., it seemed futile to resist seeing P. I justified this to myself with the fact that I was hurting badly, not just from the breakup but from the depression I was still suffering, and P. helped me hugely. I felt better only when I talked to him. It would be hurtful to J. to hear that me and P. had got together whenever it happened, I reasoned, because of the role P. played in my life. So, two weeks after the breakup, I began a relationship with P.

Four months later, I am very happy with P. It feels like coming home. But I still miss J. desperately. We have had no contact since moving out of our flat. I told him I would leave it up to him to make contact, wanting to give him some power, but that I would be really happy to hear from him. Unsurprisingly, I haven’t. Through mutual friends, I recently found out he has a new girlfriend. He is on my mind now all the time. I would love to have him back in my life, or even just to know what he is doing and to talk to him. Also, selfishly, I am looking for forgiveness – I hope that he does not hate me for so quickly moving on to another partner, and that he has some good memories of our relationship.

I want to know whether it would be terrible for me to make contact with J. by email, just to check in and ask how he is. I know that the way I ended things was devastating for him and that he was incredibly angry with me at the time; I also have reason to believe he may think that I lied to him about P. while we were still together, which is not true but which I can understand. But I don’t know how he feels now, whether he is still angry, whether he has moved on. I am thinking about this constantly, and I can’t get it clear in my head. Can I contact him, even though I left this decision in his hands? Would it be an entirely selfish act, just seeking alleviation of my intense guilt?

Dear LW:

Please leave J. alone.

You left the decision in his hands. I think that was a really good decision. He has decided (so far) not to get in touch with you. I think that is also a really good decision.

You acknowledge that this desire to talk to him is selfish and mostly motivated by a desire to alleviate guilt.

So…believe yourself when you talk. This is an entirely selfish impulse. What you really want is to alleviate guilt. You want to be reassured that he doesn’t hate you. To say you just want to know how he is is a lie. He’s dating someone new. He’s (so far) not interested in talking to you. That’s how he is.

It sounds like you did the right thing by breaking up with him. You both moved onto partners who could make you happier. Breakups are almost always painful, but when the alternative is staying in an unhappy relationship, they’re the right thing to do. You had feelings for someone else. You stopped having those feelings for J. You told him. It ended.

Let go of the guilt. Let go of the need to be liked by this guy. Having negative feelings about you might be really helpful for him in moving on from a painful breakup that wasn’t his idea. He gets to have those feelings if he wants to. He gets to tell himself a story where you were the Bad Guy if he wants to. He can have any kind of memories he likes about your relationship, and for you to reach out now and to try to control that narrative IS actually cruel. That doesn’t mean you have to feel guilty, or work to resolve things. Things ARE resolved because the relationship is over. Forgive yourself for going after your own desires and move on with your life.

Do what you would do with any crush or persistent thought – distract yourself. Focus on your friendships, on work, on study, on your relationship with P. Stop talking about how you miss J. “desperately.” (Uh, definitely don’t tell P. about that. Certain pieces of honesty are overrated).

And put yourself in his shoes. There he is, going along, living his life, trying to move on and be happy, when BAM! UNWANTED PAINFUL MEMORIES in the form of a too-casual “Hey, how are you?” email slam into his day. Not cool.

You’ve got to make your own closure with this. It’s over. If you do ever talk again, it will be after a long, long break and it will be because life (a mutual friend’s event, a shared hobby, etc.) throws you back into each other’s paths and because he decides that your friendship is worth having enough to reach out to you.

Until then leave the decision where you (intelligently) placed it: Entirely with him.

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Hi, Captain Awkward,

My Beloved and I bought a house around three years ago, which shares a driveway with another neighbor (the property line literally goes right down the center of the drive).  We were very optimistic about this, initially, as she seemed a very charming and outgoing lady.  For the most part, our relationship with her has been amicable.

This is our first stab at home ownership, we both work full time (opposite shifts from each other), and have three amazing spawn that we’re working at guiding into responsible human-ness.  We’re having a bit of a harder time than we anticipated with staying on top of all the home owner-ship demands in addition to parenting and working, but I don’t think we’re too horribly awful at it.

We came  home from a family vacation very recently to find our driveway blocked off because our neighbor had decided, unilaterally, that it was time to re-seal it.  In and of itself not a horrible thing, except that we arrived home at 4 am* and it is illegal for us to park on the street during the night.  We discovered later that day (after the sun rose) that she had also decided to take it upon herself to make changes to our lawn vegetation (not actually the first time- she also decided to cut back my rose bush one day about four weeks ago! **), rearrange some of our property on our lawn, etc. I was rather upset about this, feeling like my space was invaded without warning.

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African Violet, photo by e_cathedra on Flickr.

Photo by e_cathedra on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Should there ever be a Captain Awkward Dot Com Meetup, I will acquire a bunch of these coloring books and the big boxes of crayons (and some silver and gold gel pens) and have a table where people can hang out and color. Right? Right. Thanks, Cleolinda!

Today’s letters are on the less happy topics of broken, abusive friendships.

Dear Captain Awkward,

I’ve been friends with this woman for about 10 years, since 7th grade. We’ve been through a lot together, and I care about her a lot. However I believe this relationship has come to an end. About two months ago, we had an argument that was entirely my fault. I derailed a conversation that she was having with me, (I had been awake 72 hours, and told her several times I couldn’t really talk, because I was trying to write final papers) and it took me an embarrassingly long time to realize what I had said, and apologize, and she understandably became extremely frustrated with me. As a result of this, she decided it would be best to cut off contact with me for a month or so. We were supposed to re-establish contact on one of two dates (I don’t remember exactly because sleep deprivation). I tried to contact her in on the earlier of the two. The later is now passed, and I’ve received no response.

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Hello! I took a few days off to work at my real job and go to the movies and read books and hang out with my boyfriend. It was awesome and I will be doing more of that + shooting a short film in August.

Old business: If you donated to the pledge drive via the Dwolla link, I don’t have your email address. So email me and I’ll send you the link to the movie. Also, a few of the PayPal donors had email addresses that bounced back (or I may have missed you), so if you are missing the movie let me know and I will fix that ASAP.

New business:

Attention: The Foster Kitten Cam has new kitties.

Also, this is a very sad letter. I am putting it behind a cut. And I want to say something very clearly first:

This blogger is officially, unilaterally, and forever pro-choice. I believe the decision to terminate a pregnancy is morally neutral and should be private, legal & safe. I trust that anyone undertaking that decision has their own reasons that are better than anything I or any outside party could come up with. I will be moderating comments here accordingly. You can disagree with me…privately in your heart. Or on other websites. All anti-choice lobbying & debate will be deleted without warning. Repeat offenders will be banned without warning. This was your warning. If this is a hot-button issue for you and you don’t think you’ll be able to resist internet-fighting what you see as the Good Fight for Tiny Innocent Babies, maybe don’t click further. You will not change my mind, and this is not the place to try out your Ethics 101 arguments. The Letter Writer and I are not interested in your jibber-jabber.

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Dear Captain Awkward, 

My wife has contributed so much to my life.  In college, I made a difficult transition from developmentally-challenged homeschooled Evangelical missionary wannabe to Libertarian to a proto-value-actual-people-and-outcomes-and-recognize-cognitive-biases-and-reject-satisfying-internal-consistencies-ist.  The latter doesn’t actually have content; I was shattered and adrift, trying to find my voice.  Hell, discovering the phrase, “find my voice” was actually a huge win for me.  I was painfully undersocialized to the point where I was leaving huge cash tips to avoid having to asking waitresses for change.
 
And then I met someone.  She was smart and knowledgeable and funny.  My company delighted her.  She taught me all kinds of things.  She created a space wherein I was able to develop emotionally in ways I’d been fundamentally lacking.  Due in no small part to her, I have become awesome.  And life is so good.  We read together.  We take long walks together.  We watch interesting films together.  My heart still leaps when I come home to her.  I am happy.
 
What’s the problem in this picture?  Well, she has an atypical emotional framework.  Outside of well-established routines, she has difficulty with the idea of me not being with her.  Even my cleaning the apartment causes distress.  The last time I really tried to push hard against this, I went to hang out with some friends, and she called me while I was on the highway, sobbing, wailing, and begging me to come home.  I turned my car around.  This was years ago.  She doesn’t like this about herself, and under her initiative, she’s been seeing a psychiatrist for years.  I think she’s a lot better with this kind of thing now, but at this point, I’m pretty well conditioned, and we reinforce each other.

Dear Captain Awkward,

I need a second opinion. I’m at my wits end as to how to address something that has become a large problem with my boyfriend. My friends are no, help; I’ve gotten lucky, landed a good, caring boy, how could I have problems, lalalala-I-can’t-hear-you. I’m glad they approve of him, since I mostly trust their judgement, but… help?

Lately, I have been feeling really neglected by my boyfriend. (By lately, I mean since he stood me up a month ago; I went out with friends instead and it was fine…but he still stood me up.) This meant that if we talked, I initiated the conversation. If I went to his house, or he to mine, I planned it. Once we got there, if we watched tv/made food/fooled around, it was because I suggested it. If we were fooling around, I undressed him, and he had to be directed to return the favor. If we went out, I invited him somewhere, and he begrudgingly joined. 

This is not an exhaustive list, just things I pointed out specifically to him as “Hey, look, I’ve been putting in all the effort. Your turn to contribute” I sat him down, told him that I was feeling neglected and why. He agreed that he’s been shitty, and to try and change that. My solution was that for the next little while, it would be his turn. I was not going to initiate contact or plan anything; if he wants to see or talk to me, he’ll do so, if not, it won’t happen. That way, when we’re together, I can know that it’s because he wants to be there, not because I was pestering him.

But that’s not really working. He’ll invite me over, and then not know what to do. He’ll text me, and the conversation stops because things like “how’s your day/how are you/what’s up?” don’t occur to him. He claims that he knows I’m upset with him, which makes him think that I don’t want to talk to him, so he doesn’t initiate contact.

Dear Captain,

So here’s the deal:

I’m married, and living with someone who is incredibly smart and hard working. He has so many mad skills that he doesn’t even need to submit applications to get a job. By comparison I have a degree in something I realized (after 4 years) isn’t really my thing and definitely doesn’t do much good in the area where Partner and I currently live. I feel dim, drab, and generally useless by comparison (despite Partner’s instance that this isn’t the case at all).

I’ve spent the past year working (part time and unpaid) while hammering out a couple of novels. Partner says I should follow my dreams and not ‘settle’ for a job in something that is beneath my college-educated-self. He’s perfectly happy supporting me, and capable of doing so. 

Looking ahead now I’m torn between two reactions.

The first is a bit of a knee-jerk and goes something like:

HELL NO. I will not sit idly by and become your housewife* and make sandwiches while you work and do cool things with your life. I will go out and make waves and waves of money**

* I’m sure there are people who are perfectly happy as housewives (more power to them), but it’s never been a word I wanted to use when describing my future

**I don’t actually want waves of money, but it seems like a good way to prove to myself and others that I’m not dependent  

The second reaction goes something like:

The world out there is terrifying. I like it in my apartment, and I like writing and playing video games and if I could just pretend I’m a kid with no responsibilities for the rest of my life that would be great, k-thanks-bye.

(okay, so maybe they’re both knee-jerk reactions)

Am I totally crazy to be stressing out about all this? It seems moronic to feel miserable choosing between what most people would see as a multitude of positive options. My brain has convinced me that I don’t deserve to live happily without getting a real (grownup) job like the rest of the world. At the same time I don’t feel like I would be happy working a job I seriously dislike. (Especially when I don’t need the money that bad and really someone else probably needs it more and I’m just taking it away from them and they would do better at the job anyways **hyperventilate**).

I’m terrified that no matter what I do I will end up looking like a worthless failure in comparison to all the successful, awesome people around me. 

Should I stop being a good-for-nothing-leeching-bum and just get a job? Should I dedicate my time to getting published, even if it means depending heavily on others?

Sincerely,

Dependent and Unemployed 

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