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Captain Awkward’s Dating Guide for Geeks

Dear Captain,

In essence, I absolutely adore this girl, but there’s someone else, and she has problems being away from home. As a disclaimer: this isn’t some crush, or the case of a naïve adolescent. This is my fifth relationship (though I wouldn’t call myself experienced in relationships). I’ve dated this girl, and known her for over a year, during which we’ve been comfortable friends for long stretches of time. I want her in my life, at least as a very close friend.

Lets call her Emma. We met last August in college, and very quickly, naturally, spilled all our feelings and pasts to each other. Emma was emotional and had a troubled history of depression. I’m an open and helpful person, so I was more than happy to be there for her. She didn’t need me, but felt much happier with me around. She was single, but had lingering feelings for her ex, who she’d gone out with for two years, but had broken up with because she didn’t want to do long distance in college. His presence was visibly ruining her emotionally. At this point I had no intention of going out with her – I was more than happy to have her as a close friend. Eventually, I had a sit-down with Emma, explaining to her she wouldn’t truly be happy if she didn’t let him go.

About a week later, Emma stopped contact with him. She was noticeably happier, and I was proud to have helped her. I started to develop feelings. She had had feelings for a while, before she broke things off with her ex. The natural progression of our friendship led to us going out. This lasted over 3 months, until break. She went home to her closely knit friend group, which included her ex. My family had just moved to a remote location with a harsh winter, and was alone for break. It was hell.

This took an emotional toll on me. When we returned to campus, things weren’t the same. She broke up with me after a week with no clear reason. Emma got back with her ex shortly thereafter. It was because her ex was more accessible over break than I was, by default. It wasn’t my fault.

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Dear Captain,

I couldn’t find a similar story, and I don’t know how strong a bro-relation is, so I’ve been quite confused for a while. The history about this story is bigger, but I only want to point out the main things. This is my story:

It all started a year ago, I met this guy Jimmy, which I fell in love with. We became friends. I gathered my courage and confessed to him. The response I got was not what I expected… His reply was just we’ll see what happens. After a month he didn’t took the effort to make it work. We didn’t saw each other at all. For me it was pretty clear that he didn’t wanted to start something with me.

A month later I went to a party at his house. For me this party was the opportunity to find out whether I still had feelings for him. At this party we all drank a little too much and a friend of him, Jason brought me home. I think you can already predict what happened. We kissed, nothing bad yet, except for the fact that this guy has a girlfriend…The next day, when we got sober I talked with Jason, and we decided it was a mistake and never mention it again. I felt horrible for making him cheat, and was so confused about my feelings. So it was easier for me to not seeing them both for a while.

A few weeks later, Jason contacted me. He wanted to see me and I agreed to it. I think I was being naïve, for not seeing what he wanted and we went a step further. His girlfriend still didn’t know anything about it.

A week later I met up with Jimmy at his house. Jason was there too. We talked about cheating and Jimmy hated people who were cheating, he couldn’t understand why someone would do that. At the end of the night he brought me home. We talked and I wanted to know what I meant to him. He confessed that he didn’t want a relationship right now. His ambitions are too big to settle down at this moment, but his feelings towards me can still go any direction. So my secret affair with Jason continued. After a month he ended it all. He confessed our affair to his girlfriend, and he wants to stay with her.

Months passed by without seeing them both, until yesterday. I went to Jimmy’s house, where they both were. The weird thing is that it didn’t felt awkward at all, sitting between them. For all I could say, I got the feeling that Jimmy was hitting on me. For what reason I don’t know, did Jason told him anything? Or is he finally ready to settle down? Just all those assumptions, makes me insecure.

Also I just don’t know what to do if I ever get serious with Jimmy. Am I obligated to tell him about Jason? I still have a weakness for Jimmy, but I don’t know if he can ever accept me for sleeping with Jason and if I would damage his friendship with him.

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It’s July, so time for the monthly “let’s answer the stuff people typed into search engines” post. It is, as always, a very mixed bag of topics.

1. “Is my partner’s family using my family for money? Help!”

I feel like there is a lot of backstory and context here that would be valuable to know, but one suggestion is to revisit and renegotiate current arrangements around money, and see what happens. It sounds like that you (or your family) are already uncomfortable with something about the financial arrangements that are taking place or requests that are being made, and that’s a good enough reason to pull on one of the threads and see where it goes. Do you feel like you are allowed to say “no, we can’t help with that, sorry?” Does it change how your partner’s family treats you?

2. “Should I be upset with a coworker who didn’t donate to a fundraiser in my name?”

Feel however you want, but I don’t think addressing it with the coworker, complaining to other people, or changing the way you interact with them at work is a good idea at all. Be grateful to the people who did donate, and assume the coworker who didn’t had completely understandable reasons that aren’t really your business. Let this one go.

I don’t feel shame about asking for donations here periodically, or for boosting charity stuff or crowd-funding campaigns for friends or causes I’m close to, and I don’t mind at all when people in my life ask me for help with their stuff, but that only works as long as everyone understands that a request is not an order and that gifts are voluntary. For real, the quickest way to make everyone you know go “fuck you and your cause” is to act like they are obligated to give. I also think, personally, that bosses should never ask their employees for charitable donations. Get some friends, boss. Get some friends.

3. “If someone with depression apologises for something they did, do u tell them its not their fault?”

Well, maybe it is their fault. Depression dulls and blunts a person’s ability to function within relationships sometimes, but it’s not an excuse for mean behavior, and we are still ultimately responsible for how we treat other people. If you want to say something comforting in response to the apology, howabout “Apology accepted, thank you.

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What search terms are leading people to Captain Awkward? Let’s add punctuation and answer them like questions.

1. “What’s wrong with me? My boyfriend wants to be with me all the time but I don’t.”

Nothing is wrong with you, it just seems like you want different stuff. If this is about the amount of time each of you wants to spend together, try renegotiating a schedule that works for both of you. If this is about differing levels of affection and commitment to the relationship, maybe take it as a sign that it’s time to move on, or at least seriously rebalance expectations.

2. “Am I a Nice Guy tm”

Depends. Do you think The Friend Zone is a real place, and that you unfairly live there?

Do you lament that your female friends always date jerks when they could be dating you?

When you talk about how nice you are, does it actually sound really angry?

Is every female friend you have someone you have a crush on?

Prescription: Read lots of books and watch lots of movies and look at lots of art and listen to lots of music made by women. It will be fun, educational, and get you into all kinds of cool conversations because you have great stuff to recommend. And it will help you see women as protagonists in their own stories rather than the Female Romantic Lead in yours.

3. “How do I tell him he’s cute without it being awkward?”

Try complimenting a specific thing or make it specific to today. “I think you’re really cute” is harder to pull off for amateurs than “You look great today, that shirt really suits you!

Complimenting people – not just people you want to bone, but people who are all around you – is a nice habit to get into. It builds confidence and makes people feel good. To do it well, keep it focused on stuff they chose, like shoes/clothing/taste in books/jewelry, rather than body parts. “I like your bag, it looks really sturdy” is good; “I like your ass, it looks very grabbable” is creepy.

4. “My married ex is always calling me and texting me to say hello. Does it mean he’s missing me?”

The fact that you call him your ex and not a friend is what we call a telling detail. You could ask him “What’s up with all the texting, dude?” but the chances that this is a bored dude looking for validation and flirtation in familiar territory are high. Do you want him to be missing you, is the better question. Do you want to be dealing with this at all?

5. “Masturbation support hotline.” 

If you’re looking for information instead of, you know, fodder, get thee to Scarleteen.

6. “Can espresso make you horny?”

I am not a scientist, so I don’t know. Maybe you could do a controlled experiment, where you get a group of people to not drink espresso and look at sexy images, and another group to drink espresso and look at images of birds or cats or dining room furniture, and see who is hornier? I’m not a scientist, so I’m probably not good at designing experiments, either.

It’s probably not the coffee, tho.

7. “What to do in a situation where a coworker is really trying to be your friend and psychotically won’t leave you alone?”

Keep conversations to just work. Refuse all invitations to do stuff outside of work. Do the get up and walk thing when they linger by you work area.

If they refer to you as friends or ask you to be friends, be blunt. “We’re not friends. We work together, and I’d like that to be a pleasant, easy experience for both of us, but I don’t want to be friends.

Then be consistent about it. I just got a letter from the other perspective, where sometimes the coworker was super-friendly, wanted to have lunch all the time, etc. but other times just completely froze the letter writer out, like, not even “good morning” or whatever. Don’t do that. Pick a lane and then be professional.

Since you use the word “psychotically” maybe we’re past all that. If they do harassing stuff, invade your space, keep pushing the issue, etc. tell a supervisor or HR.

8. “What is a song from a girl to a man saying she loves him but the long distance isn’t working?”

I don’t have anything that perfectly fits the bill. This, from the year of my birth, comes to mind:

And it looks like there is a Tumblr devoted to exactly this. Other suggestions, readers?

9. “What does it mean when a guy likes you and then ignores you?”

Could mean a lot of things, from he changed his mind to he’s nursing hurt feelings from a rejection or perceived rejection to he’s really young and still figuring out how to feelings. Do you want his attention, is the question? What happens if you ask him to spend time together?

10. “What does it mean when a friend with benefits tells you they love you when drunk?”

Probably your first step is to figure out how you feel about what they said. Was this a welcome, hoped-for declaration, or “oh crap, now it’s ruined” kind of news or more of a “Huh, hadn’t thought about it” thing?

You could just wait and see if they say it again, while sober or outside the throes of, um, benefiting. If it’s not something you are also feeling, and it never comes up again, you could chalk it up to Extremely Good Benefits/Booze and not really worry about it either way. Or you could say “you said A Thing the other night, and I have been thinking about it ever since” and see what happens.

11. “How to reject people politely on Match.”

Rejection doesn’t feel good, no matter how politely it’s delivered. Reactions vary from “Ok, good luck” (good) to silence (good) to “I spend all this time crafting a cool message and never get any responses! Why can’t people at least respond and tell me they don’t like me?” or “Why write back at all if it’s only to reject me?” or “Why don’t you like me, exactly?” being among them.

You don’t know (just like you don’t know if someone will respond positively to a message). This was my personal rule:

No one is obligated to reply, so if the message or profile was creepy in any way, I didn’t answer at all.

If it was HILARIOUSLY, APPALLINGLY creepy I reported it to the Annals of Online Dating.

If the message was thoughtful and the person seemed basically cool, I answered the way I would want to be answered: “Thank you for the thoughtful message. I don’t think you and I would be a good match, but I hope you meet someone great.” Most people I encountered sent something very polite in return. “You too, thanks for acknowledging my message.” Anyone replying with any shade of “whyyyyyyyy” got blocked for their own good and mine.

12. “How do I write a letter to my husband telling him that I’m pregnant by someone?”

Wow. Okay. Do you want to keep a) the baby b) the husband c) both d) neither? Because there is an order of operations here. Like, “I’m leaving you for ______” is maybe news that can stand on its own, and the “and _____ and I are having a baby!” can come later, like, when a baby comes out of you after you’ve left your husband.

Whatever you write, keep it short and, not sweet exactly, but 1) clear about what you want and 2) focused on giving your husband information that would help him make a good decision about what to do next. “Dear Husband, I am pregnant. This would be incredibly happy news, but because of (shenanigans), I am not sure about paternity. I realize that this is a lot to take in, and that we have some serious thinking and talking to do. I love you and hope we can work through all of this together, please think about it and come talk to me when you are ready.

What the shenanigans (cheating vs. I went to the fertility clinic without you vs. my poly partner and I had a little condom oopsie, etc.) were controls how much “I’m sorry” is in the letter, but a good rule for apologies is to own your part in what happened without trying to make the other person feel sorry for you.

A letter has the advantage of giving the recipient time to react. Write it, send it, let go, and hope.

13. “How do I leave a social group without hurting their feelings?”

If you want or need to leave the group, do you have to make it known that’s what’s happening, or will unsubscribing from a Meetup or Facebook group or just not coming to events anymore get it done? If you need to actually make it clear, tell the organizer what’s up. “Can you take me off the invite list for x events for the next little bit? I’m feeling over-scheduled right now. I’ll let you know if that changes.

You don’t have to give reasons, though the organizers might ask why. This isn’t bad, it’s because they LIKE you and want you to be welcome/comfortable. You can decide what you want to tell them, anything from “It’s just not fitting in my schedule right now” to “X Person behaves inappropriately and I’ve decided not to be around them for a bit.

They are going to feel what they are going to feel. You can’t control that, so take care of yourself, be as polite and sincere as you feel you can be, and do what you need to do.

14. “Pull my finger princess.”

Han Solo smirking

Princess Leia smiling

A warning sign: Danger Crush Points with a graphic of a hand getting crushed. Dear Captain Awkward,

I would like to ask for your opinion of a situation that is currently happening in my life, hopefully whatever you may say might give me another perspective.

I have a crush on the most gorgeous boy, my family friend and we’ve always been friends. He had a crush on me once, years ago, but now the tables have turned and it’s me who has these feelings. I just adore him, it’s the same old story.

There’s this other girl, one of the popular girls and she has a boyfriend who goes to another school but that doesn’t stop her and said boy from flirting all the time. She’s just all over him all the time and he is too, but all of my friends say that they’re just good friends and that’s it.

I just want to know, from the outside, without knowing all of the
information it may seem like he likes her, and I feel that way also, but I
swear sometimes he steals glances at me, we laugh and joke together
sometimes, he like obnoxiously sings songs to me in class to make me laugh (and he succeeds) and he’s shy around me, even though he’s one of the popular boys and he’s seemingly cocky and confident all the time. 

He’s so much different around his friends and it’s in those moments when we’re together at each others houses that I feel like maybe something could happen. These feelings I have for him, I just feel it in my stomach and in my heart. I want him so badly it hurts.

Captain Awkward, do you think anything could ever happen between us?

Because I would really like to know, so I could know if all this wanting
is for nothing. All I want is something…..anything.

Love, Eleanor x

Dear Eleanor x,

There is only one person who knows the answer to this question.

That person might like the other girl.

He might like flirting with the other girl but also like you (or someone else).

He might just like flirting with everyone and not like anyone in particular. Or, it may not have occurred to him that you might like him so he doesn’t quite see you that way. Attention from cool people feels good, there’s nothing wrong with him enjoying it.

Watching him like a hawk, reading all of his laughs and smiles and glances like tea leaves, and speculating on his desires are not going to get you closer to figuring out his feelings, but they are going to get you more invested in an outcome that may or may not happen. Trust me, you can spend years in this headspace, ignoring all other people who might be cool romantic partners, obsessing over the slightest changes in his facial expression, boring your friends with another analysis of “the way he leans” and yet getting no closer to putting your lips in the neighborhood of his lips.

What would happen if the next time he was at your house, without his friends, you said something like “I am developing a crush on you, is that weird?” or “Do you still ever think about us getting together?” and then you talked about it?

One possibility is always that he says, “I’m sorry, I don’t feel the same way.” Which would be embarrassing in the moment, but then you’d at least know what’s going on. You could take a little time to regroup and then go back to being friends. Your friendship survived his crush on you, why wouldn’t it survive this? Reminder, when someone tells you that, it’s best to say “Well, that’s sad news, but I had to ask” and then back off.

There are other possibilities, though. “Let me think about it!” “REALLY ME TOO <3 <3 <3 <3 <3″

I want you to think of everyone you know who is happily, mutually in love with another human. Your friends. Your family. Then think about everyone in the whole world who is in love that way. Every single one of us had to navigate an awkward moment like this. Someone had to be brave and say the thing. There might have been hints and signals leading up to that moment, but no one was ever sure before they took the leap.

Hope and courage and love, Miss Eleanor.

"You know that tingly feeling you get when you like someone? That's common sense leaving your body."

Hello Captain,

This seems like such an common problem that I was surprised there hasn’t been a post about it before – but then, maybe it’s so commonplace and everyone but me handles it fine so it doesn’t need a post.

Your column has helped change from a “build the crush up in my head” Firther to someone who Uses My Words and asks people out when I first become interested in them. Sometimes they say yes! Other times they say no but I’m still better off than I would have been had I let the crush fester! I can’t thank you enough for your advice on this topic over the years.

Yet now I have a problem. Over the past few months, I’ve developed a crush on this fellow, whom we’ll call Fellow. Fellow is in a serious, monogamous relationship and has been for several years. From my outside perspective, they are very happy together and likely to get married. I have no desire to negatively impact this relationship.

Fellow and I have been acquaintances for years, but have recently started talking more and have become Actual Friends within the past few months. We talk online quite a bit. We don’t see each other in person often but we got to hang out at a nerd event this weekend. Apparently, our in-person interaction is obviously flirtatious enough that several people asked me what the heck is going on with us.

I think he may be flirting with me with the assumption that it’s all in good fun and nothing will come of it. I’m worried that it’s dishonest and wrong to continue as we have been with him not knowing that I’m seriously interested and would make a move if things were different.

Fellow is also semi-famous in our particular nerd world, and has said things that imply to me that he perceives my sometimes-nervousness around him simply as being starstruck (not in an egotistical way; he always reminds me that he’s not a big deal and that we really are friends). It also follows that he may know that I have a crush on him, but think it’s more of a celebrity crush than real feelings.

I can’t tell him that I like him, right? No good can come of it.

Am I obligated to cut down on the flirting, or can I pretend it’s just for fun since that’s probably why he flirts with me?

And what on earth can I do to stop this crush from taking over my brain if I can’t talk to him about it?

Regards,
I Was Doing So Well

Dear Doing So Well:

Having a crush on a monogamously attached person isn’t wrong (or if it is, I am retroactively sorry, like, 1,000 times).

Your instincts are also good on the whole “don’t tell the happily partnered friend about your crush because you don’t want to throw a wrench into his works or beach yourself on the rocky shoals of his disinterest” thing.

But your question illustrates the limitations of that strategy, when your endgame isn’t “get with this dude,” it’s “enjoy his company without shredding your own heart” as he casually flirts with you.

So this is about finding a way to take care of yourself. One way is to wait for the next time he flirts with you and address it.

Hey, it can be really fun to flirt with you, but could you chill out with it for a while?

He’s gonna say something like “Aw man, why?

And you can say “Eh, it’s just a bit too much, thanks” and leave it there. You don’t have to give reasons. Repeat versions  and variations of “It’s too much.“I know you don’t mean anything by it, but it feels like too much.” 

I’m usually against invoking Mysterious Other People Who Agree With Me That You Are Doing Things Wrong in discussions, but the fact that it’s noticeable enough in public that other people are commenting on it can be part of the reason. “In public it attracts more attention than I’m comfortable with, and in private it just feels confusing and inappropriate.

Get ready for him to defend his honor and your honor. But we’re just friends! I don’t mean anything by it! My girlfriend is okay with it! You’re my friend, you’re not some fangirl groupie, etc., etc.

The thing is, this doesn’t have to be about his relationship, the rules of his relationship, his just-a-friendly feelings for you, or whatever. This is about you and your comfort. His right to flirt with you ends at your comfort with that. You get to reset the boundary within your friendship. “No flirting for a while” is a perfectly reasonable request, and a true friend (especially someone with a little fame who is used to ‘starstruck’ fans) has a lot of room to be cool and understanding. You’re not obligated to keep flirting with him just so that your friendship will never change and he will always feel 100% okay about his behavior, so don’t get sucked into that trap.

This discussion might spiral into a FEELINGSTALK, if you set a boundary about behavior and he keeps digging for reasons.“I don’t want to get between you and girlfriend, or make our friendship weird, but the flirting stuff makes my feelings confused. The problem isn’t that I don’t enjoy it, it’s that I *really* enjoy it, in a way that feels inappropriate given that we are not involved and you are very happily involved with someone else. I’d like very much to stay friends with you, but I need the flirting to stop for that to comfortably happen.

In the screenplay in my head he says “Oh.” and you say “Bet you wish you’d just stopped back when I said ‘can you lay off the flirting for a while?‘”

The other way is to pull back a bit from the friendship and put your energy into meeting new people and otherwise distracting yourself. You don’t have to slow fade or cut things off, and you don’t have to notify him that you are doing it or why. Just let him do the work of initiating conversation for a while. Maybe train yourself out of responding immediately by filtering his emails to a folder that you check once a week. Maybe don’t be so available on IM. Maybe be more scheduled about IM sessions or phone calls so that you can compartmentalize a bit and it’s not all flirty messaging, all the time. When you have a crush like the way you have a crush, your brain interprets any attention from him as “Happy Reward Times! RELEASE THE PLEASURE CHEMICALS” and you need to cut into that cycle somehow.

If he notices that you are not so available and asks you about it, and if you feel up to it, you can level with him. “Since you ask, last time I saw you at Event, we were very flirty, and it made my feelings confused. I don’t want a little crush on you to make our friendship weird or lead to anything inappropriate, so I’ve been pulling back a bit until my feelings get less awkward. I’ll see you/talk to you in (time frame that is probably a few months), is that cool?

Everything that makes you fun to flirt with for this person is within you. It’s not some glow imparted by this one dude’s Nerdfame or attention, it’s your wit and attractiveness and good humor and loyal friendship or whatever Terrifyingly Amazing stuff you’ve got going on. This is the good part of crushes, the part that lights you up and makes you smile and get great haircuts on the regular and stand up straight and flirt shamelessly with hot nerd celebrities. Keep being brave and awkward, and when love comes to you it will come correct.

 

Four letters about The Guy Who Would Be Perfect If Not For That One Dealbreaker Thing. I didn’t publish the 5th of this ilk that came in this week, which was about a perpetually-unemployed-and-not-trying, bad-in-bed man who was also mean. That one was too easy (Bees! Run!). These are harder because people don’t have to be evil to be not quite right for you.

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Every month(ish) I answer the questions people typed into search engines to find this blog. Except for adding punctuation, I don’t change the wording. Enjoy!

1. “Mother-in-law hates me. How do I tell her I’m pregnant?”

That sounds like a job for your spouse, her (presumably) son, who should be doing all or most of any communicating with his mom that needs doing.

2. “How to get a passive-aggressive man to talk to you?”

Pretend you don’t want to talk to him but make weird backhanded insults in his presence about how he shouldn’t talk to you, creating an endless loop of passive-aggression. He will be unable to resist your gambit.

"Relativity" by MC Escher

“Your endless staircase of insinuation and feigned dislike reminds me of the much nicer one I have at Pemberley.”

Or try “Hey Steve, nice to see you. How are you today?” like you would with anyone else.

3. “My boyfriend passed away 7 months ago. When is it okay to date again?”

I am so very sorry for your loss. This is actually an easy question to answer in short form:

You are 100% the boss of when you start dating again. If you’re ready now, now is the time. If you need more time to grieve, take all the time you need. Don’t let anyone pressure you, don’t let anyone guilt you, either.

4. “These little old ladies want to be fucked in my phone number 530.”

Image from old "Where's the Beef?" Wendy's commercial. Three little old ladies yell "Where's the beef?" into a phone.

How extremely specific, yet vague. We need details, son!

5. “He never read my Facebook message.”

He probably did, tho.

6. “My housemates complain about me having sex what can I do?”

Be quieter, is my guess, if it’s a noise complaint. Do it at your partner(s)’s house(s) more, if it’s a “but they’re always AROUND and using the shower when we need it and watching our TV and eating our food” complaint. Plan to move if it’s a “we are judgmental of the fact that you have sex at all or who you have sex with” complaint.

Living with housemates requires a certain amount of “I will just choose not to ever notice anything that happens in your room when your door is closed” attitude to make the social contract work. But housemates do actually have the right to say “I signed up to live with you, not you + another person who is always here” and ask you to pitch a road game once in a while if you have overnight guests more than 3-4 nights/week, and they do have a right to ask you to keep it down between certain hours.

7. “I had fight with mybf bcoz of short dress help.” and 8.”Why is he so mean to me?”

Read Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft and get yourself to a safe place that’s Away From That Guy. I’m so sorry.

I’m reading this now (for blog discussion reasons, not personal ones, though it was pretty funny to have my boyfriend buy it for me from the bookstore where he works with “It’s for my girlfriend!”). It is very, very good and will help you see controlling & mean behaviors as part of an overall pattern of deliberate behavior, not anything that is your fault.

9. “Making letter for a friend that you cares about at the same time you mad at him somehow.”

If you don’t want to end or take a break from the friendship, keep the letter (or whatever communication you use) focused on the behavior that bugged you. And try, if you can, to keep it focused on the most recent instance of that behavior. “When you asked me to be your date to the party but were reading your phone/texting all night it really hurt my feelings” is better than “You are always on your phone when we hang out!

10. “How to impress a teacher you have a crush on.”

Do your best work for the class, learn what you came to learn, and move on when the semester is over without confessing your feelings or putting your teacher in an extremely awkward position. Crushes can be motivating personally without ever having to be acted on or expressed, this is one of those kinds of crushes.

11. “Is being tipsy attractive?”

To other tipsy folks, at closing time. Is that who you want to attract?

12. “Do people with Aspergers hate being interrupted?”

While it varies from individual to individual, in my limited experience, they hate this somewhat less than many neurotypical folks do. If you can’t reliably depend on social cues or body language to know when someone wants to tune out from what you’re saying, and a function of your personality is that you can and want to talk for a long time about things that interest you, having a friend or a coworker say “Thank you for that info, but I have all I need now” or “Hey, can we talk about X instead of Y for a minute?” is actually helpful if done kindly. We’ve got a lot of readers who can shed more light on this for you.

I don’t have Aspergers, but I am a geek and a college teacher and can definitely natter on about things, and when I’m in The Talking Zone I definitely appreciate a kind redirection as well.

13. ” How to avoid being the rebound girl?”

Easy. Just make sure that you date someone only after they’ve dated at least one other person since their last breakup.

Waterfall by MC Escher

Only date people if they’ve dated someone else since their last breakup and you will guarantee that you will never be the rebound!

Sorry for the impossible logic problem. It’s because I’d like the idea of the “rebound” to go the way of the “friend zone”: AWAY.

These can be true statements:

“I was dating someone but it didn’t really go anywhere because they were just too hung up on their ex/not looking for anything serious right now/the timing was wrong.” 

This is the truer statement:

“I was dating someone but it didn’t really go anywhere because they didn’t want it to.” 

You can meet someone right after getting out of a serious relationship and, if you like them enough and everything clicks well enough, go right into another one. Or you can be a person who needs a lot of time to regroup after a breakup and doesn’t even want to think about dating anyone seriously…but some makeouts that remind you that you have a body can be nice, or going on a dating site to “see what happens” can be a nice reminder that you have options. These are the On The Rebound people you are keen to avoid, and you will know them by their avoidance of any talk about feelings or the future.

But you can think you are that second kind of person and intend to date casually, until meeting a person you really love shakes you out of that mode. And you can think you are that first kind of person….ready for loooooooooooove!!!!!!….but not get into anything serious because it takes a while for you to meet the right person. Which leaves us with: There are two kinds of people and they are both just…people.

If the other person is really into you, and you are really into them, the timing won’t matter so much. So risk it like you would any other potential love relationship, but also listen to what the other person is saying and pay attention to their actions like you would in pursuing any other potential love relationship. Believe them when they say stuff like  “I like you but I’m just not ready for another serious relationship right now” “Let’s keep this really casual” etc. and don’t try spackle those things over with your awesome chemistry or how well you *should* work on paper. Those statements translate as I don’t want that kind of relationship with you.

14. “What does it mean when a girl says that she likes you but we just cant be in a relationship right now?”

It means she’s not interested in a romantic relationship with you and wants to let you down gently, so she’s using what she thinks is a culturally-approved script to do so. Read it as “she is not attracted to me or interested in ever being my girlfriend,” grieve for what might have been, and don’t bring the topic up again.

15. “He says he feels a deep connection.”

….but? You guys can hear the “but,” right?

16. My girlfriend asked for no contact but can I wish her happy birthday?

No contact is no contact.

My question is, do you want to be involved with someone who doesn’t want any contact with you?

17. “Men who are too intense too soon.”

Let’s reframe and rephrase this.

“Men who like you way more than you like them.”

“Men who creep you out or alarm you with their attentions.”

“Men who try too hard to lock in a relationship before you are ready.”

“Men who don’t pay attention to reciprocity and who come on way too strong.”

“Men who are controlling and needy.”

“Men whose relationship style is not compatible with yours.”

“Too intense” at the beginning of a relationship is often a red flag for someone with violent and controlling tendencies. Listen to those instincts and strongly consider breaking ties with whoever inspired you to search for this.

18. “He dumped me and got angry when I refused to be friends.”

Let’s reframe and rephrase this:

“He made me sad but then immediately made me relieved to be free of him, forever.”

“He suddenly made it much easier for me to put the entire sad business behind me.”

“He thinks that only he gets to decide the terms of our relationship.”

19. “How can you tell if someone has a mean streak?”

They do or say enough mean things to inspire you to Google that question, is my guess.

20. “How to piss off someone who has to have the last word?”

Remove their audience and replace it with sweet, cold, delicious silence.

 

 

Dear Captain Awkward:

How bad is it to get involved with a new person when I am still very hung up on someone else? Someone not available to me, but still part of my friend group? Even though I am still in love with him, I no longer hold out hope that we can be together and I feel ready to find someone else. What I’m afraid of is that I’ll meet someone new, and get involved, and then realize that I am not really emotionally available for him, which seems like an awful thing to do. But, I don’t see how I can know in advance whether or not I will love the new person more, unless I give it a try. Does this make me evil?

Part 2 of this question is, do I have to tell my new guy at some point about the old guy? Old guy doesn’t want me to, as he’s married and is afraid of the story getting out to all our friends and our children. Does it really matter if either I don’t love new guy enough to stay with him, or if I love him enough that I don’t love old guy any more?

Dang it,
Confused

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The monthly(ish) roundup of the questions people type into search engines to find this blog.

1. “My partner thinks I have genital warts but I have herpes what do I do?”

Both of you should get a full STI screen, if you haven’t already, and talk about whatever you find there. (‘Cause maybe it’s both). Or, if you’ve just done this, say “We thought I had HPV, but the screen showed that actually it’s herpes. You should get screened, too.

2. “My girlfriend is rude to my parents.” 

“Hey, you were pretty rude to my parents tonight. I don’t appreciate you (specific rude thing she did). I think they deserve an apology, and I need you to calm that whole thing down.”

If you bring it up, does she acknowledge the behavior? Is she rude to other people who aren’t you? Is she rude to your folks even after you talk to her about it?

3. “I joined a dating website to hurt him.”

Spite Dating: seems totally reasonable and like it will bring you and your Spite Dates nothing but happiness!

Or, ahem, maybe this is a good sign that whatever relationship you’re in has run its course and it’s time for you to find the exit, take some good care of yourself, give yourself some room to mourn and heal. Join a dating site to remind yourself that you have options. And then, when you’re ready, use that dating site and find new people who will be into you the way you want them to be. But do it for yourself, not at your (soon to be) ex.

4.” ‘I love you as certain dark things are to be loved in secret, between the shadow and the soul’ what does the line means?”

Reading the whole poem, it seems to me the poet is describing a love for someone for reasons that would not be obvious to everyone, in a way that isn’t necessarily healthy or a good idea, but is true nonetheless. It reminds me a little of the song My Funny Valentine. Lit Majors of Captain Awkward, what say you?

5. “I just don’t feel ready enough yet to be in a new relationship because I’m tired and now I want to be alone.” 

Embrace the alone.

Make your living space exactly what YOU want it to be. Eat foods YOU like, watch movies YOU want, listen to YOUR favorite music. Throw yourself into work, into school, into creative endeavors, into meeting new people or trying new things for their own sake. Or curl up under a blanket and wait out this eternal February with a good book. Spend time with your friends and family and people who love you. Be really nice to yourself. Heal. Get some rest. Feast on your life.

And when people ask, in a well-meaning fashion, if you’re dating anyone new or if you plan to, smile and say “I’m sure I will someday, but I’m really enjoying being alone right now.

There’s this picture of Katie Holmes from a while back that people were criticizing for being “frumpy” or whatever. I kind of love her outfit and would wear it in a heartbeat, but mostly what I want to say is “LOOK AT HER SMILE. THAT IS A PERSON WHO IS FEELING LIKE HERSELF RIGHT NOW.”

That’s you. Alone. Walking through the world like you know a secret no one else does, and the secret is that life is huge and amazing and you are strong and wonderful and there are all kinds of love in this world and relationship-type love is only one of them.

Read More

Dear Captain Awkward,

I happen to really like a guy who is the most confusing man I’ve ever met. I met Matt( fake name don’t worry) through my best friend. She is the type of person who finds loads of guys attractive and usually likes me to meet them so she can a) get my point of view and b) test them. More than once she has fallen for a guy who when they meet me kind of forget about her. She happens to be a very quiet and somewhat shy person and I’m a very flirty and friendly person. When I met Matt, Lauren( my wonderful best friend and also a fake name) and I both thought maybe he was flirting with me. I ran into him few more times over the course of a year and when I saw him at my college( where he also studies), I thought it would be the perfect time to snoop for her even if he did give me butterflies. We became friends and I over time forgot I was helping my best friend and not having a good time with a really amazing person. He’s a philosophy major who I have a lot in common with and we became friends. Lauren gradually realized she really wasn’t interested in him and thought more and more that Matt and I were a great match. Matt and I both had 3 hours on campus before two separate evening classes that started at the same time, and we started spending that 3 hours talking to each other twice a week for about 2 months. We confided in each other and had a lot of really amazing conversations, and I start to fall for him.

My friends start pushing me to go to the store where he works( which we loved already) and we would talk a little while he was working. The semester ends and we exchange phone number. We texted a little( usually I initiated it) and eventually after going to the store where he works to buy a gift over the three week Christmas break in between semesters and getting pissed at Matt, I deleted the number. Now( 3 months later), I will see him on campus quite often and he will either approach me and start a conversation where he tries to find out where I’m hanging out, am I in a relationship with that guy he saw me talking to, and why don’t I come see him at the store anymore or he will completely blow me off. Like I will say “Hi Matt” and he will walk the opposite direction. He will say he’s dating someone but then show up at places where I have told him I spend time and will befriend people who I’m friends with. Is this guy who I truly have fallen for into me and completely running scared or is he not interested at all? If he isn’t, how can I move on from this guy I never dated? Thanks for reading this.

Sincerely,
Really Freaking Confuuuused

Dear Confused:

I’m not sure this will help, but Matt is probably equally confused. You were acting like you liked him, and then you deleted his number and stopped contacting him, and he can’t tell what the heck is going on with your feelings about him. Are you friends? Are you people who were flirting but it never quite happened? Is the door still open? WHAT.

There is one thing that would cut immediately cut through the confusion, and good news! It’s entirely within your power! That thing is you actually telling him that you actually like him That Way. Stop trying to read the dude like tea leaves or the entrails of a goat and say the words. If he likes you back, he’ll let you know. If it isn’t like that, he’ll also let you know. If he’s too wishy-washy or too invested in the Battle of Who Could Care Less to even have the conversation, that’s good information, too.

If you don’t want to speak up, then drop it entirely. Write it off as something that was never meant to be, and stop paying attention to what the dude does.

Ok, this is just a P.S., because your best friend Lauren didn’t write to me, but this dynamic you have where you strategize about romance together and where she introduces the guys she likes to you and then they “forget all about her” is kind of messed up. It’s not all on you that it’s weird, but being naturally outgoing & flirting with your friend’s crushes just because you can are not the same thing. Next time she raises a prospect, try saying “My opinion isn’t really important, just go for it and have fun!” and also try NOT flirting with them when you do meet them. The cycle where she brings you new dudes the way my cat brings me catnip mouse toys is going to get ugly one of these days, and while you can’t control people’s preferences or desires there is some stuff here that you can control. One possible problem is that Lauren is telling you that she likes the guys, and the two of you are working out who “gets” to date him between the two of you, but no one is actually telling the dudes what is up. Maybe both of you can support each other in being a little more forthright with people you like. 

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