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Dear Captain,

I live with my partner of several years. I love her very much. We share a lot of hobbies, including a theater club. My partner is *exceptionally good* at theater – a result of a decade of passion – and most of our friends are theater people. But recently I’ve been discovering that her passion – one of her defining qualities – has been making her relationships within this community harder. 

People have been talking to me for about a year now about her long-standing habit of being incredibly bossy, having incredibly high standards for herself and resenting it when other people don’t live up to them, and making it hard to enjoy this activity at all when she’s there with them. One person we’re close to, he worked with her on a performance a few years ago, before I even met her, and he told me that after that performance, he decided never to work with her again because she made the experience unbearable. As I’ve asked around, others (who she respects deeply) have agreed with me that her behavior is fun-killing all around. People I love are no longer participating in events with us because she lacks empathy when dealing with people in a theater context.

Granted, she’s incredibly empathetic – she’s a teacher by trade – but she feels that when she leaves the classroom, she doesn’t want to have to make so much effort just to, I guess, have friends that value her outside of her intellect. Now she has lupus and is in pain a lot of the time, so most of our friends have sympathy for that. But this seems bigger than just being in chronic pain. (Or is it?) 

I have told her what her friends think of her (well most of it), and have pointed out that most of our friends think her behavior is hurtful, undermining, and steamroll-y. She responds that I need to stop caring about what other people think about her. She’s defensive and tells me to ignore what other people think. 

She’s also bossy about other things in our shared life together. Others have interpreted this as abusive, and one person was shocked to see her apparently bark orders at me. (Granted she was in immense pain at the time.)

I regularly check in with myself – I’m a past victim of abuse – but it doesn’t feel the same. It doesn’t feel like abuse. There’s no emotional put-downs, no manipulation, no threats. We’re highly effective communicators except for this issue. There’s raw anger and frustration, and defensiveness, but missiles are never directed at me as a person. She just underrates the amount of pain she causes others in pursuit of our hobby. 

One or two friends have wanted to stage an intervention. These plans never panned out. I’m not sure whether or not to force the issue. She is in therapy, but I think a couple’s counseling session or two surrounding this would be helpful. I’m not entirely sure what could be done other than me saying ‘You hurt me because you make people feel bad when they’re around us by raising your voice, arguing about the finer points of staging or scriptwriting, and being condescending’ and her being like ‘Well, I’m sorry, but that’s who I am.’ 

Thoughts appreciated.

-Bossed-At

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Every month I try to answer the questions people typed into search engines to find this place as if they were questions people asked me. I add punctuation, but I leave the text alone.

1. “Ex no longer contacts me.”

If you have shared custody or financial entanglements, this is a problem. If you don’t, this is probably a healthy evolution of things that means that time is doing its healing work.

2. “Nerdy desperate dating problems.”

You’re probably in the right place. Start here.

3. “I want to hang out with my ex because I’m bored.”

That is not a good reason. Probably you should call literally anyone else.

4. “He says he wants space. What does he mean?” & “What does he mean when he says he can’t give me what I want?”

Statements like this are very often a preludes to a breakup, or a break, or a request to hang out less, or a request to take the relationship down a level in terms of seriousness and time together. Whatever the person telling you intends, a good message to take away from statements like this is that you are being asked or warned to invest less of yourself in whatever this thing is. Don’t make big plans with this person, like, getting a place together or moving closer to them or adopting a pet. Reach out to people in your life who are not this person, and put your energy into other friendships and connections.

5. “Uncle touch breasts petting the cat on my lap.”

There are accidental touches, and then there are touches that might be bad touches (and you know because they make you uncomfortable and they make you type things like that into search engines). If it happens again, this is one of those times to visibly startle, yelp, say “HEY!” and stand up and maybe the cat will end up sort of on your uncle’s face. Someone who touched you totally by accident will be sheepish and embarrassed and never, ever, ever do it again. You’ll know a creeper because he will try to shame you for making a big deal, as if you are the one in the wrong. I give you full permission to make a SCENE. 

6. “I feel cheated on when friend wants new friends.”

That is a sucky feeling and it is really hard to just sit with it and deal with it without making it your friend’s problem, but if you are an adult and you want to keep this friendship, that is what I suggest you do. There is no script for “I wish you wouldn’t hang out with other people without me” that sounds good. Be really nice to yourself, find an outlet for those feelings like a journal or a therapist, and give it some time.

7. “I fuck goats.”

I do not think the goats enjoy that, like, at all. NO BUENO.

8. “Terrible names to call your sister.”

You should probably leave your sister alone and just go your separate ways rather than name-calling, but the Shakespeare Insult Kit is kind of fun.

9. “Once a rapist always a rapist?”

Statistically speaking, yeah. Rapists rape repeatedly.

10. I have a gay boyfriend but I keep masturbating. 

Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all. It’s not cheating. It’s not wrong.

11. “What does it mean when a man says he doesn’t want you but he doesn’t want anyone else to have you.”

It means that this is someone you should avoid, completely, forever. This is such a shithead thing to say.

12. “Its my husband’s responsibility to clean his poo stain.”

Is he physically able to do this? If so, you’ll get no argument from me.

13. “I feel guilty for breaking a blind date.”

Forgive yourself. You didn’t want to meet that person.

14. “You know she wants to have sex just need to say the right thing.”

The “right thing” probably is to ask “Do you want to have sex?” and see if “she” answers “yes.” Then you’ll know, and you’ll have said the “right thing” to find out.

15. “How to politely, firmly stop attending club meetings due to physical disabilities.”

Email the organizer. “Hi _____, I wanted to let you know that won’t be at club meetings for the forseeable future, so please don’t plan on me. I’ve got some (personal/health/other priorities/whatever you are comfortable sharing, keeping in mind that you don’t need to give a reason) taking my attention right now, I’ll let you know if anything changes. Thanks for all you do!”

Then you don’t need to reply to anything, and you don’t need to go.

16. “What does it mean when she says when and if the time is right we will meet?”

She may want to meet someday, but she does not want to meet either “now” or “soon” or “anytime that is actually planned out and committed to on an actual calendar.”

17. “What kind of question to seduce a female?”

A female what?

P.S. Don’t call women that. It’s dehumanizing and gross.

18. “Is it bad to break up with someone after a week?”

Is waiting gonna make it better? “I am so sorry, I am not feeling it, and we should break this off.” Set yourself and that person free.

19. “He says no relationship but he acts like he is into me.”

Believe the words and get some distance from him. If he changes his mind, he knows how to find you and how to tell you about that, but I’d hate to see you hanging around waiting for that to happen.

20. “Captain Awkward, how do I get my ex back?”

You reach out once to say “Ex, would you be willing to give it another try?” and then you abide 100% by whatever they tell you, is my suggestion. No guarantees, but this one approach is at least honest, respectful, and will get you an answer without wasting a lot of your time.

 

 

Ahoy there!

I have a 40-year-old friend who’s very open about his frustrations with internet dating in our geeky friend circle, and recently he went on a date with a 32-year-old woman who, during their date, said that she is looking to have a couple of kids in the future. She didn’t want them straight away, but she’s looking for a relationship that would ideally end up there.

He was appalled by this, and says he feels a) like he was being assessed for fatherhood, and b) that it was unfair that because he doesn’t want to have kids ever, (and I’m sure for other reasons,) she wouldn’t have another date with him – he thinks they’re compatible in other areas, so could have a lot of fun. Most of our friend-group seem to be commiserating with him, but I think he’s out of order. He’s saying that there’s time for her to have a fling with him, but if you’re looking for relationships where (for example) you’re planning to move in together in a year’s time, and start trying for a kid in two, bearing in mind you might not meet someone compatible straight away, you are completely justified in deciding you don’t have time to waste dating guys who definitely will never want children (or any other reason!).

I seem to be in an extreme minority – as a gay woman who’s 40, apparently I don’t understand these things. I suspect that being the type of guy with a long history of fixating on people and not wanting to change anything about himself, it’s convenient for him to decide she would be the next Only Girl In The World rather than look around for more dates. But he’s being given sympathetic suggestions like he should have said he wasn’t sure about kids, and string her along for a bit, or do that AND try to persuade her she doesn’t want kids after all, which is despicable to me, or that this woman was some kind of crazy person who was only after his sperm and he had a lucky escape.

Do you have any suggestions, or resources, to help geeky guys understand that for some (not all) women in their ‘30s, dating can be more serious than for the 40-year-old guys? I’m obviously not getting through – and given he only wants to date women in their early 30s (if a woman’s still single over 40, she’s got too much baggage, or something something? I KNOW! Why AM I friends with him?) this is unlikely to be the only time this will happen.

Why AM I Still Friends With Him

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Hi Captain,

About six months ago, I had to move to the other side of the country for a new job. My now ex-boyfriend and I decided to try out the long distance relationship thing, but then he told me that he would never move to be with me. We kind of floundered for a few weeks after that, then had an ugly, terrible fallout, and I stopped talking to him.

We haven’t spoken since then, despite his attempts to contact me.

Losing him has really messed me up. I was crazy about this guy. I know this is probably going to sound silly, but I really do think he was pretty much perfect. He had this incredible super hero jaw line, a wonderful smile, gorgeous eyes, and had the body of a Greek god. He was smart, funny, and unbelievably sweet. He was the nicest, most helpful person I’ve ever met in my life. We liked all the same movies, TV shows, music, books, food…and the sex was insane. I never had an orgasm until I met him. He was so fucking perfect he didn’t even have morning breath when we would wake up together. I swear, our relationship was like something out of a romance novel. I thought we were going to get married and be together forever.

I’m in therapy and on antidepressants now, because breaking up with him left me in such a mess (like “almost getting fired from my new job” sort of mess). But I’ve been trying to do the usual stuff to help get over a breakup: staying busy, deleting Facebook, hitting the gym, etc., etc. Also, being in a new city where I know no one, I’ve been going to social events to try and make new friends, which has been going well, all things considered. And…I guess I should mention that most of these events have been kinky and BDSM related events because…I am kinky and into BDSM.

I’ve been meeting lots of guys at these social events, and a few of them have asked me out, or asked me to play with them. I usually stand there and quietly compare them to my ex before politely turning them down. Which is very clearly and obviously a sign that I should not be involved with anyone right now beyond platonic friendship.

A few weeks ago, though, I was at another one of these events, and started chatting up with this guy who was super cute. He has this big, contagious grin, and his eyes would light up so bright when he would find out we both liked the same obscure TV show or comic book or whatever. He was one of the first people to make me laugh really hard since I moved here.

We friended each other on Fetlife (a kinky social media website) the day after we met, and he sent me a message asking me out shortly thereafter. I wrote him back, explaining I not interested in dating anyone, but if he wanted to hang out as friends, that would be super cool!

He never responded to that message, but we’ve seen each other at a few more events since then and…I just get the butterflies something terrible when he’s around. He’s just so funny and sweet and so full of passion and life. I mean, he sang to me the other night in front of a bunch of people and it was all I could do to not swoon into his arms. We’ve spent some time talking about our kinks and fetishes and they line up so nice. And what I think is most important is that when we’re hanging out, I don’t sit there and compare him to my ex.

But part of me is worried that we’ll start dating, and then a bunch of old feelings about my ex will resurface. Or I’m worried that this guy will just be a rebound for me, and that doesn’t seem fair to him. Ooorrrr…you know, I start dating him, and nothing bad happens, and it helps me get over my ex more quickly, and everything will just be awesome.

I dunno. What do you think, Captain?

Sincerely,
Whips and Chains Hurt Less Than Heartbreak

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Edited to Add: The Toast has compiled a list of telltale comments re: creepitude.

Hi Captain!

I’m 21 and recently graduated from university. My best friend Sam is 23. Sam struck up a very close friendship with a 43 year old married man named Chris. I’m concerned because:

1. They spend 3-4 days/week together in a larger social group setting and alone.

2. They often stay out for hours and hours till 4-5am while Chris’s wife Judy sleeps at home. Sam says Judy doesn’t want to go with them.

3. Sam says her name has come up in un-related fights between Chris and Judy.

4. Chris said his mother thought their friendship was odd in the context of an, “older people just don’t understand me” conversation.

5. Within the first HOUR of meeting Chris, he made two separate slights toward his wife (who was not present) in the form of, “Oh, Judy would never come out to something like this” (swing dancing) and, “Oh, Judy isn’t one to try new foods”.

6. Chris commented to a different mutual friend once that sometimes he “thinks he married the wrong woman”.

7. Chris goes to Sam for emotional support, especially when he has a fight with his wife.

Sam doesn’t see anything uncomfortable or inappropriate with this dynamic but I have foreboding feelings. It feels weird and I can’t seem to separate their age discrepancy as a factor that’s magnifying the weirdness. When I talked about this with Sam, she told me I’m acting ageist.

Flash forward several weeks to the person I was dating recently, Mike. Mike and I met online and hit it off right away. He was kind, funny, feminist, and WONDERFUL. We discussed problematic masculinity on our first date (THE ACTUAL DREAM!). Sleeping with him was a pretty big deal for me because it was my first time and I had been waiting to have sex with someone I felt “all in” about. Mike’s profile said he was 27, which was fine because I’ve dated a lot of guys my age who are so nervous that I feel like I’m babysitting. Things with Mike were going well until, unexpected plot twist, I found out he was actually THIRTY SEVEN. He claimed 27 was a typo online but that he looks and feels like he’s a twentysomething (he’s in university), and that he thinks I act very “maternal”, so it shouldn’t be a problem. When I talked to Sam about my misgivings, she said I’m acting ageist again.

Can you help sort out my feelings about all this? Am I really being old-fashioned and ageist in these situations? How much is too much of an age difference to date someone? Do the rules and dynamics of friendship change if there’s a big age difference between friends?

Thanks!

The Adults Are Not All Right

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Ghostbusters shooting their plasma guns

“Isn’t it about time we crossed the streams?”

Dear Captain!

My awkward problem is this: I’ve been dating this guy for about two and a half months. He’s nice! I like him! He seems to like me! I’ve stayed over at his place a few times and he’s been to my apartment. But he won’t introduce me to anyone in his life (and isn’t that keen on meeting anyone from mine) and it’s starting to weird me out. Am I overreacting?

We see each other a couple of times a week, usually. He won’t hang on weekends, because he goes to visit his family in another city. Though sometimes, he has said he is going to visit his family and then tells me he changed his mind and stayed home in this town and hung out with his brother all weekend, but he never suggested I meet his brother. It’s like he is Mr. Secret Squirrel about his life. This week he is hosting a friend/ colleague from his company’s office abroad so he told me we can’t see each other as much because he has to work/hang out with this guy until fairly late every day.

At no point did he suggest that I come meet this person and say hi and we have coffee or something low key, though he did discuss with me tourist places he should take this guy. I felt too awkward to ask directly, “hey, your colleague buddy sounds cool, I’d like to meet him”, because he was so cagey (he has not even told me the guy’s name). They are spending the weekend on day trips and I understand why he might not want to invite me to those — he wants to spend time with his buddy & colleague, that’s all cool. But not to introduce me at all seems odd?

I have wanted to introduce him to my friends (I am an ex-pat in this country and my friend pool is fairly small because a lot of people have left (we live in a war zone) but he is a bit dismissive of the things we do – boardgames, Cards Against Humanity etc. Not openly hostile, just “oh that seems weird”.

I have no clue why he doesn’t seem to want me to meet people from his life, and I know it’s pointless to speculate. He is very introverted and maybe it doesn’t occur to him that people can socialize? Is that making excuses for him? Or am I overreacting?

How can I raise this with him without sounding weird or pushy or something? I’m getting really tired of it!

Thanks for any wisdom and insight,
C.

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I’m about to go on a shoot for a few days, so closing comments as of 9/11/2014. Thanks for a productive discussion, I think we’ve covered about every aspect of this. Good luck, LW. 

Dear Captain Awkward:

This is not necessarily an awkwardness question, but I value your advice so hopefully you can give me some perspective. I started dating my boyfriend while I was in an open relationship with my ex-husband. A year into my relationship with my boyfriend, my ex and I decided to divorce due to unrelated reasons.

In almost every way, my boyfriend is perfect for me. We have crazy sexual chemistry, similar interests, we communicate excellently. He is helpful, constantly goes out of his way to make my life easier, and is by far the best relationship I’ve ever been in. EXCEPT, he has 4 kids and I have never wanted kids. In fact, I generally actively dislike children. It didn’t seem like a big deal when we started dating because I was married at the time. Now that I’m getting divorced, we moved to being a primary relationship and it’s a serious concern.

I have told my boyfriend how I feel about this and that while I love him, I have doubts about the long term viability of our relationship due to this. I have serious reservations about being a step-mom, which is ultimately the role I would have to assume if we stay together. He understands, but he doesn’t think that it would be as bad as I fear and that I would be a good influence on the kids (which is probably true, as I believe in boundaries, fair discipline and structure within child rearing which they have not had much of in their life and it shows in their behavior).

I have been thinking about it more though, and if I’m honest, had I been single when we met I don’t know that I would have gotten involved with him due to this. Also, I feel like I jumped from being married to being in a long term relationship without being able to take a break in between to figure my own shit out.

We have so few problems, but the one we have is HUGE. I love him and our relationship but when I take a larger view, all I see is that it is on a path that will lead somewhere I don’t want to go. Is it possible to overcome a lifetime of disliking children to become a good stepmom? Despite these issues, his kids like me and have even expressed that they wish I was their mom (theirs abandoned them). I feel like the logical answer is to break up, but that would break both of our hearts. What do you do when you’ve found the person that has every quality that you’ve ever wanted – but comes with the one package that you never wanted?

- Don’t Want to Be an Evil StepMother

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