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Hi Captain,

My husband and I have enjoyed three years of wedded bliss. He’s a super-organized, left-brained engineer. I am a right-brained, less organized creative-type. We’re crazy about each other and get along very well. But there’s one minor, recurrent issue that I want to address, and I’d appreciate your input on how to discuss it with my husband.

It seems like sometimes my husband micromanages me. I say “seems like” because what feels like micromanaging to me is what he would call “being helpful” or pointing out the “right way” to do something. An example: Last night, while putting away the rice cooker, he tells me how I should wrap the cord around the handle of the rice cooker in order to make it easier to unwrap the cord next time we want to use it. To his engineer brain, this is him “being helpful!” because if there is a more efficient way to do something, of course that’s the right way to do it.

I’m fine with him offering suggestions some of the time, but when he does this on a daily basis, it grates on my nerves. And honestly, it feels pretty patronizing. I might be more flighty and disorganized than him, but I’m also a competent adult who can figure out how to put the rice cooker away, thank you very much.

Another example: While I’m making dinner, he suggests that I’ll save time if I chop up an onion his way instead of my way. (I do 90% of the cooking. If one of us is an expert in onion-chopping, it’s me!) Also: After lots of thorough research, I purchase travel insurance for our next vacation; after I make the purchase, he reads the policy and the emails me with questions/issues—all of which I already addressed when I called the insurance company. This leaves me with the impression that he doesn’t trust that I did my homework, so to speak, before I purchased the insurance.

I’ve tried addressing this in the moment by saying “I’ve got this covered, okay?” and “I think I know how to chop an onion, dear,” but my words aren’t sticking. I want to sit him down and have a conversation, something along of the lines of: “Sometimes you do This Thing, and when you do, it feels like you think I’m not competent or capable. I feel like you don’t trust me to handle things on my own without your participation.” I’m worried that his response will be what it usually is. He’ll pull out the “helpful!” card or claim that his way is the right way. Got any ideas/thoughts/scripts for me?

Thanks a million!

Not his employee

Dear Not His Employee,

Let’s begin today with a musical interlude:

HE COMES OUT DAY AND NIGHT

TO TELL YOU HE’S ALWAYS RIGHT

HE’LL TELL YOU THE THINGS THAT YOU ALREADY KNOW-OW-OW

WATCHING AND WAITING

OOH HE’S SITTING WITH YOU BUT HIS EYES ARE ON LIFEHACKER

WHOA HERE HE COMES

WATCH OUT GIRL HE’LL FIX YOU UP

WHOA HERE HE COMES

HE’S A MANSPLAINER

:dance party:

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Once a month I try to answer the things that people typed into search engines to find my blog as if they are questions. It’s an exercise in mixed results.

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Hello Captain!

Something has been bothering me for a long time – I have been accused of “leading guys on.” When this happened in college and grad school, I shrugged it off because the guys who would accuse me of this were always ones that took any female attention as romantic interest in them or they had a crush on me, but I had told them, usually several times, that I was not interested in them romantically, only as friends.

I am a friendly, smiley person who is easy to talk to/confide in (which is good since I am a healthcare provider now), so I am guessing that helps lend to their idea that I am romantically interested in them. But if they paid attention, they would see that I am like that with everyone! However, I do make a point of not flirting at all, not touching them in any way, and only meeting with them in groups to avoid any accidental messages going through to guys that I suspect have interest in me. 

But I feel like it keeps happening! And it is really starting to make me angry because I am trying to make professional connections (and hopefully friends!) and I am so tired of guys coming onto me out of nowhere or when it is clearly inappropriate.

For example, I went to a business lunch with two professionals. The second person never showed up, so we had some drinks and chatted. We talked about our relationships a bit (me = my boyfriend is awesome, him = having a child completely changed his life and marriage). We went back to his office to talk more (business, I thought), when he said, “if I was younger, I would have thought that you coming back to my office meant you wanted to sleep with me.” I was shocked. I wrapped up the conversation and ran.

Something similar happened with another healthcare provider. We were exchanging treatments, and because he was so easy to talk to, I ended up confiding much more in him than I usually would with someone. He ended up confiding his marriage problems to me and a few sessions later, he stated that he “could not be alone with me” because he was “afraid something he would regret would happen.” I assured him that I would never cheat on my boyfriend, so he had nothing to worry about from me, but I respected his wish to stop our exchanges. I was upset about this for a few weeks because I thought I had finally found a new friend to talk about our practices and daydreamed about double dates with him and his wife.

There is a third guy with the same basic thing of us hanging out, him coming onto me when I thought we were just friends, me having to leave ASAP, and then never talking to him again AND actively avoiding seeing him (which means I have to skip professional events I would like to attend but not enough to risk seeing him).

Both times, these guys were married AND we had talked about my wonderful boyfriend. I know they are unhappy with their marriages, but I am clearly happy with my relationship, and even if I wasn’t, I would never cheat and I really resent the implied accusation that I would do so. With the unmarried third guy, the same still stands because he knew about my boyfriend.

My boyfriend only knows about what happened with the third guy because I was so distraught over it (it was actually the first event). He said that I am too nice and naive. I know I can be pretty oblivious when reading signals that are related to me (it’s so much easier to observe what’s happening with other people!), but I am actively doing everything I can think of to avoid sending misleading signals and avoiding “compromising” situations.

What am I doing wrong? I can’t possibly be leading every guy on, can I?

Thank you for reading (and thank you for all of your previous posts!),
Not Leading Them On (On Purpose Anyway)

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Samuel Jackson from Pulp Fiction

“That had better be one charming pig.” – Jules, Pulp Fiction

Dear Captain Awkward,

I have a problem. I am a feminist. Why is that a problem? Because my boyfriend, as generous and thoughtful and funny and sweet as he is, doesn’t get it. At all. We’ve been dating for over a year and I love him, which is what makes this so hard. About three months into our relationship, I noticed that when I’d bring up some women-centric issue (i.e, the Steubenville rape case), his argument was “Well, she shouldn’t have been drinking so much.” Which, of course, is awful and, yes, I may have gone to bed angry that night.

I chalked it up to him just “being a guy” and being influenced by the world’s habit of blaming the victim, etc. But then, as our relationship progressed, these things just kept. popping. up. To the point where he told me that he believes in Men’s Rights and he thinks feminists are crazy and damaging. I’ve told him my feelings on this and how hurtful and scary I think these opinions are. He’s told me that he may be influenced this way because of a (really bad) past relationship, a relationship which I knew all about when we started dating.

If I knew he had these opinions and this hate back when we first started dating, I would have walked away in a heartbeat. But I’ve been sucked in. I love him. But every time this comes up, like if there’s a news story that’s big (Gamergate and the Ugly Shirt Comet Guy were big topics) where he feels “feminists” are getting out of line, I feel sick inside.

I’m embarrassed when we go to parties and my level headed friends (both men and women) don’t share his opinions, I feel my stomach tighten when I’m browsing online and see a story about feminist issues – not because the story makes me upset, but because I’m worried about what HE will think about it. I’ve honestly told him ALL of this and he doesn’t want me to change my opinions for him. He says that my opinions and views don’t change the way he feels about me. But do they change the way I feel about him? I think so. 

I know all of this sounds like a laundry list of reasons to break up. But he has so many fantastic qualities and there’s a reason I’ve stuck around this long. Do you have any suggestions for how to… I don’t know… fix this?

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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.

 

 

The Bachelor group shot

“One of you lucky ladies is going to get tenure!”

Hi Captain (& friends),

I have been dating an awesome guy for a little over a year now. It’s not really my style to gush over a romantic partner, but this is possibly the happiest and most comfortable I’ve ever been with someone. However, we have one big difference: I’m a graduate student getting my PhD in a science field, and he never completed his bachelor’s and is currently working in the service industry. He’s taking online classes and collaborating on a startup, but doesn’t plan to finish his degree.

This doesn’t bother me, or adversely affect the relationship. He is extremely intelligent and genuinely interested in my research work, and I like hearing wild stories from the club he works at. He challenges my ideas and experiments in ways that are interesting and helpful, since they’re not coming from within the academic culture. And besides, we have a lot of shared interests, like programming, caving, and gaming, where we are at similar levels of accomplishment and feel like we can challenge each other.

But this doesn’t stop me from getting anxious about the education discrepancy. When I first met Boyfriend, my out-of-town friends told me I needed to be aiming higher. All my in-town friends are grad students / PhDs, and they’re all dating other grad students / PhDs. They spend date nights writing new theorems; I spend date nights playing Starcraft. It can make parties a little weird: “Oh, your partner developed an entirely new model of fish ecology? That’s awesome! Mine couldn’t come because he’s still washing tables.”

I already have a lot of anxiety about my career. Thanks to ever-present imposter syndrome, my brain loves telling me that I’m my department’s pity hire, I actually don’t know anything about science, and I will crash and burn horribly. So now I’m afraid that I’m somehow sabotaging myself and my career with this non-academic relationship. Is it going to turn me into a lesser scientist? Am I wasting time? Are my priorities all out of whack? I feel awful for making this all about me and my flawed, academia-instilled value system, but my brain won’t shut up about it. For what it’s worth, Boyfriend knows about this anxiety and tries to help (like, by scheduling Thesis / Startup Work “Dates”, to help with my fear that I’m spending too much time with him and not enough time in the lab).

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