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Friendship

Dear Captain Awkward,

I have a great, strong, smart female friend who has fallen head over heels for her boyfriend. They’ve been dating for under a year but already live together.

This friend has been attending a weekly trivia night with us now for over a year. When the new guy came on the scene he said how much he loved trivia and asked to join. We are a very inclusive team with friends from all over so of course we let him.

While he isn’t the favourite at trivia (he is very competitive and we are very bad at trivia but we have fun) things had been mostly fine, until he lost his job. He has been unemployed now for about 4 months, which I get is tough. However, he went from having a few beers at a casual Monday trivia to having 6+ over the course of 2 hours.

It’s awkward when he gets drunk for sure, but again I could have put up with this. I get it being sad about not having a job is hard. However, in the last month there has been a pattern of him not paying for said drinks. The bar we go to refuses to do separate tabs, so what often happens is people put their cash down and go. Consistently it seems he doesn’t put enough in or any at all, and by the time we realize those of us who are left are stuck with the bill. It’s one thing to forget once or twice, but it seems to be a pattern.

I’m not really sure what to do. I don’t want to embarrass him, and I don’t feel we are good enough friends for me to confront him about it. But I also know my best friend wants to spend the rest of her life with this man, and I’m worried that if I bring it up she’ll get angry with me. Money is such an awkward subject, what do I do?

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You’re worried about someone or something. You want to help. What happens if you don’t try to fix whatever it is and take care of yourself instead?

Dear Captain Awkward:

My boyfriend and I have been dating for three years and I dread every interaction with his family. He’s the youngest of five. The eldest brother will ignore my existence entirely. If his mom sees me not right by my bf then she comes over to explain how she wishes he would date his ex from high school because of how much skinnier, prettier, ect…she is. I spend every holiday with them now because if bf goes go with my family they explain how controlling and evil I am. So now my family had just been doing holiday stuff a little bit later or earlier so that both bf and I can attend. They keep trying to convince bf I am controlling him. It started when he became vegetarian after meeting me (I don’t care if other people eat meat; I didn’t care if he ate meat). I don’t make a big deal about eating I just take the things I can eat when we eat with them. They however endless “tease” (it can get mean) over it. I don’t want to just not go because I want to see my boyfriend on the holidays and it helps him withstand the abuse if I’m there to shoulder some. I just wish I knew what I could do to help make it better?

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Hi Captain Awkward,

You are a great resource, and I’ve referred a lot of friends to your blog.

My problem is something I think I should totally not be having, but I am. I have a friend who I’ve known for years who will be getting married soon. Suzanne and I used to live together, and were quite close when I lived in a different city. Since I moved away a few years ago, we’ve still been in touch, but have been in less touch the past couple of years. Because of our past friendship, and how much I value her, she was a bridesmaid in my wedding when I got married a year ago.

Suzanne is now getting married. She’s asked a few people to be a bridesmaid, but when I flew in to attend some pre-wedding festivities a few weeks ago, I realized that she wouldn’t be asking me. I’m not planning to talk to Suzanne about this. I know that it’s OK for people to choose whoever they want to be in their bridal party. But it still really hurts. I find myself comparing myself against some of the other people she’s asked. I also find myself questioning our friendship, and feeling like I may have misinterpreted how close we are, or have been in the past. I also then start to go down the road of thinking of other people with whom I’d like to be closer, but who don’t seem to return the feelings of strong friendship.

The logical part of me realizes that people move on, and recognizes that it’s natural that we’ve grown apart, since I’ve lived a way for a few years, and we now no longer talk on the phone regularly. The illogical part of me is upset and hurt that she didn’t pick me, and wonders if I should just let this friendship die completely.

Do you have any advice for moving on, and being mature about this? I’d like to reach out after the wedding to rekindle our phone call check-ins, but I don’t want to impose if she really has moved on.

Former Friend

Thanks for the kind words, Former Friend, and wow…”former” friend?

To me, the wedding party thing is a side issue, and you’ve already handled it/are in the process of handling it. You’ll let your weird hurt feelings be what they are, you’ll acknowledge to yourself that being asked to be in her wedding was something you were counting on and it’s more important to you than you initially thought, you’ll most likely go the wedding, you’ll say nice things to your friend and have a good time, and maybe after the wedding you’ll continue to drift or you’ll find a way to rekindle your friendship. I hope you rekindle the friendship. There’s “I would have been in your wedding if you’d asked me, you know! Is there a reason you didn’t?” and then there’s “I am so happy for you, and so happy to see you!” You know and I know which one is the right thing to say to someone you love who is in the middle of a big life event.

To me, this is a question about loneliness. Your friendship landscape doesn’t look like you thought it did or like you want it to. You’re a newlywed, still settling into being part of a couple and coming off a pretty busy year or so if you just got married, so this seems like a perfect time to take stock of where your other relationships stand and make sure you’re nurturing your own social connections. It takes more effort, or a different kind of effort, to maintain friendships when you don’t have proximity & being in the same life circumstances to connect you and to make friends as an adult. So what can you do about that?

Can I make a plug for the annual weekend away with a few close friends?

I have a friend group who does this as much as possible, at least once a year, often 2 or 3 times/year. Not everyone comes every time, but everyone in the group is always invited, and here’s what it involves: You, them, snacks (cheese!), wine, an inexpensive vacation-rental-by-owner somewhere that’s near a major airport hub and also maybe on a lake, pants with no waistband, laughing until stuff comes out your nose, the anticipation of planning the trip, the 10,000 jokes and stories and inside jokes that come afterwards, trading books & nail polish colors, telephone pictionary, side trips to local tourist attractions/wineries/cider mills but lots of down-time with no real agenda, the prospect of karaoke & a spaghetti dinner at the local Legion post that we never actually make it to, no spouses. IT IS THE BEST THING. DO IT.

There are other ways to foster community and closeness with people near and far:

  • The monthly or weekly casual dinner.
  • Join a choir. (No, really!)
  • Write paper letters. (No, really!) What if you wrote a letter to Suzanne that laid out how happy you are for her and how glad you are to know her? What if you wrote one letter to someone in your life – friends near and far, family, former teachers & mentors – every week or every month? It can just be a card, if you’re not a writer. If you don’t know what to say, start with: Thank you. I’m proud of you. I’m thinking about you and wishing you well. I’m so glad to know you. I’m so sorry that (bad thing) is happening, is there anything I can do? I’m so glad that (good thing) is happening to you, that’s the best news!
  • Do some social stuff without your spouse, like a weekly class or workout group, a weekly breakfast or coffee with a friend or friends. You just got married, so I suspect a lot of the last year or so has involved a lot of “We…,” so what can you do that’s just for you and about you?
  • Get a subscription to a local theater company or concert series or museum membership for you and a friend. Built in friend-dates + seeing new stuff = nice!
  • If you can, take the older people in your family out to lunch or invite them over one by one and ask them all the things you’ve ever wanted to know. What was it like when they were young? Who was their first crush? What kind of stuff did they used to get in trouble for when they were kids? What was their wedding like? What’s their favorite place they’ve ever been? (This is a good Home for the Holidays strategy, too – seeing relatives separately from The Big Day of Celebration & Whatnot can be way more relaxing).
  • If you can, take the teenagers in your family out or invite them over for dinner one by one and let them talk at you about everything that’s on their minds. My godmother used to do this for me when I was a kid and it was seriously the best to have the company of adult who treated me like a person and not a student or offspring to be molded for a bright future.
  • Take up a cause. Help people register to vote, canvas for a political candidate, read to old people and kids, see if the library needs help sorting anything, work at the food bank, pet & walk shelter puppies. If it heals the world a little bit and you can and want to do it, do it.

That’s a giant list, so don’t do all of it! Pick one thing and try it. In a few months, try something else. You might not get exact reciprocity, and some of your friendships might remain not quite what you want them to be, and you might feel sometimes like “what am I doing this for” and that’s okay. It’s okay to be hungry, it’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to be lonely and think “but isn’t there something else that’s supposed to be happening?” The only way I know to deal with that hungry feeling is to put some love into yourself and into the world and see what comes back. It won’t come back exactly how you planned it or in a way that you can even predict, but it will come back.

Dear Captain Awkward,

I think my partner has a big Geek Social Fallacy problem.

We live together in a small house in an expensive area where lots of people live with parents or roommates. So, ever since before we met, he’s hosted huge blowout theme parties for his entire geeky friendgroup. He always encourages them to bring new people and expand his social circle. Partner enjoys being The Cool Fun Host.

Partner was a late bloomer socially, had terrible ostracizing experiences and some related depression issues, so now he’s trying to make up for lost time. He wants to be as inclusive and welcoming as possible. Which sounds great in theory! He’s big-hearted and just wants everyone to be his friend.

When I first moved in with Partner, I enjoyed these parties — organizing them, coming up with themes. But the more comfortable I became thinking of it as “our house” instead of “partner’s house”, the more protective I’m becoming of my living space. The more I dread the thought of prepping the house for a destructive messy horde of nerds and cleaning up after them and yielding my space for a night. I’m finding I’m enjoying hosting smaller, more controlled gatherings.

On top of this, our good friend recently pointed out a Missing Stair in this friendgroup. Missing Stair has made a few people uncomfortable, and, who knows, may be driving away others. But we just know a couple of anecdotes, and while Partner admits Missing Stair is a jerk, he doesn’t know where he should draw the line. Because inclusivity. And Missing Stair hasn’t done anything egregious and maybe a few people just don’t like him. Partner isn’t comfortable disinviting _anyone_, much less this specific Missing Stair, because he knows how it feels to be uninvited and it’s evil and horrible.

So how wrong and awful does Missing Stair have to be for Partner to disinvite him? And how do we balance how much control over the parties I get to have? Obviously I think Missing Stair should be uninvited right now. But these are still mostly Partner’s parties, even though I help host and I live here too. I hate feeling like I’m trampling all over Partner’s fun and trying control everything now that we live together.

Normally Partner and I are great at communicating, but he has a terrible blind spot here.

— Killjoy

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Dear Captain,

I am a (female) musician just starting out on a new duo project with a fellow (male) musician, and we’re just about heading for our first gigs and things. We’re both really excited — we get on well musically and personally, and we’re enjoying what we do and looking forward to sharing it with people. However, he has a girlfriend, who is (perhaps inevitably) insecure in one way or another about him playing music with “pretty young women” (she’s a fair bit older than us two, hence the inclusion of “young”). They have their own conversations to have about all sorts of things (not my business, of course), but the nub of it is that it makes him uncomfortable having to tell her about this new duo with me. He and I are both on the autistic spectrum, and established in a beautifully blunt moment that neither of us was interested in the other for the sake of getting the conversation out of the way, and he’s since referred to me as a “top bloke”, which to me makes the distinction perfectly clear. While it’s that simple for us, it’s not that simple for her, and I totally see where she’s coming from having been in her position previously.

My question is what can I do to help the situation? He said he will talk to her about the duo at some point soon when he can find a good moment (they live quite far away from each other so it’s not 100% simple), but in the mean time, it means that I can’t get excited in public too much about it because he thinks she shouldn’t find out from me or by seeing a random Facebook post (far from unreasonable). He’s already asked me not to tag him in posts about being excited about making music together for her sake, and while I can see that it’s a small gesture towards keeping things OK from his side (he’s my friend, why the hell shouldn’t I?), I worry that I’m going to do or say something stupid that’s going to cause problems for them or for us. He says it’s not going to get in the way of the duo working and being successful, but I can’t help feeling there’s an inevitable sticking point if his girlfriend is uncomfortable with him hanging around with me at the close quarters necessary to work in such a small ensemble. I haven’t met her yet, though our paths are due to cross in the coming months, but I’m nervous of making some mistake that means that her insecurities come out and cause problems.

In short, I play music with a guy in whom I’m not remotely romantically interested, but I think my being female and apparently not bad looking (who am I to judge?) might cause a problem, and I want to know what I can do to avoid sticking my boot in it. She sounds nice, and they are basically happy, and he and I are very happy with the music we make, and I don’t want it to get any more complex than that.

Yours,
Over-Optimistic Aspie Musician

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Hi Captain

My best friend, “Toby” has been living in my city for about a year now and over that time he’s gone from being homeless and alcoholic to having a sweet flat and ten months of sobriety under his belt. I’m trying to be as engaged in his recovery and support as possible because he doesn’t really have much of a support network around him – the mental health system in this country is a joke and he hasn’t ever received the help he really needs for his STPD, anxiety disorders, alcoholism and BPD, he has only a few other friends in town none of which he knows as well as me and his other closest friend and sister live across the country and overseas, respectively.

He and his sister “Jackie” were raised in a horribly abusive household – less violent than psychological, verbal and financial – rich parents who had children for appearances and ignored them to the point of neglect when they weren’t belittling them or loudly expressing their anger at both children being gay, as well as things such as encouraging the eating disorder that has been dominating his life for a long time and having family pets put down once they began to bond with the kids. Jackie bore the brunt of the abuse and has not talked to them for years and has been written out of their will etc, but Toby was the preferred kid and despite being loudly and aggressively disowned by them last year still says he hasn’t made up his mind about them and brings up things like “well, they bought me a car, so they must love me”.

He’s currently in a psych ward on a short stay and got a call from his parents out of the blue. They want him to come up to his hometown to stay with them for a week next month (with the potential to stay longer) and seem to think that they can play happy families and ignore both a lifetime of abuse and a year of no contact despite hearing second hand about his homelessness (during which time the mother volunteered for the Salvation Army and refused to contact him), alcoholism and a near-death experience at the beginning of the year. During that time they were telling the rest of the family to never mention the fact that they had children and had changed all their phone numbers so Toby and Jackie could not contact them. Now they say that they have changed their names and have distanced themselves from the rest of the family and want to make amends – though their phone call contained no outright apologies and skimmed over the major problems in their relationship with Toby and Jackie.

Recently I was with Toby when he ran into his uncle (his mother’s brother) in a store so we think they may have heard about that from him. He is considering going up to visit but I’m not sure what their motivations are and I’m very worried. These people have shown themselves to have only his worst interests at heart and I’m not sure anyone else other than me is in a good position to give him advice or keep an eye on what happens. He recently got out of a very physically and mentally abusive relationship as well and I’m worried that he will transfer his dependence back to his parents which will undermine his recovery and – generally – stable mental health.

I’d like to give him some scripts to take to his parents once he is up there because we both at least agree that they shouldn’t be allowed to to treat the visit as a Fun Family Getaway if he takes their offer of a plane ticket.

– Worried and suspicious

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