Here there be dragons. And bees.
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?
The Adults Are Not All Right
Let’s play the game where we answer the questions people typed into search engines to find this place. Punctuation added. Wording unchanged.
1. “My bf won’t choose me over his brothers that are rude to me.“
I don’t know what the nature of this choice is, like, probably your boyfriend won’t ever cut off or stop talking to his brothers on your behalf, but your boyfriend should definitely stick up for you when and if people in his family are rude to you.
2. “When he says he doesn’t have time or focus for a relationship.”
Time and focus may in fact be factors, but also, “he” doesn’t want to be in a relationship with you. I’m sorry, that sucks to hear. Move on from this prospect, is my advice.
3. “How to turn down a friend down politely convincing her you love but can’t engage in a relationship right now.”
This is the wrong way to go about it. If you don’t want to be in a relationship, just tell her “I don’t want to be in a romantic relationship with you, I’m so sorry, but I value you very much as a friend.” Let her heal for a bit and then you can most likely be friends again. If you use the “not right now” excuse you leave her hanging and hoping, and it’s going to be so much worse.
4. “What it means when a girl say she does not think it will work out.” /”What did she mean by saying we can’t cope with each other?”
Most likely translations: “I don’t want to be in a romantic relationship with you, but I’m using neutral language like ‘it won’t’ work’ to try to spare your feelings.”
5. “How to respond to a compliment on your looks.”
From an acquaintance, not delivered with a leer, like, “You look really nice today?” a good answer is “Thank you.” It’s what people expect to hear and will complete the conversational circuit with maximum efficiency.
Yelled at you from a moving car? It’s not a compliment at that point.
The first date I had with him, we both ordered water–I feel awkward having a glass of wine with dinner if the other person isn’t having a drink too. It took three dates, when I suggested touring a brewery that I’d wanted to check out for ages, when he told me that he was an alcoholic in recovery. I asked him if he minded me drinking around him; he said that he’d thought I abstained entirely, and I told him that I did not, but that I’d be happy to stick to water or tea around him if me having a drink made anything harder for him. He said it was very courteous of me and he’d appreciate it.
No problem so far. We hung out a few times a week and had fun. I never felt like I was missing anything by not drinking around him.
We went out for three months before I mentioned, casually, that on a night we weren’t hanging out I was planning to go to an artisan cocktail bar with a few friends. He began to ask me for details–was there a DD, how much did I plan to drink. I told him I usually didn’t do more than three cocktails over a long evening and that we had a DD who just doesn’t like alcohol and planned to sample the gourmet sodas at the bar.
Then he asked me to give up alcohol entirely, even when I wasn’t around him. He said that he didn’t feel comfortable in a relationship with someone who drank at all; he went into detail about his relationship with alcohol, comparing it to an abusive relationship, and explained that he felt that my drinking was in a sense cheating on him.
I told him I’d have to think about it, but that I was still going out with my friends as I’d planned, and I wasn’t going to make a decision like that right then and there. His answer was that if I truly wanted to make the relationship work, I wouldn’t even have to think about it, and that even considering choosing alcohol over him was a clear sign that I had a problem and needed to go to AA.
“I’ll do a fucking moral inventory in the morning, but I’m going to go out with my friends tonight,” I said, and hung up on him. He hasn’t called me back.
I’m genuinely torn. On the one hand, I’m sure I’m not an alcoholic (and I did give it much thought). I enjoy good libations in moderation, and I get seriously drunk maybe once or twice a year in safe circumstances. There have been times when I haven’t had alcohol for weeks just because I didn’t feel like it; I give up beer for Lent every year and it’s not a hardship.
But I chose the freedom to drink (responsibly) over a budding relationship with someone who was, frankly, otherwise wonderful and well-suited to me.
Is that the sign of someone who has a drinking problem? Or was this the first sign that he was a controlling jerk?
Lovely Lady Lush
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.
Oh Captain My Captain;
I rent a room in a house with a pretty nice family, and for the most part it’s pretty cool. They’re very friendly and open, their eldest son and I share a lot of interests, and they aren’t really judgmental, though they are very vocal about their political views and beliefs, they know I don’t get involved in that sort of stuff and seem to respect my space as far as that’s concerned.
The problem is respecting space as far as everything else – I do my part around the house, cleaning bathrooms, mopping, vacuuming, doing dishes, laundry, helping care for their 19 year old cat and doing pretty much anything I can to make myself useful. My landlords, a married couple, also have two of their adult children living with them because finances suck for everyone except the elderly rich, which we are not among. Their kids, even though they are adults, are still very close to their parents and depend on them for a lot, and basically come off as young teens in a lot of ways. The main problem seems to stem from the fact that, although I am not one of their kids, because I’m younger than their kids they seem to feel the need to parent me.
Whenever I get anything in the mail, they want to know what it is, who it’s from, if it’s a package they want to hover over me and see what it is, who I ordered it from, how much did it cost, was it made in the USA? They have come in my room without permission several times, always ask me when I will be at work, how many hours I’m getting, what I’m paid, if I go out somewhere that isn’t work related where did I go, did I buy anything there? I can’t bring home so much as a single shopping bag without being interrogated or having it pawed through and my purchases commented on, along with how I dress, where I work, basically everything I do. They do it more to me than they do it to their own children!
I’m a very private person, and I hate discussing money with anyone, particularly when it’s really none of their business, and I really don’t want my every purchase judged and pawed through. I am one of those people that doesn’t want to talk about my day, I don’t want to talk about what happened at work or if I got a raise or if I bought lunch or something. I don’t like talking to people in general, but I try my best to at least be nice. It’s started creeping me out a lot that I can’t walk anywhere near the door with my keys without getting an interrogation on where I’m going, who I’m going with if anyone, what I’m buying, et cetera. If they had to drive me places, yeah, fine, I could understand them needing to know my work schedule or if I needed to go buy stuff or something, but I have my own car and drive myself everywhere so there is no reason they need to know any of this stuff. They also try to include me in their family events, even big holiday stuff like Christmas or Thanksgiving, even when they’re super loud and generally not the kind of thing I’d go within a hundred miles of if I didn’t live here, but when I live in the same house it’s kind of hard to avoid without it being painfully obvious that I’m avoiding it, particularly since I’m not social and generally don’t go anywhere other than work.
They seem to have semi-adopted me as one of their own kids, which is kind of problematic on it’s own, but that’s a whole different kettle of fish. Do you have a way for me to politely tell them to back off and stop questioning me about everything I do? I intend to move out soon, so I’ll have my privacy again eventually, but until then I’d like to get back at least a bit of privacy while I live here, without making things tense or possibly making them angry. They are a very close-knit, openly affectionate, rather loud kind of family, so I’m not sure they can even understand that no, I don’t really want to take part in all the loud, boisterous family stuff they do because I’m just not that kind of person. I like my quiet and privacy, and I would like to get some of that back.
Not Their Kid
I have a question about dealing with a Geek Social Fallacy #5 carrier, with a work-related twist.
I have a live-in position and a good working relationship with the other live-in staff members. Naturally we often spend our free time together, sometimes as a large group get-together but more often in smaller groups of the people we’re closest to / actually friends with.
There is one individual who generally gets on everyone’s nerves — she dominates the conversation and makes it all about herself, says slightly inappropriate things on a regular basis, asks people direct personal questions in front of everyone, etc. The problem is that she thinks that we’re all one big friend group and that anytime she hears that someone’s making social plans with another employee, it’s fine to invite herself along. She does not take hints at all, and no one wants to come right out and say, “You’re not invited to this” since this is someone we all have to live and work with on a daily basis.
From past experience, I have a feeling that trying to have an honest conversation with her would lead her to drop by everyone’s rooms to try to have hours-long FEELINGS conversations, and trying to shut that down will make her unbearable to work with. She recently renewed for another year-long contract.
Right now everyone’s strategy seems to be to make plans behind her back as much as possible, and then if she finds out and invites herself over/along, we suck it up and deal. Do you have any suggestions for a better strategy?