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Dear Captain,

I was wondering if you could spare some advice on how to go dutch (AKA ‘make-people-pay-their-share) with people who are ‘sensitive’ (where ‘sensitive’ is in the ”easily-offended’ way, not the ‘sensitive-they’ll-figure-it-out-with-only-a-little-prompting’ way.) And these ‘people’ are all members of my in-law family which I would described as a relationships which are ‘generally-pretty-friendly’ but coated with a thick layer of ‘don’t-rock-the-boat’.

I don’t mind being generous (and I come from a family of similar) but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to deal with my in’s who are all financially well-off but when a bill comes around for a shared service are always suddenly stuck by the need to ‘go to the bathroom’ or ‘get something from the car’, have forgotten wallets, don’t have cash on them right now, will ‘get the next round’ or ‘are really short this week’.

I’ve tried some techniques in the past -

  • Pre-arranging payment methods beforehand (these get ‘forgotten’, wrong payment is brought, or guilt is brought out ‘I didn’t know it was so expensive here’)
  • Only bring a set amount of cash or trying to remind them that I had the last round (the ‘bring only a set amount’ has been a disaster – its resulted in long moments standing awkwardly round the till in silence with everyone looking at me while I muttered pathetically “Sorry, I only brought enough for me” or worse, they have all walked out/vanished leaving the bill unpaid. A member went back and paid it once we realized it hadn’t been covered but the experience was very unpleasant. The ‘I had the last round’ is met with excuses similar to if payment is pre-arranged).
  • Ask my husband to speak with HIS family about this. This had been met with either apathy and sympathy but no results. (“Yeah, they are like that and it is annoying. But that’s just how they are.”) (“Just don’t go out with them then.”)

I like spending time with my in-law family and we do a lot of other free fun things together but I’d also love to occasionally go out for a meal, see a movie or get my nails done in their company without having the pay for the pleasure.

Advice?

Not-Made-of-Money

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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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Dear Captain,

I have a dilemma. I’ve been having a terrible year in 2014 (and 2013 was pretty shit also!) My husband and I have been having a rocky year in our marriage, I have just started an antidepressant to deal with my ongoing and dangerous depression, we have a $25,000 fee to pay to our condo I still don’t know how we’ll finance, and I have been balancing full-time work and full-time school schedule for nine months. Basically, I’m tired to the bone physically and emotionally.

My husband, Jack*, and I are currently in the process of going through some counseling and things on that front seem positive and hopeful. The problem is, he recently asked me if his brother can come stay with us from June to August to work in our town. Jack’s brother, Bill*, along with the rest of his family members, live in a faraway province with little economic action. We live in a booming economy with many jobs, especially in Bill’s area of interest.

I had not been planning to take any courses over the summer and was looking forward to some rare downtime and the chance to recover and feel like myself again. With an air mattress in the basement serving as a “spare room” and only one shower, living area and kitchen, it’s inevitable that Bill would end up encroaching on our space. Although he’s in college now he’s still a teenager, so I’m also concerned about his cleaning ability or lack thereof. Plus, frankly, I just don’t want to deal with a houseguest for the whole summer!

Jack misses his family a great deal. This would be a great chance for him to catch up with his brother and bond, to say nothing of the opportunity for Bill to build work experience in his field. I can’t help but feel like the bad guy if I say no, but I’m already mourning my lost, private summer full of reconnecting with Jack and having plenty of alone time. Should I kibosh the trip and live with the guilt? Say yes and quietly resent every moment? PLEASE SEND HELP.

Yours,
Houseguest versus Hag

*all names changed

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I’m a 25-year-old living at home with my parents; I received a BA in English/Creative Writing about two years ago, and I haven’t done much of anything since then. I’ve been struggling with depression and anxiety (especially social anxiety) for practically my whole life, and a couple months ago I was also diagnosed with Asperger’s. On top of that, I have some physical health problems: tons of food allergies that cause a lot of digestion issues and Fibromyalgia. These all make my daily life pretty difficult. I’ve been seeing a therapist for about a year, but I feel like I haven’t made any progress.

I have very little energy to do anything; I sleep late every day no matter what time I set my alarm clock for, and every day I take naps for two hours or more even if I set an alarm to try and force myself to get up sooner. Most days I stay at home, but on days when I have to leave the house, I come back home later completely exhausted for the rest of the day – sometimes for more than one day. So it’s really difficult for me to find the energy to force myself to do things, not to mention the motivation.

I haven’t written anything since I graduated, and I can’t get myself to draw anything either (I took plenty of drawing classes as well and for a while I thought about starting a webcomic, but I just don’t have the energy or the motivation to keep up with something like that). I also don’t have any social life, because I never made any real friends while I was in college, and I’ve lost contact with all of the friends I had in high school, so I’m pretty socially isolated.

I’ve been working on getting a driver’s license, but it’s slow going. For the past month and a half, I’ve tried doing yoga for about ten minutes a day, but I don’t think it’s made any difference in my health. My primary care doctor doesn’t have any other suggestions.

With all of this, I don’t know if I could handle holding down a job. I can’t imagine ever having the energy to work for five hours or more at a time. My parents want me to try and apply for disability to help pay for my college loans, because they’re paying for them right now and it’s hard on them. But my parents have always been very overprotective, and I worry that they’re not pushing me as hard as they could be to do better. I want to someday be able to live independently, but I’m not sure what kind of job I could work or how I could make that possible.

I guess this is my question: How do you know the difference between being completely unable to do something (like get a job) and being scared or finding it difficult?

Thanks,

Exhausted

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My feet are cold, but my heart is warm thanks to the generosity of the Winter Pledge Drive contributors. Thank you so much! Support the site if you can!

Today’s letter is about money and family and when those things come together in a manipulative and possibly sinister way.

Dear Captain Awkward,

My parents passed away three years ago, leaving my little brother and I in the care of my Uncle and his wife. Their method of raising children is very different from what we were used to. Mom was the type who would say no to something and then explain why and often prompted discussion. Aunt is the type who yells no and glares if you question her.

I was 17 when I moved in with them so they haven’t been able to control me as much as they have my little brother. That said, they do still restrict me a lot. We live in the middle of nowhere so I can’t move around on my own, my phone and internet are regulated, and several times Aunt has snooped on my laptop. ‘My room’ is a free-for-all where her siblings come and go as they will and she often gives my things away because ‘they were getting old.’ I should stand up to them, I know that. But then I think they didn’t have to take us in and I really don’t want to cause any more trouble, so I quiet down again.

This year they’re intending to move to a new, much more expensive house in a very upscale area. Uncle took me aside and said that once I turn 21 this year and get my inheritance, he’s going to need some help, and alarms started going off in my head.

He says the new place will enable me to move around freely, and even get that summer job I’d been begging them to allow me to apply to, but it just feels like he’s trying to butter me up. He’s often promised me things that his wife then goes around and disagrees with, or outright denies they ever said. My friend is telling me I should run away, live on my own (practically impossible in my country) or, failing that, once I get my money I should sit them down and talk about the terms of my ‘helping.’ On one hand, that does seem reasonable. On the other hand, it also feels ungrateful.

I wouldn’t mind paying rent and my own expenses. I already pay for my college and for most big things, it’s only reasonable, and I often suggested that once I turned 21 I could live off my inheritance. But they always refuse and say that ‘It’s their duty’ and they didn’t want me to touch my money.

So why is Uncle now talking about ‘sharing’? He also explicitly told me not to mention this to any of our relatives and to claim that he got the new house with his money. The alarms are blaring louder.

Am I overreacting? Am I not? Should I just suck it up and accept that, sometimes, I gotta be the bad guy?

Sincerely,
Grateful But Worried College Girl

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Hi Captain!

My main question is: how do I keep going? I have 99 problems, I need to fix at least 95 of them but right now I can’t even seem to fix 1 so I am stuck. I’ve been actively job-hunting for over a year now. I know others have it worse, either through bad jobs or no jobs at all, but I just really need to move on. I can never get past the first interview though, if I’m lucky. I’ve even written to Ask a Manager (http://tinyurl.com/9fvsx3r and an update here: http://tinyurl.com/aavl7hb) but things have only gotten more frustrating and stupid at work. I’m in debt and trying to get out.

I moved back in with my parents last year to save money. I would like to get my own place again. Or get a job much closer to my parents’ house because the current commute is REALLY getting me down. I’ve been doing this commute for eight years now and, I can’t deal with it. It’s long, stressful, involves multiple modes of transportation, etc. I work for a university and theoretically, once you’re in their system, it’s fairly easy to job-hop. If I’ve applied for let’s say, 100 jobs in the past year, with my current employer, then I’ve gotten interviews for like, 8 of them. That’s not counting applications outside my current employer. I’m seriously wondering if I’ve been blacklisted but don’t know it (I’ve had three jobs with this employer and only one was an actual bad fit so my supervisor and I were both happy that I moved on). I feel like my life needs to undergo a serious change but I don’t know how. I’m turning 30 this summer and the thought that my life at near-40 will be the same as my life now…I can’t. Things could be so much worse but I’m sure it could all be better too.

I’ve had dreams of being a professional novelist all my life and I was a journalist for a while but let that go too but then I just feel like I squandered those freelance opportunities to stay with my current employer, because it was a full-time, steady paycheck, health benefits, etc. I’m trying to keep my head up but I just feel like something needs to give/change soon– an actual job offer, winning the lottery, a friend saying “Hey, I’m moving to the other side of the country and need a roommate/admin assistant?”, etc. I’m even wishing I would lose my job even though I know that wouldn’t help my current situation. In short, how do I just keep going? 

Letter writer, you are going through a really hard thing. It’s hard enough to answer the big questions of “Why am I here? And what do I have to contribute? And what will people pay for me to contribute so I can make a living?” without having to live at home and have a hellish commute. There are a bunch of baby steps and small incremental changes you could make to make your situation better, covered in this old post about clawing your way out of a depressing living situation and  in this post about how to keep moving forward when your brain hates you that I found today (good post!). I think a lot of people feel like you do right now and can relate to your situation. Some suggestions and questions for you below the jump.

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I need a second opinion. I’m at my wits end as to how to address something that has become a large problem with my boyfriend. My friends are no, help; I’ve gotten lucky, landed a good, caring boy, how could I have problems, lalalala-I-can’t-hear-you. I’m glad they approve of him, since I mostly trust their judgement, but… help?

Lately, I have been feeling really neglected by my boyfriend. (By lately, I mean since he stood me up a month ago; I went out with friends instead and it was fine…but he still stood me up.) This meant that if we talked, I initiated the conversation. If I went to his house, or he to mine, I planned it. Once we got there, if we watched tv/made food/fooled around, it was because I suggested it. If we were fooling around, I undressed him, and he had to be directed to return the favor. If we went out, I invited him somewhere, and he begrudgingly joined. 

This is not an exhaustive list, just things I pointed out specifically to him as “Hey, look, I’ve been putting in all the effort. Your turn to contribute” I sat him down, told him that I was feeling neglected and why. He agreed that he’s been shitty, and to try and change that. My solution was that for the next little while, it would be his turn. I was not going to initiate contact or plan anything; if he wants to see or talk to me, he’ll do so, if not, it won’t happen. That way, when we’re together, I can know that it’s because he wants to be there, not because I was pestering him.

But that’s not really working. He’ll invite me over, and then not know what to do. He’ll text me, and the conversation stops because things like “how’s your day/how are you/what’s up?” don’t occur to him. He claims that he knows I’m upset with him, which makes him think that I don’t want to talk to him, so he doesn’t initiate contact.

Grimace from the old McDonald's ads

“Hi, I’m your shame!”

Hello, readers. It is Day 2 of the Captain Awkward Dot Com half-yearly pledge drive. If you like it here and can spare a dollar, consider making a small donation and getting a copy of my short movie, The Wardrobe. Thanks to everyone who has contributed so far!

Dear Captain Awkward,

I have written to you in my head so many times already that this should be easier than it is. I need something like hope.

Everything I touch turns to ash. If I want it/like it/believe in it, it will fail. i keep trying to come to terms with this, but I guess I’m just too dumb to know when to quit. It’s not like my life has ever been a parade, so I should be able to just slog through this darkness too, somehow. I’m almost thirty now, and I never really expected to get that far – but there you have it. I guess the trouble really boils down to the slogging has gotten more like treading water, and ~I’m just so tired~.

I live in a really conservative area, and have since I was little. Every time there’s been a chance of getting out, something has happened to drain my meager resources and mire me here. What little passed for low-income health care/support has been utterly decimated in the last two years. Even if doctors/therapists could help with the pain/darkness, I don’t have access to it. It’s shameful, but if it wasn’t for Husband’s apparent superpower of Acquire Food (seriously – random coworkers/acquaintances feed him constantly) we seriously would not have had bread on the table since my monumental hubris invoked the Cloud of Doom to prove it’s still there.

The short of it is that on the hamster-wheel that is trying to survive, I had two jobs for a while. The part time job was at a small local business, apparently quite successful, with more demand than could even be met. Family drama seemed to be the prime motivator when the owner decided to sell. Being the idiot I am, I asked how much.

I had my plan, I raised capital, I sought funding for the rest.

Hindsight: I should have pulled out when the owner refused to open the books fully to my/lender’s inspection for “personal privacy”. It was a sole proprietorship – seemed reasonable at the time. We couldn’t get funding at that time without the old books, because the powers that be saw us as a successor business, though the management and practices and staff were all changing. I had my plan, the way to streamline the processes and produce a better product. I had grand hopes for Being the Change, and also, for once, having enough to live on.

So – gods help me – I proposed a payment plan for the purchase.
A year and some change later, with many smaller battles and struggles behind me, ~their~ bank showed up to foreclose on ~them~, and pulled the rug out from under us.

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still frame from Disney's Beauty and the Beast

This is a sweet story about a man who had both self-loathing and wealth who coerced a young woman into living with him until such time she could develop Stockholm Syndrome and consent to marriage.

Hello Captain Awkward,

I have an issue that you probably don’t get every day. I have a problem with wealth and dating. I’m in my late 20′s, and I have had the good fortune of becoming quite wealthy. Unfortunately, I am having trouble finding women who like me for me and not my wealth. Back when I was a poor student, I never thought this would be an issue, but it is. I believed that money would solve all my problems with being awkward and feeling inferior and not being able to get laid, and it did help with a lot of those things. It has made finding actual love and good relationships much more difficult. I don’t fit in with the dynastic wealth crowd, and I know there are tons of great women who grew up with money and are not in any way impressed by mine, but I just don’t fit in with that group of people. I have been trying to figure out how to navigate this issue, and it just blew up in my face.

I was seeing a woman for 3 months, but I was lying about my wealth. I have a small apartment in the same building as my real apartment, so I can try to get to know women without getting entangled with the ones who are just with me for my money. It is the sort of apartment that says, “I’m doing well, but I’m no rich guy.” Last week, I decided to come clean, and it did not end well. It was the first time where we went out and I was living life as I live it when I’m not worried about what people are going to think about my money. She thought it was this special occasion because everything was stepped up considerably from our usual dates. I tried explaining that really, I was maybe not being so honest about my income, which she didn’t believe until we came back to my actual apartment. She was furious, and I can understand it. She went on at length about my deception, not trusting her, and treating her like a potential gold digger.

It is true, but I don’t know what else to do. She won’t talk to me, and I think our relationship is probably over. How can I find people who like me for me while living a lifestyle that clearly shows how wealthy I am? I have been burned before both with friends and girlfriends who I thought liked me for who I am but turned out to be interested in being close to someone who is doing well. I have reined in my conspicuous consumption a lot in the past year and a half, but I like having a very nice apartment, I like dressing well, and I like having a nice car. I feel terrible about feeling sorry for myself because this is a problem almost everyone would be envious to have, but I am very lonely.

Sincerely,

A Good Problem Is Still a Problem

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Guido from Pixar's Cars...he's here to help.

Can I lift something for you? No? Can you let me lift something anyway so I feel like I’m helping?

Howdy, Captain.

I am in a four-year relationship with a lovely man. We’ve weathered serious storms and worked through what could have been relationship-wrecking issues, thanks to being forgiving, talkative, and evolving people. We’re easy-going, share humor and interests, and enjoy spending time together, and we’ve lived together for three years now. For about the first three years of our relationship, my boyfriend supported me emotionally and sometimes financially as I struggled with extreme depression and anxiety. I dropped out of university and spent a considerable amount of time feeling miserable and suicidal, but as of over a year ago I’ve turned my life around. I work full time and am excelling in my classes, and aim to transfer to a university in another year.

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