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Hello Captain!

I’m writing to you about a lady in my friend group who seems to dislike me very much, and makes social gatherings very uncomfortable. Some back story: I started dating my boyfriend Brad about 4 years ago, and hung out with his friend group consisting of his friend from childhood Jake, Jake’s wife Pam, Jake’s brother John, and John’s girlfriend, the lady who now won’t talk to me unless forced, Kayla. (names changed!)

For the first year Brad and I dated, everyone got along! Kayla was warm and friendly, and once when drunk told me that I was “the sister she never had.” Her, Pam, and I would go shopping, talk about comics or feminism, the whole group played cards and went out – things were fine! But then around the same time Kayla and I both moved in to the 3 bedroom apartment Jake, Pam, John, and Brad were sharing, each couple in a room sharing 2 bathrooms and a kitchen, and things deteriorated rapidly.

Simple roommate requests, like “Brad and I have done the dishes twice this week, do you mind taking care of them soon?” became big THINGS for John and Kayla. After any typical roommate issue, they would withdraw to their room, and Kayla would stop speaking to us. We ignored it, chalking it up to social awkwardness, but things got worse. Suddenly Kayla didn’t want us playing with John’s cat. (who, up until this point, was all over the apartment and playing with everyone freely) No reason was given, nothing was said, but suddenly Brad, and mostly me, got nasty looks from Kayla if we picked up the feather toy, and the cat would then be locked up in their room. Soon John and Kayla weren’t even acknowledging us when everyone was in the main room together, or if we bumped into them during the day.

Pam and Jake noticed this change and spoke to John and Kayla privately, and they really made an effort to be more sociable to us for the next few months. Kayla still wasn’t talking to us a lot, but she at least said hello and acknowledged our presence. Then, about a year after everyone moved in together, Brad and I had a small, typical-couple-stuff spat and Kayla was the only other person home. Brad went out to cool down and I was washing my face in the shared bathroom. Kayla walked by and I made a small mention of the spat, and we talked for a bit about long-term relationships; she even seemed warm towards me. Brad and I figured everything out, and everything went on as normal.

But after that day Kayla point blank refused to speak to me or even make eye contact. She was perfectly fine to everyone else in the apartment, including Brad, but now all the antisocial weirdness from before was directed solely at me. If I ran into her and John in the parking lot and said hi, she would look away and walk straight past me, even if John and I were still chatting. At one point we were all at a restaurant and when I sat down, she literally scooted into John’s lap to not sit next to me, and only came off when I moved seats. She blocked me on all social media when prior to this we had all been fairly interactive on Facebook and Twitter, but denied doing so when confronted by Jake and Pam. Jake and Pam eventually stopped inviting her to outings unless she acted nicely, and even then she would sit as far away from me as possible and responded to any attempts at conversation with one-word answers. At this point I had sent a text and also spoken with her face to face, saying that if I had done anything to make her uncomfortable or upset, that I was sorry and would like to reconcile. Over text she said “Sure!” and in person she just smiled and nodded, but nothing changed. I gave up trying to figure things out and let her be, and Brad and I tried to hand out with Pam and Jake alone more often.

Now, another two years later, all of the couples have moved into apartments of our own, but things are still distinctly weird when everyone gets together. I have tried to speak to Pam, who is close with Kayla, and she has said that Kayla tells her she likes me and everything is fine. She still has me blocked on all social media and when questioned by Pam, said she forgot to undo the blocking. However when we all hang out Kayla will ignore me in the conversation but exuberantly engage with the others. Even if I am included in the conversation, she will address them as if I am not there, even in conversations about things Brad and I now share like our apartment, car, cats, etc. I feel like I’m intruding on conversations about my own life, and it’s frustrating and hurtful. Ultimately Kayla has the right to dislike me whatever the reason, and I don’t want her do anything she doesn’t want to do. However I’d like to be able to engage with my friends about mine and Brad’s life without someone essentially denying my involvement in it.

I feel like I’ve done everything I can to address this, and to do more would just be unnecessary drama. Do you and the awkward army have any advice on how I should proceed?

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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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Matt Smith as The Doctor, holding a baby (Stormageddon)

“Evan, Stormageddon did not appreciate your last remark.”

Dear Captain Awkward:

My husband is very expressive of his emotions; the problem is, he’s also very subtle about it. I’ve had half-joking chats with his BFF (we’ll call him Adam) about the subtle distinctions between the sigh that means “I’m pretending to be offended because you’re playfully teasing me” and the sigh that means “I’m actually really hurt but I don’t want to make a scene”; it’s as clear as day to me and Adam, but sounds identical to onlookers. My BFF, Evan, is one of those who can’t read my husband at all; recently, he approached me and mentioned that it makes him uncomfortable when I call my husband out on emotions Evan didn’t even notice he was feeling because it feels like I’m telling him what he’s feeling when I’m actually just echoing back what I’m seeing on his face. 

The way my husband and I work, it helps tremendously if I stop and question him when I’m getting signals that he’s not okay, so we can resolve the issue immediately and not let it fester. I’m very grateful Evan said something, however, because I suspect other friends are also uncomfortable. How can I address my husband’s emotions when I’m the only one who can tell them apart without making people think I’m making things up, seeing what’s not there, or generally neurotic and anal?

For example: The three of us (Me, my husband, and Evan) were out to lunch and Evan and my husband were playfully teasing each other. Evan said something that actually bothered my husband, and he went into his (subtle) withdraw-and-sulk routine. I knew he’d feel bad all lunch and barely participate in the conversation, so I tried to comfort him,  but he rebuffed me, so then I felt kind of bad myself. Evan was highly uncomfortable, but he characterized the event as my making a big deal out of nothing and making both of us upset. I pointed out that my husband was upset by the teasing first, and Evan was shocked to realize that he’d hit a nerve at all, and immediately apologized. That ended well, but I feel like I handled it badly. It’s like the three of us were in two totally different conversations: my husband and my perspective, and Evan’s perspective. I really don’t want to come across how I do in Evan’s perspective, but I’m not sure how to clue him in without sounding like a control freak. 

Got any scripts for this?

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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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Dear Captain Awkward:

I am a gay man. I am seeing this guy that I like a lot. He comes to my place every week and we have sex, I make dinner and we enjoy watching TV. The sex is awesome but there is no kissing. He is a divorced man. ( Two years). I know he enjoys being with me but he hasn’t asked me to go anywhere with him. I would like to go to a movie with him and on some trips to places he goes but he never asks. Is this a lost cause or what do I do. I am very frustrated. I want to kiss him so bad but every time I try he turns his face. I am very clean and I know I don’t have bad breath. This seems silly to ask but I am hoping for some help.

Thank you, 

T

Hello T.! This isn’t silly! Not at all! 

I think you should ask this guy some questions, and you should make them as simple and direct as you can, and I think you should ask him for what you want. Scripts for that:

  • “When I try to kiss you, I feel like you turn away or pull away. Is there something I should know about that?” 
  • “When you I try to kiss you, you pull away. Can you tell me what’s up with that? I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, but I also really, really want to kiss you. What’s up?”
  • “Let’s go out tonight. I’m in the mood for _______. What’s your favorite _______ place?” Don’t ask permission, and in fact, if it feels like you are asking permission at any point, RUN. 
  • “Hey, want to see Love Is Strange* with me?” 
  • “Your trip to _______ sounds great. Would you ever be up for going away for a weekend together sometime? I’ve always wanted to visit _______.”

These are all very simple questions that one partner in a relationship should be able to ask the other partner without a lot of hullaballoo. What could be more basic than “How do we like to touch?” “How will we spend our time?” “Where will we eat?” 

These are all the riskiest questions in the world when your basic worry or fear is that the other person doesn’t feel the same way you do or doesn’t want the same things you do. “Simple” doesn’t mean “easy” when what’s at stake is “Do I like you way more than you like me, and what will happen to our pleasant status quo if that becomes glaringly evident?”

I think you should ask the questions, and I think you should pay attention to the answers. Recognize phrases like:

  • “I want to keep this casual.”
  • “But I enjoy what we’re doing now so much, why change it?”

…for what they are, namely, “I super like coming over here and having sex with you, but I plan to make zero effort to do anything differently in the future.” And if he says “please don’t ruin this by being serious/needy/clingy/like my ex” in any form, if you catch even a whiff of him guilting you for having needs and bringing them up, please kick him out of your house and never touch him again. He’s allowed to have different needs and desires. He is not allowed to shame you for having some of your own. 

If the talk seems to go well, pay attention also to actions and follow-through after you talk. Does he insist there is nothing weird going on with the whole kissing thing, but then, does he still refuse to kiss you? Does he promise you that next time you’ll go out to dinner, but tonight he’s just really tired and wants to stay in, but then there never seems to be a next time? Then cut him loose, or relegate him to the most casual of very occasional hook-up partners. He is showing you that you can’t trust what he says. 

This dude sounds kind of lazy and entitled, to be honest. You cook every time? He never takes you out or even suggests ordering dinner? He never cooks? Does he at least help with the dishes or bring/buy groceries or bring wine? Are you the only one who makes and initiates plans? You never go to his place? Has he met your friends? Have you met any of his? (I don’t want to read too far into this, but something about a completely hermetically-sealed relationship with no kissing reads as “possibly closeted?” to me. Am I alone?)

I’m going to give him one tiny, teensy, microscopic benefit of the doubt along the lines of: Maybe you’re the one who has been offering to cook and suggesting that he just come over until now and he doesn’t know that you want anything different. Sometimes in the early stages of a relationship you fall into a pattern, and it’s pleasurable and easy, and you don’t know if it will be an ongoing thing so it doesn’t seem worth it to spend time – time that you could be constantly, joyously fucking –  on second-guessing and negotiating whose turn it is to select and procure the food. But if it becomes an ongoing relationship, a non-lazy dude, one who really likes you, will presumably eventually begin suggesting things that you might enjoy and appreciate, right? Like, “Hey, I want to show you my place, why don’t you come over there next time.” “I love how you cook for me, but let me take you out tonight!” People you’d actually want to be with longterm don’t relax, unquestioningly and perpetually, into a status quo where you do all the work and they do none. 

T., you sound like a total sweetheart, and you deserve someone who kisses you and who takes you places. You deserve someone who cooks for you and who creates a relaxing sexy evening for you. You deserve someone who wants to make plans with you for future trips away. Maybe that romantic, thoughtful dude is some unknown future dude, and this dude is just a hot casual-sex-fun-right-now dude. That’s okay, as long as everyone is on board with it and as long as you are enjoying yourself, but you should decide that and ask about that and not default into something just because it’s easy (easy for him). 

*Possibly Too On The Nose, I realize, though I am very excited to see it. Insert your preferred specific movie (vs. “the movies, sometime”) here instead.

 

Dear Captain Awkward:

I used to hang out with Friend Group, and dated a guy in that group for two years. When we broke up five years ago, I moved to a different neighborhood and saw them less because I needed space and because I was starting to move away from them socially.

Since then, I hang out with this group less and less, but still come out for big get-togethers. My ex-boyfriend and I were on good terms. He’s more socially awkward than I am and in our relationship and after, I took on the burden of smoothing any awkwardness over. We hooked up at one point, and I suspected he wanted to get back together with me, but I wasn’t interested. We hung out in group settings a few times since then, and all was well.

Then I got engaged to someone outside of Friend Group, and ex-boyfriend started ignoring me at these Friend Group events. Avoiding eye contact. No talking. Looking the other way when I was standing in front of him. Since I don’t see this group much, I tried not to let it bother me. I also didn’t want to talk about it with anyone, because I didn’t want to come off like an obsessive ex. 

I don’t think he bears me any ill will or anything. I just think he’s kind of an awkward guy who just didn’t know how to react.
The problem is that a) mutual friends started mirroring his behavior and b) he started becoming a more integral part of that group, so I got pushed further out. When I show up to a party someone is throwing and he’s with a group of people, most of them are his friends, so no one greets me. I don’t get invited to Friend Group parties at his house (understandable!) but then mutual friends surprised when I don’t attend. It’s made me pull even further away from Friend Group, and now I get super nervous before attending if I go at all.

I KNOW that I should have just ignored any weirdness, jumped right into the middle, and started chatting like normal. But I was tired of shouldering the burden of being the outgoing, socially adept one (despite social anxiety) YEARS after our relationship ended that I just didn’t. And it really, really sucks feeling rejected whenever you hang out with a group of people.

So I’ve been married a year now, and have been with this group maybe five times since then. This last weekend was the wedding for my oldest friend in this city, and it felt really weird to be there, two feet away from my friends, being avoided. People came up to us individually to say hi, but since I haven’t been around much, we weren’t included in any pre-wedding parties or weekend group activities. We left the wedding early because I just felt really weird about it. Everyone else went on to go bar hopping, after parties, etc.

I know no one can make me feel small except me, but is my only choice to avoid this group moving forward? Am I just blowing this feeling out of proportion? Should I be the bigger person and step in, him be damned, and have a good time no matter what?

Help, Captain.

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