Archive

Relationships

It is the return of the Winter Pledge Drive here at Awkward Enterprises, where I rattle the tip jar and invite people to throw in a few $ if you like what we do here. You can contribute via PayPalDwolla, or (new!) cash.me/$CaptainAwkward. Your generous gifts help me keep the site going.

Now to today’s question, which involves some mentions of hoarding behaviors.

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Hi Captain,

I’ve dug through your archives but haven’t seen anything specifically on this topic–apologies if I’ve overlooked something–but I’m wondering what advice you have to give for partners who make the decision to work through a mistake and rebuild confidence in each other.

Long story short: I’ve been dating my partner for a few months, but we’ve been very close & important presences in each others’ lives as friends for about 2 years before we began dating. About a month ago he made a very stupid, but not unforgivable, mistake involving an ex of his as they tested the waters to see if they could function as friends (turns out, no, they can’t). He has been nothing but honest and forthright about it since it happened, and although we were both unsure before this happened as to how seriously we could commit to each other (eg: neither of us felt comfortable using boyfriend or girlfriend as a term then or now, but agreed what we are is much more than just “seeing each other.” It’s somewhere in between), since this all went down we have both doubled down on supporting and prioritizing each other as a couple.

We are also both going through the joyful process of cutting an ex out of our lives, because in both cases they love us more than we can ever love them & cannot healthily function in a 100% platonic environment with us at this moment. So space and time is in order for healing. Which is giving us both anxiety (both for ourselves and for each other) and making us very sad. We are trying to balance that line of support–historically we have leaned on each other during times of anxiety and stress–and also take into play your “not my circus, not my monkeys” rule to manage our anxieties and control issues (eg: I think he’s taking the “typing http://www.google.com with one finger when he could just use Chrome” route to cutting his ex out, and desperately want to tell him to metaphorically scooch over so I can do it for him, but his path cannot be my problem so long as he handles it in a way that doesn’t hurt me).

We both lead full lives with hobbies that we share, hobbies we don’t share, friends we share, friends we don’t share. I’m doubling down on the self-care and detachment (from trying to control the way he handles his issue with his ex) and he is staying present and vigilant about executing his goals while also practicing self-care. Even still, it’s difficult. Now that the holidays are over it has been particularly hard not to ruminate, and while I’m journaling and working through several aspects of this within myself, I also feel the need for support. (Just today I emailed my old therapist to see if she takes my new insurance) After keeping it to myself for a couple days I finally confessed to him that I’m still struggling and feeling sad/hurt/anxious. He said he is too, but that we’re living with it as we work through it, which feels very accurate. And then I felt guilty for bringing it up at all, which is a whole different barrel of social conditioning worms (I am female, partner is male–late twenties, early thirties respectively).

I guess my question is: we’ve decided to stick it out and work through a difficult time… now what? Both of our ingrained reactions are to cut and run when things get messy, but we want to try (with the understanding that it could fail anyway) and I’m feeling a little lost for what to do. Is this just how it is?

Sincerely,
Longing For A Reset Button, Would Be Happy With A User Manual

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If this blog were a child it would be a five-year-old today, and I would buy it Star Wars action figures and a bake it a chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting in my mom’s old Mickey Mouse-shaped pans. Happy New Year/Blogaversary, Awkward People!  Here is a poem that I think is about forgiving yourself:

Attende Domine (Thomas Lynch)

To lie in the tub on New Year’s morning
awash in bath oil and resolution
observing the Feast of the Circumcision
is to seek the water’s absolution,
according to the law that juxtaposes
Cleanliness and Godliness. I suppose
it is time to examine my conscience,
to make a clean breast of it and amends
to such as those I might have offended.
Attende Domine et miserere! Lord
I’ve sinned with my eye and did not pluck it out,
and with my hand and yet my hand remains
blessing myself against your righteousness.
I’ve sinned with my mouth and loved the sound it made.

I took an honest-to-goodness vacation (I saw family and friends and met a camel and read Goblin Emperor, finally) instead of writing intense 2015 recaps or 2016 pronouncements, so, let’s just dive back in to what we do here.

Today’s question is about when a past toxic relationship bleeds into the present. How do you know what’s reasonable to ask for? And how do you correct someone or set a boundary with a new partner without constantly calling back to the old one?

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Dear Captain,

My husband is serially unemployed. Over the 8 or so years we’ve been together, it’s been a cycle: 12 months employed, six months unemployed, 18 months employed, 1 year unemployed, six months underemployed freelance, on and on.

I have been fortunate to find well-paid work in my field and have no trouble staying employed full-time. In the past decade, I’ve never been away from work for more than 10 days straight.

Now, on the one hand, I am so glad I can cover the bills every time he gets laid off or fired. I think we have an above-average marriage. He’s my best friend. Of course I’m going to support him through the hard times.

On the other hand, what about me?

There are days during his unemployed periods when I really resent that he can sleep in, work on his side-dream of being a writer, play his xbox, collect unemployment and apply for jobs. He’s basically having a six-month vacation, except for an hour a day of job applications.

Even as I type that, I know it is unfair to him. He isn’t choosing to be unemployed. But my jerkbrain keeps reminding me that he has had more free time in the past two months than I have had in the past 15 years.

But I can also acknowledge that it is probably depressing as hell to keep being let go by companies.

I tell myself that I don’t want him to feel like I am punishing him for getting laid off, nor do I want him to feel like he needs to “pay” for his unemployed periods by being my personal slave when it comes to household chores. But, OK, on some level, that kind of is what I want.

I just… Would it be wrong to ask that since I do at least 8 hours of paid work a day and he does 0, maybe he could put in some extra hours of unpaid work around the house during this time to take a little stress off me? Or something else to balance the load? I feel like he owes me. He has said he feels like he owes me too. But it feels wrong on some level to want to collect on that debt.

Can you suggest some self-talk to help me stop feeling like a victim of my own success? And is there a way to bring up couples counseling to talk this through that won’t feel like I’m attacking/judging his work history?

Conflictedly,
Someone else’s safety net

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I accidentally found a diamond ring in my boyfriend’s bag when he returned home from a recent trip to see his family. We have been together for three years, but have been on rocky territory for a while. We had a fight shortly before he left to see his family, which led to me saying I thought we should get counseling, which he wasn’t super interested in. As a compromise, I said we should give ourselves two months to work on our issues, and if we couldn’t make headway, see a counselor, and then…. ( I realize I didn’t make it explicit in our conversation, but I meant that if we couldn’t make things right, we should break up, as four months will take us through the end of our lease).

I’ve been feeling not great about the relationship, and seeing the ring, and the oh fuck feelings it brought up, makes me realize that I’m basically done. However, he is not an asshole, and I don’t want to to hurt him. I am worried he may be thinking of a Christmas proposal (there is a suspicious package under the tree), which… please no. No no no no no no no. How do I head off this potential proposal off at the pass? Or, if that isn’t possible, how do I very gently let him down if he does propose?

Saddling Up the Nopetopus

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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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Hello Captain Awkward,

I’m feeling quite stuck in a romantic situation and am hoping you can help.

Last year I took a job in a town 5 hours away. To my surprise and delight, a co-worker who I had a secret crush on messaged me daily after I left and from there she admits she is attracted to me. Problem being, she is married. The texting gets intense- sexting 24/7. After a few weeks, I drove up to the city and we spent the weekend with each other, in bed together for most of it. She was racked with guilt, I felt guilty too and also guilty because I had feelings for her and she insisted no feelings were to be involved in this. Guilty feelings made way for more and more of these weekends and trips together- we saw each other most weeks despite living in different cities, having an intensely passionate and sexual relationship for over a year.

I didn’t want to sneak around forever and wanted more of a relationship. She told me for months that we would have that, and she was in the process of separating. However one day she announces she can never leave him and get a divorce. Also, she doesn’t want to disappoint and be disowned by friends and family. I was upset but carried on with the relationship because I just didn’t have it in me to leave.

Before we got together, she had planned to live overseas and travel. I would get upset as the time loomed closer when she was due to leave, just as we were getting serious. She reassured me that it was for the best- a way of separating from her husband so we could together. Yet, only a week before she left, she informed me that he had taken a job over there and was going with her. Nevertheless, she insists they aren’t really together, just friends and she will come back to be with me in a year’s time.

I was upset and angry, although accepting that I am ultimately responsible for my own unhappiness about it because I did get involved with a married woman.

I am still in love with her and want to be with her. However I know it’s best for me to leave this all behind. Yet every time I do, she guilt trips me so hard into staying and staying in contact while she is over there- making it impossible to move on. I was hoping Captain that you would be able to shed some light on an escape route out of this and some potential scripts for when she guilts me into staying.

Thanks heaps,

Trapped

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