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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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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. 

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It’s July, so time for the monthly “let’s answer the stuff people typed into search engines” post. It is, as always, a very mixed bag of topics.

1. “Is my partner’s family using my family for money? Help!”

I feel like there is a lot of backstory and context here that would be valuable to know, but one suggestion is to revisit and renegotiate current arrangements around money, and see what happens. It sounds like that you (or your family) are already uncomfortable with something about the financial arrangements that are taking place or requests that are being made, and that’s a good enough reason to pull on one of the threads and see where it goes. Do you feel like you are allowed to say “no, we can’t help with that, sorry?” Does it change how your partner’s family treats you?

2. “Should I be upset with a coworker who didn’t donate to a fundraiser in my name?”

Feel however you want, but I don’t think addressing it with the coworker, complaining to other people, or changing the way you interact with them at work is a good idea at all. Be grateful to the people who did donate, and assume the coworker who didn’t had completely understandable reasons that aren’t really your business. Let this one go.

I don’t feel shame about asking for donations here periodically, or for boosting charity stuff or crowd-funding campaigns for friends or causes I’m close to, and I don’t mind at all when people in my life ask me for help with their stuff, but that only works as long as everyone understands that a request is not an order and that gifts are voluntary. For real, the quickest way to make everyone you know go “fuck you and your cause” is to act like they are obligated to give. I also think, personally, that bosses should never ask their employees for charitable donations. Get some friends, boss. Get some friends.

3. “If someone with depression apologises for something they did, do u tell them its not their fault?”

Well, maybe it is their fault. Depression dulls and blunts a person’s ability to function within relationships sometimes, but it’s not an excuse for mean behavior, and we are still ultimately responsible for how we treat other people. If you want to say something comforting in response to the apology, howabout “Apology accepted, thank you.

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Hi Captain,

I have a friend. He’s a reasonably good friend and has been there for me during some tough times. Which is why I feel guilty about what I’m about to say.

For the last year or so, we’ve spent a lot of time together chatting and hanging out. We had some sexual tension and a very brief romantic fling before deciding it was not to be. I am way happier now that we’ve decided this, but he – was and probably is still – a bit upset about it. So I have a lot of guilt over that. We chat quite a bit on FB and via text and at the moment it’s pretty constant throughout the day. However, the more we talk the more I kinda think – while I want to be friends, I want to pull back a little. Well, a lot.

The thing that is getting me down the most is that he’s so negative. Every message is about how much his life sucks or how much something hurts or how much he hates his job or his parents or how everyone else is stupid… Like I genuinely can’t remember the last time I had a positive comment from him. I know his health isn’t great, so he is being genuine. But it’s just so wearing.

I’ve tried making helpful suggestions (these go down like a lead balloon). I’m currently just leaving a while before replying (although that’s tricky cos he can see on FB when I’ve seen a message) and then saying something like “you poor thing” and either changing the subject or not really engaging further, unless the subjects shifts to TV shows or something neutral. Some days I just ignore messages altogether. But it’s getting to the point where I just don’t want to hang out with him any more – via chat or in person, because I just end up so depressed. But I don’t want to make him feel worse. I feel really guilty about all of this, because I know I used to participate in the negativity. Nowadays, I’m trying to be more positive – and seeing positive results from this – but I don’t want to just abandon him either like “my life is better now, yours isn’t, so bye!”.

The second thing is that he’s super clingy – and quite aggressive in his clinginess. He ends up scolding me about our friendship if I try to pull back a little. It starts out with if I don’t reply within an hour or so, I get a text asking if I’m mad at him. Whether I say no, or I try to be honest, he gets really really upset and starts attacking me – saying I don’t reply to him enough and when I do I’m being superficial and I’m not hanging out with him enough or when we do he feels like I’ve scheduled him in like everyone else and I’m making him feel bad… or else he brings up other stuff, about our brief fling or my new boyfriend… This sort of thing also happens if I mention something that I didn’t tell him about instantly – I get “ why didn’t you tell me?!” and then the rest of the guilt trip. If I get upset about what he’s said, he backtracks and tells me that I’m overreacting and that I “always do this” and I’m being ridiculous and that he’s just venting so “why do I always think everything is my fault?” This happens by text and in person – and in person he shouts. I’m really bad at confrontation, so as soon as he goes on the attack I forget all my words and just get upset.

I just find it all exhausting. I don’t want to be friends like this. But I feel really bad that I used to engage in all of this and suddenly don’t want to any more. I feel like a terrible friend and I’m just abandoning him when his life is still difficult and mine is getting better. I don’t know what to do.

Please help,

A Terrible Friend

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I used to have a really close friend who I’ll call A. A and I went to the same middle school, high school, and college, and for several years we talked online together almost every day. Then, about two years ago, she stopped talking to me. At first, I thought she was busy (since she’d just graduated from college and was looking for a new job), so I tried sending her messages and things, but she never responded. I spent about a year trying to figure out what was going on, but I never really figured anything out until A finally sent me a message completely out of the blue. A had sent that message because, on tumblr, I’d reblogged a post that A’s friend had made about a sensitive subject, and A wanted me to delete it.

I had no problem with deleting the post, so I went ahead and did that, and I also took that as an opportunity to ask her, “Are we still friends? It’s been about a year since we’ve talked, and I don’t know why.” A never directly responded, but she did make a vague tumblr post about how it had been a year since she’d realized she was a lesbian, and she put a lot of emphasis on stating that it had been one year. So my best guess is that A realized that she had a crush on me, and instead of talking to me about it, she decided to cut off communication with me completely. I’m actually not straight either, but I never got a chance to talk to her about that, so I guess A never knew.

At that point, I still would have liked to be friends with her, but I decided that if she wasn’t willing to talk to me, then we really weren’t friends in the first place. So, I deleted the tumblr blog that A knew about and made a new one, and otherwise I just avoid her online. I don’t really check Facebook anymore, because I inevitably see something she’s said to one of my old friends or something like that and I just get upset.

It’s been about a year since I gave up on talking to A. I spent a while being really upset and randomly crying and so on, but after a while I thought I’d gotten over all of this.

Earlier tonight, I randomly found something that A had written. Pretty soon, I just started sobbing.

She was my best friend – at times my only friend – for almost a decade, and then she suddenly shut me out. I don’t really know what to do now. I’ve tried to find new friends, but I’m very socially anxious and I’ve never been good at talking to people, so nothing I’ve tried has worked out at all. After college, I had to move back in with my parents in a very small town, so there aren’t very many people my age in the area. I basically don’t have any friends anymore, and I feel very isolated and alone, and I don’t know what to do about it.

Thanks,
Lost and Lonely

Dear Lost and Lonely,

I’m so sorry you are having to mourn the death of a close friendship at the same time you are navigating isolation. There is no shortcut for dealing with all of this, but there are some steps that with time and effort may work to help you grieve the loss of your friendship with A. and start to make new friends.

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Edited To Add: If you wrote one of the many (now deleted) treatises on The Darkest Evils of The Other Woman And How They Deserve Our Collective Scorn and Hatred, and how they must accept the possibility of violence at the hands of those they’ve wronged as the forseeable fruits of their sins, thanks for the shortest window between posting a thread and closing comments in Captain Awkward history!

I have three things to say to you:

1) Sometimes married (or committed-ly coupled) people who are looking to get laid LIE not just to their partners. “We’re separated!” “The marriage is all but over, we’re just working out the details.” “We have an arrangement where this is all okay as long as she never finds out.” “We no longer even sleep in the same bed anymore.” “S/he’s cheating on me.”

2) This Letter Writer is not responsible for your pain. She stopped behavior that didn’t feel right to her and changed how she approaches relationships several years ago. She apologized to the wife. She read the hurtful, vitriolic email. She doesn’t have to absorb your vitriolic-emails-by-proxy that you couldn’t send to the people who your partner cheated with so now you dump it all on her. Her actual question was “I’m very aware of how I screwed up here and feel really guilty, but also she said stuff that makes me feel scared for my safety.

3) Not cool, guys. Not cool.

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Now and then it’s interesting to see the search terms that bring people here, and, since they are in the form of a question, give some short answers. I’ve added punctuation but otherwise left the texts unaltered.

“Pushing someone to accept something they aren’t ready to.”

Is doomed. You can maybe get someone to say they accept whatever it is in order to end the argument and get you to go away, but you better believe they’re still stewing inside and now have some extra angst that’s directed at you for pushing them.

What if your boyfriend’s parents want you to call them mom and dad?

It sounds like you don’t want to call them Mom and Dad, so, don’t. Say, “That is a very sweet suggestion and I am glad you want us to be close, but I only want to call my own parents that. Can we come up with something else, like, Mr./Mrs. ______ or first names? Thank you.

This is not a normal thing, especially if you guys are unmarried, so stand your ground.

“Speed-friending London.”

GO! And tell us all about it.

Seducing my friend’s girlfriend advice.

Don’t seduce your friend’s girlfriend. That’s my advice.

“How to tell if my best friend’s girlfriend want to have sex with me?”

Assume she doesn’t until you hear the words “Let’s have sex!” come out of her mouth.

“If I send a face book message and they read it and its marked read then why does the read status disappear when they block themselves from me?

Ok, to answer the question you didn’t ask, stop reading over those messages looking for signs of this person’s attention to what you had to say. To answer the one you asked, blocking you severs that relationship on the interface level. Suggestion: Delete the messages. Block them right back. Anything so you aren’t spending one more precious day of your life pouring over communications from someone who clearly doesn’t want to talk to you.

“Making your girlfriend do what you want although she might be busy.”

Ask her to spend time with you. If she’s busy, do something else with your day. If she’s consistently too busy, ask her to talk about how you guys spend time together and tell her how it makes you feel. If she’s still consistently too busy, break up. There is no “making” here – she’s either enthusiastically spending time with you or she isn’t. You can make requests and make decisions about whether that works for you, but that’s where your making powers end.

Girlfriend willing but doesn’t want to have sex.”

Then you don’t have sex with her, and you let that be a thing she initiates.

“I want my nude pictures on the internet.”

From all reports, the Internet is ok with that.

“10shart fuck only vidios opan ok

It’s out there, somewhere. 10 sharts! Be steadfast in your quest.

“Will a guy test you by being a jerk?”

The guys who do this are probably failing your personal “That guy’s a jerk” test. Rather than seeing it as some test that someone eventually passes (um, yay?), maybe see it as a guy acting like a jerk and make decisions accordingly.

How to write a letter to my boyfriend’s jealous ex.

Do not write  a letter to your boyfriend’s jealous ex. It will not make her go away, it will just show that whatever she’s doing is getting to you. The only thing that will make her go away, eventually,  is if both of you starve her of attention.

“Boyfriend not interested my life.”

Let me correct that for you. “My ex-boyfriend was not interested in my life.” Roll that around on the tongue a few times. How does it sound?

“Only depressed before and during work.”

No guarantees, obviously, but a new and different job might clear that right up.

“Should I breakup with my boyfriend if I don’t love him any more?”

Do what you want, but this is literally THE most airtight reason to break up with someone.

“I can’t break up with my boyfriend because he was my first.”

You can break up with someone for any reason. “I don’t want to be in this relationship anymore” is a good reason.

The connection with a first love and/or first sex partner is very intense and lovely and wonderful, but having that connection with someone & making a long-term happy life with someone are not necessarily congruent. Breakups are hard, even when they are for the right reasons, but with time you will bounce back and so will he.

If your high school sex-ed was all about previously chewed gum, plucked daisies, used Kleenex, etc. I am here to tell you those people were sadistic lying assholes. Get thee to Scarleteen.

“Should I pretend to drunk text him?”

What is it that you want to say to him? What if you said it completely sober and completely sincerely?

“How to text a drunk girl.”

What would you say to this girl if she were sober? Try that.

“How to apologize after drunk text.”

Text/Call/Say in person: “Sorry, I was not my best self the other night and am feeling pretty embarrassed.”

Go forth and text, and drink, responsibly. An occasional drunk text can be funny/flirtatious. A cycle of oversharing & apology? Gets annoying really fast.

“Drunk texts to let guy know you like him.”

Okay, okay, I get it. It’s awkward to make yourself vulnerable, and being drunk lowers inhibitions and also gives the illusion of an excuse if the person doesn’t respond the way you want – “Ha ha, no, I was kidding, I was drunk.” I too have made out on the Couch of Plausible Deniability Where We Are Going To Watch A Movie, I Swear.

Drunk texts are not wrong, and if you’re having fun with it, text away! Get your flirt on, people! But if you’re strategizing about this? Maybe it’s time for a “I think you are handsome and cool and would love to go on a date sometime. Have you ever thought about it?

“We made out drunk and he texted me next day.”

Unless he’s sending you insults, it sounds like he’s nice, actually, and making an effort to reach out while sober. There’s no obligation, but if you wanted to hang out again, it sounds like he’s at least open to the idea. Biggest question right now is what do you want to happen now?

“How does being an introvert affect communication?”

Not that much, in my opinion. Introverts need a fair amount of alone time to recharge their batteries and may prefer hanging in smaller groups/quieter spaces. But they CAN and DO communicate just the same as anyone else, including doing very people-centered jobs very well and having an active social life. Introversion vs. extroversion is about preference/style/feeling energized by social contact vs. depleted, not ability, and knowing someone is an introvert is not a predictor or prescriptor of anything. Individuals have differing communications styles, so take your cues from your own preferences or from how a specific person responds to you.

“Do professors like their students to thank them?”

Who wouldn’t like to know that their work affected someone for the better? It’s not necessary or expected that students thank us (the best thanks is you doing your best work and going on to do well), but “I really enjoyed your class” is a very nice thing to hear, especially after grades are in, and especially when it contains some info about what you are currently working on/doing next.

“I fell in love with my professor.”

I’m not going to tell you those feelings aren’t real, but I am going to tell you there’s too much yucky power differential stuff for this to be a good idea to pursue while you are a student at that school. I have a massive side-eye for any professor who would respond positively to romantic or sexual advances from a student. Holy abuse of power and trust, Batman!

“I want to have sex with my therapist.”

This is a REALLY bad idea. Illegal in some cases, the stuff of license-revoking in others, for a good reason. A therapist who has sex with patients is a NO GOOD VERY BAD THERAPIST who is abusing trust and power. Being able to trust and open up to someone compassionate can bring up all kinds of feelings, especially if your therapist is also foxy. But not all feelings need to be acted on, and a good therapist is going to set an ironclad boundary here.

“My mom doesn’t want me to masturbate.”

Good thing it’s not up to her. It’s completely none of her business, in fact, and is strictly between you and you. Masturbation is awesome. Rock on with your sexy self. Also, get thee to Scarleteen.

“What if a guy says it’s awkward and might want to break up.”

When people say stuff like this, believe them. He’s giving you advance warning and telling you that breaking up is on his mind. Start to make your peace with ending the relationship.

“How can I tell my daughter I found a partner for her.”

If you’re from an Arranged Marriages Are A-Okay culture, how did your parents tell you this stuff? I feel like there will be some rituals and scripts around this that are widely-known and your daughter will be expecting some conversation like this to take place.

If you’re not from that kind of culture (and honestly, probably even if you are), I would not talk in terms of “partner” or “husband” or “wife.” At all. That’s putting the cart waaaaaaaaaay before the horse about something that is ultimately not your decision.

Possible script: “Daughter, I met someone who I think you’d really get along with and would like to put you in touch. Can I give you his/her contact information?”

Then you drop the subject. Forever. And you do NOT give your daughter’s contact info to this person, or try to sell them on your daughter. No hinting. No pushing. No inviting the person over for a “Surprise! You two should probably mate!” dinner.

“What does it mean when someone says you have a heart of a bullet and a mind of a boss?”

Take it as a compliment, because if it’s not, your bullet-heart and boss-mind don’t have time for that anyway. Maybe write a song about it.

“Am I a bitch for leaving my boyfriend to take care of myself?”

From where I sit, you are a person who made a hard decision and I wish you all the best. Get on with the job of taking care of yourself, part of which is forgiving yourself and being gentle and kind to yourself and not calling yourself mean names.

Love,

Captain Awkward

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