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Stockholm Syndrome

Dear Captain and friends,

I am terrified of talking to my mother. If I, or my partner, do something she doesn’t like, even if it has no impact on her life, she will worry and blame me for that worry. Sometimes this is because she finds a way in which it will affect her later (she thinks that if anything ever goes wrong for me financially she’ll have to bail me out despite my assurances to the contrary). She often implies or says outright that I’m childish and should always do what she says (I’m 27). When I was 18 my psychiatrist used a garden metaphor for my life so sometimes when I am trying to communicate with her I use that. At the moment I think she is trying to walk into my garden and rearrange everything, and keeping her out is stressful, but she says she has the garden next door and I am letting weeds from my garden get into hers. I have no idea how to deal with this massive conflict in how we see the situation.

At the moment I am hiding something big from her and I don’t know what to do. My partner left his job a few months ago because the commute was exhausting. We didn’t tell my mum he’d left, just that he was looking for something closer to home. He was offered a job with a reasonable commute and great pay, but he quit after two days because he couldn’t stand the corporate culture (which wasn’t apparent at interview stage). We made the decision together, because although I’d love the security, I didn’t want to risk my partner’s well-being and looking for a new job while working there would be basically impossible. We have enough money for him to be unemployed and job-seeking for a few months, although I don’t know what happens if he doesn’t get a job before the money runs out. Some of this money was a wedding present from my parents, and while legally they can’t impose conditions, I expect criticism if they realise that the money is supporting us while my partner is unemployed. We told my parents when he accepted the job, a week before he actually started (and quit). My partner wants us to tell my mum that the job fell through because they no longer needed him. I am anticipating a world of pain as my mum has sleepless nights about his unemployment and passes the blame to me for being with him when she thinks he’s lazy and makes my life harder. I want to be honest but I am terrified of her reaction. What should I do?

Thanks so much,

Terrified Gardener

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African Violet, photo by e_cathedra on Flickr.

Photo by e_cathedra on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Should there ever be a Captain Awkward Dot Com Meetup, I will acquire a bunch of these coloring books and the big boxes of crayons (and some silver and gold gel pens) and have a table where people can hang out and color. Right? Right. Thanks, Cleolinda!

Today’s letters are on the less happy topics of broken, abusive friendships.

Dear Captain Awkward,

I’ve been friends with this woman for about 10 years, since 7th grade. We’ve been through a lot together, and I care about her a lot. However I believe this relationship has come to an end. About two months ago, we had an argument that was entirely my fault. I derailed a conversation that she was having with me, (I had been awake 72 hours, and told her several times I couldn’t really talk, because I was trying to write final papers) and it took me an embarrassingly long time to realize what I had said, and apologize, and she understandably became extremely frustrated with me. As a result of this, she decided it would be best to cut off contact with me for a month or so. We were supposed to re-establish contact on one of two dates (I don’t remember exactly because sleep deprivation). I tried to contact her in on the earlier of the two. The later is now passed, and I’ve received no response.

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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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A cake with "nothing" written on it.

What do we like about this boyfriend of yours?

Dear Captain Awkward,

I’m in a long term relationship (7 years now) that started in my last year of high school, and has been my only romantic relationship. As you may imagine, it’s been…interesting. He’s a great person, with many admirable qualities, whom I still like a lot as a person and enjoy spending time with.

So, there’s a big conflict in our relationship that we haven’t been able to sort once and for all, despite talking about them a bunch of times:

He is really opinionated about my appearance (clothes, hair, weight). He feels that he has a right to comment on it, and gets really passive-aggressive when I don’t give him the opportunity to voice his opinions (ie. I dye my hair and he goes into a snit for days about how he doesn’t like it, and can’t talk about it because I don’t want to hear his opinion on it and oh the angst). It’s gotten to the point where getting a fucking hair cut is fraught because I prefer my hair short and he likes long hair. And it really all comes down to the fact that he’s not as attracted to girls with short hair/dyed hair/wearing goth make-up/ overweight/ insert here. Or he feels I’d look better in skirts/longer hair/ contacts/ more “normal” makeup, etc.

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Hi Captain Awkward,

I am a 21-year-old college student about to begin my last year of school. My family is a bit nuts. My 22-year-old brother, diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder at an early age, receives money from the government monthly and has never worked. My dad is in his 60s and also receives money from the government for bipolar disorder. This leaves me and my mom, who works full time and allows us to live above the poverty line.

 She is also an emotionally unstable alcoholic who frequently stays up the entire night drinking, banging on the door of whoever has angered her that night, screaming and cursing at them for hours and hours. And it doesn’t take much to anger her–one errant comment is enough to land someone in her bad graces.

My mom and dad hate each other, but my mom has trouble supporting both of us without my dad’s check and I think my dad gets lonely without us. Her pattern is to ask him to come live with us, and then if he says something stupid or something goes wrong–and something is always going wrong–she gets drunk and blames him for it. Cue hours of drunken screaming. She kicks him out of the house often, and my dad says every time is the last, but he always comes back.

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The Emperor

"So....you have a twin sister..."

Dear Captain Awkward,

I currently have a kind of weird situation going on with my sister that I really don’t know how to deal with. My parents and I are estranged, and after many years of denial and telling myself that it was always my fault (when in fact, it never was, it was just abuse that I was chalking up to my “parents loving me”) and countless hours of very expensive therapy to get me to the mental Promised Land, I have realized the danger my sister is in.

She lives very close to my parents, both of which are very controlling and constantly manipulative and emotionally and mentally abusive. My father, especially, feels the need to meddle in everyone’s life, and always try to “one up” people with his resume of great accomplishments and how much money he makes. He recently decided that I wasn’t good enough to talk to anymore (almost verbatim said this) and the only thing I can deduce is he hates that he is not in control.

Additionally, this means that I have to have an issue with my sister. She’s constantly thrown in the middle, or feels the need to place herself in the middle and whenever there is an “issue” with my parents, there is seemingly a problem with her. I kind of want to shake her by the shoulders and tell her to get the hell away from them and try to find her own place in life with her husband, but it’s seemingly impossible. I know I can’t tell her what to do, or offer her advice when she’s not seeking it, but things are getting very strained, and we were doing so well at starting an adult relationship.

I’ve noticed also that when she is not surrounded by our parents, that she behaves much differently. At my wedding last month, she kind of made a “joke” in front of everyone when I mentioned that one of my best friends is going to be the usher for a bigger ceremony my husband and I are doing this year, and she practically yelled in the restaurant, “Oh really? I didn’t know that. I just thought Usher was an R&B singer!” To which there was nothing but awkward silence and me really trying not to stab her in the face with a fork.

Could you by any chance offer some advice in how to handle the situation without stepping on her toes? She’s very protective of our parents and feels that a life without a close relationship with your parents isn’t a life at all. I’ve realized that this is just something that has been beaten into us since we were little, and I really don’t want to tell her that I *don’t* want a relationship with her.

Sincerely,
Desperately Seeking Sister

Dear Desperately Seeking,

Oh man, your letter kept me up last night.

Let me address the small , easy stuff first:   Here at Captain Awkward Dot Com we can’t get behind getting all Stabby McForkInEye at your sister because she once blurted out something that sounded much funnier in her head.  When people are nervous or uncomfortable, they blurt.  They laugh at inappropriate times, and then they try to stifle that laughter, so it turns into more of a strangled bleat, and the strain of suppressing the laughter makes them fart. They pull a pen out of their purse to hand it to you, except it’s not a pen, it’s a tampon.  This is a safe space for blurts, farts, giggling in church, and inadvertent tampons.

When this happened, were you embarrassed FOR her (Oh man, my poor sister, she doesn’t know anyone here and was just too hip for the room) or BY her (Oh man, now all my friends will see what a n00b my sister is)?  Be honest with yourself about this, and then cut your sister some slack.  Of course in my family, “cutting slack” might involve staged retellings of the joke for the next 20 years and also calling into the local radio station to dedicate Usher songs to each other on birthdays and anniversaries, but do what feels right to you.

Now, the hard stuff.  It’s below the cut because it is full of stuff like photos of Bret Michaels and descriptions of abuse.  This has been your trigger warning. Read More

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