A series of letters from people who are trying to disengage but don’t know how. There’s some really toxic addiction and abusive behavior described in some of the letters, so, know that going in.
I’ve been with my boyfriend for 3 years. We are both in our early thirties. When I first met him, I thought he was very attractive, and I still do. I like skinny dudes and he was skinny when I met him. About seven months into our relationship he put on about 15-20 pounds, which I found less attractive. His stomach was no longer flat and he carried weight around his middle in general. I expected him to lose it quickly, but he didn’t. Eventually I brought it up and he said I should have just said so and that he hadn’t really noticed, and that he would start a diet and exercise more.
It didn’t stick for long and since then every few months I ask him if he is still on his diet (which is all I do, I don’t bother him about it otherwise) and he gets upset and says yes (and sometimes no) and we had a fight about it recently where he said he wants me to stop asking.
I have stayed the same size, and I know he would not be super happy if I put on weight, since his preference is strongly skewed toward very thin women. I feel that while I do maintain my weight for my own sake, I also do it because I know he likes the way I look and I want him to be maximum attracted to me. That it’s been over 2 years makes me feel that it doesn’t matter to him if I am maximum attracted to him.
I am having a hard time distancing myself from this and figuring out what is right. I am a very goal-oriented person and also a “pusher,” one of those best/worst qualities — on the one hand, I always try my hardest at everything and I’ve accomplished some good things because of that, but on the other hand I also find it difficult to just let other people go at a slower pace and not micromanage. I try to rein this in, but I can’t tell if it applies in this situation. I want my boyfriend to stay in (reasonable) shape as we get older, but when I looked in the archives, particularly at #284, I saw people calling this mentality terrible and controlling (although I don’t think I’m like that guy, who sounds like he wants a different girlfriend. I don’t want a different boyfriend, I just want him to look a little more like he did when we met). Should I just deal with it, or is there a better way to approach this issue?
– sad, possibly a jerk
Dear Captain Awkward,
I began dating someone in August even though we both knew we were moving to different cities at the end of the month. August was great, I learned more about what I want in a relationship, and we left on good terms.
This person was in my new city recently (in early October), and we resumed our “relationship” for the week he was here, but I said that after he left I wanted to stop communicating for 2 months so I could concentrate on my new city and get over him. He agreed and said that was fine.
Which brings me to today. This person and I have begun the “2 months of no communication” that I requested. It has been about a week and I just received this message from him:
“I know we are not supposed to communicate but I was thinking about the mean comment I said the other day. It was dumb and hurtful. I am sorry, I was stupid, you re sweet.”
So here is the incident where the mean comment occurred:
While we were together in my new city, we met some friends for brunch. I mentioned that the previous night he and I didn’t go to a certain concert/club because we weren’t dressed up enough. He said something like “Yea we can’t go dressed like shit. I mean, can you get in dressed like that?” and he gestured at me. I can’t remember his exact words but he basically proclaimed that I was dressed like shit in front of friends. I completely froze. He could tell something was wrong so after we left the restaurant he asked me what it was and I told him. He said I was right, that was fucked up, and he is sorry.
And now he is saying sorry again. I appreciate this, but the problem is it feels like “sorry” is not enough.
So my question is, how do I respond to this? This is a person I enjoyed getting to know, who I felt a connection to, and who I hope I can have a friendship with. Here are two drafts I came up with:
1. Thanks for saying this.
2. I’ve been thinking about it too. And a lot of other things. The past, patterns I get into with people. Maybe you can help me answer some of my questions sometime. For now, let’s stick to the 2 months thing.
Do you have any suggestions or insight? Your scripts always seem so mature and brilliant. I think, ”Obviously! That’s what you should say! Why didn’t I think of that!”
Thank you so much! I love your blog.
So I just started officially dating this really sweet guy, and it’s been going really well! However, he is a huge runner and usually runs every night. We are both in college so we usually hang out after he runs, but he never showers before we hang out! At first I thought it would be a one time thing but it keeps happening, and I really don’t like cuddling with him all sweaty. How should I approach this? We just started dating and I don’t want to hurt his feelings, but I really wish he’d just rinse off or something. Am I being too picky?
Dear Captain Awkward,
I am currently having issues with a roommate, who is also a friend of many years. We had lived together once before for a short period, and while I had noticed his intense reactions to stressful situations then, I was given the impression he had developed strategies to cope with his anxiety since we first lived together. But now he is in a bit of a tailspin, and has been since our third roommate broke up with him and moved out four months ago. He is also incredibly stressed about work, and is worried about getting fired, and comes home every night with a new bout of anxiety to work out. Unfortunately, this takes the form of his unloading all his anger, disappointment and anxiety onto me as a listener. I understand expression of one’s feeling is super important, and his feelings are one hundred percent valid (work does sound awful and getting dumped blows), but I am feeling incapable of knowing how to help, or perhaps more importantly, how to get time to myself in the apartment. I am a teacher and feel “on” most of the day, so I do not know how to listen and get time to myself at the end of the day.
I feel like we have gotten trapped in a ritual where he will come through the door and tell me every terrible thing about his day for forty-five minutes, and I try to listen, but all I seem to be doing is reinforcing a cycle of negative thoughts. My roommate is feeling very unstable with his life right now, and I don’t want to shut him out, but at some point, it’s probably not good to allow him to fixate so much, yeah? At times, I feel like I am his only outlet for his feelings, and that I have let him take advantage of my listening ear. Often, he will seek me out if I am not in common spaces, not to check in on how my day was, but to unload. He did it just now when he ostensibly knocked on my door to ask if I needed anything from the grocery store, and then ranted at me for thirty minutes, despite knowing it was my writing time. I absolutely should have said, “Yes, it is my writing time, you are correct. I don’t need anything, I will talk to you later,” rather than hand-waving my scheduled time away and listening; I give him permission to do this. But what would be a good script to start a larger conversation?
I don’t know how to talk to him about this issue, given his stress level. I don’t want to give him more anxiety, but I feel this routine we’ve gotten into is creating bad habits. For me, I am not asserting my need for my own space and time. For him … well, it’s almost like he’s treating me as a girlfriend, like giving me all his emotional turmoil as if I am required on a partner level to help him carry it, which isn’t helping him move on or cope on his own? Even in one of my own crises (a cancer scare in my family), he spent all day with me, only to unload an intense amount of anxiety on me at the end of the day (which he had set up as a distracting, “let’s do fun things to get your mind off this cancer scenario” sort of day). This summer, I began dating someone, and my roommate started saying kind of mean jokes in my direction while the new boyfriend was around (though his humor runs more sarcastic generally), and I can’t help but wonder if this happened because I let him lean on me too much in the early days of the break-up and now he’s gotten our relationship parameters confused? He’ll invite me to events these days, and I will say no if I don’t feel like it, or that I have to check my schedule, but then he’ll repeat the invite three times after I have responded. I don’t know. It’s just a lot.
How can I be a good friend and understanding roommate while reinforcing boundaries? Do you have scripts for this, Captain?
Tongue-Tied In A Two-Flat
Dear Captain Awkward,
So… Not sure if this fits under relationship advice or under the “how to be a regular human being and not a lizard person” category. I’ve been seeing this guy for the last 10 months. He is great, but I’m the first person he’s actually gone out with since ending a long, traumatic and when we met he said he wasn’t looking for commitment. I was fine with it, but then we kept seeing each other and I started falling hard and wanting more – to actually be able to look forward to things and not just treat every encounter as “oh, this could or could not have happened, what random happenstance”.
The thing is, although he’s said he’s in love with me and wants to try being with me, he’s still unable to make plans. If he says “see you saturday”, that doesn’t mean we will definitely see each other saturday, but rather that when he said it it sounded like it might be a nice idea. Come saturday, though, he might decide to go do something else entirely and fall off the grid whilst I’m waiting to hear from him. As someone who has a limited amount of energy for social interaction and a few anxiety issues, I treat planning as something serious. If someone says “see you saturday”, I expect to hear from them saturday. Now, I realised he comes from a different perspective and it’s better to check things on the actual date and not count on them as solid plans, but it still wears on me a bit.
It’s like..Though I know plans could change at any moment, things happen, feelings change, life is unpredictable… And if he changed his mind I would try not to hold him against it… I still feel like I need a plan? Even if it’s not ironclad, just knowing that right now there is a more likely outcome or a desired outcome would make me feel more secure? Does that make sense?
Also, he’s seemed a bit distant lately (still texts almost every day, actually came to see me and brought medicine and food over because I have a cold – but left after sex saying he needed to go home and we MIGHT see each other later… or, you know, not) and I’m not sure if it’s just my insecurity or indicative or something a bit more worrisome. Anyway, my point is: despite thinking of several reasons to work around it (“the distance is all in my head” and “who needs plans anyway”) I keep feeling a bit neglected and anxious. I’m thinking of ending things, not because I want to – I love the guy and he seems to care for me back – but because I think I handle being lonely better when I’m alone and it might be less stressful.
I’ve tried talking to him about it, but he says he’s like this in general, not just with me and there is no point in treating plans as solid because the future is such a changeable thing. So, how do I make peace with being in the moment and stop worrying bout unreasonable things? If there is no ironclad future, how do you stop yourself from having expectations? And how to manage a schedule with someone who doesn’t believe in plans?
Dear Captain Awkward:
There is an elderly man in his 80s, who I will call Fred, who I have known for almost twenty years. He is known by almost everyone in the community as a grandfatherly figure and was voted Citizen of the Year. He likes to hug people, and I used to give him a hug whenever he asked, never thinking anything of it.
However, last spring I was put in an awkward situation. Fred knocked on the door to my apartment and I invited him in to talk. I was showing him a new book and he asked me to read to him. While I was reading, he suddenly slipped his hand under the back of my shirt and started massaging my shoulders. I was so stunned by this breach of boundaries that I did not know how to handle it. It was entirely inappropriate and I finally moved away but did not say anything.
For the next few months, I tried to avoid running into him around town. But twice during the past two weeks, Fred has run into me and asked for a hug. I gave him a quick hug, and both times, he jokingly complained that he didn’t want a “side hug” and he wanted me to give him a “full frontal hug.” He made a comment about noticing that I was “running away from him.” I am a large-chested woman and I think this is why he wants to hug me in this way. I like Fred as an individual, but his inappropriate touching behavior and pursuit of me makes me feel uncomfortable. How should I handle this?