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Dear Captain Awkward:

My 27 year old son has been in a relationship with his girlfriend for about 18 months. He was living with a friend until a couple months ago, when he and his girlfriend moved to an apartment. Before the move, his friend came to see my husband and I to talk about the situation. He said that the girlfriend is a total loser and the two of them fight constantly. He said many of their friends can’t stand her, and that the two of them drink and smoke weed, i.e. enable each other’s recreational drug use. They are both broke most of the time, although they work full time at low level jobs. My son was barely able to cover living expenses before, and asked us for financial help from time to time. When we heard about his plans to move in with her, we were not happy but came to grips with the situation, accepting the fact he is an adult and has to make his own decisions. Since then, we have stopped all flow of cash to him, hoping the living situation and the relationship will eventually fall apart and he will start over.

We do not want the girlfriend attending all our family gatherings. It’s too stressful for me to converse with her because I feel she is a terrible influence on him. The problem is, she’s manipulative and puts on a very phony act around us. I see right through her, as my son can also be that way. I can see how they feed off each other and it drives me crazy. She seems to rule his life and is very self centered. I’ve wondered if there is some sex addiction going on, because for the life of me I can’t understand his attraction to her otherwise. I just see a toxic relationship, like his friend told us.

I am struggling with how to handle a family gathering at Christmas. She was with us at Thanksgiving and that was too much for me. Should we tell him it’s family only, or should I just decline to attend????

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Dear Captain & Co.,

I’m in a wonderful relationship, but we’ve got a Darth Vader ex-girlfriend lurking on the sidelines. When we first started dating she behaved horribly: showing up on his lawn screaming suicide threats when she found out I was over, harassing him for months, hacking his email to get my phone number to send me threatening messages, etc. She backed off after he threatened to get a restraining order.

BF left a lot of his things at their apartment. He couldn’t face making a second trip to get everything when he initially left, and then was too afraid to ask her to send it to him. He was also just trying to get his life back together, as you do after escaping an abusive relationship. Then the whole mess above happened.

He’s joked that losing that stuff was a fair price to pay to get away from her. But lately it’s clear he wants it back. (He also has a narcissistic mother who’s gotten rid of a lot of his belongings without his permission, so I think a lot of it is about gaining control over his property and life.) The stuff in Darth’s possession is mostly memorabilia and collector’s items. We’re pretty sure she still has them because she latched on to his interests during their long-term relationship. But we are both at a loss about how to approach her about it.

Their relationship was extremely toxic. Darth has Borderline Personality Disorder. I hope she’s gotten help, but the Darth my BF knew was volatile, argumentative, irrational, manipulative, and occasionally violent. He is extremely wary about contacting her. We don’t want to trigger her or become a renewed target, especially since we’ll be at the same smallish convention in a few months. Because of her BPD, she probably still views herself as the abandoned victim. Six months ago we saw her at a concert and the way she reacted made it clear she wasn’t over him. According to the grapevine, her current boyfriend is an emotional prop she openly resents, so it’s possible she’s not over him even now. Contacting her might end up being fine… or it might make her act out in any number of ways.

What should we do? Any scripts or advice on enforcing boundaries, minimizing contact, and controlling possible fallout when attempting something like this would be really appreciated. BF doesn’t want trouble … he just wants his things back.

Is the value of the stuff such that it would be worth hiring a lawyer to deal with the entire thing from beginning to end, from sending the request to potentially taking her to court if she doesn’t comply to actually picking up the stuff? Like, it’s $50,000 worth of stuff and you think it would take $10,000 of lawyering to get it back, and you have the $10,000 lying around and you also have a free year of your life to spend on this problem?

Because my recommendation is: Buy new stuff.

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A Venn Diagram of Depressed, Attractive JerksDear Captain Awkward:

How do I see the whole of a person?

Hello! I was hoping you could help me with something. There is a guy at uni I am friends with, who has depression. Over the past semester at uni, we have grown very close, mostly on the basis of me becoming the person he turns to when he needs someone to confide in about the depression. We have also fairly recently become sexually involved with one another, which started in June for a week and the one time I’ve seen him since based on a couple of months of text/Skype conversations that became more and more explicit over time. I was also recently reminded of his mean streak, in regards to casual mean comments and tendency to strike out hurtfully at others when hurting or in misplaced jest/humour.

The issue is I can’t seem to integrate these three aspects of him in my head. When I think about him I am essentially thinking about one of three different versions of him – the one I listen to and comfort, the one whom I am sexually involved and also turn to for comfort, and the one with harsh comments and the mean humour. How, oh wise one, can I integrate these parts in my head and thus treat him as the whole person he is?

Thank you sincerely,
Confused

Dear Confused:

I vote that you believe hard in the Mean Guy and view the rest of his personality through that lens.

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A man and woman dressed as Darth Vader holding hands on a crowded street.

Image from likecool.com

Hi there,
An online friend and I were innocent email buds. One day, we start DMing which leads to texting/phone call. It gets sexual. Tells me he has a live in girlfriend but doesn’t ever say “maybe we shouldn’t go there.” It progresses to constantly talking, texting, gchatting. 2 weeks after we started he flew here for a weekend.

Knew he had a gf, he told me they had major issues ever since she moved in. I asked him to please break up with her and figure that out ASAP. He went home and 2 days later he told me he would regret leaving if he didn’t try to fix their relationship. But wanted to try with me too. The waffling about what he wanted continued for 4 months. We saw each other again, talked constantly. We’d both try to cut each other off at points, it NEVER stuck.

Throughout I would threaten to tell her, push him to leave. I regret all the manipulation. In the fall, he decided that he couldn’t handle it. He cut it off, came crawling back. I let him. He’d become my emotional crutch. I fell into deep depression, constantly beating myself up. 

Finally he said I severely hurt him by threatening to tell her, he could never really forgive me, give me a real chance. I said I’m done, cut off contact. Though did demand he tell her. I wanted him to get left. He did tell her, they have stayed together so far.

So was left feeling insane and sad. I did some controlling things that I’m not proud of. Jerkbrain: I’m an awful person who not only hurt this man but someone else too. I acted absolutely unreasonable on more than one occasion with this situation.

How I can start to forgive myself? Some people may always think I’m seriously shitty and I have to get over that but having a really hard time being okay with everything. Especially because I really did care for him. We had some seriously intense emotional and physical chemistry and I really thought I loved him at one point. I know this pit of despair may eventually dissipate but I am so ashamed of myself and tired of feeling like I’m the bad one.

And her friends have openly cried for revenge against me and told me I should be scared. They have stayed together so I guess I can understand why I’m the target and not him but it’s really frustrating that that’s the tactic. Which is my other question, how do I reconcile my desire for justice against him? I am just so pissed that he’s essentially had no consequences.

Thanks.

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Gandalf & Darth Vader

Who would win in a fight? A common question posed by The Internet.

Hello, Citizens of Friday.

First order of business, this great nod of solidarity for the socially awkward from Dorothy Parker.

‎”Those who have mastered etiquette, who are entirely, impeccably right, would seem to arrive at a point of exquisite dullness.” -Dorothy Parker

Second order of business: This great post from The Pervocracy, “How To Have Sex on Purpose.” It’s an essay form of the talk about consent and what people can learn about sex from kinksters that Cliff gave at U of Chicago’s Sex Week last week.

Third order of business: Great Darth Vader Boyfriend song or GREATEST Darth Vader Boyfriend song?

That should segue us nicely into this question:

Dear Captain Awkward:

My best friend at work is romantically obsessed with her douche of a boyfriend. He has been both mentally and sexually manipulative and verbally abusive. All of her friends at work realized this. We were asked on many occasions for advice by her or listened to her vent, but she only tightens her grip on him, and increasingly pushes her own friends away. Any advice? Is she a lost cause?

Thanks:

Don Draper

Dear Don:

Your selected username is pretty unintentionally funny, because Don Draper is TOTALLY a Darth Vader Boyfriend. He physically assaults Betty, and tried to convince her that she cannot leave him. He totally broods his way into getting sympathy sex with ladies who he does not treat very well.

Silhouette of Darth Vader replaces Draper in Mad Men opening credit sequence.

Awesome design by Dann Matthews.. P.S. There are T-shirts.

Don’t know how long you’ve been reading, but we covered Darths at length in one of the first-ever posts on this blog. And we also covered how to tell a friend that you have had enough venting for the time being.

The points I’d reiterate here is:

  • Your friend does not have to break up with her boyfriend to please you. Even if he sucks. That’s just not how people and their hearts work.
  • But also, you do not have to endlessly listen to her talk about him. Her sun may rise and set by the cycle of her bad boyfriend’s moods and behaviors, but yours does not have to.

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Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash looking all romantical and stuff.

A strong argument for the second-time-around.

Dear Captain Awkward:

I’m caught in my own head and could use a guide to get out of it. There’s a gentleman who’s recently come back into my life. We first connected two years ago when he was separated from his (second) wife and while we talked all of the time and hung out a bit nothing ever came of it datewise. He faded out on me and it was a bit painful, last I had heard he had gotten back together with his wife to see if things could work.

They obviously could not. He’s now living on his own (well, with his kids) and found me on a dating site. He apologized for disappearing (understood, lots of shit going on, obviously! Had I known, I wouldn’t have gotten at all involved/interested the first time around) and I generally feel like people deserve a second chance. We’ve started talking again and hanging out as friends but the potential for more is there. We’re both still insanely attracted to one another and get along like gangbusters.

We’ve tried talking about where things are headed and how we should approach whatever kind of relationship (friends? more?) is developing, but I think we both make it more confusing when we try to use our words. And not to sound condescending but I’m not sure that HE knows what he wants/needs at this point. He’s only been separated about 4 months so far and living on his own for the first time in a long time. He wants to just take things as they come and go with the flow. My heart agrees but I’m afraid I’m (we’re) going to be too intense too soon after meeting up again and clicking so well..and then he’ll freak out a little while down the road. I like this guy too much for him to be a booty call or friends with benefits, I can do just friends but then both of us need to turn the flirting and romantic overtones WAY down, stat. I’m not sure how to reconcile what he might need with what I want or how to approach the whole damn thing. I also don’t know what words to use or how to use them when we end up just talking in circles and end up back at ‘I like you, you like me, let’s see what happens’.

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Don and Joan from Mad Men sitting in a bar together.

“Why didn’t you ever send any flowers?” “You scared the shit out of me.”

Dear Captain Awkward,

I hope you and your army of awesome readers can help me! I’m 28 and I find myself in the awkward position of getting divorced and simultaneously losing my best friend. Long story short, I was also dating my best friend and we broke up so she can go back to her Darth Vader Husband. I’m really hurting, but I know that I created a lot of my hurt by my own choices because I was blinded by happy pants-feelings and my own need to fix/nuture the people in my life.

What I need help with is this: I have a long history of picking people in my life who need fixing. Specifically, I meet and quickly become close friends with beautiful, intelligent, articulate women who either have relationships with Darth Vaders or end up having relationships with Darth Vaders. And I’m talking baby daddy doesn’t have a job and gives you a curfew and tells you how to spend your money (uses your paycheck to buy pot, etc) and maybe hits you Darth Vaders. I then keep my mouth shut for months (years) attempting to keep the peace because I care for these women a great deal and value their friendship. Eventually though, I end up telling them how I feel about their partners because I get so frustrated with the situation. Then, my friend inevitably leaves me because her relationship with her Darth Vader is more important to her.

Okay, so I probably should keep my opinions about other peoples’ relationships to myself, and if I’m not going to I should use my words instead of building it all up. But this is my question, how do I find people who don’t have exceptionally dysfunctional relationships? Is that even possible? Because while I’m rebuilding my life (I tend to have only a few close friends and my friend tally is very low right now), I’m hoping to invest in some relationships that have staying power. I don’t want to lose a friend in 3 or 5 years because she likes to date assholes. And even more importantly than that, how do I stop picking people who need fixing? Are there signs? Like big neon flashing ones that say “broken and in need of a codependent relationship” so that I can avoid or keep at arms length?

I’ve lost two friends to Darth Vaders in the past year, and I don’t know how many more losses of friends I can take. And when I start dating again, I’d really like to have a better way to determine if the person I’m dating is capable of being my partner not my project. Also, is it me? Am I just that fucked up and I don’t even know it? Are there really that many Darth Vaders in the world?

Thanks,

Keeping company with Darth Vader’s wife

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