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Dear Captain Awkward:

Last year, I got divorced. At the time of my divorce, I was offered the legal choice to go back to my maiden name, or to keep my married name. I decided to choose a whole new last name, which was something I had always wanted to do. My new last name is a bit unusual. People comment on it positively, but it’s definitely odd. I like it, so that’s all that matters really. However:

This year, I’m in graduate school. I’m also applying for jobs in my chosen field. I have some previous experience in that field, in addition to my in-progress degree, so I’m hoping to find a position that will give me more current experience. 

My previous experience is from five years ago or earlier, and the jobs I’ve held in the interim have been phantom jobs — there’s almost no point in including them on a resume for the positions I’m seeking now. Consequently, the professional references I need to put on my resume are also five years old, although I’ve been in minimal contact with most of the people from time to time, but they’re not people I felt I had to update on my life developments such as divorce or a new last name.

Now we get to the awkward. Practically speaking, if any potential employer contacts my references, they are going to refer to me by name. What is the best, most adult and professional way to tell these people from my past, who only knew me in a work context, that my new last name is [X]? How much information do I give them? Do I need to include mention of the divorce, or just a legal name change? 

I’m a pretty private person, and not naturally forthcoming with personal information. The thought of writing to these former employers and explaining my recent life changes makes my introvert skin crawl with misery. What do I do? 

Congratulations on your new name!

This is very easy to answer, because if you are using someone as a reference, it is polite to get in touch with them first even if you hadn’t changed your name. Script for an email:

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Hello Awkward -

I’m a single father. I married my high school sweetheart and as a consequence, dated very little. So now divorced, I am thrust into this dating life and am finding my way. The dating part comes easy, being a gentleman and forming relationships has gone well. I get that part.

My question is when is it okay to introduce someone new to my son?

I have been very cautious about keeping him out of any relationships thus far. But, now I have met someone who I think has some serious potential to be around for a while. I don’t want to put either in a strange situation. My SO knows I have a son, and often asks about him and how things are. (Side note: she is a school counselor so I could ask her also, but that seems like it would be a strange conversation). We have been seeing each other for about a month, but have been much more involved than any previous relationships I’ve had.

You and your commenting followers always seem to have sound advice, so I ask….when do you think it’s right?

Thanks,

Learning As I Go

Dear Learning As You Go:

I know that it’s not about “amount of time” and more about “you think this person will stick around for a while and be a positive force in your kid’s life if they do.” It depends on the kid, and the person you’re dating. I know you’re trying not to make it weird for your partner in her professional capacity (and she wouldn’t know better than you, his parent), but I don’t think it’s a terrible idea to say “I’m thinking of introducing you to my son, what do you think about that?” and get her opinion as your girlfriend about whether she thinks it’s the right time.

I think the fact that you are being thoughtful about this is good, and am pretty confident that you’ll do what’s right. So I’ll turn it over to the readers who are parents or who have been in this situation. What should the Letter Writer watch out for? When is a good time to bring these two people together?

 

Dear Captain Awkward,

I need a second opinion. I’m at my wits end as to how to address something that has become a large problem with my boyfriend. My friends are no, help; I’ve gotten lucky, landed a good, caring boy, how could I have problems, lalalala-I-can’t-hear-you. I’m glad they approve of him, since I mostly trust their judgement, but… help?

Lately, I have been feeling really neglected by my boyfriend. (By lately, I mean since he stood me up a month ago; I went out with friends instead and it was fine…but he still stood me up.) This meant that if we talked, I initiated the conversation. If I went to his house, or he to mine, I planned it. Once we got there, if we watched tv/made food/fooled around, it was because I suggested it. If we were fooling around, I undressed him, and he had to be directed to return the favor. If we went out, I invited him somewhere, and he begrudgingly joined. 

This is not an exhaustive list, just things I pointed out specifically to him as “Hey, look, I’ve been putting in all the effort. Your turn to contribute” I sat him down, told him that I was feeling neglected and why. He agreed that he’s been shitty, and to try and change that. My solution was that for the next little while, it would be his turn. I was not going to initiate contact or plan anything; if he wants to see or talk to me, he’ll do so, if not, it won’t happen. That way, when we’re together, I can know that it’s because he wants to be there, not because I was pestering him.

But that’s not really working. He’ll invite me over, and then not know what to do. He’ll text me, and the conversation stops because things like “how’s your day/how are you/what’s up?” don’t occur to him. He claims that he knows I’m upset with him, which makes him think that I don’t want to talk to him, so he doesn’t initiate contact.

Hello Captain!

I am in serious need of some guidance. I’ll do my best to keep the background info to being pertinent to the situation. Here it goes.

I have a wonderful four year old son with my terrible, emotionally-abusive ex. I left him when my son was a little over a year old and there has been many legal battles and serious ISSUES between he and I ever since. About 8 months ago he was caught physically abusing his stepson (which my son witnessed) and I was finally able to get a restraining order and complete physical custody. The incident left my son with emotional scars and a ton of guilt. He won’t tell when people are mean to him (i.e. kids throwing rocks at him at daycare and not telling the teacher) because of the guilt about his dad. He has a good therapist and has improved considerably since the incident but he is in a fragile place and needs security and to feel safe for the healing to continue.

My question is about how to handle my ex’s stepmother. She is an incredibly overbearing and demanding person who lives a few hours away from my family and calls my son every so often to chat. That’s ok with me, but she also wants to have him come and stay with her and my son’s paternal grandfather for a few days every so often. I let him go there once and for weeks afterward he was off, super crabby and the beyond normal clingy and had several nightmares. He told my fiancé that he had seen his dad but when we asked about it later he said he hadn’t. I would not put it past The Step-mom to let my ex come over to spend time with my son, even though it’s illegal.

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Dear Captain Awkward, 

Not wanting everyone all up in your business: a cultural history.

Seven weeks ago my husband of six years told me he wants a divorce.  There is no room for negotiation on his side.  We’ve been to a marriage counselor a few times since he told me, and have spent most of the sessions talking about how we’ll divide the assets, deal with the house, ect.  He’s not changing his mind ever.  I don’t want the divorce and don’t think our issues are anything that counseling could solve, but I obviously can’t make him stay married to me so we’re getting divorced.

I don’t know how to tell people.  

Captain-

I’ve been keeping a secret from everyone I know. My husband, my best friend, my family. I haven’t even written it down until now.

I want a divorce.

I met a great guy in high school, and we started seeing each other. Things got serious fast and we moved in together, and that was it. I’ve never dated anyone else. Hell, I haven’t ever been sexy in any capacity with anyone else. Kissing, heavy petting sex, you name it. We didn’t marry until about a year ago, but we’ve considered ourselves married for a long time. Until recently, we were trying to get me pregnant. I really care about him and love him and want good things for him. But I also want good things for myself, and more and more it looks like that’s not going to happen with us together. We’ve been over these things in the past, they’re still problems and they’re problems I can’t swallow anymore. I don’t know if I’ve changed or simply reached my limit, although I guess it doesn’t really matter.

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Graphic for The Brady Bunch.

I'm pretty sure the Bradys handled emotional crises by having Alice put Quaaludes in all of their food. Not recommended if you're trying to raise functional members of society.

Dear Captain Awkward,

 This is our family:

  • My partner, divorced & single dad for 7 years.
  • His daughter, 9 years old, who sees her mother only on the weekends.
  • My son, 7 years old, whose father lives on the other side of the planet (we’re fine with that!).
  • Then there’s our baby, two months old.
  •  Well, and me, the trying-not-to-be-evil stepmother. So you see, there’s a lot of potential for drama.

 I truly love my stepdaughter, and she likes me, too, and often confides in me or asks me for guidance or comfort. But most of the time, handling her is really exhausting. The divorce of her parents was a dirty mess and even now, their relationship is problematic at best but mostly an absolute disaster. So the girl bears the brunt of it and naturally, acts out since she knows no other way of coping. She shows early signs of self-harm (scratching, aggression, self-endangering behaviour) and gets sick a lot (psychosomatic illnesses).

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"Hi! It would be a terrible idea to get involved with me. Want to dance?"

I’ve got a post up at Feministe today about movie casting and stereotypes.  In retrospect I should have called it “Stop boring the shit out of me, Hollywood.”

Major Mishap is here once again to answer today’s question and take this letter writer to post-divorce friendship school, aka, don’t fuck that lady!

Dear Captain Awkward:

I’m recently divorced. (just over a year or so) My ex-wife was originally from out-of-state, we met on-line, she moved to my town to be with me, and we had a good near-decade run. At the end, she was pretty lonely, unsatisfied, and miserable.  I was never a “bad” husband. (no substance abuse, no infidelity, no physical/emotional abuse of any kind). I aint sayin’ I was good husband, I just wasn’t horrible. She was miserable and a saint to put up with me, totally justified in leaving, but this wasn’t one of those “put his clothes in a box, tape it shut, and light it on fire” kind of divorces. No kids, no money issues, no real animosity that couldn’t be suppressed.

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