Archive

Tag Archives: Friendship

Dear Captain,

I have a friend that I’ve known since high school (we’re both in our thirties now) and I consider her a good friend. Over the years we’ve gone through phases where we’re more apart and distant (mostly from living in other states or distant parts of the country from each other and only seeing each other a few times a year) and phases where we’re closer. I like talking to her and I like having her in my life, and very soon she’s moving to the town I live in now and we’re both planning on and looking forward to getting together and being closer again.

The thing is, she’s spent the last two years becoming a minister and sometimes when we talk about how our lives are going, it feels like she’s not listening and talking to me as a friend, but as a minister to a congregant or a counselor to someone seeking help; so I find myself not wanting to talk about difficult things in my life, or talking about them in minimizing ways because I don’t want advice, well-meaning and well-trained as it might be. I’m not seeking counseling or guidance or theological insight from her, I just want to talk to my friend and share some of our lives as friends do.

Do you have any scripts for gently asserting the boundary that I want to just talk as friends, that I love her dearly, but that unless I explicitly ask for advice or guidance, I don’t want her to act as my minister or counselor?

Thank you!

–not interested in unsolicited counseling

Dear Not Interested,

Thank YOU for a good question that can be answered quickly. And your last line is a great script if you want to just go with that.

Light-hearted script: “Thanks for the suggestion, most Reverend Friendname, but I want to talk to Just Plain Old Friendname now please.

Additional scripts:

  • “It must be really easy to slip into counseling or advising-mode, given what you do all day, but you’re slipping into it with me a little too readily just now. You know I value your insights, but I’d appreciate it if you’d ask me if I even want advice before offering it.” 
  • “Reminder: Me sharing a situation is not an automatic request for advice/Engage Counselor Mode!”

I think she’ll hear you and will be ultimately glad that you set a boundary and reminded her to relax and be a person when she’s around you. This seems like a good time to say, “Eep, maybe I do this sometimes, if so, Real Life Friends, please tell me to knock it off and I will be very grateful.”

Hi Captain,

I’m a twenty something female working in a retail job where it’s NECESSARY to work as a team. In the six months I’ve been at my job, I’ve built especially great rapport with a few people. The man henceforth named Paul is one of them. Paul is a year younger than me. Most of our dynamic has been sarcastic banter, punctuated by some more serious conversations about a wide variety of topics. After about two months Paul asked some questions about my opinions on romance related topics (we were off the clock and out in a group with coworkers), and I answered in the context of the happy/trusting/loving relationship I have with my boyfriend of 4 years. Paul seemed surprised to hear about him.

I later brought up one of Paul’s questions I didn’t feel I answered well, and he got extremely flustered and changed the topic. A week later he told me that he struggled with feelings for a coworker at an old job for a year or so before he really stopped having feelings for her, and he regrets that it took him that long to deal with an unrequited crush. Since he told me about that, he hasn’t brought up anything even remotely related to romance.

I’m pretty damn sure that Paul has a crush on me. He hasn’t said or done anything inappropriate either in or outside the workplace, and since describing that old crush has not brought up romance in any context (that was nearly 3 months ago). It doesn’t get in the way of our work, most of the time we still execute the sarcastic banter/serious topics conversations without a hitch.

But I definitely feel like there’s a weird feelings stalemate. In my personal life I would have confronted him about it long ago and let him know that if he can’t handle being around me, then he shouldn’t be around me, and I’d be happy to have his friendship whenever it’s just friendship. But given that we work together that’s not an option, and I don’t know what’s appropriate. I feel bad because I get the sense that he’s doing everything he can to keep the feelings off my radar since that story. If he were creepy I’d tell a manager, and if the fact that we get along didn’t make our job way easier and more enjoyable it would be an unwelcome but simple task to freeze him out. Ultimately I just want to be able to work and occasionally hang out with this guy in group settings without the sense that he’s experiencing heartwrenching crush feels half the time I laugh at his jokes. Is there even anything to do, Captain?

-Midshipman Awkward Sauce

Dear Midshipman!

:salutes:

You’re an empathetic person, so you are putting yourself in his shoes and wanting to make things better, but you can’t fix this for him. Short answer: Say nothing, it will get better soon. “Paul” is actually handling all of this very well, in my opinion, and it would be a mistake to stage-manage his feelings or pry further into them.

He most likely did have a crush on you, he figured out that it would not be requited, and he bailed out just in time before telling you about it beyond an oblique reference to a past situation. Of course he feels awkward, he’s got all these feelings and he can see how very close he came to 1) asking out a coworker and 2) macking on someone who he knows is happily coupled up. I think it speaks to him being a good person that he pulled back when he did. You can help everything get less awkward by being your same basic amount of work-friendly to him and letting him save face. In my opinion, he won’t thank you for addressing it directly: Imagine someone else peeling off a scab that’s on your body, and that’s pretty much what it will feel like for him if you bring it up before he does.

For now, return the text of your interactions to normal relations, ignore all subtext unless it does get angry or creepy or unless he sheepishly confesses, “I was developing a crush on you and that’s why I’ve been acting kinda weird lately” at which point you say “Aw,  knew *something* was up, but I didn’t want to make you more uncomfortable. So you know, I really like working with you and I’d like us to be friends, and I’ll follow your lead on that.” 

Dear Captain,

My straight friends will not stop talking about boys. Specifically, if they have boyfriends: How awful their boyfriends and sex lives are (in excruciating detail). If they don’t have boyfriends, it’s all stuff like the latest japanese dating sim they’ve found, and how hot the (disturbingly, rapey) plot lines are and dick in general, to me, a Lesbian.

With the boyfriend thing, it’s always about how condescending/annoying/lazy/useless their boyfriends are, or how horrible they are in bed, how much vaginal sex hurts/is boring, and when I say: Then why don’t you break up with him? They gasp and clutch their pearls and subject me to another tirade about how he is really a Nice Guy and he’s been getting SO much better since they told him all his problems and he folded one whole shirt this week! Without being asked! So I’m being cruel/judgmental/I don’t know what I’m talking about, telling them to break up with him. Yet, next week, they’ll have the same complaints and no matter how much I try and change the subject, I have to hear about how she is allergic to his semen and also, can’t walk right for days after they do it because it’s so excruciatingly painful (but it’s okay, she really wants it! Not having a horribly painful experience/vaginal sex, isn’t an option because she wants that /connection/ with him).

My straight friends that don’t have boyfriends make dick jokes constantly, talk about how hot guys are, try and show me nude pictures of dudes they’ve drawn, etc. In one-on-one conversations with me! A lesbian! Who has said many times, I do not care about that stuff or the entire, 20 minute plot description of the anime episode you just watched, where it’s really cute/funny when main male character sneaks up behind female characters and grabs their boobs. Not only am I disgusted, I am bored out of my mind, and feel extremely alienated.

The few lesbians I’ve talked to about this online, say this is exactly the reason why they do not hang out/are no longer close friends with straight woman, because stuff like this always happens eventually, and no matter how often you tell them that you don’t want to hear about their disturbing heterosexual shenanigans, they will not listen to you. But I love so many of these crazy woman dearly, and I find I can hardly accept not-being-friends with any straight woman, ever again, because most woman are straight woman! Do you have any advice how to handle this without starting a whole new social group from scratch? And excluding myself from caring about the majority of woman in this country?

Sincerely,
Confused And Grossed Out

Read More

Thanks (?) to the nice Twitter friends who clued me into this horrible WikiHow on How To Stop A Wedding, or, as @KristinMuH put it, “a manual to help stalkers ruin their target’s special occasions.”

While I once joked that I would like to see this happen someday, it was, in fact, a joke. And the instructions to basically kidnap the person make my hair stand on end:

Take charge if things go your way. If he or she decides not to go through with the wedding, it is your duty to immediately escort the bride/groom away from the pressure of their family and friends. There is no doubt that friends and family will be angry or furious and will demand answers if the bride or groom doesn’t immediately flee the scene…Have a get-away car prepared so that the bride or groom doesn’t have to face the embarrassment of his or her friends and family.

EEK!

So, if you find yourself searching for instructions on how to stop a wedding, ask yourself:

Has the affianced person been kidnapped? Is it a child? Then stop the wedding by alerting the appropriate authorities.

Is this someone you think should marry you instead? And they know how you feel? And yet they are still obstinately not marrying you, to the point where they have planned an entire wedding with someone else? Okay, here’s what you do:

  • Find out when & where the wedding will be.
  • Book yourself a vacation to “anywhere but there.”
  • Block this person in all social media spaces so you’re not seeing photos and updates.
  • Try for someplace with very limited internet access so you reduce temptation to watch it unfold on real time at the wedding hashtag or whatever.
  • If you can, get a trusted friend to go along with you so that you are not alone and there is someone who can comfort and distract you.
  • Remind yourself that soulmates aren’t real, and that other people get to choose who they want to be with.
  • Or, if it’s more comforting, say to yourself “They are making a mistake, but it’s their mistake to make.
  • Wait it the fuck out and move on with your life.

And if someone pulls this whole shebang on you at your wedding, here is a script:

“This is inappropriate and I’d like you to leave now.”

Hopefully your friends and family and security will form a nice barrier between you and this person and make sure they are escorted from the premises.

Now it’s time for the monthly(ish) feature where we find out what search terms bring people to this site! Except for adding punctuation, these are unchanged. Enjoy!

Read More

The monthly(ish) roundup of the questions people type into search engines to find this blog.

1. “My partner thinks I have genital warts but I have herpes what do I do?”

Both of you should get a full STI screen, if you haven’t already, and talk about whatever you find there. (‘Cause maybe it’s both). Or, if you’ve just done this, say “We thought I had HPV, but the screen showed that actually it’s herpes. You should get screened, too.

2. “My girlfriend is rude to my parents.” 

“Hey, you were pretty rude to my parents tonight. I don’t appreciate you (specific rude thing she did). I think they deserve an apology, and I need you to calm that whole thing down.”

If you bring it up, does she acknowledge the behavior? Is she rude to other people who aren’t you? Is she rude to your folks even after you talk to her about it?

3. “I joined a dating website to hurt him.”

Spite Dating: seems totally reasonable and like it will bring you and your Spite Dates nothing but happiness!

Or, ahem, maybe this is a good sign that whatever relationship you’re in has run its course and it’s time for you to find the exit, take some good care of yourself, give yourself some room to mourn and heal. Join a dating site to remind yourself that you have options. And then, when you’re ready, use that dating site and find new people who will be into you the way you want them to be. But do it for yourself, not at your (soon to be) ex.

4.” ‘I love you as certain dark things are to be loved in secret, between the shadow and the soul’ what does the line means?”

Reading the whole poem, it seems to me the poet is describing a love for someone for reasons that would not be obvious to everyone, in a way that isn’t necessarily healthy or a good idea, but is true nonetheless. It reminds me a little of the song My Funny Valentine. Lit Majors of Captain Awkward, what say you?

5. “I just don’t feel ready enough yet to be in a new relationship because I’m tired and now I want to be alone.” 

Embrace the alone.

Make your living space exactly what YOU want it to be. Eat foods YOU like, watch movies YOU want, listen to YOUR favorite music. Throw yourself into work, into school, into creative endeavors, into meeting new people or trying new things for their own sake. Or curl up under a blanket and wait out this eternal February with a good book. Spend time with your friends and family and people who love you. Be really nice to yourself. Heal. Get some rest. Feast on your life.

And when people ask, in a well-meaning fashion, if you’re dating anyone new or if you plan to, smile and say “I’m sure I will someday, but I’m really enjoying being alone right now.

There’s this picture of Katie Holmes from a while back that people were criticizing for being “frumpy” or whatever. I kind of love her outfit and would wear it in a heartbeat, but mostly what I want to say is “LOOK AT HER SMILE. THAT IS A PERSON WHO IS FEELING LIKE HERSELF RIGHT NOW.”

That’s you. Alone. Walking through the world like you know a secret no one else does, and the secret is that life is huge and amazing and you are strong and wonderful and there are all kinds of love in this world and relationship-type love is only one of them.

Read More

Montezuma from Civ 5

“Okay, Montezuma, we can have embassies in each other’s capitals, and I will trade incense for whales, but an Open Borders treaty? That’s just gullible.”

Dear Captain,

How obligated are we to try and forgive our friend’s significant others for the harm they have caused in the past?

To make a long story short, my friend A started dating person B.  I wasn’t wild about B, but I wasn’t the one dating him, and our casual interactions initially seemed fine, so I didn’t worry about it.

However, it soon became clear that B had some unaddressed emotional issues, and they were taking them out on my friend, and eventually on the rest of our circle (we were accused of alienating A from B, of monopolizing A’s time, and eventually, even of cheating on B with A).  It was like B read your article on Darth Vader boyfriends but thought it was a how-to.  Needless to say, we were angry for our friend and angry on our own behalves.  Most of us wanted A to dump B, but A was not willing to end the relationship without trying to save it, and instead worked very hard to get B into therapy.  We did our best to support A in this time, but it was very hard to see how much pain B was causing her.

Now, B seems to have gotten some help, and B and A are working on rebuilding their relationship.  A very much wants to bring B back into the social circle, but this is causing problems.  I know I am not the only one of A’s friends who resents B after all of this.  I am also mad at B for the way that B treated me and our other friends.  A says she has forgiven him, and wants us to forgive him too, but I don’t know that I’m ready to do it now, and honestly I’m not sure I will ever be.

Do you and the army have any suggestions for how I can handle the issue of reintegrating B?  I don’t really want to hang around with B, and though I am trying to plan occasions to hang out with A alone, I know that it isn’t possible to totally avoid B so long as they are a couple.

Thanks,

Trying To Make The Best Of It

Read More

Dear Captain Awkward,

A few years ago, I broke up with a friend who’d been casually shitty
to me for the majority of our friendship. Shauna is smart, witty, and
gets my sense of humor. We met and become close friends in high
school. Junior year, she ditched me for an ever-changing rotation of
BFFs, and the timing was tough because I was dealing with heavy family
stuff. But we kept in touch sporadically, and reconnected after
college. We ended up working at the same place and became pretty
tight, but grew apart after we both moved on to other jobs — but were
still close enough that she was a bridesmaid in my wedding.

Despite the brief flashes of closeness, our overall friendship was
lousy on my end. Shauna’s all-about-me and our relationship was based
on her needs 90% of the time. I mostly felt exhausted by her drama
and stressed out by her demands. But for reasons I still don’t get, I
valued the relationship and did my part to be a good friend. Happily,
I finally had a moment of clarity when she stood me up for dinner,
with no apology, after several months of escalating rudeness. I did a
quick fade – no big announcement, just a total end to calls & invites
and increasingly slow responses to emails & texts. I was upset over
the lousy treatment but overall felt happier and more hopeful. We’ve
barely spoken in the 3 years since. My other friends who know her
aren’t surprised – they think she’s a self-involved flake.

Shortly after I tapped out, she met a guy. Recently, they got
married. In the many months leading up to their wedding, her
endlessly facebooking started to get me really down. (Thought train: 5
years ago, she was in my wedding. Today, we’re barely in touch.
Result: Sadness. Baked goods.) I hid her feed for a while and thought
I was over it. Apparently not so much.

I don’t hate her, I’m not nostalgic, I definitely don’t want to
restart being in each other’s lives. I’m just… sad. And I’m
starting to want to kick my own ass. Why am I having such trouble
moving on from an unrewarding – actually, negative and draining –
relationship? I have some major life stress going on right now –
beyond my control health and family stuff — but am otherwise pretty
happy.

You have an uncanny ability to unravel fused layers of unconscious
baggage, and I could really use some clarity. Any thoughts on grieving
a non-loss? This particular sore spot has been hanging on way too
long.

I have a simple-but-not-easy answer for you:

If the mean people in our lives were crappy 100% of the time, it would be easy to leave them. We would shrink from becoming friends with them or jump aboard the nope rocket in the early stages of trouble, and we would feel only relief when they are gone from our lives.

The problem is that very few people are evil all the time. They don’t wear villain costumes purchased at ForeverEvil. They don’t laugh maniacally and stroke their evil goatees while monologuing about their evil plans. They appear in our lives as People-Who-Would-Be-Awesome-Except-For-That-One-Glaring-Problem. They have potential to be awesome, and sometimes they are awesome, and they make us feel awesome, so we relax and let out that breath we’ve been holding in, and then BAM! They show their mean side, and we do a ton of mental work trying to reconcile the mean stuff with the awesome stuff.

Breaking up brings relief, as you lose the constant mental labor of managing the relationship AND the stress of being constantly disappointed and hurt, but it also brings grief. Shitty people who forget your birthday and give little backhanded compliments and gossip about your secrets sometimes give really good hugs, or presents, or are your favorite people to get drunk and watch figure-skating with, or were the sole witness to an important time in your life. The good times were real.

Sometimes selfish friends can be converted into small doses friends, where you get to hold onto a little bit of the good stuff but release yourself from the toxic stuff. But sometimes you’ve got to deliver the African Violet of Broken Friendship in order to protect yourself. That’s never an easy decision, and it’s totally understandable to me that you would be grieving for some of the time and closeness you shared with “Shauna,” Letter Writer. In a weird way, you are summoning her by beating yourself up the way she would beat you up if she were around.

So grieve, the way you would for any loss. Write letters you don’t send as a way to fully express and feel your feelings. Distract yourself. Be really nice to yourself. Reach out to people who make you feel good and schedule time with them. You did a brave and self-caring thing by standing up for yourself and deciding that you deserve better than Shauna’s disregard. But you’re not weak or stupid for missing the closeness and wanting someone by your side as you go through a shitty time. My wish for you is that you find someone who prioritizes and nurtures your friendship with the same care and attention you show your friends, and that the hard times pass soon.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,097 other followers