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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!

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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.

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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

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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.

Hello! First, a reminder from Kate in Bristol:

Hi all – just a quick reminder that Bristol UK is meeting up at The Canteen on Stokes Croft this Saturday, from 11am to 3pm.  I will be wearing a rainbow tie.  For further info please see the original announcement:http://captainawkward.com/2013/09/30/bristol-uk-is-meeting-up/

Hope to see you there!

Griffy Kate

Second, there is a Washington, DC-area Meetup in the works:

Hi! I’d like to announce the next DC-area meetup:

Date: Tuesday, 5 November 2013
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: Busboys & Poets @ 14th & V (2021 14th St. NW) http://www.busboysandpoets.com/

The venue is accessible by metrorail, metrobus, Circulator bus, and Bikeshare; seehttp://www.busboysandpoets.com/about/14th-v for details. Street parking may be scarce; there are a couple of garages within a block of the restaurant where you can expect to pay $6-10 for the evening.

Busboys & Poets has a variety of well-labeled vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free items, and it’s wheelchair-accessible.

Find our group by looking for the red balloon I’ll bring with me. So I can ask for the right size table, please e-mail me atbokunenjin@gmail.comif you’re planning on coming or have any questions or suggestions.

-Bokunenjin

Eat, drink, and be awkward.

Next, a question.

Hi CA,

My close friend S is generous, kind and supportive.  She is also very picky (she describes herself this way and tells stories where she was picky and it caused trouble/stressed her out).  S is good at stating her needs/boundaries.  Because of this, I often agree to do/eat/see what she wants.  I have preferences but they don’t seem as important as her needs.  However, this has been going on a long time and I feel like the decision making is lopsided.  When we do things my way, she sometimes seems uncomfortable or complains.  Also, there are times when she asks for things in a way that makes it hard to say no.
 
Example:  We have plans to see an exhibit after work.  When we meet up, S says she is too tired to walk around looking at things and wants to do dinner/drinks instead.  I don’t want to make her do something she doesn’t want to and at that point it would be weird to cancel or go alone so I agree.  Later, when we go to the exhibit, she is stressed by all the people there and asks if we can rush through the last two rooms.  I’m not happy but don’t want to make her keep doing something stressful or pay to go see it again alone.
 
Another one: I’m in charge of buying tickets for a concert.  We want the cheapest seats so I can get them either very close or very far.  I prefer sitting close, so those are what I buy.  S prefers sitting far away and at the concert she refers to the fact that we’re too close or complains multiple times.  She paid for her ticket so I feel she has a right to complain.  However, I usually try to enjoy things even if they aren’t what I would prefer to do.  I make an effort to be easygoing and try to focus on the fact that we’re spending time together, not specifically what we’re doing. I don’t complain when she changes plans and try to mention something good about it (“Well, I needed to eat anyway.”).  However, I don’t want to make her feel like she has to be cool all the time – enough pressure to do that.
 
I’ve recently tried to be good about stating my disappointment (while still agreeing to the change).  The last couple times I’ve done this, S looked at me with some panic and started apologizing and explaining profusely.  I told her it was fine but felt like I was in charge of managing her emotions.
 
Any scripts/suggestions of things to do?  I’ve taken some breaks when I was really annoyed but it’s an important friendship.

Hello everyone! How are you? I am completely destroying my cat’s sense of safety and object permanence packing up my entire apartment for a move this week. All the comments in the spam filter are actually spam, so it must be time for another question. Shall we continue the Labor Day holiday with a work topic?

Dear Captain,

I have worked in my office for 8 years. My colleague has been here over thirty. He’s in his sixties, I’m thirty. I thought he was one of my best friends though we’ve had our issues before. Let me explain. No, there is too much, allow me to sum up.

We do the same job in a support team. For a long time, I’ve been taking on more stuff because I’m asked to (and because I actually like to feel like I’m doing my job to the best of my ability) and he’s been excluded somewhat from tasks he likes. I don’t know why this is – it’s certainly not my doing or responsibility, but the digs he gets in makes it clear that he thinks I take everything on (I can be prone to this and work against it…) and it’s basically my fault and there’s a giant conspiracy against him. If there’s a conspiracy against him, I’m not part of it. Which I’ve said a million times.

Sometimes the way he talks I think he has absolute contempt for me. He doesn’t like me being bossy (who would?) but he doesn’t pull his weight or step up to the plate to *offer* his services. The number of times I’ve walked past his desk and he’s just on the internet… or sometimes reading the newspaper! I’ve not said anything to our boss because I don’t want to get him into trouble… and because I feel it would make things worse anyway! All this, incidentally, while I’m tearing my hair out trying to get things done by deadlines etc.

I feel like what he wants is for people to go to him and say ‘Will you do this/help us with this?’ but he won’t offer, won’t put himself forward. When people do? He’s grumpy with them. So more and more people come to me because they know they’ll get a more positive answer… and he doesn’t really keep himself up to date with changes so oftentimes can’t answer their questions anyway!

He sits grumbling that he never gets asked to do things/attend meetings/whatever but when he IS included he then complains that he just sat there useless! All the while, getting in digs at me. He says he can’t be bothered fighting my ‘need to have fingers in all the pies’, to which I have responded that I don’t want fingers in all the pies (i’m inquisitive certainly, but I truly don’t feel that way, but it seems to go that way mostly because he won’t step up and because there’s nobody else). I try to fight the urge to do everything and I thought I was doing much better with trying to spread the load. Apparently not, or not enough/in the right way for him.

Have I mentioned that no matter how I approach things with him, he always seems to interpret what I say or do in the worst possible light? In fact, I do most everything with a view to not upsetting him, not making him irritable or grumpier…. which often means not even *ASKING* him to help out with things because a: I know he will just say no and b: he’ll accuse me of being bossy… then he gets angry because he sees ‘me doing everything as ‘him being left out’.

And all the while he’s sat there saying he doesn’t want to be there/wishes he didn’t have to work in this dump anymore/doesn’t get how *insert project here* works.

So I feel constantly like I’m on eggshells with him. And if he’s pissed at me, he’ll be nice as pie to everyone else and speak to me in monosyllables, which makes me feel about two inches tall.

Last year, he complained to our manager about me being bossy and know it all and opinionated, I think… and at the time I basically apologised, said I’d do better, and didn’t go back with my laundry list about him because I will always assume that I’m in the wrong. It was only later that I thought ‘hang on a second…’

I KNOW I can be bossy, especially when I’m stressed myself. I seem to construct everything at work around a fear of screwing up, which isn’t exactly healthy, so when it’s very busy or I feel like everything’s on me, I do get anxious. Since the last run-in, I’ve tried REALLY hard to regulate my weaknesses. It seems he doesn’t care/hasn’t acknowledged this. I can’t help wondering now that it’s not that I’m patronising/condescending/bossy, but that he will always interpret it that way because he chooses to. But I don’t know because my mind is being yanked in a million different directions and now I’m terrified that everyone thinks that I’m those things as well.

We’ve talked about all this before. I’ve tried to stress to him that I’m never looking to do things to make him feel bad, that I don’t do anything with a mind to making his day worse. I’ve also said that he needs to be direct when he feels I’m doing those things… but he does the same passive-aggressive thing as always.

I deal really badly with passive-aggression (see also: my mother). I know this. I try to do better. I am trying so hard to be the best human I can be and it just seems like it’s all for nothing. I do not know what to do, how to approach any of it!

I don’t feel I can talk to him because he’ll blow up, so I sent him an email trying to explain my side as gently and yet as honestly as I could. He came back and said my email was condescending, that he is way more productive when I’m not there… I just wanted to be honest for once and got accused of condescension, being confident/rude/pushy.

I don’t know… am I a mean bitch, or is it that he won’t accept anything but the responses he wants?

I have no idea what to do, Captain. I really don’t want this to be a thing with our manager again, or to affect my reputation with other people at work – if it hasn’t already – and I’m also scared that actually, everyone else thinks I’m those things when I really try not to be and I’ve been trying so f**king hard to regulate my lesser demons.

Yours,

Terrified Yet Increasingly Unwilling To Be His Doormat

Dear Terrified:

The fact that you are walking on eggshells around this person and signing yourself “Terrified” is giving me a lot of information. That information sums up thusly:

  • Whatever bond you shared in the past, your coworker is now actively sabotaging you and your work.
  • He wants you to be scared, miserable, and walk on eggshells.
  • I don’t think there is a fix where you guys are friends again, so what we are going for is neutrality and distance.

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This is the last day of the Summer Pledge Drive, where I post the links for making a (non-tax deductible) gift  through PayPal or  via Dwolla.  Your generosity so far has been amazing and I am so humbled and pleased with the outpouring of support. A new computer will be within reach when this one goes. I will be able to pay down some debt and have a little bit of an emergency fund. And, I bought a ticket to see Janelle Monae at the Vic on October 21. Yes, YOU made it possible for me to see my dream show with my dream artist. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

These two letters are representative of many I have gotten in the inbox over the past few years, and I think a lot of you will recognize yourselves somewhere in here. I think I finally have a way to frame this discussion that is maximally reassuring and honest. Please allow me to suggest some background reading before you dive into this post: The Dirty Normal on Attachment Styles.

Hey Captain!

I have a male co-worker who I am friends with outside of work. A few months ago, his wife’s work schedule changed and since then my husband and I have been hanging out with my co-worker and his wife “Clara” frequently. I like them and they’re good people, but his wife is the kind of person I enjoy best in small doses; I am shy and reserved, she is very outgoing and can be overbearing. 

Lately Clara has been inviting me to do stuff with her 2 or 3 times every week. Usually it’s a 6+ hour event with a group of 3 other girls. She frequently talks about how close we are and how great it is that we’re such good girlfriends. The thing is we’re not that close yet. We’ve only been hanging out for a few months and I actually am much better friends with their husbands & boyfriends, all of whom are my co-workers (I work a heavily male-dominated engineering field).

I do like these girls, I appreciate being included in these plans, but it’s just too much! So, I’ve started to decline every third invitation or so. The problem is, Clara bends over backwards to accommodate me. If I say I can’t make it, she’ll suggest 3 other days. When I decline those, she’ll try to squeeze the event in between my morning rock climbing club meetup and my date night, for example. I find this very stressful because she obviously is trying hard to include me and I end up having to refuse the same invitation 4 times! I can tell it hurts her feelings when this happens.

I’m not sure how to handle this. I definitely want to cultivate more female friendships in my life, but I feel like I’m being forced into some kind of weird Sex In The City fantasy of Clara’s instead of the more casual way I prefer friendships to form, where different people make the plans every time instead of one person being the Designated Event Coordinator.

How can I kindly get Clara to back off a bit without burning bridges?

Thanks,

I’m Not Carrie Bradshaw

Dear Not Carrie:

This is a “classic” advice question that perfectly fits the paradigm of many questions we have around here:

Dear Captain Awkward:
A person is making me uncomfortable and doing stuff that violates my boundaries.
How do I stop them without hurting their feelings or making them feel uncomfortable?

And you guys are all so nice, and kind, and considerate, and working so hard to be fair to the other person! But the fact remains, if the behavior is making you uncomfortable, things are already uncomfortable. Often to the point that you might have to scorch the earth of the relationship if whatever it is keeps continuing, but you’re still looking for a way to let the other person down easy. There is a perception that speaking up for boundaries is somehow introducing conflict into a situation, or at very least, escalating it in an unkind way, like, everything was fine until you spoke up for your needs and now you made it weird.

So I’d like to perform a bit of a mind flip.

  • When your shoulders are going up around your ears…
  • When you are spending a lot of time strategizing about how you deal with a person. “I will accept every third invitation…
  • When you are avoiding someone you are theoretically supposed to be friendly with…

…things are already uncomfortable enough to speak up about them.

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