Dear Captain Awkward:

My partner and I have been together for 6 years and we recently moved to another country where I know the language and have some friends. My partner has been focused on jump-starting his freelance career and doesn’t have many friends in our new country, nor does he know the language very well. Over the last few months, there has been some major conflict culminating in a moment when I made him feel stupid and blamed for us leaving an event my friend was having. This was all accidental on my part, but I have taken ownership of my words and actions. Since then he has made it clear that that moment has colored the relationship and he can no longer move forward. He is still here until we go back for a visit to our home country in a month and during this time we have been acting like normal – planning future trips, being in love. I had asked him to give me a chance to show him that I can balance out the past with our future. Today, I asked for an update and although he says that he sees me being a more supportive partner, he still feels like he can’t continue this relationship. What can I do in this next month to “re-color” the relationship? He is giving me this chance because he wants to be with me, but he feels “burnt out”. How do we heal and move forward? Is it possible?

Partner with a Past

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Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, SE1 8XX near Waterloo station, 22nd October , 11am onwards.

Colouring in time! Please bring paper, pens, pencils, any copyright free images to colour. Or just come and chat.

The venue sell food in a cafe (standard sandwiches etc.), but they also don’t mind people bringing food in from outside. There are several other local places where you can buy stuff as well. The excellent food market outside has loads of different food options, which can fit most food requirements, or you can also bring a packed lunch.
Meet on the fourth floor, outside the Blue Bar (go up in the JCB lift, lift 7, which is bright yellow and quite musical). I have tried to check with the centre to make sure the Blue Bar is free, but if not I will update this post and in the Facebook group to say where we are – or email me if you’re lost…

Here is the internal map of the Royal Festival Hall:

I will have my Cthulhu with me, which looks like this: One time I forgot it but I will do my best this time, however if I forget again I will put up a sign. I have long brown hair and glasses.

The venue is accessible via a lift, and has accessible toilets. Waterloo tube station has step free access on the Jubilee line but not on the Northern line.

The London Awkward group has a Facebook page, which is here: There is also a thread in the new forums for saying hello.

My email is Kate DOT Towner AT Gmail DOT com

(November meetup will be the 19th.)


Hey Cap,

I have a really close friendship with “Nathan”, who I’m also In Love With. We met on Twitter and talk throughout the day most days, and a long-standing online friendship and flirtation turned into a close offline friendship and flirtation and a gradual but big escalation of my feelings. Long story short, despite mutual expressions of attraction and romantic interest things never went anywhere due to what he frames as general fear and ambivalence regarding sex/intimacy/relationships. He’s essentially said that fantasising about romantic scenarios brings him solace instead of torturing him like they do me – anyway my torch still burns painfully bright, I’ve been open with him about this and he’s been understanding, so several times I’ve taken breaks from communication/hanging out to focus on sorting myself out. It’s still an issue but less so than it used to be, and we remain close friends in constant contact and we see each other when we can (we now live in separate cities).

The issue is that Nathan is very, very, very attractive and he has many, many other online admirers, many of whom run in similar Twitter circles. Our friendship/flirting is well-documented publicly on there and a lot of our thirst followers have filled in their own mad libs about our relationship or at least see me as someone safe to talk to who knows him well and regularly try to probe me for (sensitive/creepy) information about him and his availability. This brings up a lot of knee-jerk Bad feelings of sadness, regret, jealousy etc and I would like to find better ways to ward off these kinds of questions entirely. I tend to maybe go all-in with my response describing my history with him which might do the trick in getting them to shut up about it but comes off as highly territorial which is something I don’t want to be. He’s a private person and I want to protect him but I also want to protect my sensitive, foolish heart and set up some kind of flag in conversations that says “Don’t Ask Me About Nathan It’s Creepy And It Hurts”. Any scripts for how to do this? I feel like I’m stuck in a Jane Austen situation.

– Lovelorn Go-Between

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free-wedding-clipart-jrtge68ilFriends, Readers, Countrypeople…

I may have mentioned once or 1,000 times: I’m getting married tomorrow.

I won’t be moderating comments for a few days, and the mailbox is temporarily closed.

If you’re on a first-name basis with the gods or the coven or robot wizards who control the weather, see what you can do about clear skies and good temperatures just north of Chicago for the next 48 hours.

Edited to Add: 

  • Weather was PERFECT. Thank you for your sacrifices.
  • Honeymoon’s in March.
  • Weddings =  I get the hype now. People who have known you for your whole life, at every stage, all together in one place, being sweet and hanging out and breaking bread.
  • Thanks for all the well-wishes.




Dear Captain Awkward:

The academic institution where I work has a counseling center, and offers appointments for staff members at a slightly discounted rate (they’re open for the public, not just people connected to my institution). I’d been seeing one of the counselors there for a little over a year, though I’d make appointments week by week; I didn’t set up a standing one or anything. Well, my last appointment was set for mid-November, but she had a sick kid and canceled, and I said I’d get back to her about rescheduling and well, now it’s 10 months later……
I’m not seeing anyone else, and though I think maybe I should it’s just hard to start. and it’s hard to want to go back to my original counselor. [ I’m not sure we had the same goals, and I’m not sure if that’s okay. Like do the client’s goals always trump, or should I be listening to her cause she’s the expert?]

Anyway, all that aside, I see her a few times a week pass my office, and I feel bad for just stopping and not saying anything and it’s not a bridge I want to burn, but maybe it’s fallen down now? Can I send an email? What should it say? Just, “sorry I ghosted, but I’m okay-ish”? Or “I just haven’t been able to make the time/financial/emotional commitment this year”? “i hope you found someone else to make up that income”?
Don’t know how to end
(Female pronouns for both me and my counselor)

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I am so scared. I keep messing things up financially. I just don’t know how to do it. How to DO MONEY. But it’s a paradox, because I am earning a decent amount.

It’s a paradox about which I feel rather ashamed, because I am aware of my privilege. I come from a middle-class family of financial flailers–always earning a comfortably middle-class salary, yet always lurching, always in debt, always bouncing checks, always living paycheck to paycheck, always STRESSED AS FUCK about money, yet never really changing (or seeming to know how to change) spending habits, or debt, or livingsituation, or whatever the fuck it is you do to live with lower financial stress. I am just like my parents in this regard.

I am so scared. I am always living paycheck to paycheck, and even that isn’t enough. To illustrate what I mean, I often have to stop eating for 3 days before paychecks, I tend to bounce checks once every month or two, and I’ve had to postpone my student loan payments 3 times in 4 months. It is not so easy to just move, either–my rent is pretty decent for the location, especially considering that now I don’t have a car (a crash last summer, another financial fuckeroo), it is important to live near my workplace.

I just don’t know where to start. Whenever I google stuff about getting financial advice online for free, it’s always some advice that comes in the form of happy go lucky blank slates. Like, these super-duper positive people writing how-to’s as though they are teaching the teenage children of rich and stable folks how to save their allowance. Fuck that shit! I don’t want advice that is starting from some elusive, unrealistic (at least for me, but probably for most) baseline of financial stability and emotional okayness.

I want some advice that respects my baseline of terrible credit, shitty habits, major upcoming expenses, MAJOR student loan debt, major shame and self-loathing, and total overwhelm and fear.

I feel so fucked. I am scared.

I know that here, Captain, you tend to respond to stories. However, I also know that you love advice blogs in general, that you’re an aficionado of the genre. Therefore my question is a request for help in finding some other advice blogs: do you know of any places on the internet I can go to find the kind of help, the kind of realistic, open, detailed, respectful advice I’m looking for?

And frankly if you have thoughts on my situation, I will definitely take your advice, too.

Thanks a lot,

Financially Flailing

Dear Flailing,

I hear you that you feel scared—and that you feel especially ashamed because you recognize your relative good fortune to date. Would it help to know that you are not alone, that you are now among the majority in the US? Living paycheck to paycheck—or well behind one—is common, including in folks who’ve had sound opportunity. So kudos to you for actively seeking to set straight what so far feels to you like an impossible situation.

As you’ve found, the advice common in financial guides does not apply to everyone, or at least not to everyone’s starting point. Many such resources assume a near-magical combination of higher-income, plus a naturally frugal bent, plus a supportive family, plus a state of emotional zen, plus a cognitive capacity to navigate institutions ranging from banks to universities, plus plus plus. Not everyone has all of these. Folks with barriers such as stress, grief, cognitive limitations, a difficult family history, an experience of abuse, or a disability are often left to their own devices and, like you, feel embarrassment and shame that they aren’t “succeeding.”

Many mainstream resources don’t help. In fact, they exacerbate the issue by making it difficult for folks to come out of their financial closets. I know it didn’t help me one iota when all the advice seemed to scream, “Be an entirely different person! Become an extrovert! Don’t have Asperger’s or depression! Have more physical stamina!”  Ack. Our financial path must—at its most basic level—honor who we are at our heart, not to mention at our physical capacity.

You’re smart, articulate, and educated but, as you’ve discovered, these qualities alone do not lead to financial success. But other ones do.

As a volunteer, I serve some of my region’s lowest-income people. Interestingly, some had extremely high income (think executive directors and an NHL player) before needing help to secure and then live on $510 per month. As is usually the case, their financial flailing was not about a lack of drive, commitment, hard work, or intelligence. These folks’ careers relied on these characteristics. So what else is at play?

You seem to be painfully aware that you have sufficient income and status, and that there is some self-sabotage going on. This means that while you feel like a failure you’re actually already two steps ahead of the game!

I propose five strategies to help you fulfill your dream of financial well-being:

1. Prepare. Interestingly, preparing for financial recovery involves no file folders, specialized software, or fee-based advisers. Getting ready will involve just the simple step of writing down five free things you can do when you start to feel overwhelmed. What soothes you? A bubble bath? A run? Knitting? Texting with a dear friend? Meditation? A pitch black room? The Pogues on maximum volume? Post your list to at least five key places: your bathroom mirror, your car dashboard, the top of your shoe, your wrist, wherever you will see this prompt to self-soothe rather than spend. When the judgement or panic begins to arise, implement one of your personal self-soothing options. (And if you spend instead? No big deal, because you’re going to put in place the next steps too.)

2. Connect. The primary difference I see in people who transition from struggling to stable is emotional back-up. Many of us rely on spending to alleviate intolerable levels of loneliness, isolation, fear, anger, guilt, and more. Ironically, when we then spiral into shame about our spending, we often spend even more to cope! For this reason, I recommend your second step be putting support in place. For a sociable introvert or a person with a wild schedule, an online forum such as that offered by the Simple Living Network might be the best bet. For a person who thrives in live groups, the twelve-step program Debtors Anonymous can be a boon. If you have access to affordable one-on-one therapy, I encourage you to take that opportunity, too.

Even when these resources use financial floundering as a focus or anchor topic, much more will happen. This is because for most of us, money is attached to loss, hope, grief, attachment, and shame. When we focus on our finances, our money issues begin to resolve but so do layers of psychological struggle. When we act on one, we are inherently acting on both. So in healing financially, it is critical to have support not just to spend more judiciously, but to live through the emotional layers that arise when we shift the very way we’re interacting with our world. Your support person or group provides practical support while simultaneously (and more importantly) caring for your heart—walking you through your shame and out the other side while you implement change.

3. Envision. Take up to an hour to consider your personal goals. What are your dreams? When you see yourself in twenty years, what is your life full of? What does that look like, smell like, sound like, taste like? Pull related photos out of magazines, jot down key words, or chat about it into your phone or video camera. The sky’s the limit. Record everything you truly desire materially or environmentally. Silence? A turntable? An English country garden? The opportunity to raise a child?

4. Assess. Does your current lifestyle match this vision? If your heart tells you that in the future you want a peaceful cottage to write in, does spending $4 on ice cream today align with that? Don’t judge or kick yourself. Just notice. Watch yourself as though you are a scientist—a neutral third party curious about the patterns.

5. Record. On any given day, write down every penny that comes in to your life and every penny that goes out. This includes the dollar to the busker and the auto-debit for the internet bill. This activity can seem intimidating, because we anticipate seeing evidence of unmitigated disaster: pen hitting paper minute by minute, volumes of scrawled notes. It needn’t be overwhelming, though, and in fact can be strangely soothing. When we record in a notebook every penny as it goes out or in, we begin to see the power we have—the choice we get to make from moment to moment. We give ourselves a glimpse of our healthy decision-making capacity. Record nothing from before this moment, and nothing from beyond now. Just this moment’s transaction. As you record, accept your feelings. (Rely on your list for self-soothing.) Don’t try to modify your spending; no one else need see the information. Just record. Do this in as many moments, on as many days, as you feel up to it. Your consciousness will take it from there.

Once we have these five elements or practices in place, we naturally take steps to increase our income—asking for a raise, babysitting for a neighbour, snagging that grant—and decreasing our expenses—applying for a halt in student loan interest, canceling the gym membership we never use, inviting friends to a potluck in place of our usual Friday night restaurant outing. We do these one at a time, as our support team helps us to.

When we’ve connected more deeply with ourselves—and recognized our right to honor our truest self—we begin spending on that which aligns with our own deepest values, and declining to spend on that which others told us we should want: marriage, a magazine subscription, the university degree. Of course, the actual details of what we spend or save on are unique to each person, which is why our financial journey is often one of achieving physical, psychological, and relational freedom as well.

When we align our finances with who we really are at heart—ditching other people’s priorities in favor of honoring our own values and dreams—the perplexing paradoxes resolve. In the end, it seems that near-magic is involved after all, but it’s you who creates it.

Joon Madriga was marginalized by a severe yet undiagnosed brain-based disability, which left her on the streets. She subsequently found her way to help herself, then thousands of others. Her recently released book, Rising: Strategies for the Broke, the At-Risk, and Those Who Love Them, is available on She blogs at and welcomes your questions and struggles there.

Moderator Note: Readers, feel free to recommend other resources & techniques in the comments. I’d prefer to see recommendations in the form of “X site/forum/tool worked really well for me, here’s how and why” over “You should try X.”

Hello, it’s about 10:00 am on Friday in Chicago. From now until noon, I’m going to answer as many short Twitter questions as I can under the hashtag #awkwardchat. Patreon patrons can also submit questions to the post comments there. Turning off comments here until the chat is over to limit confusion (and # of characters/words).

Let’s do this!

“What do I tell myself when I have to memorize, for an exam, things that have proven to be inaccurate or false?” 

Howabout: “Once I make it through this class I will devote my life to setting the record straight. Now, my white-hot anger shall be my memory aid.

Depression, anxiety, and lingering grief and anger from a bad breakup are wearing on me, but I still need to Get Shit Done(tm). How do I approach doing that without ignoring how I am feeling? 

Give yourself permission to grieve for a short time each day. Maybe set a timer for 20 minutes and free-write in a journal in the morning  so that you can indulge the yucky feelings and get them out on the page. When the timer goes off, make a choice to put that aside and focus on the things you need to do. The journal will be there later, or tomorrow, when you need it. If you can make a ritual like this where you have permission to feel your feelings, you might also be able to give yourself permission to put it aside when you need to get things done. When that fails, I’ve heard the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear is pretty good.

I’m working through a poly/metamour communication issue. Any tips on balancing different personalities and needs? Also, I’m an “everyone needs to like me gal,” and I often put that in front of whether or not I actually *want* to be friends with this person. The answer to your question is in your question: You’re considerate of other people’s needs, sometimes at the expense of your own. You’re probably a fantastic partner and really good at the negotiations of poly life as long as everything is going your way. What if for the next little while you tried an experiment, where you gently/kindly state your own preferences and let other people do some of the work of balancing? “I don’t want to hang out this weekend.” “I like our friendship just how it is.” “I’m glad you and (Partner) are having fun, that’s great! I don’t want to join your hangouts/hang out with you one-on-one.” “I prefer waffles to pancakes.” 

How does one combine introvert and a very extrovert job (e.g. teaching) without feeling exhausted all the time? Dude. I wish I knew.

Ok, that’s not true, I *know* some ways, I don’t always *do* those ways.

Some strategies:

  • Remember to eat & drink – regular meals, bring a snack, drink water, plan to refuel.
  • Get up early on class days and use that time to prepare/wake up all the way.
  • Use the class breaks to get *away* for 10 minutes. Sometimes I go to the bathroom on a different floor so I can have a few minutes free of interaction.
  • Track energy levels and look for patterns. It’s okay to plan something social for right after teaching – when I’m on and in that mode, I’ll stay on for a while. I will need some downtime the next day, though, so, plan for that if possible.
  • Schedule blocks of time when I look at email/work with students.
  • Simplify other stuff I have to do that day as much as possible.
  • Have lots of teaching strategies on hand – get students working in small groups, get students presenting & sharing clips, get students moderating discussions & their own critique sessions, to give my voice/energy some built-in breaks.

Do you ever regret starting an advice column?

Rarely, if ever. Sometimes I regret that it took me off the road of making movies for a good while, but I love the work and the community. If I could do this as my main job, I probably would.

Ever regret answering a question?

Yes, a few. That one from the anxious guy, which I won’t link to, but if you remember it, you know exactly what it is. A few where I fucked up the advice, missed something really obvious, or didn’t think it through all the way. Some where the Letter Writer quickly became overwhelmed by All The Opinions of The Internet rolling in on their fragile life situation.

I’d love some Ask A Manager-style updates from letter writers. How likely is that too happen with CA?

I do get updates every now and then, some private, some with permission to post, but I never want letter writers to feel obligated to update us. I like Ask A Manager’s updates, too, and I know the woman who wasn’t allowed to pee haunts us all to this day. If you’re reading, we love you and hope you are okay. This sounds like a good January project, though. I’ll see what I can pull together.


Her cuteness is a mystery – if only it came as a serum we could spray on not-cute things to make them cuter! As tempting as cash offer is, she is wrapped around my head like a tiny hat right now and winter is coming.

How do I overcome Resting Friendly Face?

I share your curse. Headphones. Always having a book with me. Helping people when I can, saying (while probably still smiling), “Forgive me but I have no idea! Good luck!” when I can’t. Basically, I can’t overcome it, so I try to live with it and then write a website about boundaries.

I’m going to be out of work to donate a kidney. I don’t have to tell my coworkers why. Pros/cons of telling?

I don’t have pros and cons, just questions.

  • Do you like your coworkers?
  • How gossipy are they? Do you think they are speculating about why you’re out of the office and coming up with weird reasons for it?
  • Would you tell them if you were having another kind of surgery, like, “I broke my foot, need surgery”?
  • Are any of them doing a giant favor by covering for you?
  • Are you going to need any kind of specific help or recovery time when you come back?
  • You sound like a person who is pretty private and who doesn’t a big deal made about you, which seems like a good reason not to tell. Maybe hold off on the specifics until after the fact.