I have two questions, not about a particular situation (although, of course, that’s a complete lie) but more a desire for more exposition on certain recurring themes. Should you have the time or inclination. Or want to flip it to the commenters. Or whatnot.
First: How does one spot a Darth Vader? It’s possible, but also possibly not, what I have.
Second: What’s the real deal with Feelings![insert]? Why such a bad idea? Ever a good idea? How to differentiate between Feelings!Bomb and Using My Words To Let Others Know What I Want?
As a 35 year old woman I feel that I should probably already know this shit. However, that’s the same voice that listens to her Aunt when her Aunt says “how come you’re not married with 3 kids by now”. Admission: I don’t know and Because I’m not.
Thanks for anything you could send my way!
And, you’re awesome.
Maybe the commentariat can help us come up with a working list of Darth Vader identifiers? Can you tell us some specific things about your own situation that are making you wonder about this?
In my own experience, I’d compare it to an addiction.
Everything happened really, really fast. The person was an expert at figuring out what I most want to hear and telling me that. He turned all of his charm and attention on me, and since the thing started long-distance, was able to spin a fantasy of how it would be. If I had doubts, he would try really hard to move the relationship forward. When I bought in, he’d retreat, so I’d be in the position of trying to move things forward with someone who I was “meh, I don’t know” about a few days before. He broke things off “for my own good,” so it was one of those “I would totally be with you, it’s just that I’m a bad, bad (sexy) bad (sexy) man and not good enough for you...we shouldn’t do this…okay, if you want to” breakups that took a long time to really “take” because we kept having sex. I felt obsessed and off-balance the entire time. We didn’t have good boundaries. It felt so good at the beginning, so how could something that felt that good not be real? I kept chasing that good feeling like an addict, and I willingly signed up for every bad thing that happened to me.
Oh, here’s a big one: I felt weird and embarrassed about telling my friends about him, even when things were new and shiny. The whole thing seemed unbelievable (because it was unbelievable), and to tell them about it might burst the bubble with common sense. As the story came out of my mouth, I might have the insight that whoa, this is a bad story that does not add up, and then I might have to stop living inside that story. That Darth Vader guy is why I might tell my friends a bit more than is strictly classy about new dating partners. If I’m excited and I want to tell my friends about someone, it’s a good reality check for me that things really are as good as they seem. I’m listening to myself for the parts of the story that don’t add up.
Readers, can you think of any common Darth Vader markers?
As for your second question, the difference bewteen FEELINGSBOMBS, FEELINGSMAIL, and/or FEELINGSART and speaking up about your feelings has mostly to do with timeliness.
Speaking up about feelings: “Hey roommate, it’s your turn to do the dishes, can you take care of that today? My parents are coming tonight.”
FEELINGS______: You don’t say anything to your roommate. You get angrier and angrier. You second-guess whether you should be this angry. You make a LiveJournal post bitching about your roommate and how he never does the dishes. You wash the dishes yourself with a lot of crashing of pots and sighing. When you finally talk to your roommate about it, it’s in a long email where you list every single thing that bugs you about this person and ask WHY do you NEVER do the DISHES even when it’s clearly YOUR TURN, GOD WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?
Speaking up about feelings: “Hey, I love spending time with you. Would you want to go on a date sometime?”
FEELINGS_____: Nurse the crush for two years, obsess about the person, wallow in Hamlet-like indecision, then send a giant long email declaring your undying love which totally puts the other person on the spot – there is no way s/he can now say a casual “Sure, let’s see what happens” and will default to “no” for reasons of being “freaked the fuck out and embarrassed.”
In both of these scenarios, you’re unlikely to get the response you want, and you’re also making the other person responsible for your feelings in an oogy way. You’re putting them on the hook for your unspoken feelings, like they owe you something now.
Edited to Add:
Speaking up about your feelings: “Aunt, when you ask me why I’m not married yet, what is it you’re hoping I’ll say?”
Try it out sometime?
Hope that makes sense. Happy weekend, everyone!
79 thoughts on “Friday Questions about Darth Vader & FEELINGS______.”
My interpersonal dealbreaker is lying. If their statements seem inconsistent or impulsive, they might not be honest. Trust your gut and your memory; don’t assume that you must have misunderstood.
For me, though the big indicator for me is gut bad feelings, but it’s not only that. When I’ve met people who have turned out to be Darth Vaders, there has always been a gigantic disparity between what I feel and what I think I should feel. I feel oogy but can’t understand why. It’s the can’t understand why, not the oogy feelings all by themselves. It’s much deeper than irritation, too–it’s strong dislike, totally unrelated to mannerisms or politics or whatever. I take against someone like dogs sometimes do.
If someone seems charming, benign, enthusiastic, proactive, professional, capable, affectionate, bright…and yet you just can’t like them or feel comfortable around them, watch yourself.
Let’s see: Darth Vader characteristics. I think they tend to be on awesome, charming, best behavior early on, so this can be tricky, but:
1: Darth Vaders, in my experience, have the ability to suck all the oxygen out of social situations. For example, if you are dining out with Darth, is it somehow less enjoyable and relaxing than when you are with friends? Can you leave Darth alone at parties for stretches of time and have that be okay and fun for everyone?
2. Beware the jokey-mean comments. I think Darths are good at making snippy comments, which you may want to interpret at some sort of sexy British-lit wit, but if Darth makes a comment, you call him/her on it, and they dismiss it as a joke instead of being slightly mortified they offended you, keep your ears perked for more Darth habits.
3. I also think Darths believe they are entitled to special treatment and aren’t really into relationships with the spirit of generosity and reciprocity.
4. If you suspect you have a Darth in front of you, ask about how their last relationships ended. If there was any deception, or weird there, beware.
The jokey-mean thing is definitely a sign. For instance: DV is caustic, sardonic, (often funny), but always about others. The nanosecond you go after them?
OMG YOU KILLED KENNY.
“How dare you insult me that way, I never!”
Special snowflake syndrome, I guess, is how I would describe it.
Ask about how their last relationships ended. Yes, indeed.
Everyone is entitled to one crazy ex, because that is statistically probable. (We’ve all been batty at some time or another; also, I myself have an ex who I refer to as “Crazy FIRSTNAME” and never just as “FIRSTNAME.”) However, when all of someone’s exes are “crazy” it is not a bad idea to have some strong suspicions that this person may be crazymaking.
Or if they spend the entire date bemoaning how they screwed up their relationship with their ex. I once went out with a guy who spent most of our first date describing how awesome his ex was and how she and I were exactly alike and how sad he was that he had ruined their relationship singlehandedly with his evil bad stupidness. I think he was expecting me to leap in and say “No, Darth, it is SHE who is evil, bad, and stupid! Unlike her, I see that you are perfect! Let’s get married and have a THOUSAND babies!” Instead I thought to myself, “…hm. This is not fun. Maybe this is just the kind of thing I have to put up with if I want a boyfriend?” Fortunately, the answer is that no, it is probably not, and even if it was, no relationship is better than a bad relationship.
That guy went on to argue with me for hours about whether I wanted to be his girlfriend, and a year and a half later, after I’d blocked him, he contacted me asking if we could “try it again.” He wasn’t a full-blown Darth Vader to me, but if we’d had more actual interests in common I would probably have put up with his bad behavior for longer than one date.
On a first date, I really, really don’t want to hear about exes at all. I view anything more than a passing mention as First Date Sign of Date Doom. Is person not over this person? Do they have no other subjects? I’d so much rather hear about their pets in second grade than exes on a first date. Bemoaning screwed up relationships sounds downright awful. Was this person mixing up a first date and therapy?
Throughout the date, he said things that indicated he seemed to think it was the responsibility of his romantic partner to take care of all of his emotional well-being, and that was why he needed a romantic partner, and that was why it should be me, because I am so nice and giving and kind! Which, as unattractive as it sounds, would have been like catnip to me had I met him earlier, and had he been more subtle about it. (For a long time I identified as the Helping, Healing, I Will Make It All Better, Because Luckily I Have No Emotional Needs! person, with periodic explosions of WHY DON’T YOU EVER MEET MY INVISIBLE EMOTIONAL NEEDS?! Person.) I think the main reason this pinged me as Not Good was more that it felt like the ex was on the date with us, blatantly failing to take care of her man, and that made me pause in rushing in to save him from emotional distress.
Anyway, when he was arguing with me, a few of his last-ditch Reasons were “But you are the only good thing in my life!” and “Have I mentioned I used to be suicidal? But I’m not now. But I did used to be!”
I like to think that now he is getting good therapy, has learned to be happily single, and is meeting new people without needing them to be like his ex.
On my first date with my now-girlfriend exes were something we talked about a fair amount, actually, without it being weird – given that the first time I met her she was going through a divorce, though, and that I knew her for about a year before we started going out, and also that the entire evening was punctuated with “WHY THE FUCK AM I TALKING ABOUT MY EX AGAIN, WHAT THE HELL, THIS IS SO WEIRD” I’m gonna cite that as an anomalous situation.
I have never been in a chosen relationship with a Darth Vader, but my mother is one, I’ve had several others in my life not-by-choice (acquaintances, friends of family, classmates, etc.), and have played the part of Doomed Prophetess at people I cared about with a Darth Vader in their lives. I have also, um, been kind of a Darth Vader Friend. So I think I have relevant experience.
The first thing I actively notice about Darth Vaders is that I have a really bad feeling about them because they are nice. I usually can’t figure out what it is that bothers me, or explain it coherently, but something about the way they are complimentary and charming and helpful makes me not like them, even though I like charming and helpful people, and compliments are nice to get, and I spend days feeling like a bad person because look how nice they are! Why don’t I like them? They’re more socially adept than I am and I’m probably just jealous, yes, that’s what it is.
Then they start pushing my boundaries (or someone else’s boundaries) or people I know and I realize they’re telling us different stories to get us to do things for them/feel certain ways about them/get attention, and I go off in full-on Predicting the Fall of Troy mode, and predictably, nobody believes me because I sound ridiculous. (This hasn’t happened since I started dealing with my own Vadery tendencies; I think it was more a function of me not liking to lose control of people who are “mine” to another Vader. It is worth remembering, though, if you feel yourself slipping into Cassandra mode, that if you suspect someone of being Darth, that there are no magic words you can use to make someone agree with you, especially if they are getting a full dose of Jedi Mind Tricks and have a totally different perspective.)
Thinking back, I think the thing that alerts me about Darth Vaderly niceness was that they are trying very, very hard to be liked, without actually being kind. They want to help! Even if you prefer to do something alone. They tell hilarious stories about That Bitch So-And-So and even if you didn’t like her that much, you didn’t really think there is anything wrong with her and you don’t like the word “bitch” because it’s sexist, but you are kind of afraid to tell Vader that, just in case she started talking about you that way. Compliments are often also insults. (My mother especially likes doing this; she was an art major, and lately I’ve been taking art classes. Every time we talk, she finds a way to bring up how proud she is of me even though I of course won’t ever have [talent she has] but oh, she wishes she had [other talent I have]!)
When I was still in the control of my Darth Vader mother, I made alllll kinds of excuses for her. “Well, just because she tried to hit me doesn’t mean I should have fought back like that, I am a bad person, she’s right…” “Well, I mean, think how I would have turned out if I didn’t have a childhood full of self-loathing! I’d be an egotistical monster. She did it for my own good!” “I really shouldn’t be uncomfortable with her use of rape as a metaphor for what she wants to do to someone she hates; she’s the one who introduced me to feminism!” But if anyone else had used those metaphors, I’d have said “Really? That is a shitty thing to say,” and if anyone else had treated a friend the way she was treating me, I’d have told my friend their mother was wrong, and if anyone else had tried to hit me, I’d probably have hurt them really badly.
Thinking back, I think the thing that alerts me about Darth Vaderly niceness was that they are trying very, very hard to be liked, without actually being kind.
OMG, that is so insightful and dead-on.
I also agree about different stories. If you find yourself relating to Jodie Foster’s character in “Flight Plan,” Darth is near.
On Darth Vader identifiers:
Watch for evil bees! If someone else says “Hey, I think those are evil bees”, pay attention, and don’t discount them!
Listen to your own remarks as well. The things you “joke” about might not actually be jokes, but feelings you’re uncomfortable admitting to in front of Darth. If you ever compare your partner to a cult leader, even in jest, it’s time to back slowly away. If you find yourself making jokes about “being controlled”, you’re not really joking, and you should back away slowly.
In general, “too soon” behaviors should be warning signs:
“We have a special connection” – said at 6 months? OK. Said on the 2nd date? Too soon!
“I believe in you. I think you can definitely succeed at this difficult dream of yours!” – said after he’s learned some of your history, knows your dream, and has listened to your plans to acheive that dream? Good, supportive. Said the first time you mention having a dream? Too soon!
“I can really see us having a future together.” – said after a weekend getaway? OK. Said halfway through your first date? Too soon!
Darths can get away with these “too soon” remarks because they’re all really nice things to hear. And if Darth is good enough at self-deception to believe them, then when he says them, he sounds sincere, and human beings tend to want to believe people who sound sincere. (Darth self-deception is a variation on Gaslighting; Darth doesn’t tell you you’re crazy or wrong, he just has an intense, passionate belief that you don’t see any reason or justification for… yet)
“Too soon” behaviors also show a lack of respect for boundaries, and that rarely ends well.
I once had a friend who was blown away when a gentleman gave her a diamond necklace on their second date . . . their relationship did not end well.
Word to this.
A Darth I knew began pressuring me for marriage a bit under two months into the relationship (we were freshmen in college!) and then even bringing up wanting kids with me despite my professed hatred of children. I got the fuck out of there.
Wait… Uh.. This?
This was in the spam folder, sorry I didn’t get to it right away. Good song!
My Darth made me unsure about my decisions. It started slowly: things like, “You shouldn’t have coffee, it’s bad for you! Here, have green tea instead.” said with a disapproving (cute at first, but not very cute after the fifth time) scowl at my bad decision. He just cared about my health! Soon I had given up coffee, although I love it, because every time I drank it, he scowled and it was just easier to not drink it than to argue with him.
There was no winning. He had come to a conclusion (“Coffee is bad!”), and there was no way I could defeat him logically–and the onus was always on me to prove that my decisions were ok (I even printed out studies saying coffee was fine/healthy! My father is a doctor and drinks two cups a day! The proof was on my side!) and even when I did prove that my decision was perfectly fine, he wouldn’t buy it and continued to look on in disapproval. So I started editing and lying. If I went out for coffee, I told him that I met a friend in the park. I stopped making coffee at home and instead bought it when I got to school, so he wouldn’t know. These should have been GIANT RED FLAGS!
No coffee is not in itself a deal breaker, but slowly and surely, his judgement permeated every decision I made. He had opinions about everything I wore, every class I took, everything I cooked, every alcoholic drink I ordered– to the point where I was constantly worried about the value of my opinions, constantly second-guessing my impulses, and constantly editing what I said about him to my friends (and what I said about my friends to him) in order to keep the peace. I changed/suppressed a lot of my natural instincts–and I am a successful independent woman whose instincts are very good!– in order to accommodate his demands. This, unsurprisingly, made me miserable.
The Captain and commenters are totally right–if you feel weird about telling other people about him, if he makes you feel a little oogy, if he suffocates normal social situations, if you aren’t truly yourself around him, if you feel like you’re constantly editing yourself in order to keep the peace–you may have a Darth on your hands. Good luck!
Oh dear… the judgement about every decision. I remember that. Giant, giant red flag. When you start saying to people about innocuous or very mildly irresponsible (like a slightly extravagant purchase) decisions “Well, I want to, but X won’t like that. Maybe I could hide it from him?”…. yea, bad sign.
Oh, the friend thing! The funniest thing to me now is that he couldn’t STAND one of my friends. He was scornful of most of them, but he *really* hated her. And she? Turned out to be mildly Darthy herself, though in a much more passive, self-centered way.
My ex didn’t like having sex because “we” (which I’m pretty sure meant me) were too fat. So I found myself hiding eating “unhealthy” foods because if he knew I ate them, he would start complaining that I didn’t want to lose weight so we could fuck. So I was getting carry out cheese fries from Outback so I could eat soy “bacon” for breakfast.
That said, I’m not sure he was exactly a Darth Vader because nobody ever bothered to tell me that they had issues with him; I think that if they had, I might have paid attention to those niggling voices. Or not – who knows?
I don’t think my Darth was malicious – I think he was doing his best and trying to do right by me in the way he knew how. He just had NO BOUNDARIES and I had NO BOUNDARIES and badness happened.
If you’re sneaking things….that’s a bad sign.
Ugh my Darth was like that but it was SO MUCH WORSE because we were both trumpet-playing Music Majors in the same year (the only trumpet players in our year) and he was actually better than me. Like, he was a prodigy and amazingly naturally talented whereas I am “merely” extremely good through practice. So he was constantly giving me “tips” about how to practice that turned into judgements and admonishments, and we had every single class together! He also made backhanded compliments about how I was so dedicated and it was so admirable that I had to practice so much to keep up with him because I had no natural talent. He also blamed me for being stressed out and letting my grades slip when my grandmother was dying and controlled my friendships by badmouthing every person I started hanging out with who wasn’t him, while simultaneously telling me to get more friends because I was a clingy loser.
I think I was sucked in because I admired him a lot, and admittedly the boy can play.
Well, your mileage is going to vary because every Darth is different and who your Darth is depends on your own emotional make-up to a certain extent. I’d also like to note that a “red flag” does not necessarily mean that a person is 100% a Darth and should be ejected immediately and forever. “Red flag” means “warning” and should be taken as such. If you’ve got a couple of red flags and you can talk to your maybe!Darth about them in a reasonable manner, then you may be okay. But if there’s a red flag per day or a whole laundry load of flags, CONGRATULATIONS, YOU HAVE ACHIEVED A DARTH.
Red Flags of Darthness:
1 – Points out the ways in which you don’t measure up
1a – Does this in front of other people! OMG!
2 – Tells you how to react – (Telling you what they feel and then trying to get you to say you feel the same way)
3 – Won’t introduce you to their People
4 – Is hot and cold with you – vaguely “busy” one day, facehugging uncomfortably the next
5 – Makes everything someone’s fault (usually you, never the Darth)
5a – May make something Past!Darth’s fault, but this is a trap! Past!Darth doesn’t exist anymore and can be blamed for everything.
6 – Prioritizes Darth’s preferences over your happiness (“I know you have celiac disease and didn’t get any sleep last night but you HAVE to come to Donut Days with me!”)
7 – Makes threats and ultimatums
8 – Only does or says nice things as part of a “deal” – (“I did the dishes so you have to give me oral.”)
9 – Makes other people outside your relationship “the enemy” – (If you hear the phrase “No one will ever understand our love.” RUN, GIRL! RUN! NOT UPSTAIRS!)
Now, there’s people with low social awareness, or toe-dipping into BPD that are going to get a red flag, and that may not actually mean they are a Darth. My dad, for example, pings #6 hardcore, but it’s because he’s totally oblivious to other people when he’s doing something he’s passionate about. But the difference is, can you talk to your maybe!Darth and get them to stop doing the red flag thing? Or recognize how they’ve hurt you?
1 – Defends you whole-heartedly against people who demean you. Not half-heartedly and backhandedly (“She’s not THAT stupid.” INCORRECT. “You’re talking about someone I admire and love, jerkface.” CORRECT)
2 – Observes your reactions – (Telling you what they feel and then listening to what you feel)
3 – Cannot stop talking about you to their People
4 – Is consistently attentive, even if their schedule is not consistent
5 – Takes responsibility and is forgiving – better, doesn’t really give a shit who’s “fault” things are
6 – Prioritizes your happiness together (“I have GOT to go to Donut Days, but I totally get if you want to nap instead. I bring you a gluten-free donut?”)
7 – Treats you like a rational human being
8 – Does or says nice things because that’s just what you do with someone you love
9 – Makes your relationship a team of awesomeness
There’s so much more! But I think the benchmark is “Does being around this person make me feel happy and comfortable?” You won’t be happy and comfortable if you’re trying to contort yourself around a Darth’s expectations.
Won’t introduce you to their People OMG YES THIS SO HARD. And *mentioning* other people to you but never making an effort to introduce you to them. It’s like, they have this mysterious life with all these awesome-sounding, interesting people and Darth does cool stuff with them all the time when Darth is not around you. Possibly with the implication that these cool things only happen BECAUSE you are not around.
Obviously, this can go for any gender, but I’m going to use he since that’s been my experience:
Gut feelings, yes! Also:
Tries to hurry the relationship along, or push you into a serious relationship.
Gets defensive or somehow retaliatory (gives you the silent treatment, goes off on the offensive, etc.) if you object to something he said/did OR explains it away by citing his “issues” (and possibly turning it into an impromptu therapy session for him)
Pushes your boundaries constantly
Constantly apologizes for what he did/demands forgiveness but keeps doing what he knows is hurtful OR refuses to apologize at all and keeps doing what he knows is hurtful.
Dismisses or belittles your feelings
Puts you in situations where you can’t win. For example, he complains you’re vain and shallow for coloring your hair, wearing makeup, and owning fashionable clothes. You stop doing that and suddenly you’re ugly and obviously don’t care anymore and it’s just a total turnoff to him.
When he says something you find hurtful or embarrassing, he keeps saying it.
Doesn’t respect your time.
Doesn’t like it when you spend time with friends, family, or people besides him.
Doesn’t respect your ideas or what you say (does he roll his eyes at you a lot? not listen? hand-wave you away? belittle what you’re saying by responding “what are you ranting about now” or something like that?)
ITA with “jokey-mean comments”. If they make jokes at your expense (and extra points if they act like your hurt is your problem) the person is a toxic asshole who needs to have their ass dumped yesterday. Also, most button-pushers love to dish it out but cannot take it. Darth Vaders tend to get terribly offended and upset when it’s given back to them.
They never let you live anything down but refuse to own up to their behavior.
They try to enlist friends and family to take their “side” (usually if you’ve been together for a while).
Violent outbursts–such as wall punching, throwing things, etc.
Insistence that “I’m not abusive!”
The only way you can interact with them and have any peace is to agree with everything they say.
Listen to how they talk about their exes. If every single person they dated was “crazy” or awful or whatever, guess what? Chances are they weren’t.
Finally–go with your gut. If you feel a lot more relaxed away from them than with them, if you feel like you have to be on your ‘best’ behavior around them lest they reject you, if you find yourself second-guessing yourself and your confidence going down the drain when you never had that problem before meeting this dude, then you have a Darth Vader BF.
Definitely! Remember the saying: “The one thing all of your exes have in common is you!“
If you feel a lot more relaxed away from them than with them, if you feel like you have to be on your ‘best’ behavior around them lest they reject you, if you find yourself second-guessing yourself and your confidence going down the drain when you never had that problem before meeting this dude, then you have a Darth Vader BF.
What do you do when someone acts like this around you regardless of how you treat them? I have a friend who is almost pathological in trying to be on her “best” behaviour and it’s really uncomfortable-making. For example, if I mention that I don’t like potatoes and I’d rather she not eat them around me because the smell makes me nauseous, she will agree… and then three weeks later ask if it’s okay if she goes and orders fries, because she’s been avoiding potatoes COMPLETELY because she’s afraid the smell is going to cling to her and I will hate her forever.
I have no idea how to handle this situation.
This seems like a passive-aggressive thing to me. If she’s so considerate of you that she was previously maintaining complete potato abstinence, does it seem likely that when she decided not to do that anymore, she’d jump straight to eating them in your presence (and asking your permission to do so, bringing up the subject once again)? Wouldn’t it make more sense just to reintroduce them into her diet but continue not eating them around you? It just seems weird.
No, no binges, but she’ll text and ask me for permission even if I’m not around.
She also complains a lot that she feels like I’m judging her all the time, and about the weirdest things, like what she’s watching on TV, or what video game she’s playing. She’ll turn it off when I come into the room, or apologize for watching it, or avoid watching/playing things around me, claiming she’s afraid I’ll get mad.
I mean, sure, I don’t like Jersey Shore, but I don’t think anyone is a bad person for watching it. I am really not that invested in other people’s media consumption.
I’ve been in abusive relationships, and the way she talks about her relationship with me makes me feel like I’m constantly abusing her and just too abusive to notice or care. But she wouldn’t be feeling like this if I wasn’t doing something abusive, right?
To be clear, she never SAYS I do anything abusive, or calls me abusive. She just says that the way I am makes her feel judged and on edge all the time, to the point of complaining to friends that I seem like I’m always mad at her.
AFRICAN VIOLET TIME.
I don’t like this person at all based on these stories. She is 1) WAAAAAAY too fixated on you 2) Really manipulative.
Is it possible that she’s in another relationship that actually IS abusive, and that she’s extrapolating that to all relationships? This is such bizarre behavior, but it’s not actually your job to solve it or even figure it out. I’m with the Captain — African Violet all the way.
Oh, I misunderstood– so she still doesn’t eat them in your presence, but she texts you whenever she wants to eat them when you’re not around? That’s… not really any less weird.
She’s involving you in her potato-eating. She’s potato-eating AT you.
Who knows why? Maybe she had a controlling parent and thinks someone in her life has to play that role. Maybe she thinks you’re being unreasonable but is so invested in her doormat persona that she can’t use her words. Maybe she’s crushing on you and Firthing in an unusual way. Ultimately it doesn’t matter; she’s making you uncomfortable and having a one-sided relationship with you that you never agreed to.
I get the feeling that this is a college or grad school situation (apologies if that’s erroneous; I’m a language person too, and we tend to be in school for a long time), so it may not be possible to avoid her entirely, but it seems like a good idea to take a step waaay back.
I love how KL put it….she’s eating potatoes AT you. Sooooooo weird.
She’s putting you into a role you didn’t audition for. Congrats! You have now been cast as “Judgmental, Critical Omnipotent Friend”. Your character motivations include casting judgment on her as an entire person, not allowing her to have any qualities or habits you disapprove of, and pretending to be nice to keep her around you.
I mean, it may very well be African Violet time. If you’re not used to this situation and it’s really uncomfortable for you, then look after yourself. I’m just basically commenting IF you feel you’ve got the time, energy, and know-how to deal with her, because it basically requires retraining her brain into being less of a nervous nellie, which takes time, patience, and compassion. I do this when there’s someone I like being around (THIS IS IMPORTANT) when our pleasant times doing mutually enjoyable activities are somewhat marred by occasional incursions of a psychodrama I didn’t sign up for. I don’t do this because my friend is ~broken~ and I need to ~fix them~. I do it because I’d like to be able to watch all ten seasons of Stargate with someone who loves the show to pieces, without being treated like a horrible judgmental person.
If you don’t like this role she’s cast you into, you have to learn when she’s treating you like that and start rejecting it. “Hey, I’m not out to tell you what to do with your life! It’s not ever reasonable for me to ask you to change something big about your life. I have preferences about how I’d like to be treated, but I actually can survive it if you don’t listen to them.”
I just spent some time with a friend who’s got a really bad case of this–projecting judgments onto everyone else around her. So this happened:
Her: *is doing an activity*
Me: *looks at activity to see what she’s doing*
Her: I know, I’m sorry, it’s terrible, I’ll stop.
Me: Whoa there. What made you think I minded you doing that?
Her: I don’t know. You just… had a look on your face.
Me: I don’t know what you saw, but I wasn’t upset. I don’t mind it. You can do whatever you want. You’re the one who called it terrible, not me.
She was the one who was judging herself–SHE thought what she was doing was terrible and something she should be ashamed of. (I forget what it even was! Playing with her food? Folding her scarf into little pleats? Winding a ball of yarn? IT WAS SO INCREDIBLY MINOR) She wanted to do it, though, and it’s often hard to keep a fight all in your head–“I want to do this” vs. “I shouldn’t because it’s awful”. So rather than making it a solo act, she cast me into the role of judgment. I had to spot that and point it out to her–not just that I didn’t mind, but that she was putting words in my mouth.
What that interaction said to me was not that I am terrible and abusive to her, but that someone in the past has been really judgmental and abusive, so now she expects it at every turn. Because when you’re in a relationship with an abuser, the way to stay safe is to anticipate their every whim and judgment and try to stay one step ahead of the abuse. That habit is so life-saving that it gets applied to a lot of other relationships–“I’ll assume the worst so I’m prepared for it.” And unlearning that tactic is really hard.
With your friend, it means pouncing on moments when she’s showing signs of following a script you didn’t lay down. If you can spot her acting as though she’s afraid you’ll hate her forever, call a halt and ask what you are doing to make her think that–because you will not hate her forever, and in fact, you’re not even mad. (If you are mad, it is perhaps best to own it, at least to just show her that you’ll be truthful when you are, but go easy.)
So, you know, as a counsellor I’m trained in this shit (and she’s a great friend when she’s not being a nervous squirrel) so I’m comfortable with setting boundaries several times a day when we’re together. You may not be. It’s up to you which you’re up to doing.
oh my god, you just made me realize that my roommate does this all the time. she acts like I’m judging her for everything that SHE feels bad about doing. she passes it off like it’s a joke, but it really bothers me. thanks for giving me some tools to help with this!
To sum up a couple different points that people have made–“Other people just don’t understand our love!”/not liking you spending too much time with others/etc– if they generally take they attitude that it’s us (as in you and them, this relationship) against the world…(in a ‘they’re out to get us’ way, not a ‘let’s have adventures together’ way) that’s bad. This kind of attitude gets romanticized–starcrossed lovers and all that–but in the real world, unless you are in a very extreme situation, your love should be something you can enjoy out in the open, that makes the rest of your life richer. It shouldn’t be something that forces you to withdraw from all the other good things in your life because other people just don’t get it.
Contrary to what ‘romantic’ stories have led us to believe, love is not a mystical magical thing that cannot be explained to people outside of it. People you love should make you feel appreciated and happy and safe. If a large percentage of the time they don’t, there is something wrong. Period. And if you feel appreciated and happy and safe and you tell your friends about the person who is making you feel that way, they should be supportive and happy for you. If they aren’t, there is something wrong with either the love interest or your friends.
Not LW, but after reading this thread… So, what do you do when your brother is almost definitely a Darth Vader boyfriend, and he and his girlfriend live with you at home?
With only a sentence to go on… not much? I mean, is it your home? Is your brother a minor? Has the girlfriend asked for your help? What is it you want out of that situation?
Maybe questionify it up a bit and pop it in the questions box?
You can’t “fix” other people. You can’t change your brother, and you can’t “help” his girlfriend.
In that situation, all you can do is protect yourself. Don’t get involved in their drama. Don’t act as “therapist” to either of them.
Have a healthy and completely seperate social life from both of them.
Don’t let your name be put on any shared bills if you can avoid it. Don’t loan either of them money, or your car, don’t co-sign anything or put your name on any bills you’re not wlling to pay 100% of. Save as much money as you can so that when the time comes, you can afford to move away or otherwise be financially independent.
I think the Darth concept can be a helpful one for figuring out why some people/relationships behave the way they do, but I’m not sure that it is what this particular LW needs. Because if you’re not happy in the relationship (which I assume is the case, since you’re writing in to diagnose a potential-Darth), then does it really matter if the dude blew up a planet or if you two just aren’t a good match?
LW, ask yourself this: does your relationship with this person involve more awesomehappyamazing time, or more sadconfusedangry time? If the latter, then who cares whether this guy cut off his son’s hand — you don’t need to diagnose him as evil to decide you don’t want to be with him.
Seconded. Identifying Darth Vaders might be an important academic question, but your partner doesn’t have to be a DV for you to break up with them.
Second that! You could be dating a perfectly nice and lovely person who doesn’t have compatible future goals/you don’t want to kiss/wants to move to Guam and live with monkeys and that just doesn’t work for you.
Esti, GREAT, GREAT POINT.
LW, did you read this? Why are you feeling things are sketchy? Listen to those feelings.
This has been really helpful. The list up there with the “Indicates DV” and “Does not indicate DV” has the dude in the Not DV category – so yay!
And it’s awesomehappyamazing times mostly.
But also – I know this isn’t my Forever Home *sadface*
So I guess my excessively generic question should have been framed more in terms of…when to move on?
So this…”You could be dating a perfectly nice and lovely person who doesn’t have compatible future goals/you don’t want to kiss/wants to move to Guam and live with monkeys and that just doesn’t work for you” ….is where I’m stuck. Other than the kissing, because that’s what I want to do in spades and spades.
And there’s this feeling of “he’s expanding everything that I am, pushing all my boundaries, taking me to a place I never expected I could ever go, a place I didn’t know existed” and I’m so freaking In Love with this person I’ve become in this…
In other words: This has changed me and I like it.
But this isn’t my Forever Home.
And knowing that – do I move on? Is that necessarily what a person does when they realise that it’s not tenable in the long run. Or do they keep moving forward and just see what happens. Because, no matter how much I wish it were different, I know that “future goals are not compatible”.
well, I guess it depends on if you are doing more harm by staying with him than good? Does he think you are *his* Forever Home? Are you doing more harm to them by staying than you would by making a clean break? I can’t remember the exact wording but I think it’s Dan Savage who has the ‘campsite’ theory of relationships – always leave that person in as good or better shape than when you first found them.
Also, I don’t know what place you are in in your life right now. Are you enjoying the journey of loving and learning from different people and in no hurry to ‘settle down’, or are you frustrated because you want to make babbies/buy houses/get a tortoise with someone and you really want to find that someone?
You have options, LW.
You can decide to continue the relationship for now, saying something like “This relationship is wonderful for me right now and it is making me develop as a person in ways that I like and that will still be worth it, sometime in the future when we both have to move on.”
Or you can say “This relationship is wonderful, but it’s more important to me that I be free to find a relationship that could be permanent.” Or “This relationship is wonderful, but staying in it will just make me more unhappy when I do have to leave.”
Honestly, the way you’re talking, it sounds like Option One (stay with it while you can, and learn from it and develop as a person) might be the best one for you. In which case, that’s fine. Just remember that if your partner starts talking about buying a house, or about the kids you’ll have someday, then it’s your duty to say “You know, I love this relationship right now, but I’m not thinking it will last forever. Is that ok?”
LW, I had a relationship like that. I think one of the reasons it ended was he’s older than me and he helped me learn some great grownup skills I still have, like how to make up a recipe with things you have and he bought me a good chefs knife and how to navigate a big city. That dynamic was great and fun for both of us but eventually I kind of “caught up” to him and things changed for both of us and it just wasn’t working anymore and we decided together to break up. We both knew for a while it wasn’t forever, especially that one time I was crying about how he didn’t want kids. If you’re crying a lot, it’s time to go. You get to keep the ways you changed. It’s cool. You also get to learn new things. It’s ok to stay, it’s ok to go. Be kind to yourself and to him. And if you’re feeling a little suffocated, even though the kissing is good, it might be time to go.
“You get to keep the ways you changed.” I love it. Delurk more! Delurk more!
This makes me think of one of Holly’s posts
especially the part about permanence.
More Signs of Vader, maybe not relevant to the letter-writer but just in general:
– You can’t tell them about your needs or your feelings (because their needs are more important or they are too busy or your feelings are wrong and bad or whatever).
– You are massively in love with them but if you ask yourself “did I have fun the last few times we interacted” the answer is “no”.
And, someone mentioned this one earlier, but if someone ever says “I’m not abusive”, that’s a massive, massive red flag.
On the academic question of Darth…
I’ve dated Darth a time or two and my grandfather and my mother are both Darth (although it took me forever to see that). My quick test now about how cool someone is and whether or not they can be one of my people is to mention one of my weird quirky loves to them and see what the reaction is. For instance, I have a crazy love affair with bad music. I mean, it’s MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice bad. I would never pretend that it’s artistically meaningful, but it’s great fun when I’m in need of a pick-me-up to grab my hairbrush microphone and rock out in the living room to something awful. There are four responses to this.
1. “That’s kind of weird, but then again, so am I.” This is most people. We may or may not be compatible but I usually get to learn a few ways in which my fellow man is weird.
2. “What is wrong with you?!” These are not my people, but that’s likely due to bad chemistry rather than being actually about my taste in music.
3. “ZOMG! Me too! *insert discussion of best bad music*” These are likely my people. Almost nobody will admit to liking Vanilla Ice, this goes doubly for those who don’t mean it.
4. “No, no, no, you’re wrong. *insert monologue on best musical choices here*” This may or may not be followed up with an attempt to ‘educate’ me and get me to change my wicked ways. This is Darth– Darth frequently likes to judge and Darth definitely likes to educate. No choice is valid unless it is Darth’s choice.
When you find yourself embarrassed to like the things that you like, whether that be food, music, fashion, or reading romance novels in the bathtub, then you are likely in the presence of the dark side even if they haven’t put on their mask and cape yet.
For some reason, I have a bad habit of dating musicians even though I’m almost completely tone deaf. I dated this one guy who was completely into music, to the point where he’d play CDs and tell me all about the songs and artists. Now, I’m not diametrically opposed to learning new things, but music is hard for me (see above: tone deaf). I was fine and happy until the point where he started quizzing me about what he’d told me about all the music and the bands. Ummm, no, I don’t need to know everything there is to know about your passion on the third date. My husband may find my love of bad music embarrassing (for himself) but, bless him, when I start dancing and lip synching in the grocery store he just smiles and says, “I’m happy you’re happy.”
OH THAT IS SO TRUE, about the Quirk Test. Although, actually, my Darthy mom (Darth Mater?) tends to start with #2 and then a week later she is explaining like #4 either why I am wrong or why SHE is MUCH quirkier than me, MUCH QUIRKIER, YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW.
(Also, can we share our favorite bad music? I have a strange weakness for Europop, so for your consideriation, “Roses Are Red” by Aqua — it’s danceable and also contains my favorite ridiculous lyric of all time! — and “Moskau” by Dschenghi Khan.)
*Dschinghis Khan. It’s so easy to spell, I don’t know how I made that mistake.
Those are pretty dang catchy. I’ll have to add them to my list.
Right now, as far as bad music, I’m pretty much interested in anything that you can find by googling “one-hit wonder.” It’s a pretty far ranging list, but highlights include “Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus (can’t get much worse than that), “Naked and Famous” by the Presidents of the United States of America, “Men in Black” by Will Smith, and “I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred.
You might be the perfect person to answer a question my partner and I were wondering about last night: Obviously, “I’m Too Sexy” is a direct evolutionary predecessor of “Sexy And I Know It” by LMFAO, but was there a transitional form in between?
The difference between using my words to let others know what I want and FEELINGS____ can be felt if you sit down and type it out. Using my words usually results in a concise 4 lines or less that contain a thought, feeling, or preference and a request on how that can be met. “I’m feeling swamped right now, can you wash the dishes tonight?” “I feel a little disregarded, can you do better about keeping up with your chores?” “I’m a little hurt about how things went down tonight, can you call me if you’re going to be late in the future?” “I think I’m getting PMS, can you procure chocolate?”
FEELINGS____ is at least half a page and consists mostly of run-on sentences. It also reads largely like a thesaurus vomited every synonym for hurt and angry on it. It usually forgets the request portion because, at this point, only abject and humble begging for forgiveness and promises of eternal love and gummy bears will salve the hurt and angry.
Yes! This is so well put. And even that salve is a sickly sort of feeling, like one ate way too many of the aforementioned gummy bears. Not a satisfying way to live.
Just a comment, LW – Esti is totally right to say that a person does not have to be an Evil Menace to just not be right for you! It is totally one hundred percent okay to break up with someone, even someone you like a lot, because you just aren’t feeling it enough, sad though that is. But one tiny thing you said — and it might just be word choice — gives me a little pause: “he’s…pushing all my boundaries.”
In my experience, a sign of something Not Quite Right in a relationship is when someone says “he really pushes me” or “he calls me on my bullshit — I have to be honest with him.” You might mean that in a really positive way — that you are discovering new things about the world and yourself. But I don’t think it is a romantic partner’s job to “push” you into new understanding. A boyfriend or girlfriend is not a tough coach, who makes you Go the Distance because he knows you can, dammit! A boyfriend or girlfriend is a teammate, someone to run the race _with_ you, not stand on the sidelines and judge how well you’re running it.
If you are thinking of your romantic partner as your coach, someone who shows you tough love because you don’t always live up to your promise, or because you need to face your fears and do X thing that he _knows_ you can do (whether that’s an emotional thing, a sexual thing, or something else), then it might be because that person is undermining or controlling you.
In your case that might absolutely not be what’s happening, but “he pushes me” or “he calls me on my weaknesses/bullshit” are things I’ve heard more than once from people in relationships that turned out to be seriously unhealthy in one way or another.
Thanks for writing this! It’s something that’s been nagging me for quite some time in a couple of relationships (mine and that of some friends and in one case a roommate). I could never quite put my finger on why this is bugging me but it was/is always a dynamic of usually older, usually male partner helping other partner with personal growth (emotional/spiritual) but not in a – as you so aptly put it – we’re a team way. Extra points if said couple managed to involve me too in their enlightened happy-warm feelings of we-are-all-one (nothing wrong with that in general but don’t use it to smother others).
So that’s why it’s pinging as maybe Vaderish, isn’t it? Because I do love who I’ve become in this, but I also resent the I’m Your Personal Life Coach overtones. I think it’s genuinely loving, but it’s also controlling. And maybe it’s not *his* issue, so much as it’s another example of me handing over my power to somebody else and looking to them to make me feel validated.
Anyway, thanks to this and a bunch of other digging..no longer in relationship. Because as much as I’d like a coach to “tell” me how to live my life, at some point (maybe at the age of 35, yeah?) I have to learn how to life my own damn life. As in making some choices for myself for no motive other than that’s what I want to do.
He broke things off “for my own good,” so it was one of those “I would totally be with you, it’s just that I’m a bad, bad (sexy) bad (sexy) man and not good enough for you…we shouldn’t do this…okay, if you want to” breakups that took a long time to really “take” because we kept having sex.
I’ll be damned. When I was eighteen, my boyfriend told me, shortly into the relationship, that if I wanted to break up with him, it was okay, he would understand. Of course I told him I wasn’t going anywhere! Not with him hinting that before getting together with me, he’d been suicidal!
The manipulation playbook sure is a thick volume, isn’t it?
I’m pretty sure both my parents are Darths. They abuse and have abused each other in the past, and get stressed out and have temper tantrums. I’ve asked them to get a divorce more than once, but they claim they love each other (sigh, they do). Alternatively, they can both be wonderful, nice people when they’re in good moods. And they ARE wonderful, nice people, but their bad moods are TERRIBLE.
It sucks, but it’s stamped out any Darth-iness from my brother and me. We’re not perfect (well, my little brother is), but we both have high emotional intelligence when it comes to trying to avoid conflict, but it took us some time to not be so passive aggressive or tantrum-y (and even then, we both slip into the former with our parents, because they can be trying).
Actually, I guess that makes us Luke and Leia! So what the hell do I do about the Force?
Dates or anyone who is unreachable and/or makes no effort to spend time with you just because. They only know you exist when they want something. They never cooperate with your wishes but insist that you fall in line with theirs. I just fired my unreachable doctor for this (although she doesn’t know it yet). Because she and her office staff want to make me feel like I’m doing it wrong just for needing to communicate with my physician for God’s sake! Time for someone who knows what the job is. My point is when very simple normal things are impossible you know you’re dealing with a Darth.
I realise LW’s answer has been answered, but for academic purposes:
Beware people who want to help you be ‘normal’. Because you’re the only one who does stupid stuff like this, you’re lucky to have hir, no-one would put up with this, you’re pathetic, you just don’t get it, you don’t know how to be a real person. If you try to argue, that’s a prime example of you not getting it and not being able to accept help from someone who knows better and is just trying to help you.
If you do call them on it and get them to concede that they’re being harsh, they’re only doing it because you’re so great and they want you to be a better person. (Because being someone SO means acting like a coach in a cheesy teen movie who employs TOUGH LOVE to make people better than they are.)
Oh, and if zie’s wrong, wallowing about what an awful person zie is so that you downplay it, it wasn’t that big a deal, sure zie calledyou worthless for a year but what you meant was that maybe zie could have phrased it differently. Demanding forgiveness, also.
Also, if hir ‘friendly banter’ jokes consist of riffs on “You’re a fucking idiot, ha ha ha” , or all their stories are about showing someone up by calling them stupid, etc. I get giving your friends a hard time, but if it’s their only joke… Also, as others have said, not being able to be the butt of the joke.
Anecdote about that one! A few months after breaking up with my first and only (yay!) Darth Vader boyfriend, I was texting a friend-of-a-friend with whom fuzziness was developing. I said something making fun of him, and he texted back something which would have been a jokey-annoyed response in person, but came off possibly-genuinely-slightly-annoyed in text. So I went into damage control mode and sent a text being very apologetic and saying I hadn’t meant to cause offense and it was a stupid joke and sorry sorry sorry. And he replied being confused as to how he would possibly have been offended by a silly joke. It sounds really innocuous, but it was a real lightswitch moment. Liking someone means not walking on eggshells around them. Interacting with any rational person means not walking on eggshells around them!
And then we went out for a year and a half and it was very nice and he didn’t think I was stupid or worthless, or ignore me all day when we met up, or tell me how much hotter and more interesting other girls were, and I didn’t cry every couple of days or dread seeing him or feel ashamed when he talked to my friends or family. These are the kind of things only conspicuous by their absence. The fact that it was a good and happy relationship while it lasted was bonus awesome!
Also, if someone thinks your hobby is cool and all, but gives you pointers and critique without knowing anything about it… that could just be them being a kind of rude know-it-all, or they might think you’re stupid and they know better and they don’t need to actually try something to know that they’d be good at it.
Also – if we have African Violets for friends we want to dump, can we have Lava Pits for Vaders we want to dump? Can that be a thing?
This thread has made me think a lot about my very own Darth Vader ex. I was with him from the age of 17 till 25, now I’m 33 and only just coming to realise how dysfunctional that relationship was.
Here are some of the red flags from my experience:
– you stop doing something you previously enjoyed, or continue to do it in secret
– you feel anxious / guilty / walking on eggshells
– you feel terrified at the thought of breaking up with them
– you fantasise about them hitting you (not in a kinky way)
Also, this might just be me but I had a recurring dream in which I was physically fighting someone (sometimes Darth, other times not) but my kicks and punches had no effect on them and they just laughed at me. I used to have this dream really frequently when I was with Darth and I think I’ve only had it once or twice since.
Good luck to anyone dealing with a Darth…
Good list! Bad signs I forgot to mention in the original post! He gave me books to read: Big Bad Love, by Larry Brown and Dry by Augusten Burroughs. BAD SIGNS.
Or anything by Henry Miller. OMFG. If I hadn’t been 20, I might have figured that one out.
I haven’t had the (dis)pleasure of reading Henry Miller, so I went to Wikipedia and stopped halfway through the first paragraph of the bio on him, with a really horrified expression on my face.
I AM DULY WARNED.
Haha ohhhhh Henry Miller. He used to be my guilty sexy self-time author, back when I thought casual misogyny was kind of sexy. Him and of course, the unrealistic adventures of Ayla and Jondalar.
Clan of the Cave Bear SNARF!
I should do an open thread about “sexy reading when you were 15” because we will all laugh our asses off.
Captain Awkward – VC Andrews! Now there are some characters who could have used a good advice column.
I know this LW’s question is long since answered, but for anyone who comes to this thread later, I’d like to add a Darth symptom from my own experience: Makes something into a relationship test. (As in, “Would you like me to pick up a sandwich for you? What kind?” “You pick out the one you think I’ll like best. It can be a test of how well you know me.” NO SHIT HE SAID THAT.)
Also, thirding/fourthing/whatever the advice to pay attention to how your SO talks about their exes!
It took me a long time to get over Darth because what was good in the relationship was very very good, but now I’m so very glad I left him even though at the time I wasn’t sure why I did it.
I know this is an old post but I didn’t see the ones I should of recognized in my now ex except for the not having friends part so here;
you have a hook up and somehow you connect too so there’s a long great conversation with the guy and he remembers everything you said, EVERY THING. He is completely charming and will do anything for you (at first). When this happens try to see if you KNOW anything about him after that conversation, because looking back I can see that he told me almost zero about himself, you know he was so in to me and it felt so good I did not notice this.
He does not have much or any thing to do with his family, says only bad things about them in a “they can’t help it” kind of way.
Doesn’t really have any friends, he has a reason for this; like he’s been through a bad “insert” issue and whatever…don’t buy it.
Talks about how controlling family members are, the ones you won’t meet for a long time because he doesn’t deal with them much.
Starts putting down your friends in mild ways, especially watch out for these kind of things, where he protects you; “every time you talk to her she upsets you” or “he’s a drama queen and he just gets you all riled up” or “X called today, I know your tired and she’s exhausting, you want me to tell her you’re not here when she calls back?”. Using those tactics my ex pushed out all but 2 of my friends. Most of the others he tried to, or successfully seduced, OR he told them total lies about me that I only learned about years later.
doesn’t really want to do anything you like to do, but does it in a very incremental way. One day you realize you have not played foozball or whatever your social games are for a really long time.
Many above comments say to ask how the last relationship ended, I did that with my (now) ex. What he told me was a complete lie but I only found that out later. So I’m too sure how much use it is in red flag world if you have a really bad Darth who lies as easily as he breathes.
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