#505: Star-crossed or just incompatible? + Summer Pledge Drive Begins

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Dear Captain Awkard:

So I’ve been dating this Sagittarian for 8 months. It was going swimmingly and due to his couple of months free waiting to get exam results and find a new job, along with me working for myself and being able to take loads of time off, we were intenso – inseparable for 3 months. Mix up his exotic hotness, ambition, brains, resounding (seeming) lack of baggage, patience, easygoing nature and ability to deal with me. Slather on some pretty great sex, a holiday in Rome, my friends loving him, lots of late night spiritual and philosophical convos and I was fully baked. He’s only 26 and I’m 28 but sure cool.

Then he gets the job he wanted. Head and neck surgeon and pretty full on, but only 8-5 and no weekends. I would have been fine only for 2 things: sex took a massive nose dive and he’s absolutely exhausted all the time.

I’m a Gemini. Fairly well-adjusted but I get bored of the trivialities of 9-5 life, that’s why I’m an entrepreneur. I also adore traveling and love my work, I see life as being about relationships and experiences. I feel as though he’s choosing his career over the rest of his life, including ME.

Now I’m a bitter hag about the sex, having asked if it’s because he’s gay (both honestly and nastily), or just doesn’t fancy me (ditto) or if he has issues about sex (not much experience/possible mother issues or whatever) and he swears it’s none of these things, he’s just tired. He also now thinks I’m a nympho, which is ridiculous.

He can’t seem to sleep earlier than 12 and gets up at 6 so I KNOW he’s tired but he has to take responsibility for that himself, I don’t force him to stay up or eat late! He’s trying different diets, gave up smoking 2 months ago for the first time in 14 years, getting exercise, is going to try yoga, but it’s not working so far.

I feel neglected, betrayed, disappointed. On top of that he’s not very romantic or good at expressing his feelings verbally. Not terrible but not great. We’ve entered a massive power struggle and are constantly bickering, mostly started by me. Throw in the fact that his 6 month contract ends soon and he may have to spend much of his career moving around the country. I am fairly free to go with him but my LIFE is here in London and I’m not the type of person who wants to be traipsing around after a man. I feel really badly towards him and I know that I’m pulling away because I don’t want to compromise myself and/or get hurt. Oh and I don’t like his mother.


Dear Star-Crossed Gemini:

I consulted the stars, and they said that when a person starts an intense new job and makes a bunch of lifestyle changes all at once, it might take a few months to get into a new routine that works. Even with a relatively predictable schedule, working as a surgeon full time is no joke and it is not surprising that he would be physically and mentally exhausted as he tries to climb the learning curve. He’s spent most of the last decade training for this moment. It’s possible that you guys just have mismatched sex drives and would have found that out over the long-term anyway, but even people with very high sex drives are affected by stress and major changes. Whatever is going on, bickering and other “massive” “It’s your career vs. ME” power struggles are not going to make it better. I mean, what is the most sexy sex of all? Making a wild guess, it’s not the “I’m doing this to prove I’m not gay!” sex that you’re browbeaten into by a resentful partner.

Then the sun chimed in that you should stop describing anything as “exotic,” most especially a romantic partner.  One by one the planets nodded their assent.

Then I asked the moon, and it said it is okay for relationships to end when people figure out that they are not compatible and want different things. You are in a place in your life where you  want to travel and seek out new experiences but be based solidly in London, and it sounds like you’ve set up your career to make those priorities work out for you. He is at a place where he needs to dig in and focus on his career, wherever that takes him. It sounds like your work is flexible enough that you could move around with him if you really wanted to, but framing it as “traipsing around after some man” tells me that you are not ready and your heart is not really in this. That is OKAY.

Let me say again: That is OKAY.

There are people who you might click with really, really well on many levels and who check many of your “What I Want In A Partner” boxes…

…who are not a good match for forming a happy life. This is life being a big old unfair Jerkface, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

My worst & most painful breakups haven’t been with assholes who were plain old no good for me. On the contrary, they have been with People Who Were Awesome Except For That One Unfixable Thing.  Deeply unsuitable geography, where neither partner has the money or inclination to move. Incompatibility around housekeeping, food, money, sleep schedule, monogamy, sex. Daily life, nitty-gritty stuff.

Any potential “dealbreaker,” I list is going to be somebody else’s surmountable challenge, because they have figured out how to have a happy life together in spite of whatever it is. I am genuinely glad for them! But they are not me, and they are not you. I have tried, when I loved the person, to dig in harder and find a way not to need the things I needed, and it has never worked. It has just made me spend years being unhappy and getting more invested in a thing that I know does not work for me.

I don’t have a general rubric for telling someone how and when to know something is done vs. worth hanging in for, because my priorities are not everyone’s and I am not the one who has to live with the choices. But I get a real feeling from your letter that you are not communicating with respect or openness, and that what looked good on paper and felt right when you were in vacation mode is making neither of you happy right now. You’re only 8 months in, no marriage, no kids, no joint property, both feeling unsupported and unloved at the end of the day, and entering into cruel fights. I’ve been making (gentle, I hope) fun of the stuff about horoscopes, but including your respective star signs as if they would be meaningful at all to me alongside a description of his attractiveness and job status and the romantic vacation you took is telling –  You are trying too hard to make this all work out on paper because that is the only place that it is still working.

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,

But in ourselves….”

Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141)

How much is it not working? Your letter, especially the email subject line, “Is Any Man Worth The Compromise?”, frames all of this partially as a feminist choice, but there are darker colors here. Being gay is not an insult, but accusing a straight man of being gay to pressure him to fuck you is right out of the Verbal Abuser’s Handbook of Unsavory Sexual Pressuring Tactics. Does that scare you? It should. However this all shakes out, one thing you should look into for yourself is how to fight fair and have constructive conflict with a partner. This relationship is not bringing out the best in you. 

What I most want to tell you (and my younger selves who stayed and stayed and stayed to milk the last drop of “WELL AT LEAST WE TRIED” out of unhappy relationships) is: It doesn’t have to be this hard. Relationships aren’t always easy, troubles and conflicts happen, but the day-in, day-out fighting and worrying and feeling crappy you are doing is not normal and doesn’t have to be what you accept as normal.

Happiness is always a gamble, but I’m betting that a better partner for you will think horoscopes are real, want to have sex all the time, prioritize relationships, and have a similarly flexible and entrepreneurial lifestyle with plenty of time for travel while still being very tied to London. Or, he may not want any of those things, but he will come along at a time in your life when your priorities have changed and you ready for the particular adventure that he offers. I think you should take the gamble that this person or people are out there  vs. trying to bicker your current boyfriend into a different shape. Relationships don’t have to be permanent to be valuable. This one brought you great sex, a trip to Rome, and an education in what you really want. Maybe that was what it was supposed to bring you.

The meteors, the comets, and the silent empty spaces between stars wish you well.

Moderation Note:

Things got shitty and condescending about this in a recent thread, so let me say clearly: Do not mention or refer to this letter writer’s age in any way in your comments. You may not have known what you wanted out of life when you were young. I didn’t. That doesn’t mean no one does.

212 thoughts on “#505: Star-crossed or just incompatible? + Summer Pledge Drive Begins

  1. Wonderful response, Captain!

    LW, your partner is obviously going through a ton of life changes. Only you can determine if you want to be with him while he establishes himself in this chaotic, but exciting, future. I know it is probably difficult to be with him as he goes through these changes, but I urge you to be compassionate towards him. Regardless if you stay with him or not, I suggest looking inward and evaluating your willingness to empathize with others. So far, it sounds like you haven’t truly tried to view this situation from your partner’s perspective and have assumed that the majority of the changes are because of you. I personally think that this is a very selfish mindset. You do not have to be ugly, he does not have to be gay, and 8-5 jobs don’t have to be boring for a relationship to falter sexually and emotionally. Like the captain said, sometimes life unfolds differently for people. If you truly feel like you are not on the same path as your partner anymore, then I highly suggest that you take the Captain’s advice and end this gracefully. Ruminating about why things changed and/or trying manipulative tactics to get things back to the way they were will never actually fix the fact that your situation has changed.

    Be compassionate. Live in the present. Live your life in the best way you know how. Best of luck to you!

    1. “You do not have to be ugly, he does not have to be gay, and 8-5 jobs don’t have to be boring for a relationship to falter sexually and emotionally.”

      Yes, yes, YES. That.

  2. If a regular 8-5 with no weekends counts as focusing on one’s career to the exclusion of all else, I’m not sure any of us have a chance to be seen as multifaceted. That’s only barely more than regular fulltime!

    Anyway, that aside, once you find yourself making pro-con lists regarding a relatively short-term relationship, IMO the right thing to do is end it. The chance it’ll improve is slim–and especially here, where I suspect the trust and respect has been lost, maybe on both sides. I’m not sure I could ever go back to being vulnerable with someone who accused me of lying about my sexual orientation (or someone who thought that was an even remotely reasonable question to bring to the table).

    1. Seconded re the pro/con lists. They’re useful for some decisions, but with regards a short-term relationship (let’s say less than two years), they suggest what the Captain tried to illustrate: If it has to look good on paper, does it look ok in real life? Or are you trying to salvage something (your pride? Your faith in yourself? Some myth you were told about ending relationships, or keeping them going?)

  3. speaking of shitty and condescending….I suppose it is fair to say you place no value on horoscopes and star signs, and feel that those that do* are suitable targets for mockery. You point out that you’re doing it, after the fact, and use it to say that the LW is trying to push together points into a complete whole with regard to the relationship, but it’s glaring and unpleasant when the fact remains valid without the astrology-bashing. She never asked you to believe with her, just pointed out some traits, and referred to their star signs with no particular emphasis, and was just as straight-forward about other details.

    In my opinion, it’s unfortunately distracting, because the rest of the advice is decent, including the point about verbal abuse.

    *FTR, I don’t base any life decisions on where the planets were when I was born, but I know other people feel differently about the impact of things like that.

    1. This is a tricky one, since I think the Captain’s ultimate point was to show LW that she was striving too hard to make the connection between exterior “we were/seem so compatible” and their reality which is “our schedules now collide and I’m unhappy”

      It was also a fun theme to the response, but I can see how you thought it was a little condescending. Ultimately, the advice is what mattered, as well as pointing out the the LW needs to let go of her idea that this relationship “has to work.”

      1. All those points are valid, without resorting to attacking the LW apparent beliefs about astrology. I fully agree about the “has to work” idea, and the reality vs hopeful falsehood, and the revealing verbal abuse tactics that suggest there will be plenty to do post-breakup. I just don’t admire the particular approach for it’s non-fun attack on someone’s personal beliefs that don’t actually play into the relationship situation much at all. I think the LW placed no particular emphasis on the signs, just added them into a fairly honest rundown of things about the two of them.

        1. I get where you’re coming from, but I think that gently going after the star signs was fair game. I know that some people very sincerely believe in astrology, but my experience has been that those beliefs just lead to them forcing everything about themselves/others into the prism of astrological expectations, and thus distorting/ignoring traits that don’t fit and/or acting as though people’s personalities are absolute and fixed because of their sign. Neither of those are helpful things when you’re trying to realistically and honestly assess a relationship.

          LW, for example, seems to be implying that the reason she gets bored easily and doesn’t want a 9-5 life is because she’s a Gemini. Those may well be traits of hers, and they may well be things that will always be true of her personality, but treating them as though they are pre-destined because of star signs means that she’s given herself an out from examining whether she would be happier/healthier if she made some adjustments to her life, or whether it’s worth compromising for her relationship. I don’t know what she imputes to her partner by virtue of the fact that he’s a Sagittarius, but she clearly thinks it relevant since it’s the very first thing she said in describing him. Odds are, she’s either mentioning it because she thinks he should be compatible with her because of his sign, or because she thinks that his sign makes the traits she doesn’t like fixed and imutable. Neither is helpful to figuring out whether they are compatible in real life.

          1. I don’t think it matters why someone has various traits that they acknowledge. I think being aware of one’s traits is the first step to seeing how they affect your decisions and preferences. And that’s good. If it is done against a backdrop of a belief system we as readers don’t share, all that means is we don’t share the backdrop. It shouldn’t mean we make the traits less true on that basis (which isn’t what CA did, and it’s been dealt with so there’s that.) I don’t hear the LW giving herself an out, just being confused and relatively immature about relationships and life and the sometimes drudge of it, and the varied ways relationships can be incompatible over time/situations. It’s learning, and it’s ok.

        2. As someone who knows nothing about star signs, I really wish the LW hadn’t used “Sagittarian” and “Gemini” as shortcuts for … something? Psychological attributes? I don’t know. If I were CA, with my own knowledge of astrology, I would have had a really hard time puzzling out what she meant. I wish people would just say what they meant instead of using slang shortcuts and *that* is why I have a problem with her going all astrological in her letter.

          1. I happen to know a good bit about astrology, believe that it can be illuminating, and would point out that even to a serious astrologer, “I’m an X, he’s a Y” is not very helpful or informative.

      2. Thank you, it was a play on “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” – Julius Caesar. I can make that more clear.

    2. Yeah, it’s time to end this. The three months that things were great was time that he was not working or really doing anything at all, from your telling of it. That’s not representative of how he’s going to be in real life, when he has a demanding job. You’ve now spent five months realizing that you are not compatible when he is working full-time: he has less energy and a lower sex drive than you, he can’t be spontaneous about travel the way you like to be, he may have geographic restrictions on his career that you don’t want to live by, he prioritizes his career over his personal life more than you want him to, etc.

      And it’s fine if your priorities/lifestyle don’t line up. Chock this up to the equivalent of a summer fling that didn’t work out when you tried to keep it going in the day-to-day grind of real life.

      BUT even though this didn’t work out, there are some great lessons here. Don’t exoticize your partners. Never ever nastily suggest that a partner must be gay (or have mother issues) if they have a lower sex drive than you do. And if you want someone who prioritizes you over his career within a few months of beginning to date, I’d suggest that surgeons–who have spent years and years in training for their career, working extremely long hours with a lot of stress, and thus tend to be pretty committed to/passionate about what they do–are probably not the demographic most likely to yield your ideal boyfriend.

    3. Point noted.

      I think star signs are fun (the way tarot and other archetypes are fun to think about in personal storytelling) and funny, like when newspaper horoscopes are hilariously vague or some dude at the bar introduces himself as a Scorpio, like, oh, obviously. Friends with the same birthday as me send each other greetings from the “Aquarius Self and Mutual Admiration Society.”

      I don’t think people who are interested in horoscopes necessarily ridiculous – getting charts done by the pundit is still a thing in some places, right?

      However, in the letter, the letter writer was trying to give me information as a basis for helping her determine her compatibility with her boyfriend, and in this case “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves.”

      So, question…

      I do not want to change the post. I do not want to remove your criticism, it is valid, and I do not want to abuse moderator privileges in deleting criticism of myself. But I also do not want this to devolve into “Are horoscopes real?” discussiontimes. How do we accomplish that?

      1. It might be worth appending a note to the end of the column saying something like, “This letter and its response made reference to the Western Horoscope, partially seriously and partially in fun. Please do not comment on the validity of the horoscope in the comments.”

        That should effectively stop a lengthy discussion of same.

          1. I detect a faint whiff of condescension?

            Okay, yes, people will still try it. But then you can delete them freely. Better?

          2. No condescension, I will vouch. SM is a lady who has moderated A LOT of comments in her day. 🙂

          3. No no! I didn’t mean to be condescending! What I wanted to convey was that there is no force on earth that can stop a raging comment fight. I sincerely wish that a moderator note would lead people to behave, but IME it usually leads to many more comments saying “I know you said not to talk about this, but MY comment is actually important” and so on.

          4. Ahh. The “You are so delightfully optimistic” rang a bit of “Oh, how cute, you think X will work!”

            Which, given that dealing with social media (specifically, with regards to race relations) is part of my job, rang a bit, uh, foul. I am “delightfully” commenting from experience–optimistic, pessimistic, or neutral.

            If that’s not how it’s meant, then, great. In that case, Sweet Machine is so delightfully helpful! Thank you! 🙂

          5. @Sweet Machine

            That makes more sense! You’re correct that no force in the world can stop a nasty comment fight. My perspective from having moderated similar is that saying, “We’re not going to talk about X” is carte blanche to simply delete anything regarding X–in my case,it’s usually relating to race issues–and thus “stop a lengthy discussion” de facto.

          6. The moderator note won’t stop the comment fight, but it does pre-empt the “But freeeeee speeeeeech!” people when they get upset that their comments are deleted.

          7. “What I wanted to convey was that there is no force on earth that can stop a raging comment fight.”

            Right. Cthulhu must be summoned then. Anyone have a spare copy of the Necronomicon?

          8. Sweet Machine, I was just thinking the other day that the friendly commenters at Shapely Prose could be like the Platonic Ideal of a college first year. Enthused, engaged, and totally unable to follow pretty straightforward directions. (This is AnthroK8- I can’t remember my old account pwd…)

      2. An amendment to the moderator note, I would think, acknowledging the problem, including this bit about not wanting to rewrite the post, and saying you will moderate horoscope discussiontimes. We’ve already got one thing off-limits, we can live with another.

      3. From here, I’m all done discussing it, so it won’t devolve from my point-of-view. I don’t care if they are real or not, it was more your approach to start out in a mocking tone (I thought) without immediate literary reference (which actually MIGHT have swayed my opinion) rather than “yay horoscopes for realz”. (Maybe just add the specific reference at the top of your answer? It’s a good quote, and in context is relevent.)

        1. I added the quote further down in the answer. I see how it came across the way it did to you.

          1. the added quote adds a lot of meaning to your points. Thanks for addressing my comments with respect and consideration, which I appreciate regardless of the direction the final decision takes.

          2. Thanks for the reminder that things that don’t make it out of my head and onto the page don’t actually count. 🙂

    4. I really agree. I’m as anti-magic, anti-supernatural, anti-religious belief as it gets, and even I thought the “teasing” in the post really amounted to obnoxiously shitty harping.

      Captain, I get where you were aiming with it, but I don’t think you reached the target, and I think you ended up somewhere ugly and mean by mistake.

    5. It’d be a shame to derail the conversation with astrology arguments.

      I think the Capt. was focusing on how the LW only talks about superficial/generic traits to positively describe her partner (same with the “exotic” comment). All the specifics about him as an individual are problems LW has with the relationship. He’s a dreamboat until Real Life barrels in. He’s got a perfect profile on OKCupid but once you meet him you find out you don’t have much chemistry face to face. That sort of thing.

      Frankly, I’m admiring the Capt. restraint and gentleness — the LW comes off as selfish and immature, admits to verbal abuse, can’t communicate… LW’s real problem is squaring away the Ideal No-Work-Alll-Play version of relationships with the demands of Real Life relationships. (Jobs! Stress! Conflicting interests!) Some playful comments that *might* offend someone who takes astrology seriously are not the issue here.

      1. They sort of ARE an issue, if we generally assume we want to treat others well, but they have been addressed in replies and so…moving on:

        Not everyone is as evolved as everyone else, and learning that there ARE superficial ways to view people is sometimes a bit of a revelation, as is the notion that people’s “default” level of sex drive, work dedication, and general energy levels can be very very much impacted by vacation, end of schooling and other “reality-based” influences. And it’s fairly normal to assume people are who they are, and to be surprised when one learns that they are those people only in a set of circumstances that isn’t all that likely to recur (as has been pointed out, surgeons are busy people, although that schedule listed is surprisingly humane). With no other outside pressures and commitments, their default was similar, but it isn’t once other things are added in. That’s ok. REALLY.

        And right now, specifics about him are likely very problem-focussed because it IS time to end it, and at that point all the rest of the details blur and run together and make a muddy bland colour. It’s GOOD that the LW was honest about her verbal sparring. It’s GOOD that she’s laid things out in a way that seems clear. The next step is just realising that their compatibility isn’t what it seemed, and making an exit before things get ugly(er).

    6. I don’t think “magical thinking and disregard for critical thinking may be contributing to your problems,” even indirectly, is an inherently condescending statement, though I understand why it’s not necessarily a welcome one.

      1. Yeah, I mean… it’s Captain Awkward’s space, and since the LW is asking her for advice, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with her gentle suggestion that viewing personal relationships through an astrological prism might tend to lead to an oversimplied or mechanical view of how those relationships should work. I’m sure there are advice columns that would take the astrological stuff and run with it, but that’s clearly not Captain Awkward’s jam. She didn’t answer the question just so she could go off on a rant about astrology and the people who subscribe to it. I have a hard time seeing what’s so awful about mild implied criticism of that belief system.

    7. Astrology is ultimately a spiritual belief and therefore debates about whether or not it’s “real” can never be resolved. The LW’s understanding of astrology seems painfully simplistic from where I’m standing, though, and the fact that she thrusts it out as a given instead of considering that not everybody sees things the same way in that realm is especially telling about her personality. (Speaking as a Gemini, I can assure you we’re not all like that.)

    8. So I actually have a friend that is a published, professional astrologer. I ran this by her. She says that Gemini-Sagittarius is an intense relationship that, if/when it fails, will fail spectacularly and in angry flames. And also that a Sagittarius requires *respect* from his/her partner above all things.

      I am not commenting on the validity of astrology either way, but if the LW finds that helpful, there it is.

  4. I wanted to say thank you for calling out the sexual coercion described in the letter. Women tend to assume that rape culture memes don’t apply to how we express sexual desire, but we are not immune simply because of our gender. I was older than the LW when I asked a man to explain to me exactly why he wouldn’t sleep with me (so I could poke holes in his logic so he’d have to do so, right? *cringe*). I managed to apologize for it before he could even respond, but holy crap. I am so grateful to my friends who acknowledged how terrible I felt about it but didn’t let me off the hook for doing it.

    1. I’m guilty of this. I have said coercive, denigrating things to get my way, and run roughshod over stated and implied boundaries with my husband. He had to wait 9 years for an apology.

      Reading through this space helped me realize I didn’t get a pass for being rapey because of my gender or my history.

      1. I feel like, when you’ve spent your whole life thinking you’re supposed to be weak and passive, you get completely alienated from your own ability to commit violence and hurt people. It doesn’t mean you lose that ability; it’s just that when you use it, you don’t know that’s what you’re doing. As a feminist, I think that on a cultural scale it’s really important for women to be more aware of our capacity for wrongdoing and learn how to amend our mistakes.

        I also love this community because we’re willing to call out crap when we see it, but there’s also not a giant blame-shame-shun response. (Distinction: I think if someone is doing something bad to you, getting angry and putting as much distance as you can between the two is a totally great response. But I also think that if you are the person who has done something wrong, you do need to find people who can help you learn from it and fix it.) People don’t get to do bad stuff unchallenged here, but there’s still room for us to process times when we didn’t act well and move on from that in productive, healthier ways. Because sure, sometimes the world has people who just enjoy hurting others and don’t care about the consequences; but like I feel has been demonstrated here, a lot of the people doing crappy, abusive things are just trying to feel safe and okay and get their own needs met, and tell themselves that behaving badly to other people is an acceptable way to do that. Having a strong community that helps you find new ways to deal with life’s challenges and accept responsibility for the consequences of your actions is a huge part of healing.

        1. I absolutely agree. I’m not letting anyone (myself included) off the hook for doing crappy things, but crappy behaviour has to come from *somewhere*. And I feel like just saying ‘You did this abusive/crappy/mean thing once, so you are irredeemable’ is really not useful. It doesn’t give people who’ve grown up in a culture that’s indoctrinated them with terrible ways to deal with conflict any other way. It just says ‘you are bad’.

          It seems to me that the whole point of acknowledging problematic things in culture are to change them, not to use them as a way to say some people are bad. There are absolutely people out there who are just jerks who like to hurt people. But there are lots who aren’t. And it’s good for *everyone* to help people be less jerky. Because then there are fewer jerks in the world! And that’s awesome!

          I thought about this some when we had a cheating thread awhile back. Effectively about how much having cheated in the past should mean. I’ve heard people say they will never ever even be friends with a cheater, but that seems impractical to me–like, you find out a good friend cheated on her high school boyfriend and that’s it, no more friend?

          A thread *from* someone being treated crappily shouldn’t be derailed with ‘why they did it/it wasn’t their fault because…/they probably meant…’ But it is good to be able to have threads from letter writers who could use some ‘this is not cool and here’s why’. And not just yelling at them.

        2. Your first paragraph is so true, and the moment I realized that (a few years ago now) was huge. Because I’m ashamed to say that I have been crappy to loved ones without realizing it until months or even years later because it literally did not occur to me that I had the power to hurt them.

        3. “I feel like, when you’ve spent your whole life thinking you’re supposed to be weak and passive, you get completely alienated from your own ability to commit violence and hurt people.”

          This also happens on a cultural level, I think, and is part of why some people (unexamining people) cling to the meme that women can’t abuse men (or whatever other damaging philosophy they hold along those lines). It’s a dangerous mental trap to fall into.

        4. “I feel like, when you’ve spent your whole life thinking you’re supposed to be weak and passive, you get completely alienated from your own ability to commit violence and hurt people.”

          Great insight. It’s all too easy to be careless with other people when you don’t think you’re even capable of hurting them.

      2. It definitely came from a place of having been a victim for most of my life.
        I hit this point where it was very Gone with the Wind “As God as my witness…I will never be hurt again!”
        It has taken me a long time to get out of the victim/abuser dichotomy, so for a while not being a victim meant being abusive. Because kind and thoughtful = weak and self-centered jerk = strong was the playbook I was working from.

        I am making amends.

        The best thing about this space for me is the (well-enforced) rule that everyone is a person here with all the rights and responsibilities that come with personhood. So instead of having to prove your opinion is valid and pass the human test before anyone will listen, everyone gets to have thoughts and opinions as long as they are stated respectfully.
        Trying to take away someone’s personhood with your words is dealt with here. As you both pointed out it’s easy to think of what you say and do as not carrying weight and so not realizing that your words and actions can be hurtful.

        Rape culture, the cycle of abuse, and all of the -isms come from a place where personhood is not an inherent part of being human. Victims/less privileged people get the responsibilities with out the rights. Abusers/more privileged people get the rights without the responsibility.
        No one ever gets to be fully human, and personhood is something that is earned by following the rules of the relationship/system, which change constantly, so it can be taken away at anytime. The threat of which keeps both sides in their place.

        The act of assuming personhood for yourself and everyone around you, is the start of breaking out of those patterns. I’m sure that’s old news for a lot of the people here, but it is a revelation for me. Having a space where people come together and model that is helping me.

  5. SO seconded on the “everyone has their own dealbreaker.” There’s no certain things you have to be compatible in, they just have to feel right to you. For me, it would have been a massive dealbreaker if my husband wasn’t willing to move to my hometown for the period that I’d be giving birth to children (it is super important to me to have family support during the emotional time of pregnancy) – is that something I could have known? Probably not – and it’s really specific. It’s fine to have deal breakers and to figure them out as you go along!

    1. Yep. But discovering some maybe-dealbreakers after having the baby/house/commitment ceremony can lead to some really difficult compromises.

      1. amen. This is why finding out who you are in and of yourself, finding out your own “default” is so important BEFORE you get your life impossibly embroiled with someone else’s. Yes, dating, learning, growing, experimenting…all important facets. But at some point, knowing yourself at the point you are at and understanding what your underlying core values are = critically important. (And they CAN be things that no one else appreciates right now, or that some find trivial.Because THIS part IS about YOU. 🙂 )

  6. LW, I am sympathetic to you. I really am. It’s REALLY REALLY HARD to handle a relationship with someone who has different priorities than you. I mean that. It genuinely is really hard.

    The hardest thing about it is learning that it’s okay for other people to have different priorities. It might mean that they are not meant to be your life partner. It doesn’t mean they’re bad people. It’s okay.

    For example:

    “I get bored of the trivialities of 9-5 life”

    So here’s the first place I stopped short in your letter. I actually find the trivialities of daily life fascinating, and I’m deeply interested in sorting them out and optimizing them. I have no idea if this has anything to do with my sun sign (I’m a Scorpio, if you’re curious), but it’s there. And so I can see from this statement that a) you find daily life trivial, but b) many people, including myself, and possibly including your partner, do not.

    But your phrasing indicates that you find the daily details *inherently* trivial–not just trivial to you, but trivial to everyone. Perhaps it would be useful to see how other people see these things?

    And again:

    “I see life as being about relationships and experiences.”

    Again: while I doubt you would find many people who would disagree that life is about relationships and experiences, your framing indicates that you are not counting professional relationships and work experiences as on par with non-professional and non-work relationships/experiences. But some people do find fulfilling work to be on the same level as non-work relationships/experiences.

    “Now I’m a bitter hag about the sex, having asked if it’s because he’s gay (both honestly and nastily), or just doesn’t fancy me (ditto) or if he has issues about sex (not much experience/possible mother issues or whatever) and he swears it’s none of these things, he’s just tired.”

    Okay, this is where I went “ouch.” If you’re lashing out at someone, making claims about their sexuality “nastily,” claiming that they have “mother issues,” then there’s not much I can say about that that’s kind–because those statements are not kind: they’re a method of deliberately hurting someone, possibly in a sensitive place, because you’re unhappy with them.

    I’d agree completely with this from CA:

    “Your letter, especially the email subject line, “Is Any Man Worth The Compromise?”, frames all of this partially as a feminist choice, but there are darker colors here. Being gay is not an insult, but accusing a straight man of being gay to pressure him to fuck you is right out of the Verbal Abuser’s Handbook of Unsavory Sexual Pressuring Tactics. Does that scare you? It should. However this all shakes out, one thing you should look into for yourself is how to fight fair and have constructive conflict with a partner. This relationship is not bringing out the best in you.”

    What it sounds like to me is that you and your partner have very different expectations from a relationship. That in and of itself is okay–sometimes good people want different things. It doesn’t mean that either of them are bad people. It just means that they want different things.

    But what it sounds like you want is evidence that your partner is a bad person, and you’re trying to get that by accusing them of being gay, of being not attracted to you, of being trivial, of not caring about relationships, etc. And I think that’s unfair.

    It’s absolutely 100% fine to want to find a partner with the same priorities as you. But I think what would be best for both you and your partner would be to stop trying to force them into a particular mold.

    1. Go you, Badger Rose.

      This is not a zero-sum game, of “LW is good, BF is bad” or “BF is good, LW is bad.” Nobody needs to be the bad person here! The relationship not working out is not an omen that the LW is bad. It’s just something that might happen, an experience that can be lived with and moved past.

      If viewing it as staying true to your principles makes it easier, LW, do it. But you can believe really strongly in one thing, and still respect people who believe in others.

    2. I looked askance at the “trivialities of 9-5 life” comment, myself. I know it’s a whole snotty cultural meme that there’s some magic quality to those particular hours that just makes everything inherently stupid, because it’s the basic corporate schedule, but does having a set schedule really lead to an increase in “trivialities,” whatever that means, but which I assume to basically mean “boring stuff”? I mean, you still have to sleep and shit and shower no matter what your job is, right?

      1. Well, it does lead to stuff like, “I can’t go out tonight, I need to be up early tomorrow” or “We can’t travel this weekend, I get off late on Friday” or “I’d love to spend six hours having money sex, except I’ve only got two before I need to be in bed and I really need to pay these bills and eat.” Life is a lot more fun when you can have a flexible schedule and be more spontaneous! It’s just, well, sometimes work is a thing that needs to happen, and surgeons can’t just decide not to operate on someone who’s been waiting months for the procedure because they want to do something more interesting. Or, they shouldn’t.

        1. That’s true for non-9-to-5 jobs too, though; “I need to stop fucking around and actually get the work done or else I will not be able to pay my rent” is true for everyone who’s not independently wealthy. Freelancers have deadlines, and people who work in fancy entertainment industries with weird hours just have different times that they can’t hang out. Flexibility in a schedule has a lot more to do with stuff like “how much money are you making in the hours you do work” and “how important are you within th company” and “how client-facing/deadline-driven/etc is your role” than whether or not its base structure is “forty (plus or minus five) hours per week in an office” or not.

          1. Agreed. Try getting a hold of someone who works in theatre – “We’re in performances so, does 11:30 work for you?”. Or film. “We’re shooting – see you in six weeks.” Or in a bar. “Ugh, thank God it’s Monday.” Or owns their own business. “Hang on, I gotta take this – what? What?! Okay, I’ll be there in ten.” And so on. 9-5 has its downsides, but the idea that it’s inherently less fun is really annoying.

          2. Agreed. I’m a bartender with a pretty flexible schedule (I can pick up or give away shifts on a moment’s notice), but it does compromise my free time in ways my 9-5 friends don’t contend with. For example, the illustrative service industry motto “FWM$ (Fuck weekends, make money)”.

            No one wants to hang out with me on Tuesday nights 😦 even though that’s when all the good food and drinks specials happen.

        2. Life is a lot more fun when you can have a flexible schedule and be more spontaneous!

          I don’t know that even that is universal or widespread enough to be stated without a bunch of qualifiers. I have had a flexible schedule for much of my adult life (because I spent 5 years in undergrad, and 4 years fulltime at the start of my PhD) but most of the memorable fun in my life has been planned well in advance. That’s partly circumstances (for almost all of my student years, my partner worked fulltime, and for the last 5 years or so almost all of my friends have too) and partly my personality. My spontaneous tendencies are towards things like messing around on the ‘net, feminist blogging, and video gaming, which is not time I regret, but also not time I look back on as the most fun I’ve ever had. I can definitely relax spontaneously, but my idea of fun is actually pretty organised.

          I’d be a pretty terrible partner (or primary and/or live-in partner, at least) for someone who really liked unplanned expeditions, last minute social gatherings, meals thrown together out of whatever happens to be in the cupboard, or living out of a suitcase. I’ve done or do all of those things, but I’m not able to easily live that way and I don’t personally find it fun other than in limited doses. If I had to complete the sentence “[My] life is a lot more fun when” it would end differently. Which is all good, and coheres with this thread’s point, I guess. Fun looks different to different people, just as work does.

          1. Oh wow, this is me too! I get so stressed when people invite me to do something RIGHT NOW because for some reason it takes me a lot of effort to accept my immediate plans changing. I like to get fun things planned in advance, then spend some time looking forward to them while getting other things done 🙂

        3. I actually much prefer a set schedule, and find it leads to a lot more fun because I know exactly when my work-time and fun-time are. When I’m at home, I don’t have to think about work. I’m bad at self-structuring my time, so if I were doing something totally self-set like PhD research, I would either spend all my time letting the work suck out my soul, or all my time not doing anything at all. And I find constantly-changing work schedules horrible and draining, so would never sign up for something like contract work unless I absolutely had to.

          1. As an adjunct/freelancer/artist, yes, this is a big thing. I could theoretically ALWAYS be working. Or NOT WORKING. So I have to fight to draw boundaries and make a routine, or else I will always be working or always procrastinating (but thinking about work). Not the LW’s issue, it sounds like, which, good for her!

          2. This is definitely what I’m wrestling with right now with grad school. It took me six years to figure out that this was an actual problem for me (self awareness? What’s that?) It is so nice to know I’m not alone.

          3. Yeah, one of the best things about leaving the academic world in favor of the corporate world is that the corporate world (at least the places I’ve worked at) understands that sometimes, you should have some time off. Completely off. In the academic world, I could always have been doing more: more lesson planning, more writing, more research, more conferences, whatever. In the corporate world, I leave work at X time and am done until I show up the next day at Y time. It’s ever so nice.

        4. ” Life is a lot more fun when you can have a flexible schedule and be more spontaneous!”

          I totally agree with your comment and your previous point, and I think the quoted sentence is an accurate summary of what LW was conveying in her letter.

          And, WOW, but I could not disagree with that sentence more! I am not about “spontaneous.” I am not about “flexible.” I am having the most fun when I have a plan and stick to it. And I’m an Aries, which is theoretically compatible with Gemini, but I can tell you right now that LW and I? Not compatible.

      2. Yeah. I mean, I get that some people find a “day job” and the attendant requirements to be hopelessly dull or whatever. And yes, I would be delighted to be in a financial position where I could cook or write or hike or, I don’t know, blog about Dr. Who most of the day and not worry about the day job.

        But that’s not how it is. Work, and the things that are attendant on work, make up the bulk of *life* for most people, including me. Whether it’s actual work, or work plus the prerequisites of work, or work plus the social interactions that are part of work… being dismissive of it is being dismissive of something that is a requirement for most human beings, much of the time. It’s actually fairly privileged to disdain work and its collieries as a “triviality.”

        I don’t mean this to smack down the LW. I think they really do have a difficult problem to solve. But the implied condescension isn’t helping.

      3. I think it’s also the idea that 9-5 life implies external responsibilities, a job you go to every day with set tasks where you are responsible to one or more bosses for performing those tasks.

        Which in addition to being kind of snotty, ignores the magic in how people have different passions and interests. Some people get crazy fired up about the law, or about doing science in a lab, or about teaching students. The fact that those jobs generally involve working traditional hours and reporting to a boss on the regular doesn’t mean that they’re any less interesting or fun (or more trivial) to people who are well-suited to them than being a freelancer or an entrepreneur.

      4. Having worked a non traditional schedule (in retail and as a waitress) I can say that the 9-5 schedule I have now is AMAZING. Holy crap is it wonderful. Again, LW needs to try to see things from other people’s perspective. While she may be an entrepreneur who can travel, I’m going hazard a guess that very few people in her inner circle have the same schedule. Family, friends, and significant others all have their own lives! Accepting this as a reality and acknowledging that sometimes this brings conflict and compromise does not mean that the other person’s schedule is inherently wrong. In fact, I’d say that learning how to healthily plan, live with, and work with people who have different lifestyles than you is a key part of becoming a successful person.

        1. Oh hell to the yes to this comment!

          I have a 9-5(ish) schedule for the first time in about 5 or 6 years right now. I can plan in advance! The times when I’m free are similar to the times when other people are free! We can go to the beach and the park and the roller disco and the pub and off down the country for road trips ’cause we’re free at the same times! I can sleep at the same time, more or less, every night so I’m not exhausted all the time! I can get to activist & political meetings and volunteer more! I can join Amazing Local Sports Team and make like 90% of trainings!

          9-5: Most. Underrated. Thing.

          1. My thoughts exactly, heh. Being able to work when most people are working, having a set schedule from week to week…it’s definitely something that goes unappreciated.

          2. It’s actually amazing to me how people deride the 9-5 schedule as some kind of time-sucking evil vampire of dullness. That hasn’t been my impression of it, from living with people who have 9-5 schedules. One of my partners has a pretty regular 9-5 schedule, but she is not on call and hardly ever has to take her work home with her, so she has *loads* of free time in all the other hours, so spontaneous hangouts happen pretty regularly with her.

            I normally have a much less regular schedule due to being a college student, and never feel like I have enough time to do the things I want. This summer when I’ve been working 8-4 most days, has been some of the most free time I’ve had in my entire life to do the things I’m pretty passionate about. I think people are so used to the Dilbert-comic-soul-sucking-cubicle-farm trope that they don’t actually realize that lots of 9-5 daily jobs are NOTHING like that. Plenty are, sure, and my father who ostensibly has a 9-5 job is frequently on call and has to work from home a lot and therefore doesn’t have the amount of free time that the above-mentioned partner and I do, but you can’t just generalize all jobs like that under the “trivialities of daily life” and leave it at that.

          3. I have been a night person since I was born, but for maintaining relationships and building a community for yourself 9-5 rules. This is my first 9-5 in 10 years, and I love it!

          4. For real. A friend of mine has a job where he’s not ALLOWED to have overtime, because government contracts blah blah. It is unholy how much time he has to do cool projects with his kids or for himself.

      5. I’m laughing at this, because sorry I have to sleep now is way easier to discuss than “sorry I am roistered on for the next four Saturday nights.

    3. ““I see life as being about relationships and experiences.””

      While I agree with everything Badger Rose said, it’s also worth saying that becoming a head and neck surgeon might be a pretty major “experience”! It would not surprise me if that feels new and exciting for a long time.

      1. Healing people, possibly even saving lives–yeah, that sounds like a pretty amazing and rewarding experience to me!

    4. Yes, all this.

      LW is not a horrible person or anything, but has admitted to some not-cool actions here. Total props for honesty! But if there was every a place for the “it’s not you, it’s me” story, this is it. This relationship is not bringing out the best in LW, and that alone is a good reason to end it.

      1. But like… They kind of didn’t? They didn’t say “I have been abusive/rapey/etc.” they said “Even though I’ve tried all the things I know how to do, I still can’t persuade my lover to prioritize me! Halp!”

        1. But LW is also calling hirself a “bitter hag” and saying that the things they’ve asked their partner are “nasty”. They aren’t going far enough to say “abusive” as CA pointed out their actions have been, but I can definitely see that LW is not much appreciating hirself right now.

        2. Sorry, maybe wasn’t clear: LW was honest about doing not-cool things. The level of self-awareness as to how not-cool they were is unclear to me, but there was no attempt to candy-coat the actions themselves and there is at least some awareness in the self-descriptor of “bitter hag.”

          A lot of people (a LOT of people) would look back on having tried to harp someone into sex by deploying a backhandedly-homophobic accusation of gayness, and tried to gloss over that or wrap it in some kind of explanation about feelings or whatever, to make it sound less horrible. LW didn’t do that, but said outright that the accusation was, at least sometimes, nasty.

          I dunno, I still give props for honesty there.

  7. LW — do you like yourself right now, with this guy? It doesn’t sound like you like how you’re fighting about sex and his attention, how you’re trying to get him to change things and he doesn’t want to and so you nag and feel unloved.

    You can be totally head over heels for a guy and then something happens, and you realise that you’re not who you’re supposed to be. You say things you don’t like yourself for saying, or you’re playing a role you don’t like to be playing, or your gut or your hormones or your stars start twitching about because you’re on the wrong path.

    It’s okay. It’s worth a bit of a fight to see if it can be fixed, by working together, so you get back to yourself — but it’s not worth sticking it out if you have to keep being this other-you. Or some other other-you.

  8. If you spend so much time fighting, you feel neglected, and you are pressuring or making your partner feel guilty about a job opportunity that should be EXCITING… what is it that you hope might be salvaged when the contract ends? That is an honest question, not a sarcastic one. There will likely be another contract, and another, and the same problems as you see them may be permanent. Can you be happy under those conditions? If not, then you’ve answered your own question about compatibility.

    LW, I have been in a similar position to your partner. Schedules take time to adjust; new jobs are exciting, demanding, and exhausting; and being pressured to spend ALL the time together outside of work being romantic to compensate for a new schedule has the opposite effect of what you might want. Again, your partner’s miles may vary, but people make me feel bad about not spending MORE time with them are people with whom I don’t want to spend any time.

  9. I admit I am a little confused about the LW’s values regarding work vs. relationships. At first, when she is talking about somebody *else* putting some lady they’ve known for less than a year over a career path that they’ve worked very hard towards for years, relationships are more important than jobs. But when talking about *herself* rearranging her life at all in order to follow her partner, even though it sounds like she’s created a work situation for herself that’s specifically designed to let her do stuff like that, suddenly it’s pathetic. Additionally, she listed “ambition” as one of the things that was all hot about him in the beginning of the letter, and then complains that he’s not putting her and her temper tantrums ahead of his career. Honestly, the LW sounds like she’s carrying around some pretty self-serving double standards here.

    I hope the surgeon dude is asking himself if any woman is worth the compromise.

    1. This. This right here. LW seemed inherently selfish when considering the relationship. This was never a feminist issue, or about her having to follow a man. This is about two people either learning to live with each other in a relationship or not, plain and simple.

      The verbal abuse was the topper for me. No one should say things like that to their partner. Ever. LW, knock that crap off. All is NOT fair in love and war, and to be nasty to someone you love reveals a lot about the person you are.

      1. I agree. I’m getting a whiff of contempt for her partner off the LW – which is not a value judgment per se. It’s just that when a relationship reaches that point it’s pretty much dead.

  10. Thank you, CA. Especially pointing out the verbal abuse. Everything you said about how a relationship “should” be is 100% spot on. That is how I knew my husband was the one for me. We had/have conflict, but our daily routine is pretty steady with few fights. Maybe some bickering here and there, but nothing we can’t get over in a split second.

    LW, I wish you the best and I really hope you take this advice to heart.

  11. I am only referencing the LW’s age because when I was exactly her age, with a similar age delta to a man who was on paper an ideal match for me, I too was Trying To Make Him Become Who He “Should” Be – as in, what *I* want, what I think is important, what I need, and not who He Is.
    The worst part about it is that I didn’t like his mother because she too did not like who he was, because he wasn’t what she wanted out of a son in terms of work priorities or religious affiliation or whatever. I thought his work and agnosticism were just great! But he was thisclose to being the perfect boyfriend for who I was at the time, so I thought, well, if I just browbeat him a little, he WILL BE! We have so much fun except for the thing that doesn’t work.
    And I was a horrible mean harpy shrew fuckface. I did awful things, said awful things, and he just took it. One time I even interrupted my own tirade to yell at him for not yelling back at me after all the horrible things I was saying.
    Point is, yadda yadda yadda, now we’re friends, I stumbled through a couple more Deeper Dig-Ins and Misplaced Investments and only now, at the tender age of 43, have I worked that shit out. I didn’t have Captain Awkward until a couple of years ago. You found her now! Rejoice!

    Your ideal man, whatever that is, will be what he is and that will be what you want. Yeah you’ll still have to work around the fact that no one is exactly anything – but not deal breaker things. And he will want what you are, you as yourself. And then when it is work, as things occasionally are, the labor actually works and moves you forward.
    I second *everything* CA says above and also give you a big jedi hug because if you feel like as much of the bad guy as I did with my age-28 boyfriend, you need it.

    Be kind to both you and the man you fell in love with and give yourselves the space to find someone who matches BOTH your capacities to give and receive. As the Captain has said, sort of, they don’t give a medal to Person Who Suffered The Most To Try The Hardest.

    1. Yeah but, does it matter you were at the same age? I really don’t get why people have to make these connections. Your story speaks for itself no matter the age.

  12. “Relationships don’t have to be permanent to be valuable” — this is the real crux of things for me. LW, it sounds as though you’ve had the experience of having a relationship work out in its original context and become really challenging (or unmanageable, depending on how you frame it) once that context changes.

    I’ve been on both sides of nasty fate involving impossible changes that render a relationship unworkable (the one who brings change and the one who has the change thrust upon her by her partner’s circumstances):

    The first happened when I moved to follow my career 6-months into a lovely relationship (best decision I’ve made, career-wise). I had a stable happy partnership that couldn’t manage the distance, especially when it became clear that our non-face-to-face communication was not working for either of us and that partner was never moving to my city and I wasn’t moving to his. It was sad and ended, but I still care for said partner and we maintain an amicable acquaintanceship. We ended it before things deteriorated into wounded emotions, name calling, and love existing as more of a memory than a lived experience. I credit our ability to end things with good timing and without name calling to our continued friendly contact.

    The second time, a partner went back to school and all of a sudden had no time for us. It ended poorly, mostly because quality time was promised and reneged a few times. This happened about a month or two in and there wasn’t enough shared history and connection to surmount the obstacles. Plus it got really nasty at the end with neither of us treating one another in a respectful way. I haven’t heard from that partner again and don’t particularly want to.

    Good luck, LW. It sounds as though it is time to move on from your relationship and I hope that you can do it in a way that is kind to yourself and to your partner.

  13. LW! Guess what? Last August, I met a dude and we spent all summer in what can only be described as a sex nest; falling in love with each other over and over in a thousand different ways. We both had the summer off, too, and were together morning and night. We even visited Italy, though we hit up Florence (it was like a dream).

    Then came October and he moved across the country. He lived in a tiny, cramped university dorm that was so hot I could barely breathe and had no wifi. And my car broke down, two months after buying it and I had to buy a new one. Then he got realky drunk and made out with an eighteen year old. Then I crashed my new car and was super-concussed AND had to buy my third car in under three months.

    Even with all of this, and the accompanying stress, irritation, fear and otherwise shittiness, I never verbally abused him. I never attacked his masculinity to pressure him into having sex with me. What you’re doing? It doesn’t end nicely. There is no happy ending for you here. You can jump out of the relationship or you can wait to be pushed.

  14. “This relationship is not bringing out the best in you.”

    Such an important thing to regularly assess and acknowledge in any relationship – romantic, platonic, professional.

  15. One thing that I found very troubling about the LW’s description of the situation was that there wasn’t the slightest acknowledgment that succeeding at becoming a head and neck surgeon is an amazing and awesome professional accomplishment. The most effusive she got about it was “I would have been fine”, as if being a head and neck surgeon is like being a reformed minor felon or something.

    Now maybe I find this troubling because I am a professional myself (and a medical school professor), and because in the people I love, their professional identities provide a huge amount of satisfaction to them and, thus, to me.

    1. Yes! There was something bothering me but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what, but this is definitely it. I just didn’t feel any sense of pride or enjoyment in what her partner was doing (finishing school, his new job, giving up smoking, starting to exercise), just complaints about how it affected her. By the same token, I didn’t feel any concern for him – if my boyfriend was in that situation, I’d be really worried about the fact that he was chronically tired because he wasn’t sleeping enough.

    2. This bothered me too. It took me a second to even register what she wrote because of the tone of the sentence. What does just “being fine” with a partner who’s reached such a major milestone in their career even look like?
      Please, please, please break up with him LW. I don’t know how he treats you, but you certainly don’t seem to respect him very much. You both deserve to be with people that both adore you and you adore in turn. People whose sexuality you don’t question when circumstances change (???!!!!!!).

    3. Holy crap yes, the fact the LW doesn’t seem proud of his accomplishments at all is a huge red flag. When my bf (now husband) completed his engineering degree (after having gone back to school in his 20s to accomplish it) and got his first big engineering job I was super proud of him, and as a result totally willing to roll with the punches of the huge changes it brought to our lives. Becoming a surgeon is an even bigger accomplishment (i.e. a head and neck surgeon recently helped save my life, by removing my cancerous thyroid! That’s an awesome thing to be able to do!), and I can’t help but think that if the LW were really invested in the two of them as a long-term couple, she would be much more excited about her boyfriend’s personal accomplishments than she comes across as being in her letter, which is, frankly, all about her needs and how her bf doesn’t meet them.

      All this is just to say that it’s really clear evidence that the LW is disengaged from the relationship, and thus it’s time for this relationship to end.

    4. I’d be glad to meet him. I’m single.
      (AYMR, Dr. CPP, I’m also “exotic”, so I fully appreciate that accomplishing something professional of that magnitude in an all-white society actually takes a bigger toll on us “exotics”. What an incredibly entitled attitude the LW has. Ugh.)

    5. Yeah, if a dude was that (un)enthused about my professional passion, the best we’d ever get in a relationship is FWB, and one of the Bs would not be talking much.’

      I love my job a whole lot, and I know people in my field struggle to have opportunities to do it. So “I’m fine that you are awesome and do this majorly cool thing that is a calling for you” is not very lady-boner enhancing.

    6. I’m confused about it because no way is he a head and neck surgeon at 26. (Assuming this is London UK not London Ontario or something, but I’d be even more surprised if he’s in Canada!) He’s most likely just started core surgical training, which is the first two years of a seven-year training track, and he’ll have four six-month rotations over the next two years. And it can be a brutally stressful and scary time – you’re learning how to CUT PEOPLE UP and any mistakes can have incredibly serious consequences.

      I get that the LW might be trying to keep things simple, but given everything else it just kind of sounds like part of the pattern of being really uninterested in who her partner is and what he’s doing? You don’t have to know all the details, but, like, understanding something your partner’s job and career path seems like a reasonable expectation. You don’t really get to be in surgery unless you are incredibly committed and focussed on what you’re doing, and if you aren’t someone who loves that quality in your partner, a surgeon is probably not a good mate for you.

  16. I think that you know why this isn’t working out. It isn’t any of the completed reasons you suggest, like that he doesn’t get enough sleep, or is too tied to the 9-5, or is “exotic” (a billion scare quotes for that one), or his dreadful mother, or the fact that his long time ambition to become a surgeon is more important to him than a fairly short and frankly dysfunctional relationship.

    The reason is that (a) now the fun time* is over you are not compatible enough to change gears into anything more long-term and (b) your behaviour has destroyed any trust and all the avenues for respectful communication which could have found solutions for the problems of (a).

    There is no future. “I am really sorry. This relationship is not good for me, and it most certainly good for you. Here is your Fargo DVD, that novelty beer opener you left at Kate’s and your spare toothbrush.”

    * I don’t mean that in a fun time is sinful sort of way. Fun, sexy, laughing the moonlight times are great! And maybe they lead on to great, longer lasting things which involves arguments about socks and visits to garden centres or maybe they don’t and are a fun fling to remember when you are old.

    1. And we don’t even know if the mum is dreadful! We just know that they don’t get on (I admit, I thought that was a tantilising nugget to throw in at the end.)

  17. I have one question for you, LW:
    you are doing the things you are doing right now.
    How’s any of that working out for you?

    My guess is that you would say, “it’s not!”
    So. Something should change, right?
    You’d probably say “my bf! he’s not paying me attention and I feel neglected!”

    But here’s the rub — you can’t change him! You can’t make him change!
    The only person you have control of is you.
    If your bf, for whatever reason, isn’t meeting the needs you have, then perhaps it’s time to get a new bf?
    It seems you’ve told him (nicely and nastily) that he needs to change.
    But he hasn’t. (probably through no fault of his own.)

    It seems it’s time for you to make a change yourself.
    A. Quit abusing this guy. The Captain is right.
    B. Don’t date this guy any more. What he’s doing in his life isn’t working out for you right now. You’re unhappy (clearly), and he’s unhappy too (by the sounds of your letter).

    That’s what it boils down to.
    You’ve tried to change him. You found out you couldn’t.
    So change yourself.

  18. So, LW, a few people have mentioned that if you don’t leave this relationship then there’s a good chance that it will end soon anyway. I agree with this. In my last, long-term relationship I was working three days a week, studying four days a week, living with my partner (which involved being expected to do far more of the housework than I had signed up for), and trying to manage an anxiety disorder without telling anyone that I had one. Oh, and my partner had a work schedule that was hell for me (mainly him getting up at 4am, spending AN HOUR being loud and obnoxious in the bedroom and living room, despite repeated requests to please fucking let me get some goddamn sleep while it’s still dark).

    And then, in the midst of sleepless nights, involuntary early mornings, work stress , study deadlines and panic attacks, my partner started hassling me about why we weren’t having sex more often. He was feeling neglected, and I think that was a valid response to the situation. From his perspective. It was just that, in assuming that his sexual needs were a higher priority than everything else I was dealing with, he was not exactly projecting a supportive environment for me. And then that turned into pressure, and then it started getting emotionally manipulative, and then I moved the hell out. And, big surprise, the relationship didn’t last much longer.

    Looking back, I want to yell at myself for not getting out sooner. But the truth is that ending things take energy. Packing things up and moving somewhere safe takes energy. Asking people to help you move, wow that took a lot of energy. Telling people that I was moving out, and then telling people that the relationship was over. So. Much. Energy. I want to crawl back into bed just thinking about all that. And so, given that I was struggling so much with everyday things, it kinda makes sense that I felt stuck there for so long – I didn’t have the spoons to spare to end things, and kind of had to save them up for a few months after I had moved out.

    If sex is your biggest priority, then that’s fine. I wish it could be mine. I wish I could be having great sex at any moment, and I’m really envious of the start of the relationship that you had. But I think you’re getting a lot of messages that he has different priorities now, and if you want to stay together then you need to be willing to cater to some of his priorities just as you want him to cater to some of yours. And if you’re not willing for there to be some give as well as the take, then consider butting out now. Because if this dude is as busy and exhausted as you say he is, then it could take him a long time to find the energy to break up with you, and until then you’ll both be unhappy.

    1. Hmm. Reading that just made a bunch of things clikc into place for me, and, hmmm…

      Thanks for posting.

  19. This has been mentioned a bit in CAs reply and elsewhere, but I think it needs a signal boost.

    LW – trying to pressure your boyfriend into sex with weird skeevy insults like calling him gay (because homophobia just makes this whole thing even better) or accusing him of mother issues is emotional abuse.

    This is abuse.

    Pressuring people into unwanted sex is wrong, and if you get nothing else from this thread please stop doing it.

    Please stop not because it’s a terrible ineffective tactic to get what you want (although it most definitely is ineffective), but because you are hurting this man who you loved at some point. You are trying to hurt him emotionally in order to get sex. I am currently hoping you guys break up for *his* sake.

    Discovering that someone has what might be incompatible priorities is not license to try to change that person’s priorities. They get to choose their own career and the effort they spend on it, they get to choose their own bed time and decide on their own work/life balance. And they definitely get to choose to say no to sex. You can certainly discuss whether or not this will work for you, or if there’s some compromise to be reached, but trying to force someone into your preferred mold with emotional manipulation is always wrong.

    1. THIS.

      Look. For various reasons (stress, etc) my spouse & I have had some SERIOUS sex issues that involved dry spells like CRAZY. I did tell him that it made me feel unwanted when he never hit on me and we hadn’t had sex in months; that was about my feelings and not about him.

      I did not suggest (nicely or otherwise) that he was gay. Or had mother issues. Or had anything going on but some kind of needs mismatch/communication issue/stress issue between the two of us that I would like us to sort out, because I was unhappy AND ALSO WORRIED that he was ill/stressed out/no longer happy in the relationship.

      There are ways to say “wow, I am super sexually frustrated here, what is going on” without going to insults and abusive statements and homophobia.

    2. Oh man, I came here to basically write this comment. Pressuring someone into sex is not okay, not now, not ever, never never never. There will never be a situation where it is acceptable to manipulate someone into sleeping with you. Letter writer, neither you nor anyone else on this planet is entitled to have access to another person’s body. Telling your boyfriend that he must be gay or have mommy issues because he’s too tired to have sex with you is disgusting. It is abusive, and you’re abusing him when you do it. There is no way around that, and I’m not interested in softening that blow.

      Leave this relationship. Leave it now, for his sake as much as yours. You are clearly not happy, and that is manifesting in a way that is turning you into a very ugly person. And if (when, I hope) you do leave him, don’t make it all about his failures from your point of view. You want some things from him that he can’t give, and that’s not actually entirely his fault. It doesn’t make you a bad person to want the things that you do from a relationship, but it will make you a bad person to try and force them from someone who isn’t able or willing to give them.

  20. LW

    Now, maybe I’m misreading things but it feels like you’ve forgotten that there are two actual, whole, sapient people in this relationship.

    Your BF is a head and neck surgeon? Medical careers require YEARS of sacrifice, extremely hard work, long hours, stress and passion. Your BF worked for a very long time to get where he is, and managed to land what sounds like just about the cushiest and most reasonable work schedule I’ve ever heard of for a medical professional. How do you think it might feel to have spent your whole life working towards a goal. to succeed and take the next exciting step in that goal, only to have the person in your life you hoped would support you emotionally brow-beating you, saying unkind things and acting like your lifelong plan should mean nothing compared to their own preferences?

    Your “exotic” (bloody hell) boyfriend is not an accessory to the wonderful life you want. He;s a person. And he had dreams and a life plan long before he met you, and they aren’t less important than your own. I agree with others above that your behaviour here has probably left this relationship unsalveagable, and it’s pretty clear you and your BF have wildly divergent life goals and priorities. But I would also suggest that before you get into another relationship, you take a look inside and think about the sort of person you want to be.

    1. THANK YOU.

      For frick’s sake, treating the guy like an accessory (which, by those descriptors, he is to you) and throwing a fit when he doesn’t fulfill the obligations you’ve laid out for him to fit YOUR lifestyle? Yeah, I don’t think you’d have to worry about breaking up with him, I know I darn sure wouldn’t put up with you for a minute of that! Maybe try growing up a bit and thinking about potential partners as PEOPLE, not ‘oh, I need this to complete my life-goals ensemble, I think I want it in this color, it’ll match the other pieces so nicely!’ because that is just wrong on so many levels.

      Exotic. Fuck, lady.

      1. Not to quibble but I think a more apt statement would be ‘I need this to complete my ensemble. I think I want it in “Exotic”. It will contrast so nicely with my other pieces.’

        1. Very true. I wouldn’t use exotic to describe ANY person, regardless of where they’re from. I’ve been called exotic because I’m technically half japanese, have Cherokee and Blackfoot ancestry, along with Aztec and Mayan, and a whole mix of other things (the end result? I mostly look like a pale hispanic, which is what I usually get mistaken for) and being described as exotic made me feel like a piece of meat, or a fancy pet someone wanted for bragging rights that would probably die when they couldn’t figure out the proper diet.

          1. “Exotic” is for hardwoods, atoms with unusual subatomic particles, or 4-dimensional manifolds. Not for people. That’s some fucking tokenizing shit right there.

  21. Dealbreaker! Especially because as a surgeon, his hours and stress levels are only going to increase. During training most surgeons work 70-90 hours per week, and as consultants their days usually start with 7:30am rounds and finish at 6-8pm. Then there are meetings, committees, journal clubs, conferences, research projects, teaching commitments, and continuing professional development.

    If he is working 8-5 currently, then this is the best it will ever be. He will only ever work more than this.

    1. That’s pretty much my husband’s hours as a construction site manager when the project is near completion. It’s really hard and if we weren’t both willing to work through, it’d be impossible. Luckily we’ve managed to work it out by changing household responsibilities accordingly, but it’s ok to decide not to want to be compromising and doing that forever.

    2. And don’t forget emergencies. Unless he only works on zombies, vampires, and other mythological creatures, sooner or later one of his patients is going to have an emergency that calls him in at some strange hour or on the weekend. It’s a fact of life in the medical profession.

      “If he is working 8-5 currently, then this is the best it will ever be. He will only ever work more than this.”

      My grandpa (a GP) worked less than that . . . after he officially retired. Then he worked the Friday and Saturday midnight shifts at the ER in the rough part of town. Oh, wait, we don’t disagree at all. 🙂

      1. Hell, my grandpa (OB-GYN) had to flee the city in order to stop working after his retirement. (I’m being facetious here – my grandparents had been planning to move to Florida for a few years – but officially retiring just meant that he moved to a smaller office and only came in a few days a week for lectures and mentoring duties. And I think he’s now volunteering at at a hospital, because why not, that’s clearly what you do when you’re in your high 80s and have well earned the right to sit on the beach and drink margaritas all day.)

      2. …I don’t know that what my Wednesday needed was an urban fantasy plot bunny where working on magical patients was considered this really lucrative medical practice because they’re low-maintenance and high-rewards, so long as you can keep them from biting you.

  22. Here is the thing that I have learned about relationships: when the other person means more to you than anything else, when you will give up what you *think* will make you happy in exchange for what *does* make you happy, then it’s a relationship worth sticking with, no matter how hard.

    Fun fact! I did not know I was demisexual before I married my husband. My sex drive is very low. My husband’s is greatly affected by sex. Often, these two things do not mesh, and I want sex when he doesn’t and vice versa. But that’s okay, because our marriage is more important than sex. For different people, this would be a deal breaker. Thankfully, it was not for us.

    Another fun fact! I discovered I was infertile at about the same time I discovered that I wanted children far more than my husband did. This was heartbreaking and hard and I wanted to scream at him and the universe. I still do not know how this will work out, but I decided that I wanted my husband in my life more than I wanted children. This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to wrestle with in my entire life, I will not lie.

    So, I think the question that you may want to ask yourself, LW, is: does having this person in your life, as your lover and partner or whatever else, mean more to you than having the life that you’ve planned out? It’s okay if the answer is “no,” by the way. Someday, there may be a person who inspires you to turn your entire world upside down, and you won’t even ask if it’s worth it, because it will be without question. Or you will find a person who meshes with you and what you want perfectly. Or you may decide that you want other things in your life. Or you may grow tired of traveling and become a homebody. Or another hundred possible things.

    It is okay if this guy was good for you and with you as long as he didn’t have a demanding job. It is okay if you want different things. But please don’t blame him or yourself for wanting different things, or for stumbling upon a point of incompatibility. It may be that this guy’s sex drive is hugely affected by his stress level, or that he wants to settle down in a 9-5 (not unlikely for certain professions), or that he wants to have a dozen children, when you do not want any of that. But it’s not a defect in either of you. But if it’s not working, and it’s not something you can work with, then let me suggest that you should end things sooner rather than later.

  23. I do commend, you, LW for owning up to the hurtful way you are reacting to the situation. I can tell how angry you are. Like her breakups the Captain refers to, I think we also get the most angry when there’s so much wonderful about a relationship and it seems extra exasperating that a couple of details should make so much of a difference after an unbelievable amazing beginning. Because a love like that should conquer all, right? Oh, those pesky romance myths that have structured our thinking! Reality seems unfair, like you’ve been cheated. So you go too far in trying to control the outcome, which you already know is not going to be good, hence the intense grief anger that has already begun and the intense need to blame.

    Some ways to reframe, which is within your power:

    You’re lucky to have gotten such an experience! What I miss about my 20s is that more of us seemed to be much more willing to live in the now and not put too much stock into perfectly compatible futures before dancing to the beat of infatuation. I’ve met some great men in the last 5 years, but we all know what we want now, we know what our priorities are, and there’s precious little “oh, what the hell” or chance taking. Which may be good overall (especially considering my one WTH… another story), but also kind of sad (okay, sometimes really sad) to not “kiss the joy as it flies.” But, really, in my circles, we’re all pretty much prioritizing our careers these days because a decent job that can keep us in one place for a while is becoming much rarer. I know two men in the last several years who spent a year or more trying to relocate to where a partner was established, but to no avail.

    And now that you have experienced an epic consummated infatuation that didn’t make the transition into long-term love, you know that it’s possible to make an amazing connection with someone, but you also know what you will need for a compatible long-term partnership. Superb information to have! And info. that will help you find compatible partners when you’re ready.

    The most compassionate thing you can do now is apologize to him for your hurtful behavior, own that *your* long-term relationship needs are what they are and not likely to be met in this relationship, and find ways to feel the hurt and anger of the end of an epic story that don’t involve lashing out.

    1. Yeah, LW, boyfriend aside. I am assuming you don’t want to be the kind of person about whom a future girlfriend of your guyfriend would say “yeah… from what I understand she said and did some really fucked up things. It really affects our relationship, and we have to work on the consequences of it together. I feel so badly for him, because no one deserves to hear that from a partner.”

      I don’t know your BF, of course. But a person might reasonably carry the weight of those kinds of comments with them for a long, long time. I can still clear as day remember inadvertently mean things partners have said to me that aren’t on the plane of your comments, many years later.

      We so rarely get flat-out acknowledgements and apologies for things that hurt us in this way, especially not unasked for, most especially before the worst effects come out in our lives. I can’t say, because it’s not me. But your soon-hopefully-to-be-ex BF will have a recovery tool in his kit that could be worth a lot if you say “I am so sorry I said/did those things. It was not okay, and it will never have been okay, and I want you to know I know that.” That kind of apology can be powerful stuff because it’s so rare.

      Do yourself and your *hug* a solid and apologize for the coercion. And then do everyone else in the future a solid and don’t coerce partners any more.

  24. Captain,

    A+ advice, particularly calling LW out on being verbally abusive! That was pretty horrific to read.

    Just a note: I think there needs to be a content note or something about the sexual coercion? I think there are probably people here who have heard “what are you, (sexuality)? Fuck me already” – in so many words – and I imagine it’s pretty traumatic.


    LW: You need to get into therapy for conflict resolution stuff. It would do you a world of good. And for the love of all the celestial bodies, don’t date again (certainly don’t snare some poor unsuspecting dude you can call “exotic”, ugh) until you’ve gotten a better hold of your angry!self.

  25. Oh, I wish I had time to read all the comments today.

    Captain, I am so pleased to be reading this response to LW. Where were you when I was 28, making a lifetime decision to stay in a relationship that had a few significant red flags (but was otherwise perfect, you know)?

    What looked good during vacation time wasn’t really working during ‘real life,’ but by then I imagined I had too much invested in it to walk away. Years later, I’ve recently walked away anyway.

    From my perspective, I wish someone had said to me what you’ve said here to LW.

  26. So, LW, I’m someone who just graduated from a university in London. I’ve spent the last five years in London.

    Being in London as a student of any kind is hard as fuck. It’s ne of the most expensive cities in the world. Rents within zone 2 are driving out people of the city completely. The area I was living in is currently having two hundered years of history slowly genetrified away, leaving rents hard to deal with for locals and students. Support at London universities is okay at best in some cases because of fractured priorities.

    Your boyfriend has just completed his F2, probably in a very stressful environment, because London university teaching schools are incredibly varied, which is awesome(!) but at the same time if you end up somewhere like St Guys or in Homerton, you suddenly come up very very close to how life in a big city like London is not so great for everyone. The fact he has completed an eight year degree followed by a hard placement and you aren’t proud of that: that’s a red flag. He’s also trying to change his perspective on life; I imagine becoming a surgeon of that kind is going to change your views on smoking, welfare and work.

    That brings me to my next point: the majority of London never gets much time off. It’s good you’ve found an area where you can rally against the 8 to 5, but I know I couldn’t, and neither could the majority of my friends, and I’m in engineering, not medicine. Have a look around more. It sounds like you’ve chosen a narrative for yourself about London and your experiences about London which are not entirely realistic.

    Exotic is a bullshit word, stop using it in that context. I usually hear it when referred to partners of different nationalities and races and it is shorthand for ‘I am racist because supposedly my partner should be more exciting due to whatever racist narrative i believe’. Additionally, it is never okay to pressure your partner into sex via homophobia.

  27. Hi all, Star-Crossed Gemini here.

    Thanks so much to the Captain and everyone for their advice and wise words, much appreciated.
    Few things I’d like to clarify. I did NOT refer to myself as a Star-Crossed Gemini!! If you reread what I wrote I did not imply anything from pointing out our starsigns, I simply added them as I’ve never seen anyone mention them on CA and thought it might be a detail that some people would be interested in discussing. I think birth charts can be interesting and often accurate (whether coincidence or not), like I think talking about the possibility of angels is interesting, doesn’t mean I massively subscribe to it or was using it as a kind of get out clause as some of you have said.

    I’m really not getting the exotic issue – exotic means foreign to me, what is the history of racism with that particular word? MOST run of the mill words can be used positively or negatively, I think that was overboard. If I’d said Asian good looks or Mediterranean is that also racist? Why can’t that just be pointing something out like green eyes or Afro hair?
    DAMN are some people overly judgmental and downright nasty considering how little background you have! I know you can only go with what you’re given but surely it’s better to err on the side of caution rather than accusing people of really serious stuff in such a condemning way.
    I see a few people really took personal umbrage about the gay issue and I can understand to a degree. But please remember I have a mere 450 words to get across my salient points. When I wrote the question it was nearly 1000 so I chose to cut out the parts which explained that my last long-term ex turned out to be a crossdresser very into S&M, who I’d always felt was gay or at least bisexual (not because of the crossdressing, from what he said and how he acted) but was homophobic and repressing it. It turned out he’d had some pretty horrific experiences he’d never told anyone and was terrified to explore this side of him (he said this). Just horrendous for him and I stayed too long because I felt so awful for him, bad, bad, bad idea. However the issues between us made me really insecure and I brought these to this relationship, I get that and I know it’s not ok.

    I made it clear from the beginning to current bf that I really enjoy sex as a way to connect with my partner and that it is something I see as one of the pillars of a healthy relationship, to which he always agreed enthusiastically. We have had many, MANY open, respectful discussions about his exhaustion and my growing dissatisfaction with our sex life which always go quite well at the time – ie we would come to an understanding and an action plan. However he would say that I was putting too much emphasis on sex and after he openly rejected my advances a few times I stopped initiating sex. He swore if I didn’t bring it up it would improve drastically, so I said nothing for over 2 months and we did a pitiful monster mash about once a week.
    I never made ultimatums saying bf had to have sex with me or else and the gay thing happened twice – once was an honest discussion because he’s also quite homophobic ( he says he just doesn’t understand it and therefore can’t really accept it, but can socialise with my gay friends without any problems), which rang alarm bells, and has very strange ideas about homosexuality which I think stem from his fairly religious upbringing. I believe that a number of people have bi or gay tendencies that they repress and I’m really open about sexuality so this was never “If you’re not having sex with me you must be gay” – it was an honest sentiment which I said meanly once when rolling over for another night of unconnectedness, partially stemming my from my experiences with my last bf.

    Bf has quite a controlling, difficult mother, his parents are divorced and he mostly blames his mum for this. I’ve met a lot of men with mummy issues so I don’t think it was terrible to ask him about this, I wasn’t being cruel.

    As for the not giving him kudos for his great job – I didn’t think I needed to praise him to everyone here -to some of you I was too effusive in listing his qualities! I think he’s fantastic in so many respects (or I wouldn’t be with him) and I respect his life path… it’s just not compatible with mine which I’ve realised but am clinging to the hope one or both of us could change or adapt enough to make it work. I’ve simply gotten to a point where communicating as honestly as possible hasn’t gotten me anywhere except empty promises and I wish I could understand him better.

    Once again I have never coerced him into sex. I have made some mean comments because I felt neglected and disrespected by him, at that point there would be no way we would have sex – I wouldn’t want to after feeling rejected and it became a circle of him rejecting me and then me rejecting him. Yes I totally agree I tried to be hurtful, I’m upset and angry and “in it” right now – struggling to accept the loss of something that was unrealistic but so damn amazing, I feel like I’m with a different person.

    I told the story from my point of view and didn’t have the space to write about how I get his side of it, I have openly admitted I’ve been nasty towards him and should have made it clearer that I know that’s really wrong of me, but it absolutely wasn’t to the extent many people have said here.

    It seems like some of you just want to bash and be hurtful, rather than be constructive. What’s the point in that? Many of you are right to say that how it came across could be construed as abusive, but surely you realise there are two sides to every story and only 450 words to tell it? There’s nothing wrong with pointing out how things appear but as viciously as some of you have ? That’s just hostile.

    I’ll take on board everything you’ve said, the good, the bad and the ugly. Some serious reflection coming up, thanks again for all your input.

    1. Hello! I’ve got a few thoughts about this, possibly more later.

      I latched onto the horoscope thing because it was the first piece of information you gave about him and yourself. “I’m dating a Sagittarian…” “I’m a Gemini…” It became a perfect metaphor for people who look good on paper but aren’t actually good, which is still what I think you are dealing with here.

      I realize that you are hurting and feel neglected because something in the relationship changed. But the in the letter, it seemed like you were dismissing major changes in your boyfriend’s life as “9 to 5 trivialities.” (emphasis mine) “I feel as though he’s choosing his career over the rest of his life, including ME.” (emphasis yours). You did honestly describe and own up to your own nastiness, but it had a sheen of “You guys, I TRIED, why won’t he LISTEN?” rather than “Holy shit, this person is bringing out a really ugly side of me that I don’t like.”

      You’ve got to trust us on “exotic.” Yes, you are using it to mean “foreign.” Yes, you mean it as a compliment. Yes, it has majorly racist implications, even if you don’t personally think so. Throwing it out there in your letter basically said “Hi, I’m obliviously & casually racist.” When you parse some of the hostility from commenters, do not underestimate how much the use of this word affected people’s perception of you. When we say, stop using it, it’s racist, it is honestly trying to be helpful. You have egg on your face. Your trousers are unzipped. You have spinach in your teeth. Don’t defend “exotic.”

      I am glad to hear that the discussions of him being gay have been fewer than implied in the letter. I hope you can see that the Klaxon Bells around “THIS IS POSSIBLY VERY ABUSIVE BEHAVIOR” are ringing FOR you as much as they are AT you. They are a warning as much as they are a judgment. From your letter, it sounds like this person is not giving you what you need and is also bringing out the worst in you. Whatever happiness you shared when you first met, your present (and likely future) are not making you happy.

    2. LW, please go back and re-read your comment here. You are doing a lot of handwaving when you should probably be thinking very hard about your actions. “There are two sides to every story” – well sure, and sometimes one of those sides is completely in the wrong. People who do truly horrible things do not think ‘ha ha, I am evil’, they have their own “side to their story” that they think counters whatever the other person’s version of events is. I guess that is a long-winded way of saying ‘there are two sides to every story’ does not mean that both of those sides are equally right.

      You are spending a lot of time justifying and downplaying your actions because you feel hurt and criticized. I think it’s great that you are engaging in serious reflection, but it is going to be hard for that to be productive if your lodestone in this whole process is “”I am a great person and couldn’t possibly have done anything THAT bad.

    3. I know it’s immensely difficult not to get defensive when you read 100+ comments criticizing you, but I hope that you do indeed do a lot of reflection having read what the Captain and everyone else has said. Because you just spent a lot of words explaining and defending yourself (a very, very natural impulse, I get it), when the very best thing you could do, having asked for and received a lot of advice, is to just sit quietly with it for a bit and try to really examine some of the things that your knee-jerk reaction is to defend.

      Maybe you’ve only “nastily” (your word, not ours) accused your boyfriend of being gay because he wouldn’t have sex with you once — but the fact that you did it at all, the fact that you’ve said other nasty things about your (completely reasonable!) dissatisfaction with a long period of mistmatched sex drives, means that there are much larger issues as far as how you’re handling that mismatch and whether you’ll be able to productively handle it going forward. Maybe you really are proud of your boyfriend’s job and respect his career and don’t just want him to conform to your ideal lifestyle, but the fact that that sentiment didn’t make the 450-word cut while your respective star signs and dislike for his mother did says something about what you view as the important details here.

      I know you think that most people here jumped to the wrong conclusions and have judged you unfairly, but all we had to go on was what you said and how you described the situation. There are two sides to every story, absolutely, but you were telling your side and you still encountered virtually unanimous concern about how you are handling this relationship and treating your boyfriend. That doesn’t make you a horrible, irredeemable person, but it does mean that some very serious, non-defensive soul searching is in order. And how you handled the criticism of your use of the word “exotic” to describe your boyfriend (something that not a single other person commenting here thought was okay) suggests that you’re going to have to work a little harder at examining at opening your mind to the possibility that you’re not just being unfairly misunderstood and that it may be you, and not the Captain or the commenters here, who needs to re-examine this situation.

    4. Okay, I think I can tackle the homophobia accusations without yelling.

      So the reason people called you homophobic and why I still think you are really embarassingly homophobic is the whole attitude about sex and gay men. Just, you know, all of it. Men who do not have perfectly identical ideas about sex as yours are not defective. Men who do not have perfectly identical ideas about sex as yours are not (necessarily) gay. Implying that they must be defective OR gay and then conflating the two is homophobic. Implying that people who are themselves kind of homophobic must be secretly gay is 1. statistically unlikely, and 2. inherently homophobic!

      Please break up. This relationship is clearly not working for you, and I pity him.

    5. Exotic was a totally unnecessarily modifier to the fact that he is hot. We don’t need to know in what way he is hot, we just need to know that you think he’s hot. That’s all that matters. If there had been some cultural component to the discussion it may POSSIBLY have been relevant to mention his cultural background. But the most generous interpretation here is that you want us to know that he’s hot but in a super special unique way, but that’s pretty superficial. We don’t care what color his eyes/skin/hair are, it changes nothing about your relationship.

      Re: Hurtful bashing. You’re right, all we have to go on is what you said in your letter. But words mean things and the things you said in your letter and this comment are pretty abrasive. I know when you wrote it you didn’t think so, you’re just trying to use words cleverly and be entertaining. But as someone with a “trivial” 9/5 career who only gets to have sex with her boyfriend like once a week, it’s pretty hard to read you talk about my life as if it totally sucks.

      Actual thoughts:
      It seems to me like you went through an awesome honeymoon period with this guy, intense conversations, lots of doing it, vacations awesome good times. And those are awesome experiences that you guys share.

      But now “trivialities” have stepped in, and he has to live a different lifestyle than the all hours party time sexathon honeymoon. That’s a huge adjustment. I think it took me… mmm 4 years or so after college to get to a point where being at work for 40 hours didn’t make me miserable constantly. I felt like I had no time, I was tired all the time and everything sucked. I never wanted to do ANYTHING after work except play video games. Now I do more stuff, but if I don’t have a couple of evenings off a week, shit gets real.

      But my partner makes that better for me, he cooks, he cleans, he is fun to talk to at the end of the day. He makes living my trivial life more awesome. And I do this work so that he and I can have our little house with our animals and order delivery too often and buy too many video games. It’s not a party, but it makes us happy.

      I guess the question you have to ask yourself is do you think you could find a life within this lifestyle that makes you happy?

      I also think you may want to consider some time to work on your own issues around insecurity and needing to be “dealt with” (your words in your letter.) I never feel like my partner is “dealing with me” because I deal with myself first, and I know that I’m awesome. We all have quirks, but you shouldn’t need to feel put up with by the person your are with. So it might be worth talking to a therapist about both your past relationship and why you feel like you need “dealing with.”

      Sex drives not matching, that’s a shitty horrible issue. The hardest part is separating him not finding me attractive, and him just not finding sex attractive. I think he thinks of sex the way some people think of food, it is something you enjoy and that you need to lead a happy life. For me it is a major interest. (The way food also is for some people.)

      I never want him to feel pressured, but sometimes it is hard to get turned down over and over, and it does put a strain on things sometimes. So I totally get it, it is the worst.

      But for me it is worth dealing with, because that is really our only issue. That doesn’t sound like it is the case for you.

      You’re never going to get that “honeymoon” period back. If it isn’t his work it will be some other issue that pops up and keeps things from being mostly about having a good time and enjoying each other. There will be various catastrophes that you will have to navigate together in the course of your lives together if you stay together. Do you think you can do that together? If you think you can build a life that makes you happy when things aren’t fun, then that’s worth considering.

      But I also think it is worth valuing the relationship and experiences you had, and recognizing that when things got more mundane it didn’t work out. There is no shame in that. There are other fish in the sea, and it may just not be the right time for either of you.

    6. You’re not helping your case. Knock off the racism (http://atriptothemorg.tumblr.com/post/21930696060/why-exotic-is-not-a-compliment here’s another link as to how “exotic” feels when someone uses it to describe you). Stop accusing homophobes of being gay (right, because straight people can’t be homophobic? what the fuck?), and quit making excuses. This relationship is done for, and it’s doing nothing for you, and it’s hurting him. And for an unlovely bonus, it’s turning you into someone you feel like shit for being – dissatisfied, verbally abusive and controlling. None of these are good feelings for you. or him. Walk away and you’ll find salvaging your self-esteem and ability to be your relaxed self much easier than a year from now, or a year from then.

    7. Hi LW! Thanks for updating us. I love to hear from the letterwriter and getting a better picture of things. I know it’s difficult to put things exactly how you want in a short letter. I’m sorry to hear about your previous relationship. In hindsight it would probably have been better to wait a bit before getting into a new relationship, but hey, live and learn. It sounds like you have a good grip on that now and I wish you all the best in the future.

      It sounded like you were using your star sign as a way to justify abusing your partner. Being a Gemini is as much an excuse to verbally abuse someone as being tired or frustrated. It kind of sounded like ”I’m this, he’s that, therefore this happened”. Like you didn’t have any free will. But I think you know that we all have the freedom to make our own choices. And the thing is, even if you don’t mean to hurt and abuse someone you still could. Your intent doesn’t magically take care of that. IDK why you’d think your ex was gay from how he acted: that’s just homophobic. How does gay people act? Don’t answer that. I think you have a lot to gain from getting a broader perspective on things. Please trust people here when they tell you that ”exotic” is racist. Even if you don’t mean it that way: again, intent doesn’t fix everything and just because you think you’re right doesn’t mean you are. I know it sucks getting critized, but we’re trying to help.

    8. Hi LW. I also thought that some of the comments were a bit cruel, but I hope you can take the (well-meaning) messages behind them.

      You sound deeply unhappy to me. This relationship is bringing out some bad sides of you, and you don’t like being made to feel like that. You say that you are a “bitter hag” about sex, and that you have started many “bickering” arguments, and that you feel “neglected, betrayed, disappointed”.

      I am sure you are a great, fun-loving, enthusiastic, and spontaneous person. Knowing that, none of these behaviors sound like you. They sound like you are unhappy, and that you are lashing out (not all the time, but some of the time). Take your behaviors as a sign of your feelings, and notice that you are unhappy.

      As the Captain says, it is OKAY to feel like this.

      Your boyfriend sounds like he has a lot on his plate right now and literally does not have the energy to connect with you. It might be that his feelings have changed about you, or it might be that he’s just tired. They might be interconnected. Who knows?

      Anyway, I am sure you want to be supportive, and you know that it is difficult to be supportive when you yourself need some support.

      My advice, if you’d like to hear it, would be to find your own support outside of your boyfriend. It sounds like you both need the space. Go out with your girlfriends a bunch, date other people, get a new hobby–I don’t know really know what woudl work best for you. But the easiest way to take pressure off your guy is to be independent of him for a while. He will either get his feet under him and have more energy for you, or he will figure out that this is not working for him. In the meantime, you will be able to figure out if it is working for you. I think you would then be in a better position when his contract ends to know whether (or how) you want to tie your life to his sort of life.

    9. So, one time, when I was a preschool teacher in my early 20’s, I commented to a child’s mother that he had such lovely “kinky” hair.
      “Kinky?!”, she said. “What do you mean by ‘kinky’?”
      “You know”, I replied, “Like tightly curled.”

      Now I have curly hair, but it’s white-girl hair. It’s fine and fluffy and frizzy. But I felt like it gave me some sort of special kinship with PoC hair – and specifically, black women’s hair.

      Mom let me know in no uncertain terms that “kinky” was rude, racist, and insulting. She did not pull her punches and she was not nice. She said she might call my hair “stringy” and I certainly would not find that complimentary.

      I apologized profusely, spent the day in an agony of embarrassment and horror, and have never described anyone’s hair that way ever again. Now I realize you cannot tell what anyone might look like over the internet, but if many many people tell you “this thing is racist”, they may actually have a really good reason for it. You may actually be affecting them personally. You might find their words hurtful – maybe as hurtful as they found yours.

      1. Something similar happened to my aunt, who, at parent-teacher conferences, told some parents that their children were very “bright.”

        She got pulled in by the principal the next day, because, yeah, just didn’t know that the word, in application to a person, meant something other than “intelligent.”

        Using the wrong words without meaning to happens, and the best anyone can ever do is apologize and make a note of when not to use certain words.

        1. I also can’t think of another meaning (except the short-lived and rather silly effort in the skeptical/atheist community to use it to refer to ourselves, but that never got anywhere afaik)

    10. I appreciate that you didn’t want sex any more at the time when you nastily suggested your boyfriend might be gay, but I would like to submit that it is still a form of sexual abuse rather than verbal unpleasantness. Because although you don’t want it to have the immediate result of sex-right-then, and it didn’t, it still has a negative impact on the events surrounding sex-later. Next time you initiate potential sexy-times and he accepts, or even next time he initiates it, the thought “if I don’t do this, Gemini is going to accuse me of being gay again” is going to be there. I will not make intimations as to whether that was your (even subconsciously) intentional goal, or if it was only (for a given definition of only) a homophobic attack, but regardless the consequence of it would remain the same.

    11. I knew going in that the responses to your letter would probably hurt you a lot and make you angry. I don’t know any way to keep that from happening, because this whole situation sounds hurtful and infuriating for you. I’m sorry that it seems things came across on both sides in pretty bad ways.

      The sucky thing here is, being turned down, pushed out, or left alone can be a really awful experience and nothing can help that. It can be this really deep, visceral fear you don’t really notice on the surface, but you just know that when people aren’t connecting with you the way you want, you start to hear the music from Jaws and any moment a shark is going to tear you apart and you’ll do anything to stop it. Or, that’s how it can feel. It’s part of why breakups can bring out the worst in people.

      Then you came to a community for support, and the community said, “No, that’s not okay.” Cue the shark music again! So of course you want to defend yourself from being piled on, especially if it’s unfair.

      Going forward from here, the thing to remember is: It’s actually going to be okay. You can let this relationship go and look for another one, or take what the people here have said that’s useful and leave the rest, and it’s still okay. Try to remember all the other things in your life, especially the relationships and experiences you still have, and might have again in the future. Nothing can make the sting go away, but these things can ease the ache a little.

    12. “I never made ultimatums saying bf had to have sex with me or else and the gay thing happened twice – once was an honest discussion because he’s also quite homophobic ( he says he just doesn’t understand it and therefore can’t really accept it, but can socialise with my gay friends without any problems), which rang alarm bells, and has very strange ideas about homosexuality which I think stem from his fairly religious upbringing. I believe that a number of people have bi or gay tendencies that they repress and I’m really open about sexuality so this was never “If you’re not having sex with me you must be gay” – it was an honest sentiment which I said meanly once when rolling over for another night of unconnectedness, partially stemming my from my experiences with my last bf.”

      I think this actually makes things worse. There’s pressure on men in current Western societies to have a lot of sex and to always be up for sex, but I think this pressure is felt especially acutely by straight men of more conservative upbringings, in which Men Are Men. And gender and sexuality are both tied into one another–part of being a Real Man is to have a lot of sex with women, and part of being gay means to not be a Real Man, etc.

      I’m not defending any of that, mind you–I’m a feminine-leaning queer atheist man, myself, and I think all of the Real Man stuff needs to get chucked right out the window. But this pressure is real and, even if you don’t mean to do so, your tying his current sex drive to sexual orientation is probably hitting him in all of his deepest and most vulnerable insecurities. That’s something that would probably be good to keep in mind.

      Also, as someone who is a sexual assault survivor and who has spoken and worked with a number of other male sexual assault survivors, I’d like to add that “if you were a REAL man, you’d sleep with me” (or its variation, “you’re a MAN–of COURSE you want to have sex right now”) is something that is depressingly common in the stories I’ve heard. If you decide to try to work on things further with your boyfriend, I’d suggest apologizing specifically for the questions regarding his sexuality in a way that was meant as an attack and assuring him that you don’t want him to ever agree to sex with you unless he genuinely wants to have sex with him.

      Whatever you decide to do, best of luck.

      1. “even if you don’t mean to do so, your tying his current sex drive to sexual orientation is probably hitting him in all of his deepest and most vulnerable insecurities.”

        I think this is the best explanation of why this is so hurtful out of all the comments here. And I agree, a sincere apology for those statements from the LW is the best possible thing, regardless of whether she continues this relationship or not.

        I’ve been in the position of being the partner with a lower sex drive before (where it once was equal). Being criticized for that, getting constant demands to explain “why” I didn’t want sex (how could I possibly know?), and having my low sex drive equated with not loving him anymore (definitely not true) did SIGNIFICANT damage to my self esteem and nearly killed my sex drive entirely. While I can see how making nasty comments about the lack of sex is really really tempting when you feel rejected and frustrated, it may well cause damage to your relationship that will kill his desire forever.

    13. Most of my thoughts have been covered by other people re: his exoticism (also, you live in London, he can’t be that exotic) and the sexual coercion (it doesn’t have to be intentional to be abuse).

      I did want to talk about what you say about your previous long term boyfriend. It sounds like it was a very confusing and harmful time and since we aren’t shy about suggesting therapy around here I do think it’s something it might help to talk to someone about. You mention that you know it’s not okay to have brought that baggage to this relationship but some of your justifications suggest you don’t really get in what way it’s not okay.

      Your current boyfriend could also be into crossdressing and S&M, could sound and act very similarly to your ex and still not be gay. It’s not okay to bring it up in any way. The only possible way to talk to him about it that isn’t completely homophobic is “Hey, I feel insecure about this because of past experiences, I’m working on it with a professional, I would appreciate occasional reassurances that you find me sexually attractive.” Bully for you that you are open about sexuality but apart from in a very specific ‘they are attracted to me and are behaving within the boundaries we have negotiated for our relationship’ your partner’s sexuality is not your concern.

      1. >>(also, you live in London, he can’t be that exotic)

        I am confused by this statement – what do you mean?

          1. That’s exactly what I meant. She doesn’t live in a tiny village in Yorkshire where everyone is white so unless she walks around with blinkers on or he’s green or something he can’t look that different from a lot of people who live in London.

          2. Which is also worth noting that “foreign” isn’t a LESS racist interpretation of “exotic”.

            I mean, exotic as a descriptor is a no-go regardless of where the individual you’re describing is from, but let’s face it. People will call a person of colour whose GREAT GRANDPARENTS were born here “exotic”, but generally not the white-as-milk Swedish dude here on a short holiday.

            Because associating people of colour with being foreign-and-therefore-exotic? Not exactly NOT racist.

          3. Not to invalidate your point Bunny, because you definitely do have a valid point, but I just figured I’d mention that there is also exotification of Swedes or Nordic people, as in “oooh, they’re so tall and blond and beautiful” and sometimes there are references to vikings.

            /Short, brown-haired Swede

    14. Actually, yes, it would probably be racist if you said, “Asian good looks.” Much the same as “exotic,” it’s dehumanizing. These are expressions of admiration, but they make the person sound like a specimen, instead of a human being.

      Much like how I feel when a stranger tries to speak to me in my language, based on my assumed ethnicity, as if I’m supposed to be impressed and thus eager to talk to him.

    15. I’m going to nth CA’s advice re: “exotic” here–stop defending it. As an Asian-American lady I find it othering and dehumanizing, despite anyone’s good intentions, because it reduces me to my race and culture, and I am so much more than that.

      As Spc. Agent Bluejay also said, “Asian good looks” isn’t much better either.

      1. I don’t even know why I said “Asian good looks” was “probably” racist. It totally is. I think I was trying to be nice.

        1. Yeah, after having been fetishized in college my Asian ethnicity? I totally agree. (I’ve seen this, worryingly, in some book reviews where the reviewers go, ‘and oooh, love interest is Asian!’ and you just KNOW they’re meaning it as ‘how ~exotic~!’ It sets my teeth on edge.)

        2. Yeah, it’s…it’s racist. I think I can safely say that, having been fetishized because of my race in college and seeing book reviewers squeeing about love interests because ‘he’s Asian and exotic!’ Bleargh.

  28. If you can’t bring yourself to work constructively on an issue with partner – by voicing your own needs respectfully, and understanding his needs, then working towards a solution – then you’re not meant to be with that person. If you resort to pressure tactics, threats etc. – you’re not meant to be with that person. If you feel that staying with him would be a big compromise – you’re not meant to be with that person. Because you’re not really happy with that person, and they’re probably not really happy with you either.

    1. I feel bad saying this, because LW has written back, but that That Bad Advice *nails it.*

      LW, did you read that? Are you able to step back from the situation and see how you’re portraying yourself via your writing? (This isn’t necessarily *who you are,* but it definitely IS how *you are portraying yourself.*)

    2. Much as I love That Bad Advice, I think it’s unkind to link this here, pretty much encouraging the OP to go and see herself being mocked.

  29. Captain! I had a dream once where I gave you money, but I didn’t have money to spare yet. But I will (er, in a few weeks), so I’ll send you an Amazon gift card then 🙂

    LW, I feel like you are going to take Captain’s (correct) assessment hard, but I do think this is an opportunity to see how you can improve yourself. Feel guilty, apologize, and move on from this guy.

    1. I do not want ANYONE to give it is is at all difficult for them. No obligation, please!

      1. Oh, no, that’s not it at all! I’m actually very excited to be able to donate in this time in my life — your advice has really helped me in the past few years. It’ll just be a couple weeks because I have a very specific spending budget per month.

  30. “I have tried, when I loved the person, to dig in harder and find a way not to need the things I needed, and it has never worked. It has just made me spend years being unhappy and getting more invested in a thing that I know does not work for me.”

    Ugh, yes. My relationship of 8 years just ended this last weekend, and it was pretty much built on We’re Both Awesome Except For That One Unfixable Thing (per person). LW, if I could do it over again, I’d rather be writing you a comment about how my college boyfriend and I were fine but not great, broke up after college, had sucky times, and are friends now.

    Trying to force a square relationship into a round life hole was not a good idea and I don’t recommend it.

      1. Aw, thanks. I’m up and down, like ya do. I think it will all get easier when we’re no longer awkwardly sharing a 1 bedroom apartment. And I do need Jedi hugs, so I will totally take them.

        1. Ugh on still living together- I’ve been there, done that, and it was terrible. Good luck getting a new living situation soon!

        2. It gets a million times easier. I’m 8 months out from my breakup and we’re still living together, but in a new place with separate bedrooms. It can be weird occasionally, what with the living together, but it’s SO much better. Good luck and lots of hugs.

          1. Thanks. We are definitely not going to keep living together – we actually just had a session with our couples counselor where we figured out how to do that – but it is always good to hear about people maintaining a friendship after a breakup!

  31. LW, I know it sucks to feel like things that should work don’t work. But your letter really does read like you’re a person who will be much happier with someone else, or by herself.

    It’s okay to have wants/needs that don’t conform to the way the world typically works. An 8-5 schedule is a dream schedule for a lot of people (teachers, lawyers, many small business owners). Lots of folks at your place in life will have sucky schedules as they work their way along in seniority in their jobs. Same is true of having to go where jobs are, especially in competitive fields, or competitive markets.

    If being with a person with that schedule is going to be hard, that’s okay. But it also means you will have to be firm with yourself about acknowledging that a non-standard flexibility about locale and timing will be important for you, for a while at least.

    This might limit your pool of potential partners, but the pool will be made up of much more appropriate candidates anyway.

    One thing about the haranguing your partner for sex thing. Imagine if someone denigrated your pubic hair choices, or said you were a hysterical slut for wanting more sex than they wanted, or said if you would just lose/gain weight you would be so much more sexy…. … … … … … okay. How fast was your ladyboner killed?

    Aside from the coercive nature of the are you gay tactic, which is reason enough to never do that, since when did making someone feel bad about themselves (outside of specific negotiated spaces) ever do good things for a sex life? I would be substantially less interesting in sexing you if you said something like that to me. And I would feel crappy for a long time after as well.

  32. I think this kind of early relationship wishful thinking can be a “thrift store shoes” problem.

    It’s like when you find a pair of perfect shoes (!) in your size (!!) for only $5 (!!!) at the thrift store. Before you try them on, you’re already so invested in the idea of the perfect thrift store shoes that you just WILL them to fit you and you are not in a good position to judge whether they actually do fit or not. And maybe it turns out that they do fit perfectly. Or maybe that slight pinch will get worse and worse until you finally have to admit the shoes don’t actually fit. And then maybe they sit in the closet for years, taunting you with the dream of what could have been (or maybe that’s just me).

    1. Yes, Commander Logic calls this the Theory of Wrong Pants. They’re good pants for somebody! And your ass is perfectly good for some pants! Just, not the Wrong Pants.

      1. Sadly, the wrong pants can’t be transformed into the right pants through sheer force of will.

    2. I totally have *that* pair of shoes! I bought them from a street stand in Warsaw and they’re so very pretty, but they chafe something wicked.

      LW, I know that there has been a lot of criticism aimed at you. And it’s hard to take, I know. But even if not all of it rings true, in the long run it’s definitely worth the time to contemplate whether you could learn something from the things that the Captain and the commenters have pointed out.

      1. I just learned today that shoes can be stretched if you take them to a shoe maker and leave them overnight, usually for something like $12. I do not recommend trying this with relationships, though.

        1. Only if they’re made of the right materials, and you don’t need them to stretch too far. Which could be made into an elaborate metaphor, but its basis would still be: make sure the shoes are appropriate for their intended recipient and use.

      2. Oh, boy, do I know that one. And already you’re telling yourself a story about those perfect and unique shoes you spotted on a street stand in Warsaw, and how people will say, “Amazing shoes! Where did you get them?” and you will look knowing and say, “Oh, I just picked them up on this little stall in Warsaw,”, and they will look suitably awed, and they will be a forever memory of Warsaw, and also of How Cool You Are. You bought shoes from a street stand in Warsaw!

        Ahem. All this to say that I think this is a pretty apt metaphor for how the LW is thinking about this relationship. Also, I am especially prone to this thinking at vintage fairs. (Damn you, cute red leather ’80s heels that my feet technically sort of fit into.)

        1. And damn you, little cork sandals with the cute little metallic straps with stones laid at the toes. I would love you if you didn’t make my feet bleed when I walked….

          Street market in Athens, three years ago and I STILL have them…..

  33. LW, I know this is hard and I am sorry that you are going through a shitty phase of life. I wanted to address the sex stuff that you brought up in your original letter and reply.

    I agree with another commenter here that we (as people in generally patriarchal western cultures) do not have a good framework for talking about sexuality (male or female). For a long time, women’s sexuality was thought of as passive, but lo and behold, feminists have been working for quite a while to allow us to openly admit (even if it is only safe to do so in certain environments) that yes, we like sex and I would like me some more, thanks! Despite this, not everyone has gotten on the bandwagon – so that labels like slut for women who don’t fit in to this nice passive little narrative are thrown out as one of the worst things to be labelled.

    In contrast, men’s sexuality is defined as aggressive and sometimes in some narratives, it is such an intense desire that it almost seems to be defined as an uncontrollable urge. Not up for it all the time, – must be defective – must have issues. See where I am going with this? Shitty, shitty, shitty way to define sexuality.

    So, look I get that we generally aren’t equipped with the greatest cultural narratives to understand and talk about male sexuality. I guess the point of this is, just as narratives about women’s sexuality being passive hurts, so to does the narrative of aggressive male sexuality. Your statements, to my reading, buy in to this narrative quite strongly and are very hurtful to your partner, and obviously to yourself. If I am totally off the mark, my apologies.

    On sexytimes and enthusiastic consent. (mild TW)
    LW – I have been in your partner’s place, where bucketloads of work and stress had effectively nullified my sex-drive. My bf at the time was down with this at all. He would cajole, berate, complain, mope, throw adult tantrums and emotionally manipulate me to the point where I would do it just to shut him up.
    LW, it got to the point where I was unable to become excited, physically, I eventually thought I had a defect (I was young and silly and thought that maybe there was something wrong with me, rather than the situation). Even when I thought I really wanted to, my body would no longer respond to this activity, with this person.

    I guess I am sharing this in the hope that you read it and can perhaps empathise with how shitty it feels to be coerced (I’m not sure if that is the right word – manipulated?) in this area of our lives.

    Sex should not be a battleground, it should be joyful and something that both people are totally, enthusiastically, willing to engage in. There is some great stuff around on enthusiastic consent. My favourite writing on the subject is from Cliff at The Pervocracy. However, Cliff’s blog also deals with BDSM, so I am not sure that this will be a safe place for you at the moment? The Captain has a link in her blog role.

  34. Big life stress—money problems, health issues, death in the family, etc.—will put pressure on ANY relationship. It’s difficult to know how hard you should work before you’re working too hard for it to be worth it anymore.

    The thing that strikes me about your situation is that this isn’t a temporary hardship that you need to ride out. The part where you got to be on vacation all the time was the exception. What you’ve got now is the rule.

    I wish you luck. It just seems unlikely that things are going to revert back to the way things were under ideal conditions.

  35. I’m unsure if the commenters here think I was expecting you to respond with “Yeah he sounds like a completely uncaring douche who’s obsessed with his career when he should be fucking you, totally get rid of that asshole!”. I wasn’t.

    I was far too flippant in how I worded my letter, I was particularly upset and it really didn’t reflect my feelings well, but I have to put my hands up there.

    However as I said before the cruelty of some people’s replies such as Comradde PhysioProffe, Macavitykitsune and Ali makes me wonder what you were possibly trying to do other than be hateful. I came to CA to take a better look at myself, so I’m gulping through the responses and taking it all in, but it’s been made so much harder seeing how horrible quite a few people are willing to be. I can imagine a lot of people have been driven away from CA by this and it’s just unnecessary. It seems very unlikely that the most offensive of you are only like this in situations like this.

    Anyhow, I don’t want this to be seen as handwaving my own faults, what I can do at this point is read what’s here, reflect for a looong time and sort my shit out.

    1. I can’t imagine how hard some of this must have been to read, but the thing is, is that to a lot of us, what YOU wrote was hateful and terrible and cruel. Sometimes it’s hard to remain kind and objective when people are insulting you, triggering you, or dehumanizing you. Please take good care of yourself around this, and don’t keep reading if it is harming you. At some point, I hope you can take responsibility for your words and actions, both in the original letter and in your follow-up.

      1. Anyhow, I don’t want this to be seen as handwaving my own faults, what I can do at this point is read what’s here, reflect for a looong time and sort my shit out.

        Cosigned, Ethyl. I am pleased to read this, LW – your first response was a lot of buckling down and while it’s understandable, people had a reason for responding how they did. You don’t have to take on board the comments you feel too painfully, but I hope you can see the problems both in how you’ve treated your partner and the underlying racism and homophobia in what you described.

        Good luck with whatever you do – you’re certainly entitled to any dealbreaker at all, just not to abuse someone you care about over it.

    2. Girl, you done goofed. You said gross stuff that upset a lot of people. I hate to be so harsh, but… the fact people ain’t super nice and calm about that? Suck it up, yo. You are munching on foot salad because of something you said, and no amount of accusing people of being too harsh or mean to you is gonna make the thing you said any less gross and hurtful. You reap what you sow.

      Go look up the term “micro-aggressions” and get some learnin’ done.

      1. All of the thanks to you, Emmych. All of the thanks.

        LW’s initial comment here was bad enough, but this second one had my blood boiling. Because how dare we react unpleasantly to racism and homophobia indeed.

    3. If reacting honestly to racism and homophobia actually drove people away from here, CA would be sitting in an empty forum watching the internet tumbleweed. Just saying.

      Without going round that loop again, I honestly have to ask – what were you expecting?

    4. The thing those comments did was show that if you use racist or homophobic language here, people are going to get mad at you and it will probably be unpleasant.

      That is the point. If you want a place where people don’t call you out for those things, Captain Awkward isn’t it. As well as helping you with advice, the commenters are also working to protect the community and its norms.

    5. People aren’t being horrible to you. People informing you that you are a homophobic, racist, privileged person who needs to change if you want to have any healthy relationships with people who aren’t exactly like you is not anywhere close to people being horrible to you. Trying to frame it as people being horrible to you just shows how self-centered and faulted you are. Change. Grow up. Deal. You have emotionally abused and burned your relationship with your boyfriend to the ground. If you want to have any chance of salvaging your relationship or building a new one that will last in the future, you need to do those three things.

  36. …see, now I wanted to say something sage-like and kind, but then the LW turned out to be a homophobic, probably racist butthead that I am in no way able to feel any sliver of sympathy for.


    I'mma go grumble angrily over here now.

  37. Yeah, whew, if I dated someone who tried to insult and manipulate me by insinuating my sexual orientation was not heterosexual, I would have jumped off that train in a heartbeat. LW, you should try and figure out why your response to someone you supposedly care about not doing what you want is to start being a homophobic jerk to them. That might help you with future relationships, once you officially put this one out of it’s misery.

    Also, I enjoyed the astrological response, for what it’s worth.

  38. I am absolutely mind boggled by how LW had three months of great sex and THEN started asking her boyfriend if he was gay/had mommy issues/impotent/lack of experience. Is three months of good sex not enough to prove otherwise? Thinking about it, I see two possibilities. 1. LW asked these questions as a way to passive aggressively bring up the lack of sex in a way that entirely blamed it on her partner as something that can’t be helped/something innately wrong with him. It may also include finding reasons other than the actual problem to blame even if they don’t make sense. 2. LW genuinely believed her boyfriend became gay within that time frame/developed mommy issues/developed functionality problems/misplaced his sex experience points somewhere. This could include LW thinking these traits just weren’t present in boyfriend’s personality/behavior/identity at the time and feeling betrayed, tricked, or deceived. Number 2 seems unlikely but some people really do have trouble seeing people as “fixed” – as in their main identity is more or less constant and/or changes very gradually. People who have trouble viewing others identity as consistent would see this kind of situation as he could really have changed a big component of his identity in little to no time (or that it’s just now showing) even if they have all of the information at hand to easily dispel this notion.

    The other alarming points to LW’s behavior is how she phrases the entire dilemma as “me vs your career”. It’s as if LW’s boyfriend got a job AT her. She seems to genuinely feel that boyfriend picked his new job over her even from the start and just lets his lack of free time stand as more and more evidence piling on that he’s doing it to spite her. We have had a letter from someone whose spouse really did bite off more than they could chew and had to spend the majority of their time in career mode but it’s hard to see how someone who works 8 – 5 even daily doesn’t have enough time outside of work to pursue other things. If he goes to bed at 12, that gives him 7 hours of non-work time a day, 49 hours a week which is well over a full-time job amount. It’s not like he’s going to work, coming home and going straight to bed, and then getting up to do it all over again.

    One of the biggest red flags, IMO, is that LW sees how hard her boyfriend is working, sees how tired he is, knows that he has a physically and mentally demanding job with notoriously long hours meant to directly improve and save people’s lives, and still doesn’t sympathize with him. By the sound of her letter, it doesn’t seem like she’s really tried to see it from his point of view at all.

    Whether LW has trouble seeing the evidence right in front of her concerning boyfriend’s identity and past or is scapegoating it as the real problem the sex has stopped, combined with the feeling it’s as if boyfriend chose and is now holding a demanding job AT her and the lack of perspective/sympathy are signs of something going on psychologically that may be deeper than just “requires some post break-up introspection.” Some damaging habits have formed making it difficult for LW to handle stressful relationship and interpersonal times well. Chances are, these problems have and would manifest in similar ways in other relationships with the LW and will continue to do so unless properly dealt with. Life happens. People get stressed out and dips in sex drive, time, and ability happen. Children happen and make all of that 10x more intense. It sounds like LW will have a very difficult time adjusting to any changes in schedule, time, or responsibility that is made in a partnership and is likely to resort to some very inappropriate and abusive ways to handle the stressful situations. I would highly suggest LW seek out some counseling no matter what happens between her and her boyfriend to get to the root of the issue and to turn these damaging, unhelpful solutions to problems in to positive, supportive ones.

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