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I need your help. I don’t know if I’m in a shitty relationship or if bad things just keep happening to us. I’ve been dating a guy for eight months. We fell in love very quickly and very intensely. The first period was very happy but I quickly felt very insecure and anxious about our relationship. I have generalised anxiety disorder and am often irrationally anxious. It has led to numerous situations where I was deeply worried about an aspect of our relationship, felt like we had tried as much as possible to fix it, and ended up trying to break up; however he would always convince me that we hadn’t really tried and that he wanted another chance to do better.
He is a rationalist who is deeply against living by social norms and just sees them as defaults, and is “non-default” about pretty much everything including work path, values etc., as well as lifestyle including cooking (lives off takeaway so as not to spend time grocery shopping and cooking), cleaning (does not have much of a regular cleaning habit – I broke glass in his kitchen a month ago and he said I shouldn’t have to clean it up and it’s still there), sleeping (he has no regular sleep schedule and sleeps when he wants to. The kind of work that he does is largely from home with long deadlines. He ships a prescription anti-narcolepsy from overseas which allows him to stay awake for long stretches on little sleep – although he plans on giving this up soon). He also takes party drugs and for a while, was taking quite high amounts of MDMA on a weekly basis, which pretty much wiped him out the day or two after. I have always been uncomfortable around drugs, although he did not really know the extent of my discomfort, and I can’t take them myself due to mental health. He dropped back to once a month after I expressed concerns about escalation and he acknowledges that he has some susceptibility to addiction, although he is not currently dependent.“
One serious issue we had was that he gave me an STI. He had rationalised that he had a very limited risk of having an STI so despite my repeated requests and despite being informed that a previous partner had been infected, did not get tested. I was furious at his intellectual arrogance and the danger he had put us both in. I lost a week of unpaid time off work and my mum had to nurse me through my allergic reaction to the treatment. I told him I wanted to break up, but we ended up supporting each other through the treatment and ultimately decided to get back together and work things out.
We have had some more rough patches lately. After agreeing that he would party on New Years, he ended up sleeping and feeling rotten through most of my birthday on New Years’ Day, which felt pretty lonely for me. He has been very stressed at work and had some issues with a very serious eye infection, which means that any positive changes around cooking/cleaning etc. have understandably stopped. I supported him through the eye infection by taking more time off work to wait at the eye hospital with him for many afternoons. We then went away camping with some of his friends, some friends-of-friends and a couple of my friends. Most of them did drugs, including one less experienced girl who wound up with drug-induced psychosis. It was a five-day process to get her help and it was extremely upsetting and worrying for everyone involved, and I once again could not work for the period. The experience reinforced my dislike of drugs and desire to not be around drugs, and as someone with mental health issues, I was angry and upset that the girl’s mental health was being blamed more than the illegal drugs she had taken. I told him that the drugs were too high a price of admission for me and packed my bags.
We have since traded emails in which he first said he did not understand why I left him and thought that I was being dishonest about drugs being the true reason. Through his logical arguments he has forced me to see that I was being irrational about my attitude to drugs and that it is merely a personal preference I have not to be around them, rather than any objective issue with the drugs themselves. I felt like the whole arguing process was unpleasant and cold and hated it. When he explained the break-up over drugs to his best friend, the friend replied by saying he should not to try and argue people out of their emotions and boundaries. My boyfriend doesn’t see the problem – he thinks if someone is objectively right, they’re right, and emotions that correspond with that are the issue of the emotional person. He is also extremely strong-willed and intellectually well-backed-up and is not used to being challenged emotionally, so I don’t think he realises how unpleasant it can be. I’ve explained this explicitly now and he found the concept very hard to relate to.
It’s really hard for me to check in with friends and family about this too. They all hear only have to hear me mention drugs to tell me I’ve made the right choice by leaving him. My family has had bad history with drugs and my sister, who used to take party drugs and was badly affected, told me “You’ve already been through a lifetime’s worth when it comes to drugs – you don’t need to go through any more”.
We’re now in a position where he thinks I’ve made a mistake with the breakup, and that I did not adequately justify my reasons for ending it. I ended up seeing it from his perspective and apologising for being irrational and hurtful. I love him and that we do have a lot of good things including a great amount of love, affection, good humour, and generally understanding. He says he loves me more than he loves anyone, that he needs me, that we are good for each other, that he wants to be the one for me, that he wants to make it all work. Our plans had included travelling and ultimately living together. I ended up feeling like maybe breaking up with him over the drugs had been an anxiety response rather than something I really wanted to do. But I’m worried about this narrative; as I type it I can see that it sounds really unhealthy (he would say that “sounds really unhealthy” is weak reasoning). I feel like I’ve paid a lot of costs over the STI, drugs etc., including lost work time, stress, and in particular with the STI pain and possibly ongoing health concerns. I can’t turn off the part of my brain that says that someone who loves me as much of as they say wouldn’t hurt me in these big and small ways. We’ve discussed this; he says he feels he treats me well; and I guess that I am now consigning a lot of my worries to pure anxiety, which makes me feel like I can’t trust my emotional reactions and that I should work on my anxiety and ultimately stay. I don’t know if that’s the right thing for me to do. I don’t know if we truly do have a problematic dynamic (despite having amazing things shared between us) or if it’s just anxiety at play. Have we just had bad luck at points? I can’t tell if this all feels so weird because his lifestyle and approach is so ‘non-default’ or because I am being manipulated. I don’t know if my anxiety is protecting me, or causing the problems. I so hope you and the Awkward Army can help with insight and advice.
Worried about my worry but also my maybe(?!)-dodgy relationship
I’m worried, too. I’m worried about you and I think you need to be away from this guy for your own peace of mind and safety.
This guy completely lost me as a cool enough partner for you at “stopped you from cleaning and subsequently did not clean broken glass off his kitchen floor” because he has to prove he’s more rational than stupid societal expectations by literally walking around literal broken glass on his actual floor. For how long must this experiment go on before it’s his own (completely rational, separate from the oppression of society’s cruel and boring expectations) decision to clean up the glass?
And then I kept reading.
Let’s talk about the part where he “reasoned” himself around basic biology. If you’ve had partnered sex, and that partner has turned up with an STI, there is a non-zero chance that you also have an STI. Getting your ass to the clinic before you have sex with a new partner (or as soon as you find out) is your basic, human duty to others, and you frankly shouldn’t need “repeated requests” or any requests. STIs happen plenty without it being anyone’s fault or a reason to judge someone, but I judge him plenty for being so cavalier about a partner’s health when basically his arguments come down to “But I’m too lazy to actually find out.” And if he pressured you into having unprotected sex during this time? I will reach through through the internet with my mind and set him on actual fire. Being too lazy and self-involved to to to the clinic (or clean up pointy glass shards on the floor where you walk) and giving it a fancy title like “I’m just an extreme rationalist!” is a sign that this guy very, very far below you in basic adulting skills.
This part of your letter:
“We have since traded emails in which he first said he did not understand why I left him and thought that I was being dishonest about drugs being the true reason. Through his logical arguments he has forced me to see that I was being irrational about my attitude to drugs and that it is merely a personal preference I have not to be around them, rather than any objective issue with the drugs themselves. I felt like the whole arguing process was unpleasant and cold and hated it. When he explained the break-up over drugs to his best friend, the friend replied by saying he should not to try and argue people out of their emotions and boundaries. “
…makes me glad that the best friend spoke as they did, because they are 100% correct. So what if your decision was “irrational?” That doesn’t make it wrong. Breaking up is not a joint decision where one must prove one’s case beyond all doubt to the dumped party. You are allowed to give face-saving reasons. You are allowed to give no reasons beyond “I am breaking up with you.” When pushed on the issue of the drugs, you are allowed to say “You know what, you’re right, I was using that as a fig leaf. The issue isn’t so much drugs as it is you, and how I don’t want to be with you anymore. Farewell.” He could be the world’s most caring, drug free, glass-cleaning-up boyfriend and you would still get to leave him because your “irrational” heart says so. Wanting to leave is enough.
See also: “Think whatever you want to about why I’m leaving, goodbye.”
You’ve tried to break it off numerous times, but you remain together because he bullies you and gaslights you into staying.
“We’ve discussed this; he says he feels he treats me well; and I guess that I am now consigning a lot of my worries to pure anxiety, which makes me feel like I can’t trust my emotional reactions and that I should work on my anxiety and ultimately stay. “
The problem in your relationship is that he’s a raging asshole, but he’s convinced you that it’s all in your head. His feelings that he treats you well don’t actually trump your desire to leave, or to protect your health from an untrustworthy sex partner, or your completely reasonable desire to not have to walk around broken glass (!) or stay away from people who use drugs if you know for sure that it makes you uncomfortable. He’s casting his feelings as logical “reasons”, and your very justified anger, dislike, and fear for your health and mistrust of him as illogical “anxiety” as a way to bully you and make you second guess yourself, because that’s the only way someone as awesome and compassionate as you will stay with his sorry ass. It’s a trap, where your sense of fairness and your own desire to be logical is used against you, because if he can talk long enough he can “win” the argument when you get exhausted. Trust: You can have an anxiety disorder AND still have real, genuine anxiety about the continued unsafety and hassle of making a life with this dude. The job of sorting out “real” anxiety vs. brainweasels falls to you and a trained therapist, not your shitty boyfriend.
Your family might be making drugs THE issue in an unfortunate way that plays into his hands – “They are just being judgmental and narrow-minded, etc.” – but they have many, many reasons to root for you to leave this guy so far in your dust that even your dust wants to shake the dust of this relationship from its little dust-bunny feet. Please forgive them for just wanting you clear of this entire thing, and for seizing upon the most obvious reason.
I’m sure this guy has good qualities and that you connected well in some ways; some kind of chemistry or desire would have to be present for you to put up with even a second of the rest. I don’t judge you for wanting really good sex or cool, unique conversations or that feeling of being deeply and intensely loved. I’m sure he sincerely wants to “do better” and believes that with another chance he will be able to do better, but you don’t have to give him infinite chances. If he’s such an amazing, deep, original person, he’ll find someone else after he’s had a chance to work on himself some. And you’ll find out that other dudes will be good in bed and smart and interesting and really dig your fine self. They will not carry this giant swamp of issues along with them. They will clean their apartments, and they will not bully you and make you feel crazy in order to keep you near them. Please believe me! Breakups, even of intense relationships are survivable by everyone. This is not your last, only chance at love or a serious relationship.
I can’t turn off the part of my brain that says that someone who loves me as much of as they say wouldn’t hurt me in these big and small ways.
Don’t turn it off! That part of your brain isn’t your illness talking, it’s your sanity. It’s your logic. You asked for my opinion. My opinion is RUN AWAY, RUN AWAY from this tedious motherfucker. Before you step on broken glass or get 9 more STIs or have to spend one more precious minute of your precious life arguing for the validity of your own opinions.
Unfortunately, there is no nice, easy, gentle way to get away from someone like this. You’ve tried normal breaking up like a normal person, and you always end up “logicked” back right where he wants you. So here are the steps for extracting yourself from someone who doesn’t want to let you go:
- Make a list of people you actually trust to love you and be nice to you. Friends who have no connection with boyfriend. Family. Team You. Get their emails & phone numbers handy. Maybe call one of them to come over and hang out with you while you do the next step or two.
- Find every item of his that could conceivably be in your house. Put it in a box and mail that shit to him. (Steps 2 and 3 can happen in any order, but should follow each other swiftly).
- Compose a message in your email program and save it as a draft. “(Boyfriend), I am ending our relationship. I need this to be a clean break, so I must ask you not to contact me again through any medium.” You can add something like “I wish you well” if you’re feeling it, but keep whatever you say short and make sure the request for no contact is explicit.
- Before you hit “send,” block him on every social media outlet and means of communication you share. After you hit “send,” block him on that email address, too. Congratulations, you are officially broken up now!
- No matter what he says or does, do not answer. You can’t have a tedious argument where he proves you are wrong to break up if you don’t talk to him or spend any time listening to him. You have plenty of evidence that he will not go quietly and may escalate attempts to contact you. If he comes to your house, don’t let him in, and if he won’t go away, call law enforcement. If he sends you letters or gifts, refuse delivery or put the stuff immediately in the dumpster. It isn’t your job to reassure him, help him “understand” or otherwise process your breakup, or deal with any of his feelings. You are broken up. He is responsible for his own emotional care. If Party Spock needs to cavort around with his broken glass collection feeling sad, let him do it on his own sweet time.
- Tell your friends & close people what’s going on. Tell them that you’ve tried to break off the relationship before, and that you might need some help now. Ask them for reassurances, compliments, hugs, breakfasts, lots of time together – whatever you need to feel loved and comforted, ask. They’ll give what they can.
- If you share mutual friends, and you start hearing troubling stuff from them, tell them, bluntly, “I ended my relationship with (Boyfriend) and need to cut off communications for a while so that we can have a truly clean break. Please don’t give him any contact info or news of me or pass on any messages from him.“
- If you’re not already doing this, seek treatment for your anxiety from a trained counseling pro and not your shithead ex boyfriend who was trying to use it as a chain to tether you to himself.
If you ignore him long enough, he will go away. And if you give it enough time, you will heal from this and move on.
Worried Letter Writer, your instincts about what you deserve from a partner, about preserving your own safety, about whether being around drugs makes you happy, about whether you hate long bullying conversations where you are forced to justify every emotion, at being grossed out by someone’s living space are all perfectly on point. I’m not saying there is nothing wrong with how your brain works, but you can work on the anxiety disorder issue after you’ve dealt with the A Selfish Asshole Crawled Into My Life And Won’t Crawl Out Again problem. Do whatever you can to honor and thank that little voice that told you that something is not right here.
You’ve got some healing and recovery to do, and you may find books like The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists to be useful reading right now. “Narcissism” as a diagnosable disorder that your boyfriend has? Can’t tell you, wouldn’t wanna. This book as a primer on recognizing and abusive behaviors from people who are able to warp the reality around them and leave you constantly second-guessing yourself? Let’s say that someone who claims to honor rationality above all things but also thinks that the laws of science don’t apply to him, like, personally, is ticking off some ticky boxes for me and you may find some helpful stuff in here.
tl:dr Flee from this shitty dude as if your life depended on it. Your brain may be naturally anxious, but at least some of that is the good kind of anxiety that saved our ancestors from being eaten by bears.
490 thoughts on “#547: “Is it my anxiety or is my relationship dodgy?” Spoiler: Holy fuckshit, IT’S THE DODGIEST”
He is a rationalist who is deeply against living by social norms and just sees them as defaults
This is about the part at which I started making pained noises and waving my hands at the screen.
There are many social norms which are terrible, and which deserve to be challenged, or to be ignored. But there are also many social norms that are there because they work well for letting large numbers of people hang out in the same general space without stabbing each other over who borrowed whose stapler. And I have seen an unfortunate, high correlation between “I am so much smarter and more rational than all those sheep who just default to whatever society tells them to!” and people who are not good people to those around them.
Human beings are emotional, social cultures. Even the most level-minded introverted person ever created has emotions and needs to deal with other people. Taking emotions and the feelings of other people and social convention into account is rational. It does not mean that they rule every decision! But they are a valid and important part of the decision-making purpose.
When someone says that they are too “rational” for that sort of thing, it generally means they’re too selfish to take into account anyone else’s needs or desires. And somehow their “rational” conclusion ends up being what they happen to feel like.
Anyway. I agree with the advice above. But that bit right there? Big red flag, all on its own.
“When someone says that they are too “rational” for that sort of thing, it generally means they’re too selfish to take into account anyone else’s needs or desires.”
Oh good Jebus, yes!!!
When I read a LW here and I see them writing in a way that defends their partners’ totally fucked up way of treating people and living their life, I feel SO MUCH EMPATHY for them. Because I have that been that person that had to explain my weird special boyfriend to others and why he didn’t clean / pay tax / get a job / give his own insulin injections at age 27 / leave the house. And when I finally realised that this explaining of mine was just repeating the dudes bullshit, I felt so much better. A bit silly, but better.
This is the survival anxiety you are having and you must listen to it LW. It is on the ball.
Jedi hugs for you.
“My logic trumps your feelings” is one of my personal hot buttons and sends me straight to the NOPE rocket. Your feelings, THEY ARE IMPORTANT.
Yes. The fact that this dirtball keeps logicking her feelings out of the picture makes my panic buttons flare red.
Yes! Yes yes yes yes yes! Rationaller-than-thou is _always_ a tactic to force the things one person wants to appear more important than the things another person wants. This dude sounds like a worse version the asshole I dated in highschool. That shit was bullshit even when we were 17. It is seriously not cool in a grown ass man.
Ignoring emotions is ITSELF an irrational act, since emotions evolved for a reason and correspond to real stimulus.
Ignoring emotions in the name of rationality? Grade A bullshit and proof that you are dealing with a shitty rationalist.
Definitely agree. Even when you have a brain that often pops in with an emotion that isn’t appropriate for the situation (and as someone with anxiety, I get where the LW is coming from on that), there’s a world of difference between 1) distrusting an emotion, examining where it comes from, and deciding for yourself to let go of it, and 2) ignoring all your emotions because some of them come from your jerkbrain sometimes. The latter comes with a whole bunch of hidden costs.
Also, he aplies double standars. He said “he feels he treats me well”. If you follow his “logic”, then it’s HIS problem to deal with that feeling that’s obviusly wrong. You have made a list of sitty things he has done to you. STI, broken glass, treating you badly while in drugs, manipulate you, use you… That are facts. So I would say he’s not rational. He may like to think of himself as rational, but he’s not, because he’s not choosing “get cut but not cleaning” or “get my girlfriend infected” and rational people know that’s what would happend if you act as he does. So no, he’s extremely ilogical and irrational.
I think I’m really confrontational, because I would say to him “You are being really emotional, but if you were more rational you would see things clearly. The fact is that you are treating me bad and by your own words, what you feel it’s irrelevant”. And then give him a list of facts, with what already happend because of him. A real rationalist would know that intentions doesn’t matter, what matters it’s results.
Of course it’s not a good idea to say that to him, because he would get angry, as abusive people usually do, and maybe become violent. Anyway, He would show his true face. As a manipulator, the best way to confront him is with other people you trust present, so you can focus in “we are breaking”. And it’s even better if you have someone physicaly strong, and someone who can say “your logic is faulty” wich it is. Remember, if you don’t feel as you can do it on your own, then call for back up.
“He may like to think of himself as rational, but he’s not, because he’s not choosing “get cut but not cleaning””
Oh my god this. In no universe is “leaving dangerous objects that will hurt me lying around as opposed to cleaning them up” a RATIONAL decision.
Aaaaaah yes! And. Just.
Pretending our emotions have no effect on us is not logical, because that’s BLATANTLY not how we work! The logical thing to do is to accept the fact that feelings (however baseless and irrational) play a major role in our lives and decision-making processes and then work with that. That as a matter of fact “it makes me feel bad” is a valid reason for not wanting to do something or drawing a specific boundary (one of the most damn valid there is).
HUMAN BEINGS ARE NOT ROBOTS. If your “rational” worldview is founded on pretending they are, you probably need to rethink the use of that adjective.
(…things I want to send back in time to my teenaged brother…)
You want a prime example of this type of personality? Watch the movie “Reality Bites”. If you don’t want to deport the two main characters from planet Earth by the time it’s over you may have a screw loose.
Yes! That Reality Bites a-hole was all I could picture when I read this letter! The Threw It On The Ground guy comes to mind as well.
Do not date a Lonely Island sketch. I have, and it didn’t work out well.
This comparison is perfect.
Thank you so much for this!
YASSSS the Threw It On The Ground guy! This is a perfect comparison!
I thought most of this video was very funny, but a trigger warning might be appropriate since the way that the character gets his comeuppance is via sexualized violence (at 2:15).
“And I have seen an unfortunate, high correlation between “I am so much smarter and more rational than all those sheep who just default to whatever society tells them to!” and people who are not good people to those around them.”
Me too! “I’m not materialist, so I can just live off of your parents via you while you get a shitty job that pays zero money to support us both!” “I’m not engineered for monogamy! How dare you impose your Puritan moral code on me by using words like ‘cheating.'” “I’m not verbally abusive. I’m just forthright.” “If you weren’t such a weak, useless person you’d value my critiques of your appearance and eating habits.” “What’s wrong with peeing in an empty glass and leaving it in the middle of your floor for you to find in the morning? I’m a resourceful guy.”
And, look, there’s nothing illogical or irrational about prioritizing emotional valence in a relationship. Love is not about logic. It can’t be rationalized out of shape or into existence. You need to feel happy, supported, secure and in love. This guy is making you feel harassed, sad, messy, stupid, helpless and lost. Those are facts about your feelings, and they deserve respect in their own right.
“What’s wrong with peeing in an empty glass and leaving it in the middle of your floor for you to find in the morning? I’m a resourceful guy.”
omg, I think that’s my ex! Although he only started that trick after we’d broken up (heard from mutual friends).
Oh, good Lord, they’re a type. Men Who Pee in Discarded Solo Cups and the Women Who Try to Love Them.
They’re out there. And they’re looking to efficiently save YOUR water!
…wait, wut? This is a thing? Like, an actual real thing actual real people do? *boggle*
To be fair, humanity did perfectly well without basic standards of sanitation for thousands of years, give or take the odd cholera epidemic. It’s just an affectation anyway – if he were living in, say, fifteenth-century Europe, it would be perfectly acceptable to pee in a pot and keep it under your bed. What’s a used beer glass but an impromptu chamber pot? Why not pee in all discarded glasses all the time? Otherwise, aren’t you just wasting a trip to the sink?
Um, piny1? I can’t tell how much you’re joking here, but the odd cholera epidemic wasn’t just give or take. After humans started living in high concentrations, infectious disease was the most common killer by a mile until functional sanitation was implemented. Just pissing anywhere is fine when you’re a hunter-gatherer tribe of 150 – 300 people, but when you live in a community measured in thousands or greater, you need a better system.
I’m pretty sure piny1’s being sarcastic! I’m laughing, anyway.
I always assumed chamber pots would have water in them to help contain the smell and make cleaning easier. You can’t say that about empty cups around the house. Of course then, the obvious solution is to start peeing into half-empty cups…
Uh actually no, chamber pots didn’t have water in them, whatever you ‘did’ in them, hung around until someone took them outside to throw them away…
but seriously you people know guys who pee into glasses and leave them on the floor.. as a nice little gifty.. ‘i am so so amazing even my pee needs to be archived’
The other obvious difference between a chamber pot and a solo cup is that chamber pots were an accepted part of the culture; thus, one’s partner would not be surprised/horrified to find a chamber pot under the bed. Rather, one’s partner would be confused and probably annoyed if you tried to go to the outhouse every time you had to pee, and returned to bed freezing cold and wide awake.
Also, chamber pots were kept in a contained place (under the bed, sometimes in cabinets) where nobody could, you know, kick them over or step in them by mistake. Unlike solo cups. Just sayin’.
The OTHER big difference is that solo cups did not predate flush toilets by several centuries.
I was going to say…that pee thing, it’s not from personal experience right? Right? …no…..no….. of course it’s from personal experience and here are some other commenters to show that it’s not a unique phenomenon.
Well at least now I have a new deal breaker.
“I’m not engineered for monogamy, how dare you expect me to honor the explicit commitment we made? I know we agreed to be monogamous but I don’t feel like it anymore. I stopped feeling like it awhile ago and didn’t tell you right away.” Oh god, oh god oh god. Did we share the same ex?
The one that I laugh about now is “I care too much about the environment to blindly worship car culture. I will lose my license over unpaid tickets and make you drive me everywhere for years.” Within weeks of my leaving him, he renewed his license, bought a car, and was on his blog bragging about how great it had been to live car-free all those years & how sad he was to be contributing to pollution again. Yes, I suppose having a chauffeur for life must have been pretty good! And pollution doesn’t count if someone else is behind the wheel!
“What’s wrong with peeing in an empty glass and leaving it in the middle of your floor for you to find in the morning?” Yeesh … I … well, not the same ex after all. Wow.
Good lord, I thought we had the same ex too for a bit there. Believe me, this situation doesn’t get any better. Don’t end up like me, dealing with someone who let your 7-year-old children wander around the harbor unsupervised on his custody time (so he could spend hours skyping with his long-distance girlfriend) because it’s irrational to be worried about their safety since accidents/abductions statistically are rare.
He never peed in an empty glass, but I can so totally see that as something he would do. And he’d have a pure, rational reason for doing it that should take precedence over anyone else’s revulsion, of course. It’s amazing how no right-thinking person could ever disagree with anything he feels like doing, and how wrong anyone who thinks otherwise.
Ugh. Darcy, people like that are the worst. I don’t have a license and I avoid car culture by TAKING THE DAMN BUS and RIDING MY BIKE and generally saying “no thanks, I’m happy to walk” when people offer me rides.
“I am so much smarter and more rational than all those sheep who just default to whatever society tells them to!”
This is SUCH a big red flag for me. On the societal level, it’s kind of terrifying for all the reasons others have already mentioned. But on the personal level, it is super draining and infuriating to deal with. If someone thinks they are smarter than “all those sheep”, then when you have a disagreement with them, in their mind, you BECOME one of those sheep. There’s no discussing anything with them at that point, because they have already written you off, and are making really unfair judgments about why you think and feel the things you do.
It can’t be that you have an actual point! It can’t be that you’ve actually thought through your position! It can’t be that you have legitimate emotional reactions to what’s going on! You’re just mindlessly following the pack, and if only you were as smart and objective as them, then you’d totally see things exactly their way 100% of the time.
That kind of attitude is all kinds of not okay.
Also, when you really like someone like that and you are in that state of falling in love with them where all you really want to do is to please them and make them like you more, you do NOT want to be that sheep. And so you try your very best to show them that you are not a sheep they imply you are and might end up doing many things you do not really want to.
I was very lucky that in my case the rationalist lost interest in me fairly quickly after finding something better and more interesting than me. Of course, ze left the parting message “true friendship will last even years of having no contact, otherwise it’s not real” and I was seriously ready to wait for hir. Now I can see it as the total bullcrap that it is and I’m really glad ze has stayed out of my life. But just thinking about it, even after so many years, still makes me so angry and bitter.
Ze also had a habit of keeping a top 3 greatest friends list that ze would regularly update me about, making me compete for a position in it. Hir definition of friends included a possibility of sex so the list never had anyone of the same sex as ze. It was all very logical and ze liked to explain to me how it was irrational to commit to just one person and how love should have nothing to do with anything, since it too was irrational. Just… ugh!
Also, when you really like someone like that and you are in that state of falling in love with them where all you really want to do is to please them and make them like you more, you do NOT want to be that sheep. And so you try your very best to show them that you are not a sheep they imply you are and might end up doing many things you do not really want to.
Oh, that brought back some memories of Darth Ex.
One of the times he got physically threatening towards me was when we were driving back from an SCA event in winter, the roads were bad, and somehow we got in an argument about letting our hypothetical children learn that the Ten Commandments existed. (Darth and I both identified as Neopagan at the time, and this was one of the cornerstones of our relationship; I am now somewhere in “extremely liberal/progressive Christian” territory and he was an atheist again last I knew, which is probably better than claiming to be yet another Reincarnation Of Merlin, ugh.) I pointed out, calmly, that, as one historical basis for many modern legal codes, it would be important to teach that the Ten Commandments were A Thing and what they were. He COMPLETELY LOST HIS SHIT at me and started out-of-control driving the car while screaming at me to scare me into submission. Because this meant that I was willing to let our someday child be one of the brainwashed sheeple, or something.
“If someone thinks they are smarter than “all those sheep”, then when you have a disagreement with them, in their mind, you BECOME one of those sheep. There’s no discussing anything with them at that point, because they have already written you off, and are making really unfair judgments about why you think and feel the things you do.”
Annnd that, right there, was the moment my marriage ended, although I didn’t know it at the time and it took another fifteen years to get out.
FIFTEEEEEN YEEEEARS. LW, I am so, so happy that you’re out and safe.
YEEESSSSSSSSSS and YES and all the other YESes. Dear Worried, a person who argues with you until you feel crazy is a really bad no good terrible person to have in your life. Please run!
I ran! It is great!
Good for you! Most of us wish we could turn back the clock and end things when we first started questioning the warning signs. If nothing else, I hope that almost 300 Awkwardeer comments in what has to be a record amount of time have validated your misgivings.
It is not selfish to expect your partner to treat you respectfully. Run free from this creep and embrace your life!
This is a person who is so against rational social norms that he would rather have broken glass ground into his feet (and yours).
He uses illegal drugs.
He forced you into having a type of sex you didn’t want to have.
He gave you a disease that you may have for the rest of your life.
This guy is all around bad news.
You’ve gotten out. Now stay out.
Somewhat related: a major rationalist perspective on the importance of saying oops (http://lesswrong.com/lw/i9/the_importance_of_saying_oops/) (hint: it’s very important, the guy you’re dealing with should have done it a long time ago for all the things he messed up on, and you should flee him) and feelings (http://lesswrong.com/lw/hp/feeling_rational/) (hint: it is rational to feel, not to deny others’ feelings).
tl;dr: LW, this dude is calling himself “rational” but is not rational.
Whenever someone says “I don’t adhere to society’s rules because they’re, like, so bogus.” all I hear is. “YOU CAN’T TRUST THE SYSTEM! MAAAAAAAAAAAN!”
Unfair of me? Possibly, but generally the vibe I get from people with that viewpoint is that they don’t want to own up and do the hard work adulthood requires them to do, so they hide under a shield of being too cool/smart for The System. And from everything in the LW’s letter, this guy sounds like EXACTLY that type. Not checking to see if you have an STI before potentially passing it on to your partner? What. The. Fuck. LW, run fast and run far because this guy is BAD NEWS.
Lol nope, this is like the appropriatest of appropriateness.
I thought of the same video reading this letter!
I’M AN ADUUUUUULT!!
YOU CAN’T BUY ME, HOT DOG MAN!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE GROUND.
MY DAD’S NOT A CELL PHONE
LOL BRB DYING.
I have never seen that video/heard that song before and OH MY GOD I HAVE MET THESE PEOPLE. THIS IS BEAUTIFUL. SO VERY BEAUTIFUL.
What makes me so furious about this sort of attitude is that there are legitimately things that are fucked up about societal expectations, and I think there are norms that are worth bucking. But that takes hard work, and has to come from a place of caring about all your fellow humans, or it’s just selfish assholery wrapped up in an ugly holier-than-thou package.
This is exactly what I always think about things like this. Going against fucked up social expectations and norms because they are problematic and hurt people is an important part of making things better for people. But treating ‘going against social norms’ as its own virtue generally just leads to hurting people differently, which isn’t better.
Run really fast.
DO NOT WALK. RUN.
If you do walk, speed walk. And leave tiny booby traps in your wake.
I RAN LIKE THERE WAS A CREEPY ASSHOLE AFTER ME.
“I RAN LIKE THERE WAS A CREEPY ASSHOLE AFTER ME.”
did you scatter caltrops behind you? i hope so! caltrops are a solid investment!
Halfway through this letter, I was fighting the urge to run away from my screen.
I was rocking back and forth and saying “nononononononono”
Yeah, It was really triggery for me. I had to take the night off from this thread.
Forgive me if some of this sounds like what JenniferP already said, but.
“I can’t tell if this all feels so weird because his lifestyle and approach is so ‘non-default’ or because I am being manipulated.”
As someone LIVING a non-default lifestyle with a very non-default person, who has been doing so for nearly 20 years, I can tell you with 100% certainty that this dude is manipulating you. He sounds like a terrible person. I realize he must have some good points for you to have stayed, but I’m not getting a picture of what those are, and whatever they are, they are not worth sacrificing years of your life to. You can find those features in someone else. Someone who comes with the added bonus of not being a gaslighting asshole.
Would you be okay being in the same place with this guy in 10 years? Because that is where this is headed: nowhere. He gets what he wants — YOU. He is not going to change, and even if he did, you, darlin’, are not obligated to stick around while he gets his shit together. It’s not worth your time. That is time that is deducted from your *life*, honey. You will never get it back. Please, please break things off with this guy. PLEASE. I’m scared for you, LW. Not because I think he’s an axe-wielding slasher movie villain in disguise, but because I can already see that his treatment of you is eroding your confidence in yourself and your ability to trust your own instincts, and I don’t want that to go one inch further than it already has. I’m not exaggerating when I say that that kind of abuse just . . . destroys who you are as a person by utterly stopping your personal development and completely negating or denying your ability to draw boundaries and safely define who you are and what you are comfortable with and how you want your life to be. Please, please, please go.
I grew up in an abusive household. As an adult, I lived with someone who was abusive for many years. Your situation is reminding me of those situations, and that . . . that’s the greatest condemnation I can give him. A healthy relationship would not be reminding me of my bad ones.
Terrible people can often be really wonderful and charming in certain ways, genuinely, not-bluffing great, but they ARE still terrible people, and being around them is still really dangerous to your sense of self and your personal well-being, and he is only going to destroy you slowly by making YOU pick out all the parts of yourself HE doesn’t like, like someone who doesn’t want bananas in their fruit salad. Or grapes. Or oranges. Or apples. Or pears. Until you aren’t a lovely complex fruit salad of who-you-are anymore, but are only whatever bits he still likes that are left over. Because you’d stop him if he did it himself, he’s going to manipulate you into thinking you’re overreacting, and you will do it to yourself. He’s already trying to do this to you. Please, run. I really think this sounds like a house of evil bees, and you need to get out fast.
Another person checking in from “non-default but still healthy and fulfilling” relationship land, and also from “many abusive persons in my past” land. This sounds almost eerily identical to my abusive ex to the point where I worry it is the same person – he IS manipulating you, although I know that you empathize with him and may understand that that manipulation is coming from a place of insecurity and pain, and the desire not to lose you.
That’s okay. You can understand why and still know that it isn’t your duty to tolerate terrible behavior.
A good non-standard relationship is based on open communication, and negotiation of boundaries wherein everyone’s boundaries are taken at face value as absolute facts, not things to be talked out of. Even when they sound unreasonable (eg. very obscure C-PTSD triggers on my end and some I wont disclose on my girlfriend’s side of things), they are FACTS to work around. I am not an ~emotional~ person, but I do have emotions. Emotions are information. They are ALWAYS credible. If you are having a disproportionate anxiety response, that is information about your mental state, what you are currently capable of, and how you should be treated (with care and understanding.) It is NOT cause to be told you are unreasonable or lack credibility, or that your emotions cannot be trusted.
Please, for your sake, get far, far away as soon as you can. Surround yourself with all the support you have. He is likely going to dog you for some time, and you are going to need reminders that you are doing the right thing. (You are doing the right thing.)
Yesssss. Thank you and Naamah both for distinguishing between “non-typical” and “gigantic flaming asshole.” Because one is not the other, nor does one even resemble the other. Being non-typical is fine. Being critical of institutions or traditions is fine (and, hey, it often makes *better* people, because thinking about this stuff tends to make people more aware and sensitive). Being an asshole who hurts people and then tries to cop out of it with “I’m against the maaaaaan, maaaaan,” is not fine. Not fine at all.
LW, once, I could have dated someone a lot like your partner. He was really similar, except for the not-cleaning thing. He expected that I was going to fall right in line with his wants because Logically, He Was The Best Thing Ever. He had decided, with his *~*~*logic,*~*~*~ that I was fit to be his girlfriend (Which really meant “fill the girlfriend-shaped hole in his world;” this was not about liking me as a person for my qualities, this was about him and his wants), because I was “better” than other girls, though of course still not as good as him. And lo, he was an almighty shit when I did not jump at this hot ticket, but you know what? It was worth the grief to get him the heck out of my life, because no human being deserves that. Not me, not you, not anyone. So you might get grief from this guy if you leave him, but you know what else? That will be a pretty decent price for you too– the price of getting a toxic person who does not value you out of your life. You’re not alone here, and you’re not “irrational” or shitty or culpable. You’re right to go, and the Awkward Army has your back, and I bet quite a few real-life friends and family do too. You’re a good person and you should be with someone who appreciates you, and who treats your feelings as they would treat their own. Run from this dude of evil bees, because out there are many people who will love you as you should be loved.
That is a really good metaphor (the fruit salad one). With the point of how gaslighting makes you destroy *yourself*. *shudders*, but it’s an important thing to understand.
LW, as I discovered in my last relationship, someone can love you and still disrespect you in all the ways that are important to you. Cognitive dissonance is the result, and it wasn’t until someone mentioned this possibility that the fog of confusion lifted. I also disagreed with my ex about drugs. And for me, it was the drugs. And what the drugs did to him. That was a deal breaker. I’m not against people doing drugs but no way will anyone be doing drugs in my house and I won’t be going anywhere where people are doing drugs if I can help it. My current boyfriend knows this. His old Uni friends do some drugs so he doesn’t invite me to their parties, instead he invites them to ours and they are explicitly informed that it’s a drug free things.
For his friends, drugs aren’t a major thing for them so this isn’t an issue whatsoever! My ex, in contrast, knew about my views on drugs, got huffy when I asked him not to smoke around me. He even once asked me to drop him at a friends house and pick up a friend on the way. He decided not to tell me his friend was already high on cocaine. Despite my telling him that just being in his presence would effect me (contact high from unskilled empath merges) he completely disregarded that because that wasn’t rational to him. So despite his proclamations of love, he disrespected my spiritual beliefs to the point of lying to me so he could get me to do favours for him, even when explicitly told it would be something I would never have agreed to do had I know.
I also had issues about my family and the drugs. I was embarrassed that I had been with him for so long after he started taking drugs (well, I’m not sure I knew how long he was taking them). It took me a year before I mentioned the drug taking to my family.
However having said all that, from what you’ve shared I’m not sure your boyfriend loves you. I’m sure he THINKS he loves you. But his idea of love is a world of bees away from any kind of love that would be acceptable to me now. A part of me wonders of my ex ever really loved me or was it just that he thought he loved me and that was enough for him.
LW you deserve a relationship that doesn’t trigger and refrigerator your anxiety, you deserve someone who loves you and treats you lovingly (not using a counter cultural definition of love where he thinks he can recreate what it means to be a livings partner), you deserve someone who respects your decisions, your uncertainties, your emotions and your feelings. Anxiety or not I would still run from this relationship.
Ah I meant to say “retrigger” not refrigerate, and a “loving” not livings partner. Autocorrect fail!
Can I please also recommend this article about emotions and “rationality” and the big fat dollop of sexism present in these sorts of discussions.
It is a well-loved piece. So good.
I actually really liked ‘trigger and refrigerator’ – like, he triggers the anxiety but the when the LW expresses it, he locks it down and puts it on ice and makes it all about her mental health issues and refutes it being anything to do with relationship issues. I thought the mental image of having anxiety that was ‘locked in a refrigerator’ [not permitted to be expressed] was really clever and it resonated with me a lot. Shame it wasn’t deliberate!
I liked the refrigerator too 🙂
OP – I’d add an extra step to the Captain’s advice. After you block him from social media and before sending the email please change all your passwords to something he won’t guess, that includes banking, social media, email, paypal, the pin codes on your phone and other electronic devices – everything you can think of.
EVERYTHING. And ensure you do it on a computer he DOES NOT have access to.
Man, I just thought of the Women in Refrigerators trope when I read that and assumed you were going in that direction.
LW here. Yep, the drugs issue obviously brought all of this to a head. He had his dealer over numerous times to his flat when I was there, including twice AFTER I asked not to be there when the dealer was. He didn’t tell me that he was technically dealing by buying drugs for his friends and passing them on until I asked him explicitly, twice, and even then his response was “but the law is stupid”. When he was high he told me that I should try them, and when I called him on that later (I can’t for mental health reasons, plus I’ve worked with addicted people and had a sister who was really damaged by drugs = they’re NOT for me and he knew that) he apologised. And then said that he knew I’d be fine if I started with “just a sliver” of ecstasy. So he was IN NO WAY respectful of my desire not to be around drugs or have the issue forced.
“Just a skosh of ecstasy….” Was it wafer-thin? Yeah, your EX-boyfriend is a complete asshole, and…this is not the arguably safe, groovy, respectful way to use recreational drugs. This is the unkind, destructive, coercive way.
And you probably know this already, but badgering other people to use your substance with you when they have already refused is proof positive that you have a substance abuse problem. Or just an abuse problem.
Dude, so glad you got out of there! When people start talking about how you’d be ok with drug x because ‘they know’ I start wondering how long before they slip you something on the sly?
This happened to me. Drugged my tea. Horrible.
Holy shit. I’m sorry.
“He had his dealer over numerous times to his flat when I was there, including twice AFTER I asked not to be there when the dealer was.”
Yeah, so, if it helps: what actually brought this to a head is the issue of his total and complete disregard for your feelings, period. The fact that this was ABOUT the issue of drugs is besides the point: he’s not an asshole because he took drugs, he’s an asshole (and oh god run, seriously, run) because he does not give a sliver of a shit about how uncomfortable you were. He was able to look at you unhappy and not care. This is why he’s an asshole.
What’s really skeevy about the guy is that if you put it that way, there’s a strong chance he wouldn’t see why it was a problem.
Drugs were the final straw between me and Darth Ex, too.
Because apparently not transporting marijuana in my car across state lines without even having the decency of letting me know it was there was too much.
Some badness happened on both sides until the “official” breakup and for a few awkward months while we tried to be friends-with-benefits and leave open the possibility of getting back together. (I cheated on him, which I’m not proud of, but I do think it was a necessary part of my leaving process.) But, well, the unwilling drug transport was the point where I was pretty sure it was going to be over.
Yeah… you can’t rationalize your way around respect. And pressuring people to do drugs is NOT RESPECTFUL. You don’t even have to have a “good” reason! My only reason for not wanting to try drugs is…. I don’t want to. And that’s as good as it gets. I have friends who do drugs. And most of them have offered me some, because they think it’s nice to offer. And when I say “no thanks,” they either stop pushing or stop being my friend.
Someone who disregards your boundaries is disregarding you as a person. They may say they care about you, they may even honestly think they care about you, but they don’t. They care about the imaginary-you that lives inside their mind. If they cared about you, they would offer you the respect you deserve.
So glad you’re out. He can put recreational drugs in his own body if he wants, but he doesn’t get to turn your life into a bad After School Special.
I have a low opinion of anyone who touts rationality above all else. It’s unrealistic and usually completely untrue (I’ve noticed these guys, and it’s almost always guys, are often highly defensive and/or prone to outbursts of temper). Humans have emotions. We have them for a reason. You cannot rationalise them away. Focusing solely on “rationality” would actually REQUIRE you to respect people’s emotions because it’s rational to recognise that they exist and make up a huge amount of other people’s motivations. This guy is not rational, he’s just selfish and lazy. There’s nothing rational about leaving broken glass around or refusing to get an STI test. There’s nothing rational about refusing to clean. For that matter, you have more rationality than him over the drugs too. You have sound reasons for the opinion you have of them. They are demonstrably dangerous and have had a negative effect on people around you. Rationally, you should dump this guy. He is bad for you and bad for your health, both physical and mental.
Yeah, like, STDs can actually make you very sick? For LW’s sake, I’m glad it was one of the treatable ones, but the idea that, “Please don’t expose me to terrible diseases that can e.g. make me sterile,” is some sort of arguable point….This guy is a complete asshole, and his reasoning could very well have logicked you right into a terminal disease. Rationally speaking, he’s proven that you can’t trust him to watch out for your basic safety. It would be irrational to stay with someone so negligent.
Something else – “Reasonable people can reasonably disagree (depending on your definition of ‘reasonable’)” does not mean that your position is irrational. You are not being irrational for having needs that he does not respect. You are not being irrational for having priorities that he does not share. You are not being irrational for having needs and priorities that are common – even if the only reason you have grown into them is that they are common!
It is also not irrational to feel comfortable functioning well in your own society – like, there is a rational argument to be made for a certain basic level of cooperation and conformity. It is not simply rational to refuse to get a steady job, even if the reason you get a job is because your society suffers from a certain irrational attachment to capitalism.
It is not irrational not to want to live in filth or live with a partner’s dirt and clutter, even if you hate dirt because you grew up with certain social standards for cleanliness. It is not irrational not to want to get STDs even if some of your fear has to do with social stereotypes around sex and immorality. (And seriously, “botulism bad, chlamydia bad” is not a phobia.)
It is not irrational to dislike drugs and people getting high all the time (especially if they seem to be doing it in super irresponsible ways!) even if a primary reason for your discomfort is your society’s opprobrium re: narcotics. It’s also not irrational to hang out with people who constantly do this illegal thing that can get you fired or thrown in jail. That doesn’t make you a coward. It especially doesn’t make you a coward if you really, really dislike drugs on a personal level.
Those preferences are just as valid as his preference for getting high and letting his apartment descend into squalor, even if you remove every moral objection to drugs and filth as invalid or culturally-determined (and that’s a great big gimme for Side Boyfriend).
And it is really not rational to browbeat someone you quote-unquite love into accepting myriad hardships and humiliations because you feel more comfortable when she does not challenge you.
Just on your first point, the STI was a treatable one, but I may have had a complication which could result in scarring, a greater risk of infertility and more painful periods forever. More tests to come. But yeah. Not. Cool.
I’m so sorry to hear about the possible complications. I’ll think good thoughts and keep my mental fingers crossed for you.
I’m very sorry.
I have experience with that kind of complication, and will be sending good vibes your way.
Pretty sure the comments section doesn’t allow HTML, but I needed to use some mark-up to express the amount of frown at your ex. That is AWFUL. Keeping my fingers crossed for you that your test results are okay, LW!
Maybe you can just explain to your reproductive system that complications are extremely rare. You know, all rational like. Sit it down and have a logical talk. Explain that STDs are a capitalist plot.
I’m so sorry. It’s really, really galling and unfair – and it’s just…another way that this is really selfish, insidious behavior towards a lover, you know? He wore you down to the point that you were not able to take care of yourself on a basic level. He made you feel bad for fighting your own corner. And then he made you sick.
And then he made you feel bad for not wanting to be sick!
I hope your ex is too logical and self-reliant for flu shots, and spends all next winter with bronchitis.
Cis guys are so often wilfully ignorant of how huge a bearing reproductive health has on female-shaped people. I personally don’t want kids but a hell of a lot of people either do or are open to it and sterility removes the ability to DECIDE – and painful periods are just universally bad. Every month. For thirty or forty years. And I think cis guys, if they’ve ever been told about those potential side effects, find it really easy to forget in the same way they’re less affected by accidental pregnancy and get to whine about how condoms decrease sensation. (Looking at my flatmate’s ex, who has two kids he didn’t want and she’s 7 months pregnant with the third, all to different women.)
YES exactly this. Even the patient cis guys who are trying to understand often don’t really get it. I don’t want kids but my periods hurt like ba-jeebus and I can’t go on any medication to stop them without the risk of stroke. I don’t give a flaming toss if condoms “reduce sensation.” Poor snookums, grow up.
Please to note: it isn’t just guys who complain about decreased sensation, I am a woman who despises condoms for that exact reason. But I sure as hell use them anyway, until a relationship reaches a point where monogamy and trust can open the possibility of testing and other forms of birth control.
I am so sorry. I mean, obviously we’re a pretty loud chorus here, but again: in my book, that shit is not just an acceptable reason to break up with someone, it’s an acceptable reason to never so much as look at them again, and possibly burn an effigy of them and spit in the ashes.
Absolutely. Rationality that disregards emotion is itself NOT RATIONAL.
These assholes, they irritate.
I’ve never understood why these rational guys want to be in sexual relationships. There’s very little rational about that.
Because evo-psych! They are rational, manly men, but they have neeeds. Rational, manly needs. *eyeroll forever*
Oh, the “prone to outbursts of temper” thing rings so true!
“prone to outbursts of temper” – Oh yeah. My “Rationality Rules!”-ex had the weirdest and biggest outbursts of (bad) emotions I’ve even encountered.
ever, not even
Whenever someone’s go-to description of THEMSELVES is “rational,” it reminds me of a certain variety of jerkface who habitually hangs out on r/mensrights and r/atheism. The ones who can rant for hours on end about how unfair it is that no woman wants to date them and clearly this is because of systematic oppression against cis white dudes and how all women are bitches as a result, because how could someone EVER not be interested in such a wonderful, intelligent person as him?
It’s funniest (in a still slightly terrifying kind of way) when they actually in the same sentence refer to themselves as nice or decent guys and women as [insert string of misogynistic slurs here]. The combination of complete lack of self-awareness and seething hatred for women hiding behind “logic” and “reason” is astounding.
The confusing part for me is why exactly does this person call himself a “rationalist”. I suppose it was not meant ironically, but it doesn’t make much sense otherwise. I mean, even ignoring the fact that he is a complete asshole, what exactly is so rational about having broken glass in the kitchen? Sorry if I focus on a stupid thing, but this part really puzzles me.
The rest is pretty much easy to understand. He is a manipulative asshole and he succeeded in finding a person whom he can talk into accepting his nonsense. He reminds me of someone I met, so I will guess his strategy is simply repeating his nonsense again and again and again, while sounding completely convinced about his own words, until the moment LW starts doubting reality. Other people would just shake their heads and walk away. Which is the best strategy for dealing with him — go away, change your phone number, block him on facebook. Ask your friends and family for support, to stop you if you later changed your mind about him.
Otherwise, it will only get worse. He will explore how far he can push you. Always explaining it in his terms; never respecting your will. And he can probably push you even further than you would believe today. There is no happy ending at the end of this road.
LW, I agree with every single thing the Captain said, here. Your boyfriend is wrong – you can’t logic your way into a relationship. If one member of a relationship doesn’t want it any more, for ANY reason, then that relationship is over. All that’s left after that is the tidying up.
It sounds like you at least have some decent family and (I hope) friends who will have your back in this. Please call on them. And please be kind to yourself through all of this.
“If one member of a relationship doesn’t want it any more, for ANY reason, then that relationship is over.”
Exactly this. For a relationship between two people to start, both parties need to be on board. For it to end, only one of them needs to not be on board anymore. When you say you’re ending a relationship, you’re ending it. He doesn’t get to logic his way around that.
Yep yep yep! Relationships and sex – takes two (or as many consenting adults as y’all would like) to say ‘yes’ but only one to say ‘no’. It’s a tough one to learn (just having been told ‘no’ myself, it’s not a fun one to feel, either), but it’s so important. Boundaries around your emotions are valid and important and deserve to be protected just as much as boundaries around your body.
Jedi hugs, LW. Your instinct is right on with this, if you leave and give yourself minimum of 6 months of no contact, I can promise you with 97.48% certainty that by the time 6 months is up you won’t even miss him.
Yes to all of this. “I don’t want to be in this relationship” is a statement. It’s not a request.
And a rational statement of fact, at that.
LW, I sympathize on the anxiety. As someone who also struggles with generalized anxiety, I have had many, many arguments with myself that go “anxiety? or real? anxiety? or real?” But the people in your life should help you with that, not make it worse by saying it really IS all in your head because he can’t possibly be wrong, what with all his LOGIC and REASON.
Which…he doesn’t seem terribly “rational” to me. It is actually not rational to leave broken glass on your floor to make some point about social norms. Rational would be cleaning up the thing that could stab your foot. And I totally agree with the Caption that he’s considering *his* feelings as the baseline for logic and objective truth, while completely ignoring yours. That is also very much not rational. A relationship isn’t an algebra problem; there is no right answer or “objective truth”; there is only what is right for the people in it. And if he’s saying that you’re wrong to break up with him because you’re just being emotional and he is being objectively, factually right–how dare you *feel* mistreated when he *knows* that he treats you just fine–that is not OK. Or rational. That’s just insisting that his truth is THE truth as a way to justify his own feelings and actions.
If you can, I would recommend talking to a therapist about the anxiety. It’s amazing how freeing it is to have someone tell you “that is actually a legitimate concern,” when you are accustomed to doubting every feeling and thought you have. A good therapist can guide you through the anxiety and help you learn to trust your feelings. But in the meantime, hopefully the Captain’s awesome response can give you a shot of that as well. You aren’t wrong. Your anxiety isn’t making you wrong. Your instincts are DEAD ON in this case. Embrace your own rightness!
Right, exactly- he is not being logical or rational. *You* are being rational (wanting him to get checked for an STI, wanting to clean up broken glass, not wanting to be around drugs/people on drugs because they make you uncomfortable) and he is using the *language* of logic to talk you out of trusting yourself and undermine you. You are being *extremely* logical and rational when you think that someone who loves you wouldn’t hurt you like this.
It sounds like he’s good at arguing (whether through actual rhetoric or just strong-arming people into agreeing with him), which is a really good reason to follow the Captain’s steps. You don’t have to give him a “rational” reason for breaking up with him. I mean, you never have to give someone a rational reason for breaking up with them, but with this guy especially, because it’s clear that he has a really warped idea of what “rational” *means*. So it’s *not your fault* that you can’t convince him, and it’s not your responsibility to convince him.
I’m really really hoping for the best for you, LW. You deserve to be treated kindly and be with someone who supports you when you have anxiety, not someone who uses it as a weapon against you. *jedi hugs* if you want them.
He is probably a psychopath who mistakes his lack of empathy for rationality. But he is actually driven by his own emotions, not reason. For example, however “rationally” he excuses hs laziness, the fact is that he is too lazy to take about his environment, or even his own health.
I think he does have a lack of empathy. He’s said that one of the reasons he likes the drugs is that he can reach for positive emotions in a reliable way, whereas usually he feels very emotionally “flat”.
My stomach is clenched up into a ball of fear just reading this.
I wish I had been given this advice before I wasted three years on logical, rational, Vader-ex.
When he told me about psychologically torturing a former friend and then explained why that was a reasonable thing to do, I really wish I had listened to the voice that told me to run.
Trust yourself. Don’t give this guy one more minute of your life.
It’s amazing how many assholes actually straight out tell you what assholes they are, but we’re so conditioned to give people a chaaaaaance and not be so PICKY and second-guess our instincts and feelings that we just ignore it all. You can’t raise female-shaped people constantly telling them to privilege others above themselves and then be surprised when they do so.
Argh, this is so true.
For me it had less to do with societal conditioning of women and more to do with being raised by narcissists.
They would explain to six year-old me why my basic needs were frivolous or selfish and why their passing whims were vitally important.
It of course had nothing to do with enjoying the unconditional love and worship of a child when they were in the mood for that, but not wanting to be even the slightest bit inconvenienced by child rearing when they were not.
Nope, it was logic!
They would have treated a boy the same way.
Yup. Terrible Ex spent a lot of time going “yeah, I’m a clingy asshole, yeah I’m a jealous asshole, yeah I’m being an asshole” and then he would laugh, like it was a joke, like acknowledging that what he was doing was shitty meant he could keep doing it, and when I tried to discuss him actually changing these behaviors, he would laugh it off. “I’m an asshole, what do you want” NOT THIS NOT YOU.
Arg, this! I had a roommate who did a whole bunch of horrible things, and who actually laughed when I called him out on them. The whole “hahaha yeah I’m a shitty asshole, whatcha gonna do about it?” shpeil.
He seemed utterly shocked when I told him shitty assholes can’t live in my house and kicked him to the curb.
Your psychological-torturing ex sounds like my psychological-torturing ex, down to the former-friend and it being ‘completely reasonable’. He dumped me three years ago after only being with me for a few months (and I’m so glad he’s stayed far away from my life).
I’m so glad you dodged that bullet!
When people tell me they’re assholes now, I take them at their word.
Unholy hell, that guy sounds like the worst. LW, your letter created a knot in my stomach that the Captain’s answer could only partially untangle. That guy is poison, and I wanna send you ALL the jedi hugs in the world.
I will also say, as someone who has encountered those manipulative rationalists before and is quite good at keeping up with them… They are not infallible. Frankly, their arguments are easily dismantled if you are fast/cynical/knowledgable enough to keep up (which takes, most of all, confidence and practice). Believe me. It’s smoke and mirrors and sleight of hand, NOT logic.
If you cannot keep up, just refuse to play. “Yes, that may very well be, but I feel this, so I need this.”
I really hate people like this guy. They give rationality and logic such a bad name, and they deserve none of the respect it earns them.
Run, LW. Run and be free of this shithead. You are worth so much more than that.
Going one step further- people like this aren’t rational AT ALL. That’s just the word they use to describe their bullshit. Reminds me of my dad, who was always so enlightened and so right in every argument, and how dare I feel bad when he yells and dismisses my needs, can’t I see how wrong and EMOTIONAL I’m being?! Can’t I just accept HIS logic, you know, the logic that magically lines up with whatever HE wants?! Uggh. Fistbump of solidarity, Pizkies, in your hatred of these manipulatory doorknobs.
Oh, and the whole “I’m too edgy and different to clean!” thing? He’s not rational. Just lazy.
Sorry you had a Vader dad. They suck so, so, very hard.
LW, I have anxiety, and I was living with a guy who was too lazy to clean and did a hundred things that were self-centred and made me feel uncomfortable that I’m still only just starting to recognize and dig out of myself. Anyway, I was having a lot of panic attacks, and I was doing a lot of crying, and I started seeing someone to help and get my anxiety under control. And the thing about people like my ex and your rationalist is that, no matter how much help you get and no matter how firmly you get your shit under control, it will never ever be enough. You will never get to a point where they sit back and say “Okay, I guess everything from this point on is all to do with me”. Every argument when I started crying? Immediately got derailed into a conversation about when my next appointment was. Every time I mentioned that he wasn’t doing enough to support me (I was studying and working and having a breakdown and trying to keep that fucking filthy house clean) he would point out that he had driven me to one of my appointments and say that I was “really wound up” and it would, again, become about my anxiety rather than about him being a really fucking shitty boyfriend who was unwilling to change his patterns even though they were hurting me.
I was getting some strong “Get the hell away from this person” signals, and I was being told they were coming from my anxiety. Maybe they were. But they were legitimate signals, and ignoring them and trying to repress them just spiked my anxiety. I’ve since learned (with the help of some therapy and some friends pointing out what now seems so obvious) that if I have a point of stress in my life that I can’t deal with, that’s a good sign that the point of stress needs to get out of my life. And, weird coincidence! After I broke up with him? My anxiety levels dropped. I spent about six weeks sleeping and eating all of the comfort food, and then when I was physically recovered from 18 months of very stressful living, I hit a period where I just could not believe how good I was feeling. I had stopped waking up in the middle of the night crying! No panic attacks, and no gross feelings of worthlessness during conversations where I was told that I needed to ‘stop being silly’.
People who love you won’t keep hurting you for their own convenience. People who hurt you and then blame you for being hurt are not people you need in your life.
Even if he’s the best guy in the world, if he’s not helping your anxiety, he’s not good for you right now.
That’s one of those very obvious lines that were not at all helpful while I was still with my ex – because for a long time I did think that he was helping, and so did he. And he did a very good job of explaining to me that he was helping, and so I worried that without him as a ‘support’, I would be even worse off. What counts as helping and what it looks like and feels like isn’t a solid thing, and “I love you and I’m trying to help you” seems like a favourite gaslighting line.
Idk. I feel like it’s a better line for the ‘team you’ around a problem. After I left my ex, I was very lucky that I did have people around me to say “Actually? None of that was helping you. From what you’re telling me, that stuff was making you feel worse. How did you feel when these things were happening?”. It probably depends a lot on where you are in life. When you feel like you’re struggling to keep your head above water and you’re going to drown, you’ll clutch at anything that people toss to you. Even if it’s a brick.
It’s not helpful at all.
People like that choose partners who are unsure of themselves, so they can do exactly what tawg described.
Vader-ex was ‘helping me’ by teaching me how to shed all the ‘lower class’ behaviors I grew up with so people would take me seriously as a professional.
People already took me seriously, because I’m competent and motivated. But I didn’t take myself seriously, and thought he cared enough to criticize me so I wouldn’t look like a fool around my ‘betters’.
Your BETTERS? Something inside me just roared with rage. I’m so sorry espritecorps that you had to deal with that prized dickwad.
Very true, actually. Having someone position themselves as the one who can provide the outside perspective on your emotions when you know your emotions aren’t always reliable is a powerful draw. I’ve been reading about faux-medical abuse which has some of the same characteristics, too.
Wow, I’ve been there. So sorry you had to go through that. I hated how emotional conversations with my ex would often circle back to “are your appointments with your therapist even WORKING?” (Because he had convinced me to see a therapist to “cure” me, but actually didn’t think therapy was useful, at least not for him–though he probably thought himself above psychology, and thought I was a mere mortal.) It’s really infuriating.
LW, you don’t want to be with someone who’s hell-bent on never being wrong. He will wear you out, make you feel like shit, hurt you possibly beyond recovery. Please follow La Capitan’s advice and leave now.
I’m 100% and then some behind the Captain on this. LW, you deserve much better than this dude. So “he feels that he treats you well”, but:
he’s exposed you to physical harm more than once (STI, broken glass)
ignored your wishes/needs (exposing you to drugs when you’ve made it clear you don’t feel comfortable, not getting tested for said STIs)
manipulated your feelings to suit his own wishes (talking you back into the relationship)
cost you money by forcing you to take time off work (again, the STI)
That is not someone treating their partner well, that is someone trampling all over their partner and it is not cool.
Also, this part: ” however he would always convince me that we hadn’t really tried and that he wanted another chance to do better.” How many chances have you given him and how many of those has he wasted? From the sound of it, every single one. You don’t owe him anything.
Hi Letter Writer,
I think the captain’s advice here is wonderful and spot on! I wanted to talk about more about your anxiety.
Oh man, anxiety is terrible isn’t it? When your brainweasles think everything IS A TRAP then in order to just operate on a basic functional level you have to learn to ignore them.
But sometimes, LW… sometimes it *is* a trap.
People like you and me with misfiring brains that panic about everything… we need to be extra especially careful about who we outsource our rationality to. It sounds like you are currently outsourcing your rationality to a dude who would literally rather walk on broken glass, grinding them into ever tinier and more tricksy shards rather than take 30 seconds to clean it up. It sounds like this dude prides himself on his rational brain which must be super comforting when you know your own brain is unreliable. But letter writer… this dude does not sound rational. He sounds like a dude who is charismatic and good at arguing and convinces himself and others that what he actually wants to (not) do (I don’t want to cook! I don’t want to sleep! I don’t want to clean! I don’t want to go to the doctor!) is actually objectively better.
People don’t clean up broken glass or go to get treated for STIs because otherwise THE MAN will throw them in jail. They do it because otherwise they walk on broken glass and give their partners STIs and most people find those consequences to be much more unpleasant than just… cleaning up after themselves.
Basically what I am saying is that even if this dude is not the worst person ever, maybe his lifestyle of taking drugs and binge-working and sleeping and eating takeaway works for him. He’s an adult I guess he can make his own choices… but despite what he says this dude is not a rational dude.
And from reading your letter I think he is making it MORE difficult for you to trust your own brain and reactions and feelings and thus making you even more dependent on him.
When you can’t trust your own brain you need to surround yourself with people you can trust. People who will calm your brainweasles and help you train them. Right now your boyfriend is training *you*.
Good luck, Letter Writer, and I am sending you all the Jedi Hugs.
Yes. I have large angry brainweasels who will try to fucking eat my brains given the slightest excuse.
So learning to acknowledge when the brainweasels have a point was hard! It’s still hard! Yesterday my brainweasels told me in all sincerity that if I took a 3 month weekend class my children would grow up without me. (No, weasels, my 2 year old is not going to be 25 by May, YOU DICKS.)
Understanding the weasels’ point is not always easy, when they even have one, but in this case I think their point is this: YOUR BOYFRIEND IS FEEDING US RARRRRR LOOK HOW BIG WE CAN GET.
I am with someone who does his absolute best to keep my weasels weak from lack of food. You deserve to be, too. Not stuck with someone who keeps feeding them delicious mice.
That metaphor got away from me.
The brain weasels feed on bees. EVIL BEES.
I loved the metaphor. STARVE THE WEASELS!
You just really clearly articulated why I’m super picky about who I date now. I have anxiety and I’ve been in gross gaslighty relationships before, and now the tiniest hint of someone that can’t respect my needs and boundaries triggers anxiety and gets them turfed. I really need to be with someone that isn’t going to take advantage of my anxiety in order to manipulate me.
YES YES YES THIS.
I am also a person with terrible anxiety-gemlins in my head (weasels are too cute for me to imagine as the problem-causers in my mind, so I have anxiety gremlins!). When trusting your own fear is a more complicated path, which it is for us, it is even more important to have a partner who actively fights the gremlins for you, instead of feeding them and secretly teaching them tricks when your back is turned.
Yep totally! We need people who will say “hey maybe that’s your jerkbrain talking do you want a hug or a glass of water?” not… “WELL THIS JUST GOES TO SHOW YOUR FEELINGS CAN’T BE TRUSTED IGNORE THEM LISTEN TO ME THROW IT ON THE GROUND FIGHT THE SYSTEM”
True story: My anxiety brain can be sufficiently irrational that I once – at the age of 20 – became convinced there was something large and with claws pacing about on the roof or in the attic above my room, possibly dragging a body behind it, and that it would as soon as my back was turned climb down through my open window and devour me. I was sufficiently convinced that I – in pyjamas and a coat – fled my room and the house I shared with several other students and ran to the place my now-fiancé was staying because I was scared.
Step 1 – cuddle and reassure me.
Step 2 – tell me he was glad I came to him when I was scared, because he wants to be able to help me when I need it.
Step 3 – take me home and gently help me investigate the source of the sounds that prompted my fear, explaining how and why they had ended up sounding so strange and threatening to me with logic but always, always with gentle understanding regarding my reaction. “The noise was just someone dragging refuse sacks through the alley beneath your window, but with the angle of the open windowpane and the sound bouncing off the opposite wall, it really does sound like its coming from the attic.”
Step 4 – help me settle enough to sleep.
Step 5 – start working long-term on ways he could help empower me with better coping mechanisms for when irrational fears overwhelmed me, while continuing to be a source of help and comfort whenever I asked for it.
THAT is how a very rational person uses their ability to be rational to help someone who is less able to do so.
Your fiancé sounds awesome.
My anxiety also goes to totally bizarre places. For roughly a month last fall, I was convinced that the police were coming for me. I haven’t committed any crimes. I haven’t seen any crimes being committed in the last several years. I have all the white privilege on my side. But still. Every single noise was an angry cop, and I live in a big apartment building on a busy street.
Bunny’s Fiance gets a gold star! That’s how it’s done.
Bunny, your partner sounds wonderful 🙂 I genuinely wish you both the best, it makes me so happy to hear about sappy stuff like this.
Anxiety is weird stuff, man. Mine’s mostly under control, and I STILL had to convince myself the other night that my roommate was not actually a cleverly-disguised giant spider. (I’m not kidding. I beat that one into submission with the square-cube rule, but come ON.)
“When trusting your own fear is a more complicated path, which it is for us, it is even more important to have a partner who actively fights the gremlins for you, instead of feeding them and secretly teaching them tricks when your back is turned.”
So much this!
I have mental health issues, but no one gets to call me crazy ever again. Not even myself.
Sometimes at 2 in the morning things I know aren’t true reach up from deep in my brain.
Vader-ex: Go sleep on the couch. It’s not fair to expect me to deal with your stupid bullshit, that’s what your therapist is for.
Spouse: Buys me a nightlight and a baseball bat. When I turn on the nightlight and reach for the bat, he cuddles me and pets my hair until I relax and feel safe again.
P.S. Your fiance sounds wonderful!
Your spouse is adorable. Go you two.
You have an awesome spouse! These are the sort of people we need in our lives.
And the ways they help us work through our brain issues? ARE COMPLETELY RATIONAL. Because rational means “this makes sense and will produce the desired outcome”, and rational does not mean “lacking all compassion and empathy”.
I’ve also had similar brain weasel experiences. After so many years of thinking, and being told explicitly by various people, that my brains were irrational, I used to try to talk myself down from anxiety by thinking that the thing that triggered my anxiety was irrational. But sometimes that thing was real! A roommate being disrespectful or coworker says something gross was bad, even if I was reacting more strongly than someone else might.
After many years, therapy has helped me to understand that people who told me why my feelings were wrong/irrational/whatever were usually
A) unable to muster some understanding for why I felt that way or even some sympathy that I was upset
B) using that as a way of shutting me down because my feelings were annoying/inconveniencing them
It sounds like the LW’s boyfriend took this to an extreme level.
LW — best of luck with everything.
What Elise said, so much. Also: “maybe his lifestyle of taking drugs and binge-working and sleeping and eating takeaway works for him” … that doesn’t mean any of that has to work for YOU. His way is not objectively best, and while it might work for him, it SUCKS for you!
As a grown person you get to make your own choice about what way of life works for YOU. You get to make your own rules and choose whatever makes you as healthy and happy as you can be.
This guy? He’s NOT helping you with that.
He “feels” like he treats you right? How come he’s allowed to make decisions based on feelings and you’re not? LW, kick him to the curb and know that your instincts are right on and we’re all rooting for you.
Right?! Because his feelings about how he treats her are definitely more valid than how she actually feels….?
Such an incredibly dysfunctional, and also highly illogical (ha!) way of thinking!
THAT JUMPED OUT AT ME TOO
I am literally shaking with rage after reading this letter. I started it and was like “Uggghhhh, this guy sounds like my asshole abusive ex” but by the time I got to the end of it my jaw was on the floor because it sounds like my asshole abusive ex turned up to 11 and if I tried to put a character like that in a story I’m sure 100% of the feedback I’d get would be “Not buying it, this guy is too unbelievably, cartoonishly assholish, even for a cartoon.” I hope he slices himself open on the broken glass he’s too much of a fucking special snowflake to clean up.
Unfortunately, it seems to be a thread both in real-life encounters I’ve had and in some of the letters we’ve seen here at CA that some people get away with abuse LITERALLY by being TOO ASSHOLISH TO BE BELIEVED and then their victims and the witnesses to their abuse just have no scripts for responding to them, because their behavior is so outside the realm of Things That Happen In The Real Universe That We Deal With that we cannot even process that they are really doing whatever they’re doing. (Remember the dude who wouldn’t let his girlfriend sleep? And the one who wouldn’t let her use the bathroom?)
If there’s one thing that, at this point in my life, having dealt with several of them, I hate more than Super Logical Rational I’m-Such-A-Superior-Robot Rebel-Without-A-Cause-Except-Smugness Dudes, it’s Super Logical Rational I’m-Such-A-Superior-Robot Rebel-Without-A-Cause-Except-Smugness Dudes WHO PURSUE RELATIONSHIPS WITH HUMANS. Like, if a dude is so logical and rational that he has no emotions and doesn’t want to spend his time on social and emotional things because he thinks that’s dumb, that’s okay. I think football is dumb and I don’t want to spend my time on it.
As a result, do you want to know how much of my life I spend playing or watching football?
FUCKING NONE OF IT WHATSOEVER, THAT’S HOW MUCH.
“Social” basically means “involves other people.” Friends are part of one’s SOCIAL life and SOCIAL circle, because they are other people. Romantic partners are also part of one’s SOCIAL life, because they are also other people. Nobody gets to abandon all the “social norms” i.e. “expectations for how you treat other people” and then expect the other people to stick around.
Also, romantic relationships are not logical or rational; they are emotional. Purely. Even people who do it for reasons other than squishy stuff like “I’m in love with this other person” and do it for reasons that are considered sketchy (because the point is SUPPOSED to be the squishy emotional love stuff) like to advance their careers or whatever, do it because those goals are their own personal subjective goals about what is important to them. People don’t get into romantic relationships, like, for science, or whatever.
Also, someone please name me a single fucking thing on the entire fucking Earth that’s more socially normative and expected than “Dude has a girlfriend”? This guy’s reeeeeeeally bucking ALL SORTS of expectations there, where is the sarcasm font when you need it.
In other words, by claiming to be an unemotional logic-powered robot whose decisions are not driven by mere emotions, and simultaneously attempting to have a romantic relationship with you, your boyfriend is being a GIGANTIC, GRADE-A HYPOCRITE, even without factoring in all the objectively (see, I can use science words too!) douchebaggy behavior.
He should stay home alone with his self-serving rationalizations, and if those don’t make him happy, well, being happy or unhappy is just a feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeling, so he shouldn’t care.
I realize that was a lot of all-caps and sarcasm and stuff; like I said, I am very familiar with this type of dude (and for all their posturing about how speshul and different they are, it’s a Type), and I have developed a practically Pavlovian rage response to any kind of “rationalist” posturing. And I refuse to apologize for it or allow anyone to label it an irrational or illogical response. It’s a useful defense mechanism for ensuring that I will never, ever get tricked into wasting more time on these kinds of assholes, because now I am literally fucking allergic to them.
LW, dump this guy’s ass as fast and as thoroughly as you possibly can; if you want to give him an explanation, which you don’t have to, tell him that it’s illogical for you to endanger your health on something as squishy and emotional and socially conventional as romance. (Don’t engage any further than that and do not listen to a single fucking word he says in response, the fact that the point is completely inarguable from any kind of logical or rational perspective will do absolutely nothing to stop a self-styled “logical rationalist” from trying to argue it. You can’t win arguments with these people because the arguments are never about whatever the argument is putatively about; they’re all about the person Winning The Argument and maintaining their dominance as Most Rationally Rational Rationalist of Rationaldom.)
I wish you all the best in ridding yourself of this faux-robot whiny manchild.
” it’s illogical for you to endanger your health on something as squishy and emotional and socially conventional as romance. ”
I. LOVE. THIS.
…I get the feeling I’m going to be THISing a lot of stuff in the comments on this one…
I’m really wishing this blog had Facebook-style “Like” buttons because I want to be liking about 90% of the comments.
A+ comment, agree on all points!
“…some people get away with abuse LITERALLY by being TOO ASSHOLISH TO BE BELIEVED and then their victims and the witnesses to their abuse just have no scripts for responding to them, because their behavior is so outside the realm of Things That Happen In The Real Universe That We Deal With that we cannot even process that they are really doing whatever they’re doing.”
Isn’t that how Miss Trunchbull gets away with abusing all the kids at Matilda’s school? DEAR EVERYONE, IF YOU ARE ACTING LIKE THE VILLAIN IN A ROALD DAHL NOVEL, STOP. EVERYTHING YOU’RE DOING IS WRONG.
ohgoshohgosh I have a relevant Lemony Snicket quote!
“When someone is a little bit wrong — say, when a waiter puts nonfat milk in your espresso macchiato, instead of lowfat milk — it is often quite easy to explain to them how and why they are wrong. But if someone is surpassingly wrong — say, when a waiter bites your nose instead of taking your order — you can often be so surprised that you are unable to say anything at all. Paralyzed by how wrong the waiter is, your mouth would hang slightly open and your eyes would blink over and over, but you would be unable to say a word.”
This is the exact reason why, on the Worst Date I Ever Had (TM), I didn’t leave within the first 10 minutes. He just kept coming up with these unbelievable statements and it was like my brain went “nope, nobody would REALLY say that on a date… moving on!”
I want to record you giving that speech and put it online so every woman stuck with one of these faux robot whiny manchildren can listen to it and recognize it.
And when the FRWM attempts to logic them out of the break up, they can give them your recording, drop a mike, and leave.
Hi, I’m “girl whose boyfriend wouldn’t let her sleep” and let me tell you, Life Without Your Manchild is a beautiful place to be.
And you’re right, a lot of what they do is just so absurd that you almost can’t explain it. He also pulled out my hair, because he said it calmed him. When he was angry at me, he made me walk up a snowy, slippery hill without the cane I use to walk and laughed at me when I struggled. He called my phone every few minutes and when I turned it on silent he texted me his intention of continuing to call regardless until my battery died. They’re just so chronically absurd that you almost can’t believe it’s happening.
Wow, what a piece of work. o.O
I’m glad to hear you got out! I hope you are consistently getting long beautiful nights of unbroken rest.
Do you have a link to your original post/comment? I think I missed it.
Are you this “Sleepy?” Because yaaaaaaaaay I am glad you dumped his creepy ass!
Internets, together we can banish creeps and dipshits! Let us celebrate!
That is me! I have dumped his creepy ass, cut him off from all contact with me, and moved on to a happy, healthy relationship with a wonderful lady.Six months after that letter, he tried to stop me from going and visiting my extended family for our annual Christmas Eve party because he wanted me to stay home and Skype him instead and I just… I hit a wall of NOPE.
\o/ You got out! YAY!
Holy fucksticks batman! What the hell? The walking without the cane thing…I have no words.
So, so glad you’re free! \o/
DUDE I AM SO HAPPY FOR YOU. Well done you and yay! I love updates, especially “I dumped that barstud and now my life is so much better” updates.
Sleepy I am so happy for you!! Wishing you much joy and respect and happy times with your lady!
He did WHAAT? What the effin’ fucking fuck? I’m so glad that you’re out and you’re absolutely right – it’s so absurd the brain shuts down.
“(Remember the dude who wouldn’t let his girlfriend sleep? And the one who wouldn’t let her use the bathroom?)”
I hope literally every day that when I click this website there will be an update from bathroom lady. Every. Day.
I think someone mentioned this just the other day as wanting an update. Or the other week. I forget – my sense of time has been so warped lately.
I really wish there was a “sarcasm font when you need it”, but you did fine without it 🙂
This whole letter had me so angry (at the shit-tastic boyfriend) that I had to get up and leave my desk before I could finish it. The boyfriend is bad news. He is the worst news. LW, please, please, please–show him the door, forever.
RUN FOR YOUR LIFE. This guy is no good, and he has most definitely hurt you. You’re allowed to feel hurt by him without having lots of “rational” reasons to back it up and explain yourself. Ditto for breaking up with him. “This relationship isn’t working for me” IS a reason, and it’s absolutely fucking valid on the basis of “you don’t have to be in a relationship with anyone you don’t want to.” I know how clingy these dudes can be; when I broke it off with my ex he seemed to accept me saying that I just wasn’t feeling it, but then texted me the next day and demanded to meet up so that he could question me about WHYYYYY exactly I didn’t want to be his girlfriend.
Also, blocking on social media: YES, DO THIS. Ex turned nasty towards me on social media so I unfriended him on Facebook, but didn’t block him because I felt it would be “too mean,” but this left me wide open for a massive middle-of-the-night FEELINGSBOMB message from him that nearly made me vomit from anxiety when I read it (I also have an anxiety disorder). I immediately blocked him then and have had no contact with him since (nearly two years).
LW, it will probably take you a long time to be able to trust your own feelings and emotional reactions again after dealing with this guy’s gaslighting. The best thing you can do for yourself is to get away from him and make a clean break. Jedi hugs to you if they are wanted, and good luck.
Wow. Wow. Great advice from Captain. This guy sounds like a scary version of my sister’s not-terribly-pleasant-but-at-least-he’s-not-abusive boyfriend, who thinks he’s So Much More Rational Than Everyone Else. This is what I tell her all the time:
Almost every intelligent person in the world is a mixture of rational and irrational. But people who believe they are *entirely* rational, or that they are *more* rational than everyone else, are actually some of the MOST irrational people, because they’re acting on a deep-seated desire to be the Most Right in every opinion they hold, and justifying it with several insane assumptions (that they alone among all humans do not possess a measure of irrationality, for one; or that any rational being would come to the same conclusion as themselves).
The Captain is spot-on with this advice.
As someone who has learned the hard way that no amount of love and work you can throw at the relationship will negate the fact that your partner is choosing to treat you poorly and clearly does not consider your safety a priority (won’t clean up broken glass in their living space? Seriously?), I can vouch for this advice.
If you break up with this dude and manage to get a month of time away from them under your belt, you will be amazed at how much clearer your thoughts and perspective will be. Your “anxiety” will begin looking more like “sense.” You will begin to see more clearly the many ways that you were not treated well. You might even feel a bit embarassed that you bought into his logical, social-norm defying line for as long as you have. Please don’t be. I had a very similar relationship (only I stayed through not one but two STI scares and increasingly abusive behaviour). I know so many smart, capable people who lost perspective in the face of relationship neglect and abuse and consequently stayed longer than they should have. You are not stupid and you are not alone.
Leave him. There is more out there for you – I promise.
LW here. Thank you. I’m so sorry you went through that relationship and I’m glad you’re out too.
At the risk of sounding smug, I will say am now with a partner who is incredibly kind, respectful and amazing. He reads this blog too and had some choice words to say about your (now) ex. Take heart – there are lots of good ones out there.
How did I end up with a good one? Back in the day, I was a total Love Junkie. That initial intensity you wrote about? That was my high. After a series of relationships that were either disastrous or just not great fits for me, I took a sabbatical from sex and relationships altogether for one year. I’d love to say this was my idea, but it was actually the result of an intervention by a friend who just couldn’t watch me go through it again. Let me tell you, one year seems like an insurmountable period of time to go without love/sex to someone who has just turned 30. That having been said, it was the perfect amount of time for me to get some perspective, figure out what I wanted in life, and stop trying to make myself fit whoever I was interested in at the time. I learned just how awful the concept of the “Cool Girlfriend” is (more on that here: https://captainawkward.com/2014/01/14/535-forgiveness-patience-and-other-traps/)
When I got back in the game, I decided to be a bit more strategic about my approach to relationships and was very up-front about what I wanted from a relationship. When I ended up contemplating a relationship with my current guy, I told him outright that I was a very monogamous person, that I eventually wanted kids, and that I was occasionally very insecure and would require a lot of attention and validation (I give as good as I get, however, so he gets a lot of love and attention from me in return). If he wasn’t up for any of that, it was better to know it at the beginning and not proceed. I just couldn’t handle falling intensely in love (AGAIN) and then discovering that the object of my ardour was not on board with my needs.
Needless to say, my guy signed on, we still got to enjoy the intense falling in love bit, and we’ve been awesome partners ever since.
Four things I took away from this experience:
1) Generally speaking, your needs are no more selfish than any potential partner’s
2) Taking time to concentrate on yourself is an awesome thing. I highly recommend it. If you’re a love-junkie like I was, the prospect of taking this time will seem like THE WORST THING IN THE WORLD, but it turned out to be really rewarding.
3) Using your words works. Who knew all those kindergarten teachers were right?
4) Life is too short to spend it with people who don’t treat you well. Do not put up with people who do not make you a priority and who are careless with your heart.
So proud of you, homeruncommitment. Go forth and have an amazing life!
I’m speaking in favor of taking a little time off and figuring out what you are actually looking for, too.
When my husband passed, I looked back and realized that all through my dating history, I had just gone along with the first guy who was interested after each of my breakups. A few dates in, we were apparently a couple, and I just….went along with it? I liked people. I liked the guys, but, I had been lucky that I hadn’t ever encountered the damaging gaslighting dudes.
I decided that I would take a year and not even look. I would decide what kind of life I wanted, and what I might want in my life, and then, in a year, maybe take a look around and be picky this time. Maybe I would even date around a bit.
If a guy didn’t improve my life in a major fashion, then why would I see him again? Being alone was grand. Being with someone should be better, or why not stay single?
My current criteria includes, but is not limited to:
The guy must be at least as awesome as my friends.
I only date adults, and no fixer uppers may apply.
He must respect my opinions and boundaries.
I am a worthwhile person and I deserve happiness. A relationship that I seek out should be adding to that, on balance, and not wearing me down.
Yeah, lots of agree here. There are many things about Spouse’s and my relationship that I don’t exactly recommend duplicating, in that “well, it worked for us, but I am aware that we’re on the statistically unlikely side of the numbers there” way.
There’s a bunch of stuff I sincerely believe we did right. One of which was that we were both in the early stages of being off of a dating hiatus and were still very much in the mindset of Not Looking with the side of “but if I find, hey why not?”
The part I do not recommend, necessarily: We met at an SCA event on Friday night when this nice young man helped me put up my tent. Saturday night he was sharing the tent with me. By Sunday afternoon, we were acting Very Attached and he was dealing with a LINE of people who remembered Darth Ex and were giving him the, “You hurt Cheshire, I hurt you!” lecture. (And I was very red in the face and telling them to please back off…)
The part I DO recommend: We were both at a point in life when we were definitely open to the idea of a serious relationship, but did not want to continue a relationship that wasn’t going to actually work. The next three months were pretty much a constant stream of talking over a lot of long-term potential issues, and we were thorough about it. To give an example, we went way beyond, “Do you want kids?” and, “What do we do if the condom breaks?” all the way into, “How many kids?” and, “What are your thoughts on child discipline?” and, “So, hypothetically speaking, what if prenatal tests show some kind of disability, how would you want to handle that?” and, “So, hypothetically speaking, we have a kid who has a spectacular talent, like she’s going to be the next US Olympic figure skater or something like that. What do we do to support her?” and, “What if one of us is actually infertile, how do you feel about adoption?” Yeah, this got complex. But I’m glad we had this time as a backdrop – it gave us a firm foundation to come back to when life didn’t go as planned, as well as the general idea of it being okay to discuss difficult things with each other.
There is another couple in my circle of friends who started off online with an ocean separating them, and then he arranged his life to come to the US on a student visa, and they went through a similar period of, “We really like each other, we think this will work, but let’s just BE SURE about it!” that settled in a similar way.
Trying to be what you think a person wants you to be doesn’t end well, usually. Being who you are and figuring out if that works with the person you’re with seems to have better results – it either strengthens the relationship for the long haul or makes the fatal flaws apparent more quickly.
Yes. This is a classic sick system situation.
One thing I wanted to point out — even taking a look at the STI situation “rationally”, without emotions involved, this dude betrays his lack of caring.
In a cost-benefit analysis of getting tested for an STI, the cost is him is the cost of going to the clinic and then getting medicine multiplied by the “very limited” chance he has a STI. The benefit is the value of not spreading that STI to his partner, you, and not having you have to get treated times the chance you’ll get the STI (which I’d reckon is pretty close to his chance of having the STI, given that you guys were dating).
What’s he saying is that the benefit doesn’t outweigh the cost for him — i.e, the benefit of you not getting the STI and not having to be treated doesn’t outweigh him having to go to the clinic and get treated. I think that says a lot.
This right here! Oh, and then he has the audacity to tell LW that they’re good for each other? After his actions have been decidedly NOT good for her?! Shut it down, deal breaker!
And even if he doesn’t give a shit about endangering others and is ok with that, how is it “rational” for him to endanger his own health like that? Nowadays we think of a lot of diseases as “minor” because it’s 2014 and we know how to treat them easily, but that all goes out the window if you’re not using that knowledge and letting the illness fester.
And just wait until those diseases start getting antibiotic resistance like staph is!
“My boyfriend doesn’t see the problem – he thinks if someone is objectively right, they’re right, and emotions that correspond with that are the issue of the emotional person. He is also extremely strong-willed and intellectually well-backed-up and is not used to being challenged emotionally, so I don’t think he realises how unpleasant it can be. I’ve explained this explicitly now and he found the concept very hard to relate to.”
I call bullshit. Unless he has Intel Inside, he’s just as irrational and prone to emotional responses as the rest of us. It’s just that as far as he’s concerned, his emotions back up his position and make him Objectively Right (a scientific impossibility, btw), whereas your emotions are irrelevant.
Dump that self-absorbed manchild, let him rationally enjoy his glass-covered floor.
Society is mocking that floor pretty hard right now, so he should probably leave the glass there another month or so to really prove his point.
As an Optimizer™, I totally know what it feels like to want to be Objectively Correct to the point of assholery. I really don’t know how Rational Dood squares Objectively Correct with Walking Around On Broken Glass Because Reasons.
But let’s be honest, when a dood insists that he is Captain Rational, Unlike You With All Your Lady Feelings That Just Get In The Way Of You Making Good Decisions Such As Touching My Penis, it’s not about rationality or objective correctness. It’s about framing his experience and judgement as always right and yours as always wrong (and so You Should Totally Touch His Penis/Be In Charge Of All Cleaning/Stay In A Relationship With Him/whatever thing it is that he wants you to do).
LW, I am so sorry you have found your Darth Vadar. But Darth he is. The Darthest Darth that ever Darthed. I hope you can get away from him safely. Like so many other commenters, I am sending you mind hugs.
I’m pretty sure that if the vast majority of people agree that something is a good idea, that basically proves that it’s not. Rationality!
I do kind of want to see him logic his way out of lockjaw, but not until LW’s feet are safety out of the picture.
And, like, even if the argument were not as basically sound as, “Broken glass is bad to step on; floors without broken glass on are superior for walking; broken glass should be removed from proximity to bare feet; we should take steps to prevent the entrance of splinters of broken glass into our skin; broken glass, in addition to being sharp, is also a potential vector for disease,” it would still be valid.
Arguable is not the same as irrational. “I like Paris in the springtime” is not an illogical preference just because some people would rather visit Ulaan Baatar in February without a warm coat. It is okay to want things he does not want.
just want to second everything here and let you know you are wonderful and deserve the best. internet hugs if you want them and best of luck- getting away and getting over a Vader is difficult but it and you are so worth it.
LW, I also have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I understand doubting your own feelings because you don’t know if it’s your Anxiety Monster or your own brain speaking. A trick that I’ve learned? Treat them as one and the same! I know this sounds like it’s “giving in” to your anxiety, the idea of which you probably hate just as much as I do. And when you’re with someone as self-righteous as your boyfriend, who is in love with the word “logic,” (just the word, mind you, not the actual definition of logic as a complex concept) the feelings of inadequacy you get when he makes you feel “irrational” or “illogical” will make you miserable. I know! I’ve been there! And I’m here to tell you that anyone who makes you feel that way, GAD or otherwise, is NOT GOOD FOR YOU!
When I was first diagnosed with GAD, I found it incredibly helpful to take a journal with me EVERYWHERE. Whenever I felt anxiety bubbling in my gut, I’d whip it out and jot down information: Where I was, what time was it, what triggered the anxiety, how I felt about the situation, WHY this situation might be giving me anxiety, and what could I do to make myself feel better. It helped to reflect on all of my feelings and circumstances and draw parallels as time went on. The one instance where I was anxious about my sister canceling our plans? Easily solved by going through my little list and some quick, friendly communication with her! The repeated instances of worrying about my (ex) boyfriend hiding things from me? Well, that problem revealed itself to be pretty darn concrete when it kept occurring throughout various situations.
The point is, we all have anxiety, and those of us with GAD just have some extra heapings of it. But never think that your anxiety, or the feelings it might produce, aren’t valid. They exist for a reason, and they are your way of acknowledging when something is making you feel weird. And the fact remains that no one in this world can dictate for you when and where those feelings will spring up, nor should they. Listen to yourself when this happens, and seek to understand why. It might be something silly, but it might also be the recurring problem of a selfish and condescending boyfriend who ultimately isn’t making you feel good about yourself.
This was intensely painful to read.
Run, run, run, run, run.
It’s not easy to run when somebody has destroyed your sense of reality and what is ok, but it is possible and…
….oh my god LW life is better on the other side.
Life is so much better on the other side. You will find yourself again. You will find all the love and support and the freedom on the other side. From Team You, from new people who love the suffing out of you and most of all from yourself.
There is no upside to these sorts of relationships, not in my experience and I’ve had a few (yes, in therapy, also recommended). The only upside, really, is that you survived and you are so much more beautiful on the other side.
All the jedi hugs and loves in the entire universe and beyond. Through all the rationality (what is truth anyway? it’s not what this douchbag believes, I know that much)
So, I am pretty damn smart. I’ve taught logic at an Ivy League university, matched wits with philosophers at the Ecole Normale, etc etc
I say this because a) It feels good to brag on myself every so often when it’s so strongly forbidden me as a woman! But more seriously because b) I recognize a pattern in your letter that I see a lot.
Namely, it doesn’t matter that I can refer to the text in the original language; it doesn’t matter that I can pick apart their syllogisms and find the flaws–for these men, for whom “rationality” is a part of their masculine identity, I will always be the irrational one, always the emotional one. Even when I’m appealing to evidence and they’re just shouting, they tell me I need to be more “objective.”
Objectivity is the cultural birthright we bestow on the almighty penis.
These men are usually not exceptionally intelligent; their arguments are not great. But “irrational woman and rational man” is such a strong cultural script that every time I find myself second guessing and doubting my own right to speak.
So it kills me when I see other women assuming they are less intelligent or rational than their partners, often simply because their gender script hasn’t demanded that they pick up a certain amount of jargon that confers a facile authority.
LW, maybe your boyfriend is as perfectly rational as he thinks he is. But he’s definitely making irrational, emotionally manipulative arguments. And honestly, he sounds kind of like a sophist, the ancient ancestor of “just playing devil’s advocate” guy.
The captain’s advice about not needing a logical reason for your emtions and relationship decisions is spot-on. But if I could, I would love to give you permission to never again see your self as less smart, less rational, less right than this guy. Because to me, you sound really smart. Incisive. Sharp as a tack. You saw through this guy’s pseudo-philosophical posturing when he was doing his best to hide it under a cloak of nasty emotional gaslighting. You are a wise and perceptive person, and not being able to out-argue an unscrupulous and intellectually self-aggrandizing asshole lover changes that not a whit.
You never need to waste another minute trying to justify your opinions to this guy. He’s not interested in the truth, he’s interested in controlling you. You, intelligent, sensible, clear-sighted you. Forget about him, the better to go share your awesome reasoning powers with the world of people who will engage and enliven them.
This is probably too off topic, but do you know how to explain that “just playing devil’s advocate” guy is actually an asshole? I’ve always felt like these guys are gross and just naturally distanced myself from them, but I don’t know how to explain why they’re awful.
A wonderful Shakeville post clarified a huge part of it for me:
“There are the occasions that men—intellectual men, clever men, engaged men—insist on playing devil’s advocate, desirous of a debate on some aspect of feminist theory or reproductive rights or some other subject generally filed under the heading: Women’s Issues. These intellectual, clever, engaged men want to endlessly probe my argument for weaknesses, want to wrestle over details, want to argue just for fun—and they wonder, these intellectual, clever, engaged men, why my voice keeps raising and why my face is flushed and why, after an hour of fighting my corner, hot tears burn the corners of my eyes. Why do you have to take this stuff so personally? ask the intellectual, clever, and engaged men, who have never considered that the content of the abstract exercise that’s so much fun for them is the stuff of my life.”
(source: http://www.shakesville.com/2009/08/terrible-bargain-we-have-regretfully.html )
They’ve just volunteered to serve Satan because they’re bored at a cocktail party. What more do you need?
They’re arrogant enough to think that the Prince of Hell would hire them as his attorneys, when you consider the world-class lawyers he’s got at his disposable already.
I usually call it “non-consensual devil’s advocacy”, and watch those types of folk fumble.
For pure amusement rather than necessary the clarification you’re looking for, try this:
“It’s with very real regret that we must inform you that your petition to play devil’s advocate has been denied. Thank you for your interest in the devil’s advocate position; we realize that this is disappointing and would like to assure you that your candidacy was considered very carefully. As you know, we receive an overwhelming number of requests to play devil’s advocate every day, and while we would like to accommodate them all, we simply don’t have the resources to do so.”
I think a good way to start is to sneakily agree that yes, the “devil’s advocate” concept can be a useful tool in sharpening and testing one’s own argument. There’s nothing inherently wrong with taking a contrary position in a debate in order to provide a bit of theoretical pushback.
But the operative words there are “in a debate”. As in, an actual debate. As in, a situation where both parties agree ahead of time, “Yes, let’s have a discussion to test the merits of our ideas against one another.”
If someone is spilling their guts about a time of emotional distress, you CANNOT play devil’s advocate, because that is not a debate. If someone is telling you about something that happened to them, you CANNOT play devil’s advocate, because that is not a debate. If someone is sharing something that they are passionate about, or recounting a day at work, or asking you to do something… etc., etc., etc.
Dragging someone into a debate, when they did not sign up to debate with you, is a pretty cruddy thing to do. Intentionally riling them up in that pseudo-debate is an even cruddier thing to do. Riling them up and then announcing after the fact that, “ha-ha, just kidding, I was playing devil’s advocate” is a completely self-centered, unsympathetic way to behave.
For me, the problem with these guys is that they aren’t actually interested in having the conversation/debate, no matter how much they claim to be. They just want to see how smart they can feel by taking a counter-intuitive position. Which ends up casting you as a Foil For Their Brilliant Thought Experiment, and means that they listen to nothing you say. Even if they agree with you in the end it’s because they totally already knew all of those things (and can explain them much better and at more length than you).
I have better things to do with my time than play literal sounding board to a guy who wants to use me as an inanimate plaything for his intellectual masturbation. The fact that he doesn’t even think about why that role isn’t fun for me is what makes him an asshole.
Somewhere on the internet that I can’t remember, I’ve seen that referred to as The Stoner’s Gambit – grownups are discussing real stuff, and Trust Fund Marxist guy tries to derail it all with “Yeah, but what do words even MEAN…”
“I have better things to do with my time than play literal sounding board to a guy who wants to use me as an inanimate plaything for his intellectual masturbation.”
Esti, thank you for a succinct answer to this.
Yes. I know a guy like this, and a mutual acquaintance calls it “The Professor Genius of Smartology” routine. I’ve been studiously avoiding him since he got drunk at New Year’s and yelled at us for not
fellating his ego over his brilliant plans to save society, er,“being willing to rationally engage about things that matter”.
The term ‘devil’s advocate’ comes from Vatican deliberations about canonization. If someone was super popular and everyone wanted to make them a saint immediately, a Devil’s Advocate would be chosen to represent the minority view. The key thing is, a Devil’s Advocate is a part of an internal discussion within a community, and represents a challenge to the status quo. The drunk asshole at the party saying, “Yeah, well, what if it’s okay to be racist? What if women really are less intelligent than men? Maybe poor people are just lazy…” does not challenge the status quo. He’s just an asshole.
“The captain’s advice about not needing a logical reason for your emtions and relationship decisions is spot-on. But if I could, I would love to give you permission to never again see your self as less smart, less rational, less right than this guy. Because to me, you sound really smart. Incisive. Sharp as a tack. You saw through this guy’s pseudo-philosophical posturing when he was doing his best to hide it under a cloak of nasty emotional gaslighting. You are a wise and perceptive person, and not being able to out-argue an unscrupulous and intellectually self-aggrandizing asshole lover changes that not a whit.”
SO. VERY. THIS.
What she ^^^ said.
I have a degree in philosophical logic and this guy… What we have here is a case of FEELPINIONS!
Get thee away from jerkhood incarnate. If it helps, I’m in Australia and you can sleep on my couch 😉
That should’ve been:
“Logic” – I-do-not-think-it-means-what-you-think-it-means
(And the offer of my couch was in aide you choose to run really far away – and Australia happens to fit that criteria)
This is my new favourite term. Seriously. Thank you so much!
Not all men have penises and not all people with penises are men–I think it’s more accurate to say “objectivity is the birthright we bestow on the almighty man.”
True. While a lot of these particular douchebags also subscribe to ciscentric biological determinism, we should try not to make the same mistake.
The kind of person who believes that men are naturally endowed with positive qualities that women lack? Is usually not the kind of person who believes trans men are men. “Penis” was accurate, sadly.
The sentence was “Objectivity is the birthright we bestow on the almighty penis.” *We* bestow; not just “them” or “those conservatives” but us and our circles. In my experience there is a lot of sexism and misogyny in the LGBTQ communities, where people may know some basic facts about trans people (or be trans themselves of course) while at the same time favoring men by default. Sexism, including specific beliefs about men’s objectivity over women’s subjectivity, pervades communities that consider themselves radical, progressive, or queer. Transphobia is also rife within those same communities. Let’s push back against, not capitulate to, transphobic framings of sexist issues.
^ Totally agreed.
I’m a (female) Ivy League student, and I had a (former) (male) friend yell verbal abuse at me for several minutes for daring to assert that the editor of Vogue is an influential person.
Thankfully, his girlfriend stopped the tirade. But ever since I have worried about her, and ever since, any story like the LW’s makes me think of that moment.
LW: YOU are the rational one. But even if you weren’t, who cares? Some things are more important than being rational, like feeling safe and happy in your own space. Sending love and support your way.
I’m a woman in philosophy and very familiar with the “as a man I simply must be the rational one” line of thinking. In fact, I had someone give me the old speech about men being the more rational ones and women being more “creative” (this was based on what he experienced with his wife!), then that same person made a logic mistake in his presentation, then I pointed it out and everyone agreed with me and he STILL didn’t get it (ended up attributing the point to a male professor who was agreeing with me). It’s so infuriating.
I love these guys. You know why? Because I am good at bullshitting, at argument, at rhetoric. I can go after a fallacious point, or better yet, the weakness in the person themselves in a such a way that their arguments disintegrate and they leave in a huff. You know why? Not because I am a smarter person, or more logical. Actually it’s because I am good at manipulating peoples emotions and dudes like this let me slip the leash off my tongue. It does not make me right, it doesn’t make me better, and it doesn’t make them respect me. It certainly doesn’t mean I have a greater understanding of whatever the topic is. It means that I have a facile tongue. That’s it. And it makes dudes like this avoid me. Now, if they loved logic and truth and argument so fucking much you’d think they would want to date me, or talk to me more to help them with their thinking. Weirdly they seem to choose women who are actually nice people, but who maybe haven’t met many of this type yet. Who maybe don’t have the defenses yet.Lw, maybe think of this wanker as your vaccination against dudes of this type. May you create yourself a wonderful life and find somewhat sexy and clever and not a wanker.
I was skimming twitter before I started reading this discussion on devil’s advocate-type douchebags, and I just read a friend’s post saying this: “‘Devil’s advocate’ is the code name for someone who wants to express their views but not be held responsible for them.” I thought that was rather apt.
I dated this guy, LW, and I cosign 99.9% of what the good Captain says, as usual. Run Far, Far Away, as fast as you can. Once you get away from him, you’ll be able to look back and see how he twisted your thought processes, how he got you to second-guess your own perfectly normal, healthy, and even rational feelings. If you’re anything like me it’s hard to trust yourself right now, but your inner voice that you think is anxiety talking? Listen to it. Even if some of it really is anxiety. From the sounds of it, most of it isn’t.
I do want to warn you that this part: “If you ignore him long enough, he will go away. And if you give it enough time, you will heal from this and move on” might take longer than you think. I’m 7 years out from the end of my Vader relationship and he still contacts me now and again (most recently just 2 months ago), despite getting nothing from me. It also took me longer than I expected to heal: I thought I was doing pretty well after a few months, but when my next relationship fell apart a couple years later, I found myself processing VaderEx issues as much as I was issues from the last relationship.
Finally, you might also want to take a look at Lundy Bancroft’s “Why Does He Do That?”. http://www.amazon.com/Why-Does-He-That-Controlling/dp/0425191656 It’s specifically about angry abusive men, but I think you might find some useful information here, too. Especially when it comes to trying to find an even remotely logical reason why someone who loves you as he says he does would do the things it did.
I’m sending lots of Jedi hugs your way, LW! You can do this, and you’ll be happier in the long run for it!
I want to second that recommendation — someone here recommended the book, I read it, Lundy Bancroft recommended “the verbally abusive relationship” by Patricia Evans, which made me understand not only that I had been in an abusive relationship for over a decade, but was the instrument of my really being able to let go of that relationship (I had left the person, and had found another partner, in fact, but I could not seem to release the burden of being responsible for his emotional health, even though I knew it was bullshit).
tl;dr: good book, here’s another one.
Reposting due to many meaning-obscuring mistakes in original, sorry. Accidentally posted a draft.
This is clearly a man who puts a great deal of time, thought, and effort into his assholery. I am—reluctantly—impressed. I mean, I have had my head worked over by a few jerks, a couple of abusers, and one individual who I would class as a professional; I have used, with a straight face and a truly unhealthy amount of sincerity, the phrase “If I’d killed him when I met him I might at least be eligible for PAROLE by now”, and this guy takes the cake. The stale, moldy, kerosene flavoured cake.
He should be in a glass case, somewhere. Somewhere far, far away from you. I am not inclined to hassle the manufacturers unduly about providing airholes, either.
He’s not even Darth Vader, he’s Malaria: he’ll sap your strength and wreck your health and make you feel like crap and keep coming back for more and more and more flareups that get worse and worse until you either collapse completely from exhaustion and pain or get him out of your bloodstream entirely.
I agree ONE HUNDRED PERCENT with the Captain about “Because I do not want to date you anymore, ever, goodbye” being a complete, perfect, inarguable reason to break up with him—or anyone, but especially him.
If you need/want ONE followup to his attempts to explain why that is an incorrect feeling which you should stop experiencing, I offer this:
“If I thought that we could discuss this two like reasonable adults and come to an agreement that both of us would like and find acceptable, we would be having that conversation, not this one, which is the one where I break up with you and let you know that I intend to take a complete break. Goodbye“.
I also encourage you to disengage entirely, block, show your Team You this post, let everybody know that the topic is closed and he is not to be given any information about you, nor are messages to be taken.
And keep notes. If you feel comfortable doing so, send a friend or family member from Team You an archive of your emails and chat logs and what have you, and have them stash it so that it is a) gone from your computer/life/attention and b) available if this goes south.
If they’re willing you can also send them quick logging notes (Time, Date, Medium, Content) about anything that happens post-final-breakup, which they can then stash for you so that you don’t have to keep that log on your computer either. These things may help your anxiety, or they may not, but if they do, it’s a reasonable thing to ask a friend to do.
It also means that there will be someone who is exquisitely well-placed to talk you down if this guy every browbeats you into considering seeing him again.
He may not. He may just vanish, having rewritten his universe so that you are someone who PROVED— he can defend this logically, of course — that they did not live up to his very high standards and so is not worth his time, and go away,
Or he may decide that it is clearly HIS job, as the logical, sensible person here, to make sure you don’t throw away this amazing relationship when he could prevent it just by explaining some more.
In other words, he may decide he’s going to do stalkery, boundary-violating, unpleasant things, and it may be unpleasant for awhile. This is an unpleasant thought, but please don’t let it become a reason to not break up with him, because I PROMISE you, being stalked by this guy would actually be pleasanter than dating him, because EVEN IF that happens, he will no longer have access to the inside of your head, you’ll be utterly free to ask other people to help you deal with him without feeling any pull to be “loyal” or “fair”, and and you won’t have to listen to what he says, argue with him, or give a damn what he thinks, feels and says anymore. Plus, you’ll have your much happier, better, more awesome life happening.
Good luck, please do let us know how you are doing if you are able, and remember that you are not alone; everything this guy has done is stuff that many abusers do, and there are a lot of us out here who fell victim to it for awhile and eventually dragged ourselves (or got pulled, or a combination) out of the trap. And we’re pulling for you.
I banished the first draft to the trash, thanks.
Marna Nightingale: proving that the voice of experience can be frickin’ hilarious.
Mine is a grim and steely snicker!
So my friend B refers to one of my more … memorable … exes as The Parole Officer. Periodically this leads to:
New Friend: “So he worked for Corrections Canada?”
NF: “… oh.”
Me: “But at least I learned how to repair drywall.”
NF: “So he worked in construction?”
NF: ” … oh. OH.”
Me/B/Me&B: “Yeah. OH.”
LW, the Captain & others are right when they say that this is a not good situation. I encourage you to trust your feelings on this one & go, go, go. That thing where you don’t like being around drug use? I feel that way as well, and I know where you’re coming from. The thing about your preferences is that you don’t have to justify them, and they don’t have to be rational. You are ALLOWED to not like certain things and not like to be around certain things. You get to have feelings! Those feelings are good and not wrong. You should get to live a life you feel comfortable and happy in, and setting boundaries around what is good for you and wasn’t isn’t helps you get that comfortable and happy life.
My boyfriend of 16 months has an extensive history of past drug use that mostly tailored off about four years before we started dating. Since we’ve been together, he’s done drugs only once, which I knew about and was mostly ok with. His drugs of choice were different, but I thought sort of on the same lines as you–he’s an adult, he can make his own decisions, and because I’m uncomfortable isn’t a good reason to tell him what to do. But recently we had a conversation about how I felt about drug use (basically, not totally rationally but due to experiences in my past I have abandonment issues about drugs. I feel like people like drugs more than they like me and will abandon me/our friendship to do them). I explicitly told him that he was a grown up and I wouldn’t tell him what to do, but that’s how I felt. His response was that because it makes me uncomfortable, it wouldn’t happen again. He would never use drugs again.
I’m telling you this not because your boyfriend should have made the same decision as mine–there are several healthy ways that talk could have come to resolution. But what I do want to say is that people who love you don’t try to talk you out of your feelings, or tell you that how you feel is wrong or unimportant. People who love you listen to you and try to work on solutions that make you both happy. That is how people that love each other take care of one another in a relationship, and I don’t get that vibe from your boyfriend.
Like the Captain said, you will survive this. It may be hard and scary but greater happiness and joy lies on the other side, where you get to truly be you and feel the emotions of your life without someone constantly second guessing you. Best of luck.
That’s a very sweet story about your boyfriend and you. It’s a lot rarer than it should be to have someone demonstrate that they support us completely, so that it’s moving to hear about a time it did happen.
He also said I should try drugs, when he was tripping. I told him later that encouraging / pressuring me to try drugs when I’ve told him for mental health reasons that that is impossible is completely out of bounds, and he did apologise for that. And then said that a sliver of MDMA would probably be OK.
Am I the only one that thinks the decision not to be around people doing drugs is a totally rational one? If you replaced drugs with alcohol and said to someone:
“When you’re drunk you’re mean/shouty/violent/weepy/incoherent and boring and sometimes you stop being able to walk and when I carried you home last week it put my back out. So being around you when you’re drunk is not fun for me so I’m not going to do it. Also it’s annoying that you waste our precious free time on vomming and groaning on the couch whilst hungover.”
We’d think that was a reasonable response. Those things are still true for drugs but they have the additional complications of being illegal (whether you think that’s a good or bad thing is irrelevant), which means a) there could be serious repercussions for you being around people taking them like a criminal record that makes it impossible for you EVER to hold certain jobs or go to certain countries and b) nobody ever really knows what’s in them so in addition to the known effects any number of other things could happen, someone could die or have a psychotic episode in front of you. You can weigh the odds and say that you think the risk is worth it for the buzz, but if you’re not even getting the buzz it seems pretty hard to rationalise the need for you to be there.
The fact that he essentially told me I should get over my “hangup” the day after a girl DID go into drug-induced psychosis in front of us? Yeah.
Watching that happen and wanting to never see it again = TOTALLY REASONABLE. Super glad you’re out.
It’s completely rational. Not to mention, people who are on drugs are often unable to properly make decisions, which leaves most people feeling responsible for them.
My Darth Ex was a hardcore stoner during most of the second year of our relationship, and was occasionally using other substances as well.
He was also perpetually trying to logic me out of having a problem with his drug use, very much with the, “What, just because it’s illegal?” form of argumentation.
His side of the story of our breakup was that I decided the SCA was more important to my life than our relationship. Because I was working health/safety/security at a lot of events and therefore really could not be in the company of Stoned Dudes at events or allow Stoned Dudes to commingle their drugs with my SCA stuff. (Plus, the whole transporting drugs across state lines into a state that had much stricter anti-marijuana laws than my home state does did not sit well with me.) And because HIS DRUGS being more important to his life than our relationship was not something he was willing to fess up to.
Oh my goodness, LW, I have so much sympathy for you. If anyone ever makes you feel like you can’t trust your own thoughts or feelings, that person is not doing good things for you. Even if they make you happy some of the time, or a lot of the time, if they want you to trust them more than you trust yourself, they are dangerous.
One thing occurred to me as I read the Captain’s (excellent) advice. Cutting off all communication with this guy may feel a little extreme, and if you have mutual friends, they might try to convince you that you’re being unreasonable. This guy might tell people that you’re his crazy ex who accused him of stalking and harassing, and you might find out about that. It probably won’t feel good to hear stuff like that. But I think there are things far worse than being described as someone’s crazy ex (although it would be really shitty of him to call you that if he does). You don’t need to justify this breakup to anyone, and you certainly don’t need to show people how rational you are to set the record straight. Surround yourself with people who care about you, who will listen to you, who value you as a person over you as a part of this relationship. It might not be easy, but you can survive this.
LW here. Any idea of how much of this to share with mutual friends? I’m pointing my friends to this page but doing that with mutual friends (who are his friends first and foremost) seems unfair on them somehow, and maybe means it’s more likely that the URL gets passed onto him and he gets pissy/harass-y? I hung out with one of them today and it was really hard to not say “your friend is a DICK” and to keep things light. It kinda felt like I was covering for this guy.
If they’re not on Team You, you can’t count on them to have your back. So yes, they probably will point him to the thread.
So what if they do! You are not obligated to tailor what you say to their or his sensibilities.
And his attempts to guilt you into caring for him and his nonexistent cancer are just rotten
I would not point mutual friends to the thread, because they will send it to him, ask him about it and then he will show up here to defend himself and Oh look, there is he is your life again. While there’s nothing to stop anyone from posting here, *I* don’t actually want him in my life or my space or have to deal with the fallout from that. Think about this as your safe space away from him. Why would you invite him here to endlessly justify his shit? I mean, I’ll delete it all, but I don’t want to have to fish through it. So as a favor to me, maybe, no?
But you could tell the friends what you told us in the letter.
And you could use the things we said about how he’s a jerkbag to shore you up.
I can’t say how you feel about it, and I’m the sort of person whose happiest with a smaller number of friends than a larger number, but I think unless these mutual friends are really important to you, maybe you don’t need to be friends with them anymore? Not because they did anything wrong or because they “deserve” to be cut off, but because that’s what’s best for you, and you get to decide that.
I say this because I think people who are primarily his friends are not going to be effective members of Team You. If you want to maintain friendly contact with them, you only need to tell them that you broke it off with him because you weren’t happy in the relationship, and can they please not pass on information about you to him, or him to you. People who can’t respect that definitely don’t need to be kept on as friends.
I was just coming back here to say this.
Homeruncommitment, I know it’s tempting, but getting FREE of this due is more important than convincing his friends you’re RIGHT about him. Tell them what Jake said. If they give you a round of “But whyyyyyyyyy?” they’ve just told you they can’t be trusted with any more information. If they say “Cool,” say “thank you” and change the subject to something you actually have in common now, besides this guy. If this seems too hard, take a detox break from hanging with the mutual friends for a while. Mutual friends are not gonna be the people who are best at helping you process all of this.
Speaking as someone with a really high tolerance for socially inept rationalist dudes — I ran a science fiction club in college, and currently supervise a bunch of nerdy high school kids who had better turn out better than this guy you are dating — and also as someone with a sort of frighteningly high tolerance for excusing the kind of incompetence that might as well be malice except they swear they meant well and you believe them — I would like to endorse everyone else’s advice to run away. Run far away. There is forgiveness and acceptance and tolerance and bucking society’s norms. And there is demonstrating that you give any fucks about the person you are dating. There are lines and he has crossed at least one of them. Probably more like three. Don’t let him talk you into saving this just because he wants it.
Run. Run run run run run.
This guy literally made you sick. Get the hell out now.
While I think this is all pretty good advice, I’d just like to add two things:
1)Be ready to let go of anything you might have left at his house. Don’t let him manipulate you through third parties into just dropping by to pick it up. He just wants a chance to “logic” you into coming back. (If he really cares about returning it, he can find a way that doesn’t involve direct contact between the two of you.)
2)While he will most likely eventually give up and go away, do keep a look out for signs that he isn’t. He seems overly invested in having you not break up with him, which has me somewhat concerned.
I am kind of hoping that “too lazy to clean up broken glass hazard” + “too lazy to get tested for STIs” = “too lazy to show real dedication to stalking.” FINGERS CROSSED, though it might get bad initially during the extinction burst.
One thing I noticed was that from the letter it seemed like not just laziness but contrariness, because LW broke the glass – she was going to clean it up herself and he wouldn’t let her/told her not to
Yes, this. I’d really like to get LW to a women’s shelter to discuss the best way to protect herself in the upcoming weeks/months. I think about things like changing your email address and not giving him the new one. Archiving any contact from him without reading, maybe let a calm outsider monitor it for warning signs. I like this website http://www.nononsenseselfdefense.com/profile.html and just from the short description you give, he checks off about 7 out of the 13 danger signs. I don’t have any expertise in this, but I suspect she’s better off avoiding any kind of firm decision or confrontation. I think she’s better off with delaying tactics like “I’m really busy right now” or “I need some time” and hope he finds someone else rather than waiting.
Just a heads up – that site has some great advice about spotting predators, but it does have an underlying attitude of “You’re responsible to keep yourself safe” that gets pretty victim-blamey at times. Proceed with your current amount of cope in mind.
I’m also a very anxious person, and it’s sort of an ongoing project for me to separate the wheat fears from the chaff fears. I second sharp0’s advice of respecting your anxiety even if you’re not sure right now which fears are which. I found that doing so was a way to be kind to myself, and being kind to myself I’m pretty convinced is probably the way out of all this. That and getting angry; that takes the fear-energy and channels it into something I can actually use. Over time I’ve gotten better at knowing what are just empty fears and what are real gut-level intuitions. They feel different, in a physical though subtle way. I don’t know if that helps.
At any rate I millionth the advice you’re getting here. This is not your random anxiety talking; this guy is seriously bad shit. Run.
I agree with everyone – this guy is bad news and you need to get far, far away. But I wanted to add that it is totally okay to grieve for the parts of the relationship that were good or made you happy. If you cut off all contact you probably won’t feel like singing and dancing right away, and that’s okay. Take some time and grieve for the relationship you thought you had.
Holy crap. LW, I have nothing much to add to this fantastic advice except that I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through this, you deserve so much better and you will find so much better once you remove this guy from your life. Seriously. A relationship should never be an argument you have to win. You are awesome. All the virtual support for you and hugs if you want them!
Dear LW, you are dating a sort of person I like to refer to as The Only Right Opinion Is MY Opinion, Despite All Evidence To The Contrary.
Run. Run like your ass is on fire and you love the feel of the wind in your hair. Take to the sea if you must. The only way to have any sort of relationship with a person like this is to have no opinions, thoughts, principles, needs, wishes, hopes, desires, or dreams of your own, and that is no relationship I would wish on anyone.
Can I just say, in this terrible letter that saddened me on all the levels and the responses that are brave and true and heartfelt, the lines “Run like your ass is on fire and you love the feel of the wind in your hair. Take to the sea if you must.” made me laugh, possibly a trifle hysterically?
There is the slight possibility that I have spent way too many hours on The Toast lately.
I do mean it though, this is one of those relationships that is unsalvageable on every level, and if the LW needs (and is able) to not figuratively leave the hemisphere to get away, then yes, do that. Whatever it takes not to get sucked back in with someone who forces the person they claim to love to admit that their own feelings and principles aren’t worthy of consideration.
Captain, there’s a duplicate-ish post in moderation with a nym on it I’d rather not go by here. Can delete?
“The only right opinion is my opinion, and it’s totally not an opinion at all, it’s a fact, only weak wrong humans have opinions, but I am a superior robot and therefore everything I pull out of my ass is by definition a fact”
I dated one of these types of dudes too and this letter has me shaking with rage so hard I think I might vomit. RUN AWAY, LETTER WRITER. RUN SO FAR AND SO FAST.
Your letter brought tears to my eyes and frankly scared me so much I was compelled to reply (long time lurker!). Dear LW, this is the kind of story they make Lifetime movies about. This man is toxic and your instincts that you are in danger are correct. Follow the steps provided by the Captain, please, please. And good luck to you.
Mother, May I Step on Broken Glass? starring Mare Winningham and Hayden Panettiere.
Awesome advice. Very good checklist. Another thing to do before step 4 (send the break-up e-mail): Retrieve your things from his house. Maybe you can swoop them up when he’s not there. Maybe one of your other friends now wants to borrow those things, so you have that reason to collect them.
LW, you might think about taking a picture of the box of his stuff before you send it, in case he decides to say you missed something, or his things were damaged, etc. There are some folks who love to drag their victims to court if there’s no other way to get to them, and this might circumvent that process. Best of luck getting free of him and his house of logic and broken glass.
LW, your letter made my hair stand on end. This guy is damaging your physical and mental health for his own purposes. When it comes to boundaries like “I am breaking up with you”, your anxiety disorder is irrelevant. That he thinks that emotions make your boundaries invalid and/or negotiable doesn’t just send up red flags. It’s semaphore for “I AM A DANGEROUS DOUCHEBAG”. Please, please, please break up with this guy.
Oh LW, I know that feel. I fell in love with a Philosophy major once; I loved that we had the most interesting conversations, that he could keep up with me intellectually, that he could introduce me to new points of view and help me shift my thinking. But there were also issues between us that I had really strong emotional and value-based objections to.
I also have GAD. And you know that feeling when you’re anxious about something you need to do that’s aboslutely 100% not worth being anxious about, and finally you fight through it enough and do the thing, and it works and it’s not a disaster and your life is better and you’re like, oh, I feel lighter and freer when I can just get over myself? That was what it felt like it might be, if I could just get over these emotions and values that were blocking me from a wonderful relationship with this guy.
TW: racism, ableism. Fortunately in my case there were also 600 kilometres between us as well, so my chances were scuttled before I could force myself into action. Years later, I ran into him at a social event and took him home and slept with him, since I was a pretty different, less anxious person. Afterwards he ended up telling me about his thesis, which was proposing a new socially-constructed definition of personhood. “We could define orangutans as people!” he said excitedly. I frowned and said, “But people could use your definition to revoke the personhood of people with disabilities, or people of colour who are viewed with prejudice.” He replied defensively, “Well, every system has its flaws.”
That night ended up being symbolically important for me to do with my growth as a person, because that’s when my passion for him dried up and I kicked him out of bed. When before, I’d been willing to try to annihilate bits of myself to make things work with him.
There were so many good things feeding into my desire to work things out with him. I was trying to be loving and empathetic, and flexible, and reach for something that felt more like health. I worked hard to see past his flaws. And we did have moments together that were lovely and amazing and made my brain light up like a Christmas tree. But when I finally got a taste of what I thought I’d wanted, I learned just how casually he could use his intellect to be unthinking and cruel.
So LW, I’m seeing you as a good person. You’re trying to push past all the anxiety in your head and get something better for yourself. But with this guy? You deserve more. Your partner should not make you feel stupid and uncertain about yourself. It should be the opposite, where you find the power and independence to find what about you is really great.
The other thing is: you don’t learn to live with GAD by just finding all your weaknesses and the places where you’re illogical. It’s not just closing your ears to what’s in your head. Instead, it’s about finding your strengths and playing to them. You have to find all the things that have helped you through–patience, endurance, courage, compassion, love–and do them on purpose. You have to listen so hard that you can pick out the voice that tells you what it’s like to love yourself, to feel like you have something good to contribute to people who value you, and to feel calm and safe. That’s the one that will lead you out of there.
I needed to hear that last paragraph, thank you.
LW here. I will be reading these last two paragraphs time and time again. Thank you so much staranise, I always love your comments.
Yes your last paragraph is wonderful. Thank you, I needed to hear it too.
Me too. Thank you heaps 🙂
You dated Peter Singer?? Or, worse, there’s two of them?
A much younger Peter Singer knock-off. Sadly, they are legion.
There’s been lots of really good advice here, but one particular thing I’d like to comment on is him making it all about you not liking his/his social circle’s drug-taking habits.
Now personally, I quite like recreational drugs. In my early 20s I took them most weekends, and had a hell of a lot of fun. These days, it’s a rare treat, because I’m a bit more serious about my career and also not as young as I was, so I can’t party for 48 hours and then give a presentation to the board on Monday morning. I’m not like your family going “OMG drugs are bad stay away”. But it is absolutely totally okay not to want to take drugs yourself. Even aside from potential mental health issues, if it’s just not your thing, it’s just not your thing. And being around people on drugs if you’re sober is at best tedious as hell, and at worst terrifying, if those people aren’t taking them responsibly (and it sounds like they aren’t).
Not wanting to be pressured into those situations isn’t you being irrational and emotional. It’s you expressing perfectly reasonable boundaries and him being a raging arse by ignoring them.
Yeah, and also: it is not just personal preference! Although drugs can be okay, they can also really fuck up the people who take them, and the people who are around the people who take them, and the environment around the people who take them. It all depends on whether or not people use them in responsible ways and take responsibility for the consequences of those choices. It sounds like the people around LW are not, which actually DOES make it a problem about the drugs – not caused by the substances themselves, in a way that a kitchen knife is must be wielded responsibly.
Totally agreed! People who take drugs irresponsibly are dangerous and unhealthy to be around.
And, even if LW was totally irrational and had no good reason for disliking drugs… it’s still a valid preference that deserve respect. Like, that’s just basic human decency. There’s nothing wrong with me, say, enjoying a nice cup of tea, but if I have a friend who hates the smell of it, I’m going to avoid drinking tea around hir. Like, duh.
I have dealt with some annoying “rationaler than thou” dudes in my life, but nothing even comes CLOSE to this. Get away from this guy immediately. In a couple months, you’ll be SOOO glad you did.
Oh LW, I am so so so sorry that you are in this awful relationship. And I agree with basically everyone on the GET OUT NOW thing. And most especially, I personally would recommend never engaging with him in discussion/argument EVER again.
Why? Well, let’s talk about arguing in good faith.
When you argue in good faith, you make statements that you believe to be true and listen to the other person with the assumption that they are saying what they think is true. If they seem to have misunderstood something, you point it out; if you don’t understand something, you ask for clarification.
Your boyfriend? Is not arguing in good faith. When someone says “I feel X”, THAT IS A FACT. It’s not a hypothesis or proposal up for debate; it’s how you feel! By contradicting and arguing about *how you feel*, he is showing that, when presented with a true fact that he doesn’t like, he will simply deny it.
And I am 99% sure he is doing this with more things than whether you feel a certain way (granted, I am projecting based on my own experiences, but…the resemblance is uncanny). This type of person will dispute facts that you and he both know are true, and say things that he knows are false, in order to win rhetorical points. It’s like a weird emotionally manipulative form of trolling, but because it’s someone you love and trust, surely they’re not just saying things to fluster and baffle you into not arguing any more?
They are. He is.
And the *very best case* scenario, if you engage with him again, is that you recognize that he’s arguing in bad faith and call him on it in the bluntest of ways while not getting emotionally involved in anything he says. “That’s not true.” “You are wrong.” This can be a bit satisfying in the short term, but it’s emotionally exhausting and they’ll never actually admit they are wrong anyway. So. Leave. You deserve – among other good relationship things! – someone who will approach discussions as a collaboration, not as an interrogation of a hostile witness.
“By contradicting and arguing about *how you feel*, he is showing that, when presented with a true fact that he doesn’t like, he will simply deny it.” THIS. SO MUCH THIS.
And if presented with something he doesn’t understand, he will write it off as irrational (=> wrong) because he’s so invested in his view of himself as rational (=> right).
LW, I dated a guy so much like this… and I also have anxiety and it was used against me in the same ways.
Please, please, please RUN.
Getting away from my Ex made my life so much better. It will for you too!
What this guy is doing? Emotional abuse. This is an abusive relationship. Most cities have services for people trying to get out of such relationships, up to and including counselors and therapists who work pro bono or on a sliding scale if money is an issue. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THEM. Just because he hasn’t been directly, physically violent toward you (yet) (and giving you an STD totally not-by-accident sounds like violence to me) does not mean you aren’t being abused and don’t have a right to these services. If that includes getting a restraining order to keep him from contacting you and arguing you out of your sanity then DO IT. If anyone in your life, friends, family, etc. questions why you’re going to such lengths, just show them this letter.
I was kind of gobsmacked by “he has forced me to see that I was being irrational about my attitude to drugs and that it is merely a personal preference I have not to be around them, rather than any objective issue with the drugs themselves.” There are two fallacies here, and it’s the kind of clever fallacy where the desire to go after one can make you forget that the other one is more important, but I want to address them both anyway.
Fallacy number one: that not liking the risk involved with drugs, or not wanting to have to fix other people’s bad reactions to drugs, is somehow completely “subjective”. It’s not. It’s partly subjective, yes. On the one hand, we have the objective fact that drugs can have bad consequences; on the other hand, we have the subjective risk assessment: “Is this risk worth it to me?” The risk assessment will always be somewhat subjective, as shown by the tell-tale phrase “worth it to me“. I want to be very clear about this, LW. Your boyfriend’s decision to use drugs, and your desire to not be around them, are both based on some subjectivity. Your feelings are not less valid than his; his decision is not less “subjective” than yours. And by showing that there is some subjectivity in your decision, he has not thereby shown that his decision is more valid; nor that you should ignore your own desires. Got it?
This brings us naturally to the second fallacy implied by this statement — the implication that there being some subjectivity to your decision should mean that your decision is not “rational” or worthy of respect. This is obviously false. After all, if your desire to not be around drugs is not worthy of respect, surely his desire to use drugs would be equally not worthy of respect? They’re both subjective, trust me. No. You’re allowed to stick to your subjective preferences. You’re allowed to decide that they are deal-breakers — that you want those preferences (not to be around drugs, not to risk bodily harm from broken glass or STIs, being able to go to work) more than this relationship. That is absolutely reasonable, and you don’t need him to confirm this in order for it to be true. It’s enough that you want out.
I wish you all the best in getting away from this person. He is doing bad things to you and you don’t owe him any more chances to keep doing them.
Hi Captain and the Awesome Army,
LW here. First off, huge thanks to all of you for your insight and support. Especially those of you who are also anxious-inclined. It’s been so affirming to get so much feedback that this dude was Bad News and that my judgment and instincts were on the money. I feel like I can be letting go the confusion and the “did I do the right thing”-ness I’ve been feeling, and just concentrate on being a calmer, happy single person.
There were many other little things about him and the situation that set my alarm bells off – for instance, his best friend who called him on being a boundary-violator? Is himself a misogynistic jerk who trolls women on OKC and used to send me screencaps of their vitriolic responses. So if the gross jerk friend can see the problem – oh boy, it’s a problem. (The fact that my ex-boyfriend was a self-proclaimed feminist and had a dodgy misogynist for a best friend is yet another strike against him.)
Second off, I have taken / will take all the advice herein. I have left and blocked him, gotten most of my gear and willingly let go of the rest, booked an appointment with my therapist and called on my amazing friends and family without feeling guilty about eating their Sandwiches of Love like I might have done in the past. I have talked to a bunch of people who love me and want what’s best for me and are unafraid to tell it like it is, as a kind of insurance policy against ever getting sucked back in by this guy again. I’m being super-kind to myself, hanging with my awesome family and friends, cuddling pets and watching Robert Downy Junior be a sex-pot etc.
I am feeling surprisingly good – validated, I suppose. I feel like my brain’s no longer divided between identifying and standing up for my own needs and trying to make excuses for this guy like I have been for so long. In time I will be able to learn and apply whatever there is to learn from this experience, but I also feel like HEY, MOST OF THIS SHIT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH ME. The mess, the drugs, the STI stuff – I felt so upset about them for so long but they were beyond my control. I think in the next while, where I am eating better (not so much takeaway), sleeping better (not being interrupted by a Dude Who Literally Has No Sleep Schedule) and focusing on meeting my own needs and doing things that I know work well for my anxiety, that I will see a nearly miraculous drop-off in my stress levels. Funny, huh? I’m also factoring in that there will be sad times and missing-the-good-things-with-him times and why-won’t-he-leave-me-the-fuck-alone times and I feel pretty well prepared and supported for all those. And there will be more hot sex and romance and lovely people who are good for me in future, when I am ready and wanting it and when good luck strikes.
Anyway, I love you all and I’m so glad there’s this community I know I can go to where feelings are validated, boundaries are prioritised, Anne Lennox is pumped and dust bunny metaphor are coined. I will leave this shit-head dude in my dust and look forward to travelling with you Awkward-eers for a long time yet. Big Jedi hugs!
PS OH. IT. FEELS GOOD TO BE FREEEEEE!
Yessssss this is all very good to know.
yes! LW, Queen Jenny is very happy for you and is smiling wistfully about all the good things that are lying ahead of you without this dude.
Oh, that is so good to hear. Way to go! You are brave and awesome!
Congratulations on the new, happier path! I’m so happy for you, and you sound so awesome~ All the love and Jedi hugs to you!
YAAAAAAYYYYY YOU!!!!!! ❤
Congratulations Letter Writter and good luck!
This is a happy ending! This is THE BEST happy ending!
LW, Thank you so much for a- writing in to begin with and b- letting us know the good news about where things are now. You are awesome.
ALL THE INTERNET HUGS
This was really exciting to read. So glad you just needed a little push. You’re going to have a a great life.
Yes! Yes, you are! Probably almost entirely broken-glass free!
In 2-5 years if all goes well this dude will be relegated to having a stupid nickname in stories you tell in bars.
And I gotta say, this woman probably wins the Two Glasses of Wine Terrible Ex Sprint to the Bottom race FOREVER. She could probably edge out the competition just based on the broken glass. (Do I seem fixated on the broken glass?)
We need a Terrible Partners of Letter Writers Bingo Card. Or March Madness style bracket.
“He got into a drunk naked fight with a taxi. NOT A CAB DRIVER. A TAXI.”
(True story! She later clarified that he had removed his pants because he had soiled himself.)
“Party Spock” would be a good choice!
Agreed, Party Spock wins! (No actually, Party Spock loses. Big time.)
“We need a Terrible Partners of Letter Writers Bingo Card. Or March Madness style bracket.”
Exes Against Humanity?
Alternatively if he ever does come back to me and I do engage (NO CURRENT PLANS, LET ME TELL YOU) and wants to know whhhhhhhhhyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy again, I can always tell him that our relationship is as irreparably shattered as the broken glass on the floor, on account of him being a douchecanoe. I don’t think I’ll ever be in a position to say it, but the thought warms my cockles nonetheless.
“And what do you do with broken glass? Do you leave it lying on the floor in the hopes that you will eventually get used to stepping on it all the time? Well, you do, BUT I DON’T ANYMORE.”
(Do I seem fixated on the broken glass?)
If you are, you’re not the only one. I just can’t even with that &mdqsh; I mean, the STI thing is based on skewed priorities and head-in-the-sand, fingers-in-ears denial, which is not uncommon even if most people don’t try and wrap it in shiny logic-paper.
But “It is irrational to pick up broken glass”? What is that even? It probably trook him longer to a) stop LW from cleaning it up and b) explain his “reasoning” than it would’ve taken to just pick it up, FFS.
I just. I’m trying to imagine dude trying to explain that one to Spock, and it keeps ending with Scotty trying to tweak a phaser to add a clue-by-four setting.
I keep thinking of this song, especially the line, “But being highly logical did not make him a very good boyfriend.”
Woo! And indeed, Hoo!
So pleased to see that you’ve come to a place where you’re happier with the decisions you’ve made.
Congrats!!! I celebrated the three year anniversary of leaving my [very similar] asshole ex yesterday, and I’m STILL so glad to be FREEEEE!
Yaaaaaaayyyyyyyyy!!!! Huzzah, hurrah, hooray!
Seriously, I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see this. Just reading your letter was, as seems to be true for much of the Awkward Army, making my stomach twist up in knots and raising my own anxiety levels. So way to go, you!
You have all the pom poms and cheering from my corner!
This is the best LW reply ever!! Congratulations on your freedom, LW, and I hope there are many delicious, home-cooked meals and movies with hot actors for you in your future. ❤
CONGRATULATIONS from the bottom of my heart, LW. I am so glad you were able to make this move. From the very first paragraphs of your letter I knew that you should get as far away from this guy as possible and never look back. You are going to be so, so much better off.
When I was still a dependent minor my recently divorced mother got into a relationship that involved a lot of the same abusive, shitty, gaslighting things that you describe. In some ways, your ex sounds like even more of a shithead. In other ways, my mom’s (and by extension my) situation was worse, because this guy managed to move in with us and then it was like trying to pry off a barnacle with a kleenex. We were also very isolated and disadvantaged socially and financially at the time. The relationship only lasted a year but it was one of the most horrible and difficult times in my mother’s life, and mine. I am so proud of her for getting out, and equally proud of you.
“Wanting to leave is enough” is one of the most important things to know. So is the fact that, no matter what, you will always be better off without poisonous, manipulative assholes in your life.
Find enclosed an endless supply of warm internet hugs, if you want them.
Yes! I’m sure that it’s also a somewhat sad decision, so have Jedi hugs if needed. But also, it warms my flinty black heart to imagine ex-boyfriend alone with his drugs and his floor covered in broken glass and his STIs and his firm belief in his own rationality.
*Throws a party*
I’m impressed that you pulled everything together and got it DONE so quickly. Oh lookit, you can be damn decisive and effective! Not to mention resourceful! And you can take really good care of yourself and handle the emotions as they happen! And you can plan for contingencies! So whatever bullshit reasons he tries to cook up why you need him in your life – NOPE! You have actual evidence that you can handle your own problems. Go you!
Yay, awesome! All the very best for the future.
THIS IS THE BEST NEWS OF ALL NEWS! 😀
PPS He totally did Reddit. No joke.
I am precisely 0% surprised. YAY FOR YOU!
I was thinking that he sure sounds like one of those r/libertarian or r/atheism brands of douchebag. Grossssss! I’m so happy for you for getting the hell out! You rock!
I’m so glad ! Good for you 🙂
Thanks for the update.
I’m off to do a happy dance
You are awesome. Awesome, awesome, awesome. Yes.
SO HAPPY FOR YOU! Keep on with your awesome self!
Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!
*hugs of joy*
Congratulations! You are awesome and gutsy, homeruncommitment. Run like the wind!
Also, as a professional logician who has published papers with theorems in them, let me just use my expertise to say: fuck Party Spock. Bullying and pressure are contrary to the true spirit of logic. (Not things like refusing to clean up broken glass score high on my logic-meter either.)
*That last sentence should say: “Not that things like refusing to clean up broken glass score high on my logic-meter either.”
Oddly, this song has popped into my head…
“Cause I’m glad that you’re the one who
It’s a beautiful day”
At the risk of sounding patronising as fuck…. I AM SO PROUD OF YOU!!
I will tell you a thing, Letter Writer. I have bipolar disorder, which, among other annoying effects, causes me to constantly doubt my emotional reactions. I don’t know what anxiety disorder is like, but I imagine that second-guessing that I do is at least similar to what you do.
However, my emotions are real, and just because they are =sometimes= out of line with reality does not mean that they are =always= wrong. When I’m angry, sometimes it’s for literally no reason and I just became angry out of nowhere while sitting on the couch doing nothing. So it’s tempting, very tempting, to assume that this is going to always be the case, and a sudden anger reaction is always going to be for no reason and I should ignore it.
But that is a lie! Sometimes when I’m angry there’s a reason that exists outside my head! Sometimes being angry is an appropriate reaction to what is happening to/around me! I think your anxiety may be pulling a similar trick on you. Sometimes your emotions may be for no reason, but that does NOT mean you should never trust them!
If you don’t have a therapist to help you figure out how to tell the difference, you should definitely think about getting one. Those of us with emotional malfunctions need tools to help us, and those tools actually exist and are learnable skills. It’s hard to go through life constantly scrutinizing your every feeling and wondering if it’s “legitimate” or not. It’s kind of exhausting sometimes. But it gets easier with practice, and then it’s harder for the dicks of the world to gaslight you by telling you that your emotions are always wrong. They are not always wrong. Anyone who tells you that they are always wrong is not your friend and is not a good person in your life.
I can only wish you well, and hope you get to a better place, where you can trust yourself more than you do now.
“It’s hard to go through life constantly scrutinizing your every feeling and wondering if it’s “legitimate” or not. It’s kind of exhausting sometimes.”
Also, I would like to add that those of us who are more or less neurotypical also go through periods of wondering whether our emotions are “wrong” or our reactions are legitimate, or if we were out of line when we were crying or yelling or panicking or whatever.
Not saying this to downplay the experiences of those with anxiety disorder or similar conditions, which obviously makes those periods of second-guessing very intense and traumatic. But just to point out that there is no magical state of being where you are 100% assured of the rightness of your feelings at all times, so that’s not something that anyone should be striving for as a mental health end goal. And having enough self-awareness to be able to check yourself is a good thing!
As a close friend with GAD described it to me, the problem with anxiety disorders is that self-awareness becomes so inflated that you live in a constant state of checking yourself and arriving at the worst conclusions, to the point that it becomes paralysing.
Like with everything else, it’s a balance. Some scrutiny of feelings is good, and like Dante says, there are tools available to help you do this in healthy and productive ways!
“But just to point out that there is no magical state of being where you are 100% assured of the rightness of your feelings at all times, so that’s not something that anyone should be striving for as a mental health end goal. And having enough self-awareness to be able to check yourself is a good thing!”
I think that state DOES exist. It’s called “being Party Spock” and it’s like, the best reason ever to not aim for a state where you are 100% assured of the rightness of your feelings at all times and KNOW IT and SCREW EVERYONE ELSE AND THEIR PITIFUL FEELS.
Which is to say: check-ins with reality are good for all of us. (I am personally gnawed by anxiety and depression weasels, so I know my brain lies to me from time to time, and this does not make me inherently irrational and always wrong.) LW, you seem like you check in a lot more than the glasshole you were recently dating does, and that makes you awesome! I hope things get easier and he leaves you alone and you go on to dance on rainbows with a prince or princess of your heart and maybe there are unicorns, if you’re into that. It will be a party and we will all be there in spirit, Except Party Spock.
Bi-polar as well, though I fought the diagnosis for a long time, because reasons.
And you’re very right that just because my emotions are big doesn’t mean there’s not something worth reacting to.
It just means my reaction is out of proportion. So I respect myself by waiting until my emotions are quieter and thinking about what created them. Sometimes it’s “Ovarian cyst released a giant load of hormones” or “Christmas makes me sad because memories” or “That was not an okay thing to do, and we will talk about why it upset me.”
It has been so incredibly helpful to have a therapist to help unpack the difference.
My toddler is crying and reaching for me when I drop them off at their sitter’s (where they are happy, well cared for, and thriving). = Primal parent reaction that requires self-soothing techniques to keep my response from escalating theirs.
The bad feeling a staff member at my oldest’s summer camp gave me when he started giving ‘secret’ gifts to my child because they were ‘special’ (NOPE! NOPE! NOPE!). = Document the inappropriate behavior with the director, refuse to be pacified by director, pull child from program, tell people why when they ask.
That last paragraph had me rearing back from the screen, hands in self-defence position, making a noise that can be best transcribed as “Eeeeeeeerrrrrgh~!” o_o;;
Me too, good god that’s so skeevy.
The phrase “You may be right [or: that makes sense] but I don’t care” is probably applicable, if you find yourself agreeing with his logic (however unintentionally). It’s a phrase my friends and I (lovingly or with humor) use a lot, generally when someone points out a more logical way to do something but we’re committed to doing it the way we like.
His logic sounds less logic and more justifying laziness, but remind yourself that just becomes something makes logical sense doesn’t mean you have to agree with it. Or do it that way.
+1 “you may be right but I don’t care.” I had to bust that out myself recently, when my husband got a bug in his ear about having to Clean the House, Right Now!!! and I hadn’t had lunch and was starting to get a bit hypo. Eventually I just started crying and said “Look, you are RIGHT, but I need to EAT NOW.” (He was technically right, he was just really insensitive about the timing.)
“You may be right, but I don’t care” is particularly powerful with self-proclaimed rationalist dudes, because in their universe, every conflict is framed by a right/wrong dichotomy and being right is the end goal of all human interaction. In my experience, they find the idea that someone might not care about “rightness” deeply troubling and there’s nowhere they can go from there. Essentially, it’s just refusing to conform to their version of reality. They don’t like that at all. Or the idea of multiple realities. Or the idea that they are a human and thus by nature full of subjective biases. All these things interfere with being right.
I can get fixated on being right sometimes and it definitely works with me. Although, for me it’s, oh, you’re doing this by choice, not because you don’t know? My bad!
I was a member of a small, tight social group once, and I was miserable. I ended up praying to the Goddess of Mercy for peace, and I got a very clear answer, namely “the wound will never heal until you take out the knife.” So I quit. Looking back at this with a decade between, it was a clearly right decision–I just wish I’d done it six months earlier.
Whatever your previous mental health issues, this has to be making them worse. Take out the knife, and you can start getting better. You’re not going to be able to make progress on anxiety management while living with someone who casually gives you STDs or drug-psychotic rideshares. **Those are the kind of experiences that give otherwise healthy people anxiety disorders.**
“the wound will never heal until you take out the knife.”
mantra theft! *springs away into the night*
My jaw literally dropped and stayed dropped almost for your whole letter, LW. And leaving alone all of his mindblowing actions, there is one thing that makes me incredibily sad and sorry. I don’t have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, but I can send myself into anxiety spiral easily and am in therapy for more than a year right now (thanks to lurking here, thank you, everyone!). What I want to say is, I know the feeling that you can’t trust your own judgement and maybe you’re just oversensitive about everything. I know the poisonous taste of feeling like shit and yet being unable to stop myself from panicking.
Your boyfriend is not right. All the red lights are blazing and I wish I could send the unicorn valkyrie calvary your way right now. Other commenters said more than enough, and I sincerely hope that you’re breathing a sigh of relief right now, knowing that your judgement was alright and that you know what to do now.
But if there is a slightest doubt in your mind now, the “what if it’s just my anxiety making the real problems worse than they are” …. Even if you were irrational about somethig he does – he would still be a shitty boyfriend for you for dismissing your feelings and arguing it’s just your anxiety! He would still be the least emphatical and caring person I have ever seen for refusing to budge on his awful habits because HE IS THE RATIONAL ONE and therefore everything he does is blessed by Holy Spock by default.
You deserve all the support in the world. You have the right to be surrounded by people who will change their behaviour even if they don’t really understand where you are coming from. You could get anxious when you hear Beethoven on the radio and he would still be an asshole for refusing to turn it off (and right now, he is blasting the Fifth Symphony for the whole neighbourhood at three am).
I wanted to write that loving someone means to change our convenient ways to protect our lover’s FEELINGS but LW’s boyfriend fails even the basic human decency check on that one. (broken glass on the floor for days? What…?) . He should be off drugs and getting you into therapy (if you don’t have one right now), he should be helping you and supporting you, not rationalizing his shitty behaviour!
Our loved ones are there for us to help us with our fears and anxieties, even if they are overblown, irrational, or require therapy or meds. He is denying you any feelings he does not like, by deeming them “not rational”. And right now, it’s not your anxiety he is trying oh so hard to invalidate.
It’s your survival instinct.
Please, please, listen to it. Run.
“He is denying you any feelings he does not like, by deeming them “not rational”. And right now, it’s not your anxiety he is trying oh so hard to invalidate.
It’s your survival instinct.
Please, please, listen to it. Run.”
THIS. THIS. THIS.
This reminds me of the time I met a dude and during our first conversation he tried to “debate” me and insulted my (at that time) dearly held religious beliefs. Then I dated him for three years and he did shit like that to me all the time between being exceptionally awesome to make up for it until he dumped me. I know the appeal of This Guy while at the same time not knowing whether to trust my own anxiety/emotions. But being in love really shouldn’t be that hard. Sweep up the broken glass (of your self-esteem)!
Lolsob. I know That Guy. 16 years was enough.
Like many of the other commenters, I have known this guy. Never dated him, thank God, but I have been friends with a few of him. And like many of the other commenters, his type makes me see red.
Your guy has a “non-default career path,” as he would like to put it. He has a “non-default” approach to eating (he can’t be bothered grocery shopping or cooking, so he eats take-out every night.) He has a “non-default” approach to cleaning (he doesn’t, even if it will create a dangerous situation.) He has a “rational” approach to his health and your safety (he’s too lazy to get tested and gets you infected.) He has a “rational” approach to drugs (goes on a camping trip to do drugs with his friends, and his group doesn’t look out for a person who was not experienced enough to keep up with them–when she gets sick, they blame her and ignore what they could have done to prevent it. Also courts addiction when he knows he has a family history of it.)
He also has a “rational” approach to his relationship with you. See, your guy probably knows on some level that all of this stuff points to the fact that he’s a Loser with a capital L. But the whole point of the way he lives his life is that he never has to face any uncomfortable truths about himself. So it’s in his best interest to cultivate a partner who defers to his “rationality” because she doesn’t feel like she can trust her own gut. In fact, it’s in his best interest to make sure you don’t trust yourself. He uses a range of different tactics to accomplish this, from complete disregard (you asked him to get tested and he didn’t) to bullshit (he feels like he treats you well) to browbeating / domineering (relentless conversations that leave you feeling drained and upset). He likes having a partner who will accept his framing of his own life.
His browbeating you into taking him back had nothing to do with helping you find any “objective truth” about drugs or anything else. It was about the fact that he finds his life easier with you in it, so any outcome that wasn’t “stay” was unacceptable to him.
This is just speculation, but I noticed that you’ve had to miss a lot of work because of him. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re successful and talented at your work–more successful and talented than he is at his. That would be threatening to him, because it makes him feel bad about himself, and because it gives you a source of confidence and independence separate from him. He would prefer to drag you down to his level. (Have you not gotten in trouble for your absences? Missed opportunities?) I’m not saying he’s rubbing his hands in glee and muah-ha-haing about his eye infection, but it does work out well for him in multiple ways when you miss work for his sake.
What I love about your letter is how you say you “can’t turn off” the inner voice that tells you he is mistreating you. To me, that means you have an indomitable spirit. It’s time to leave him to himself. You have better things coming down the line.
So many good comments on this thread, but this one may be my favorite. Well said.
Thank you for your comment about an indomitable spirit. It made me smile and feel way better and I’ll try to carry it with me.
So… “works out well in multiple ways”… I don’t know. One of the things he said when he tried to make me stay was that he needed me to help him go through the process of finding out if he has cancer. (tl;dr he has a 50% inherited risk of cancer and has kinda been putting off going for the test to find out where he’s at with that) And yeah – it pinged my radar hugely – that a reason this guy wanted me to stay with him was to maybe support / nurse him through his maybe-cancer. He actually said “I need you to help me go through my health stuff (meaning, cancer threat) and I want to be there to help you through your health stuff (meaning, complications from the STI I gave you”. I guess I would be missing a LOT of work (I run a small business and there ain’t no one who pays me for lost time) if I stayed in a relationship to nurse him through the cancer that he’s delaying getting tested for.
Wow, that’s the kind of… threat?… that could work for him FOR-EVER. He has a genetic risk of cancer! He will likely ALWAYS have a risk of cancer. If he has cancer and it goes in remission, he still has a risk of cancer. That’s a lifelong thing. So “you can’t break up with me because I might have cancer” is the excuse that never ends.
Yeah. Plus, at 8 months in it seemed a bit heavy. And also? I didn’t give him his maybe-cancer. He DID give me the STI. Slightly different levels of responsibility, here, I’m thinking.
Yeah, that was pretty much what I was going to say. “So… when I get over this and no longer ‘need’ you to ‘help’ me with my ‘health stuff’, are you going to give me some more ‘health stuff’ to ‘help’ me with?” 😛
Yeah, and also? I mean, sure, this guy is at higher risk, but honestly? We are all at risk of cancer. And the longer we live the higher that risk gets. It’s just one of those things, like maybe getting hit by a bus tomorrow, that comes with being alive. We never get to dangle it (or anything, really) over others as a “don’t leave me” sword of Damacles. And we definitely don’t get to refuse to even go to the doctor to find out if we have cancer, but nonetheless hold other people responsible for taking care of our maybe-cancer. Man, fuck that dude. Seriously.
Eight months?? I couldn’t even make it through this whole letter before commenting, so hopefully I’m not rehashing part of this, but: if your relationship is less than a year old, and it’s already riddled with breakups and rough patches, you have just laid a very shitty foundation for the future, and unless you love constant drama, you have a pretty good case for just scrapping it. It doesn’t matter how omg-so-intense your connection is: if you’re exhausted with the relationship at 8 months, the relationship has already run its course.
But it sounds like you know that, LW, and have acted based on those feelings.
Unfortunately, you are dating someone who just blatantly tells you that he doesn’t give a shit about your feelings, and it is heartbreaking that the jerk part of your brain has translated that into “my feelings aren’t important” instead of understanding what he is really communicating, which is: “this man is extremely dangerous to my wellbeing.”
Definitely block all communications from him, and reach out to Team You to make sure you are supported in this. He sounds like he knows all of the best ways to manipulate you, so make sure there are people around (and a therapist, if you don’t already see one) in case he manages to steal any of your attention.
LW, I have so much compassion for you. I married a Darth & it took me 8 long years to get out from under the Vader Force Grip & out of Death Star tracking beam. Captain’s advice is spot on.
I got alot of help from Al-Anon (for family & friends of alcoholics) when I left Douchebag. (You can replace “alcoholism” with any -ism or dysfunction.) Whether that’s your cup of tea or not, there are alot of great suggestions & tools to be found there.
Based on my experience, I’d like to add some things I haven’t seen mentioned as much.
– Keep the focus on you.
Forget *this* Darth for a moment (I know it’s hard, cuz they make it all about them). This really is not about this particular dude, it’s about You.
Do you want to be in a relationship with someone who exhibits all the behaviors that you detailed in your letter? Does that FEEL right for you? Becasue your feelings matter. Do you see yourself thriving in this kind of relationship? Obliterate his face & see if that’s what you WANT & NEED from a relationship. If it’s not, get solid about why it’s not right for you so that you know what that feels like inside of you, what it feels like to know what you want & don’t want, like & don’t like, so that your Spidey Senses tingle when Things Aren’t Feeling Right. Focus on you!
– You can’t reason with unreasonable people.
He believes he’s right, logical, & has proved he’ll argue & manipulate you out of trusting your feelings & intuition. Whoa, sounds wholly unreasonable! Don’t go with him when he starts logi-splaining. You need two people to play tug of war- try letting go of the rope. Let his “reasoning” just hang out there, & don’t take the bait. It may feel uncomfortable. That’s ok. It’s better than walking on (or around) glass-shard floor.
– No is a complete sentence. You don’t have to justify yourself to anyone. NO.
– Use neutral statements & use them like a broken fucking record, using the same one over & over & over to Shut.It.Down. I’m fond of “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Don’t get hooked into explaining yourself or why. “This is what I need to take care of myself.” “I’m sorry you don’t understand, but this is what I need.” “No.” “I’ll have to get back to you on that” (but you don’t have to). As someone else suggested, if things get bullying, I like “I don’t like how this conversation is going, I need to end it now.” Or “I need to leave now.”
LW, if you do decide to end this relationship, you may begin to realize that Dude contributed heavily to having more anxiety instead of less. I’m still in recovery from PTSD, but it’s sooooooooooo much better than living IN the war zone that was traumatizing & ADDING TO my anxiety (& armfuls of other issues).
Be gentle with yourself. It will take time & it will be challenging to relearn how to trust yourself after all the Darthbombs. But you can do it. I did it. Others here have done it. There are folks out there who will love & respect you, your boundaries, your feelings, & the immense gift of your love. You deserve that & more.
I’m glad you mentioned PTSD here… for what it’s worth, I assumed I had an undiagnosed anxiety disorder until I got treatment & it turned out the anxiety was a symptom of PTSD from an abusive relationship. Regardless of where your anxiety is at, abuse can heighten it, and your body’s reactions to trauma can mimic it. Abuse interacts with anxiety in complex ways.
Someone above suggested reaching out to a local crisis hotline or shelter, and I second that. Many rape crisis centers or domestic violence centers offer free counseling and resources for survivors. You are surviving a nightmare, and those resources are there for you if you want that support. Have no worries or hesitations about accessing them. Good luck.
You’ve probably heard it before but I’d like to bring out my favourite metaphor for anxiety / stress / panic. You know car alarms and burglar alarms? Those things that make a lot of noise if someone’s trying to steal your car or break into your house so that you can take appropriate action to stop them or call for help. Stress, panic and anxiety are your body’s “Something is wrong” alarms. They are there to signal to you that you might need to act to get yourself out of danger or to fix the thing that is wrong or whatever. Like the car alarm and the burglar alarm, this is a pretty much automatic process and *sometimes it goes off when there isn’t actually something wrong*. And like the car and burglar alarms, you should still check it out each time *because it might be right*.
Some car alarms and burglar alarms are too sensitive and go off many times when nothing is actually wrong. But checking it out each time is still better than ignoring it – because getting a bit cold going outside is nothing to losing your car, right?
Some people’s brains (like mine!) are really, really sensitive to signs of danger. We’re picking up on actual things but a lot of the time on a second look those things aren’t a big deal. My brain is trying to keep me safe. The only way I can stay safe is by believing that I feel unsafe for a reason and looking around for the reason. If I can find one and it’s no big deal, I look after myself. If it is a big deal or I can’t find a reason? I get the fuck out of there and go somewhere I feel safe. This is okay. This is allowed.
You don’t feel safe. That is, in itself, enough reason to leave *any* situation, any relationship. You don’t have to prove beyond doubt that you’re unsafe. If you don’t *feel* safe and loved and looked after and wanted *you don’t need any reason beyond those feelings to go*.
I wish you all the best, LW.
“I can’t turn off the part of my brain that says that someone who loves me as much of as they say wouldn’t hurt me in these big and small ways.”
I want to expand on what the Captain said to this, because I think it’s a really important point. The Captain is right- you don’t need to turn off this part of your brain. The issue is, where do you go from this sentence? You care about this guy, and you want to believe him, so you feel like you have to conclude that the love is real and clear, and the hurt isn’t.
It’s the other way around.
It doesn’t matter what feelings he has in his head about you, because he is hurting you. He is not treating you the way you need to be treated to feel safe, happy, etc., and when you tell him he’s doing things you can’t put up with, he tries to convince you that you just need to learn to put up with them. However he feels about you, he is not acting like he cares about your happiness and safety: he is not acting like he loves you.
“Through his logical arguments he has forced me to see that I was being irrational about my attitude to drugs and that it is merely a personal preference I have not to be around them, rather than any objective issue with the drugs themselves… We’re now in a position where he thinks I’ve made a mistake with the breakup, and that I did not adequately justify my reasons for ending it. I ended up seeing it from his perspective and apologising for being irrational and hurtful.”
The fact that he succeeded in getting you from “drugs aren’t objectively bad, I just don’t like them” (which is sorta plausible) to “I should apologize for daring to just not like a thing” is fucking terrifying to me. The fact that he tried this– tried to convince you that you should stop having preferences that aren’t “logical”– is deeply unscrupulous, because he has to know it’s a ridiculous thing to ask, and the fact that it worked is terrifying. No one should have that power over you. You should get to give importance to your own preferences and feelings, unless there’s a very good reason not to– and who you date is definitely a situation where your feelings ought to be important.
Part of dealing with anxiety is learning to do that make you anxious, true. But there is no reason you should ever *have* to be around people who are high, so why try to learn to cope with it instead of avoiding it? You get to make that decision. You don’t have to let yourself be hurt now just because someday it might stop hurting so much.
As someone who was very recently dumped by another someone who loved to make every issue we had about my anxiety and depression–including him refusing to let me do certain things because in his opinion “I wasn’t ready for it yet”–it Sucks, with a capital S. Your feelings are valid whether someone else’s “rationality” acknowledges that or not. (And, so far as I can tell, your instincts are spot-on) Get thee out of this cursed relationship. You will be a LOT better off.
I haven’t even read the Captain’s answer and I am shouting “RUN! RUN! RUN AND DON’T LOOK BACK!”
I am hoping you run and run like one of those lizards that can run over water away from this fellow.
I got a word past “He’s a rationalist…” and I was already ready to drive wherever you were right then, open my passenger door and shout “GET IN AND LET’S GET OUTTA HERE!” and judging by variations in your spelling, you live in a part of the world where I’d have to steer my Honda over at least one ocean. But I would do it.
Sometimes, there’s anxiety, and sometimes there is self-preservation and what you are feeling is probably the latter.
Godspeed, LW. Let me know if I need to aquafit my Accord.
LW here. Bless you KT for this adorable comment. I am indeed in Australia and you are certainly welcome to aquafit your Honda to come. But you’d be coming for a visit, not a rescue, because I already DTMFA.
WOO HOO! Excellent! I just might because I live in Minnesota and it is cold as balls here.
I think the reason I cringed so hard at your description of him is that I dated a guy KIND OF LIKE THAT, although not to that particular extreme. But he was one of those guys who didn’t believe in the “constructs” of society and didn’t care for “boundaries” and “rules” and “wearing clean clothes everyday.” And I remember that disorienting feeling of “I want to be with this person but I also want to be as far away as possible from him, am I the one with the problem?” Spoiler alert: I was not. I broke things off with him after finding out that he slept with someone else at an academic conference, and then got in a fist fight with his best friend at the same conference. We weren’t exclusive by any definition (I don’t consider him a “boyfriend” even though we were involved for the better part of a year) but I finally realized finally that wanting exclusivity did not make me a rigid bitch. And his best friend calling me to say, “YEAH HE TRIED TO PUNCH ME A WHOLE LOT JUST NOW” made me seriously reconsider being alone with him.
I also ended up moving 500 miles away, not necessarily because of him, but he sure helped make that decision easier.
Sequel: Years later, I ran into the best friend at a wedding, and when I asked about the ex, the best friend said “OH! Yeah, he’s in therapy now. It really seems to help with his whole… situation.”
I too dated a rationalist who opposed “default social norms” or “society’s constructs” etc. and so when I told him with finality that we were broken up, he replied back with a screaming “You cannot break up something that doesn’t exist!” and began several months (years? hard to tell after succesful blocking) of stalking behavior.
After reading this letter and all the responses, I have to agree with everyone who is calling this guy a Type! oh man. Avoid at all costs.
Remember that if their non-normative behavior is reinforcing power dynamics instead of dismantling them, they are just using atypical means to prop up the system they claim to be above.
“Remember that if their non-normative behavior is reinforcing power dynamics instead of dismantling them, they are just using atypical means to prop up the system they claim to be above.”
‘Scuse me while I copy this onto flawless vellum and illuminate it with angels playing gold-leaf trumpets and knights jousting with giant snails. So very, very well put.
That really does need to be tattooed somewhere.
If you’re in Melbourne, we can totally hang out. In fact, I might organize a meetup if there’s more than just me in this city!
I’d totally be up for a Melbourne meetup!
me too. Please, please make it so.
I’ll get planning, then!
…Is it bad that when I read your comment, I first giggled and then pictured you giving a Captain America-style enthusiastic salute to the LW on “Godspeed”? 😉
Naw. Not bad at all.
lots of people get dumped and don’t believe that it should have happened. this is nothing new on his part. everything else he’s said is bs.
“I feel that your decision to dump me was ill-considered. Therefore I am rejecting your petition to dissolve our relationship.”
Poe’s law: This week I legit saw someone make the argument that marriage should not be dissolvable unilaterally, because “no other legal contract can be unilaterally dissolved.”
WELL OKAY THEN.
BRB, gotta tell my HR department that they can’t fire me.
And how would you like your internet wrapped?
*giggle* But that would also mean you couldn’t quit.
In addition to being ludicrous, that isn’t even true. How do these people live their lives? Aren’t they constantly being sold left-handed screwdrivers and asked to find the pea under the cup and so on? I mean, how has this man managed to get this far without any consequences more serious than a curable STD?
He actually jokingly said “I do not accept this breakup” a few times. But… not so jokingly, you know?
And regards the last breakup, he said “I couldn’t believe that you didn’t think you needed to justify why you were leaving me”, after all the “why” emails.
I’m sorry, that line makes me laugh so much. It reads to me as “How dare you not ask for my approval to break up with me!” I am so, so glad you’re out of there. Take care and keep kicking ass.
None so dickish as those who will not see.
Oh my word. You could seriously save the quotes from this guy to write a book with him as the villain and he is so consistently awful people would complain it was “unrealistic”. I am SO SO GLAD you’re free of him.
Ha! I dated a guy who tried to pull that as well. “We need to keep talking about this, because I don’t accept that you’re breaking up with me!” Definitely, definitely a Type.
In all seriousness, congrats to you on getting out! All the high fives for you.
Luckily, the joke’s on him. You are so, so well shut of this guy. I hope he stays single for a long, long time. Surrounded by discarded cups of pee. Discarded shattered cups of pee.
Good GOD, I am so glad you are getting out of there.
His non-default way of living doesn’t have to be your non-default way of living if you don’t like it. Let his be getting-high-&-stepping-around-messes-&-having-untreated-STIs and yours be something you actually find enjoyable!!!! Get away from this dude forever.
Also: saying someone’s disorder is the reason why they’re wrong = not something anyone needs , not very logical.
As a teenager I found rationality ideology to be quite appealing. I was well down the path of “I am pretty much Spock and anyone who gets flappy and upset just needs to listen to my logic more”
And then I read something where someone pointing out that people who think that they make decisions only from rationality are some of the most emotionally driven people out there. Because humans are largely rationalising creatures. Someone who knows what an emotion is and feels like is able to assess it for what it is. Is this my rage-a -saurus trying to protect me for good reason? Is this a fear that would be worth working through because of the potential rewards? Is this an irrational emotional response that isn’t hurting anyone or me and isn’t worth deconstructing?
Whereas someone who is purely rational is going to respond with “This makes me feel bad, but rather admitting that I feel bad here is a list of “objective” reasons as to why I should do whatever emotionally suits me.”
Because lets face it. One can make perfectly well constructed arguments as to whether one should or shouldn’t take drugs, and unsurprisingly, the rationalist making the former argument is usually the one who wants to take drugs anyway.
And yeah, I’ve made honest attempts to better myself since then. I am no longer Spock.
My partner has GAD too. Someone upthread mentioned “outsourcing your rationality” and sometimes I am that sounding board for him.
And sometimes my response is “I think your anxiety is getting the better of you here, I think you’re reacting and sinking resources into something that has been blown out of proportion.”
And sometimes I’m right. But sometimes? I am completely fucking wrong and his reaction and worry was completely self protective and justified and correct. Just because someone with GAD is worried and anxious over something doesn’t mean that they’re overreacting or misguided or anything like that.
I also idolized Spock as a teen and sought to be completely logical and rational. When I got older I realized it was unsustainable, and found it comforting that even *Spock* tried and failed to purge himself of all emotion. *nerd*
Also, an emotional response is very often a response to real-world observations that you have made with your actual eyes and ears but are not conscious of. By disregarding that, you are disregarding a lot of useful information.
I remember reading that a being who lacked emotion entirely would be unable to make any decisions, let alone good, logical ones, because they would have no reason to value any outcome over any other. You might as well act at random, or do nothing. Even “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few (or the one!)” relies on the premise that you care both about yourself and other people and that “needs” are a thing you feel good about rather than indifferent to.
That’s not just a prediction/extrapolation, it’s a reported outcome of brain injuries that take out the emotion-feeling part of the brain.
That was really interesting. I’m pretty sure I read it as an extrapolation in Mary Midgley’s WICKEDNESS, but I don’t think it was mentioned that this could actually happen. I would have assumed emotions involved too many systems to take them out like that.
Fun story: my father legitimately had almost no emotions for almost three years. We discovered that this was because there was a giant tumour growing very slowly in the front of his head, squishing all the brain parts that are responsible for emotions (layman’s terms because I am not a scientist, but that is the gist of what was happening.)
Dad has never exactly been Mr. Emotions, which is probably it took us so long to realise that his capacity to feel things was being gradually subsumed by tumour. He is also an extremely rational man who values logic, trusts only in what he can see or what can be proved by empirical evidence, has a lot of eccentricities (“non-default” habits) and genuinely does not give much of a shit about what people think about them, and he is an extremely incisive arguer. He definitely has touches of Rationalist Dude syndrome (not-quite-jokes about how he is always right) and a lot of the secondary characteristics – staunch atheist, science fiction fanatic, not very good at things like cooking for himself or maintaining a regular sleep schedule. I have always forgiven him a lot of his Rationalist Dude tendencies because a) he is, at his worst, slightly obnoxious and most definitely never abusive and b) he has a very exacting job where he must make extremely informed and precise decisions or people could die.
Anyway, my point is that as his emotional centres began to shut down, rather than attaining Rationalist Dude Nirvana, he actually lost the capacity for rational behaviour altogether. The most obvious manifestation of this was that he simply stopped being able to do his job, because he lost his motivation, his attention span, the ability to process long-term consequences, his sense of responsibility to others, the cognitive link between task-and-reward… all these things that are very necessary to being a functioning adult, and they are all ruled by the dopamine system and manifest as moods or emotions. After he was asked to take voluntary sick leave or face suspension (he could no longer understand that his negligence at work was causing serious issues), things continued to go downhill. He simply didn’t do anything. I was not living at home at the time, but my mother said it was like living with a zombie. He simply didn’t do anything, he just existed. He didn’t read, he didn’t talk, he didn’t leave the house, he didn’t eat unless food was put in front of him. We thought it was severe depression or possibly early onset Alzheimer’s, and it was extremely upsetting and scary time, compounded by the fact that he literally could not grasp why all the people in his life were so worried about him. Eventually, as part of the work-up for potential treatment for Alzheimer’s, he had an MRI and the tumour was discovered.
So yes, long story, but the point that beings who lack emotion are completely incapable of making decisions, never mind rational ones, is absolutely true. I’ve seen it firsthand. Emotional and Rational are not opposite or incompatible states. Our ability to be rational is closely linked to our ability to be emotional, and vice versa. My super-rational father is certainly glad to have (most) of his capacity to feel things restored, which means he can do his job, maintain human relationships and remember to make a sandwich if my mother isn’t around.
Wow, I’m so glad they found out what was wrong and were able to treat it! That must have been terrifying for your family to go through. What a fascinating story, though.
Oh wow – I’m glad it was found and he’s getting better. F### cancer. 😦
And also thank you for beautifully illustrating the point that not only do emotions fit within a rational framework, they’re essential to having any kind of functioning brain.
Please, please, please, PLEASE! dump this motherfucker gaslighting bag of dicks! I hope his abuse of anti-narcoleptics makes him lose control of his bladder and bowels at the least convenient moment.
Gah! LW, as I read your letter I started making weird noises at my phone screen, like “buh! whu!” and then before long I began to resemble Father Jack from the Father Ted TV series “FECK! ARSE! DRINK!” What everyone else has said so far is fantastic, and Jennifer’s advice of what to do is perfect, and I don’t really have new things to add but I can’t not comment right now.
This guy is poison and you should flee. I have been around similar guys who were nowhere near as bad as what you describe and it still twisted my head around. Here are a few thoughts that might help you tease your mind out of the cloud of unlogic this guy produces.
First off, as a person who’s really fond of rationality and logic and optimising my own life in sometimes non standard ways it drives me nuts that there are guys like this out there who give logic and rationality such a bad name. What he’s using is certainly not actual logic or rationality – as Claire above said it sounds more like sophistry (a bunch of tricks and rhetorical tools for winning arguments). Because the logical thought process for glass on the floor is to weigh the costs of leaving it there (injury, floor damage) with the effort cost in cleaning it up (minor effort, and apparently in his case, bowing to the man) and then removing the safety hazard from the floor. Because in what world is doing the opposite of what “the man” says worth health risks?
Instead, I suspect he was more interested in finding arguments to justify his initial “don’t wanna!” feelings, or just in gaslighting you into doubting your own rationality for wanting to clean it up, because the more you doubt your own rationality the more rational he can feel and the more he can manipulate and control you. I think in this case it’s probably both.
I once lived with a guy who thought we should only use paper plates and plastic forks to avoid ever having to do the dishes (and also live on takeout), and he thought this while doing a degree in Environmental Studies. And while we were dirt poor. He would question all default assumptions, and make every argument a horrendous go around where you had to pick apart the value of every underlying aspect of a debate. Which is how “can you help me more with the dishes” became a discussion of whether or not there should even be dishes, and why is the waste and expense of disposable eating utensils not perfectly fine? I have some pretty serious debating stamina, and none too shabby argument skills myself, so I somehow “won” that round, but I can completely understand how other people who are less adept at intellectual pugilism might get worn down. And look, even I started to dread disagreements, because FFS a simple discussion about an unfair allocation of housework was going to require hours of teeth grinding debate about whether or not basic housework was a thing that even needed to happen or was just some weird quirk of mine. (Yes, also this was an asthmatic who saw dusting and vacuuming as weird neat freak desires of mine that he would do only under sufferance). So, uh, you get to doubt yourself and get trampled by demented argument-man, and I got to doubt myself and feel like a domineering neat freak nag because I thought it would be nice to clean the bathroom every month or so.
If you’re having that kind of argument you’ve already lost. You’re talking to someone who’s so invested in not doing the basic work of being an adult that they’ll twist themselves and you into knots to avoid it.
The other, very important point I want to make is that it is rational and logical to take emotions into account. Emotions are real things that human beings have – we have them often for good reasons, and we’re not Vulcans (besides, I’m betting both Spock and Tuvok have really neat clean quarters and would never leave broken glass lying around to defy the man, because it would not be logical). Anyway. Emotions are valid. Caring for the emotional well being of your loved ones is important and also a rational choice. People have different preferences for things, and feel differently about things, and negotiating those differences is a huge part of a good relationship.
You can’t have that adult discussion with a guy like this. He will frame any disagreement with his subjective preference as objectively wrong, and illogical. Because he is selfish and childish and lazy, but smart enough and forceful enough to try to make it look like he’s clever and radical and you’re just profoundly uncomfortable because he’s disrupting your bourgeois expectations. Out will come the big words and the sneering intellectualism and unfortunately I can’t taze him in the butthole with the power of my mind because I want to so badly right now. You are making loads of compromises and accomodations for this guy, taking off work to nurse him when he has his eye problem, still having sex with him even though he can’t be trusted to even get tested for an STI he knew he’d been exposed to. I wonder if he would do the same for you? He couldn’t even ensure he wasn’t hung over and sleepy fo your birthday.
When your head feels spun around, and you can’t decide if something is actually bad or not, it’s a pretty good sign that something is bad and that it’s time to look for the manipulating gasslighter. I know your anxiety is surely interferring here, because I’m guessing it makes even entirely harmless things feel bad. But you were confused enough to try to break up with him multiple times and then write to Captain Awkward looking for some kind of external perspective. That’s a sign that you *know* something is off here, you just can’t easily sum it up. The thing is, even if he was physically abusive I guarantee this guy would have a logical-sounding reason for why that was OK.
You don’t need a reason this guy will accept to break up with him. That you don’t enjoy being his girlfriend is already a rational, logical reason to break up. It sounds like he’s wheeled out all the not terrible aspects of your relationship as reasons to stay, but you know, we’re back at the fact that even if he was the nicest man in the world you could just fall out of love with him and break up. It’s not rational to stay in a relationship you no longer want. That’s enough. You don’t have to answer his “whyyyyy?” questions, and you don’t need a reason that satisfies him, because spoiler: no reason will ever satisfy him.
LW here. This comment resounded so hard, thank you!
What he’s using is certainly not actual logic or rationality – as Claire above said it sounds more like sophistry (a bunch of tricks and rhetorical tools for winning arguments).
THIS. What Anisoptera and Claire said is 100% correct. Guys like this are not more ‘rational’ than you. They are not more ‘logical’ than you. What they are, is more skilled than you at deploying rhetorical flimflam and dishonest tactics to make their arguments sound logical and rational, even though they’re bullshit.
And please, please don’t ever feel that being out-argued by Darth means that you’re stupid or foolish because he conned you. The entire routine is designed to take advantage of your being a decent human being, one who hasn’t devoted a rather disturbing amount of mental space to learning ways to wrap “I do whatever I want and I don’t care what it costs you” in layers of rhetorical smoke-and-mirrors.
Thanks for this. I’m not actually feeling stupid about this at all. I mean, I get that over the next while I will be processing the events and dynamics of this relationship and I may start to think “WHY DID I STAY 8 MONTHS?” or “WHAT IS IT ABOUT ME THAT ATTRACTED THIS?” or whatever, and it might be that I end up learning some more valuable things about noticing manipulative behaviours and responding promptly, defending my boundaries more, knowing more about what I want and need and articulating that better and noticing any response which is trying to invalidate that etc. etc. But right now I’m pretty happy to go with the narrative that this guy’s a twunt, that my key problem here was getting involved with a twunt, and now that I am no longer dating a twunt my problems have significantly diminished. Whatever other realisations and strengthening work there is to do, can be done in therapy, or whenever else I feel like it.
I found after leaving my ex that it took quite a while – like, several months at first, and then this kept happening after years – before I’d remember something and get really, really ANGRY. Before that his justifications were still embedded to some degree, where even if I consciously knew they were wrong I didn’t instinctively go there, it was always a follow up response. Until suddenly one day I’d go “wow, that really WASN’T okay!” and I’d have to process everything all over again. Hopefully that won’t be the case for you because it’s so exhausting to do it over and over, but be aware that it’s possible!
you are awesome! keep awesoming!
You have your priorities in the absolute correct order! I hope that didn’t come across as trying to lecture at you.
@neverjaunty Not at all, it was really a great comment. I think over time I might find some ways in which my self-esteem HAS taken a battering and I might at points feel kind of … “silly” or “responsible” or “to blame” about this whole thing, or like I “attracted” this badness, by being so obviously anxious and looking to correct for that, or not reinforcing my boundaries better, and I might have some work to do. When I was in those long shitty arguing conversations with him I could have easily felt pretty stupid – but I was too busy feeling sick-to-my-stomach anxious, you know? Plus I checked in with a couple of my friends who had hung out with him a bit and they both said that they had noticed some troubling behaviours from him. One of them said, “I noticed that he didn’t take criticism well and that he disregarded, argued with or belittled any suggestion he didn’t agree with. A couple of times he even argued with or belittled me when I *DID* agree with him! Not in a *mean* way, but nevertheless.” For some reason, just knowing that this friend – older, male, highly educated, in NO way a pushover intellectually or socially – was still getting this weird behaviour from my ex made me feel a bit better that this really wasn’t much to do with me, and a lot to do with him and his shitty behaviours.
But right now, at least, I’m not feeling stupid, which is great. I think having read lots of these entries before kind of inures me a bit against that – I *never* think “OH COME ON, LW, WHY SO STUPID?!” when someone else writes in about their dodgy relationship.
I’m glad it helped! I’ve learnt all these things in the hardest and stupidest ways possible. 🙂
I stopped at “Environmental Studies”. Dafuuuq.
Dafuuuuq to Environment Studies as a subject or dafuuq to doing it as a subject whilst simultaneously not caring how his actions impacted the environment? I’m with you on the latter but see no problem with the former as an area of study.
The latter ^^
A tangential point: breaking up with him is perfectly rational, unless you constrain yourself to reasoning only from the set of premises and postulates he pre-approves. He’s abusing “rational” to mean “consistent with what he wants and/or has emotional resonance for him perfectly.”
To illustrate what rationality actually looks like and show how LW’s Darth is so not it,
let me recommend this: http://hpmor.com/
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality
It’s an AU Harry Potter story where Harry is a scientist and everything flows from there.
I feel awkward about that story because I see it rec’d as though people really approve of Harry’s modus operandi, but to me he comes off as really emotionally unhealthy and a little broken because he’s been neglected and invalidated his entire life.
I also dislike it because it’s Message Fic in the worst sense of the world, with the author’s political philosophy winning out over style, story and characterisation (and also assumes that Harry Potter would apparently have turned into Miles Vorkosigan if he’d had a different childhood, despite the fact that Miles Vorkosigan’s childhood wasn’t precisely ideal and played a major part in how he turned out).
Ah, I’m not the only one who noticed the similarity to Miles. I actually found the whole thing hilarious, partly because it pokes at a lot of things I couldn’t quite suspend disbelief about in the original, and partly because the “smarter” he acts the more the situation keeps getting away from him. YMMV. Fanfic is really, really YMMV.
My ex used to read this aloud to me 😛 So he KNOWS the theory. He’s just twisting it to suit his Evil Designs.
*Falls about laughing* Oh goodness. And he probably thought it all supported his ideas about ‘logic’, too. Never mind that one of the major themes is that trying to push aside human nature is a major mistake.
Wow. This is like a more extreme version of the relationship I ended last month. 5 years of on and off with a similar Darth (less drugs, less “loving/committed,” slightly better hygiene), and I have my own anxiety issues, though not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
It was only yesterday, really, that I realized that him constantly logic-ing me was probably a big part of what had me feeling crazy and emotionally stunted for years. I felt great during the year he and I weren’t involved! I feel great now, aside from pretty typical breakup angst! What an emotionally abusive jerk!
Major, major kudos to you for getting out now. It’s hard. You’re awesome.
LW here. May I offer all the Jedi hugs? I hope you continue to feel better in leaps and bounds. You’re awesome, too.
Honestly – I think if I hadn’t been reading CA for a while I would find it EXTREMELY hard to notice some of the manipulation tactics he used. And even noticing them, it was EXTREMELY hard to extricate myself. *sigh*
Without trivializing that, I’m still really happy that now you’re here in the comments thread being all, “Ha, yeah, fuck that guy! Fuck him right in the ear! No fucking way I’m ever going anywhere near him again! I never knew how sweet life could be until it didn’t include him!”
It’s really nice to hear. I’m so glad that he is not still leaving shards of glass underfoot in your head, as it were.
So I’ve been hanging with my Mum the last couple of days and she has this Barbra Streisand CD with a Donna Summer duet of “Enough Is Enough”. Features have included us blaring it to 11 whilst singing “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH IS ENOUGH / I WANT HIM GONE / NO MORE NO MORE NO MORE NO!” with my Mum finger-gunning me every time an “I want him gone!” bit comes on. I think it’s pretty clear where we’re all at with this fellow.
Sounds like you have an A+ mom, but you probably know that.
This is so wonderful 😀
Go your mum! And go you, for getting out of there. Awesome!
LW – I know it’s not a requirement but please, if you can, send us an update. Your letter, more than most, has deeply affected me and I’d really like to know how you get on. I hope you take the captain’s and the other wonderful advice posted here and start to heal and trust yourself.
You might want to read this comment 🙂
Hey, LW, so happy to hear that you ditched this dude! Enjoy being nice to yourself and hanging out with much better people.
It sounds like you’ve got your shit figured out, but I wanted to echo everyone who said you shouldn’t be daunted by dudes (it is almost always dudes) wielding the language of rationality. To hear these people talk, rationality conveniently equals what they want and irrational ladyfeels always equal what you want. Rationality can tell you how to satisfy your preferences, but it can’t completely tell you what your preferences should be. If you don’t like the way someone acts when they’re on drugs, then you don’t fucking like it. It’s not illogical or logical, it doesn’t have anything to do with logic, and whether it’s the drugs themselves or just this guy on drugs is academic – it still leads to you getting the fuck away from him. You also had entirely rational preferences not to (a) get an STI (b) tiptoe around broken glass (c) be neglected on your birthday or (d) miss work to take care of him and his drugged-out friends. None of these things are illogical!
You don’t need to get all your Reasons in order before you break up with someone, much less present them to their satisfaction, but you had SO MANY EXCELLENT REASONS not to want to be in this relationship anyway. I’m so glad the resilient little voice in your brain recognized that!
“Rationality can tell you how to satisfy your preferences, but it can’t completely tell you what your preferences should be.”
This was something I really got to explore with my medical anthropology paper over the summer. The couple of days before I wrote my final essay had a bit of kismet as well where I came across a bit about the argument over public film subsidies (decent-sized issue in my country where the government is happy to throw money at Peter Jackson and change labour laws for him so he can fuck over his crew because god knows he couldn’t make a multimillion dollar box office hit otherwise) that summarised the positions on each side. Pro subsidy: “If we don’t provide ever-increasing subsidies they’ll stop making movies here!” Anti subsidy: “We’ll have to provide ever-increasing subsidies or they’ll stop making movies here!” Basically both sides actually agree on the facts, but they’re starting from different positions on what the priority should be so can’t agree on how the facts should be applied. Which was a really useful realisation just before writing an essay on whether there can be a universal code of medical ethics (spoiler: no). It applies to a LOT of medical debates depending on what you think is most important and how you view life and relationships between people, particularly obviously around pre-natal and end-of-life issues and it’s why we’ll never reach a compromise on things like abortion. Just because both parties in an argument are debating rationally, doesn’t mean they’ll reach the same conclusion.
Most of what I wanted to say has been said plenty, so I have just one thing to add that I don’t think has been covered yet (apologies if I missed it, this thread is huge!):
I also have anxiety issues (and depression, whee!) and I had my own Darth who used my mental health history to argue that all the problems with our relationship were either not real or my fault because I was emotional/crazy.
I was with him for 6 years, all of them tinged with badness though it did escalate over time. I tried to leave several times but he always logic-ed me out of it.
And then circumstances in our lives forced us to be long distance for awhile, and that distance allowed me to a) realize I was actually a MORE functional adult without him around all the time and b) make awesome friends who didn’t know him. And I gradually started feeling more confident in my belief that he was being a shithead a lot of the time, and needed to change his behavior.
Predictably, Darth did NOT like my newfound confidence. I was pushing back more persistently and more often when he was awful to me, and he consequently was extra awful and started accusing me of “changing somehow” and insinuating that I must be cheating/making friends who were “bad influences”.
Our fights got uglier than they’d ever been, which is saying something. Darth had never physically hurt me, but did occasionally get generally violent and throw/break stuff when angry. He also was known to say some pretty nasty things. But this was a whole new level of awful. He even destroyed his laptop during a fight over Skype and then tried to make me pay for it because it was my fault for “making him” so angry.
Kind of predictably, the constant fighting did not do good things for my mental health. I had more frequent and more severe panic attacks than I’d ever had in my life, including one that would not fucking stop until I was heavily medicated for several days.
When I finally left, Darth tried to use my recent mental health issues spike to argue that I wasn’t “in my right mind”, and therefore couldn’t make the decision to leave.
Thankfully, I still left, but he did get under my skin and I spent quite awhile doubting my decision and being an anxious, depressed mess which made me doubt the decision more, because if I was so miserable after leaving then maybe I was wrong to leave. I eventually got through this with therapy and time, but it was a long hard road.
Point being: the process of breaking up with a Darth is often super stressful, and that can trigger mental health issues like whoa. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to leave, and it’s a particularly dirty trick to try and get you to believe that it is.
…and now I’m making weird noises at the screen again. He smashed his laptop and tried to get you to pay? :-O
I’m so glad you’re out of it now. 🙂
Ha. Yea. He might have managed too, if I wasn’t sooooo broke at the time.
Oh, yikes. Glad you’re out of there. In some ways a shitty person like that makes it easier, though, because you can write down their behaviour, look at it, and go ‘would any sensible person want to bring this into their life?’ and the answer will always be ‘no’.
A very easy to read book that changed my whole perspective on EVERYTHING dating related is Attached by Levine and Heller. It’s a bit redundant and simplistic, but I needed straight forward and easy to digest because I was in denial/just repeating old patterns. Holy cow, was I dating people who turned me into an anxious, quivery, don’t-know-what-I’m-thinking-or-doing-for-all-the-gaslighting mass. It was so wonderful/horrible – such high highs to start with occasional big, positive emotions to make me forget how anxious and uncertain I felt the rest of the time. I wish I’d known of this site then, the tools here would have helped with the getting-rid-of-vader step, but Attached really did help me figure why I kept getting pulled back in.
LW, some of the language you use is how I would have described my feelings. I totally understand where you’re coming from in wondering exactly how to categorize all the stuff going on – the feelings are so contradictory and not all bad (sometimes awesome, not at all the way you think they would be if a relationship was no good, right?). The Captain’s advice and steps are excellent and if you find yourself wondering why you want to give a second (y 7th) chance, I highly recommend Attached.
P.S. Loooove Walking on Broken Glass. I haven’t listened to it in forever.
I find myself wanting to say “YES! THIS!” to pretty much every comment here.
He definitely sounds like he’s using “being a rationalist” to mean “I should always get my way and if you disagree you had better have a flawless, irrefutable proof or I will just assume you’re wrong”. Deciding he had a low chance of having an STI wasn’t being rational, it was assuming things were fine in the lack of irrefutable evidence to the contrary.
Your feelings are not up for debate. “Drugs are objectively bad” is a statement that could be right or wrong (or need more nuance); “I feel uncomfortable around drugs” is a fact. You don’t need to be able to logically convince anyone that your feelings are the right way to feel (and in fact you understand that different people can feel different things because, you know, they’re different people), but noone else gets to decide that you are wrong about what you feel. Feelings don’t have to be rational to exist, and regardless of where they come from the loving response to “I don’t like X” is not “Yes you do”, or “You haven’t proved that X is objectively bad so I don’t care”, but “I’m sorry to hear that. Let’s see if we can work out a solution which in which you can avoid X”. (Of course depending on X that may or may not be possible, and may or may not be compatible with remaining in the relationship — but in a healthy relationship people should at least *care* if their behaviour is bothering the other person.)
I don’t think he’s actually being rational, and I also don’t think rational is always fundamentally better than irrational. But there is a societal bias towards logic being superior to emotions and it’s really easy to fall into the “I don’t know the logic behind my emotions so they must be wrong” trap. Logically, though, if your premises are “X makes my partner sad” and “I want my partner to be happy”, it’s pretty easy to conclude “I don’t want my partner to have to deal with X”. And if your premises don’t include “I want my partner to be happy”, or you don’t think X makes your partner sad despite your partner having told you that it does, then that looks to me like a very dodgy relationship. Thus in a loving, caring relationship, taking your feelings seriously is actually the logical thing to do.
Listen to that part of your brain! Sometimes we unintentionally hurt people we love, but in a healthy relationship the response to telling someone they hurt you should be along the lines of concern, apology, attempt to avoid doing that again in the future. It should not be “I don’t hurt you! I treat you well!”.
As has been said many times already: You do not need watertight proof that breaking up is The Logical Thing To Do; wanting to break up is enough.
Good luck! Internet hugs if you’d appreciate them.
Also, the way he’s treating drugs IS objectively bad! His abuse of them is creating dangerous, unpleasant situations the LW ends up stuck in. If the LW doesn’t feel comfortable around even a very modest puff of cannabis, then her discomfort is a fact and she’s absolutely within her rights to act on it even while judging that the careful, responsible smoker is not, objectively speaking, doing anything wrong. But this guy is incapacitating himself on the regular, and masterminding situations where people end up in serious health crises. Disliking being around this kind of drug use is just a “personal preference” like “I enjoy having sufficient food and water and not catching on fire” is a personal preference.
Whew. I walked out on a Vader-ex the moment he said “it’s up to you to prove why I should care if something bothers you.” Never regretted it for an instant.
LW, congratulations for getting out of that one.
Ugh, this person sounds like my abusive ex-boyfriend and his cult of rationalists. Where rationalist means gaslighting classist misogynysts who hide behind their facade of objectivity rather than just call themselves assholes.
Yes, LW. Run the fuck away.
Oh My God. OH MY GOD. LW, you have my every sympathy. CONGRATS on getting out and all the good things to you!
Aside from an enthusiastic “co-sign!” to everyone else in this thread, I just want to call out one little excerpt from this letter:
I know people with ADHD who have received genuine benefits from amphetamines, but as for recreational use, I will always think of speed as the drug that druggies warned other druggies not to take.
This is almost certainly modafinil or an analog, not an amphetamine. I tried it once and subjective effects are minor except that you just don’t feel any desire to sleep. Probably pretty unhealthy to use this stuff long-term to avoid “wasting” time on sleep, but speed it is not.
It’s Modafinil. True fact – he gave me one once when I had to pull an all-nighter working so that we could go away for the weekend as we had planned. I took it, certain it was just a caffeine pill (which he also took) and he thought I knew what I was taking and didn’t go into it further, and I ended up spending 10 hours having a panic attack, crying silently whilst I worked.
Holy fuck that is awful. Not that I should be surprised given your letter. *jedi hugs*
I just wanted to say that the people who really love you will help you feel all your feels, even the shitty jerkbrain feels, with love and honesty, and not make you feel like shit that you are feeling them.
I dated Darth Spock too, for many years. Looking back now, it’s funny how things always just kind of happened to go his way, completely coincidentally rather than by design of course.
He believed good logic trumps everything, and coincidentally, his logic was always right.
He didn’t believe in conventional work hours, and coincidentally this allowed him to nap whenever he felt like it, chores be damned.
He didn’t believe in working for the man, but he was fine with me working for the man.
He believed sex is a basic human right, and hey, there I was.
He believed jealousy was an unconquerable human condition, so I wasn’t allowed to talk to other people.
He believed my family were indoctrinated worker drones, so naturally I shouldn’t ever be around them.
And so on.
It’s really, really funny how all his high-fallutin’ thoughts about life coincidentally also meant that he got to do whatever he wanted when he wanted. Not because he was selfish and immature, god no, but because that was just how the world worked and good on him for seeing through the overly emotional facade of the normals. After a couple of years I thought to myself, you know, maybe there’s more than one truth in the universe, and mine is as good as yours. And my truth is that all your highbrow anti-conformity masks are just a way for you to be an immature jerk who doesn’t want to work on a worthwhile partnership of equals. Maybe all these ideals you have didn’t just spontaneously develop in the void of absolute truth from whence you sprang fully formed. Maybe you just cling to them because it lets you justify your inability to be a decent human being.
Turns out that was the logical truth too.
And this, folks, is how you use the phrases “my truth” and “your truth” correctly. Looking at you, (ex, oh please glob, ex) partner from Letter #542
Did he happen to explain how believing in pure reason as the only basis for making decisions fit with the whole “jealousy is an unalterable human condition” bit? Because that seems like a pretty big logical inconsistency in my book.
I snarked about this upthread, but many people who are super into considering themselves rational are also super into evolutionary psychology, probably because it gives them a “rational” way to justify all sorts of irrational behavior. Because if they’re feeling something that they can’t explain by logic, well, at least they can argue that it was a logical behavior *at some point* for our species and therefore it has a scientific basis.
And it just occurred to me when typing this that to this type of thinking, EMOTIONS are girly, but INSTINCTS are manly.
“Evolutionary psychology explains why you should…”
The call of the mansplainer who knows more about breastfeeding, your field of study, and why you should sleep with him than you do.
My head is still spinning from this roller coaster ride. Wow and even an update from LW.
Social catastrophe averted. Thank goodness. A lot of comments have already been made about the situation-so I can second all the above advice.
There’s some lessons to learn here perhaps.
I remember being broken up on and had plead for her to relent. “There’s nothing to work on here” was her response. Yeah? But that magic “thing” we shared? How could she just dismiss that love as if it counted/s for *nothing*?
“I look on love as something we build” she said next. And no amount of fuzzy logic could compete with that because the generic statement “nothing to work on” defeats any longing I might have had. Basically took all the bricks away.
I hope LW you can leave your heart open and know that you scored a seriously bad apple here. I’ve known some scoundrels… I consider myself a pretty streetwise man of experience down here with the thieves and sociopaths–and your guy still blows most reckoning.
So onwards after your recoop from all this — trust your instincts if you notice they are signalling a REAL need.
Its all about needs–right? And if you’re with a person who does not empathize with your REAL need (like to have “clarity”/have an idea what’s for dinner) then there’s your ticket out of there. Requests matched with verifiable needs aren’t bounded by logic or intellect.
Also. I’ve been around drug culture and it was in my early 20s once I began meeting recovering addicts YOUNGER than me. Tells you that for some people its a deal breaker and that is cool. Plenty of people find drugs innocuous and lead fun eccentric lives away from them. So no burden of proof required when outlining your core values.
You have time now to think about your core values and perhaps refine them.
Now one other thing about the STI… I’m Gen X and we came of sex at the height of the Aids scare. People were getting tested. All the time. Its our Axe to bear…
Every woman seeking a LTR with me has requested a test before escalating proceedings. This has amounted to several positives
a) we find relief that we are each clean
b) we send a message we respect our selves more than the zeal to have sex
c) I get to believe in my heart she at least won’t cheat on me with that handsome guy at the party (until his test comes back)
LW you have made it through a storm. The comment about arguing in good faith ^^ was spot on. Rationalists are conversation killers. Ask instead if they want to practice learning how to have a Convo/active listening.
The Good News is that LW sounds like she has much life still ahead and hooray for getting this one out of the way. Nightmare.
All this time I had thought I was a lazy slob with bouts of depression that made it hard to clean. Now I know I’m an ultra-rationalist who’s STICKING IT TO THE MAN.
Seriously though, while I have nothing to add as far as any advice, I would like to say, LW, that it feels to me that the act of sending this letter to CA shows that you clearly aren’t irrational. (Again, not that it matters. You DON’T need any reason at all to decide to break up with someone beyond *I* don’t want to be in this relationship anymore.) For all that he tried to play his mind games with you, your letter shows he didn’t fully succeed, and I do think you’ll make it through this.
LW, put aside the “oh but he sees the world differently” or “oh but maybe I’m being irrational / judgmental” or, in fact, any other statement that might begin “oh but…” and ask yourself this: IS YOUR LIFE BETTER FOR KNOWING THIS GUY? Are you happier, more confident, more productive? Do your friends & family comment on how there seems to be a light inside you since you met him? Do you sing in the shower and have those little moments where you do that soppy grin just because?
I’m guessing the answer is no.
Please believe me, it’s better to be single for the rest of your life (this won’t happen) than to be with a man who erodes your confidence and self-belief bit by bit until there’s nothing of you left. You deserve so much more.
Yikes. I had no idea this type was so common.
I had the misfortune to deal with one for several years; thankfully we were never in a relationship. (He did ask me once. My response was, “No. Absolutely no. Do not even let the thought consider the possibility of crossing your mind. In fact, forget you even asked.”) This one also had Asperger’s, so he didn’t process the world in the same way as neurotypical people, but it was almost always impossible to convince him of that. For instance, he thought speed limits were illogical, because it was impossible to check the speedometer while you were driving. In vain did I point out that if this were true for most people, cars wouldn’t *have* speedometers, or at least not in the position where they’re usually found. In the end, he had a long rant about this in a comment on one of my Facebook posts, and all my other friends went “bweh?!!”. At this point I had to explain that So-and-so had genuine difficulty looking at the speedometer while he was driving… and finally he was convinced by all the people who went “bweh?!!”. Because, you know, my *actual logical argument* wasn’t enough for him, because he’d already decided that I couldn’t out-argue him logically.
Another gem: he didn’t like recycling or saving energy, because apparently it was pagan earth worship or something. One day I went out, leaving him sitting in my kitchen, and asked him to turn off the washing machine when it finished. Instead of doing so, he wasted an hour or so actually working out mathematically that he would use more energy in getting up and taking a few steps across the kitchen to turn off the washing machine than would be saved in turning it off, rather than leaving it for me to do when I got back. And it really wasn’t as if he didn’t need the exercise. I couldn’t believe anyone would take so much trouble to be so petty.
Those are just a couple of silly things; I will not go into detail about the ways he was all-out emotionally abusive, because this isn’t the place. Suffice it to say that this particular letter produced a lot of empathic shudders. Well done, LW, for getting away; and for the future I wish you All The Kindness. Enough to compensate and more for the enormous unkindness of Darth Spock.
*offers Jedi hugs*
The pervasivness of Faux-robot Whiny Man-child exes in this thread may have to do with selection bias.
Captain Awkward attracts people who think about themselves and others in an analytical way. People who come from dysfunctional families. People who are differently abled. People who have non-normative sexuality or gender identity. People dealing with the intersection of various -isms.
We all have reason to question the norm. Many of us could not fit the norm if we wanted to and are looking for a morality that applies to the lives we are building. That’s why we come here. To create rules to govern the world as we experience it, because the rules we were given don’t reflect our reality.
Of course many of us fall prey to partners who are the twisted bizarro side of that.
They reel us in by pretending to give us what we get here. Someone to talk about our experience of the world with, to support our efforts, to discuss and decide on how we should handle things.
But instead of coming to a thoughtful consensus or respectful disagreement, they use our willingness to question and analyze things to break our reality down to the point that we don’t know which way is up.
I used to feel stupid for loving Vader-ex. But my attraction to him was the result of a real need for connection and affirmation that I wasn’t getting from the other people I dated. Their world was so far away from mine that I felt like I had to pretend the entire time I was with them. I couldn’t connect with them, and even though they treated me well, I was lonely when I was with them.
At least with Vader, I had someone I could say the things in my head to. Even though he criticized my thoughts, he at least understood them enough to respond.
Other people I dated would sit in uncomfortable silence, laugh awkwardly, or just straight up admit they didn’t get what I was trying to say. I was willing to pay the price of his cruelty to not feel so alone.
Thank Deity that I stopped paying that price, and accepted that I was gonna have to be more open and honest about who I am to find someone I liked that got me, wanted me, AND treated me well.
I’ve been reading this blog for a few months, and it’s helped me think through a lot of stuff in my life – anxiety, boundaries, being awesome to my friends and lovers – in a really helpful way. It changed the way I think and experience the world – I have language and examples and the weight of a little community where previously I had vague desires. I de-lurked just to say that your comment perfectly articulates why I’ve been coming here, in a way I’ve never been able to articulate for myself. Thank you.
This is sweetness, logic, and compassion itself. ❤
I was thinking about this last night. (I, too, found this thread very triggery. In a MUST RUN BACK INTO THE FIRE AND SAVE LW, OMG DOOO SOMETHINNNNG way. There was a lot of obsessive refreshing and a lot of half-written and discarded comment drafts, and finally, tearful walking away.)
This was definitely part of the attraction for my ex-husband, who was very much of the same type. In my late teens, as a hyper-intelligent, socially inept, misfit nerd, I found the “radicalism” and the unconventionality and the “social hacking” fascinating. Meeting him was my first hint that everything I’d been told about the life I was destined for might not be the only possible life, and that quite possibly saved me. It was while I was with him that I divorced my family and religion of origin, came out as bi and poly, became an artist, went to college, started therapy. There were many things that happened while and because I was with him that shaped my life in beneficial ways.
But I also spent every single day of all those years in a low simmering terror that I wasn’t good enough, trying to find a way to be good enough, trying to make myself better, learning, pushing, optimizing, economizing, studying, questioning, self-assessing, regrouping, tearing down, starting over, trying harder. Out of fear.
Eventually I became so heartlessly, relentlessly self-aware that I came out the other side and embraced the path of compassion and emotional lived experience. Which is how I ended up here. I don’t think it’s any coincidence at all that a lot of us have traveled some distance on parallel paths.
This song anchored my sense of self throughout the two years of my separation and divorce, and I’ve been listening to it again it all through yesterday and today.
Oh, the refreshing and discarded half written posts. I finally accepted that I had nothing useful to contribute last night because… You get it.
I love, love, that song.
I ran across a high school friend via Facebook today. She has five kids with her high school sweetheart. They look happy and are doing really well in their lives.
I could have had that life, except no, I couldn’t. Just thinking about it makes me itch.
I’m happy that you got out of your constricted family, away from your critical ex husband, and into a life that fits who you are.
Quoting for emphasis – “At least with Vader, I had someone I could say the things in my head to. Even though he criticized my thoughts, he at least understood them enough to respond.”
– I think you just articulated why I stuck with my exes (all shit, all Darths, gaslighters, and emotional abusers of varying degrees) in spite of how they treated me: because they at least had responses available to the thoughts in my head, however harmful they were at times.
After reading this, I totally decided I needed to read that book. I know I’m not perfect, and I imagine I have some of the qualities outlined in the book. I also am dealing with bad behavior from a friend recently and just reading the excerpt from the book made me realize I needed to read it to understand more about it.
So many things one could say here – about how in denial this guy is about how emotional he is, for one thing – amazing how his rational calculations just coincidentally always match with doing whatever the heck he wants and to heck with other people. This is not being rational – this is using reason after the fact to justify what you’ve already decided you want to do anyway. If you’re good at arguing, you can argue any point, no matter how stupid the point (just watch a debating team…). This is one of the reasons that reason always needs to be backed up with things like a moral code and respect for others.
Secondly, his whole idea that there is something wrong with emotions and that human beings would be better off if we supressed them (even in personal relationships!!!????). This guy is seriously, seriously messed up.
But that’s an aside and in some ways almost unimportant compared to the following: In one way he’s given you a gift. He’s actually told you, almost in the exact words, that *he believes how you feel is unimportant*. Think of that again – he doesn’t think the feelings of his partner are important.
He’s admitting right out that he doesn’t love or respect you and intends to continue ignoring how you feel, doesn’t even love you or treat you as well as much as a healthy person loves a stranger on the street and treats them decently.
You don’t need ANY person in your life that literally doesn’t think it’s important if you feel OK or not.
Most people you meet will not admit this so openly. They will pretend to care how you feel, and only their actions will not match. This guy is both telling AND showing you he doesn’t care how you feel.
Merely a personal preference. MERELY a personal preference.
LW, everything you need to know is right there. Spin that sentence around: Your boyfriend thinks your preferences are mere.
The hypocrisy is staggering–think on whether his preferences have ever been “mere”? Because in a world of perfect logic where neither he nor you have any objective reason for disliking drugs, his has no objective reason for LIKING them either. His like is subjective. It is a preference. How come his preferences are unquestioned and valued and correct while yours get dubbed as “mere” and valueless? How very dare someone say think they’re good for you in one breath, and say that your preferences are mere in another. Someone who doesn’t think your opinions have any value is not a person you want to be with.
You deserve better than mere.
You know, I hadn’t even thought of that. You’re right – so messed up!
“And I have seen an unfortunate., high correlation between “I am so much smarter and more rational than all those sheep who just default to whatever society tells them to!” and people who are not good people to those around them.”
Me too! “I’m not materialist, so I can just live off of your parents via you while you get a shitty job that pays zero money to support us both!” “I’m not engineered for monogamy! How dare you impose your Puritan moral code on me by using words like ‘cheating.’” “I’m not verbally abusive. I’m just forthright.” “If you weren’t such a weak., useless person you’d value my critiques of your appearance and eating habits.” “What’s wrong with peeing in an empty glass and leaving it in the middle of your floor for you to find in the morning? I’m a resourceful guy..”
And, look, there’s nothing illogical or irrational about prioritizing emotional valence in a relationship. Love is not about logic. It can’t be rationalized out of shape or into existence. You need to feel happy, supported., secure and in love. This guy is making you feel harassed, sad, messy, stupid, helpless and lost. Those are facts about your feelings, and they deserve respect in their own right.
Although the LW has had a lovely happy ending (yay! so happy to read that!) I wanted to share this little Wendy Cope poem, which sprang to mind when the LW wrote about this guy trying to logic away her totally legitimate feelings.
“He Tells Her”
He tells her that the Earth is flat—
He knows the facts, and that is that.
In altercations fierce and long
She tries her best to prove him wrong.
But he has learned to argue well.
He calls her arguments unsound
And often asks her not to yell.
She cannot win. He stands his ground.
The planet goes on being round.
Much happiness to you in future, LW. *fellow-anxiety-sufferer-fistbumps-if-you-want-them*
I loooooooooooove Wendy Cope. Great, great poem.
WOW. That poem.
Also, FWIW, in all of the situations you’ve described, you’re acting 100x more rationally than he is. E.g., if you weigh the benefits vs risks of cleaning up broken glass in a living space, or of testing for an STI, (or leaving a boyfriend who makes you feel bad and tells you your feelings don’t matter) or any of the things you thought should be done, it’s a simple calculation to see what’s the rational answer. To come up with the idea that it’s a better idea to leave broken glass on the kitchen floor, you have to be willing to throw all reason and sense to the wind and just insist that you’re going to do it regardless of what makes sense. He doesn’t care what makes sense, he just wants to do the opposite of what he’s told, like a two year old on a bad day.
Saying ‘I’m so rational! I’m so rational! I’m so rational! You’re so irrational! You’re so irrational’ doesn’t make it so. He’s said it so many times in so many situations and so persistently and exhaustingly (like that two year old who just won’t give up to get what he wants – it is usually futile to try to argue logically for more than a few moments with a two year old who is convinced that he MUST have this piece of candy or he WILL starve – he will remain sure he’s right and totally convinced that he is being sensible and logical and right and that you are being totally unreasonable) that you’ve heard it so many times now and you’re starting to get used to the idea and wonder if it’s true, but believe us all looking in from the outside – it’s not.
From the concerns you describe, you’re a sensible intelligent person and he’s childish and unable to admit even to himself when he’s wrong – trust your own brain, not his.
Goodness. This guy is a specially toxic iteration of a missing stair. He’s a shattered glass. What an awful sounding guy. LW, you deserve better.
There are so many things in this letter hitting buttons of mine that I want to chew my screen in half.
I’ve been involved in the skeptical/rationalist movement for almost a decade, and what he’s doing is NOT RATIONAL. He’s rigging the system so that nothing challenges his ego, it’s the same crap that the obnoxious assholes from every group pull, “Look, the world has conveniently arranged itself so that I’m superior to everyone who isn’t just like me!”
Please don’t let him feed you this “I’m being rational and you’re not” crap. This is not only a manipulation method, it’s also a logical fallacy known as a false dichotomy. He’s setting it up so there’s only two extreme sides to every interaction you have; he’s representing the side of logic, truth, and intelligence and you’re representing emotion, mental illness, and lies. He’s managed to convince you that this is reality, and it isn’t. Not wanting to be with someone that makes you feel crappy? Logical. Not wanting to be around drugs because you don’t like being around drugs? Logical.
I have an anxiety disorder and depression and have been in two relationships where my mental illnesses were used to control me in an abusive way. Their tactics were very similar to what you describe here and it’s the most fucked up thing to experience. For myself I know my take on things isn’t always accurate, I know that I occasionally have weird reactions, and that sometimes the brain weasels get me. Then someone comes along who is so smart and calm, they never lose control of their emotions like I do and they always have a plausible sounding explanation for everything, they’re SO understanding of how broken I am and I’m so lucky that I have someone like them because I need so much help…
It’s all bullshit. A good relationship makes you feel sane when you’re with them because you feel safe and secure in that person. You’re not a project or a charity case and you don’t deserve to be treated like it.
Fistbump of solidarity LW, I’ve been where you are and it’s awful. But you’re awesome and should have an excellent counterculture man on your arm, not this pathetic pseudo-intellectual.
Your feelings are always valid. That doesn’t mean they’re fact, but they are real and important and people who really care about you take them into account when making decisions. It really doesn’t matter whether drugs are “objectively” good or bad, it matters if your feelings about them are compatible, and they aren’t. Someone who doesn’t take your feelings seriously and tries to blame any concerns you have about them on your mental illness is not a good partner. And you don’t need their permission to break up with them and never look back. I’m so sorry this jerk has been treating you this way, but good on you for trusting your instincts enough to want to get out.
“Through his logical arguments he has forced me to see that I was being irrational about my attitude to drugs and that it is merely a personal preference I have not to be around them, rather than any objective issue with the drugs themselves.”
Can we just explore this whole thing where he’s ‘rational’ for a minute, with the aid of my trusty Pocket Oxford Dictionary? “rational: of or based on reason; sensible; endowed with reason” (with sensible being “having or showing wisdom or common sense, reasonable, judicious”). From what you’ve described, he doesn’t have those qualities. Not even slightly. This, after all, is the person with broken glass still on the floor – not much with the common sense.
He is absolutely and 100% *not* the conduit of objective and unarguable truth, however much he might think he is. For example, how is his willingness to be around drugs any less of a personal preference than your desire not to be? What he’s doing is presenting his opinions to you as truth, and all the while criticising yours as subjective fripperies that aren’t important. That’s not even the behaviour of someone who just likes a good debate; he’s not presenting a case for his opinions and weighing it against yours, but rather denying that he even has an opinion and making out that whatever he says is just some chunk of fact that he picked up like a rock.
What he is, in short, is argumentative (“fond of or given to arguing”), and an arse (which sadly is only listed as “the buttocks”, a lapse we’ll have to put down to it being my old school dictionary).
whatever he says is just some chunk of fact that he picked up like a rock
Yup, I’ve had to deal with this, though in a relationship where it was emotion that was prized over all. Hir feelings were all-encompassing & undeniable fact, whereas mine were … not even feelings, certainly not ones worth mentioning, because there was no way I could possibly be sad by something ze said or did, such as telling me I didn’t feel anything ever, unless I was deluded about it (while I sobbed & sobbed from grief).
*shakes it off before it starts to spiral in my mind again* *shake shake shake*
I see there are already MANY replies. I will attempt to make mine short, and then go back and read, but, I had to say, get out! This relationship is full of evil bees! So many evil bees!
He is setting himself up as the rational one, where his arguments are by default rational, and yours are by default emotional. He is setting this up because he must always win the argument. His decision will always trump yours, because he has set up the definitions beforehand. This is a horrible thing to do! It is horrible on its own, and this is before all the things that he has done.
He feels that he treats you well? He does not. He can think that, and he can say that, but those are only words. He has learned that by redefining the rules he can always win the argument, but, let’s take the words out of it.
Let’s take the words all the way out of it.
Eliminate all the words, all his logic, reasons, definitions, promises, stories, everything.
What does he DO.
What I see from his actions is that you are not safe around him. You. Are. Not. Safe.
He is trying to argue you out of seeing it, and redefine reality. He is trying to redefine glass on the floor, stds, drug use, and a horrible lack of respect.
There’s a big difference between Good Spock and Evil Spock.
Good Spock distances himself from his emotions so that he can make the decision that is best for everyone, or at least for the most people.
Evil Spock distances himself from your emotions so he can make the decision that is best for himself.
The truth is that you CAN’T make good decisions without involving your feelings because without those there’s no criterion for what a good decision is.
Think about the trolley problem (there’s a trolley about to kill five people, but you can pull the lever and it will kill one person instead). Someone going purely on emotion would say “I can’t bring myself to take an action that would end up killing someone, so I’m not going to choose”. Good Spock would say, “People dying makes people sad, so I want to minimize suffering. I can either choose to let five people die or choose to let one person die. I choose to let one person die, even though it’s painful for me. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.” Evil Spock would say, “Why should I care who lives and who dies? Don’t let your feelings make your decisions.”
LW’s boyfriend here is Evil Spock, not Good Spock.
In my experience anyone who does not respect your discomfort with drugs (or anything, dramatic shit in past or not) is not someone you want to have around. I used to have people in my life who didn’t respect my wishes to not do/be around drugs, and I can’t even say there’s a lot of overlap in the Venn diagram of “people who did not respect my not wanting to be around drugs” and “people who were toxic and shitty” because the the one circle is just inside of the other. Anyone who makes you defend your discomforts with COLD HARD REASON is not someone you want to be around. LW you deserve to have your discomfort (and feelings!) respected simply because it’s how you feel. Simply not wanting to do/be around something (or someone) is enough of a reason.
Jedi hugs (if you want them) and hopefully you can wash your hands of this dude as quickly and cleanly as possible.
Huh. I’m not sure I agree with the definition of this guy as a Darth Vader. It doesn’t sound like he’s particularly trying to manipulate you, so much as completely unaware that people can behave in different ways from himself.
But I also think it doesn’t matter. LW, you can love someone truly and still have things not work. I think everything he said about wanting to be with you and truly loving you may be objectively true, and that a lot of the problem here might not be a negative dynamic at work.
But the truth is, [i]it does not matter[/i]. LW, what matters is that things work. And things clearly, manifestly, objectively, and subjectively don’t work. The relationship your in doesn’t sound healthy for either of you, and it doesn’t sound like there’s any reason to think it would get better without requiring one (or both) of you to sacrifice part of your core being.
Given that… Honestly, I think you should trust your instincts and get out. Your Boyfriend might not be a real Darth Vader, but he’s certainly a mostly full bag of dicks, and incompatible with you on a fundamental and outrageously important level.
The important thing is certainly that she gets away, but … you don’t think it’s manipulative that he’s deliberately convinced LW that her feelings don’t matter, ignored her boundaries time after time and then argued she was wrong to be upset, continually plunged her into situations he knows will upset or harm her and tried to wear her down into taking him back to the extent of getting HER to apologise to HIM for being “hurtful and irrational”.
“Through his logical arguments he has forced me to see that I was being irrational about my attitude to drugs and that it is merely a personal preference I have not to be around them, rather than any objective issue with the drugs themselves.”
….how can that be anything but manipulative?
It can STILL be true that he loved her to the best of his current ability — which does not appear to be saying much. He doesn’t have to be evil to the core. I don’t think this guy is in as good a place emotionally as he perhaps thinks he is — certainly, he’s not treating himself well. But he’s treating her worse. (he at least gets his way, and never gets harangued into believing everything he feels is wrong and irrational and stupid). It’s not just that they’re different and things aren’t working out, he’s treating her badly, it’s been explained to him how, and he’s refused to stop. He may be unable to understand what he’s doing wrong; it’s very common to be unable to do something you’ve never tried.
If you look closely he’s been literally gaslighting her into the belief that she’s irrational to want anything other than what he wants. It’s manipulation par excellence and I’m actually pretty comfortable calling it emotionally abusive – especially the part where he continually overrides her stated boundaries around sexual health and drugs.
Sam, I would say manipulative behaviours don’t need to be deliberate or conscious to be manipulative and hurtful. Not all Darths that have been discussed on this blog were necessarily conscious of being so.
We all seem to agree that however much this guy loves the LW and whatever his good intentions, his behaviour and words are very inadequate to say the least, and making the breakup stick in a safe way is a desirable outcome.
Yup yup yup. In fact, I would say very few people in this world wake up in the morning and think “Oh goody, now to spend some time manipulating the person I claim to love!” Trying to argue/cajole/gaslight someone out of their stated needs and boundaries is pretty much the baseline of all manipulative behaviour. Therefore, this guy is a manipulative asshole. Whether he is actively trying to be one is not even remotely the point.
It may seem I’m like nitpicking over semantics here (and I agree that the most important thing is that LW is safely out of the relationship), but I think it’s really important to call a spade a spade in situations like this. Being able to put a label on behaviours that hurt us is really important for moving on and healing. In this situation, LW being able to say “He was manipulative” as opposed to “He was oblivious” is a) more accurate and b) a much better mantra to get her through any doubts she had about ending the relationship.
Yes yes yes! I think about 100% of the emotionally abusive/manipulating/gaslighting people I’ve come across often meant well and weren’t doing it deliberately. So often it happens because they themselves are broken. In fact I think it’s a trap to think that all abuse happens with moustache twirling deliberation – most doesn’t and if you pretend it does you’ll get stuck with a whole lot of abuse while saying to yourself “they don’t mean it! They’re a nice person!”
You’ll encounter deliberate manipulation in the workplace, but if you encounter it in a personal relationship it’s a terrifyingly bad sign. In relationships it will mostly be people flailing around trying to get their needs and desires met with a bunch of hideous broken tools that hurt both of you more than they achieve.
This may sound like a cry for sympathy, but it’s not. You need to still run like hell from the well intentioned abusers.
A Darth Vader boyfriend is literally just “a boyfriend who is bad for their SO, but their SO keeps saying, ‘No, I can save him! There is good in him, I feel it!'” The phrase expresses the extreme conflict one has about leaving the person, despite the damage the relationship has done to them.
There really was good deep, deep down in Darth Vader. He really thought he was doing the right thing at the time. But he killed people and destroyed planets, and at the end, Luke couldn’t save him.
TW: abuse: Also a YES to everyone who says that abuse and manipulation isn’t deliberate most of the time. Many, many domestic batterers believe that THEY are powerless victims who have no control over their family situations. They believe they are desperately trying to use the only tools that work to achieve feelings of love and safety. Which does not take away the fact that what they are doing is harmful, wrong, and often illegal. I’m speaking from professional experience and peer-reviewed research.
I’m a lurker and your letter left me feeling very angry for you.
I am not very intuitive, I find myself constantly second guessing my gut reactions, thus I feel for you when you write that you can’t tell if it’s your anxiety disorder or reality.
But here’s the thing: even if it were your GAD sending signals – and it isn’t, he’s acting horribly – your logic too tells you that his actions _including his words_ are offensive and dangerous.
Asserting that your feelings don’t exist is stupid and cruel of him.
He doesn’t get to argue you out of a break up. You don’t need permission.
You have hugs and kindness aimed your way.
An important note for blocking people: use a whitelist (only existing contacts who are not him can get through without verification), not a blacklist (contacts with his name on them can’t get through). I fell into another few years of relationship with my asshole rationalist ex in large part because he got a foot in the door with a few IMs sent from a new account.
Oh my God. Oh my God. OH MY GOD. LW please please please get out! I am so scared for you! I am more scared for you than if this man were physically beating you.
If you were my sister, I would be seriously contemplating luring this guy to my home, so I could shoot him and tell the police he attacked me.
Hi LW and Awkwardeers — I haven’t yet read the comments so apologies if this is redundant, bu t LW these 2 things brought the same reaction
He says he loves me more than he loves anyone, that he needs me, that we are good for each other, that he wants to be the one for me, that he wants to make it all work.
=> what about what you want?
we’ve discussed this: he feels he treats me well
=> that isn’t actually relevant to the discussion. You know, again, what about how you feel? Has he not heard of the *real* golden rule (aka platinum rule): treat others how THEY want to be treated?
The Captain is right: this isn’t just your mental health issues talking, and you are thinking some very rational, eminently sensible things such as being treated badly in these small and big ways isn’t part of a balanced, loving relationship.
And I am Nthing the reference to Dear Sugar. “I want to” is a valid, and sufficient, reason to leave someone.
LW, I am soooo glad that you’re out of that relationship. You’ll be much better without him, I wouldn’t be suprised if your anxiety actually got much better. I just wanted to say that you’re one strong, smart lady. And you actually sound very rational – you were able to see through a lot of bullshit and decided you don’t want to live with it anymore. I know how difficult it is to trust your own feelings when you deal with someone who uses ‘logic’ and ‘reason’ as a tool to get rid of everything incovienient. My mother used to do this though all my childhood. Whenever I was hurt or had preferences she didn’t like, I was labelled overemotional, stubborn, unreasonably hurtful to her, or just ‘silly little child’. I know how difficult it is to take care of yourself when you’re constantly told that your feelings are irrational and shouldn’t influence your decisions. And still, you got out. Congratulations! And lot’s of Jedi hugs if you want them:)
Oh my… this ex sounds like one of my exes. The coldness, the drugs, the “intellectualism” and “logic” used to justify what he’s doing. Big hugs and support if LW wants – it sounds like he’s going out of his way to to hurt them (no, it’s not logic, or intellect, he’s literally making up reasons why he thinks it’s okay to hurt LW).
Ok I read that part about how he didn’t think your reasons for breaking up with him were “good enough” and I wanted to throw my phone across the room. Because FUCK THIS GUY.
If one partner decides to end a relationship, the other partner does NOT get to decide if the reasons are “good enough.” This isn’t a debate. It’s not a court of law. You don’t need evidence. You don’t have to cite your sources. You don’t have to be “logical.” You don’t have to let ANYONE try to control the story of you.
Letter writer, he is gross and you deserve so much better.
My ex was kind of like this, and I really empathize with the anxiety thing. I’ve got aspergers, anxiety and depression. He would often try and tell me I was not crazy when I tried to explain the problems my mental issues cause me (“I have difficulty doing [thing] because of my aspergers.” “No you don’t, that professional diagnosis is hogswash!”), and then do a complete 180 and blame everything on my anxiety and how crazy I was when that suited him better. It was very frustrating to constantly have to doubt my own feelings and emotions. It didn’t get easier when my mom had done the same thing to me a lot when I was a kid. This ex would often speak about people having “power levels” and that my power level was always lower than his so that’s why I was so sensitive all the time and got upset by nothing and that I needed to get over myself.
::Jedi hugs:: No one else has mentioned it, but your ex missing your birthday even though you had planned around it? Something Not Okay that got obscured by all the other Not Okay stuff.
LW, I had a similar “Rational” ex, and I am trying to think of what could have tipped me off earlier than the 3+ years, or at least before I moved in with him. Originally, I kind of admired his iconoclasm, and the way he got by in alternative ways because he’d had some tough situations growing up. Working in tech meant he could be smart and well-paid without a full traditional education (though privileged enough to have good alternatives). And he turned this into a badge of honor and perhaps even pursued and exalted his “rationalist,” “non-default” behavior from a sense of sour grapes.
Early flag: He “complimented” me on being much more “rational” than most women. Not bad in itself, but it sets up the beginning of the fruit-salad triage another poster mentioned: here are the things you can be, because I value them. Plus some possible misogynist stereotypes.
Another flag: I internally edited a lot of what I told friends and family about him, because I knew inside they wouldn’t “get it,” and part of me didn’t approve of those actions, either. (Not all would be deal breakers for others, but they were things I was uncomfortable with–e.g. Among the more innocuous were amount of drinking, fondness for poker, illegal downloading.) E.g. when he was “under a lot of stress”, he poured ketchup on the windshield of a car that got a space he thought was his–nearly broke up with him over this, and I wish I had.
Another flag: I found myself apologizing for him, trying to say his “thank yous” and such when he had left them out. I took on a really codependent (or something) role of not bringing up problems but rather fixing them for him. (Some red flags are about relationship fit and not about the ex alone.) BUT he did train me out of pointing out things like this directly, which I sometimes tried at first.
Another flag: He WAS emotionally supportive in some ways that others in my life then weren’t–but he was much better at remembering the negatives I told him (about myself and others) than the positives, or about supporting my goals. Later on he would claim to know me better than I did myself. (Ugh.)
Another flag: Rejecting other points of view, including not understanding “privilege” and not understanding why I cared about religion. (I thought I had finally made progress once when I told him about what a spiritual lens on the world could add, because he stopped interrupting, but he had fallen asleep.) (yes, he is a Redditor on r/atheism–initial dates where we talked about agreeing to mutual respect turned into him having “contempt” for me over this.)
Another flag: Unwillingness to apologize. Based on childhood, apparently– which does not make this NOT a flag.
Trigger warning for sexual coercion:
I FINALLY got it when he insisted on keeping doing something sexually that made me feel uncomfortable and brought me no pleasure and was associated with shame and discomfort (had felt good for me until it contributed to a bladder infection). He argued(!) my body was still responding. Logically, then, I was wrong about what I wanted.
Post-hoc flag: he ended up breaking up with me. I was living with him and needed to find a new place (which I did with all haste, out within a month and stayed with others for much of that time). In the meantime, he strongly insisted we were still friends, and still would be. My last weekend living there, he wanted to give me goodbye oral sex. Saturday, I was OK with it. Sunday, I felt like it not at all, and he said, “But WHYYYYYYY?” And THIS finally helped it sink in: he was doing things he wanted to that fit HIS model of how I should be and how the relationship should be, but he did not update this based on ACTUAL me and the parts of my fruit salad he did not want. BAYESIAN UPDATING FAIL. LOGIC VOID. CLAIMS OF SUPERIOR RATIONALITY DISPROVED.
LW, you are making the right decision. I hope you find your own sources of confirmation on this; the loss of even a very-wrong-for-you ex can still be tough. I also hope you realize that even smart, worthy people get tricked into stuff like this sometimes/make decisions that are bad for them. You will be more alert for what you DO want and need in a relationship when you next consider that path.
Thank you, thank you for this comment. I may borrow from it for a future post about red flags in spotting this kind of person, I think you absolutely nailed them.
❤ to you. I'm glad you're free.
Oh my god. Your comment.
– With the birthday – he said repeatedly in November and December that he wanted to make New Years / my birthday special (I think as a way to try to make up for the shittiness of the STI-related crap in Nov). Then he went on a 3-day bender across Christmas and Boxing Day and slept through the afternoon follow-up appointment where he was going to find out both of our results from the last STI test; I was super-upset, we had a huge chat about drugs on Dec 30th after which he said he’d cut down to once a month, and then when New Years came I ended up wishing I had just made other plans with friends, rather than just taking myself to breakfast and ending up chatting about movies with a nice old guy in the cafe I was at.
– Compliments – definitely. He complimented me on sticking with him through the STI stuff – but he has separately said on more than one occasion that he doesn’t actually value loyalty. He complimented me on on my intelligence in having dropped out of my uni degree and on taking an unusual path, without really taking into account that I might feel differently about that (I dropped out in part due to mental health reasons). He had a PhD and most of his friends did too and would talk dismissively about other “lower” forms of PhDs (Humanities PhDs!) or those only on their Bachelors etc., without really recognising that as someone without a degree those conversations / “compliments” might not feel that great for me.
– Internal editing with friends and family – OH GOD YES. When I raised this with him (said that I felt lonely not being able to check in with my friends and family about things like the drugs) he was very cold and clipped, saying that he “would not be held responsible” for their concerns/judgments etc. based around drugs etc. I was pretty sure he would judge me for letting their opinions affect my decisions, and I was pretty sure they would not have good things to say, so I mainly kept most of this to myself.
– He was really emotionally supportive in lots of ways, including around the anxiety, but early on when I first tried to tell him what it was like for his own information and to reduce any risk of triggers etc. he said I didn’t have to tell him all this stuff because “I’m not buying a used car”. I nonetheless told him that I got triggered by mess etc. Once when I was staying at his after we had been planning to go to a party, I was going to stay home and read and rest while he went out. He ended up tearing apart his room so badly looking to find his shoes that walking back into it brought on a panic attack and I ended up leaving and taking a 2-hr train trip home just to get away to somewhere I could be calm. Afterwards he said that my anxiety was so “abstract” to him that he forgot about the mess. I’ve tried to check in before about how my anxiety affects him, and he said something along the lines of it not being “all rainbow- and cupcake-shitting unicorns”, but “if I have snakes in my room I would prefer to know about them than not”. I was really upset about the comments and it made it even harder to know how to handle my anxiety with him – whether to shut up and deal with it on my own or to share it with him in manageable chunks when I was anxious about something to do with us etc.
– Rejecting other points of view – YEP. I was talking to a friend who met this guy once and my friend said that he found that my ex disregarded, disagreed with or belittled any suggestion that my friend made that my ex didn’t agree with – and sometimes even was belittling even when my friend agreed with him. Having an external perspective weigh in was really interesting to me – it was interesting that my ex would behave like this to someone male, his own age, very forthright, highly educated etc. as well as me (8 years younger, without a degree, and clearly very susceptible to manipulation from this dude).
Thanks so much for putting all these flags down in writing. Amazing how clear they are put this way.
Also I am so glad you are out. It’s actually alarming how much there was to identify with in this post – wow. Sending big Jedi hugs.
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