It Came From The Search Terms, April Showers Edition

Every month(ish) I answer the questions people typed into search engines to find this blog. Except for adding punctuation, I don’t change the wording. Enjoy!

1. “Mother-in-law hates me. How do I tell her I’m pregnant?”

That sounds like a job for your spouse, her (presumably) son, who should be doing all or most of any communicating with his mom that needs doing.

2. “How to get a passive-aggressive man to talk to you?”

Pretend you don’t want to talk to him but make weird backhanded insults in his presence about how he shouldn’t talk to you, creating an endless loop of passive-aggression. He will be unable to resist your gambit.

"Relativity" by MC Escher
“Your endless staircase of insinuation and feigned dislike reminds me of the much nicer one I have at Pemberley.”

Or try “Hey Steve, nice to see you. How are you today?” like you would with anyone else.

3. “My boyfriend passed away 7 months ago. When is it okay to date again?”

I am so very sorry for your loss. This is actually an easy question to answer in short form:

You are 100% the boss of when you start dating again. If you’re ready now, now is the time. If you need more time to grieve, take all the time you need. Don’t let anyone pressure you, don’t let anyone guilt you, either.

4. “These little old ladies want to be fucked in my phone number 530.”

Image from old "Where's the Beef?" Wendy's commercial. Three little old ladies yell "Where's the beef?" into a phone.

How extremely specific, yet vague. We need details, son!

5. “He never read my Facebook message.”

He probably did, tho.

6. “My housemates complain about me having sex what can I do?”

Be quieter, is my guess, if it’s a noise complaint. Do it at your partner(s)’s house(s) more, if it’s a “but they’re always AROUND and using the shower when we need it and watching our TV and eating our food” complaint. Plan to move if it’s a “we are judgmental of the fact that you have sex at all or who you have sex with” complaint.

Living with housemates requires a certain amount of “I will just choose not to ever notice anything that happens in your room when your door is closed” attitude to make the social contract work. But housemates do actually have the right to say “I signed up to live with you, not you + another person who is always here” and ask you to pitch a road game once in a while if you have overnight guests more than 3-4 nights/week, and they do have a right to ask you to keep it down between certain hours.

7. “I had fight with mybf bcoz of short dress help.” and 8.”Why is he so mean to me?”

Read Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft and get yourself to a safe place that’s Away From That Guy. I’m so sorry.

I’m reading this now (for blog discussion reasons, not personal ones, though it was pretty funny to have my boyfriend buy it for me from the bookstore where he works with “It’s for my girlfriend!”). It is very, very good and will help you see controlling & mean behaviors as part of an overall pattern of deliberate behavior, not anything that is your fault.

9. “Making letter for a friend that you cares about at the same time you mad at him somehow.”

If you don’t want to end or take a break from the friendship, keep the letter (or whatever communication you use) focused on the behavior that bugged you. And try, if you can, to keep it focused on the most recent instance of that behavior. “When you asked me to be your date to the party but were reading your phone/texting all night it really hurt my feelings” is better than “You are always on your phone when we hang out!

10. “How to impress a teacher you have a crush on.”

Do your best work for the class, learn what you came to learn, and move on when the semester is over without confessing your feelings or putting your teacher in an extremely awkward position. Crushes can be motivating personally without ever having to be acted on or expressed, this is one of those kinds of crushes.

11. “Is being tipsy attractive?”

To other tipsy folks, at closing time. Is that who you want to attract?

12. “Do people with Aspergers hate being interrupted?”

While it varies from individual to individual, in my limited experience, they hate this somewhat less than many neurotypical folks do. If you can’t reliably depend on social cues or body language to know when someone wants to tune out from what you’re saying, and a function of your personality is that you can and want to talk for a long time about things that interest you, having a friend or a coworker say “Thank you for that info, but I have all I need now” or “Hey, can we talk about X instead of Y for a minute?” is actually helpful if done kindly. We’ve got a lot of readers who can shed more light on this for you.

I don’t have Aspergers, but I am a geek and a college teacher and can definitely natter on about things, and when I’m in The Talking Zone I definitely appreciate a kind redirection as well.

13. ” How to avoid being the rebound girl?”

Easy. Just make sure that you date someone only after they’ve dated at least one other person since their last breakup.

Waterfall by MC Escher
Only date people if they’ve dated someone else since their last breakup and you will guarantee that you will never be the rebound!

Sorry for the impossible logic problem. It’s because I’d like the idea of the “rebound” to go the way of the “friend zone”: AWAY.

These can be true statements:

“I was dating someone but it didn’t really go anywhere because they were just too hung up on their ex/not looking for anything serious right now/the timing was wrong.” 

This is the truer statement:

“I was dating someone but it didn’t really go anywhere because they didn’t want it to.” 

You can meet someone right after getting out of a serious relationship and, if you like them enough and everything clicks well enough, go right into another one. Or you can be a person who needs a lot of time to regroup after a breakup and doesn’t even want to think about dating anyone seriously…but some makeouts that remind you that you have a body can be nice, or going on a dating site to “see what happens” can be a nice reminder that you have options. These are the On The Rebound people you are keen to avoid, and you will know them by their avoidance of any talk about feelings or the future.

But you can think you are that second kind of person and intend to date casually, until meeting a person you really love shakes you out of that mode. And you can think you are that first kind of person….ready for loooooooooooove!!!!!!….but not get into anything serious because it takes a while for you to meet the right person. Which leaves us with: There are two kinds of people and they are both just…people.

If the other person is really into you, and you are really into them, the timing won’t matter so much. So risk it like you would any other potential love relationship, but also listen to what the other person is saying and pay attention to their actions like you would in pursuing any other potential love relationship. Believe them when they say stuff like  “I like you but I’m just not ready for another serious relationship right now” “Let’s keep this really casual” etc. and don’t try spackle those things over with your awesome chemistry or how well you *should* work on paper. Those statements translate as I don’t want that kind of relationship with you.

14. “What does it mean when a girl says that she likes you but we just cant be in a relationship right now?”

It means she’s not interested in a romantic relationship with you and wants to let you down gently, so she’s using what she thinks is a culturally-approved script to do so. Read it as “she is not attracted to me or interested in ever being my girlfriend,” grieve for what might have been, and don’t bring the topic up again.

15. “He says he feels a deep connection.”

….but? You guys can hear the “but,” right?

16. My girlfriend asked for no contact but can I wish her happy birthday?

No contact is no contact.

My question is, do you want to be involved with someone who doesn’t want any contact with you?

17. “Men who are too intense too soon.”

Let’s reframe and rephrase this.

“Men who like you way more than you like them.”

“Men who creep you out or alarm you with their attentions.”

“Men who try too hard to lock in a relationship before you are ready.”

“Men who don’t pay attention to reciprocity and who come on way too strong.”

“Men who are controlling and needy.”

“Men whose relationship style is not compatible with yours.”

“Too intense” at the beginning of a relationship is often a red flag for someone with violent and controlling tendencies. Listen to those instincts and strongly consider breaking ties with whoever inspired you to search for this.

18. “He dumped me and got angry when I refused to be friends.”

Let’s reframe and rephrase this:

“He made me sad but then immediately made me relieved to be free of him, forever.”

“He suddenly made it much easier for me to put the entire sad business behind me.”

“He thinks that only he gets to decide the terms of our relationship.”

19. “How can you tell if someone has a mean streak?”

They do or say enough mean things to inspire you to Google that question, is my guess.

20. “How to piss off someone who has to have the last word?”

Remove their audience and replace it with sweet, cold, delicious silence.



92 thoughts on “It Came From The Search Terms, April Showers Edition

  1. My instinct is that #16 may have left the prefix “ex-” out of their search, which may go some way towards explaining why their girlfriend has requested no contact. And if they are still calling her a girlfriend when that’s not the case, and they’re also pushing back against an explicit request for no contact… I would understand why the girlfriend decided to break things off.

    1. I also wondered if she was ever really the querent’s girlfriend. If she wasn’t, and zie’s using the term anyway, that too would explain the whole no-contact thing.

    1. I left my husband, and almost immediately an internet friend and I stepped up our flirtation. Within a month he visited, and a year later I married him and moved to his country.

      None of that was my original intention, I was just having fun and reveling in my new freedom. And yet….

      1. Holy moly, I painted the wall that is your icon many, many years ago at the Coffeehouse. Is it still there? Mind=blown.

        1. I’m sorry for being wildly off-topic. I’m just croggled. Wow, the internet is amazing.

    2. 17 years, this month; married 13 years this summer. Occasionally, Mr Hypotenuse tells me I’m terrible at rebound relationships.

    3. Oh my gosh, my husband of 15 years asked me out literally hours after I’d broken up with my boyfriend. Of course, realizing that I liked my now-husband WAY better than my boyfriend and wanted to go out with him instead was part of the reason I’d broken up with boyfriend may skew the data a leeeetle bit.

    4. A friend once said, “I’ve got the perfect guy for you! But he’s getting married.” So I’m like, “Right. Thanks?”

      Fast forward many months and friend is like, “Perfect Guy got dumped by fiancee, so let’s give him some time but then I’ll introduce you! It’ll be great!” And I’m like, “Umm…”

      Then (super geeks that we are) Perfect Guy and I accidentally came across each other at a comic convention waaaaay earlier than “appropriate” and have been together ever since, yup.

  2. “You can meet someone right after getting out of a serious relationship and, if you like them enough and everything clicks well enough, go right into another one.” Thanks for saying this! I’ve been a bit of a serial monogamist and don’t feel great about that, but I also don’t feel like the new relationships are always doomed like many people make them out to be. What I think is funny is that I actually know only few people who manage to find the middle ground between serial monogamist and perpetually single (not that anything is wrong with either of those!) – it seems that most people are somehow close to one extreme or the other.

    1. …what exactly does “serial monogamist” mean in this context, and why is it a thing to avoid being?

      1. I just meant “going from one relationship to the other without taking much of a break”. Sorry if that’s not the what term means – I’m not entirely sure now that you ask, or if “serial monogamist” just means anyone who has been in several monogamous relationships? Anyway, I don’t think that it’s something that must be avoided necessarily (going from one relationship to another without much of a break), but I do think that it’s generally seen as a bad thing.

        1. It CAN mean “going from one relationship to the other without being considerate to either Ex or New partners about wrapping up the emotional/logistical loose ends from the first”, or the cheat on A-dump A for B-revel in new relationship energy with B-cheat on B-dump B for C cycle. (And when poly people use the term pejoratively, that’s usually what’s meant.) But it certainly doesn’t HAVE to. It can also just mean “inclined toward settling into a relationship fairly quickly” as opposed to “inclined toward long stretches of casual dating”.

        1. YYEEEEAAAUP.

          (Says the person who’s best friend says the reason he jumped back into the dating pool so quickly was that he spent the past few years getting his emotional validation from the women he was dating, and without romantic relationship he feels insecure and lonely. And dives full-throttle into every new relationship. There’s gotta be a difference between people who prefer to be in a relationship and people who can’t stand being single.)

    2. Seconded on the Thanks. I remember how confused I was because of the fear I was “rebounding” after dating a few weeks after a break up, leading to long and lengthy internal discussions about “Did I enjoy the date, or do I only think I enjoyed the date because it’s more pleasant than the break up? Or did I not enjoy the date, or do I only think I didn’t enjoy the date because I’m comparing it to an entire relationship?”

      I was confused for months. Thankfully I eventually realised the girl I was dating was pretty amazing, and two years ago I married her.

  3. “You can meet someone right after getting out of a serious relationship and, if you like them enough and everything clicks well enough, go right into another one.”

    My parents met 3 months or so after my dad’s divorce. They were married 6 months later and have been for over 40 years. It can work. But it doesn’t have to.

    1. My rebound fling & I just celebrated 22 years together, though that includes about 2 months of cooling it after our first few dates because I needed a little alone time.

    2. Agreed! I met Sir Briz just a month after he separated from his ex (and in the midst of divorce proceedings). We’re going strong 2+ years later!

      Sometime it happens, and it’s awesome, or it happens then doesn’t work out because of reasons, or it just doesn’t happen. All are ok.

      1. I … how do you keep a relationship going and healthy in the midst of something like that (the way you and Sir Briz began) …?

        Asking for a friend.


  4. While it varies from individual to individual, in my limited experience, they hate this somewhat less than many neurotypical folks do. If you can’t reliably depend on social cues or body language to know when someone wants to tune out from what you’re saying, and a function of your personality is that you can and want to talk for a long time about things that interest you, having a friend or a coworker say “Thank you for that info, but I have all I need now” or “Hey, can we talk about X instead of Y for a minute?” is actually helpful if done kindly. We’ve got a lot of readers who can shed more light on this for you.

    I need some time to formulate my thoughts on this, but I find that being interrupted in a fashion other than the pattern in the captain’s examples is disconcerting and both cognitively and emotionally taxing, sometimes to the point of being debilitating.

    1. Thank you for weighing in, and please come back and elaborate more if you like, especially on helpful ways people could interrupt you if they needed to.

      1. Interestingly, I interpreted that question as, “Interrupted in the middle of a task”, not “interrupted while speaking”. I know people who react very badly to the former. For this, I generally find scheduling and grouping interruptions works well. E.g.: saying, “We need a 10-min discussion of [topic]. Can we do that in half an hour?” rather than launching into discussion as I would with some others.

        1. Good perspective, and the relative welcomeness of the interruption changes with that interpretation! I like your proposed approach very much.

        2. Yes, being abruptly pulled out of something I’m hyperfocused on can be debilitating. I have never had this problem within a conversation, but can understand how it might happen if you’re talking about your special interest and you’ve really gotten going and then *yank*.

          I do find being interrupted or talked over annoying, but no more so than an NT.

    2. I have two boys on the spectrum and I find context is very important to them (isn’t it with everybody?).

      If they’re in the middle of a task then they absolutely do not appreciate being interrupted (neither do I for that matter).

      If they’re gushing about their current obsession then they might sulk a little if you interrupt them, but otherwise they go with the redirection (so do I for that matter).

      Sometimes it just depends on their mood, ie they really need to get something off their chest, or are really excited about their new obsession and they need to vent that excitement.

      I am not on the spectrum but I react in a very similar fashion to being interrupted.

      My point here is, just because they’re on the spectrum doesn’t mean you can/should treat them differently to any other person who is not on the spectrum. It is usually considered rude to interrupt somebody so start with that and then factor in their personality and figure it out like you would anybody else*.

      *really not trying to be snarky although it may be read that way.

    3. I’m not professionally diagnosed, but I think I am somewhere on the autism spectrum, so for what it’s worth:
      Probably the Captain wasn’t necessarily picturing interrupting mid-sentence, and was picturing a person who talks a lot with few pauses (and thus is very unlike me), but I want to say that being interrupted in mid-sentence or mid-thought is very difficult for me, too. The problems that I have with spoken language mean that, once I’ve been knocked off a train of thought, I probably won’t be able to recapture it. I don’t complain about being interrupted, because I don’t want to bore people, like the Captain said, but feeling my ability to explain something slip through my fingers is *very* frustrating. Like Lady Rageasaurus said, it of course depends on the person and the situation, but someone with Asperger’s might in fact hate being interrupted for reasons related to Asperger’s.

    4. Me too. I find a cheerfully blunt “Shut up, Vass” when I’ve been going on about something and it’s someone else’s turn a lot less upsetting than if the person’s silently (or imperceptibly to me) getting more and more annoyed until they reach exploding point.

      But I also have trouble with conversation timing, and very frequently find that other people interrupt me (sometimes in mid sentence) because they “thought I’d finished” or “thought we’d finished that topic.” And it always leaves me confused and hurt, and I can have a lot of trouble switching to the new topic when my brain’s still working on the previous topic. Picture trying to open Photoshop while also shutting down Firefox with a lot of tabs open. That’s my brain on a segue I wasn’t ready for.

      It can take me longer to get to the point than it takes for allistic people, and longer to find the right words or the right context to make my meaning clear. And that’s a lot harder and more confusing if it’s a casual conversation with people I don’t know well, rather than a long discussion on something specific, or a focused information exchange thing. The reason for that is that I have trouble retrieving exactly the right amount of information/context – not too much or too little – and if I don’t know the person, then as well as having trouble retrieving the right amount, I also can’t assess what that right amount is. So that’s probably why other people think I’m done or we’re done when I’m not or I thought we weren’t.

  5. I read no. 2 not so much as “how do you get [random passive aggressive guy in whom you are interested] to talk to you” as “how do you get [passive aggressive partner who uses silence / refusing to engage as a way to make repair work *always* your job, even for damage he has caused] to talk to you”.

    I don’t know a good answer to that second one — I might still be married if I did! — but my own experience with that is that you can’t, you have to just stop pouring your life energy down the bottomless pit of trying and then slowly and gradually and eventually stop caring about it.

    1. Yes, interpreted thusly, “disengage” is the only recourse the passive aggressive person leaves open to you. And sometimes they get really mad when you take it, which prompts them to go full passive or full aggressive, which can at least be sort of dealt with in the open.

      1. It can work to say, ‘Can you tell me how you’re feeling right now?’ or, ‘Are you worried about something?’, and see if they’re willing to interrupt the cycle and admit to what’s upset them. Showing real concern for their anxiety or unhappiness can sometimes break down the adversarial PA loop.

        If the underlying issue comes out and is talked about, you can say, ‘Another time, could you try to stop and tell me how you’re feeling when you feel like that? Because if you don’t, it comes across as passive aggressive and it makes me feel like you hate me. I promise not to criticise you for being upset with me.’

        All this only works if the other person is capable of dropping their defences with you, and if you like each other enough to want to work through it. Sometimes people have just grown up with a passive aggressive style and don’t know any other way to address conflict.

        1. Perhaps it can sometimes help to show concern for passive-aggressive person’s feelings. But in my personal experience it never did. I have twisted myself in knots trying to be the most un-judgemental, understanding, considerate partner in the past, and as it turns out I was just pouring myself down an endless hole, as Polychrome says.

          It seems when this happens in relationships it’s really just another manipulative emotional abuse tactic to keep you forever on edge trying to tease out his feelings and always worrying about his mysterious feelings and possibly never fully addressing your own feelings and grievances because he never complains (openly) about anything, am I a complainy person? Is he angry because I complained about a thing? Who can tell? I can’t tell – he has schrodingers anger that may or may not be there at all times…

          So sure, try once or twice to patiently break a passive aggressive person out of their pattern. But recognise when it isn’t working and stop trying (do not try for years and years). And yes, at that point all you can do is disengage.

          To be clear – passive aggressive behaviour is supremely manipulative. People who are using that tactic may have reasons to have learnt to operate that way, but they’re still hurting you.

          1. “schrodinger’s anger”

            I need to be able to “like” this comment and phrase several hundred times.

        2. Problem is, that’s in cases where the passivity isn’t actually aggression. People who really are using their silence as a weapon love this kind of response, because it’s the sound of the other person twisting on the hook and proving that their tactic is working.

          I’m kind of raw over this, because my dad uses this tactic a lot. If there’s an argument and he gets upset, he stops talking at all. And then we get all worried that maybe ~his feelings are hurt~ or ~we upset him~ and when he comes back, we’re all so happy that he’s talking again that nobody calls him on the fact that his behaviour wasn’t okay.

          So being kind and understanding is an option, but if that horse ain’t gonna drink, stop pulling the leadrope.

          1. “If there’s an argument and he gets upset, he stops talking at all.”

            I shut down in arguments sometimes, and an outsider looking in could describe my behaviour like that. It’s a hangover from when I was living at home with a father who used to get very shouty-angry and – only on two occasions over 20 years – violent. When I spoke up it was termed “Oprah-feelings-bullshit”, so I learnt not to – and then found that my silence also frustrated him, which actually felt good to me – like I had some power in a situation when I was otherwise pretty weak.

            It’s been something I’ve had to watch as an adult. I can still shut down in fraught situations but if I feel safe and the relationship matters to me, I generally try and let the person I’m with know that sometimes I get quiet and I’m thinking and wanting to respond, just taking a bit more time than most people to process and to be able to speak up, but that as soon as I can, I will. My mother can be very passive-aggressive and I know that I can be too, and I also know that it’s not the way to go in terms of expressing your needs and giving others the opportunity to meet them, or to honestly decide not to etc.

            “It seems when this happens in relationships it’s really just another manipulative emotional abuse tactic to keep you forever on edge trying to tease out his feelings and always worrying about his mysterious feelings and possibly never fully addressing your own feelings and grievances because he never complains (openly) about anything”

            My most recent partner (who was an A-grade dick) used to criticise me for getting upset and “advocating for my needs” but also exclaimed “I had no idea you were so vulnerable!” when I did speak up. It was so gaslight-y, because I knew I can be inclined towards passive-aggression and have to watch for it; and then I would genuinely try to speak up when something upset me and would be shut down in very subtle ways; and then accused of being “unfair”/”irrational” etc. when I saw that these things weren’t getting better and acted on that. I think there’s room to twist people’s shutting-down response into an automatic passive-aggressive dick move even if they’re really trying NOT to be passive-aggressive and use their words, if you’re determined not to hear them. I don’t pretend that’s the norm – but I’ve seen both sides, I suppose.

          2. Homeruncommitment, that dude sounds horrible. It is a common tactic of abusers to try to convince their partner that *they’re* actually the abusive or disfunctional one, and as you say it’s gaslighting and it messes with your head. Just because someone accused you of being passive aggressive doesn’t mean that you were, or that actual passive aggressive behaviour is not abusive/manipulative.

            I think there are several different understandings of what passive aggressive means. In everyday speech people use it to mean “someone who doesn’t tell you they’re upset”, but in some ways that’s the same sort of misuse as saying someone who likes to be organised is OCD. Serious passive aggressive behaviour is more than occasional failure to speak up for yourself. So take silence as an example – I also shut down in arguments and find myself unable to speak. But my ability to speak returns when the argument has cooled (like, within half an hour or so) and I can circle back to the discussion right away. But a passive aggressive person will show no anger but freeze you out for days without telling you why. They’ll force you to guess and placate and try to mollify them for an unknown crime (my mother does this). Or alternatively you’ll have an argument, which is entirely one sided in which you get angry and express problems and they agree and are nice and apologise but it all feels a bit fake. You might keep arguing in the face of their agreement, because it feels so fake, but eventually you give up on getting at their real feelings and decide to accept their agreement at face value. Besides at that point you look like an unreasonable person who is arguing for no reason. You hope the problem is solved. But not only is it not solved (they keep doing the thing or return to doing it very quickly), they also discretely and deniably punish you for pissing them off later. So, they forget something important, or break something of yours, or accidentally mess something up. And there’s no way to really be sure it’s not an accident, but it happens so consistently that eventually you realise it’s deliberate. Or they spend several days making weird comments at you that are actually really insulting but also abiguous and easy to deny. Until you dread raising issues with them, and aren’t sure why.

            It’s important not to forget the aggressive side of passive-aggression. It’s not just meek silence. It’s also all the crazy BS that follows. Or it’s a silence that lasts for days, not hours. The hidden, secret, deniable aggression.

            I do get that it’s easy to pick up these behaviours when living with someone manipulative and gasslighty. I certainly did. I stopped arguing with abusive dude eventually and just went silent, which is terrible behaviour that doesn’t help me in relationships with other non-abusive people. To the extent that we do these things we should examine our own behaviour and stop. But it’s also probable that you’re not actually passive-aggressive and that abusive dude was gasslighting you. 😦

      2. I find pretending they’re not actually being passive aggressive works. Like a conversation might go
        A: How are you?
        B: Well I *guess* I’m okay, or at least I would be if not for
        A: Oh, okay. So how about ?

        It either forces them eventually to vocalise what the issue is or they give up and drop whatever it is, deciding it’s not important.

        1. Well, except for the part where they punish you in some weird deniable way that you’re never sure is deliberate like forgetting to come home the night you planned to do something together or accidentally putting your favourite bra in the drier on high so it turns into molten strings of nylon or suddenly having a melt down the night before your important exam. And you have this weird sense that these things are more likely to happen when they’re pissed at you (not that they admit to being pissed) and they manage to live in the world with relative competence so it’s interesting how they suddenly become hapless, accident prone and forgetful around stuff that matters to you so often…

          And that’s without getting into the snide comments and weird back handed insults that are deniable when pressed.

          Taking them at face value works for people you don’t have to rely on and don’t want the love/approval of. If you’ve bought into a relationship with a passive aggressive person it’s a nightmare.

          1. Certainly. I’m not in it any more. But like all dodgy and abusive relationships it doesn’t start that way!

            I’m really going on about this because I spent a lot of time thinking we had a communication problem, and trying really hard to learn the right way of communicating that would solve it. But I didn’t have a communication problem – he did. I wasn’t in a position to solve it, no matter how clever I was.

            I don’t want other people in relationships like I was to read all these “just do this to deal with a PA person” comments that probably work in non-intimate relationships where you don’t care too much or need too much, and think that’s all they need to do to fix their terrible home life. Then when it doesn’t work, worry they’re doing it wrong. 😦

        2. Yeah, I have a pretty firm “If you don’t say it, it doesn’t exist” approach. Works well, especially when coupled with the same behavior in myself AND an honest and earnest willingness to treat their feelings and problems as legitimate when they do bring it up. You really have to be the kind of person they don’t have to try to sneak around to get passive-aggressiveness to stop.

          1. That advice would have been really harmful to me when I was in a relationship with a passive aggressive person. I spent a lot of time worrying that I had caused it by being the kind of person he felt he had to sneak around. I twisted myself into knots trying not to be that person. As it turns out, I wasn’t to blame at all. And no amount of being 100% open and understanding and calm and approachable and non-judgemental would fix it.

            You advice is an approach I take with people who behave that way at work (for example). In someone’s intimate relationship however it’s ineffective and really tantamount to victim blaming.

          2. I adopted that with coworkers and it was great. I mean…nothing really got resolved, but there was no way *to* resolve it, and it sure beat driving myself up the wall trying to figure out exactly what they were mad about *this* time.

  6. That Lundy Bancroft book is so enlightening and eye opening that I feel like it should be required reading in school or something. I read it a few weeks ago because people on Tumblr kept posting fascinating quotes from it, and now I wish I’d read it about 20 years ago. Everyone go read this book!

    (Be aware it can be very triggering if you’ve been in an abusive relationship in the past)

    1. It’s a hard read. You will find yourself saying “Wait, that’s not normal? Wait, that’s abuse?” multiple times. Plan for some extra self-care and time to think.

      1. For sure — I also found it an especially hard read because I recognized not just “bad partner behaviours” but also “bad me behaviours” which were like…. “ohhhhh. I have to stop doing that immediately.”

        I’ve had people reject my recommendation of it because it is framed in terms of “abuse” and their reaction is “abusive is shouting and hitting and nothing else, ergo irrelevant” (and also, I think, “scary”, like, they can’t really imagine the Venn diagram of their life intersecting with a book about abusive behaviour… but honestly everybody’s life intersects with some of the stuff he talks about, some of the time).

        1. Yes – gosh it’s a great primer on what you should not do yourself as well. But this book really helped clarify for me that stuff in a past relationship wasn’t just maybe kinda sorta abusive, it was actual serious emotional abuse, it was probably more calculated than I thought, and more of it was bad than I realised. It gave a name for a whole bunch of stuff that used to just make me feel sick and confused, but not sure why.

          And yeah, as FlyBy says, plan for this to be an intense read, to bring up stuff from the past, and be difficult emotionally.

          I will probably re-read it a couple times to make sure it all sinks in.

          1. absolutely — the lesson, again and again, that it’s *not* “cluelessness” but intent. So clarifying.

    2. I also want to plug the Lundy Bancroft book. While it is triggering, it’s also been healing to read through and underline everything that reminds me of my past relationship with an abuser. My absolute favorite line from the book is, “Abuse loses some of its power when you have names for its weapons.”

      1. Yes, Lundys book was extremely helpful before and after getting out of an abusive relationship. I too think it, and GoF, should be required reading in HS.

  7. I think with #5, the issue is that Facebook tells people when their messages are read, and this person never got that notification, hence their message was never read. Two possibilities, I’d think:

    1. Their message went not to the dude’s inbox, but rather to the hidden “other” inbox where Facbook files mail it thinks is junkmail. In that case, he probably didn’t see your message. Many people don’t even know that “other” inbox exists.

    2. He saw your message and hit the little “archive” x without opening it. In that case, he is probably not interested in what you have to say.

  8. “16. My girlfriend asked for no contact but can I wish her happy birthday?”

    WOW this question really rubs me the wrong way! I think it’s because I’ve tried to go no-contact on people who have pushed and pushed and pushed before, all under the mantra of “but good intentions!!! look at my intentions! they are so good!” while leaving me with “HOW HARD IS IT TO UNDER WHAT ‘NO CONTACT’ MEANS.”

    In other words: if you ever find yourself asking a question that begins with any version of, “my ___ said no contact, but can I just…” the answer is NO.

    1. Seriously. It demonstrates just how eager that person is to try to wiggle around your boundaries. By the time I get to asking for no contact, I MEAN IT.

    2. And also, if they’ve asked to go no-contact, wishing her happy birthday could really mess up her birthday.

      1. I’ve had the “Oh awesome, someone sent me flowers for my bday” *read card* DDDDD: experience, this from an ex that I’d cut off contact with but I’m 100% sure had absolutely good intentions, and it still left me looking over my shoulder for the next couple of weeks.
        Just don’t do it.

      2. Late to the party but the Gf knew her birthday was coming up when she asked for No Contact — if she wanted you to be a part of that day she wouldn’t have asked.

        1. Very good point. If gf wants birthday contact, gf can initiate it. It’s highly unlikely that she will forget to have a happy birthday unless a person she would rather not hear from reminds her to have one.

  9. Ugh. Feeling #16/18. Ex and I both decide to break up. Both decide that we shouldn’t talk for a while. He sends me an e-mail saying that he’s still angry, but is maybe ready to talk again. Y’know, if *I* want to. I say let’s not, since it seems we both still had stuff to work on to be okay with the relationship fallout…

    Cue long an e-mail full of accusations and whining, contacting my roommate/mutual friend to demand more items that we had bought together and already divied up, and returning things of mine to my roommate as a way of passing along more notes. Oh, plus reports from friends of him making all kinds of posts all over social media sites about what a Sad Panda he is and how awful I am.

    Dude really surprised me by going off the deep end, given that we talked months before the breakup about the possibility of it happening. I don’t even care who’s right any more or about the friendship that pre-dated our romantic relationship – I just want it all to be over. It’s moving into creepy/uncomfortable territory.

    Aaaand end rant.

    1. I’d recommend downloading a block app on your phone and then setting up a filter so all emails from him automatically go into spam or trash. I’ve had to do that before and it really works because you can’t get blindsided by any “BUT YOU JUST DON’T UNDERSTAAAAAAAAND.”

      And tell your friends not to pass on any info from him. FOR SURE.

  10. #10 Believe me when I tell you, except under circumstances that almost certainly do not apply to you, the answer is exactly what CA says it is. Do a great job in class, and go on to do great things later. They’ll be really proud of you, and that’s a really great feeling.

    It’s particularly true if you’re under age. But generally, the good profs and teachers do not want to have those kinds of interactions with you. Under rare circumstances where it’s okay (okayish, kind of), it involves legal adults who no longer have and will never have an academic evaluator/ evaluatee relationship again, ever.

    It’s a buzzkill like no other when a student gets crushy. It’s awful for teacherprofs because they’re responsible for keeping classrooms safe for everyone, and student crushiness coming out in class or office hours isn’t safe. It’s not safe for them (it could be harassment of them!). And it’s not safe for you!

    LW, if you’re a high school student, I want you to remember this: one sign that a person really is becoming an adult is that they can show self-regulation and impulse control. You should expect teachers to have both those things when it comes to students and interacting with them. And it’s never too early (or late) for you to start practicing those traits, either. Your favorite unattainable teacher will respect you a lot for knowing teacher + student= terrible romance idea. Except you aren’t going to tell them about that thought, so they won’t know.

    1. The Captain’s advice is bang on.

      I also figure though that a student has a crush on a teacher for reasons it would be helpful for them to think about. I had a bit of a crush on a teacher when I was a young teenager. He was a standardly attractive, young (under 30), guy who was funny, passionate about what he was teaching and who treated his students with fairness and respect.

      None of these qualities are bad ones to be attracted to and, while I knew a teacher was not appropriate to explore a relationship with – and he was married, it was helpful for me to know that I would probably like to date someone who made me laugh, cared about stuff and was respectful. It was also a hint that I was probably into guys.

      Since you’re thinking about this person anyway, while you should follow the Captain’s advice, it might also to helpful to think about what you like about this teacher so that you know more about what qualities attract you to someone and know more about yourself.

  11. Some years ago, I picked up Lundy’s book in a bookstore, thinking it might help me deal with fallout from long-ago relationship with Darth Vader cousin. As I read it, though, I realized… it explained my (Darth Vader) mother even better than the other. I cried in the bookstore, then bought the book.

    I agree that everyone should read it.

    1. This a thousand times. I was in a relationship with an abuser who also had an abusive father. He taught/manipulated me to hate his mother. But after reading Bancroft’s book, I realized that she too was a victim of abuse. My heart goes out to her, and I wish that I could contact her, but I don’t think it would be appropriate.

  12. “housemates do actually have the right to say “I signed up to live with you, not you + another person who is always here””

    You’d think so wouldn’t you? I still boggle slightly at the memory of a flatmate who was deeply affronted when I gently suggested that since her boyfriend came over 5 nights a week for dinner, shower and stayover, he should maybe contribute to the household bills. Especially since the groceries were bought and used collectively (there were several of us and we took turns to cook dinner for everyone). As I recall, in the end the problem was ‘solved’ by him moving in so he started paying his share. Nonetheless she pretty much never spoke to me again; it must have irked her considerably that her boyfriend and I got on well.

    At least they weren’t noisy in bed, though since I was at the other end of the house maybe I just didn’t hear it.

  13. #19: Funny how the answer is so often in the question.

    Aside: It just occurred to me that search-term questions tend to sound a lot like the Q&A in “Dogs’ Guide to Understanding Basic Concepts” from Hyperbole and a Half.

  14. For number 9, I think I would recommend writing TWO letters.

    One of these letters you are not going to send. This is your ugliest, truthfullest self letter. This is where you lay out everything. ever. that dude has done to piss you off. Every single thing you didn’t speak up about — THERE. Bam. In the letter. Every single thing you thought was too little to mention at the time, but which built into a pattern of behavior that made you feel devalued, ignored, or belittled — BAM. IN THE LETTER.

    You are going to write this letter without the fear of anyone ever reading it, because you are not writing it for anyone besides yourself.

    Then, let that letter sit for a while. Maybe a couple days. Maybe a week. Maybe several week. Time away from a problem virtually ALWAYS helps anger.

    The next letter you might write with the help of the first letter, or you might jump straight to burning/deleting/ripping to pieces the first letter. The first letter was to give full vent to everything that is making you angry, but moreso to be sure you are identifying the thing that you are REALLY angry about, so that when you write the second letter, you can pick out the specific things that will most help your friendship to change in a good way. (I have definitely had the experience of saying WHY DO YOU DO THIS THING STOP DOING THIS THING only to find out that THIS THING was not as important to me as THAT OTHER THING.) It also helps you realize if the THING that is really making you angry is something you can reasonably ask another person to change at all. For example: “I don’t find it funny when you make jokes about me being a lesbian,” is something I can ask someone to change. “I am angry that you have put a new boundary in our friendship,” is. . . er. . . not.

    1. Oh I did that for my ex, it was an email and I was pretty much just getting out all my feelings about stuff and then was going to go back and edit it afterwards. It *sounds* like a good idea but then my evil cat hopped up on my lap and HIT THE SEND BUTTON, before I’d even finished the draft so he got the unedited version.

      I…yeah. HAd to start a new email within the thread saying “Sorry, my cat hit send, so as I was saying…” thankfully he saw the funny side (having met said evil cat) and it was fine. But still GAH!

      So yeah, maybe a letter would have been safer….

  15. To #1, Neither Spouse or I are the partners our mothers envisioned for us. They were not tactful about expressing it.

    A lot of that has to do with them not being comfortable with basic aspects of who we are. They were really hoping all that was a phase, that we would wake up one day and be a person that easily fits into their lives.
    As a parent. I have sympathy for that. It’s not going to happen, but I understand they’re feeling rejected.

    Our parents took out this disappointment and hurt on our partners because that’s easier than admitting the people they thought we were never actually existed.

    Sometimes in those circumstances a grandchild is seen as an opportunity to have the relationship they crave, and relations improve. Sometimes it’s the nail in the coffin of their delusion that getting their child away from the ‘wrong’ partner will fix them, and things get worse.

    Either way, creating a family that is uniquely your own is one of the joys of children. What your parents want from you has to take second place to what your children need from you. There is strength in that if the two of you embrace it together.

    1. You just summed up the relationship between my parents, my husband, our kids, and me in a few short, beautiful paragraphs. Tearing up a little bit as I read this. Thank you.

    2. Yeah, been there done that. FirstKid improved relations between Spouse and my mom, but made things worse with the in-laws.

      What’s hard for me sometimes is that FirstKid in particular seems very much to be the child my parents wish *I* had been. Which is just….ouch.

      1. They see the blend of you and your spouse in FirstKid. As they grew to love FK, they saw that Spouse had qualities they value.

        I suspect FirstKid is favored because they are proof that you value those things too, It brought them joy to see you choose to partner with and nurture someone who has those qualities. They can see past the external differences and know that you are still their child.

        I think that is part of the joy of grandchildren, the bone deep security of knowing they did their job, and you turned out well. So now they can lavish all the love and praise they feel for you on your kids.

        I’m sorry your Spouse got parents whose pride/fear/anger is greater than their love for him.

  16. Love your advice for #10. I had a couple of crushes on teachers at university (and a couple of beginnings of friendships which could start once i had finished their classes) and I found it inspired me to write interesting (because I didn’t want to bore them) and well researched (because I didn’t want to disappoint them) assignments.

  17. On the badly typed search about boyfriends and short skirts. It’s not always unreasonable to complain about a short skirt. I see far too many women of all ages wearing skirts or dresses that make me think “you better not bend over” because of the length. And sometimes the women really don’t realize it (or how others might interpret it).

      1. Seriously.
        When it is okay to complain about a short skirt:
        1. You are in a work environment in which a short skirt could be potentially hazardous (ie: you work with sharp objects/toxic chemicals/bodily fluids).
        2. You’re the one wearing it and it doesn’t suit you for some reason (wrong color/wrong size/too itchy/whatever.)

        Pretty much every other reason for criticizing it sucks.

        1. 3. it is emblazoned with a hateful pattern or symbolism, eg, the confederate flag.

        2. Yup.
          If someone chooses to dress in a decorative fashion. (attractive clothes, rainbow mohawk, animal costume) you can either
          Enjoy it openly without being creepy. “Your fox ears make me smile!”
          Enjoy it quietly without being creepy. *sings “Wa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pow!” inside head*
          Ignore it.

          Nowhere on that list is:
          “So… are you a foxxxy lady?”
          “Do you think that bushy tail sends the wrong message, dear?”
          “You have too much hair for those ears. If you want to wear a fox costume, you really need to cut off at least half for it to look right.”

    1. Ehhh, that’s *your* issue that you have with them wearing it. Which is actually nothing to do with them and not their job to manage.


      1. GAH, that was originally aimed at the person who had said it’s reasonable to complain about a short skirt, not the comments that followed!

  18. With regard to the Asperger’s one, I’m autistic with a diagnosis of Asperger’s, and this question is kind of squicky because…Aspies are people? Which means that we have individual preferences and hate being interrupted to varying degrees? Which I realize is what you said, but that doesn’t necessarily have to do with the AS as much as it does the fact that (again) we’re human beings, and I want to emphasize that.

    Personally, I hate being interrupted a lot, because I’m very socially anxious and it’s hard enough to talk to people without being stopped abruptly stopped once I’ve finally gotten going. Also, I and other autistic people I know have bad experiences with people being rude about us infodumping about our special subjects. So interrupting can bring that up.

    Basically, try not to interrupt us any more than you would a neurotypical? It’s not somehow more okay to be impolite because we’re autistic. People interrupt sometimes, by accident or because they need to occasionally, but try to minimize it, like you would when talking to anyone.

    This question (and, I have to admit, the answer given) felt weird to me, sorry. Especially since being nerdy doesn’t make someone really an authority on ASD, so I’m not sure it got brought up?

    1. I can see why the question came up in CA’s search terms thanks to there being such a fantastic post about receiving an Asperger’s diagnosis in response to LW #303

      It was through that post that I originally found Captain Awkward and I’ve been a reader ever since.

      What made that post so good though was that it didn’t generalise or talk for anyone; the emphasis was put on having autistic people answer the question, with a wide variety of responses, and people who weren’t on the spectrum themselves were asked to think twice before commenting.

      Captain, I love your site and the community you curate here but I too felt that your response above missed the mark. Not least because I assumed that it was a question asked by someone with Asperger’s or trying to work out if they’re on the spectrum. Kind of “I have this problem, is it because of Asperger’s and if so has anyone written about why and what I can do to avoid it or explain it to others?” Responding to that with a “Nope, the people with Asperger’s who I know are cool with this” isn’t very helpful. Your friends may have only got so cool with that thing because they were able to learn about it and explain it to other people.

      Maybe I read it that way just because that’s closest to my perspective, but I was imagining someone trying to work out why they were getting so upset or agitated by interruptions that didn’t seem to be a problem to anyone else. Struggling with interruptions of various kinds while I was working in an open plan office and finding it so difficult to get back into work afterwards was a major problem for me. I only had a dyspraxia diagnosis at the time and knew that didn’t completely explain the challenges I was experiencing. Learning more about autistic focus, working memory, rigid thinking, processing speed and sensory sensitivities was extremely helpful to me.

      Even if it was the ‘during a conversation’ type of interruption, there are a whole variety of different traits in different combinations under the autistic spectrum, which come with just as many different coping strategies and life experiences. Then on top of that we’re also people with just as much variety in our personalities and communication styles as anyone else. Research shows that there are higher rates of depression, anxiety and low self esteem among people on the spectrum, and this perhaps isn’t so surprising when you realise that we also tend to have higher rates of childhood bullying, and even workplace bullying (often tied up with being seen as ‘boring’, ‘annoying’ or ‘weird’ by other people).

      You’ve also jumped to a pretty major conclusion about what the searcher here was experiencing. If the person with Asperger’s being described was having trouble organising their thoughts, knowing when it’s time to talk or getting a chance to contribute at all due to the speed of a group conversation, that would be a very different situation.

      Generalising about how we’ll welcome conversational interruptions and corrections more than non-autistic people is kind of worrying, I’m sure at least some non-autistic people reading will take this as blanket advice to be more direct and blunt with everyone they know or suspect to be on the spectrum, even though you do did say it varies and your experience is limited. I think the actual advice for non-autistic people interacting with us should be to not assume without asking, and to encourage patience, sensitivity and understanding. To work out what’s actually going on in conversations that’s causing a problem, if this is actually a problem or just a lack of patience on your part, and if so how to raise it in a constructive but sensitive way.

      Example scripts for these sorts of situations might be: “You’re important to me and I really enjoy your company but sometimes I get uncomfortable during our conversations and need to change the subject and I don’t know how to communicate this to you without hurting your feelings. Is there anything we can do to make this work better?” or “Sometimes I accidentally upset you because I think you’re leaving a gap in conversation for me to respond in when you weren’t. I’m sorry about that and I’m not interrupting on purpose. How can we make sure I don’t cut you off but that I do still get a chance to talk when I have something to add?”

      Depending on the person and the situation you might end up agreeing that you can be blunt and direct and that’s totally cool, you might find some workable compromise, or you might get more of an understanding of why it’s so difficult for the autistic person in your life to be interrupted (for all of the varied possible reasons) and learn to be more sensitive and careful about it.

      Extra to this, Real Social Skills has a response to someone who’s triggered by feeling like they can’t interrupt their autistic partner. It goes into some detail about why autistic people might be sensitive to being interrupted when they’re talking about stuff they’re passionate about and offers some useful thoughts and strategies for that sort of scenario:

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