It Came From the Search Terms: August And Everything After

Let’s play the game where we answer the questions people typed into search engines to find this place. Punctuation added. Wording unchanged. 

1. “My bf won’t choose me over his brothers that are rude to me.

I don’t know what the nature of this choice is, like, probably your boyfriend won’t ever cut off or stop talking to his brothers on your behalf, but your boyfriend should definitely stick up for you when and if people in his family are rude to you. 

2. “When he says he doesn’t have time or focus for a relationship.”

Time and focus may in fact be factors, but also, “he” doesn’t want to be in a relationship with you. I’m sorry, that sucks to hear. Move on from this prospect, is my advice. 

3. “How to turn down a friend down politely convincing her you love but can’t engage in a relationship right now.”

This is the wrong way to go about it. If you don’t want to be in a relationship, just tell her “I don’t want to be in a romantic relationship with you, I’m so sorry, but I value you very much as a friend.” Let her heal for a bit and then you can most likely be friends again. If you use the “not right now” excuse you leave her hanging and hoping, and it’s going to be so much worse.

4. “What it means when a girl say she does not think it will work out.” /”What did she mean by saying we can’t cope with each other?”

Most likely translations: “I don’t want to be in a romantic relationship with you, but I’m using neutral language like ‘it won’t’ work’ to try to spare your feelings.”

5. “How to respond to a compliment on your looks.”

From an acquaintance, not delivered with a leer, like, “You look really nice today?” a good answer is “Thank you.” It’s what people expect to hear and will complete the conversational circuit with maximum efficiency. 

Yelled at you from a moving car? It’s not a compliment at that point. 

6. “I was mean to my dad earlier and I feel bad about it.”

“Dad, I’m sorry for what I said earlier.”

7. “Coworker bothering you on job about non job related things fast food.”

“I am not comfortable discussing that with you, especially since we are at work.”

“Let’s only talk about work at work.” 

“Please stop bringing up that topic, I do not want to discuss it with you.”

Document (write down) each time you tell the person and then if you can bring the subject to your manager. “Manager, I have asked Coworker 3 times to stop bringing up personal topics at work, but they won’t stop. Can you have a chat with them about it?” 

If it IS your manager, I am so sorry. Keep changing that subject.

8. “How to show my teacher I love him.” “How to tell my professor that I love him.”

It must be back to school time, there were many variations on this one. 

My advice is: Do your work, never speak of it, wait for it to pass. If you are both adults, and you still feel this way when you’re done with the class or with school, I guess you could ask him out and see what he says. But right now, even if he did love you back, it would be horrendously creepy, abusive, and very bad for his career for him to show it in any way. And if you’re not both adults, it would be ILLEGAL. Crushes happen. They don’t all have to be acted on. This is a time to not use your words.

Someday, long after the class is over, maybe, tell them how much you appreciated their teaching or write a poem

9. “How to treat a guy who doesn’t accept apologies.”

Gingerly, like a rabid raccoon that you want to stay very far away from. 

10. “My boyfriend hasn’t cleaned his dishes in a week.”

If you live together, it’s okay to just say “Hey, can you do the dishes? They’re piling up.” It doesn’t have to be a big talk. In fact, a direct simple request sooner rather than later is 10,000 times more effective and less stressful for the person who is not doing their dishes than a big awkward talk about feelings. 

Since you say “his” dishes and not “the dishes,” it sounds like they are at his place, which, sure, tread gently. Is he cooking for you, like, are some of those also your dishes? You don’t want to become the regular caretaker/cleaner at your boyfriend’s place, but “want some help with the dishes?” is a nice thing to offer if you stay at someone’s place regularly, and the line between guest and roommate starts to blur. 

11. “Houseguest feelings hurt when I limit length of stay.”

I know this is a tricky thing culturally, especially where family is involved. But my gut says that this is one of those  “your houseguest needs to deal with those feelings on their own and not make them your problem” moments. Letting someone stay with you is a favor. You are allowed to set boundaries around that favor. In fact, it’s good for everyone to have clear boundaries about favors like that, and even in families where extended stays are the norm there are some rules (written or unwritten) about how people behave. 

12. “What can a person say to a lonely, sad 18yrs old boy to make him happy?”

I made you this list of books and films by women?” has been my default lately. 🙂

You can’t make someone happy, but you can try to be his friend and spend time with him. “Want to come by and play video games for a while?” 

13. “Elderly-widow-punish-her-bottom-regularly.”

What a vivid word-picture.

14. “7 instructions and households chores to give to your brother.”

When I was a kid, with a little brother who followed me everywhere, this list of seven instructions would have looked like:

  1. Go away.
  2. Away from my room.
  3. Leave me alone.
  4. Go away and leave me alone.
  5. Stop looking at me.
  6. Stop breathing on me.
  7. Leave me ALONE.

15. “Warning signs of a possessive boyfriend.”

Scarleteen has a GREAT article/excerpt from Heather Corinna’s book here that talks about different kinds of abuse and how to recognize controlling and abusive behaviors in romantic relationships. The most important thing is, how are you feeling about the relationship? Do you feel stressed out and anxious about the relationship? Do you feel tense all the time? If so, then whatever it is that’s making you feel that way is “bad enough” or “important enough” to discuss (or to break up over, if that’s what you decide to do). Additionally:

  • Do you feel like your friends and family are taking a back seat to the relationship, like you are losing touch with them or feeling less close to them since you’ve been in the relationship?
  • If you hang out with other people, especially other men in your life, do you feel anxious about what your partner will say? Do you find yourself over-explaining or over-justifying conversations with men and boys you know to your partner? Do you find yourself being defensive even when there is nothing to defend, or coming up with explanations for where you were/who that is before the question is even asked because you know it will be? (He’s just a friend. That was my dad. He’s a coworker. It’s not like that.)
  • Does your boyfriend seem hyper-vigilant about your interactions with other men and boys? Does he often attribute sexual motives to them that you don’t? “He was staring at you.” “He just wants to sleep with you.” “Guys like that only want one thing,” etc. This is insidious because he is co-opting your own feelings and reactions to other men with his own creepy projections, and trying to get you to mistrust your own instincts about the people in your life while he sets himself up as the one true arbiter/protector. 
  • Are your grades, work, schoolwork, other interests suffering because you’re spending all your time with or focused on your partner?
  • If you put your cell phone down or left your computer on and your social media/email accounts up in a room where your partner was and left to go to the bathroom, do you feel like he would look through your stuff while you were gone? Does he always seem to be looking at/interested in/wanting to know what’s on your phone? What would happen if you said “Please don’t scroll through my phone, I don’t like it”? Would it result in a massive argument where you get accused of all kinds of things?
  • Is he vigilant about your time? Stuff like: he knows your schedule as well as or better than you do, he’s always on you to call him as soon as you get home, you have to text and check in with him a certain number of times and if you’re running late for some reason he gets worried, not a little worried, but REALLY worried,* he sulks if you make plans that don’t include him, he picks fights or wants to have big emotional relationship discussions when you’re on your way out the door to somewhere else or keeps you up late talking the night before you have to do something important. 
  • Is he overly vigilant about your clothing, especially as it relates to how it displays skin/how tight/loose it is/how men “might” see it?
  • Do you always feel like he expects you to apologize/do you always find yourself apologizing even though, when you step back and look at it, you really haven’t done anything wrong?
  • Does he mention being cheated on in the past by other partners a lot? As in, “I know you wouldn’t do anything like that, and I trust you, but I’ve been hurt before so it’s really hard for me to not think about it.” Or “I trust you, I just don’t trust other guys, and I’ve been hurt so much by cheating before.Bonus question: When you describe his wack behavior to a friend, do you use his past experience being cheated on when you make excuses for him? “He doesn’t mean to be like that, but he’s been hurt so badly before.” 

I hope whatever made you search for this resolves itself soon. Maybe take a few days or a week off from hanging out with this dude and get your bearings?

16. “How to apologize for stalking a guy.”

The best possible apology you could offer is most likely “silence” and “staying away from him, forever.”

There’s stalking behavior and there’s Stalking. I know commenters have expressed dismay and displeasure here when the kind that is a deliberate attempt to terrify and control someone through explicit threats of violence is treated the same as the kind where a heartbroken and seemingly clueless person keeps reaching out and reaching out with unwanted contact and won’t seem get the hint to leave someone alone. I suspect the person who typed this into a search engine is more like the second kind, but (and I say this as someone who has tried to hold on WAY too hard after a breakup in my younger days and who has sent many unwise verbose teary emails to dudes who were too nice to say “Jennifer. Stop it. Stop it now.”): Stalking and stalking behaviors exist on a continuum, and when you’re on the receiving end you can’t always tell the difference or how it might escalate. If someone won’t hear your “no” when you say “no I don’t want to go out with you” or “please stop emailing me,” or “I didn’t invite you to this party, why are you here?”, or “Let’s NOT be friends,” what the fuck else are they capable of? The deliberately dangerous people play themselves off as the clueless, heartsick ones, and the clueless, heartsick ones are capable of creating as much anxiety and dread as the dangerous ones, and one of the safest (not safe, there isn’t any safe or feeling safe when you’re being stalked) routes for a victim is to cut off contact and not respond to any communications. The heartsick person will eventually slink away. The dangerous person might hopefully please please please go away.

If you’re wanting to apologize to someone for behavior you self-describe as “stalking,” if you’re cringing at the way you behaved and wanting to make it right, that’s a good step in terms of your own self-awareness and development. But one crucial step in developing that self-awareness is to a) realize that this person’s good opinion of you is likely gone forever, and to b) let go completely of needing their good opinion or attention. 99% of the time, the right answer is: Leave them the fuck alone. Forever. Completely. If you share a common leisure activity, like you are both in the same ballroom dance class, find a different class. Do it without comment or making it about them. Just go to a different class from now on. Give them the gift of not running into you around every fucking corner. Recognize what you did was wrong, get right with yourself, forgive yourself, and then stalk no more. Whatever resolution or closure is possible, it has to come from you, from within you, and be resolved by you, without them having to do a single iota of emotional work on your behalf. The less you make them think about you, the better.

1% of the time, we’re talking about the milder form of stalker-ish behavior, and we’re talking about someone who is in you still have to run into, and it’s a situation where they haven’t fully cut-off contact but they are mildly sort of tolerating you for the sake of mutual friends/a dearly loved hobby/work/the hope that it will go away. I think the answer in that case is ALSO for you to leave them alone and not bring it up, ever, and not ever address them unless they talk to you first. (And maybe for you to find a different class or job or whatever it is ASAP). But if they talk to you, for the sake of clearing the air, a brief “I am very sorry about how I behaved, that was wrong and it won’t happen again” might not go amiss, as long as you snap right back into leaving them alone. This is really a “show, don’t tell” scenario.

17. “I asked my crush to hang out but he’s too shy.”

Good job asking out your crush! I’m sorry it didn’t go your way, but that was brave and cool of you. I think your best bet now is to assume that it’s not shyness, it’s that he doesn’t like you That Way. If he makes a move to ask you out, you’ll know differently, but until then, back off for now and try to focus on other things in your life. 

18. “My ex girlfriend thinks i’m an asshole for not wanting to be friends.”

Let her. You’re not doing anything wrong.


Thank you for your Pledge Drive Summer 2014 donations so far, and the kind words. 




*If you’ve read IT, by Stephen King, you’ll know that the phrase “I worry about you. I worry about you a lot” is not a loving phrase.

82 thoughts on “It Came From the Search Terms: August And Everything After

  1. Maybe (probably) it’s just punchiness from excessive class prep, but #13, with its long, hyphenated phrase, keeps striking me as a Puritan first name, and it’s giving me a serious case of the giggles.
    Thou-shalt-not-covet Smith, meet Elderly-widow-punish-her-bottom-regularly Carter.

      1. These are so wonderful, and I am so bookmarking this for February.

      2. Coming from a flavour of Protestant that is basically modern day Puritans, I sent one of these to my husband one year for valentine’s day and he thought it was awesome. If you know any super conservative or formerly super conservative protestants who enjoy/don’t mind laughing at themselves they might appreciate this.

  2. I was actually thinking about #5 earlier. There’s a guy who is a board member of the nonprofit I work for who creeps me the hell out, is always grossly staring (the day I had a meeting with him and was wearing a shirt with a button that stretches a bit over the chest area was HELL), and makes assorted jokey comments to both me and my boss about how attractive we are. I have kind of been like ‘oh well he’s old and doesn’t get why that’s inappropriate’, but I’ve been reading enough Captain Awkward now that I’m like “oh, wait, I don’t have to be uncomfortable just because this guy doesn’t understand boundaries and professionalism”. I’m thinking next time he says it I’ll say “I know you meant that as as compliment but I’d prefer you didn’t comment on my looks”. . .but I’m pretty terrified. Has anyone else done something like this at work?

    1. It is totally ok to be terrified! I haven’t done anything like that at work, but with friends and yeah, it is SUPER SCARY. Since it’s at work, I’d make sure your boss is on your side before you say anything, which it sounds like zie will be. Address it as it happens and redirect the conversation immediately. If you can’t “untrain” him, you may need to team up with your boss to have a bigger discussion.

      Some of these search results I bet will help you out a ton:

      1. Thank you! That Ask A Manager search is so helpful, but I feel like I need a shower after reading all that. People: They’re the worst!

    2. There is a lot about this topic here.

      He does it to your boss as well? Your boss should have stepped in long ago. (If you’re a boss and this is happening to your employee, try throwing them a “You are so kind to say so, but at work we don’t really cotton to personal remarks like that” rope. Please make the world better!) Do you think s/he would back you if you talked about it or spoke up? Creepy old dudes can be vanquished 10 before breakfast, an unsupportive boss is a different story.

      Personally, I think you should do it, and I think you should practice saying it first. And I think you should practice a few follow-ups. “It’s not appropriate at work.” “Thanks, but it makes me uncomfortable.”

      The first time you do it it will be very awkward and uncomfortable. Prepare for “I WAS JUST BEING NICE” wounded puppy reaction. Say “I realize you meant it kindly, but I’d appreciate it if you’d refrain, thank you.” Practice ahead of time so you can remain calm (it shouldn’t matter, but it matters). If he does this all the time, it’s not just you who hates it, and this isn’t the first time he’s heard it. Trust. You did not create this awkwardness. You are just returning the awkwardness to sender. You can survive it.

      1. Thank you! I oddly had not really thought of mentioning it to my boss– my guess is it probably makes her uncomfortable too but she feels similarly shy about saying anything, or feels tolerant of him because he’s older and has been involved with our organization for a long time. It can be extra tough in the field I’m in to set boundaries like this because people are pretty casual in general, work-hugging is common, lots of people have personal relationships, etc (example: we have a sexual health/HIV prevention project, which resulted in a co-worker and I starting a prank war where we hid a large dildo in each other’s workspace back and forth. Sex talk in general is not unprofessional here.) There’s another board member who is a woman, who I feel close to and really like a lot, and she told me I look sexy the other day and I giggled and enjoyed it– I know it’s probably legit to feel differently about a woman who I like making that comment as opposed to a creepy old man, but I still feel weird or as if it’s a double standard or something (I also feel like if I had seemed at all uncomfortable when she said that she would have apologized and never done it again, so it may just be the vibe you get from the person).

        But, now that I’m thinking about it, I could probably tell my boss before my next board meeting “FYI, sometimes CreepyGuy makes comments about my appearance that make me uncomfortable, and if he does that this meeting I plan to ask him not to” and I feel pretty sure she’ll be supportive.

        1. I had a sitch once where my boss’s boss liked to pinch the cheeks of his female underlings. My boss (with whom I shared an office) naturally hated it and would seethe about it for days after each time. Once he tried it with me, with other people in the room. Without thinking, my reflexes took over. I backhanded his hand away ninja-style and said in a really loud voice “DON’T EVER DO THAT!” He retreated like I tased him, apologizing, apologizing, embarrassed to be dressed down in front of others.

          No cheeks were pinched in our office ever again.

          Sometimes the minions will lead, and that’s okay. Sure, you want your boss to be the one to stand up for you, but not everybody does.

        2. >> I know it’s probably legit to feel differently about a woman who I like making that comment as opposed to a creepy old man, but I still feel weird or as if it’s a double standard or something (I also feel like if I had seemed at all uncomfortable when she said that she would have apologized and never done it again, so it may just be the vibe you get from the person)

          Just to reframe this, this is exactly the logic that MRAs and rapists use – she didn’t mind when that guy did X, so she has no right to dislike X from me! Which is basically saying, “her consent is irrelevant.”

          Your consent and whether or not you enjoy the compliment is IMPORTANT AND LEGITIMATE! You aren’t obliged to have one single standard way that you interact with all your co-workers. And yeah, it’s super-important to feel that the other person will respect it if you say, “Um, that’s not cool.” Basically, it is just saying that you enjoy compliments which come from people who respect your enjoyment, control and consent – and any compliment that doesn’t respect those things is not actually a compliment at all, but a power trip.

          Chances are, older dude is either enjoying making you uncomfortable, or he regards your comfort as irrelevant compared to his enjoyment of commenting on your appearance. (The outside possibility is that he genuinely thinks women like hearing his compliments, but if he’s got through the last forty years without ever hearing that women are sometimes uncomfortable when men comment on their co-worker’s appearance, that is some pretty fucking hardcore Ignoring Women’s Voices. So he gets no cookies for that.)

          TL;DR: YES, IT IS LEGIT. And good luck!

    3. Yes! I have. A, uh, a few times. I largely deflect and move on. If I directly dealt with every instance of harassment at work when I was early in my career, I never would’ve done anything else. Which is awful but I’ve been at my current job forever now and withering glares over my glasses, rolled eyes, and pointed subject changes have been pretty successful in molding people’s behavior. I have encountered a lot less the last umpty years of my career than I did the first umpty years.

      One instance:
      Me: “I know you probably don’t realize you’re doing this but it’s not okay and I’d like for you to pay attention to it and to stop it.”
      Him: [abject horror, full apologies, overcorrected to the degree we were both uncomfortable for a while, eventually everything was cool]

      Another instance:
      Me: “I’m not comfortable with the level of familiarity you’re displaying toward me. Can we keep it to work-related topics, please?”
      Him: [excuses and gaslighting, continues behavior]
      Me: “I’m not comfortable with the level of familiarity you’re displaying toward me. Can we keep it to work-related topics, please?”
      Him: [excuses and gaslighting, continues behavior]
      Me: [ignores inappropriateness changes subject to work related topics]
      Him: [escalates, including an offer to tongue bathe my toes]
      Him: [stops]

      Another instance:
      Me: “Can you not touch me please? That makes me very uncomfortable.”
      Him: [ignores my request]
      Me: [starts making trying to put furniture between us when we talk]
      Me: [tells boss]
      Boss: [LOSES SHIT]
      Him: [is banned from our site (he was a contractor) and had to go through mandatory training after our lawyers talked to their lawyers using strong language]

      I hope your experience goes most like the first instance. Good luck.

      1. You’re my hero. I hope someday I’ll have addressed this as many times and as effectively as you! After I left my last job I reflected back on the many eff-ed up things about it and realized ‘Oh wow, all those times when men who were part-time canvassers (ie I was kind of their boss) Facebook messaged me to hit on me? And that older community organizer guy who would tell me how beautiful I was all the time? And the guy attending a conference I was organizing travel for who used the fact that he had my phone number for logistics issues to ask me out, repeatedly? THAT’S WHAT SEXUAL HARASSMENT IS. I DID NOT HAVE TO BE OK WITH THAT. I can think of at least ten instances where I’ve let this shit slide and I am committed to not allowing one more to pass me by.

        1. The thing that’s really amazing about sexual harassment is that it’s utterly, overwhelmingly common – like, by far the majority of women have experienced it at least once, and most of us way more than once – and yet, despite 40 years of being officially illegal and widely spoken about, and a super-common experience, it’s still somehow a total shock, and we pretty much all react with, “Was that – naaaah, I’m probably overreacting” for at least the first few years. I know lots of women who got to a point in their mid-late twenties or early thirties where they were just, “I have had ENOUGH, this is not going to happen ANY MORE”, but I don’t know anyone who was equipped to deal with it for their first 5-10 years of adulthood or professional life. So don’t think you’re alone!

          (Seriously, though, how is it so ubiquitous and still such a silent surprise? It’s so bizarre.)

          1. I think it’s also kind of similar to how we assume sexual assault and harassment always comes from a stranger in a dark alley. I kind of thought of workplace harassment as more like “your boss literally grabs your ass or demands you have sex with him”. These subtler forms, that are more like vaguely-suggestive-but-not-overtly sexual compliments, or someone asking you on a date in a workplace context where it’s not appropriate, were much harder for me to identify until I put serious thought into how uncomfortable it made me and how men would never have to deal with anything like that.

      2. “Him: [is banned from our site (he was a contractor) and had to go through mandatory training after our lawyers talked to their lawyers using strong language]”

        I just wanted to jump off this and mention, because not everyone knows – for all of us in the US, protection from sexual harassment on the job extends to harassment by customers, contractors, vendors who may be on the premises, etc. It’s not just fellow employees!

        End PSA.

      3. Oh my gosh, this just reminded me of a time I did stand up to a creeper guy and I totally forgot about it — BECAUSE MY BOSS HANDLED IT WELL. Dude was a subcontractor of my company, and was being very racist (actually used the n-word) out loud on my job site, and stood way too close to me for comfort. At one point he asked me to take off my sunglasses (they were also safety glasses) so he could “see my eyes.” I stopped, looked at him in silence for a moment, said “no,” and continued with the discussion. When I was back in the office the next day, I told my boss how uncomfortable I was and about the racist comments and he contacted the subcontractor’s boss and the dude was never allowed on another one of my company’s sites. That boss of mine was great and I really miss working for him.

      4. I’m glad those turned out so well! I was fortunate one time when there was a supervisor who I usually didn’t work with was in my department one day and, when he came to talk to me at my register, he stood far too close. I had also been dealing with someone stalking me on campus (for the first time) a few months before this, so I was really on edge about this kind of thing. At the end of the day, I didn’t wanna do anything about it cuz I never really worked with him. But then, a month later, he was working in my department again and I was like, “I can’t do this again, nope.” So I reported him to my bosses and they took it very seriously. A week or something later, they came back to me and said they’d talked about it while keeping my anonymous and that they think it was unintentional on his part and that he was mortified and would be more careful, but they emphasized to me that if anything happens again at all to come to them about it. And then the guy never stepped in my personal space again. So, it seemed it really was probably unintentional (for once). I was happy my workplace was so proactive about it.

    4. I’ve actually done that (kind of thing) twice lately this very month at work, and it turned out great. The direct, conversational tone that leaves no room for argument is wonderful, with people who are oblivious but not jerks. “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t comment on my looks anymore, thank you.” and done. The reality is, this is an order politely disguised as a request. Lots of people, even clueless people, won’t argue if you don’t give them a conversational opening.

      My coworkers were great and all responded with an immediate “Sorry! I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable! I won’t do it anymore,” + actually stopping, which was nice. But if they hadn’t, I was well prepared to follow up with “Yes, I understand it was meant kindly. I still need you to stop,” over and over until they stopped. Saying it the first time is the hardest part. The broken-record part was fairly easy for me, under low-emotional-stakes circumstances.

  3. “the phrase “I worry about you. I worry about you a lot” is not a loving phrase.”
    I’ve been trying to break my mom of her throwing her anxiety at me like it’s love. Mostly she’s just trying to get sneakier about it. Trying to explain her anxiety as being more reasonable, trying to explain her reactions as though they were normal, but not actually changing her behavior at all. A bit less often but a lot more intense when it happens.
    If she genuinely worries every day that I’m dead or dying somewhere something is very wrong, and if she is just using my mortality as a “reasonable” thing to throw at me then something is very wrong.

    1. OH MY GOD DO WE HAVE THE SAME MOM? bah! this comment resonated with me a lot, you articulated what I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Thank you.

      1. I am glad the comment worked for you, though I’m sorry that you have to deal with similar junk.
        Lately when she emails (it tends to be email) long messages of anxiety at me I respond with “You sound very anxious. Have you considered speaking with your doctor about these feelings?” and nothing else. I wonder if she’ll ever do that. Or if she’ll ever see me as a lost cause for whatever she’s hoping to get from me.

    2. My dad is exactly the same way, except through phone calls (_ _) () I’m not really sure how to deal with it, because on the one hand, as a person with SAD, I know all too well about how worry looks like actually doing something, and projecting the Anxious Spiral onto other people can feel like relief. On the other hand, when every single call home begins and ends with “you should call me more so I don’t get anxiety, because Good Children never make their parents anxious”, that makes me less inclined to call, and only feeds the Spiral 😦

  4. I really love this site in general. But I am a really big fan of these ‘It Came From the Search Terms’ articles. I hope they stay a regular occurrence.

  5. Number 14, for me, would absolutely have been “Just stop existing, except when it is your turn to do the dishes and on trash night. Leave the Playstation though.” (We get along nicely now.)

  6. Not the googler, but I can definitely answer yes to a few of the points in 15 – specifically the feeling the need to explain if I’ve been hanging out with men, the attributing sexual motivations to men that I don’t, and the mentioning that he’s been cheated on in the past as a way to explain why he feels how he does – how do I deal with this? We’ve been together for three years and it’s a really good relationship but this kind of thing comes up every so often and it’s incredibly stressful and frustrating for me. He’s been actively working on it and trying to suppress these behaviours (and would never scroll through my phone/facebook/anything), so I know he’s trying to change, and tells me he would never want to control anything I do – but it still feels like I kinda have to over explain myself sometimes. Do I bring this up with him? How?

    1. Does he understand that these behaviors are abusive? Is he getting help to deal with his tendency to treat his partner abusively?

      Do you both understand that many people who feel the urge to be abusive or controlling “try to suppress” it, and then, like many suppressed things, it busts out all over the place, anyway?

      Trying to monitor and change one’s behavior is a good thing. Doing the work to uncover what is beneath the urges to commit those actions is a better thing. If a person can deal with the underlying stuff, then the urges happen less often, and it becomes less of a struggle to suppress and more a recognition of possible triggers (followed by taking action to soothe oneself in a way that doesn’t demand action from one’s partner).

      Try telling him that you appreciate his trying to change, but would also appreciate it if he got some outside help and support on making those changes, to help make sure that the changes are deep enough to make him happier, rather than just a commitment to suppress urges he still has on a regular basis. It’s amazing how much therapy can help with this kind of change, and getting this kind of focused help is a gift he can give to both of you.

    2. Dear AQ, back when I was in uni, I was involved with a boy who was jealous and controlling, who would often accuse me of flirting with other men, who tried to stop me from drinking (at all) and spending time with my male friends, and who did on occasion check my phone to see if he could catch me in a lie about my doings and whereabouts (I never lied to him; I was too terrified to). I finally got the strength to leave that relationship, and ever since I have been *allergic* to any attempts by dating partners to control me, and to tell me what I can or cannot do. I can tell you unequivocally that I have felt stronger, and more at ease with myself, even in the (sometime) loneliness of singledom, than I ever did when I was with my ex.

      Some of my friends have ended up with men who are also controlling and suspicious, but not to the level of ‘textbook’ abuse, and this makes it both harder for them to put their finger on what is wrong, and to consider leaving. Because troubling behaviour exists on a spectrum, and when you’re at the low end of it, it sometimes seems as if things aren’t *that bad* From my observations of their experiences, though, two things stand out: 1) that the controlling behaviour, while it may not escalate, remains a constant in the relationship. It does *not* get better, and 2) my friends/relatives are constantly having to make adjustments to ‘accommodate’ their boyfriend/husband’s insecurities; each adjustment individually may not seem like much, but in the aggregate they are alarming.

      You deserve a partner who loves *and* trusts you, and doesn’t make you justify yourself. Sending you all best wishes xx

      1. Yeah, I see a danger in the “He’s trying to get better and to supress it.” 1) It makes you stay longer because certainly, it will get better, won’t it? 2) Even textbook abusive relationships have a cycle, where there is a honeymoon phase with few to no abusive/controlling incidences, so at some point, you may think he finally got over his “tendencies”, only to discover some days or months later that it happened again. But now you believe it was an outlier because he’s “working on it”, and if you just wait and wait and wait … see where I’m going? This can go on for literally ever, but your spirit is crushed in the process.
        Also as Catie L said, after a while you loose track of how much acommodations you actually make and will feel like you feel wound up for “no reason”. You’ll start to tell yourself that he’s not done anything overtly bad, so why do you feel so wound up all the time? Because it is bad. You deserve to feel relaxed and comfortable in your relationship. You deserve to feel autonomous and trusted. You deserve a partner who does no controlling thing STARTING RIGHT THIS MOMENT (or well, your whole life), not in a distant future when he has worked through his issues. You do not have to wait for him to resolve them. You are allowed to let him find his way on his own.

    3. Well, you say that he’s been actively working on it, which implies that he agrees it is a problem. This means he should be willing to accept some changes designed to help him in fixing his problem. I’m not an expert, so take my advice for what it is, but here are my recommendations.

      Stop overexplaining. If something comes up in a normal way, like, “Oh, who was that?” You can give a normal explanation like, “That’s a friend of mine from…” If it comes up with some sort of subtext of you needing to justify talking to the person then you should instead point out that you feel like he’s asking you to justify hanging out with the man, and he’s supposed to be working on not making you feel that way. OVerexplaining feels like feeding his bad actions and encouraging them. It’s important that when he messes up, he not be rewarded for it. This will likely be awkward and uncomfortable for both of you at first, but if you tell him in advance that this is how you intend to act in future and you both agree that it is the right thing to do, then you can remind him of that if he gets upset when you do it. If the idea of not overexplaining makes you feel concerned for your safety (which doesn’t sound like your case from what you wrote, but just in case…) then you have a larger problem. In that case, do not take my advice at all, but call a domestic violence hotline and get advice from people with more training.

      Give him positive, helpful scripts to replace harmful ones. Instead of him trying to get you to explain your everyday actions, encourage him to say something like, “I’m feeling insecure right now and could really use some extra attention and assurance that you care about me.” While a partner can’t solve his issues for him, you can be supportive when he’s feeling bad. Having someone who is usually able to give you hugs and tell you they care about you when you’re feeling down is one of the lovely things about a relationship (at least, I view it so).

      Any further advice I can think of seems too aimed at him and too much like trying to play therapist. But I would definitely encourage him having a therapist to work through this with if he does not already. I agree with sorcharei’s comments on this.

      1. Definitely agreed on the not overexplaining point. That implies that you need to impart every single little bit of information and that you have something to be defensive about. Treat it as the same amount of information you’d give a friend, like “Oh he’s someone I know from work/hobby.” Move onto the next subject. Ask him why he needs to know everything. Ask him why he’s putting sexual motivations on men, and why it should mean anything. I mean, just because a man might find you attracting doesn’t automatically mean that you’re going to leap into bed with them. And if he thinks that it does, if he thinks that your relationship means so little to you, then that’s his problem.

        It boils down to this: Either he trusts you or he doesn’t. If he doesn’t, and he’s trying to check and control you then that is a giant red flag and will escalate. If he trusted you, then he wouldn’t behave like this. If he doesn’t trust you, he shouldn’t be in a relationship with you.

        Also, there’s a difference between trying and Trying. “But honey, I’m totally trying,” doesn’t mean suddenly that you’re obliged to put up with his shit. Him saying that he’s trying doesn’t automatically absolve him of guilt for being mistrustful. And you are totally allowed to say “well you know what? This is really stressful and frustrating to me.” You’re allowed to not want to put up with it.

        Also, if he might have got hurt in the past, it doesn’t mean that he gets to interrogate and treat every single future partner as if they’re a criminal because they dared to look at someone/meet up with a friend. Yes, your ex cheated on you, I didn’t, and if you keep behaving like this, you will drive me away.

        My friend had a partner like this and I couldn’t stand him. She had to explain everything. He would accuse her of cheating on him before she left to go to something, and after she came back. He would interrogate her on every single interaction. To be honest, he frightened me a lot and at the time my way of dealing with it was to be Really! Friendly! And give him a great big hug when I saw him. He hated it. But in my head I felt like I was going “oooh, you’re making physical contact with a woman, bet Friend isn’t going to kill you for it. Fucking asshole.” My brain reacts to fear in strange ways….

      2. This is super-good advice.

        I will also say: I have a partner who leans a bit toward the controlling side. In his case, it is not (primarily) from jealousy, but like Catie, I’ve been BADLY hurt by a controlling man in the past, and being controlled is simply not on for me now.

        Not overexplaining is a big deal. Think of it as setting the normal baseline together. If you tell him where you’re going every time you go somewhere, then when you forget it’s suddenly a big deal and he wants to know why. Patterns are important, on both sides. This doesn’t mean it’s your fault he is controlling! But it does mean you’ve adapted to his bad behavior, and your adaptation needs to stop too. It’s part of an honest process of dismantling that dynamic in your relationship. Also — if you know something’s going to bother him, like you’re having drinks with a mixed gender group or whatever, subconsciously, to conflict-avoid, you may try to hide it. If he’s used to it being Your Job to Tell Him Everything, that will become a huge piece of evidence of your guilt. It’s not your job to tell him everything, so if you’re doing that, stop.

        Wordiest’s positive scripts are a BIG deal as a lot of obsessive-ish behaviors come from a place of insecurity, the sort of…puppy pawing on the door in his heart. Asking a bunch of questions and starting an argument doesn’t make the puppy happy. If your partner learns what is freaking him out and how to honestly ask for reassurance, then the puppy can get warm and happy and reassured instead of just scratching down the door or starting shit to distract himself.

        My partner’s stuff comes from anxiety, so his getting help for that is huge. And that’s a big deal in general, whatever the root cause: it’s the controlling partner’s problem to stop, not yours to appease. That doesn’t mean they can never slip up, but it does mean they need to take responsibility for it. Themselves. Example: “I took you off Find My Friends, because if there’s a reason I actually need to know where you are, I can ask openly. Just being able to find out whenever I wanted encouraged that controlly feeling.” <– huge, self-instigated, self-aware step. I think you can imagine the counterexamples yourself!

        1. In regards to the anxiety and reassurance cycle, I wanted to toss out this article that I originally found linked from Scarleteen (an amazing resource), that talks about how reassurance (and re-reassurance, and re-re-reassurance, ad infinitum) actually is not that good for people who suffer from anxiety or obsessive thoughts:

          I found it incredibly interesting and helpful, and thought maybe the Awkwardeers would find it useful!

          1. Huh, I kind of came to a similar conclusion after a few years of watching my partner managing her anxiety (not specifically related to me – usually more job/career/finances stuff.) I feel like I did a lot more reassuring and trying to help manage her anxiety by providing reassurance in the first few years, and then at some point I started to feel like that was rewarding anxiety with attention, and started responding in a slightly more detached, “uh huh, that sounds like anxiety talking. You don’t need me for this one.” And it did actually seem to lead to the anxiety going,'”well, this isn’t getting me what I want,” and fewer spiral-escalations.

            There are some places where something new comes up and it definitely helps to be able to talk it over and identify whether there is anything substantial there, or whether it’s “just” anxiety. I also think it’s probably one of those things that is pretty individual: I’ve seen other people say stuff like, “when I’m anxious, X is the most unhelpful thing someone can say” and it’s kind of like, huh, X works for us, and I’m sure that my kind of, “really? Oh well, that sucks, I’ll be over there if you need anything” attitude might look pretty callous! But I feel like we’ve got a really good shared approach that works for us, and me doing less reassurance was definitely part of that.

          2. I know I’m a few days late to the comment party, but does anyone have advice for when the problem really IS mostly you?
            My husband can be a tiny bit insecure and controlling-ish, but only a tiny bit. I would say it falls into the average for a happy well-adjusted person who sometimes feels jealous but knows their jealousy is their problem and doesn’t take it out on their partner. However, many of my previous long term relationships were very emotionally abusive and most of long-term exs were very insecure. Worrying over every conversation or assuming the worst from every tiny signal has become my default state. My anxiety issues don’t exactly help matters (yes- I’ve been to years of very helpful therapy and am on medication). I’ve become weirdly fugitive and feel such a need to justify and explain everything that it makes me LOOK guilty, particularly since he’s rarely actually judgemental (luckily, he also was friends with me for ten years before we got married, so he knows WHY I’m so weird about things). I tend to act and react as if he’s being emotionally abusive simply because it’s what I’m used to in a relationship. I give up things too easily, I shut down verbally and just give in (from prior bad experiences)- it’s like a relationship flash-back. Does anyone have experiance with or advice for my situation? I know what I would tell a friend in an abusive situation who refuses to acknowledge it, but I don’t know how to get it through to my brain that I don’t have to jump and mentally flagellate myself every time my partner frowns anymore.

    4. I agree with the others who’ve replied that this isn’t your problem to fix. Your partner needs to work on this in therapy and not put the emotional burden on you. It won’t get better on its own, and it will never be something that you can fix by what you say or do (or avoid saying or doing). Suppressing it doesn’t mean that it’s fixed, just that it’s gone underground where pressure will inevitably build. This was a large part of the reason I left my ex (along with the alcoholism which I think was self-medicating). My ex would question me not just about men, but also women who might have seen my body in the locker room. That level of insecurity is a black hole that will suck you into its gravitational well where you will never see light again unless you resist and break out of that orbit. Don’t feed that spiral of doom by offering explanations. Do have a discussion with your partner about this.

  7. the clingy brother thing! Parents of the world, pls pay attention to whether one sibling is bothering another sibling all the time. Kids need their own space/alone time/time with friends without their siblings sometimes too.

    1. I would add also: Parents: if one sib is constantly and unwelcomely clinging to another sib at all times then maybe check into what’s going on in clingy sib’s life. Maybe clingy sib needs some help with an out-of-home situation that’s driving them to stay home and cling. It’s not clung-to sib’s job to handle it or to provide unstinting support, that’s on the parents.

  8. Re: #3, I think it’s okay to share that the feelings are at least a little mutual (if you want to, and if that is indeed the case)–for instance, I see no harm in saying “I have some feelings for you, but I really don’t want to be in a relationship right now, and I think we should both just work on moving on”… IF you know the friend won’t take it as a sign of your true and everlasting love that will (SOMEDAY!) come to fruition. Because yeah. That’d be bad.

    I’ve been in the position of having to say that to a lot of friends, and having it said to me a lot too. I get crushes on friends very easily despite being in a committed relationship, and if I think I can do it without making things awkward, I like to be open about that fact so everyone knows what’s going on. A lot of my friends are the same way (and we’re a very poly-positive group of folks in general, which helps), so it usually doesn’t cause awkwardness, and often isn’t discussed again after the first conversation. This is a huge, HUGE “your mileage may vary” situation, though, and there are probably people for whom sharing those feelings wouldn’t be appropriate or helpful. It depends on how emotionally blunt your communication style in the friendship is, I think–mine tends very much so but I know that doesn’t work for everyone (including many people I know, for whom I reel my emotions in, instead of sharing; it just depends).

    …That was kinda rambly. I guess my point is, sharing emotions, even awkward and/or sensitive ones, doesn’t have to lead to Bad Feelings Time and Drama. It just depends on who you are and who you’re dealing with.

    Re: #9, does he never accept apologies, or is he just not accepting YOUR apologies? Big difference. If it’s the latter, you might take a hard look at how you’re apologizing; I’ve had people literally follow me around going “But I’m sorryyyyy!!! I’M SORRRRRRRRYYYYYYY” because I didn’t immediately forgive them/accept their apology. I think it’s important to realize that the person you’re apologizing to does not owe you forgiveness.

    1. I like and am jealous of your stories of being able to tell friends you have crushes on them without it getting weird. I’ve been with my husband for, uh… like eight years or something (married for two) and we were long distance for five of those. I also get crushes really easily, and once I had one on my downstairs neighbor whom I was friends with, and I told him so and things got SO WEIRD AND HORRIBLE so fast. He decided that my telling him I thought he was cute was a cry for help for him to rescue me from what was obviously an abusive relationship and when I didn’t go for it, got really weird and hostile to me.

      Then he started dating my best friend/roommate of the time, within a few months she moved across the country with him and basically disappeared from my life. After they broke up (thank god they broke up), she started telling me things and I realized the reason she hadn’t been in touch was because he had been emotionally abusing her the entire time.

      I’m sorry, this has nothing to do with your post, does it? I guess I just needed to get it off my chest.

      1. Holy wow, that is scary. His first reaction already sounded like he was this “rescuer” kind of guy and if there’s nothing to rescue, he doesn’t have a plan how to react.

        1. Yep, so he moved on to my more vulnerable roommate 😦 In retrospect it’s all so obvious, like how did I not see it at the time? But of course when you’re in the middle of it it’s never as clear.

  9. This is off-topic, but I wanted to tell you that I needed and managed to write my first ever Captain Awkward-esque letter today.

    A new (like, really new, apparently she started last Saturday?) employee at my parttime job’s of four years (who I only learned existed yesterday and whom I’ve never met) left me me a really rude letter concerning stuff that explicitly isn’t in my job description and demanding things that 1. I know go directly against my boss’s wishes and 2. make it seem like she’s the boss. Also, she “has enough stuff to do here already” and that’s apparently my fault?

    So I channelled my inner Awkardeer and composed a letter of my own saying how I’m very glad about the work she’s been doing so far and that people actually complimented on it (both 100% true), how I very much don’t appreciate her nastiness (intentional or not), how my job description is as follows and how her workload doesn’t have anything to do with me and if there’s a problem she should talk to our boss about it, not me. I was and am feeling very proud of it and am now keeping my fingers crossed that won’t result in a war of letters or something similar – I’ll be finding that out tomorrow and am mighty nervous but also glad I went through with it.

      1. I have the letter here with me, so that’s taken care of already!
        And I actually called my boss first because I didn’t want her to be complaining about me to him later and because I think he should know what’s going on. He said he’s completely fine with me writing her (and he’ll actually talk to her, too, if she reacts negatively) as long as I stay professional, which I did. I hope it’ll turn out alright.

  10. My clever cousin invented the incredibly useful Rule of 8 for Houseguests:
    1 guest: 8 days
    2 guests: 4 days
    4 guests: 2 days
    8 guests: Dinner party

    A formula to live by.

    1. 1 guest: 8 days is waaaay too long for me! And if you’ve got the space, I find 2+ guests can stay longer than one guest, because you can rely on them to entertain each other whilst you get on with your normal life for 8-10 hours a day, rather than having to be on Guest-Having Mode the whole time.

      1. I think it works if either the guest has something they are in town to do, so they are occupied for much of the day, anyway, or the guest is pretty self-sufficient in terms of entertaining themselves (I spent over a week staying with friends one summer, while they had to continue going about their lives and thus could not be in Host Mode the whole time, but since I was visiting them in the area we all grew up in, I was perfectly fine roaming about by myself during the day and then spending time with them and their other friends (mutual or not) on the weekend/in the evenings). But I do agree even from the perspective of a guest, it’s a lot easier to enjoy the visit when your host isn’t able to take time off work or otherwise has obligations if there is someone else you can spend your time with.

        1. Right, I have some friends where the ‘Here is the Wi-Fi password, there is the cat, there is the subway. I get you your first drink of whatever, after that, if you see it and you want to eat it or drink it, help yourself’ kind of relationship makes a longer-term stay not a big deal. They are quiet and self-amusing and have stuff to do.

          But it’s reeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaally a case-by-case basis.

  11. #3- Please don’t tell her you love her, and leave out the “right now.” That will not help. Be straightforward. Is it going to hurt? Probably. But a clean cut is better than the jagged edge of Maybe S/He Will Change Their Mind If I Just Wait Long Enough. That is a miserable way to feel. If this person is your friend, then be their friend by looking out for their interests here and don’t let them hang on when there’s nothing for them.

    1. Yup, so much this. You can say “I care about you very much”, “I respect you”, “You are a wonderful human being”, etc. And follow that shit right up with, “And I can’t be with you.” If things change and you’re both available, say something then. Don’t let people nurse hope that you’re not sure you can support.

  12. Did you happen to use my old relationship as a reference for the list in #15?! Because my ex did every single one of those things, and even the bonus question applies.

  13. 12. “What can a person say to a lonely, sad 18yrs old boy to make him happy?”

    “I made you this list of books and films by women?” has been my default lately. 🙂

    On that subject, this summer, partly due to your list, partly due to other sites I follow making similar lists, I’ve been making more of an effort to make this the summer I consumed books and films by women. I mean, I’ve always had the attitude ‘I’ll consume whatever good stuff comes my way,’ but as I’ve become more and more aware that ‘whatever comes my way’ isn’t actually a neutral position but one heavily curated by society and decidedly lacking in representation, it seemed kind of like the thing to do.

    And it’s been great.

    Also, Tank Girl is hugely underrated.

      1. It also subverts the male gaze mercilessly in, like, every shot.

        (also, the director, Rachel Talalay, is directing some Dr. Who episodes for this season? Which might almost get me to watch Dr. Who)

    1. I have also been inspired by that idea, in that I went, “Oh hey, I’m doing great with books by women. The list of books by minorities is pretty thin, though.” So I’m working on increasing my to-read list , especially when it comes to black and Hispanic voices.

      Relatedly, while I have some really good books there, I’d love additional book suggestions, and definitely films by not-white-men.

      1. Solestria, here are a few terrific authors who are not white men:

        Nalo Hopkinson
        Daniel Jose Older
        Tananarive Due
        Ted Chiang
        Nisi Shawl
        Mary Anne Mohanraj
        Alexie Sherman
        Octavia E Butler
        NK Jemisin
        Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
        Aliette de Bodard
        Edwidge Danticat
        Khaled Hosseini

      2. Did my book/author suggestions get caught in the filter or eaten by internet glitches? Testing if this one posts…

      3. This is weird. My comments will post but the list of authors wont. Is there some kind of setting that throws lists to the spam filter?

        1. Just random stuff, sorry, I’ve been busy all weekend and I’m just getting to de-spamming now.

  14. #3, I am trying to think of a situation where it would be a good thing for them to reject them romantically, but make sure that they understand that you love them.

    Are you sure the “convince her that I love her” isn’t for your benefit rather than hers? If you mean “love” in them as a friend, then I’d stick with that: “I really value your friendship” “I think you’re great” “Honestly, you’re one of the funniest people I know” “Our CSI marathons are one of the highlights of my week, but I don’t want to sleep with you”. Even if you do love them platonically, I think using the L-workd is only going to confuse the message.

    And even if you do love her and value her friendship, bear in mind that if she wants more and you have turned her down, she might want to get a bit of distance for a while. That’s OK! Hopefully you can be friends again in the future, but it’s not a judgment on you if she goes, “OK, I am a little heartbroken, I might need some time to come to terms with this before we go back to hanging out together.”

  15. For #15, I feel like it’s worth pointing out that it’s all still true if you switch the genders around. The question was about a boyfriend, so so is the answer, but it doesn’t HAVE to be a boyfriend.

  16. Thanks for 16, which clarifies my thoughts on the relationship between constant unwanted or not-encouraged contact from near strangers. The constant attempts to contact me after I’ve stopped responding or said “Go away” strike me as worthy of concern in ways that they don’t for a lot of other people, and I had not really been able to sufficiently articulate the roots of my concern.

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