#659: Second thoughts and confusing feelings after a breakup

An antique brooch with a woman being bored by a man in art history (a la The Toast)

“Eugene, dear, why don’t you run and get your lute? Definitely go away. I mean go and get it. Your lute.”

Hello there, Captain Awkward,

I’m a young person and I recently ended my first relationship. We did truly love each other–even though I’m young, I can say that with absolute conviction. But there were many serious problems in the relationship: they had a horrible, rude friend who would flirt with them constantly (one time she actually kissed them on the cheek while in front of me) and despite my begging they refused to do anything about her. They were into Nazism, which I know sounds bad but they were more into the German Nationalism and never hated anyone, so I convinced myself it was “okay” even when it gave me the heebie-jeebies. However, that wasn’t even the biggest problem in our relationship, which was that they never seemed to care. They would say that they loved me, which I’m sure was true, and yet while I was fighting constantly with my semi-abusive father about them (who yells and feelings-shames me), they refused to even tell their family about me. They would go on and on about their interests and never asked about mine. We went on two dates during the whole two years that we dated, and I had to initiate both of them. They never had time to talk to me and they never could just spend time alone with me, despite how willing I always was to make time for them.

Yet, looking back, I can’t help but think that I didn’t do as much as I could have. Sometimes, they were just worth it. Sometimes they would be sweet and I could really understand why I fell for them. They certainly wouldn’t mind taking me back; they told me that they would always love me and in the week it’s been over they’ve been radiating Cher Lloyd vibes. And I don’t think I could ever really find anyone else who loved me and understood me like they did, since I’m very geeky and I have hobbies many people would consider weird. They were really the only person that I can ever imagine tolerating every part of me, and I don’t know what to do now that I broke it off. Not to mention every person that I’ve been going to about this has been hinting to me that maybe I made a mistake, which I can’t help but start to wonder as well.
What should I do? Did I make a mistake?

Sincerely,
Am I walking away from Sephiroth or Cloud?

Dear Am I Walking,

I am confident that you can do better than a self-centered Nazi who won’t tell anyone in their life about you, won’t ask you about your interests, never has time for you, and who makes you do all the emotional and logistical work in the relationship.

You didn’t make a mistake by breaking up with them, quite the opposite. Think of this not as losing a partner, but as finding your self-preservation instincts wherever life with this person had buried them deep within you. Think of this as a learning experience, where you learned that someone saying they love you doesn’t necessarily translate into them being a good fit for you. Hopefully you will never again in your life settle for so little affection, and hopefully the next time someone says “I’m a Nazi, but not like a BAD Nazi, I’m just really into the idea of something that has ‘Nazi’ as one of its descriptors,” Future You will run away laughing a laugh that is also kind of a scream.

Easy for me to say, right? Not so easy for you to feel.

Breaking up hurts, even when you are letting go of someone who was inattentive and incompatible. Maybe especially when you are letting go of someone who fucks with your head to the point that you believe that you not only deserve to be treated so poorly, but that you will never find anyone but them to do it. There can be a lot of shame when you break things off with someone you know was a bad partner, like you’re not allowed to mourn for them or seek sympathy for being without them. There’s also a fallacy that being the one who initiates the breakup somehow insulates you from regret or grief, as if the dump-ee is the only one with the right to mourn. Of course you can feel sad and have regrets! Take all the time you need to nurse the grief and the hurt, but please do not go back to this person. Be alone until you feel relieved to be that way, and when you are ready, date literally anyone else.

Every time I’ve ever broken up with someone I loved, it felt like the end of the world for a little while. Even when I knew they were wrong for me, even when I did the breaking up, even when I knew it was the right decision, even when it was a person I now describe as “a three-dimensional interactive display of how bad I was feeling about myself at the time” or the person (different person, sadly!) who inspired the Darth Vader Boyfriend tag. There have always been second thoughts, loneliness, missing the way they smelled or talked or kissed, or even just missing the fact of having a partner, of being able to say “I can’t tonight, because my boyfriend…” and feel like I belonged to something. This person is your first love! Of course you are going to have feelings about losing them!

What I can tell you is that time heals. Sometimes time heals in spite of you, like, you’ve gotten good and used to wallowing and this breakup has given you a convenient locus for all of your negative emotions about life and yourself, when your brain and your body collectively decide “we are so bored with feeling like this, the sun is shining, let’s go get tacos and love again the stranger who was yourself.” (Text only version). Your broken heart and your sense of humor will grow back, I promise.

I want to highlight one of the fallacies you’ve inherited from this relationship:

And I don’t think I could ever really find anyone else who loved me and understood me like they did, since I’m very geeky and I have hobbies many people would consider weird. They were really the only person that I can ever imagine tolerating every part of me, and I don’t know what to do now that I broke it off.” 

There is no hobby you could have that is so geeky* that you deserve to be ignored and neglected by a shitty partner. As Commander Logic writes in her post on Geek Relationship Fallacies:

GRF5 “We are the only members of our species.” – This is closely related, but not identical to GRF4, and I call it the Facehugger Fallacy, but you can also consider it the fallacy of “The One.” The idea here is that your geekdom (or non-geek love) is so super-special and weird and idiosyncratic that you are the only two people on the planet who could possibly love the other person. In addition to the regular human impulse to not end relationships, this fallacy can really make it hard to acknowledge when a relationship is not actually working. “Who else will I meet who has memorized the works of Tolkien AND Talking Heads AND Eddie Izzard? IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN AND I WILL DIE ALOOOOONE.”

Look, there is more than one person out there who could be a great love of your life. That’s right, A great love. I swear to you, there is more than one person who loves the thing(s) that you love with all your geeky heart. There is more than one person who will find your theories fascinating. There is more than one person who wants to get all sexytimes with you. If you’re dating someone who seems perfect for you, except for the fact that they don’t act like they love you, DUMP THEM. There are other members of your species out there. I swear it.

May I suggest a list of things you might look for in your next dating partner?

  • Kind and decent person to everyone they meet.
  • Really, really kind and decent to you, always. Makes you feel great, makes time for you, tells everyone they know about you, makes you a priority.
  • Doesn’t make you feel like you could never be liked or loved by anyone else. Good partners know that they are lucky to have you!
  • Maybe shares some geeky hobbies & interests with you, at very least does not laugh at yours or act like them dating you despite your interests is some kind of big favor.
  • You don’t get the heebie-jeebies when you think about their political beliefs.

You deserve to be more than tolerated when it’s convenient for some person. You deserve to be delighted, cherished, adored, and shown as much love and patience and compassion as you show others. This time of grieving is also about regrowing your imagination so that you can imagine good and great things for yourself.

I also want to put a flaming bag of poo on the doorsteps of your “friends” who imply that you made a mistake by breaking up with this person. Of course your ex wants to get back with you, you are like the one person on earth who wasn’t like “LOL WHUT” at everything about them, and their dating pool of people who would put up with them has now shrunk to zero people. That doesn’t make them YOUR soulmate, or your problem, though! If this person is so great, why don’t your friends date them? Script for them: “Ha, I’ve instituted a strict ‘No Nazis’ rule going forward, but you are welcome to date them if you like!”

If I could make some immediate recommendations for you, they would be:

1) Break off all contact with your ex. Tell them, “It’s over, and to heal I need to make an entirely clean break, so please don’t contact me again.” Delete/block communications, do not respond to any communications. You need time and distance from this person to regain perspective on your own worthiness and wonderfulness. I get the feeling that this relationship happened at a distance, so it should be easy to institute blocks on Skype, email, social media, etc. Tell your friends you are done talking with your ex.

2) Find some outlet to process your feelings about your ex, whether it’s a journal or a counselor/therapist of some kind. You need a place where you can grieve for the things about the relationship that you miss without judgment or shame. You need a place to talk about your “semi-abusive” dad that isn’t your (possibly semi-abusive) ex, and to learn some tools for valuing yourself. Are you in school/could you access services through your school? Script for getting started: “I recently broke up with someone who didn’t treat me very well, and I am having a lot of feelings in the aftermath of that and could use a trained person outside the situation to offer perspective.” The counselor will be able take it from there.

3) Practice telling the story of your relationship and breakup. This was my first love, so it will always be a big deal and important to me in some way. But I realized Ex wasn’t a very good partner for me. They didn’t treat me all that well, so I broke it off. I’m sad, and I miss the good things about them, so my feelings can be all over the place sometimes.”

4) Do some self-care things, especially around your physical self. Get a haircut if it’s been a while. Consider offering yourself as a practice subject at a massage school to get human touch in your life. Dig into the Scarleteen archives, especially about self-love. See also: What You Really, Really Want. Is there a family cat or dog? Snuggle the heck out of that creature, give pets, brushes, treats, walks. Move your body in some way that feels good every day.

5) Those hours you spent chatting/texting/Skype-ing, etc. are going to feel empty and lonely at first.You’ll be tempted to answer the blinky light of the ping and collect your sweet pellets of attention and affection. I highly encourage you to throw yourself into learning something new or doing something you love, and filling that time with pleasurable things so you are less tempted to respond. Put effort into meeting new people, especially people who share your hobbies and interests, but lots of new people in general. Get involved with classes, volunteer work, MeetUp groups. Get out of your abusive home as much as possible.

6) I recently read Jo Walton’s Among OthersIt’s about a geek who fled an abusive home situation and her quest for belonging, and I think “Mor” would be a good companion for you just now, Letter Writer. See also: What You Really, Really Want.

You did the right thing by breaking up, dear Letter Writer! Give yourself a lot of time and love while you catch up to that fact.

 

*There is an obvious joke to be made here given the interests of the LW’s ex, but arguably no human being deserves to be mistreated by a romantic partner. Rejected/left? Yes. Mistreated? No.

Friday, Feb 13: Comments are closed because: your friendly moderator has weekend plans and I think we’ve sufficiently covered both the weird aftermath of breakups and “WTF, Nazis?” Be well, Letter Writer.

296 comments
  1. RadKind said:

    On top of everything the Captain said (100% agree), it’s healthy for the LW to feel like they could have done more. Everyone can always do more. In this case, I doubt more effort from the LW would have changed anything. But! It can still be a valuable learning experience to reflect on and help the LW in their next (hopefully better) relationship.

    Also, I love the list of attributes to look for in this post because it shows what good partners actually do rather than just what they don’t do.

    • well, true. but isn’t it also healthy for the LW to know that under no circumstances would they *have* to do more? i suspect “i could have done more” is most useful in relationships that are basically healthy, where both people are trying. doesn’t sound like the case here. and so many women in particular are socialized to feel that they *must* do more, when it’s okay to just…not.

      • xyz said:

        Yep. It’s ok to say “you know what, we were incompatible.” Especially because the LW was making an effort to take the relationship seriously while the LW’s partner let a friend kiss them, never initiated a nice date and never told their parents about the LW.

      • therufs said:

        Yeah, this. I think it’s useful to [learn to] distinguish between “there are things I could have done”, in the sense that there existed in possibilityspace a different series of causes and effects, and “there are things I was in some sense obligated to do whether I wanted to or not, and any such outcomes, if they lead to the continuation of the relationship, are by definition ontologically preferable”, and to make peace with the former.

        I have a friend who regularly threatens to engage in risky behaviors as a means of getting attention. Could I fly across the ocean to intervene every single time she does it? Sure. Am I morally obligated to do so? No. Would that make our relationship, or her, more healthy? No. Will I feel like a jackass if she follows through and is hurt? Yes. Will it be my fault? No.

    • tinyorc said:

      Completely disagree. Also I also think the idea that you have to “do more” (i.e. scale up investment, effort, attention, mind-reading skills) in every new relationship is a no good very bad terrible model for dating.

      • cruelmistress said:

        Yeah, if someone requires more than you are comfortable giving, even if they are THE PERFECT PARTNER ZOMG, it won’t be a good and compatible relationship of equals, it won’t feel good to either of you, and you need to move on.

    • Commander Banana said:

      “Everyone can always do more.”

      I am…gonna have to disagree with this one. Sometimes you just run out of fucks to give.

      • JenniferP said:

        Plus I think “you should have done more/you can always do more/you can save this” is a very unhealthy message that people, particularly women, get about relationships.

        One thing I didn’t say in the OP is that the “heebie jeebies” were a blessing, and as the LW gets older, having heebie jeebies about a partner early on in a relationship often should be a sign to BAIL ON THE ENTIRE ENTERPRISE, not look for ways to understand “do more.”

        • tinyorc said:

          Certainly for heterosexual women, “you can save this” is usually only a half-step removed from “you can save HIM” (as is your womanly duty.)

          • JenniferP said:

            BRB, need to create a Girl Scout Merit Badge in “Successfully Ending A Thing.”

        • Commander Banana said:

          Can I get an amen up in here?

          I think everyone should read Dr. Laura’s The Care and Feeding of Husbands and then DO EXACTLY NOT THAT EVER. She basically sidesteps all of the issues that cause friction in marriages – money, affection, infidelity, etc. – and it’s basically a screed about how these mean selfish women just aren’t giving enough of their time and really should look into being stay at home brownie and sex dispensing machines, and all the problems in a relationship will magically evaporate.

          I’m frankly tired of being told that the reason a relationship ended was not because the other person cheated on me, had terrible money problems, had deep insecurity stemming from unresolved issues from previous relationships, let someone else camp out in their bed, borrowed money from me with no intention of returning it, or maybe just plain wasn’t compatible with me, it’s because I wasn’t willing to eviscerate myself to feed the Relationship Monster until I was an empty husk of a person.

    • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

      The other side of _that_ coin is coming out of a bad relationship and realising – usually some time later – that you should have done less to keep the plates spinning in the air and called out problems (or walked away) sooner.

    • Elsajeni said:

      Hmm. I’m going to say, not “healthy” necessarily, but normal. There is, theoretically, always more you could do, and it’s hard not to wonder about that in the aftermath of a breakup. But if you’re going to reflect on what more you could have done to keep the relationship going, I would go in specifically with an eye toward “And would that have been a good/healthy/happy thing for me to do? Would that have been a reasonable thing for my ex to ask of me?” Because, you know, here is my own list of “more”s that I could have done to prevent some of my early breakups:
      — I could have had sex I wasn’t ready for/didn’t want to have. (Not good for me, not healthy for me, would not have made me happy.)
      — I could have come out to everyone in my life so we didn’t have to sneak around. (Not really an unreasonable thing for my girlfriend to want, but not good for me at the time.)
      — I could have Cool Girled along with “No, that’s fine, we’re poly, so of course you can go ahead and fool around with [the one specific person on earth I did not want him to fool around with].” (Definitely not making me happy.)

      I think the value of reflecting on those “more”s is mostly not about spotting places where I could do better in future relationships; it’s mostly about recognizing the ways that those relationships were bad for me, and becoming more at ease with the idea that, yeah, breaking up was the right decision and staying broken up is the right decision. And I think the LW’s list of “more”s about this relationship, if they made one, would be along similar lines.

  2. TO_Ont said:

    ““And I don’t think I could ever really find anyone else
    who loved me and understood me like they did, since
    I’m very geeky and I have hobbies many people
    would consider weird. They were really the only
    person that I can ever imagine tolerating every part of
    me, and I don’t know what to do now that I broke it
    off.”

    This is the bit that jumped out at me the most. Partly because of the choice of words: ‘tolerate’? Tolerance is the bare minimum you should expect from people who _aren’t_ your friends. Tolerance is a good thing to try to reach with enemies. Friendship, let alone love, means you do more than ‘tolerate’ someone. In your friends wait for the people who think you’re awesome!

    But also because the things that LW listed for why they didn’t think anyone could ever even ‘tolerate’ them were so innocuous. They didn’t say they had an addiction that affected others or were mean or impatient or unkind (or a nazi or someone who ignores their own partner and makes them feel like they’re doing them a favour to be around them…) or anything really. Just some less common hobbies??? And from that they think they’re difficult to love or even to ‘tolerate’? 😦

    Keep going, keep looking, find more people in your life (not just a romantic partner) who really value you. Maybe there are things the LW can do to help them recognize their own value and like _themselves_ more as well?

    • catiecan said:

      This stood out to me, too. Tolerate is such a low bar. Enthusiastic support is a good bar to aim for. I don’t play video games, but when my boyfriend completes a mission with double the points of anyone else I cheer him on. He doesn’t read very much but when I cry at the end of a book he makes me a cup of tea and listens to me tell him all about it. We don’t have to have these things in common, but we support each other’s passions.

      • olives said:

        This thing here exactly. I’ve had partners more compatible in hobbies than the guy I’m with now, but they were scores behind the enthusiastic support I get from him literally regardless of what I’m interested in. If I feel a thing about it, he’s right there with me, and it makes him an awesome person to be around.

        The hobbies dudes? Long left in the dust. They were pretty bad at the basics, like friendly caring human companionship.

        So much agreed – good, kind, thoughtful people, the kind you want in your life, love you whatever your hobbies, however weird they are, as long as you can do the same for them.

        • Anna Sthetic said:

          Another one in the camp of ‘support > toleration’. Hobbies-wise, the boy and I have nothing (NOTHING) in common. I do dance and poetry performance stuff, he writes and plays computer games and plays board games and goes to the odd hackathon. We don’t read the same books, we don’t listen to the same music, we have watched a grand total of two films together in the history of ever.

          But he knows all about my gigs and what I’m writing, and I know all about what he’s building and the new games he’s found on steam and what went down at his last tabletop gaming night, because we are interested IN EACH OTHER.

          LW, you will find that, I promise. You deserve that.

      • minuteye said:

        Here here! You don’t have to share someone’s interests to support and care about them. Sometimes you don’t even have to understand why they like something, you just have to value the way their eyes light up when they talk about it.

        • Like how Ben totally doesn’t get why everyone, including Leslie, is so into Li’l Sebastian. But he still buys a Li’l Sebastian t-shirt and pretends to pay homage at the little horse statue and is typically lovely and supportive to Leslie when she’s sad that the little horsie dies.

          ….Because everything is in fact about Parks & Recs to me.

          • When She Was Good said:

            Thanks for this! I’m home sick today and don’t feel like doing anything but lying here like a slug. I think a Parks & Rec marathon is exactly what I need right now.

          • catiecan said:

            Ben and Leslie/Andy and April are my relationship idols (And now Donna and Joe!). Also I have a huge crush on Ben Wyatt. I thought I had a crush on Adam Scott, but I saw him in something else and nope – it’s all Ben.

          • MellifluousDissent said:

            catican, a hearty YES on adding Donna & Joe to that list of yours! I seriously cried during their wedding. I know the show is a comedy, but there is something really moving and beautiful about how all of these amazing, interesting, quirky, non-conforming-to-patriarchal-stereotypes women find love and connection and support over the course of the show, without changing a single damn thing about themselves, and without the sitcom-standard “aww he loves her anyway” that usually makes me hurl. To me, “loves her anyway” always seems to be code for “loves her in spite of ::insert non-conforming behavior here::” – what I love so much about the relationships on Parks & Rec is that they’re not “loves her anyway,” they’re “loves her BECAUSE”, if that makes any sense.

            So LW, watch yourself some Parks & Recreation, is I guess what I’m saying.

      • tinyorc said:

        Your relationship sounds lovely, catiecan! And I agree – LW, if your partner is merely “tolerating” any aspect of your wonderful self, then that partner does not deserve the awesomeness that is you.
        You don’t deserve someone who tolerates your geeky hobbies, you deserve someone who loves you for them, because they are part of you.

    • Anothermous said:

      That really jumped out at me too. I’ve been there before, and assumed I could only date other geeky people because “normal” people wouldn’t understand or tolerate my love for video games, speculative fiction, anime, tabletop games, and/or whatever. I also assumed that a romantic relationship couldn’t be successful if the couple didn’t share the same hobbies.

      That is SO not true.

      It IS true that your partner has to respect your hobbies. My husband doesn’t play video games, but he’s happy for me when I accomplish something in a game and he’s happy to listen when I want to talk about games. Conversely, I’m not really into soccer, but I love hearing him talk about it because I like being witness to a person I love engaging with something that makes them happy!

      Furthermore, you can always cultivate shared interests with someone. My husband and I talked about things we’d never done but would like to do, and decided to take up ballroom dancing and martial arts together*. So we now have that shared interest, and engaging in those activities (dance class once a week or so, etc.) helps us build shared experiences, which strengthens our relationship. We’ve also made a ton of new friends through those activities, and see them regularly both inside and outside of classes.

      LW, believe that there are all kinds of people who will be happy when you’re happy, because they care about you and your well-being. There are all kinds of people who may not share your specific interests, but who have an interest in YOU–either as a friend or as a lover. Your hobbies and interests are important pieces of you, yes, but they do not define you, and you don’t have to settle for someone who merely tolerates those interests. I promise that you can find someone out there who loves you and loves it when you’re happy, even if they don’t do all the exact same things with their free time.

      • Anothermous said:

        Oops, that * was supposed to lead to a statement that clarified we’re generally not allowed to partner up in martial arts class, because the instructors typically frown on couples using each other as practice for punching and such. 😉 (We do occasionally partner to practice, but we make sure we’re all covered up with protective clothing/pads/etc. before anyone does any hitting or kicking!)

      • Jane said:

        I mean, and though shared interests are lovely and wonderful, I have this sense that relationships are, at their core, about how other people make you FEEL.

        I have many friendships based on shared interests (knitting! writing! the reading of books!) and several on shared experiences (working on a farm together for two weeks! doing the same master’s program!) and most based on a hybrid of those two things. But by and large, these friendships all have the thing in common that they make me feel good. Like, I get a happy feeling from being around these people. I look forward to seeing them, I enjoy the time I spend with them, and even though I have depression and anxious tendencies and sometimes I am deeply afraid I am Fucking It All Up, my feelings are. . . not actually that complicated toward these people. “Friend. Good. Happy.” (It’s not always simple! FEELINGS ARE HARD. But sometimes it can be! Perhaps it could be a thing to pursue some relationships that feel simply good for you, LW?)

        Last summer I met several people who I had WILDLY differing interests from — one was studying to be a wind turbine technician (!) and loved rock climbing and dancing and clubbing, for example, compared to my background in architecture and painting and fantasy books (and substantial physical and social awkwardness.) You know what? I enjoyed that dude’s company INFINITELY more than a lot of the nerdy nerds at my technical university, because he was unfailingly kind, paid close attention to anyone he was talking to, and was happy to discuss just about anything with respect and curiosity.

        Interests are important, but the sum total of who we are is far more than just the things we like to do.

      • “….decided to take up ballroom dancing and martial arts together.”

        I really hope that “ballroom dancing and martial arts” is one activity.

        • Xenophile said:

          My school’s master says the key to good footwork is learning ballroom dance!

          • golden peanut said:

            Off topic here, but since we’re already down that road … No, ballroom dance is the worst thing a martial artist can take up. Predictable, rhythmic footwork is the way to land on your ass on the mat. It’s a bad habit to cultivate.

          • solecism said:

            My tai chi master talks about tango in a similar vein…

        • Anothermous said:

          Viennese Waltz roundhouse kick!

          Alas, they are separate, but as Xenophile said, there’s a lot of overlap in terms of footwork and the way you’re supposed to move and carry yourself. They compliment each other nicely!

    • Goat Lady said:

      This comment, yes!

      Mr. Goat Lady does not love goats. But Mr. Goat Lady loves me, and sees the goats bring me joy, so if I’m having a high pain day, he will feed the goats.

      I do not love footsoccerball. But I love Mr. Goat Lady and footsoccerball and particularly his hometown team from England give him joy, so I learned enough to understand the offside rule and how teams progress through the leagues and what not so that when he gets excited I know why, because it’s important to him.

      Tolerance is way too low a bar. Look for someone who will feed your goats or learn the offside rule. They’re out there!

      • Jane said:

        It seems to me that in relationships you are super happy to be in, often you get secondary joy from the thing that gives your beloved joy. I postulate that when the thing that makes Loved Person happy is an active burden to you, you might re-consider the terms of that relationship (even when the thing is not Nazism. Christ on a bike.)

        (For a less-charged thing, though I love the kitties, I could probably not cohabitate with someone who had 2+ furred felines, because my allergies would make it not fun to breathe. No reflection on me or the other person, just my sinuses.)

      • olives said:

        I know your goats are literal, but permission to use “look for someone who will feed your goats” metaphorically in the future? =)

          • Mercy said:

            With a cartoon goat (possibly a baby-ish one?) who is drawn chewing on the fabric of the shirt!

        • Goat Lady said:

          Of course! Goats are excellent allegories for whatever hobby you have that occasionally eats your life because it just jumped a 4 foot fence and found the ONE TREE on 2 1/2 acres that you paid money for and started eating it.

          Only, you know, metaphorically.

          • olives said:

            Yay for permission! Now I’m just thankful that my dog can only jump about 2.5 feet…

          • Ha, one of my flatmate’s dogs can jump the six foot gate out of the backyard.

        • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

          permission to use “look for someone who will feed your goats” metaphorically in the future?

          YES! YES! YES!

          (not the OP, but loving that phrase.)

      • notemily said:

        Hee, anyone else thinking of the scene in Bend It Like Beckham where Keira Knightley’s mom learns the offside rule from the dad with the use of condiments?

        (Which is a pretty good example of someone supporting the hobbies of someone they love because they love that person, even if the mom is a little ridiculous for the rest of the movie.)

      • Anisoptera said:

        You know, thank you for this comment. I never really understood that it’s OK to expect a partner to have your back with your interests even if they’re not their interests. As someone who’s ex-partner had let treasured plants die unwatered while I was away for a reason which benefited us both I think I never imunderstood it

        • Anisoptera said:

          Agh hit post by accident. I was saying, I never understood it was possible for a partner to help you with your thing just because it was yours and you cared about it. Which is weird, because I took and interest in his things and helped him with those. *headdesk*

          • Goat Lady said:

            I actually have a hilarious story about the time two goats went into labor simultaneously and my poor Mr Goat Lady got stuck midwifing one, something he did not find to be a glorious reminder of how miraculous life is. But he did it anyway!

          • solecism said:

            Actually, this is a big part of why my parents divorced, I think. Well, and my dad is a big ol’ misogynist. My mom had to be away, and he neglected her pets then didn’t understand why she was upset. It wasn’t his job to feed and water them, etc. And crazy lady, amirite? My visits to him are relatively short, I ignore his attempts to put me in my place, and now I shut down his commentary on female relatives’ appearance. So definitely, find someone who has respect for you as a person.

        • A said:

          I don’t know the situation with your partner exactly, buuuut I personally do not expect my SO to maintain my hobbies when I am away; they are my hobies that I did not really consult him on (beyond “Mind if I do this? Great, full speed ahead!”). Moreover I know he is forgetful so if I choose to leave for a month it’s nice if he keeps my plants alive, but I don’t exactly expect him to.
          (that said, he did feed my snakes for me when I had to go away for a month, so I know he’d do a lot for me; but when a bunch of plants died cause I left for a month in the summer I figured that was on me for planting water-hungry plants then leaving)

          • winter said:

            It depends? E.g. when you talked to your partner and asked him “Could you water my plants?” and he said “Sure” then I would totally expect him to do it. Because if he said no, I could probably find another arrangement. But by saying yes he made it impossible/unnecessary for me to find another arrangement. As I recall, Anisoptera’s ex was kind of an asshole, so I would totally assume a passive-aggressive “Yeah, totally”, and no follow-through.

          • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

            I might not demand that my partner to do stuff for me, but I’d feel weird if they didn’t have an attitude of ‘this is important to [partner], therefore I’ll do it’ because that’s part of ‘partnership’.
            Also, neglecting living beings isn’t negotiable – I expect *any* decent human being to step in and do that, even if they’re not particularly interested.

          • Ethyl said:

            I really feel that “keeping living things that you care about alive” is much different than “maintaining my hobbies” which, what does that even mean? I mean, look, if you are ok watching your SO’s plants wither and die while they’re out of town I guess good for you but I’m free to think that makes you kind of an asshole.

          • Mmm, living creatures are different. Does my partner have an obligation to, e.g., maintain my video game farm while I’m away? No, of course not. Should he feed the cat and water the plants if I ask? Yeah, he really should.

          • Anisoptera said:

            What Winter said – he did of course agree to do it happily and with no complaint. :-/

            I also had a friend who let goldfish die in two inches of slimy green water while his wife was away, which in my mind goes well into unforgivable territory. I didn’t feel especially friendly to him after that.

            I was always terribly worried about being demanding about support with my hobbies, but on hind sight I realise I was always fine with being supportive myself. And as others have said it gets all tied up with people not doing what they agreed to do which is actually a very different problem hiding behind a smoke screen of this one.

          • I’m a very forgetful person who has a lot of trouble maintaining daily routines (thanks ADHD) so when people ask me to do something important, I tell them that. “Can you remind me to call the office when we get back?” “I’d love to, but I have even less chance of remembering than you do.” So if my SO had a beloved bonsai that had to be watered and soaked and misted just so on a regular basis, I’d say, “You should not trust me to look after it. Can you get someone who will remember to come by?”

        • Myrin said:

          Ugh, as a plant lover, that is giving me metaphorical hives. :/

      • “Tolerance is way too low a bar. Look for someone who will feed your goats or learn the offside rule.” This is poetry! And also wisdom.

      • When She Was Good said:

        I am calling it footsoccerball from now on.

      • Courtney said:

        My partner loves hockey and plays pick up games with a local group. I can’t seem to learn the details of the rules – I’ve tried, but something in my brain just becomes teflon when sportsknowledge beyond “[playing piece] going into [receptacle]=points” is introduced. It won’t stick.

        BUT! I periodically bundle up and go watch the game and cheer when his side scores points, and if I haven’t gone to see the game, I ask him how it went when I next see or talk to him. And when he seems to have more stress than normal, I ask when he last played and remind him that he handles stress better when he plays regularly.

    • Yeah. I grew up in the SCA, which is full of nerdy nerds and their enormous nerding, where people spend huge amounts of time and money making 13th century shoes or learning how to fight with a longsword or speaking Old English, and it is absolutely full of committed couples who spend their lives cheering on and enabling each other’s weird obsessions. “Okay, should we do catapult practice the weekend of the 26th?” “My wife and I have a LAN party that weekend, what about the one before?”

      There are more nerds out there than you have dreamt of in your school experience, LW. You just need to find out where they are.

      • thathat said:

        While I never quite had the energy or resources for the SCA, looking at SCA (and committed RenFaire) couples is a bit like Gomez-and-Morticia in terms of “a good example of the vibe I want my relationship to have.”

        These days I’m a little jealous of convention artist couples. That sort of thing is true love, dangit.

      • Dominique said:

        Yes. I’m active in the SCA, and my husband is not. That said, he understands that it’s a hobby that takes a good chunk of my free time, and gives me joy. If he didn’t, we wouldn’t be together.

    • Yarnspider said:

      That bit broke my heart when I read it, mostly because I actually remember thinking that way. Assuming the only other person I knew who enjoyed steampunk things and Roma music must be the one for me.

      My recommendation? Find a fun, geeky new activity, and throw yourself into it. For me, it was my university’s branch of the SCA. I didn’t go into it expecting a romantic partner, and for a few years I didn’t. I What I did find were good friends, a bunch of new skills, and some of the most fun moments of my college years.

      It didn’t hurt that, a few years in, one of those good friends asked me out on a date. Which is how I found my lad, who not only tolerates my geeky hobbies, but shares most of them, and even introduced me to a couple new ones. I wasn’t looking, but I found myself with a medieval reenactor, who cosplays with me, and will go to parks or museums with me without being dragged, and has no problem spending a weekend wearing funny clothes and sleeping in a tent, but is equally happy to stay in snuggling and watching awful low-budget movies.

      And you know what? He’s not a Nazi, in any sense of the word. He doesn’t belittle me.He encourages me in both my hobbies and my education, as I encourage him.

      You deserve to have someone who’s proud to have you for a partner. And you will find someone so much better than the one you just left. It may take some time, but I promise that it’ll happen.

    • “They were really the only person that I can ever imagine tolerating every part of me”

      This is what jumped out at me the most, and it looks like I’m not alone. If I had a partner who thought he had to “tolerate” every part of me, I wouldn’t feel good about it. You can do better.

    • Also, geekiness is not rare. Geeky hobbies are not terribly unusual, and can be very sociable (tabletop gaming, cons, hitting each other with longswords etc all require groups of people who are passionate about non-mainstream interests). In my area it is actually harder to find someone to date who does not partially base their identity around playing video games and reading old scifi than who does. It sounds like LW might be in school -if so, give it a few years and your cup will overflow with nerdy friends and romantic prospects!

    • cruelmistress said:

      Everything everyone else has said, plus it might be useful to examine where you got the idea that this person is the only one on earth who will so much as tolerate you. That pinged a lot of alarm bells for me vis a vis Evil Bees. (Insert gif from Jupiter Ascending: “Bees don’t lie.”)

      It sounds like you had just as much to “tolerate” from this person as they did from you, LW. In fact, it’s tough to imagine a better poster child for out-of-measure tolerance than someone who stays in secret* with a partner they suspect is disinterested in them* & who is LITERALLY A NAZI*

      *things with which you do not have to put up with, seriously

      • cruelmistress said:

        Argh, I said “with” twice there. But whatever, you get it.

    • Courtney said:

      OMG, yes. “Tolerate” means you put a thin veneer of civil behavior on top of active dislike.

    • Helka said:

      Yes, this for me too. I’m someone else who had an encounter with the “I’m the only one who will ever be able to love you in spite of [this thing about you], if you leave me you will be Forever Alone” monster — in my case, it was my somewhat unusual religion. My abuser basically told me — not in so many words, of course — that anyone else would make me give up my church in order to be with them, and they were nobly accepting my bizarre beliefs because I made up for those beliefs in other ways.

      (Disclaimer: I am not a Scientologist)

      • Hah, that would be a D&D boss I would not want to run into in a dungeon crawl. Glad you escaped that asshole.

        As someone also with an unusual spiritual modality (Jedi Realism in the house!), I feel you. Luckly, Mr. Streetlamp thinks it’s awesome to be married to a Jedi.

        LW stay strong! From what I can see you made a healthy, reason-filled, good choice. Don’t let friends or the ex horcrux/one-ring style tempt you back there.

    • Toleration aside, what are the odds that, amongst 7 billion humans, you somehow manage to find LITERALLY THE ONLY ONE who will “tolerate” you?

      It seems much more likely to me that there are LOTS of people who will at least “tolerate” you, if you already managed to find one.

  3. EKH said:

    It gets better, LW. I was once like you, but I feel my terrible first love was in the end, a positive experience, because he taught me what I really want: True affection, being a priority in someone’s life. I now have a fulfilling long term relationship with a geeky man who is also a feminist. My ex is the kind of guy who street harassed other women in front of me on Halloween, made rape jokes, and did worse things that I don’t feel comfortable mentioning here. I still loved him. I still forgave him. It’s OK to be sad and want to get back with him. Captain is spot on, as usual.

    • Yes to all of the above. My first love — my first real kiss, my first boyfriend, my first sexual partner, someone with whom I had a two-year relationship — was a cheater, gaslighted me, sexually harassed other women, was well on his way to being an alcoholic before he turned 21, and was terrible to and for me. One of the last conversations we had before I broke up with him had him actually saying, “but if I don’t stay in a relationship with you, I worry you’re never going to find anyone else and be one of those old women in a room with lots of cats.”

      Yes, I really loved him, and I was devastated when I broke up with him. It’s okay to let yourself grieve for now. But someday, you will look back at this relationship and realize that you can and do better. You can figure out from what was missing in this relationship what you need, and make those your top priorities for your future relationships.

      Also, on the “I’m too weird for anyone else to like me” — oh, LW, I’ve been there. I definitely thought that was me. A few years after my breakup with my first love, I had a string of dates and short-term encounters with guys who made me feel terrible and awkward and weird for being myself. I thought I would never find anyone, and I felt really terrible about myself. I decided that I needed to take a break from actively looking for other people and spend some time loving myself. Literally less than two weeks later, I met my now-husband, who was also someone who thought he was too weird for anyone else. We’ve been married for almost three years now and are really, really happy. Your worries are real, but it’s a big world out there full of people who do and will appreciate and love you for who you are. Be gentle to yourself.

      • AthenaC said:

        Isn’t it weird how just when you’re NOT looking you find what you need? I spent years as a teen wishing and hoping for someone to want to date me, but to no avail.

        Fast forward less than 5 years, I’m a single mom in college and NO TIME to deal with anyone else’s bullshit and I certainly wasn’t looking for a man. Yet somehow I was practically beating them off with a stick. Now, it may be because I went to high school in a mid-size city in Iowa where people are surprisingly shallow about appearances, and I went to college in Fairbanks, AK where I pretty easily achieve the rank of a “Fairbanks 10” (if you know what that is). But be that as it may, the attention still felt good.

      • VG said:

        “but if I don’t stay in a relationship with you, I worry you’re never going to find anyone else and be one of those old women in a room with lots of cats.”

        A little bit of a tangent, but when someone in RL brings up the “old woman living alone with cats” trope to me, I always wonder if they realize that statistically, most people who are female and have male partners will eventually be old women living alone, with or without cats, because of widowhood. No point putting up with a bad relationship to avoid a fate that you’re going to experience anyway (not to mention that living alone with lots of cats actually sounds kind of peaceful).

        • JenniferP said:

          Truth! And “I choose cats!” or “Living alone with or without cats is way better than living with you!” is the never-fails comeback to such b.s.

          My favorite thing ever, suggested by a commenter here, is that when someone says you’ll die alone eaten by cats, respond with “They start with the lips” and then a long, long silence while it sinks in.

          • ailbhel said:

            I don’t get it…

          • Amber said:

            I live alone with cats! It’s fantastic. +1 for cats.

          • Linden said:

            My cat runs to meet me when he sees me get out of the car. My ex never did that. Cats know what side their bread’s buttered on.

          • Anothermous said:

            YES. Because living alone with or without cats IS better than living with Douchebro #743 or whatever.

            Maybe slightly off-topic, but my life drastically improved once I figured out that anyone who tries to use a version (direct or implied) of “…but otherwise you’ll be alone!” as a compelling reason you should date them has basically just told you that the only thing they have to offer you is their physical presence. Not really a compelling argument for continuing a relationship.

          • JenniferP said:

            @ailbhel, implication being that when cats eat your corpse, they start with the lips.

        • Anisoptera said:

          Yes! Most of us die alone. Death sucks. Loneliness sucks. Old age looks like it particularly sucks for pretty much everyone what with the death of loved ones and loneliness and poor health. You know what would make that worse? 50 years of being chewed up by an abusive partner. You know what makes all that better? Cats. Well, or any pet you love if cats aren’t your thing.

          The belief that being a single older woman with a cat or two leads inexorably to mental illness and animal hoarding is one of society’s weird and toxic ways of imposing the belief that a woman is worthless without a man. Pfffft. I am much happier living alone with my cat than I was with a toxic relationship. A dude/lady had better be pretty damn awesome to get me to give that up. 🙂

          • Jane said:

            It also puzzles me that this is the characteristic that is picked on. Of all the genuinely unpleasant things that could happen to you as you undertake aging as a solo project, people threaten you with. . . developing appreciation and compassion for fellow living creatures! OH THE HORROR. Not “you’ll go blind and there will be no one to read to you” or “your memory will go faulty and you’ll lose your keys FOREVER” or “your worldview will narrow and harden and you will start hating random groups of people for no reason” but instead. . . “you will have many small fuzzies who cuddle you at unpredictable times.” What.

          • Anisoptera said:

            Jane that’s of course because it’s not actually about the horrors of lonely old age. It’s about society holding up a bogey man to menace younger ladies with the terrible socially-disapproved fate of spinsterhood. It’s there to reinforce the stereotype that I, a middle aged woman with a pet, am somehow way inferior to the women who are living their intended purposes as wives and mothers. That it catches up widows whose children don’t keep in touch is just a nasty side effect. Because as you say, there are plenty of worse things about aging solo that we could worry about, but then we might feel genuine empathy for the lonely elderly rather than mockery for women who didn’t fulfil the social script handed to them.

          • Jane said:

            It just doesn’t seem like a very effective bogeyman. . . I am far more afraid of macular degeneration than kitten acquisition. (Though I suppose “if you don’t follow the social script your retinas will abandon all hope!!!” is an even sillier threat than “if you don’t follow the social script cats will eat you!!!”)

            My grandmother started moderate animal-hoarding EVEN THOUGH she was married — topping out at twelve small dogs and two large ones before she reined it in [now she’s down to eight small dogs]. Weirdly enough, though the smell was unpleasant in the house she shared with my grandfather, the dogs were actually a great comfort to him at the end of his life. His mobility was very limited and they lived far from town, so his contact with people had severely diminished. But even when my grandmother was busy the poodles always wanted his attention. He couldn’t really eat because of kidney failure, but weirdly I think feeding the dogs made him feel better. His ability to read gradually faded as well, until he pretty much had the TV and the dogs.

            So . . . not saying having fourteen dogs is a good idea, because it’s really, really not, but even if you get married — even if you get married to someone you love and who loves you! because god knows my grandmother religiously dedicated herself to caretaking — you may spend your last years lonely to varying degrees, in pain, and surrounded by animals who occasionally fight over who gets sit in your lap. Life is invariably strange and you can do everything you’re supposed to do and still end up covered in poodles.

            But yeah, I would like it if the subject was discussed with more respect and compassion all around. It doesn’t make the fact that he suffered a lot any better, but at least my grandpa wasn’t on the hook for the fact that no life choice is without consequences. No one was yelling at him WELL YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN THAT WORKING A BLUE COLLAR JOB FOR FIFTY YEARS WOULD DESTROY YOUR BODY and WELL IF YOU HAD JUST EATEN IN A WAY THAT WAS TOTALLY ATYPICAL FOR YOUR CLASS AND REGION YOU WOULDN’T HAVE DIABETES OR HEART DISEASE*. As opposed to women who make ALSO make perfectly legitimate choices that have undesirable consequences — because ALL CHOICES DO — but get shat on incessantly for not being able to somehow escape entropy.

            *vast oversimplification

          • Xenophile said:

            ” I am far more afraid of macular degeneration than kitten acquisition.”

            I love this sentence forever and plan to embroider it on a cross stitch sampler.

        • gmg said:

          Single lady who likes dudes here, just turned 40, about a month after adopting a cat (the first I have owned since my childhood cat who died when I was 25). I am head over heels about my baby and basically in Full-On Embrace the Cat Lady Stereotype Mode right now. Rushing home to feed her after work, etc.

          Rather than being concerned about what this combo of allegedly deadly factors means for my dating pool situation, I’m mostly either a)too busy giving kitty skritches to care or b)occasionally mulling over how I might go about finding a cat-loving man. (And I do have to say that all cat-loving men I have known, almost without fail, have been lovely people.)

          Cat and cat lady haters gonna hate. I will snuggle with my girl and shake ’em off.

          • Yeees. I watch way too much My Cat From Hell and concoct all kinds of shelving-and-furniture arrangements to give my cat access to lots of territory to safely climb and explore. She pounces on my head when my morning alarm goes off because she wants me to feed her. It’s a happy, reciprocal relationship, which is more than some douchebags offer.

      • bostoncandylady said:

        “but if I don’t stay in a relationship with you, I worry you’re never going to find anyone else and be one of those old women in a room with lots of cats.”

        You know when I was the loneliest? The loneliest I’ve ever been in my whole life, like crying with my hand on my aching chest lonely? It was when I was married, and still living with my husband, who didn’t love me anymore.

        Now I live with two cats, two dogs, and three women friends in a house that is full of hugs and home-cooked food and music, and I would not go back to my ex for a million bucks. And I think at this point my standard for a cohabiting relationship would be much higher, because it wouldn’t have to just be better than living alone… it would have to be better than living with awesome friends who care about me.

        • bostoncandylady said:

          (And always compliment my cooking.)

        • Yeah. I have been living alone since not long after my husband died (currently have a roommate, not thrilled, don’t get me started) but the bar for cohabiting happiness is really high for me now that I’ve lived alone, because man do I love living alone.

  4. Just curious, why do you/does the Captain (not sure whether I’m addressing the Captain or the rest of the Awkward Army) get the feeling that the relationship happened at a distance? I reread the letter and it made sense to me as a local relationship (though it also makes sense as a long-distance relationship, I just have no idea).

    Totally agree with all the advice btw.

    • JenniferP said:

      “Two dates in two years” gave me that impression, though I could be wrong.

      • When I was dating as a youth there was a lot of “Hanging out” and not a lot of things I would actually count as an actual date. (No, you downloading sound files onto my computer while I read nearby is not a date.) So that could also be what the LW means.

        • mossyone said:

          That’s what I think too, because of the part where the LW had to initiate the date, like the problem was that LW’s partner didn’t want to rather than logistics like distance. Though it could also be that it’s sort of long distance, like an hour’s train ride away, not Long Distance long distance. I’ve been in a few of the hour train ride away ones and even though they should in theory be more manageable than Long Distance, you really FEEL that distance. Especially when you’re a kid with no money for train fares.

          • MadDissector said:

            LW’s comment about two dates in two years didn’t seem so far-fetched for me and I didn’t assume that it was a long-distance relationship. I have been together with My Scotsman for two years and we have never – really, never – had a proper date. Sometimes, we come to joke about it. He says that I was very easy to accommodate in that sense, as I never asked/demanded one. I am conscious, though, that our lack of dating has a lot to do with the fact that we began sharing spaces really soon, and the need for proper dates blurred as we were already sharing meals and movies. I understand, however, that if they were not living together it is a bit more strange.

        • minuteye said:

          That was kinda my thinking also. Particularly the LW commenting that they’re “young” suggests high school or college to me; and in both of those situations you get a lot of people hanging around together who are theoretically dating but don’t go out on dates, per se.

  5. When I was reading the letter I was like “NOOO you have not made a mistake, ’emotionally unavailable Nazi’ is a category of person you should never feel bad about breaking up with” and then I saw that was the Captain’s starting point too! Fist bump!

    It is possible to love people who have horrible beliefs and/or do horrible things,and your next partner doesn’t have to be a Perfect Social Justice Snowflake who never does, says, or feels anything oppressive or wrong, but…no Nazis should be a hard limit, I think.

    Signed, someone who is related to both actual historical Nazis AND extremely conservative Republicans

    • paddlepickle said:

      I mean. . .NAZI. THERE IS NO OK LEVEL OF NAZI. THERE IS NO OK TYPE OF NAZI. “More into the German Nationalism and never hated anyone” sounds a lot like how the KKK is open to black people and Catholics.

      • Linden said:

        “Come for the German Nationalism, stay for the kooky death camps!”

        • Mercutia said:

          *DRINKSPEW*

        • Oh that’s beautiful

      • I am pretty certain that it is possible to be German and into your cuture/heritage/national politics without being a Nazi. Like, I understand that much of the population of Germany manages it.

        • Goat Lady said:

          I am also pretty sure those people don’t go around identifying as Nazis.

          • I’m just so stuck on it because when the LW’s ex chose to identify as a Nazi they knew that other people would respond like this! And were okay with it! AND CHOSE IT ANYWAY! They WANTED to give out the impression, “Hey, I think racism and genocide are A-OK”!

          • Xenophile said:

            If it were about loving German culture, they could express love for expressions of German culture, like its filmmakers, scientists, authors, food, beer, etc., without ever using the word “Nazi.” Like, it’s totally possible to say, “I just saw a great Fassbinder movie and finally got around to finishing Faust. I’m going to start a biography of Hans Geiger next. Wanna go out for wurst and beer?” without ever feeling compelled to say, “Eh, Nazis weren’t so bad.” There’s a wide range of cultural expression that doesn’t involve condoning genocide.

        • olives said:

          My understanding is that most Germans are actually quite leery of being particularly patriotic, for exactly the fear of German patriotism having historically horrid associations. So, I am actually not quite certain that much of the population of Germany actually manages being anything that might be described as “nationalist” without being a Nazi.

          Especially because there are indeed still people who do, actively, identify as Nazis. If anything, the topic is even more a social issue within Germany than outside of it.

          • That is my impression also and I’m actually extremely down with that. I think patriotism is innately kind of creepy and you can like your country without necessarily thinking there’s something particularly good about being from there because that in itself compares other people and countries and finds them lacking, which seems to have zero positive applications.

            Note: from NZ, there are things I’m proud of and things I’m not and I am very much not in favour of patriotism here either.

            /of course there are definitions of patriotism that are more about working to make your country a good place to live but I can’t see how patriotism can really be separated from “we’re better”.

          • Myrin said:

            As a German, yeah, you’re absolutely right.

            For the longest time, people were super afraid to even say things like “I love living in Germany” or something similar for fear of being called a Nazi (which is not a good attitude either if you ask me; I agree with hrovitnir above me re: the creepiness of patriotism in general, but I think it’s fine to like German culture and German language and being German, all things I wouldn’t call “patriotism” but which has been frowned upon by many people regardless). There was a real palpable shift in that attitude with 2006’s football world championship which was held here where football fans from all over were excited about how friendly and welcoming the Germans were (this might seem like something super minor to outsiders but it was remarked upon repeatedly during that time how many people suddenly realised “Hey, I’m not a Nazi if I want my football team to win.”).

            And we’re dealing with exactly the So, I am actually not quite certain that much of the population of Germany actually manages being anything that might be described as “nationalist” without being a Nazi. situation right now, actually. There are some pretty islamophobic/xenophobic (is that the word? We’re talking about refugees from Africa and Eastern Europe) movements going on at the moment, members of which are very adamant about not being Nazis but merely “German citizens” or whatever. Might be that some don’t intend to come across as they do, might be that some of them have valid critical thoughts about how our government deals with things, but it certainly doesn’t show and this is absolutely not the way to go about that. Thankfully politicians, the media, as well as the general population aren’t willing to put up with that kind of behaviour at all (there was a demonstration in the city my uni is with 1,200 or so members of these New Age Nazis and 20,000 counter-protestors).

            So yeah, I’d always err on the side of appreciating things about my country (and I do! A lot! Heck, I’m getting my master’s in German Studies!) rather than even think about anything “nationalist”.

          • Then there’s the English model of patriotism, which is to privately believe that of course your country is the best one in the world but you’re not going to say so out loud, because anyone crass enough to express such a sentiment in public must be overcompensating for some feeling of insecurity about it.

          • crooked bird said:

            @ myrin: Wow, that’s heavy. I hate nationalism too, but being afraid to talk about how much you *enjoy* your country and culture would just be so… heavy. I’m glad that shifted. There’s a lot to love about Germany.

          • slfisher said:

            Reminds me of the time that my family went to an Oktoberfest thing in the park and some skinheads showed up and my German-heritage mom had to be forcibly stopped from stomping over there and giving them a piece of her mind.

        • olives said:

          Grumbles, my comment might be stuck in moderation and might have given as tithing to the gods of spam, but: even in Germany, it is definitely not easy to be into being German without being a Nazi. My understanding is it’s just as active a social issue there than here, if not more so.

          • olives said:

            Ah, where here = USA. Apologies for the US centrism.

          • Myrin said:

            I’d say it’s actually pretty easy to be into being German without being a Nazi. I’d actually say most Germans are generally into being German. It’s the extent that matters – you can love being German and still not condone racism and islamophobia and thelike. I understand from your longer comment above that this is probably not what you meant but I wanted to reiterate it. (Also, “Nazi” is such a vile insult, an outsider probably can’t comprehend that. The first time I read something with someone on the internet calling someone else a “grammar nazi”, I was utterly shocked. Same with “feminazi”, although I find that one particularly horrible.)

          • olives said:

            Thanks very much for the clarifications, Myrin – you are right that this smaller comment didn’t quite capture my point and even more so I defer to your expertise on being German. =)

        • Zweisatz said:

          German here. It’s a fine line? Like, I would expect people in Bavaria to be more into that traditional stuff without necessarily being a nazi. The more “traditional” and into heritage/culture people get, the more I put them on the right of the political spectrum though and IMO, that’s not a good place to be. And sentences like “I love Germany” are definitely weird to hear.

          • Mercy said:

            The more “traditional” the more right-tending is absolutely a thing here in Munich, the gay couple at the archery club who are way into Tracht notwithstanding.

            It was weird reading the LW say that her ex was a Nazi without all the hate, because over here, even lots of the people I absolutely consider neo-nazis (Republikaner and NPD, anyone?) and totally hateful totally try to deny the connection (because otherwise ==banned group).

            (USian Jew living in Munich here. Which gives me a weird-ass perspective on the whole Pegida thing (for those who don’t know, that’s the anti-immigrant hate marches that were referred to up-thread). Especially since I’m only mostly white)

          • Myrin said:

            I would take “culture” out of this, though. Maybe I’m misunderstanding you, but when I hear “culture”, I think of things like what Xenophile mentioned above, like food or literature or movies or music, stuff like that, investment in all of which I wouldn’t see as a sign of right-wingedness at all. Granted, I’m a Bavarian (funnily enough) getting my masters in German Studies so I might be biased as I’m surrounded by people who are way into German culture by profession. (I also can’t really speak to “more traditional” = “more right-tending”, but that’s because since my feminist awakening a few years ago I’ve kind of realised that everyone is horrible? Like, oh my god, can we not with all that borderline racist stuff wherever I work or get groceries or ride the train? I’m exaggerating, of course, but the truly decent people are few and far between it seems.)

      • Anisoptera said:

        Yeah, so my Grandfather literally fought in the German army in WWII, (because he was Estonian and 16 years old and the Russians took his father out and shot him and the Germans were fighting the Russians and not especially hostile to Estonians) and Nazi was never, ever a label he used for himself. Even though he was literally a soldier in the Nazi army. I think Nazi, no matter what you think about German national pride, is a term so utterly tainted by all the *bloody genocide* that no one can own that term without also condoning the whole genocide thing. Like MRA or [term that involves the word game and a watergate reference which I won’t speak because I don’t want to summon them] only a thousand times worse because actual literal Nazis. Seriously.

        • Tessellation said:

          Saying the term Nazi has been “tainted” presumes that the party was at one time not so bad. This is incorrect. The party was thoroughly monstrous from the very beginning: virulent antisemitism and racism were some if its founding principles. Saying the term “Nazi” has been tainted is like saying the term “Klansman” has been tainted.

          Any person who calls themself a Nazi while claiming not to be racist or antisemitic is either ignorant or lying.

          • Katie said:

            THIS.

          • Anisoptera said:

            I at no point meant to imply that they were never terrible. They were always utterly terrible.

            By “tainted” I mean that you don’t get to fish out some non-terrible stuff they did (there of course was some because it’s difficult to be 100% evil 100% of the time) and say you’re claiming the word for that non horrible stuff. It is utterly and always associated with the horrible stuff, no matter how much you like the fact that they knew smoking gives you cancer well before it was publicised elsewhere (or whatever).

            And of course if the non-evil thing you’re clinging to is “german national pride” then you’re on ice so thin it’s not so much ice as the surface tension of the water.

          • Tessellation said:

            @Anisoptera
            Oh, I see. Example: The Nazis built the Autobahn, but that’s no excuse for embracing National Socialism.
            Sorry for jumping on you. I was just taken aback/confused by your wording.

          • Or both. And yes. “Tainted”? Wtf.

          • Anisoptera said:

            Tainted by, as in associated with, linked with etc. in a bad way. Nazism is always and forever strongly linked with the awful ideology of the Nazi party of mid century Germany and the appalling actions of those people. I think perhaps we have run into different ways of using language? Anyway, my point is, Nazis = very bad no matter how you try to explain or sell it.

    • Labyrinth said:

      I think I can see how this could happen…

      1. Among teenagers and young people it’s common to have “a thing”, “a style” or to be part of a subculture. I’m 26. In my teens, people could be for example punkrockers, goths or metalheads. They could identify with different ideologies or politics – anarchists and satanists were most common among my friends (and a few feminists – and we were all nerds). But the people identifying as anarchists weren’t ACTUALLY trying to overthrow the government or change society. That didn’t mean they were poseurs, it’s just that being politically active wasn’t a necessary part of identifying with an ideology. It was more like a shortcut to describing what kind of person you were. So, an anarchist didn’t like being told what to do, a satanist didn’t feel like the world was inherently good and punkrockers liked to raise hell and have fun.

      So, I can see a teenager or maaayyyybe a person in their early twenties decide that they are “a German nationalist, like the nazis but not like NAZI nazi” based on stuff like: dressing sharp, parting their hair on the side, trying to act restrained and disciplined, thinking that toughness and strength is important, enjoying the German language or culture (like opera vikings, classical music and things like that), enjoying fitting into a hierarchy, being organised, likes being traditional and so on.

      After all, these values are a huge part of Nazi ideology, and this is how Nazis in movies act. They’re often portrayed as being very cool (if you think these things are cool), when they’re not sending people to concentration camps. So if you just like the non-racism and non-genocide parts, you can keep the good parts of Nazism, right? And communicate this by saying “oh I’m not a Nazi I’m just a German nationalist”? I can see how that sounds logical to a certain kind of teenager who doesn’t realise why “fascism” is supposed to be BAD. What’s so bad about wanting to be strong, tough and hard? Everyone’s entitled to be who they want, right? As long as you’re not prejudiced against people of other races, there’s nothing wrong with this, right? I can see why people would believe that. Historically and among adults, ideologies work in a totally different way (they’re not identities, they’re real opinions), but that may not be true in the world of this “German nationalist”.

      2. The Letter Writer may have noticed this too – that many young people actually don’t agree with the politics they identify with, they just use it as a label to communicate things they think other people should know about their personality. So s/he might interpret the German nationalist differently than an older person would. That doesn’t make the LW wrong. It could be a kind of cultural difference between very young people and adults.

      So, LW, you don’t have to feel bad for falling in love with this person. That doesn’t mean you support Nazism. It doesn’t mean you’re stupid or gullible, either. Your EX is really gullible if they believe that it’s possible to “be” a “German nationalist” (is this person even German?) and not having it mean anything bad, but that’s on them, not you. They will either actually become a Nazi, or regret this incredibly much in just a few years.

      I ALSO think that younger people are generally very forgiving, possibly because they were kids not a very long time ago? If you’re very young and have a bit of self-insight, you KNOW you fuck up a lot, all the time. You know what making huge mistakes feels like, you vividly remember how clueless you were just a year ago, you get told you’re wrong all the time, most of your own fuckups are born from sheer cluelessness and you want to be forgiven. So a reasonable, empathetic young person will forgive many many things that an adult wouldn’t, because a very young person is more likely to think “yes, it IS possible to be that clueless, they probably COULDN’T help it, how were they supposed to know” – even if the person who makes the “mistake” is an adult (I have this theory that this is a component of statutory rape sometimes).

      So, me at 26 would never consider dating someone who identifies as a “German nationalist”. I date people of my own age, and I expect them to know that words mean things and that seemingly innocent values (like admiring toughness, patriotism and tradition) can have horrible consequences. But at 15, I could maybe have been convinced that the other person genuinely did not know that admiring Nazis is wrong even if you take out the racism, even if I myself didn’t agree – because I’d know that many 15-year-olds actually WOULD make a mistake like that. At 15, I may have empathised, thinking that I could have been fooled too.

      • Myrin said:

        You make some really great points here but let me tell you that I let loose an unvoluntary laugh at “parting their hair on the side” – I don’t know if the same is true in the US, but in Germany of the 1930s and 40s, undercuts for young boys were all the rage. Which is why that hairstyle is often associated with both that time period but (naturally) also the Third Reich. As far as I’m aware, it wasn’t a particular Nazi haircut but more like the haircut that was The Thing at that time and that makes them feel connected to the Nazi period. I feel like young teenagers – who I see sporting these haircuts most often – with grandparents that lived after that time don’t automatically make that connection, but older people definitely do (at least where I am). And a few weeks ago, a patron at the gym I work at was very flustered when he let the hairdresser go wild (since he didn’t have a specific cut in mind) and what came out made him lament that he looked like he was part of the Hitlerjugend (the youth group all young boys were obliged to attend under Hitler’s rule). Obviously the hairdresser had only intended to give him a fashionable haircut but he was very distressted by it and immediately styled his hair differently as soon as it had re-grown enough.

        • Labyrinth said:

          Haha, yeah, a similar thing happened to me when I was like 17. I had an extremely cool undercut and liked to wear big boots and strict shirts. Basically my look was “evil boyscout” (I’m cis female), but I hadn’t planned it that way – the undercut was synth-inspired and a way to have shorter hair but not shave it all off, the boots actually were my old scout boots and the men’s shirts happened because I’m androgynous (I didn’t mind looking a liiittle bit intimidating either, as a weak, skinny teenage girl). Got a glance of my mirror image in the window on the underground and discovered that I accidentally looked like a Hitlerjugend member. The sidecut/undercut on an otherwise shaved head really sealed the deal – hello neo-Nazi.

          I decided to scrap that haircut.

          • Commander Banana said:

            Gah! I ended up with a BASH (Bay Area Skin Head) or ‘skinbyrd’ Chelsea cut BY ACCIDENT. (That’s the girl skinhead haircut of buzzed hair with a thick fringe in the front, also sometimes has longer hair at the edges, almost like a monk’s tonsure gone wrong.)

            I had always had short hair with bangs and had a bleaching accident so had to buzz my hair, and my mom was like, oh, just keep the bangs so that it looks a little more feminine.

            Absolutely had no idea it was associated with that kind of thing and was horrified when I saw pictures. I hadn’t lived in the US that long and knew nothing about American skinheads.

          • Xenophile said:

            The first time I ever watched “My Drunk Kitchen,” I thought, “Oh, look, I have the same haircut as Hannah Hart. I guess it’s the price of entry to the Gay Girls Club or something.” A bottle of wine later, she said, “I just realized I have the same haircut as Hitler. I look like a blond Hitler.” And that’s when I started to consider growing out my own hair.

      • With this letter, I can’t stop thinking about the (young, queer, and IIRC genderqueer) person who followed me on tumblr probably 2+ years ago. Their blog title was “nazi buzzcuts.” I sent them an ask along the lines of “so, I’m Jewish, your blog title is creeping me out, could you explain?” They never wrote me back but they did change it and unfollow me.

        Pretty good outcome, all things considered. I’m willing to believe that they were young and didn’t realize how terrible it was. But to this day I wonder whether they were just embarrassed about making me uncomfortable or if they realized that you can’t separate the “aesthetic” from the politics, even if you’re not doing it in front of a Jew/Rroma/etc.

        (@Myrin, that’s a fun horrifying fact I didn’t know. :S As a (queer) Jew who lives in the US and has an undercut… I’m going to have to think more about that one. In the US and among younger people, it may be sufficiently divorced from that context. But I get a bit tense around white people who are really into Vikings, despite a similar remove from the white supremacist context, so I don’t know.)

        • Myrin said:

          Ugh, that blog title would have given me pause, too. Slightly different scenario but I have one follower on tumblr who, from what little I’ve seen of her blog, seems to be a bit into… romanticising suicide? I don’t interact with her and she also never likes or reblogs anything of mine (in fact, I have actually forgotten she exists until I saw your comment) and I thankfully don’t have any triggers or similar in regards to suicide but it nevertheless made me quite uncomfortable.

          As for the undercut thing, I hope my little story didn’t make you dislike your haircut! As I said, to my knowledge that hairstyle didn’t have any connection to Nazism in general, it just was the common haircut at that time. I also want to note that it isn’t exactly what I used to think of when I heard “undercut” – I always thought an undercut is the thing with the shaved underside/bottom half of your head (sometimes only on one side) and the top hair noticeably longer, like this. It could be that I just always had this wrong image of an undercut but that’s how I’ve been using the expression for years. This hairstyle my grandfather sported – and that, as I said, apparently became very fashionable again last year – has the top hair almost exactly as short as the bottom hair. I mean, you can see that it’s slightly longer but almost negligibly so. So depending of what kind of undercut you wear, it might be reminiscent of the Nazi time (my second example) or not at all (first example).

  6. Just Plain Neddy said:

    So sorry that you’re in pain LW but lemme tell me one of the things that tells me they you’ve made the right decision. I’ve heard people say “I know that this relationship isn’t great but this person is the only one who could possibly put up with me and appreciate my particular weirdness” and the fact is that they are always wrong about that. Always. Without exception. No matter how convinced they are of it. And more often than not that message itself has come from the partner, who wants them to think that. That might be true in your case. I’ve heard it from smart, wonderful, attractive people who’ve got so used to hearing that they’re weird (and hence unloveable) that they’ve come to believe it. They leave the relationship feeling bleak, knowing it was the right thing to do but convinced that they will never find anyone else, and they’ve been stunned to find that there’s a world of compatible people out there and there always has been.

    If you learn that who you are and the things that you like and the personality that you have are what makes you loveable, rather than unloveable, and that the world out there is full of people who will appreciate you, then that is a really important and valuable thing. And if you learn it early rather than later, that is fantastic. Because “nobody else will love me” is the mantra of abused people everywhere, at all ages. I’m still sorry that you’re hurting, and you probably need to take some time to eat ice cream and cry. But I do genuinely believe that you will eventually see ending this relationship as one of the smartest, healthiest things you’ve done.

    • olives said:

      A sad “here here” from someone who’s definitely been there, heard that. Sigh.

    • … What if the “no one could put up with my weirdness” comes from other people? Like friends, family? I also have moments of “no one else could put up with me and appreciate my weirdness” but that’s reinforced by the fact that pretty much everyone around me agrees with me. My mother frequently says I’m ‘exhausting.’ (Emotionally, I guess? Not a emotional vampire, I’m exhausting when I’m happy as well; I have a lot of energy?) When singles, friends are kind of at a loss to set me up with someone, because…. well, I’m weird. I’m opinionated and talkative and kinda argumentative and intense and rather physically unattractive. In other words I have many qualities that are seen as negative, with very few positive qualities.

      So… maybe I’m the exception to the rule? If even your friends can barely stand you, then the whole “This partner is the only one who would tolerate me” is probably right, yeah?

      • olives said:

        No. Still no. It’s hard to argue with this when the messages are coming from all around you and I don’t have better context to use, but no. You are definitely not doomed to people who will only tolerate you all your life.

        I find that often times for people who feel like this, there’s part of it that’s reflecting back at the world the messages it’s sending at you. And it comes out making you sound like you’re fundamentally wrong and broken and you’re not, you never are. Are there very specific things that are bothering specific people who otherwise care about you? If so, you could revisit how you do those particular things.

        But it is never that all your instincts are wrong. It is never that you have too many opinions to live. It is not that your feelings have never been felt by anyone else before.

        It is so often that you have to be so intense and opinionated because you haven’t yet found a way to feel comfortable and accepted, and so it’s a defiant subconscious insistence that I AM HERE, I think like this, I exist, even though people tell you you aren’t supposed to be this way.

        Everyone needs love, everyone needs acceptance, everyone can find a place to call their own – even you. I am so sorry that you haven’t found your People yet. But you are just not the only intense lonely opinionated energetic soul out there. Really.

        I am just a stranger on the internet, and I cannot fix how you’ve been told you should feel about yourself. But I do want to say very clearly that there is a bigger world and someone who might find you and all your particulars lovable.

        • olives said:

          And a last point, because I think it’s necessary:

          “I’m opinionated and talkative and kinda argumentative and intense and rather physically unattractive.”

          There is somebody who finds your opinions fascinating, your talkativeness enlightening, your arguments inspiring; who finds your intensity energizing and your particular physique exquisite and endearing.

          Part of what it means to be human is to find life and love in an incredible diversity of qualities. Move through the world like there’s someone out there who might be fond of the very idea of you, like you are a person worthy of being held in high regard, and you will make it so much easier for those people to find you.

          Sometimes life doesn’t deal you a great hand from the beginning. I wish you the best in finding your cards.

          • Commander Banana said:

            Beautifully put. You will be the chocolate in someone’s peanut butter, the cookie to their milk, the Rocky to their Bullwinkle. I remember being really confused the first time I met someone who was super attracted to me, because I had always thought I was so bizarre looking. It took a while to get my head around that fact that my “bizarre” was their “super hot (to them).”

      • JenniferP said:

        Marty, I think you might have a “surrounded by people who undervalue you” problem rather than a “you are inherently wanting” problem. Maybe take some of your exuberance into meeting more/new people and finding people who share some of your “weird” interests?

      • wordiest said:

        I’ve been in a situation somewhat like that. My family wasn’t unsupportive, but most of the people around me were. And I am also opinionated and argumentative (my family actively enjoys enthusiastic arguments that aren’t fights, which really aren’t to everyone’s tastes and I also grew up as a huge pedant). And… there are people who like that. I still find arguments, as long as nobody is treating it as a fight, to be fun. I like the involvement of it. Most people think I’m weird, it just varies whether they view that in a good or a bad way. And like others said, I needed to find my people.

        I did also need to work on social skills. The tough thing is, when you grow up in a very negative environment, where you’re expecting most people to respond to you negatively, you learn a lot of habits that help you deal with that. That’s useful and good, but those habits are also generally harmful for making healthy friends. So, I did have to spend a bunch of time unlearning bad habits and learning new social skills, and I had to do it older than most people do. But social skills are things you can learn. You aren’t just where you are now forever, and if your social skills suck you are doomed. No, you can work on getting along with people better, but you also need to find people worth getting along with. So, I’d take a twofold approach, look for people who like your weirdness and also try to learn better ways of being a good friend. A therapist could probably help with this, because it’s tough when you don’t know what healthy and normal look like. You don’t need to be normal, but knowing what normal is helps you to find the good bits of it worth adopting while keeping your weirdness. It’s like the rule about how you should learn the general rules of good writing before breaking them. Once you understand the social rules, you can better choose how you actually want to act.

        But you are definitely not doomed to being alone and unloved. And letting yourself be mistreated more is likely just going to make it harder for you to develop good people skills and find good people who value you for who you are.

      • No. If everyone thinks you’re weird (by the way everyone did and does think I am weird), you might be weird (I am).

        But weird isn’t the same as unlovable or unloving.

        Weird isn’t even necessarily special. Weird is just … weird.

        Like tall is tall.

        Assuming that you’re kind and interested in stuff, weird is just a characteristic.

  7. lizinthelibrary said:

    You say you are young and someone told me this when I was young and I didn’t fully understand it, but now I’m going to be the old who tells you. Your first break up is the hardest. Leaving your first love is the hardest. Not because other loves hurt less when they end, but because you have a frame of reference. When you end your first love, it is easy to believe you will never love/be loved again because you have only been loved once. You have only this one person as proof that you can love and be loved. (I might argue that your partner said they loved you but didn’t show it but that’s a different point.)

    When a second/third/nth love ends, it hurts and you mourn, but some part deep within you knows the mourning will end and you will find love again because you’ve done it before. You don’t know that the first time. You don’t have any experience and you can’t see it. This doesn’t mean the hurt is less real (it’s very real! it hurts so bad!) but because it is the first hurt of that, you don’t always have the perspective to see it. That is why people tend to stretch out first relationships for longer than they should or go back to them when they shouldn’t it. Because this is all they know of love and so this must be what I can have/will ever have/must hold onto with all my might.

    You say you are young so you are probably in school so let me make an analogy. When I was in high school and overwhelmed with projects/tests/deadlines I would feel SO BUSY and think there was no way I could pull it all off. But I always did. Eventually (by grad school) I would hit finals/14 papers due super stress time and freak out, then I would remember while it seemed like too much I had done it in the past so I could do it this time.

    Heartbreak is hard, but you can survive it. And once you know you can survive it, you can survive it again (if needed! fingers crossed it isn’t!). The more you survive, the stronger you know you are, the more you have confidence in your ability to survive again.

    • AthenaC said:

      “Not because other loves hurt less when they end, but because you have a frame of reference.”

      Yes. This is exactly how it works.

      • RadKind said:

        +1 You still feel like you’ll never love again, but at least you know that you can.

    • Boys (and girls) are like buses: wait 15 minutes and there will be another one. 🙂 I’m 39 and after my last long-term relationship came to a point of cessation I said that to myself through a lot of short relationships and long periods of being single. You might not always want to get on, but there will definitely be more. And they might be the sort with the decent upholstery and no lingering fog of Axe body spray!

    • Eureka said:

      Boosting signal!

    • I really, really wish this advice had come to me when I was younger. Spot on.

  8. Esti said:

    While the Captain is 100% right about the Geek Fallacy and how many, many people themselves are into, or love someone who is into, all kinds of “weird” hobbies and interests, I just want to say that EVEN IF this was the only person in the entire world who will ever love you (and it’s really, really not, but even if) that isn’t a good reason to get back together. There are worse things than being alone. Like being in a secret relationship with a Nazi who treats you badly.

    • Jane said:

      Yeah, I say with confidence: If literally your only possible choice is dying alone in a cabin in the mountain with a pet gopher and forty individual outfits you have knitted for the gopher from the wool of bighorn sheep that you have to spend months tracking through constant drizzle to shear with your gopher in a baby sling on your back vs. dating a Nazi, go for the rodent + handicrafts. Life is too big and wondrous to saddle yourself with someone who has chosen to align himself with a history of hatred and cruelty.

      • Or as I often say: dying alone with cats isn’t a tragic end, it’s a solid end-of-life plan.

        • bostoncandylady said:

          That’s amazing. May I steal that?

          • Hahah of course! You know if you have enough of them they will just dispose of your body, too!

  9. Oh LW. I feel you. I have usually been the person who initiated break ups. And it is so hard. I still remember the day I broke up with my first boyfriend. It had been the first day in a LONG time that we’d actually had fun together. We’d had an amazing time. But all the days/dates before that where I was bored and he didn’t notice, or he was making out with my friends without discussing it with me, were still real. So even though, I didn’t really want to, I felt like I had to, and I did and it sucked.

    So kudos for you for doing what needed to be done! But now you have to stick to your guns. You KNOW what is right for you, you do, or you wouldn’t have ended things. Ultimately, the only people who can really know about how a relationship is going are the people in it. And it wasn’t what you needed. What everyone else thinks about your choice is irrelevant.

    In fact, after I broke up with my high school boyfriend my mother was crushed. But I still think it was the right thing to do. He was actually a great guy, but I didn’t have the communication skills and confidence to make our relationship better than it was, and I wasn’t happy. So letting us both move on was the best option.

    In time, you may gain more perspective on why things didn’t work out with this guy. (Though, I’m gonna predict that you’re probably going to end up in the “he’s kindof a jerk” camp.)

    But it’s the kind of perspective you have to get from going out and living a life without him. Of being happy just being with yourself. You’ll get there.

  10. RodeoBob said:

    Letter Writer, I want to share with you a few things that have made my life much happier and much simpler:

    You’re grieving right now, and grief hurts, as the Captain says. Be mindful of what you’re grieving: you’re not grieving the loss of a person (they’re still quite alive!) you’re grieving the relationship, and large amounts of what we think of as a relationship exist inside our own minds. You’re grieving for a future you had imagined so vividly that you invested in it. You’re grieving for what you had hoped would be, what might have happened, what could have been, and now what never will be.

    I point this out because it’s important to recognize those hopes, those dreams, those imagined futures and dreamy possibilities, and separate them from the actual person involved. Because while your letter rings with those aching hopes for the future, it also sends up a few yellow flags about the other person as a partner. The things that were ‘worth it’, were they things that were real, actions taken, or were they feelings, hopes, thoughts of the future? Were they things that person said, or things they did?

    Keep hoping, keep dreaming, keep imagining a brighter future, Letter Writer, and let those dreams be about you and just you, or you and whatever unknown person you might find that fits.

    There’s something else I want you to consider, Letter Writer, and that’s how to keep score with other people as you move into adulthood. I mentioned that hopes and dreams and desires live inside our minds, which are spaces that no one else can ever truly see into or know. If I can never know what my romantic partner is thinking or feeling, how can I say that they love me? Because as an adult, in my relationships (romantic and otherwise) I keep score by what people do more than what they say. If someone says one thing, and does another, pay more attention to what they do. For example:

    “They would say that they loved me…” – something they said

    “they refused to even tell their family about me… they never could just spend time alone with me… [t]hey never asked about [my interests]” – these are things they did.

    You’re going to be lonely, Letter Writer. The cruelest thing is that the times when you feel most lonely are the times when you most need to be by yourself. Learning to be OK by yourself, be OK with yourself, being OK alone, will often lead to not being alone any more. Hang in there.

    • (Just wanted to tip my hat to this. Thank you.)

  11. duck-billed placelot said:

    Getting the heebie-jeebies from your partner is a really important thing that probably shouldn’t be happening outside of the context of a shared interest in performative horror storytelling. Listen, I know 50 Shades/pop-culture makes this whole big thing about how getting scared by/of your partner is a sexy good time, but it’s really abuse. You shouldn’t be creeped out by or afraid of your partner. LW, if you find yourself making mental excuses for why it’s really ok that your partner believes the (heinous) things they believe, try this script-flip: Would you be ok with someone who finds you/your political beliefs scary being your partner? Do you think that would tend to be a kind and loving and respectful relationship? For BOTH partners’ sakes, people shouldn’t date people they find scary.

    NB: Nazis are bad people and I don’t really care about their feelings, but, y’know, sometimes you gotta turn an idea around a few times till it’ll fit in your head.

    • “Sometimes you gotta turn an idea around a few times till it’ll fit in your head” — Just popping in the say how much I love this idea, and the turn of phrase. You’re awesome.

  12. thelittlepakeha said:

    The thing about hobbies is they’re so easy to change. You might meet someone who’s awesome but who’s never tried any of the things you like. And then they might try them because they like you and find they enjoy them. (They also might not, but if they like you enough to try them, hopefully they won’t be shitstains about not also liking the hobby.) Your hobbies should not be a reason that no one can ever love you, as long as your hobby is not taxidermying monkey-pony rocking horses and then capturing urchins to superglue to the monkey-pony so you can watch them flail, or something like that. (Especially if you use too many monkeys. Always a fatal error.)

    • minuteye said:

      Jonathan Coulton reference?

  13. LW, your letter breaks my heart. Please, please, be kind to yourself. Definitely give yourself the time and forgiveness to feel the hurt you feel, and miss the things about your ex that you miss. But also, hold strong in your heart that you made your decision to leave for reasons that are real, and important, and those reasons are still there.

    I also want to say that “liking weird things,” can be a positive trait even for people who don’t already like the things you do. One of the things I really enjoy about gaining someone new in my life is the ability to experience things I wouldn’t otherwise. And even when it’s not something I might normally enjoy on my own, being able to experience it WITH someone who loves it helps me see it in that light, and I love that.

    • cruelmistress said:

      I am in a relatively new relationship with someone wonderful, and we aren’t into a lot of the same things. But sometimes when I am talking about something I enjoy/am interested in, she will laugh and say “you are so strange and I love it!” and then we will kiss or tickle each other and laugh. And that level of joy is what you should be looking for, moving forward, even if you are the only person in your orbit who enjoys Polish folk dance or whatever you do. Don’t be ashamed by your weirdnesses; own them!

  14. AthenaC said:

    So first of all, kudos to you for having the presence of mind to realize that this relationship is not going to go anywhere good. As RadKind said, yes of course you could have done more, but the question is should you have done more? I think the answer is very clearly no. If a relationship requires the other person to change to be a good relationship, and they are not open to that kind of change(*) then there’s nothing to be done and you should walk away.

    I want to touch on GRF5 for a second – “We are the only members of our species.” I completely get how easy it is to fall into that trap – I mean, if you’re the type of person that has basically gotten used to not having much of anything in common with 99.9% of the people you meet, it’s only natural to cling for dear life to the one person that you do have things in common with Oh my gosh this is my last opportunity EVER to find someone who is different like me!

    I have two thoughts –

    1) The internet has been a huge boon to people outside the mainstream. There are more opportunities than ever to find someone that you have things in common with. If you’re not meeting these people in the normal course of your life, there are options to be proactive and put yourself in situations to meet and connect with more people with whom you have tastes and hobbies in common.

    2) Broaden your concept of what it means to be with someone that fits you. Maybe for you a successful relationship is being with someone with completely different tastes than you, but with whom you are both open to listening, learning, and exploring both each other’s passions and passions that you both discover together. I enjoy talking to people with different tastes than me – “Oooo that sounds interesting!” (even if it doesn’t) and “What do you like about it?” For me, the true test of whether I would enjoy talking with someone at length is if they have any thoughts on that question – “what do you like about it?” If they say something like, “Uh … I dunno, I just do,” then I’m not going to enjoy their company for very long. If, however, they say something more like, “I really love how BSG portrays the indomitable spirit of humanity even in the face of virtually certain death. The hope they cling to against impossible odds make each victory for the human race just feel so much sweeter. I also like the complexity and imperfection in the main characters, even as we see later on that some of those character traits that are weaknesses in some situations turn out to be indispensible strengths in other situations.” Now that is someone who thinks about things at a level I can talk with.

    (*)I’m talking about greater interpersonal awareness, developing listening skills, things of that nature. Not “change” like give up all your nearest and dearest hobbies.

  15. mossyone said:

    Re: Nazism- There’s a difference between hating people personally and obviously, and, y’know, wanting to affiliate with those who enacted one of the hugest and most hateful genocides in history. The effects of the holocaust and the Nazis are still around to this day, make no mistake about it. This isn’t like affiliating with William the Conqueror or something. What I’m trying to say is that someone can be super non-hateful to those around them and ALSO be hateful in their beliefs. It’s like ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’-style Christians who claim because they don’t hate gay people personally they can’t possibly do anything wrong when they contribute to their persecution as a group. Also, German Nationalism? I’m not German but my sister has spent time living there, and she told me that any kind of nationalism is suuuuper taboo in Germany. Because of Nazism. Saying you’re into German Nationalism is not a neutral thing. Tbh has nationalism in ANY Northern European country ever lead to good things? The German Nationalism thing sounds like an attempt to make believing in Nazism less horrible by calling it something else.

    I know it’s not you who is the German Nationalist, LW, so I’m sorry for dumping all that on you, but the way you talk about your ex-partner reminds me of how I used to be with a close friend of mine who I admired hugely in every way (and maaaay have had romantic feelings for, though he didn’t know). We used to have conversations like this. Him: I’m going to get a tattoo of an inverted cross on my arm. Me: Everyone will think you’re a Satanist. (he’s Catholic) Him: No they won’t! Because *long involved explanation about how inverted crosses actually mean something totally different and therefore everyone will know that it’s totally Christian despite the association with Satanism* Me: *not understanding the logic but just going with it*. My friend would also tell me sooooo many stories that now I’m not sure are true. He was in a band who did lots of live shows, but none of his friends from college could ever come and see them play because *reasons that I can’t remember because they made no sense* Some of his stories turned out to be internet urban legends. I look back and think ‘WHY did I respect and adore this person so much?’

    Also, about your worries that no one will like the same things as you- I have a theory that some people, especially the lovely geeky and nerdy people I always try and be around as much as possible, will love you because you are passionate about things even if they don’t like exactly the same things. When I met my best friend at uni, I was convinced no one would ever like me if they found out I was into wildlife and birdwatching. And I collect feathers and bones. My friend, who is not into those things, still likes to hear about them because they like my enthusiasm for these things. Just as I like that they are into computers and video games. You’d think those things would attract opposite types of people but really our enthusiasm and geekiness brought us together. We do have some shared interests (we’re both artists, though we have totally different styles) but we don’t have shared interests across the board. Like Commander Logic so wisely says, matching interests does not necessarily mean you’ll be great friends.

    This one sided relationship sounds like it has been very hard on you, I’m not surprised you are feeling a bit lonely and unlovable right now. But it will pass, and it will feel better once the emotional fallout from this relationship has died down. It is NOT fair for someone to be in a relationship with you and expect you to do all the giving and them to do all the taking. That’s what I think I’d call it when one person wants to talk about their interests ALL the time and leaves no room for yours, like you describe. I think you did the right thing. I think you will feel better without this person in your life. I know I felt better one I cut the inverted cross guy out of my life (did I mention he used to make fun of my clothes ALL the time? It took me ages after I cut it off to feel right with what I was wearing when it was something he wouldn’t like). All the love to you, LW. You will be ok. Best of luck finding Your People. Don’t forget the internet is perfect for meeting all your most geeky needs.

    Finally, Captain I love the cuddle your pets advice! I always cuddle my gerbils when I’m distressed. Sometimes I cry in their fur without meaning too which annoys them. ^^ I expect cats and dogs have more tolerance for cuddles. I sometimes wish I had a dog because I love when dogs just can’t get enough cuddles and belly scratches.

    • Anothermous said:

      Hi five for loving bird watching and bones! I once collected a dead squirrel out of my yard and put it in the freezer (to take the local natural history museum, of course), and forgot to tell my roommate about it. She had a bit of a scare when she went to get her ice cream…

      (In my defense, the squirrel was at least in a plastic bag.)

      • AthenaC said:

        Ha! That reminds me of a knock-down, drag-out fight I had with my mom because I put my AP Biology fruit flies in the freezer to preserve them until our project due date.

      • Goat Lady said:

        Mr Goat Lady opened a bag in the freezer once on rabbit harvest day and came face to face with a bunch of rabbit heads (the dogs love them).

        I am no longer allowed to store rabbit heads in bags from the grocery store.

        • Muddie Mae said:

          DEAD DOVE – DO NOT EAT

          • Cactus said:

            I don’t know what I was expecting…

      • Baytree said:

        I did that, except with an opossum. And my mom found it when the power went out and our freezer thawed….

      • Myrin said:

        I’m not much into bones (and what an interesting sentence to type that is) but I’m finding myself becoming increasingly interested in bird watching (I don’t know why I’m even surprised by that seeing how both my mum and grandfather are of the “being glued to the windows that offer a good view of the garden with binoculars” variety). I’m also super passionate about manuscripts (like this, I mean, not unpublished books) and although work with those is actually part of my studies there are only very few people even among my fellow masters students who are as into them as I am. Now imagine what a delight it was to meet a random classmate at a university event who got totally excited about manuscripts as well. I haven’t seen her again after that but it we had a fantastic conversation that warmed my heart.

      • I’m reminded of a coworker I had who was an archeologist. Her apartment was full of fossil samples from the dig she was doing, and she said, “I’m so excited for when my boyfriend and I can get a house of our own. He said I’m not allowed to collect organic samples until I have a separate roof to store them under.”

      • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

        I have a small collection of roadkill photos. On the basis that there probably will be a day when I really need such a picture. Decapitated rabbits, a dead rat on the pavement, the cloud of feathers in my garden… all lovingly photographed.

    • Xenophile said:

      “Also, German Nationalism? I’m not German but my sister has spent time living there, and she told me that any kind of nationalism is suuuuper taboo in Germany. Because of Nazism. Saying you’re into German Nationalism is not a neutral thing. Tbh has nationalism in ANY Northern European country ever lead to good things? The German Nationalism thing sounds like an attempt to make believing in Nazism less horrible by calling it something else.”

      This. I grew up in Austria, which has a slightly different relationship to nationalism and the Holocaust, but even there, it is illegal to say Nazi slogans and taboo to express Nazi sympathies in public. (Unfortunately, the far right manages to come up with new ones all the time, which makes caution around ethnic nationalism even more important!) German/Austrian/Bavarian heritage has plenty to celebrate without trying to ‘reclaim’ the Nazi party and its symbolism, and attempting to reclaim it will get you a side eye at best and a punch in the face at worst.

      Last year during the World Cup a former friend posted on my facebook wall, “Deutschland Ueber Alles!” At first I was shocked speechless, then asked if he knew the context of that phrase. He went on this condescending rant about how it doesn’t mean anything bad anymore, it’s just an expression of pride that “rings out through the bierhalle of Hamburg.” This asshole isn’t even German! If he were, he would know that Germans skip the first two verses of their national anthem because of that line, that Germans wince when they hear it. Up until that point, I had been avoiding this person for other reasons but it wasn’t until this particular incident that I was actually angry enough to block all forms of contact with him.

      tl;dr: LW, it hurts to lose your first love, but please believe me when I say that you have inherent value, you deserve to be happy and you can do better than a Nazi.

      • stellanor said:

        I don’t know if it’s just that I’m primed for it or if it’s the crushing irony of the internet but everyone’s randomly-generated geometric icons are looking really swastika-like to me today.

        • Scurvy said:

          I’ve actually noticed that/been bothered by it before, but figured as a Jew somewhat steeped in “Holocaust Judaism,” I might be predisposed to see swastikas in innocent designs. But I’ve actually considered suggesting that whatever algorithm is used to create these might be replaced or tweaked to not so often generate a symbol with four-sided symmetry and arms hooked at right angles….
          (Also, apparently after years of lurking, *this* is what my first comment is about??)

          • JenniferP said:

            If any WordPress.com expert can tell me how to easily change what the default image set is, I will change this in a heartbeat! They’ve moved a lot of things around in the dashboard recently and after an hour of looking I have not been able to do it.

          • Zweisatz said:

            Standard Settings > Discussion and then look for “standard avatar” way down. That’s the translation of my German non-pay version Dashboard.

          • JenniferP said:

            Got it! Yesterday that part of the page would not load/display for me. Thank you.

          • mossyone said:

            New icon pictures! We’re all monsters now. 😀

          • JenniferP said:

            Yes! As someone pointed out upthread, the other icons were starting to look Swastikesque, so we’ll try this for a bit.

      • slfisher said:

        We have a similar thing in the American South, where people like to fly Confederate flags and sing “I wish I were in Dixie” and just sort of ignore the whole part of that era that had to do with cruelly enslaving human beings.

        • JenniferP said:

          They aren’t ignoring, it, though. They are displaying active nostalgia for a time when people owned other people. They would all protest it’s not what they mean, but it IS what they mean.

          • HM said:

            YEP, THIS, from one person who lived in the South to another, this is yes absolutely what the subtext-rapidly-becoming-text is.

          • Commander Banana said:

            THANK you – this has always bothered me because I made friends with someone sort of on the edge of this friend group that is obsessed with the 1950s – as in, everyone wears 1950s vintage everything, fills their house with vintage stuff, rides around on 1950s bikes, etc. etc., and something about it vaguely grossed me out, and I finally realized that, oh, these people are nostalgic for a time (not just the aesthetics of a time, but a time) in our history that was horrible in so many ways.

            It is probably no coincidence that everyone in this particular group is white.

          • I can believe that kind of nostalgia is not in bad faith when it’s kids like my onetime camp counselor who was maybe 15 and who’d been taught in (Southern) school that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery. Not knowing didn’t stop it from potentially inflicting psychological terrorism on others, obviously.

            At a certain point you’re an adult, though, and are 100% responsible for embracing your pro-slavery history and symbols.

      • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

        “rings out through the bierhalle of Hamburg”

        I don’t know where he got his knowledge from, but not first or even second hand. The term ‘Bierhalle’ has a very specific historic connotation (and not a good one), but it is not a term used very often in German; as far as I can make out, places called ‘Bierhalle’ are situated outside of Germany (and please, if you want to name a German restaurant, don’t use a term that shouts ‘Third Reich’ from the rooftops).

        In any case, you’d expect to find such an institution in South Germany, not in the more reserved and not-mass-drinking North.

        • Xenophile said:

          Exactly! Maybe, I dunno, in Bavaria? Or an Oktoberfest he went to on vacation? German-style pubs are starting to become trendy in the NY area, where we live, and they tend to have names like “Black Forest Beer Hall,” so maybe that’s where he got the idea. In Austria we have wine halls called Heuriger, but they’re specifically for wine and are probably best translated as “tavern” or even “micro-winery.”

    • Kaz said:

      I’m not German but my sister has spent time living there, and she told me that any kind of nationalism is suuuuper taboo in Germany.

      I’m German and +infinity to this. Nationalism is super taboo in Germany because Nazis. Patriotism is kind of taboo in Germany because Nazis. I mean, we don’t really celebrate our own national holiday because that would mean celebrating Germany and that’s patriotic and we all know it’s a slippery slope from there to fascism and genocide, amirite? Same with displaying the German flag other than on government buildings, ships, or during football (last exception being relatively new). Let’s be honest here – saying you might, possibly, like Germany makes you suspect on its own.

      (seriously there was this thing during the World Cup a few years ago where suddenly everyone started displaying German flags in support of the team and I’d just come back to Germany for the summer holidays and ran into this *crowd* of people who were, like, wrapped in German flags at the train station and my first reaction was oh god I’m surrounded by neo-Nazis send help.)

      So I read “more into the German Nationalism” and went “so… Nazism, right?”

      And Germany has also had problems with rising far-right extremism in recent years which among others takes the form of neo-Nazism. Which means that in a modern German context, if you proclaim sympathy for Nazis you’re not just allying yourself with a relatively recent historical movement that was beyond horrific and where the grievous harm they did reverbates to this day, you’re also tying in with the current political situation in a very, very bad way.

        • Kaz said:

          That comic is hilarious and completely, utterly, 100% accurate.

        • Myrin said:

          OMG, I love this! (Also very interesting tidbits about flas usage in Scandinavian countries – I had no idea about any of those! How very interesting!)

      • xyz said:

        Another resident of Germany here to confirm the cultural context. You’re exactly right.

        I was actually wondering if LW lives in one of the towns where a lot of young people are into far right politics and it’s maybe hard to find friends who aren’t at least “rechtsoffen”.

      • Xenophile said:

        “And Germany has also had problems with rising far-right extremism in recent years which among others takes the form of neo-Nazism. Which means that in a modern German context, if you proclaim sympathy for Nazis you’re not just allying yourself with a relatively recent historical movement that was beyond horrific and where the grievous harm they did reverbates to this day, you’re also tying in with the current political situation in a very, very bad way.”

        Yes! There are some really scary far right movements gaining traction in Europe. Expressing Nazi sympathies or using a hashtag about a certain fascist dictator being ‘right’ isn’t edgy or an expression of solidarity: it’s explicitly advocating violence.

      • thegirlfrommarz said:

        (Apologies if this posts twice!)

        (seriously there was this thing during the World Cup a few years ago where suddenly everyone started displaying German flags in support of the team and I’d just come back to Germany for the summer holidays and ran into this *crowd* of people who were, like, wrapped in German flags at the train station and my first reaction was oh god I’m surrounded by neo-Nazis send help.)

        I’m British and have had a similarly discombobulating experience with the Union Jack. It used to be that anyone displaying a Union Jack flag was pretty much guaranteed to be at least a racist and often also a skinhead (thanks to the UK’s history of violent football hooliganism, which has made us so popular with other European nations /s), but now it’s on cushions and mugs and posters and bedding. It’s probably a legacy of the whole “Cool Britannia” thing in the late 90s, but it’s still very weird for someone who can remember the National Front (far-right white supremacists and racists, for those lucky enough not to know what ths NF is) marches in the 80s, which were pretty much the only places you ever saw a Union Jack outside of a state building.

        • studentnaturopath said:

          Oh wow its not just Australia? Here, it’s suggested anyone who celebrates Australia day on a beach, waves the flag or has a southern cross tattoo is racists. Often specifically against Muslims, since the Crondall a riots.

          It’s sadly relieving to hear it’s not just our backwards, bogan country but it’s also disheartening.

    • Anisoptera said:

      I have found that my various cats over the years tended to come and sit with me when I cry. They are actually social creatures who even show empathy to each other in the wild (well as wild as they get) – female cats help each other give birth for example. So I think they pick up on the body language. Dogs of course are absolutely there for you. 🙂

      • Jane said:

        The story of how cats essentially domesticated themselves in order to take advantage of human resources (that is, how our large stocks of food attract large stocks of kitty food, i.e. mice) is a fascinating one, and apparently the primary difference between their closest wild ancestor and the domestic cat is that domestic cats had to learn to tolerate other cats at close quarters and therefore have developed a variety of peace-keeping behaviors that wild cats of similar size do not exhibit. (There is a great post here about the wonderful intricacies of the domestic cat: http://koryos.tumblr.com/post/57769837146/cats-lets-talk-about-housecats-and-how-fucking) Domestic cats also retain many kitten-like behaviors, probably specifically to appeal to humans so we can collaborate in our mutual goal of Having Much Food and Being Happy About It.

        Also apparently there have been studies to prove that cats become attached to specific people, so, yay! Science says your kitty loves you! (okay science doesn’t say that exactly, because WHAT IS LOVE, but your kitty definitely prefers you.)

        • Commander Banana said:

          This is fascinating! Honestly I sometimes feel like the way I experience ‘love’ is more like this – I get really confused when someone asks me why I like or love someone else, like there’s an intrinsic quality to that person I’m supposed to be responding to. I love them because they feed me! Because I feel happy and safe around them! Because they’re warm!

    • uuuuuuuuuuuh said:

      The same thing with the inverted cross happens occasionally with the Pope sitting on a chair with one, leading to much explanation about St. Peter it being a symbol of humility in internet comments(which makes me perplexed; if your person was catholic one would expect them to know about that). And definitely agreed about people liking being invested in shared interests-my general theory is that interesting people have a way of getting other people interested in their hobbies/interests.

  16. My dearest, dearest LW. You sound like a lovely, charming, caring person who is not a Nazi, and as such, on your list of “people not to date”, Nazis should likely be at the top of the list. Sadly, there are a lot of Nazis out there: let them love one another, and leave you out of it.

    First relationships are always fraught with a lot of “HOW DO I PEOPLE OF THE APPROPRIATE SEX/ES” and the end of it is guaranteed to be at the very least miserably awkward, and often just plain miserable. Your fraught family environment likely amplifies this (I know mine did!). This is normal. Revel in the normality of your reaction: you are appropriately peopling for this point in your life.

    I am a reasonably geeky person, and in my approach to dating I like to find people that I click and have chemistry with, and I don’t worry about the whole shared interests thing, because it’s literally not important to me. If you respect and care about one another, shared things will occur, and be more delightful for the discovery. My boyfriend and I like different music, have different hobbies, studied different things at university, and get along like a house on fire. Spending time with him is a joy, he makes me laugh, we always have something to talk about. I’ve known a lot of people who shared my interests, and dated some of them. Obviously that never worked out. 🙂 I’m not saying you have to take my tack here, just that dating people who get you doesn’t necessarily mean dating people who do all the same things you do.

    You deserve better than a Nazi who makes you feel like you are a bother to them and not trying hard enough to appease a person who doesn’t really like you. Please take the Captain’s advice, especially about talking to a professional, if you can. People outside the situation tend to provide a really beneficial perspective.

  17. attica said:

    One of the things that my first love did for me was alert me to the possibility that there *were* people in the world who would love me! Before him, I thought I was too weird for real connection. When he showed interest, when he shared my interests, well, who knew?!? When we broke up, I took that experience forward: if there was one, there will be others.

    I’m still a pretty hard sell, truth be told. But that’s no reason to sell myself short!

  18. Kate Monster said:

    I love the list of recovery methods Captain Awkward listed, and I hope they help you through this time, LW.

    In case you read this with your jerkbrain turned on, I want to clarify something here. Captain Awkward said about your ex, “Of course your ex wants to get back with you, you are like the one person on earth who wasn’t like ‘LOL WHUT’ at everything about them, and their dating pool of people who would put up with them has now shrunk to zero people. That doesn’t make them YOUR soulmate, or your problem, though!” If I were reading this with beat-myself-up glasses on, I might say, “Aha! The Captain said my ex has only one person who’d tolerate them (me), so it’s possible to be in that situation! Therefore, she can’t say for sure that I’m not in that situation” But dear LW, even your ex will eventually find other people to date–especially once they understand themselves better.

    [Interlude as I try to understand your ex]

    Through high school, I tried on a lot of -isms, as did friends and other people. The ones I saw ranged from Satanism to environmentalism, from communism to anarchism. You can try on different identities and live them out in various ways, and sometimes the most abrasive, shocking identities are put on to provoke, or to give people a reason to stay away. The identity might be a preemptive keep out sign on your ex’s lonely club, and the -ism your ex chose works fantastically as people-repellent. Saying that they don’t actually hate people might be them trying to say, “But not really! YOU shouldn’t be scared away by my keep away sign.” (That’s in the best case scenario, that in 20 years the ex looks back on this affiliation with extreme embarrassment. Just as a certain English prince probably looks back and strongly regrets his choice of Halloween costume several years ago.)

    There is also a thrill to being in a world of ideas, not just explored in speculative fiction but also talking about them in real life. When I was in high school I did not understand well what was TRULY a big deal versus what was a senseless taboo, nor about the full implications of most political statements. For instance, extreme things I said in support of communism were not informed by the same reality of my friend who almost died from malnourishment in the communist dictatorship where she grew up, nor the reality of millions of other people who I have never met personally. With a wider knowledge of the world, I have learned–and can more viscerally empathize with–the consequences of many of these -isms.

    It feels weird to be considering the dating future of a wannabe Nazi, but there is hope out there even for them. I am assuming they are young, as you are, and they have the capacity to take stock of their life and change what they say and how they act and how they think. Nowhere in the letter did I get a feeling that change was imminent in them, and this is never a change someone else can induce in someone. (Though, perhaps your act of leaving will help give them a clue and challenge them to examine their behavior–much more so than your sticking around through that behavior ever could.) So, I’m not saying they’re a diamond in the rough whom you should run back to and polish: I’m saying that they’re fundamentally human, which means they’re probably flawed, but inherently worth something (even though this contravenes their professed -ism).

    [End interlude]

    You are worthy of love, LW, and you deserve to spend time with people who treat you respectfully. It sounds like that might be in short supply right now, between your father, your ex, and some of your friends, but that does not make it any less true. In the short term we don’t always have someone on call* who invests in us and supports us, but that does not mean we’re not worthy of being loved in that way. Please treat yourself with respect and love, and try to build a Team You that will respect and love you, too.

    *Though check out What to Expect When You Call a Helpline/Hotline: there actually are people out there who you CAN just call any time to support you.

    • twomoogles said:

      Yes, my first thought was that perhaps the ex was a high schooler (or just out of high school) looking to shock, and a lot of what you said resonates with me. In which case, honestly, the best thing the LW can do for this person IMO is to not date them. The more people who aren’t just ‘shocked’ and ‘disturbed’ by their try-on Nazism (if that’s what it is) but who actually won’t associate with them because of it, the better, in my opinion.

  19. wordiest said:

    Letter writer, you sound so much like me when I was younger. One of the first things that jumped out at me from your letter, as it did for many others, was:
    “And I don’t think I could ever really find anyone else who loved me and understood me like they did, since I’m very geeky and I have hobbies many people would consider weird. They were really the only person that I can ever imagine tolerating every part of me, and I don’t know what to do now that I broke it off.”

    I used to think that I had lucked out beyond belief to find my first boyfriend – someone I got along with, who cared about me, and I cared about him. I was geeky and weird. My peers would explicitly say things to me like, “Nobody is ever going to want to date you.” Every now and then I’d even have an adult telling me that I was undateable, although the advice given, to be less intelligent, was completely unreasonable. Throughout the decades of my life, having people call me weird and strange, even in geeky circles, has been a fairly regular thing.

    What I was wrong about was that there wouldn’t be a lot of good potential partners for me. My first boyfriend was actually quite a nice guy, and I’m glad I was lucky enough to be with someone who treated me fairly well for both of us having no relationship skills or experience, but we weren’t actually compatible. Sure, we were both geeky and cared about each other a lot, but we didn’t live together well and we were bad at working together to solve little problems, so they turned into big problems, which turned into both of us being happier breaking up and moving on. It was the right thing to do. And while it’s true that you don’t need huge amounts of interest overlap in a relationship, I’ve only dated geeky people, because my adult life mainly ran in geeky circles, so most of the people I meet are, at least, kind of geeky. It’s not that I only like geeks; it’s just that my life tends to cause me to meet more of them. It’s actually really awkward to go through a phase where you regularly meet people who are attracted to you and you have some decent compatibility with, but you are completely and utterly unused to such a situation and have no experience with handling it. I had that happen to me in my early adulthood, and I know someone going through this in his late thirties. I assure you, many people who take being unpopular and being regularly rejected will, at some point, find themselves with multiple options and be really confused and unprepared for it. Given your self-description, I’d give better odds on that happening to you than you never finding anyone better. You’ve only met a very tiny percentage of the people on this planet. You’ve almost certainly only met a tiny percentage of the people in your country. The statistical odds of you having met the person you are most compatible with is so vanishingly small. This is why meeting people is such a big part of finding a good partner. They’re out there, but most people will need to meet a lot of people to realize how good their options can be.

    Finally, about your feelings that you could have done more. Well, yeah, one could always have done more. But a better question is, “Should I have done more?” And I think you actually should have done less. I don’t think you should settle for a relationship with someone who doesn’t take a clear interest in you and shows signs of actively wanting to spend time with you. I think the really good bits of a relationship that make people in them want others to be in them, because they think they’ll be happier that way, are the bits about having someone you feel close and safe with. About having someone you know cares about you. It’s about having someone you can go to when you’re in a bad mood and say, “I’m having a terrible day and could use a hug” and know that they’ll give you a hug and hope tomorrow is better or similar sorts of things as suited to your preferences for bad days. It doesn’t sound like you had much of that, and I fully believe you can. Doing more would have done less to get you that, because you can’t push someone into caring about you or wanting to make time for you. That doesn’t go well. You need to find somebody who gets to know you and goes, “Wow, this person is so enjoyable to spend time with” that they want to do it, and you feel the same way about them. You deserve to be with someone you enjoy being with and who enjoys being with you, such that it’s the better option a lot of the time, so they choose to do it. You deserve to be with someone who values you for who you are, and you absolutely can find such people out there. I don’t know how long it will take you or how much effort you’ll need to put into meeting people, because that varies a lot from person to person, but I do believe you can do so much better that you will someday look back on this breakup and be so glad you’re not still with this person. I also know it can be hard, while you’re young and you doubt that and people around you are telling you you can’t have a good relationship, because I was there. But they were wrong about me, and I bet they are wrong about you.

  20. DF said:

    Sephiroth. Sephiroth is who you walked away from, which was a good call.

    When I was a small fish in a smaller pond, I always thought my geeky interests were something to be tolerated by my friends or a partner. But through the years, I’ve met loads of other fabulous geeks – some even geekier than me! – and I’ve always had someone to talk Final Fantasy or Hobbits or star gates. You will find a Cloud, you may just need to wait a little. In the meantime, please do not settle for supervillains-in-training.

  21. Joan of anon said:

    First loves are strange animals, LW, and you shouldn’t feel bad for these confusing feelings. My first love? I was convinced for years that we would be together forever, it was true love , she was ~the one~, with an incredible amount of emotional intensity behind it.

    Now? I see her maybe once a year when I catch up with old friends in my hometown. And the thing that amazes me, pretty much every time, is how little I have in common with this woman. That was true from only a year or two after we broke up. We grew up into very different people and now something is true that my younger self would never believe – if she expressed any interest in rekindling our relationship, I think I would just be confused. I would never consider it. Not because I don’t like her or because of any reasons really, just…no. Not interested.

    It’s really amazing how much your feelings can change over time, LW, though I know it’s really hard to see that when you’re in the middle of feeling them. People really do change so much, all the time.

    Please don’t worry about whether anyone will ever ‘get’ you, or share your interests etc. I have been in shitty relationships based on that feeling and I’ve seen friends and family do it too. 1. You will totally meet people who share your interests. Go google your interests right now and see how many people in the world are talking about them. It’s very unlikely that you’re alone in liking certain things. 2. So what if you are? You have a badass, passionate special interest in something incredibly specific and meaningful to you? That sounds cool as shit. I’m pretty sure you can find potential friends and partners who would be into how damn cool you are.

    take some time to be single. It’s important when you’re young. There’s so much pressure to define your worth by other people, whether other people love you or want you. Screw that. Spend some time on yourself and enjoy your agency and the endless possibilities of being single.

    Finally, if/when you do come to start dating again try to think of it like this: a date is an audition; it’s for someone to prove to you that they can bring positive things into your life. Really consider in the future whether someone meets your standards, and gift yourself with enough self-respect to be picky. Someone needs to be damn good to be worthy of your time.

  22. hhhhhhh said:

    Congratulations on getting away from a self-centred Nazi, OP. That isn’t even sarcasm, it’s good to be away from that.

    If it helps, maybe you could question why you consider your hobbies ‘tolerable’ but him being a Nazi got “oh but he’s not the bad kind of Nazi”. I suspect there was some manipulation going on if you consider “likes weird stuff” some sort of a low-selling point for relationships but he got a warmer reception for his…pretty glaring issue. Idk something feels off, I’m really suspecting he’s screwed up your self-esteem somewhere.

  23. zyronife said:

    “Yet, looking back, I can’t help but think that I didn’t do as much as I could have.”

    There will ALWAYS be other things you could have said. There will ALWAYS be other things you could have done. If people had to wait until they tried absolutely everything before ending a relationship, they’d be trapped in them forever. At some point you just have to say “enough” and believe that it’s okay to do so.

  24. Muddie Mae said:

    And I don’t think I could ever really find anyone else who loved me and understood me like they did, since I’m very geeky and I have hobbies many people would consider weird. They were really the only person that I can ever imagine tolerating every part of me, and I don’t know what to do now that I broke it off

    If I could change anything about my life to date, I would go back in time and start working on this very feeling much, much earlier. OP, I deeply regret spending much of my teen years and 20s in both romantic and platonic relationships with people that I wasn’t all that jazzed about, because I figured we could tolerate each other and I was used to it and there wasn’t anything better out there and welp, good enough. Most of those people have completely fallen away from my life because a friendship based on “you don’t seem to openly dislike me” isn’t very strong.

    Observe, sometime, adults you know – your parents, your neighbors, friends’ parents, whatever. I bet that most of them do not share every hobby and activity with their partner. And in some cases where there’s overlap, you might learn that one partner got the other one into the activity, rather than both of them coming together and automagically loving all of the same things. I’ve developed an interest in speculative fiction, football, bicycle commuting, living car free, snowshoeing, and cooking all from previous or current relationships. I recommend books to my boyfriend all the time, and sometimes he likes them and sometimes he doesn’t.

    A relationship with someone who doesn’t love all the same things you love, but is a good person, is a million billion times better than a relationship with a shitty Nazi who shares all your hobbies.

  25. Amphelise said:

    “a three-dimensional interactive display of how bad I was feeling about myself at the time”

    OH MY GOD YES.

    That is all.

  26. badgerangel said:

    LW,

    Your grief is real, and it is valid. I say this as someone who has been married three times and divorced twice, who has been both broken up with and the person who broke up the relationship.

    I can also say, with relative certainty, that you are grieving the dream you had of the relationship. You are grieving the death of the relationship. And you are allowed, more than allowed, to grieve that.

    Someday soon, you will look back on this and you will smile a sad smile and think to yourself, “Why did I stay so long? Why did I put up with all of that for so long?” And you will know you are beginning to heal.

    Please be kind to yourself and take the time to grieve, but realize this above all: You did the right thing for you. And I would venture to guess (I have only skimmed the comments) that all of us here in the Awkward Army are glad you did the right thing for you.

    I wish you healing and peaceful thoughts.

    Badger

  27. Godric said:

    I think I know your former partner…

    We were friends, but the semi-Nazi thing freaked me out. We lost contact, and I can’t say I miss it very much. When they said they were dating someone, frankly, I was shocked that someone would date them, because while said person was undeniably charismatic and good-looking, the concept of that person (who had identified as aromantic and expressed a disdain for human relationships) having any kind of a relationship with anyone was baffling. They also said one time that it was hard for them, because they didn’t really care about any kind of affection, but their partner did.

    So good call breaking up with them. Sociopaths are good at being charismatic and making you like them despite their flaws, but you’d do better finding basically anyone else. I also agree with the Captain, there’s probably no such thing as someone who is too geeky to be loved. Interesting statement, that, though, because I’ve never heard that out of the mouth of a male geek, it’s always the female ones.

    • JenniferP said:

      I would discourage you from assuming that you know this person, and even if by chance that were true, I would discourage you from trying to make that connection in an anonymous forum where the LW has gone for help. Rest of the comment is spot on!

      • Godric said:

        I wasn’t being literal, I doubt I know the actual person in question, but I know someone who that COULD be, and if the person LW was talking about is like the person who I know, breaking up was a good call.

        • JenniferP said:

          Ok, cool! I’ve had people get way into speculating about whether they know the actual person in question, and I don’t know you, so I wanted to make that clear.

  28. Dear LW:

    I love Z Nation. And this weird little rogue-like game from back in the days of Usenet. And replica 1920s Lovecraft-inspired documents. And Streets of Fire. And these are just the ones I am okay discussing in public.

    No-one else I know loves all these things. (This is not “no-one else loves all these things”!) But tolerates? Hell, tolerates is way easier. The light of my life tolerates them, in that he accepts they make me happy, and listens to me about them, and respects time I set aside for them. (And shares one of them, but I’m talking about the others.)

    There are thousands of people out there who would tolerate your interests at least as kindly, I promise. You are smart, and self-aware, and you dumped the Nazi who dated you once a year and couldn’t be bothered to care about what made you happy and interested, and you did that despite being surrounded by people who for some inconceivable reason think you should have settled for being unloved and unhappy in perpetuity.

    You will be okay. I’m sorry it hurts now; I hope you feel better soon, and I hope you are happy going forward.

    All the best wishes.

  29. Nothing to add concerning the substance. But I did want to say that reading this letter really solidified my conviction that the singular non-gendered “they” (with “their”) is a much better solution than the abominable ze and zir.

    • Rowanoaktree said:

      Comradde- I understand that they/them may be a better acoustic/stylistic choice for you, but it would be more respectful to avoid calling pronouns that other people prefer “abominable.” Don’t yuck someone else’s yum and all that.

    • Agreed. I could get used to new pronouns if everybody started using them, but “they” does the job just fine.

    • vass said:

      I like they/them/their, but was it necessary to call other gender-neutral pronoun sets “abominable” in a space where a lot of people who use those pronouns are likely to be reading?

      • Pear said:

        Agreed. I actually use singular ‘they’ as my pronoun and, you know, I don’t feel the need to Have An Opinion about others’ pronoun sets, because it is frankly irrelevant and disrespectful.

        I think possibly Comradde PhysioProffe doesn’t get that specific people use pronoun sets to describe their gender identity, and is making that value judgement based on sentences referring to mixed groups of people/obfuscating the gender of a person, but…. it was perhaps a bit not good.

    • JenniferP said:

      My dear Comradde, this was one of those “this opinion is much better left inside my head” moments.

    • RunForChocolate said:

      Oh, see, I like “ze” and “zir” for several reasons, but one is that I am a grammar nerd. I makes me wince just a tiny bit inside when I see a plural used as a singular, even though I know the author knows the proper usage of each and is deliberately using the plural form in a new way to indicate a singular, and that this type of plural-as-singular usage has even gained a certain level of acceptance in informal writing/conversation. And I’ve certainly said “they” and “their” myself in conversation; I get why they’re used. But since language is malleable over time, I like the idea of generating new gender-neutral singular pronouns very much. I hope they catch on with a wider audience.

        • (Thank you so much.)

        • Amy J. said:

          Hey, can I ask a huge favor? Is there any chance you could create a sort of “linguistics 101” version of that article that you linked to? I’m finding it a struggle to get through, and I would like to be able to share the information in it with others while actually feeling like I understand what it’s saying. If you can’t or don’t want to, no worries.

      • Nope. They as gender-neutral has a very long history in the English language and was proper long before “s/he” and other mashup/letter substitution forms occurred. If plural for singular makes you wince, don’t ever study Latin or Greek. 🙂

      • JenniferP said:

        @RunForChocolate Why do you need to weigh in with your opinion is my question

        Good time to remind everyone that correcting other posters’ grammar, including and perhaps especially their chosen pronouns related to their own gender, is not allowed here.

        • RunForChocolate said:

          Goodness. I wasn’t correcting anybody’s grammar–or at least I didn’t intend to. I intended to convey that my “tiny wince” was my very own issue to own and deal with since I was sure that others were well aware of all the nitpicky rules surrounding conventional use of pronouns. My main point was that I like the idea of gender-neutral singular pronouns, mostly because it frees people from the “they” vs “him-or-her” choice and provides a formally appropriate choice. I felt like I was politely adding another voice to the small side discussion of whether it’s appropriate to denounce other people’s choice of pronouns (NOT, as it turns out), without calling anybody rude. Like, somebody says, “I really hate anchovies, they’re gross!” and I might cheerfully say, “Oh, see, I actually like them. Yum,” as a suble way of saying, “I think you’re wrong to call them gross, since not everybody hates them, although it’s fine that you personally don’t like them.” Not offended, just having a discussion. People can state their preferences in a way that’s not intended to be offensive.

          I’m not a linguist and I have never studied either Latin or Greek, though I think I have an okay grasp of modern English. I had no idea of the oppression that pedantic linguistic prescripivism (had to look that up) feeds into, so thanks for the link. The idea of two forms of PLP, one carrying a value judgement and one merely observational, is a new one and I find it interesting to think about.

          End of derail on my part…

          • JenniferP said:

            I used to think the singular “they” looked like a mistake, and then people told me and I learned. Thanks, nice blog community!
            The other thing I’ve learned while writing this blog is that one person’s nifty and polite academic debate about personal preferences and grammar is another person’s “oh, those cis/binary people are debating/”wincing” at how I should represent my identity again, how droll.

      • Pear said:

        I makes me wince just a tiny bit inside when I see a plural used as a singular

        Oh dear, RunForChocolate. Well, it’s a shame, because you’re going to be in a whole world of pain if you ever befriend a person like me. You seem cool; it’d be sad if NB folks (and other people who use singular they as their pronoun) missed out on getting to know a cool person. I hope it doesn’t offend your grammar nerd sensibilities that people pick and choose pronouns in that way, too. Goodness, you probably don’t want to know about some of the neo-pronouns we choose!

        Nope Octopus makes an excellent point. People messing up and/or being dismissive towards our pronouns has less to do with being a grammar nerd and more to do with being casually transphobic. I know many grammar nerds, linguists, and outright pedants who’ve never felt the need to hold forth on pronouns. They’ve always been respectful of my pronoun and therefore my gender and existence as an NB person in their life. Just something to think about.

        I think that grammar nerdery and treating trans folks as humans worthy of respect can exist in the same space. I hope you do, too.

      • poiuyt said:

        “I[t] makes me wince just a tiny bit inside when I see a plural used as a singular”

        Art thou serious? Thy wincing must be never ending.

  30. Dear LW: Please believe me when I say that you will find someone else who loves you with all your lumps and bumps and hobbies and wonderfulness. When I was younger, I put up with behavior from a guy that I should NEVER have accepted because I thought, “Oh wow, he really accepts me as I am! Nobody ever did that before! I’m soooo lucky!” I had been bullied and criticized throughout my childhood by both family and peers, and I thought I was this gigantic ugly freak who would never find anyone. I had also gone through a very harsh breakup not so prior to meeting the new guy, and maybe I was still “on the rebound.”

    Anyway, you are not alone. You will get through this. Trust your gut!!!

    (((HUGS)))

  31. thepaintedlady said:

    Oh LW. Your letter gives me all of the feels, on so many levels.

    First of all, since this is your first breakup – likely of many more, if you have a similar experience to most young adults living in the industrialized world – of course it feels like the world is going to end. It feels like that a little bit every time, but the difference is, after the first time, you know this isn’t *actually* going to kill you. And every time it happens, that gets a little bit easier to believe. But right now, you have no proof. And it sucks. And it hurts. And the only thing that’s going to get you through that is by sticking to your guns. Because you remember how awful that feels to feel like they maybe don’t care about you? The insecurity that keeps you up at night and makes you cry and leads you to rehash every interaction looking for some secret code that if you crack it the message reads “I FUCKING LOVE YOU?” You know how you feel like you’re lucky just to be tolerated by them and that if you lose that you won’t be tolerated by anyone? You feel that way because of your ex. You feel like the best you can do is be tolerated by anyone because your ex treated you like your were only tolerable. And that is the height of Not Okay. That is the opposite of what a healthy relationship, a good one, one that you want in your life because it makes your life better and easier, should do. You should feel like your partner is lucky to have you and you are lucky to have your partner, and you should feel like the luckiest people in the world to have found each other and be excited, actually excited and thrilled, to have that, rather than just tolerant of it. The idea that the most you could aspire to is tolerance breaks my fucking heart. You shouldn’t give any more of your heart to someone who doesn’t really really really want it and feel lucky to have it. Never settle for someone who tolerates you.

    Another point to back up the Captain on seeking someone to tell about these feelings: you know that voice inside of your head that says, “Hey, this thing, it is maybe not so great and you should maybe not have it in your life anymore?” You know that other voice, the one that says, “But you are silly to feel like you could ask for more because your interests are weird and people don’t like you and you are entirely too much trouble?” Now think of your dad’s voice. If not the sound of it, at least the things it says. Do you notice how similar that second voice and your dad’s are? And now add your ex? It’s weird how similar they are, right? It’s not a coincidence. I have a dad who was a lot like yours, LW. Most of my life I heard that I was silly and weak and too sensitive because of my feelings, and that my feelings were too much trouble, and that I was too much trouble, and asking for people to actually be invested in me and take me seriously was asking for something that people aren’t willing to give, and I was selfish and silly and – surprise – too much trouble for asking that I be treated with actual genuine consideration. I was in a lot of relationships where people tolerated me. Sure, let’s go out to dinner at restaurants I like. Let’s go out for drinks at this bar that isn’t as stupid as the one you like. Hey, I’m going on vacation tomorrow. Wait, you wanted me to tell you? Wait, are you serious??? You wanted to come *with* me??? On my *vacation*???? Hey, so that’s sort of acting like you want us to be married, and that is definitely not the sort of person I thought I was dating. I didn’t think you would be so much trouble. LW, if that sounds at all familiar, it’s because you’ve squashed that voice that tells you that you matter, that your feelings are legitimate, and that you shouldn’t have to deal with being hurt by someone. Get in therapy and learn what that voice sounds like again.

  32. inkwasrunning said:

    Loooong time lurker, first time commenter because LW, I was where you are. My ex boyfriend wasn’t a Nazi, but he was really really into Ayn Rand and objectivism, so just go ahead and add that to your list of things to run scream/laughing from, trust me.

    My ex was never interested in my life or my interests. He acted like spending time with me was a chore. He made me feel guilty for wanting more attention and love, called me clingy and told me that I was holding him back from achieving his Great Potential as a Writer. He accused me of being obsessed with sex while he openly flirted and groomed (usually a couple years younger) women for sex or a relationship.

    But he liked sci-fi and reading really old books. He wrote a novel and asked me to edit it (it was terrible, but impressive nonetheless). He sometimes made me feel special enough to forget the all the other times that me made me feel like shit. He dumped me TWICE and I took him back both times. The third time finally stuck, because he wanted to be poly and I didn’t.

    For the first two weeks, I ugly-cried hysterically. Every night and every morning. Every time I saw some stupid thing that reminded me of him. It was like withdrawal, because that is almost literally what a break-up is. But once I got through it, holy shit, I was SO FUCKING PISSED that I spent so much of my precious time on that guy.

    There are always good things about shitty people. My ex had many great qualities like willpower and dedication and ambition. I’m sure your ex has many great qualities too. But oh my god, please, please, trust me, as someone who took my ex back when I shouldn’t have, cut ties and see what you feel once you’ve got enough space. The Captain’s advice is exactly what I did after my break-up (sans counseling, although I would have loved to talk to a therapist) and it was so effective (the fact that I was reading this blog for a while before that break-up helped immeasurably).

    TL;DR: You deserve better than this guy, I promise. Good luck.

    • “My ex boyfriend wasn’t a Nazi, but he was really really into Ayn Rand and objectivism, so just go ahead and add that to your list of things to run scream/laughing from, trust me.”

      preach

      • Linden said:

        I went on a date with a guy I met on OKCupid. During dinner, he showed me his tattoo of Atlas holding up the world and told me he was so into Ayn Rand that he had this meaningful symbol put on his body. Never called him again. It’s a real time-saver when people show you who they are so early on.

        • Muddie Mae said:

          This would drive me nuts because Atlas doesn’t hold the planet, he holds the freaking sky. But I am a pedant.

          • Linden said:

            This is true, but I didn’t even need to get to that level before pushing the reject button.

    • Mercutia said:

      Speaking of great qualities, it’s basically being locked in a special chamber of hell when you see them being friendly and kind and sensitive and interested and genuinely good to another person — not with an agenda (like trying to get into another person’s pants), but just as a human being connecting in a basic yet profound way with another human being … AND THEY DELIBERATELY CHOOSE NOT TO DO THAT WITH YOU BUT THEY COULD. Verbal insults are nothing next to that.

  33. Dear LW:

    If I could promise you – absolutely promise you – that you WILL find someone who has all the awesome parts of this guy – and I accept that he has some – AND they would be emotionally there for you and they would love you and respect you and show that they loved and respected you and they would be so damn’ proud of having you in their lives that they would want to tell everyone that you picked them, YOU picked THEM, omg, AND they would have your back to the best of their abilities when the shit hit the fan AND they might not share your hobbies and fascinations but they’d respect and encourage them and maybe even try some of them to see if they enjoy them AND they would have flaws and oddities and weirdnesses but not big red-flag make-you-cringe stuff – would you still want to go back to this guy?

    Because here’s the thing. If you want that, you WILL find it. It is out there. It’s not even especially rare.

    I can’t tell you when, or where, or how, but you will.

    You broke up with him for good reasons. They’re still good. Nothing you’ve said suggests that you were wrong.

    Mourn. It hurts. But don’t go back.

    You say your father is emotionally abusive. It might be useful to consider the possibility that your experience with him has given you unreasonably low expectations for how people who say they love you are supposed to treat you.

    Good people are not rare. Good men are not rare. Good boyfriends are not rare. Difficult and sacrificial love isn’t the sign of deep and real love. It doesn’t have to feel like pushing rocks uphill with your nose, and in fact it shouldn’t, or only maybe 5 percent of the time, over time.

    You “doing more” wouldn’t have saved him from his bad qualities. Love doesn’t do that. It’s not what it’s FOR.

    Your ex loves you – but he didn’t, doesn’t, and won’t treat you lovingly. It sounds as if the best treatment you’ve gotten from him is since you broke it off – and that’s a terrible sign. He wants something from you, so NOW suddenly he’s figured out how to show affection? That’s a bribe at best, gaslighting at worst.

    You deserve – and can absolutely HAVE – better.

    Your friends – I assume – love you, but they’re not showing you love, support, or respect when they encourage you to go back to this guy.

    You deserve better. You deserve to be loved the way you love this guy, not the way he loves you. Because you are awesome, and you’re only going to get awesomer.

    • “Your ex loves you – but he didn’t, doesn’t, and won’t treat you lovingly.”

      “Your friends – I assume – love you, but they’re not showing you love, support, or respect when they encourage you to go back to this guy.”

      THIS. What matters is not how many protestations of love someone makes – it is how they act on that love.

      As the Massive Attack song says: “Love, love is a verb / Love is a doing word …” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7K72X4eo_s)

      M Scott Peck also has plenty to say about people who proclaim how much they love their partner, children, etc, but act in a totally selfish and unloving way towards those people. I know it’s a bit of a cliché to recommend “The Road Less Travelled” after a break-up, but it does have a few gems about what real love is.

  34. Bugger. Apologies for assuming gender.

  35. Fishmongers' daughters said:

    Ah. The Ferret Piss Mattress. That’s what I call these stories, the ones we someday look back on with horror. I once slept with someone on a bed upon which they had placed a piece of cardboard because the bed was soaked in the piss of their ferrets who they refused to cage or train. Some things are so egregiously bad that whatever comes after the “but” is just… completely irrelevant. Or, that’s how you feel later, anyway. And in the case of your ex, the stuff after “but” is ALSO pretty bad. The “but” after “he’s a Nazi” is “and he treats me bad.”

    Here! I just thought of a clip from “A League of Their Own” that reminds me of your situation:

    Doris, is this your boyfriend? Is this picture out of focus?
    No, that’s how he looks.
    Oh. Well, you know, looks aren’t the most important thing.
    No, what’s important is he’s stupid, he’s out of work, and he treats me bad. ….Here, gimme that picture. [rips it up]
    So long, Charlie!

    You have a So Long Charlie here. Or a Ferret Piss Mattress, if that better suits your fancy. You will one day, while surrounded by the warmth and love you deserve in the amazing life you’ve created for yourself, laugh-gasp at the Nazi Who Treated Me Badly you once dated. You’re better than that. You get to HAVE better than that. Hang in there.

  36. Wow, excellent shout out for “Among Others.” It is a beautiful story and surely excellent for anybody feeling alienated.

  37. Helen Damnation said:

    *Enid we never really knew each other anyway.

    I could work overtime, I could work in a mine, I could do it all for you – but I don’t want to.*

    Ahem. In my own words – yes, DTMFA. They were bad for you, and they made you unhappy, and you will still be unhappy for a while because that is how breakups work, but when that’s over you will be so much happier than you ever were when you were with them. And you will find other people, people who fit you better, people who will love you better. Trust me, honey – way weirder than you has found love that also comes with respect.

    • olives said:

      This is going to play in my head for the rest of the day…

      And agreed with the rest!

  38. Eureka said:

    Oh LW! I have all the feels for you!

    I broke up with my first love. I know it was the right thing to do, I knew it was the right thing back then. But it still hurt. I was convinced that no one would ever want to date my skinny bespectacled brace-faced role-playing self. I had pimples! And bad hair! Didn’t know how to talk to guys! I WOULD BE ALONE AND UNLOVED 4EVAH!

    Except, you know, I wasn’t. It turns out that guys are people too and you can’t lump them all into one box, any more than you can women. And there were guys out there who thought I was funny and sexy and liked the fact that I was smart and could run a D&D game.

    Please, please don’t go back to someone who doesn’t make you feel cherished every time you’re in their presence. The Captain had some excellent advice on how to be nice to yourself while the pain is still fresh. I think you will feel better if you follow it, but please do what works for you.

    All the Jedi hugs.

    P.S. Sephiroth was a villain, but Cloud wasn’t exactly a sterling example of humanity either. The difference is, Cloud learned and became better.

  39. Phira said:

    So, I want to emphasize something the Captain said that made me click on this post from feed reader so that I could come in here and talk to you, LW.

    These feelings you have? About how you feel like you’re losing the only person who’ll ever really understand you, and no one will ever love you as much as/the way that Ex loves you? They’re temporary.

    They’re SUPER real. But they’re temporary.

    I had those exact feelings during my first big break-up. In my case, it was actually that I had a kink that he shared, and I was miserable because I was convinced that I would never find someone who was compatible with me in that way. I felt lost and lonely, as if I was never going to have another half-decent relationship ever again. I felt that way for a long time. And, like the Captain said, eventually … they just stopped being as prominent, and then one day they just stopped.

    The change is going to be very slow, and you’re not going to notice it. You’re going to feel this way for a while, and then one day (maybe in a month, maybe in a few months, maybe in a year) you’re going to realize, “Hey, I haven’t thought about [Ex] in a while. And I don’t really care. Huh!” For now, grieve the end of your relationship, take care of yourself (!!! maybe therapist it up, given your semi-abusive dad–I’ve got one of those, too, and therapy has helped a lot), and let yourself feel what you’re feeling. Your feelings aren’t wrong–they’re just temporary.

    Seriously, almost 10 years ago, I was an emotional wreck who believed she would never, ever find someone ever again. I’m married now, to someone who’s always happy to see me, who loves me unconditionally, who always makes me feel free to be myself 100%, and who makes me absurdly happy. He actually doesn’t share my kink, but it’s been a complete non-issue because, well, it turns out that a handful of shared interests (sexual or otherwise) don’t make for compatibility or happiness.

    Also? I want to believe you when you say that your ex wasn’t the “bad” kind of Nazi, but I don’t know if there’s any kind of Nazi that isn’t terrible?

  40. argent said:

    Okay, I’m just seconding things that other people have said at this point, but they need to be said again:

    –Yes, you did the right thing. Congrats! I know it must have been hard.
    –Grief, even overwhelming grief, at the end of a relationship, even a bad relationship, is 100% normal and 100% valid. Seconding what one of the above commenters said about “you are basically literally going through withdrawal”. Be appropriately kind to yourself.
    –Please, please, PLEASE, break off all contact with this person. Block them electronically. Don’t say hi when you pass them in the street. Find new hobbies and friends that don’t remind you of them. Maybe not all of those things are possible to do completely, but please remove this person from your life as much as possible.
    –If people give you grief or try to invalidate your emotions based on your age, punch them in the face. (Not literally. I’m not advocating actual violence here. But don’t give them the time of day or a second thought.)
    –You are worthy of love, and you will find other people who not just tolerate you, but love you.

  41. Anisoptera said:

    Hey LW – there are two things I want to say.

    First of all, people will love you who aren’t this guy. They will share your hobbies even! Or still like you anyway even if they don’t share it. And here’s a thing I didn’t believe when I was in my teens – you will probably have many different hobbies in your life. You may not even have your current hobbies five years from now. Some might stay and some might not. I am currently in the weird place of having picked up some normal-person hobbies (cycling and running) and it’s certainly kind of fun being able to talk about those with loads of people who look at me weirdly when I mention early music or whatever (I have a long list of weird hobbies). But eh. I know loads of people who like even my wierdest hobbies, and I’ve found loads of “normal” people also have weird hobbies, or are interested in yours even though they don’t share them. It’s OK to like science fiction or roleplaying or whatever in mixed company. The hobby thing probably feels way more important to you right now than it will when you’re 40.

    Secondly – when we form relationships with people we have this image of what the relationship is and will be. We have hopes and dreams for an imagined future, sometimes really intensely imagined. We have a belief about who that person is. But, especially when stuff goes wrong, it can turn out we were mistaken about some or all of that. That future won’t happen and never could have. That person isn’t who you thought they were. But because we’re so invested in the cool wonderful scenario in our heads we can be really resistant to disconfirming information. So they become exceptions, and it would be OK except for (the Nazi thing) and I’m sure he’s mean to me for some reason that we can fix and then go back to him being nice to me like he was at first. And when you break up it can feel like the wonderful relationship-from-your-head can be saved by just getting back together. But here’s the thing. You are not necessarily grieving what you really had – you’re grieving what you’d *thought* you had or wished you would had. And sometimes that never existed.

    So – grieve it! By all means. It’s sad to lose the person they pretended to be when you first got together. That’s a real loss. But know that’s also someone who doesn’t exist, never has, and never will. Likewise the relationship where they take you on dates never existed. Or the one where they’re not a Nazi. Grieve for your broken heart and the lies you were told (or told yourself). And stay broken up.

  42. LW, how is it possible to have weird hobbies no one else will ever have, ever? Probably your weird hobby requires equipment, and no one would make and market it if you were the only consumer. If it’s anything you need more than one person to do, you can’t be the only one. There are people doing your weird, obscure hobby out there. There are people, I would wager, with weirder hobbies.

    My point, I guess, is it may *FEEL* like you’re all alone, the only one. But having the feeling and it being true are not the same thing.

    If anyone tries to get you to do something- like stay in a relationship- because you’re the only possible one who… or they’re the only possible one who… it’s wrong. You’re not alone and you won’t always be alone. And even if you are always alone, at least you won’t be with someone who supports genocidal warmongering fascists with a national death wish.

  43. Emma9 said:

    If part of the story you’re telling yourself is that ‘No one could ever love me because I’m a geek’, consider that you, a warm, smart, funny person (despite the context in the letter, the phrase ‘Cher Lloyd vibes’ made me giggle), were willing to love and accept this person, despite their being fascinated by a regime so awful that there’s an internet law precluding people from using them as a trump card to win arguments.

    In other words, no. There are lots of genuinely great people in this world – and one of the characteristics of greatness is ‘not shaming their partner for harmless geeky hobbies, whether or not they share them’.

  44. soukup said:

    Yes to everything the Captain said, and also:

    There are some people out there who will share your geeky hobbies, it’s true, and who will geek out about them with you, and one of the delightful things you do together will be geeking out about your shared passions together. And also, there are a lot of people (probably a lot *more* people) who will be maybe kind of “meh” about some or even most of your hobbies, but who — while they feel no need to participate — will be genuinely happy for you that you are enjoying them, and will be always super respectful and never weirded out or scornful. You will find other ways to spend time together which are fun for you both — maybe you’ll even try new stuff together. My current partner is into a zillion really nifty hobbies which I had never tried before I met them, and now that I’ve tried out most of these pastimes there are a good number on which I’m more “meh.” And that is fine! We have found plenty of fun things to do together which we both enjoy, and I am so happy for them that they have found so many ways to spend their time doing stuff they love to do.

    tl;dr: Your interests don’t need to perfectly match up with your partner’s interests! When people like each other, they can look for fun things to do together.

  45. Am I the only one wondering if Mr Nazi-not-nazi is even German? I mean, even without the whole Holocaust/genocide/racist horribleness, appropriating somebody else’s history and/or culture is just gross.

    • inkwasrunning said:

      I also know a Mr. Nazi-not-Nazi (how are there so many??) and he of German descent, but at least a few generations removed. I don’t think pseudo-Nazism is a thing that German people in Germany would ever do considering all the things discussed upthread.

      • Anisoptera said:

        Well the ones who do are all-in actual Neo nazis or far right bigots. Which honestly is probably what this guy actually is. It’s just, people like this don’t open with “how about that holocaust wasn’t it great how all those Jews and Roma and Gay people were murdered en masse!” They say “I have pride in my national history”, or “white people should be proud” or whatever. And then they’re all “we need to defend our way of life from these terrible people who are not like us” and finally, one day they let slip “maybe the holocaust has been over stated and didn’t really happen and was it such a bad thing anyway”.

        Seriously, absolutely evil people can seem reasonable most of the time. And if you’re not familiar with their standard talking points it can take a while to spot it. They usually try to avoid the stuff that’s completely socially unacceptable at first. And then they prime you with all their favourite manipulation tricks like “I’ll probably be attacked for saying this” or “most people don’t understand me when I say” etc etc.

        So yeah. Probably actually pro Nazi, not just the less appalling stuff.

        • inkwasrunning said:

          Yep. My ex was into Ayn Rand, so not evil, but basically that is a declaration of “I am an entitled and self-involved misogynist.” But I was 18 and didn’t know that and the idea of an individual defending the purity of their vision was pretty appealing and reasonable.

          People who have horrible opinions depend on empathy and the tendency for so many of us to want to see the best in people. But really, “is racist” or “is a Nazi” or “believes that the poor are worthless leeches sucking off the lifeblood of billionaires” is ALWAYS enough to cut ties with that person.

        • The other thing is, a lot of people are into those groups because they’re sources of acceptance and self-esteem props, so it’s like, “I’m not saying I’m racist, but I sure love to hang out with people who are!” and think their hands are clean because they’re at three removes from the violence, like, they’re not the person who firebombed a synagogue, they’re the person who nodded and passed a beer to the person who said that the person who firebombed a synagogue had a good point.

          • Anisoptera said:

            Indeed. And those people create the nice atmosphere of approval that made the actual bomber think he was definitely doing something that was cool with his wider social group. The nodders and drink passers create the culture in which actual violence is not an unthinkably extreme act. I think it’s one of the good things to come out of discussion of rape culture – it highlights how a whole community creates the context in which bad people do violence.

  46. Lisa said:

    If I may quote the great prophet, Taylor Swift:
    ” ‘Cause when you’re fifteen and somebody tells you they love you/ You’re gonna believe them/ And when you’re fifteen and your first kiss/ Makes your head spin around/ But in your life you’ll do things greater than/ Dating the boy on the football team/ I didn’t know it at fifteen… When all you wanted was to be wanted/ I wish you could go back and tell yourself what you know now… Back then I swore I was gonna marry him someday/ But I realized some bigger dreams of mine… I’ve found time can heal most anything/And you just might find who you’re supposed to be/I didn’t know who I was supposed to be.”

    If you need some music about getting over a first love/breakup, go listen to pretty much every Taylor Swift song.

    You are lovable. You are lovable. Repeat to yourself as necessary. You will find someone else who loves you, quirks and all. Your future partner does not have to share your fandoms. If you make that a condition of dating, you’re making it way too hard on yourself to find someone. My husband and I share some geeky interests, but we also each have our own interests as well that the other doesn’t care much about. So we find other places/people to talk to about those things, like friends or online communities. Your partner does not have to share every one of your interests…they do have to treat you with love and respect.

    • Kate Monster said:

      Yes! And I remembered a different song that helped with the lonely withdrawal after my first relationship: Sensefield’s “Save Yourself”:

      “May I remind you, when you find you’re all alone is when you’ve got to be strong.
      Can you save yourself for someone who loves you for you? … Someone who’ll cherish your name.”

      (For context: Given the other words of the song, I didn’t hear it at all as “Save yourself for marriage,” just “Save yourself for someone who respects you.” Maybe also “Save yourself for me, an emo guy who also has low self-esteem and would be perfect for you and would respect you”–which to me functioned as a nice fictional love story that reminded me there were better guys out there–along the lines of reading a romance novel or Jane Austen. YMMV. See also: Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag”. And, in the broader genre, Weezer’s “In the Garage” and “Pork and Beans” (music video OMG!) are good geek-empowerment songs.)

      By the way, I recognize that neither ’90s alt-rock nor Taylor Swift is beloved by everyone, and at times I avoided listening to pop music, on principle. But music genre is a red herring: though it seems central to how compatible friends or SO’s are, it’s actually limiting and ultimately unimportant. If you name any musician you like to listen to, I’d bet that they themselves listen to a much broader set of music than just their own genre. And my SO knows little music written past 1900 and is a little puzzled at what I listen to, but the way we care about each other is a lot more important than what we each spend time listening to. (Whoever’s driving or cooking gets to choose the soundtrack, with some courtesy for the other’s veto.)

  47. Clementine Danger said:

    This letter is giving me a lot of flashbacks and feels, but I want to hone in on the “could have done more” aspect.

    My sister (and I’m writing this with her permission) is sort of in that phase now, where after almost a decade she’s given ALMOST everything and the engine is starting to sputter. She’s running on fumes, but she still won’t give up until she’s got the feeling that she’s done all she can. As much as I wish this wasn’t true, people just aren’t bottomless wells of love and caring and compassion and patience. Every time the supply renews a little, which is becoming harder and harder, her own Darth is there to immediately suck it dry and demand more! More love! More compassion! More understanding! It’s frightening what it’s doing to her. Like she has a supply of kindness for a month, spends it all in a day and then has to make due feeding the bottomless well of Darth dissatisfaction with whatever scrap of affection she can cut out of herself. She has no more kindness left for herself because Darth’s feels are BIG and IMPORTANT and URGENT. If kindness and love and patience were money, he’d be sitting on a throne of gold sipping pink champagne and popping grapes into his mouth while she starves to death in a corner sucking the nutrients from under her fingernails. And she’d still blame herself for not offering them to him first. Because see! See! She did a thing for herself and that proves she hasn’t done all she can!

    Please don’t do “all you can.” If you give everything you have to give, there’s nothing left for you, and you need some of it for yourself. You’re not a quitter or a greedy partner for wanting some of the pie. It’s not his pie. You got that pie for the both of you and if you feel bad for licking the crumbs off the plate while he’s fat and happy, something’s gone horribly wrong, and it’s not your fault.

    The feeling of having done everything you can is unobtainable while you’re in a relationship that isn’t working. It can’t be done, and more than that it shouldn’t be attempted. If you give everything you’ve got, you won’t have anything left, and he’ll just get hungry again. The Love Pie is yours too. If you’re not getting a big enough slice of the Love Pie to fill you up, there’s no point in getting mad at yourself for not being grateful for the crumbs that fell on the carpet.

    • Jarissa said:

      I really needed to read this today. Thank you, Clementine.

    • Anisoptera said:

      And also – unlike pie love can generate more love. If the other person shows you kindness and love and respect and care it replenishes your pool and you can give more back to them, and they to you, and so on and so on in a virtuous cycle. That’s how it’s supposed to work. If you’re starved for affection yourself of course it gets harder and harder to find the energy and love to give, partly because you’re just not getting any back.

      It’s not that relationships are never hard and there’s never a need for a bit of self sacrifice. Just, it shouldn’t be that way most or all of the time. It shouldn’t feel like you’re scraping for scraps of effort, at least not emotionally, and never for an extended period. The times where they stop looking out for you and being there for you should be brief and infrequent and understandable and not excuses to be mean and cold just a lack of energy on their part. And importantly they should be there for you when you have some massive issue that makes you briefly less present, less engaged and lacking in energy for love and kindness.

    • Love should not be addition and subtraction. Love should multiply. Yes.

  48. I was just nodding along through all that good advice and then suddenly — Oh wow, you are prescribing my book? That’s so cool!

    • DeepBlueC said:

      I was reading through the comments and saw yours, and thought “that’s so cool!” “My Real Children” made me sob in a good way. Even knowing the broad strokes of the ending from the outset didn’t help, and I don’t usually cry at books! I’ve sought out and read so many books with lesbian characters/romances, but it was so refreshing to have such a beautiful lesbian love story just magically appear in a novel (though I ultimately wish that publishers would choose jacket copy and subject headings to make my search easier). Ironically, it’s only because “Among Others” was checked out that my girlfriend brought it home with a mess of other books that won awards. Thank you so much for writing!

    • Katie said:

      Jo Walton!!! Among Others helped me so much, even as a certified grown-up!

    • Emily said:

      Hi! This is just to say that I really like your blog on Tor.com, and that I’ve used it before to find books that I might like to read (including Childhood’s End, which is very neat in the way that the story develops).

    • Oh my god, Jo Walton is in the Awkward Army?!?!

      Your book meant so much to me. I related to Mor more than almost any other character in fiction.

  49. Vole Central said:

    Anyone who makes you feel like they are the only person who will ever put up with you needs to be avoided. First Boyfriend worked that crap on me along with its corollary “you should be grateful that I put up with…” and it seriously messed with my head. As multiple people have said above, the right folks (whether romantic or not) will celebrate who you are, even those parts of you that don’t overlap with them.

    And, oh yes, Among Others is so-o-o-o good!

  50. Crazy Greg said:

    So, I haven’t posted a reply to one of these before but I want to back up what has been said by the captain as well as others here. There is no such thing as someone unlovable or with only one person who could love them for .

    We all have things about us that are strange/unique to us. We don’t need to share all of these things with a partner to love and and be loved by them.

    Story time!
    I’m a really geeky guy. If there’s been dork jokes about it I’m into it. I spent a few years of my live as a young adult (18-21ish) trying to find someone else who was into LARP, WH40K, LotR, etc and not x,y and z because clearly someone special in my life needed to be into the exact same things as me. Turns out that was a) really difficult as no two human beings are exactly alike and b) kind of pointless anyway. I’m now in a really happy relationship with someone who I adore and who loved me in return and we only share a very small sub-set of our hobbies.

    So yeah, my point is do stuff for you and don’t get hung up on finding someone into /all/ the same things as you. As long someone can accept that these things are a part of you and love you then it doesn’t matter if that is also something that they enjoy doing.

  51. Vicki said:

    Rereading this, it seems possible that your ex loved you, but it’s not at all clear that he liked you. One of my partners makes a point of saying “I like you” when that is their reaction to something I’ve said and done. That’s not necessary, but as the Captain has pointed out before, people who like you will act as though they like you. Not as if they dislike you.

    • Cactus said:

      Ahhh yes. Near the beginning of my relationship with my college boyfriend (when I was about to meet his mom for the first time), he mentioned that he loved her, but didn’t like her. As things between us started going ever more rapidly downhill, I realized that he was treating me the way he treated her–like he really didn’t like anything about me, but I was a Person in his Life who for some reason he was Putting Up With, because Time.
      Nowadays, my fiancé and I say “I love you” a lot, but we also say “I like you” a lot. There’s a Parks and Rec episode where Ben and Leslie both say “I love you and I like you” to each other, and that’s kind of my model for all of this. Yes, I am In Love with him, but he’s also just a damn cool person who I really enjoy spending time with.
      So, LW, when scouting for a second or third or fourth love, find someone you like. Find someone who acts like he likes you.

      • KL said:

        Aand I should read farther before commenting. Sorry!

        • Cactus said:

          It’s cool. More Ben and Leslie is always good.

    • KL said:

      Not to bring absolutely everything back to Ben and Leslie (see Parks and Rec subthread above), but their wedding vow: “I love you and I like you” perfectly encapsulates what makes them a Relationship Role Model for me.

    • mossyone said:

      The ex uses ‘they/them’ pronouns.

  52. cruelmistress said:

    And another thing I don’t think anyone has said– the fact that your ex is singing a different tune now doesn’t mean that you should get back together. It doesn’t mean they will be better to or for you than they have been in the past. It doesn’t mean you’re responsible for their unresolved feelings or issues.

    It could mean any number of things, from the Evil Bees explanation that they are trying to lure you back in now that your attention is not solely focused on them to the fairly innocuous explanation that they, too, are having complicated and semi-nostalgic feelings about your time together. That is a normal thing! But you aren’t in this relationship anymore, and part of that means you need not concern yourself with your ex’s reasons. I urge you not to be swayed. The patterns set in a relationship can be very hard to break, even for good people who are trying to love you as you deserve. And, take it from someone who has Been There, Done That, and Spent Way Too Much Money On That Embarrassing Novelty T-Shirt: the Italians call rekindled relationships “reheated cabbage” for a reason. Whatever was appealing about that in the moment, when you revisit it later, it will 99.87% of the time be less appetizing.

    • TO_Ont said:

      Another unsettling choice of words – the LW thinks the ex ‘wouldn’t mind’ taking them back? It could just be an unusual choice of words or a deliberate understatement, but it kind of gives the impression the ex is kind of about the whole thing.

  53. TO_Ont said:

    It just occured to me that in a lot of ways, I am the person you fear becoming… I am 33, am kind of weird and geeky and shy, and have never had a boyfriend or ever dated anyone, and it’s not really by deliberate choice – I still hope I eventually figure it out.

    But you know what? It’s OK. It’s not the end of the world, really. It’s a bit of a shame sometimes, and maybe once a month I feel pretty bad about it for an hour or two, but on the whole it’s not a massive tragedy. I’m a happy person. I have friends and family I feel good around and who I feel like genuinely like and respect and care about me, I have pets, I have hobbies I really love, I have volunteer work and cool things to study. I do still want to add a partner to that, but it would be adding to my basically good and happy life, not rescuing me from a terrible fate.

    I feel like maybe you could do with a year of no dating? A year to just explore making your single life as fun and fulfilling and valuable as you can make it? Immerse yourself in hobbies, find some volunteer work you can get excited about, fix up your living space ‘just right’, maybe get counselling or therapy to help process the abuse you lived through, consider getting a pet if you want to and can commit to caring for it, find groups you can join where you can make (non-romantic) friends, make friends of different ages (elderly people! children!) etc.

    Because I feel like it’s easier to have healthy relationships if you aren’t terrified of the alternative. I feel like a year (or whatever period you like) of learning to be alone might help you go back into dating with a stronger ability to recognize if a partner is really making your life even better.

    • The year of no dating seems to work better for some than others, I’ll say. I’ve known people who did that kind of thing after breakups. It doesn’t work for me. So if it works, great, but if it’s making someone more miserable, there’s no actual virtue to it and they should only keep on if they feel like they’re getting something out of it.

      • TO_Ont said:

        It’s just an idea, obviously they can take it or leave it.

        • TO_Ont said:

          I just kind of got that feeling in this case because the LW seemed so terrified of not having a partner, like it was a fate worse than death or something.

        • TO_Ont said:

          Also most of what I said is a good idea whether you do it while you’re dating or not.

          • Commander Banana said:

            Personally I think taking the time to focus on you, rather than on relationships, is always a great idea. I feel like I have so many friends who bounced from unhealthy relationship to relationship where that was the focus of their attention, and when they’d finally gotten sick of it, shifted their focus to what made THEM happy, finding out what they liked to do, having the freedom to make plans without having to tiptoe around someone else, and just really enjoyed their alone time. It’s cliched but a lot of them ended up forming much healthier, fulfilling relationships that were built around the idea that the other person was value added, instead of filling a void in their life.

            I love my life right now, and anyone I met would have to be pretty awesome for me to want to let them be a part of it. I think that’s a way better place to come from than feeling like something is missing if you’re not with someone else.

  54. PandaGrrl said:

    You are definitely running away from Sephiroth.

    This was the part that spoke to me the most:

    They would go on and on about their interests and never asked about mine. […] They never had time to talk to me and they never could just spend time alone with me, despite how willing I always was to make time for them.

    This could have been written by me at the end of my longest relationship 10+years ago. When I talked to people about the end of that relationship, these were the things I qualified as reasons why I Just Couldn’t Anymore ™. I felt like I could never have a bad day, my ex’s day was always somehow worse (side tangent, we were long broken up by the time I had to put my cat down with advanced renal disease, but I always, and still, wondered what would have been the excuse for why their day was worse than the one I had to say goodbye to my beloved fishie). We were long distance and most of our interaction was over email or IM (this being before cellphones and texting were a thing). In the beginning we would spend literally entire days talking. At the end I wasn’t getting anything more than one or two short two-line emails a night. I’d made myself supportive and available over the course of our relationship and got very little in return. I went to visit them, not realizing it was the final time I would see them, and watched as they made themselves super-available to another friend, which involved sending emails on a clunky cellphone, for a couple hours while we wandered around a gigantic bookstore, while I got confusing messages and ignored. (I’m not saying I was a saint in this whole relationship, two-way streets and all, but this was how I felt at the time. Now I would say that my ex was a sad, lonely person who needed a heck of a lot more support from people who were not me. I hope they’ve found happiness and peace but I’m also glad that it happened [or not] away from me.)

    And the heebie-jeebies? Listen to them. I had a horrendous gut-feeling when I booked the 28-hour bus ride for that trip, which I ignored and went on anyway. At the time, I regretted it, but looking back now, with more experience, maybe it was good that I had. I left full of righteous anger which pushed me forward past the “making yourself smaller to accommodate others’ needs at the cost of your own” stage. If I had broken up with them before and not gone on that trip, I might have stayed where you are right now, wondering what else I could have done to salvage the relationship.

    I consider myself to be very geeky. I was lucky to be surrounded by geeky people throughout my life so I never saw it as a bad thing that I had to hide somehow, or have it be tolerated. As others have said above, there is no way you are alone in your hobbies. It might take some time to find Your People, but you will find them, and they will be enthusiastic to have you in their life, and to share in yours. In the meantime, be extra good to yourself. You deserve nice things.

    (I’m also not convinced that Cloud would be a stellar partner, but at least he said something like “I’ve been a jerk, and I’m sorry” and meant it, and moved forward with being a not-jerk.)

  55. Dear LW, please hold out for someone who recognizes the ways in which you are awesome! A person who undermines your sense of confidence and well-being is not someone who deserves a place of honor in your life.

    And, in support of what several people have said already– having complicated, sad feelings about a breakup is not a sure-fire sign that you should be with the person you are broken up with. I’ve always been sad at the end of a romantic relationship– something I’d invested time, energy, and hope in was coming to an end. But those relationships ended for reasons, and some of those reasons included recognizing that we weren’t thriving together.

  56. annstarrr said:

    I haven’t read through all the comments yet, so maybe the LW has come in to clarify. I’m running late for an appointment and wanted to go ahead and ask this. The “hate-free Nazi” thing is just so incredibly unusual and offputting that I’m trying to think of a reasonable explanation. Is it possible that the person is just super interested by the history of the Nazis and Germany but doesn’t self-identify as a Nazi, the way that some people are really interested in learning about serial killers but don’t want to be one themselves? The way the question is phrased leads me to believe that is not the case (“They were into Nazism, which I know sounds bad but they were more into the German Nationalism and never hated anyone”), but… I’m searching for a happier explanation. LW, is he supportive of Nazi views, genetic/ national superiority, or dictatorships? Or just really interested in the Nazi movement and how it had such far-reaching effects? If he was supportive of their views, you can be damn sure he hates large portions of the population, whether you knew it or not. *shudders*

    tl;dr: annstarrr tries to believe this guy is not a Nazi, mostly fails

    • JenniferP said:

      There doesn’t have to be a reasonable explanation. It’s okay to go “Nazi, huh?” and NOPE ON OUT.

  57. My whole family, btw, is now going around singing “take the skinheads elsewhere, take them elsewhere, take them elsewhere…”

    Which I feel is good life advice.

  58. Dear LW

    I haven’t read all the comments and I may well repeat things but there are a few things I’d like to say to you.

    – You are a very good person and you are worthy of love, kindness, gentleness, respect, fun and any other good thing I or you can imagine.

    – Sometimes it takes the person who broke up longer to recover than the person who was dumped. That’s ok. Missing someone and second guessing yourself are common things. Nonetheless, you did the right thing.

    – “Tolerate?” You will find friends and lovers who are overjoyed to be part of your life. Some of them you will meet through your geeky hobbies, some of them will be bemused by your hobbies, all of them will learn that there is more to those hobbies than they ever thought, and you will show them that.

    – Try something physical. Running, playing a sport, lifting weights, martial arts, dancing. Anything really. Exercise, especially for nerdy people who live in our heads, is utterly liberating and joyous

    – A few people wrote that first love always remains special. I’m not convinced of this. You may turn out to be a person who realizes that they learned from first love, but each later love is deeper and richer. And each new experience allows us to grow and forgive ourselves.

    – To proclaim oneself a Nazi is … I don’t have words for it. The nicest thing I can say is that it indicates a degree uncaring that must be very hard to be around.

    – When you say you wonder if you could have done more. Oh hell! In one sense, if you didn’t kill yourself there’s always more you could do. But that’s pointless. Realistically, you can’t and shouldn’t do more.

    – In the not to distant future you may wish you had done less. But that’s ok. You did exactly the right amount to teach you to leave.

    – I and others eagerly await the joy that will be yours.

  59. sphinxxnz said:

    LW. as everyone says, you have made the right decision.

    And on hobbies: there can be hobbies or interests that your partner does not want to know about. I don’t talk about reading Captain Awkward to my husband as he just can’t get reading this type of feelings driven commentary. He tries to think about it in the “wrong” way and drives me mad with tangential questions if I talk about it. That’s OK – it is not a huge part of my life and there are no moral or ethical implications. I get to decide that I don’t care that he doesn’t care.

    And then there are the other hobbies where they take up a bigger part of your life. I know far more about woodwork and harpsichords than I ever did before. Wood, tools, mitre joints, stringing schemes, voicing, damping…. Yes, I know some trivia whether I want to or not. (He knows more about classical guitars than he ever did so the information flow goes both ways. And we both do early music so there is some serious sharing.)

    So I bet you know a lot more about National Socialism than I do. I could not be with a partner who would fill up my mind with the kind of trivia that would inevitably work its way back to me about a political and philosophical horror like Nazism. What would gradually seep into your heart after years of a relationship like this?

    You are well out of it.

  60. Grammar Police said:

    What is with the LW calling the ex “they” or “them”? “They” and “them” are plural pronouns. Was she involved with a couple? It’s dip-shit stupid to refer to an individual using those pronouns. Who cares if the ex is a “he” or a “she”? At least be literate! Errrrr, it’s like fingernails on a blackboard or is LW not old enough to know what a blackboard is?

    • JenniferP said:

      1. “Correcting” someone’s grammar on this site is against the ground rules. Even if you were correct, which you are not, this is very bad manners and not allowed here. If you have opinions about someone’s writing style, keep them to yourself please, no one cares.
      2. Please Google the history of the singular they (and/or read the links supplied elsewhere in the thread) and think about some reasons someone might use it as a gender-neutral singular pronoun. Don’t post on this site again until you understand. I used to think it was an error and not understand this and then I learned. You can, too.
      3.That screech of fingernails on the chalkboard we hear when reading this comment is you barging into a discussion and contributing nothing of interest while ordering strangers about. Not a good look.

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