#804 and #805: “Crap texts from a dude.*”

Dearest Captain,

I have had a rough few months in which I have temporarily moved home to deal with a highly stressful situation. The crisis itself has largely passed, but I’ve decided to stick around for the holidays, since I do love my family and they don’t seem to mind me crashing with them for a while longer.

The most prominent issue in my life right now is with one of my new friends in my new state. He’s a nice guy and all, but he’s kind of…irritating. I didn’t say much to him before I left to go back home, but he knows that there was an emergency and that I’d be out of town indefinitely. Since I left, he hasn’t stopped pestering me to ask me how I’m doing (crisis situation, wtf does he think?) and sending me pictures and motivational quotes in the name of trying to cheer me up at least once a week. The latest was a picture of a rainbow intended to “Brighton [sic] your day!”

I’m aware that there are far worse problems to have, but he’s driving me nuts. I haven’t responded to him in nearly two months because of other priorities, including not wanting to get sucked into a drawn-out conversation I don’t have the energy for, and he is damn near impossible to shake once he’s got any sort of handhold. However, he’s also damn near impossible to shake even after two months of silence on my part, go figure.

I feel like I’m on the other side of Letter 366, where I’ve got the avoidant attachment style, and the harder people cling, the harder I push them away. I consider myself very independent, and I know that’s feeding into this as well…if I’m going to be cheered up or have my day brightened, I want it to come from within, when I’m ready to start feeling better on my own. My close friends know to let me wallow in self-pity until I arrive at a more balanced frame of mind on my own.

Is it all right to tell him, “Don’t call me, I’ll call you?” I’m not necessarily sure I want to cut him out of my life entirely, but I am sure that I need him to drop the contact attempts way back and make the ones he does send less saccharinely feel-good.

-Let Me Mope in Peace

Dear Let Me Mope:

I want to tell this person on your behalf that texting someone for 2 months without getting a reply = “YOU ARE ACTING LIKE A WALKING ADELE SONG. LEARN TO LET GO, DUDE.”

You could send him a message that says, “These attempts to cheer me up are kindly meant, but I’d rather you stop sending them. I’ll get in touch when I’m up for it.” Then don’t reply to anything else (until you’re up for it, which could be never).

A basically cool person might feel embarrassed about bugging you and being called out on it, but he won’t take it out on you – you’ll get a “Sorry!” text and then he’ll leave you alone. A not-cool person will ask “Whyyyyyyyyyyy???” and make it all about his feelings. Comforting someone about why you don’t want them to comfort you is not your jam, I’m thinking, so: Since you describe this person as “impossible to shake,” which response do you think you’re likely to get, and is it time to skip directly to the “block” function on your phone?

True story: I’ve blocked people or stopped replying to their way-too-frequent-for-our-level-of-intimacy texts and then run into them down the road, and I’ve even had them ask “Hey, did I do something to piss you off?” to which I’ve said “You are way more of a texter than I am and I couldn’t sustain my side of the conversation so I stopped trying.” You’d think that would be the most mortifying & awkward exchange in the world, but once again, cool people have been like “Ok , I figured, no problem thanks for telling me” and really irritating people have reminded me why I stopped talking to them in the first place.

I hope all the home front stuff improves soon and that your holidays are happy ones.

Dear Captain,

I (a woman) met a guy at a conference a few months ago – we spent some time hanging out and we hooked up. It was nice, he was smart, and I enjoyed talking to him. Work will occasionally bring us to each others’ cities, and we figured we’d stay in touch and see if it worked out to meet again in the future.

We have continued to message each other, largely initiated by him, and at first I was excited, because he is smart and has had an interesting life and holds multiple degrees in subjects that I’ve also studied. However, I’ve noticed that our conversations, since parting ways, have been pretty one-sided. I ask him about his thoughts, his projects, his opinions – and he shows little to no interest in mine. I’ve tried expressing myself without waiting to be asked, talking about what’s going on with me, but he doesn’t really…seem to engage? He’ll respond with some kind of platitude (“Cool!”) or just ignore that I’ve said anything and continue on with his chosen topic.

I’m especially sensitive to this lately due to Jess Zimmerman’s piece about the gendered division of emotional labor, which argues that men tend to expect women to pay attention to them and listen to them, and then refuse to reciprocate. It helped me realize that I have a pattern of getting involved with men who don’t really see me as an interesting, thoughtful person, who never really listened to me (past the wooing stage) so much as waited for me to stop talking (with varying degrees of patience).

I’ve already decided that I don’t want to continue the friendship in its current format, but I’m struggling with what to do about it. Do I just ghost and stop responding to his messages? Do I call him out on it? If I do that, what words could I use? It feels so desperate and needy to have to ask someone, “Why don’t you think I’m interesting? Why are you talking to me if you’re not actually interested in anything I say?” There are the mean voices in my head that say, “Well maybe you’re not as interesting as you thought, missy – maybe you *shouldn’t* be listened to.” And then there’s the added complexity of vulnerability/feelings from us having gotten naked together.

I feel like this is going to keep coming up in my life as a heterosexual woman, and it would be handy to have some scripts to address this with awesome guys who might just be clueless about emotional labor. Or should I move on from these guys as quickly as possible, without saying a word? What do you think?

-Seen but Not Heard


Dear Seen But Not Heard,

If you’re looking for permission to ghost, I heartily endorse a decision to stop replying to this self-involved dude with your precious time! I think that moving on quickly from people to behave like this is the way to go in the future. I’ve been on both sides of this one – feeling like I’m providing free therapy/listening/entertainment to some guy AND/OR also feeling like I don’t have the interest or energy to sustain a text/chat conversation with someone from afar – In either case, it’s never a sign that “all is well, definitely go ahead with feelings.

I mean, you could ask him, “Hey, have you noticed that you never ask me any questions? When we talk about your research you’re very chatty, but when the subject comes to my work you’re Mr. One Word Answer. What’s that about?” You could also try doing less in general – responding less to his messages, reaching out less, being unavailable – and seeing if he fills the gap with effort. But both of these tactics put more emotional labor on you, to get him to see a problem in the first place or to wait him out.

Down the road, when everything is working with someone, conversation will flow both ways and it won’t feel like work. I hope you find a balance between fun make-outs with hot conference-goers and finding the people who really get & appreciate you. You’re plenty interesting, and in fact way too interesting to spend your time being some dude’s flattering mirror.

*With full credit to the originators of the phrase.






178 thoughts on “#804 and #805: “Crap texts from a dude.*”

  1. Re #805: Ya know, the more men I meet, the more of these types I run into. I meet so many that I fall back into this same trap as the letter writer, thinking this is just how conversations with men proceed. It feels wrong at the time but I doubt myself since it is such a common situation. I just read Rebecca Solnit’s collection of essays, Men Explain Things To Me. Between that and reading Captain Awkward and the comments section here I feel buoyed up again. But I know there’ll be a next time, but at least I’m gaining patience.

    1. I’ve run into this too, and I’ve developed a habit of bluntly ending conversations when those behaviors come up. If I doubt myself afterwards, I think about whether a guy would talk to another guy in the same way. For example, I don’t return compliment fishing from men, because I’ve never seen that behavior between two guys.

  2. LW #805 — It seems to me that in worrying about how to balance the emotional labor of your relationship with this guy, you’re performing even more emotional labor that hasn’t even occurred to him to think about. Based on the way I read your description of the relationship (i.e., maybe you’ll hook up sometimes when you’re in the same city), is it worth it?

    In both letters I’m reading an unwillingness to ghost (or, in the case of the #804, maybe an unwillingness to FULLY ghost, or admit to yourself that you’re ghosting, since you haven’t responded in a few months). I wonder, how much do you owe these guys? Neither sounds like a very close relationship to begin with, and now you’re learning that you don’t actually gel as much as you thought you did, at least over text, which is your only mode of communication right now, anyway. I think there are situations where just walking away from most or all communication might be unfair, but these don’t seem to fall into that category to me. If you assume the status quo isn’t going to change, is it worth the work you’re putting in to maintain it? I say ghost away.

  3. Hah LW 804 you have helped me work out what’s wrong with a similar situation I’m having. Apparently I can see it clear as day when it’s happening to someone else.

    There’s this dude who’s come on way too strong, who flings various sexual innuendo and sexually-laden appearance compliments at me on Facebook and I’d started to get squicked out by it. But I couldn’t work out exactly *why* because he was more hinting than saying gross stuff and he was just flirting in a manner that’s widely accepted in my social circle (alas). And I realise, reading your letter, that I rarely even acknowledge that these comments exist, or if I do reply it’s with a subject change, and that I’ve been doing that for *months* or now that I think about it a whole year. Someone who keeps throwing this attention out there with no nibbles on the line for that long is at best being epicly clueless. At worst they’re on their way to being a creepy stalker. It’s OK to tell him to stop, or to just block him.

    I understand that feeling of not wanting to completely blow off this guy. I have the same feeling with the problem Facebook guy I have – what I really want to happen is not for him to go away forever so much as return to being an appropriately friendly acquaintance who doesn’t flirt with me and just hits like on my selfies rather than saying slightly over the line stuff about my hotness. But I realised while I was reading your letter that actually he’s made that impossible. Going back to friendly normality is not an option on the table because he’s been inappropriately flirting with me with zero encouragement for like a year now so my options are a) keep putting up with that or b) tell him to go away/block him. So. I suppose this is one of those returning-the-awkward-to-sender moments.

    LW 805 – I dated that dude and it’s soul destroying. You’ll feel intimate and close while you’re listening to his stuff and comforting him and generally doing nice emotional stuff for him. He’ll seem to really like you, because he likes how you listen and are encouraging and supportive and whatever. Then when you speak he’ll start texting on his phone and when you start talking about your shitty day at work he’ll change the subject or look bored and give you one word answers and then when you fall apart and really need him he might not be there for you at all, or he’ll make you feel like he’s doing you a huge favour and you’re really needy. And it will be really confusing because he seems to really like you and he treats you like this super close friend, but then, he doesn’t seem to find you or your life at all interesting so how can he really like you? This dude is selfish. You probably can’t educate him on this issue. A dude who just texted his way through my half of a conversation over a coffee the day before just liked and shared a piece I posted about emotional labour – seriously. He is aware of this stuff and it’s made zero difference to his behaviour. Trust me when I say you’re better off alone than being entangled with someone who doesn’t listen when you talk and seems to find you boring (at least when you’re not acting as their audience). If he doesn’t like you why is he being so close to you? Because he likes how you listen to him, all attentive and engaged, treating him like he’s an interesting and intelligent person. If only he returned the favour. 😦

    Don’t take it personally that he treats you like you’re uninteresting though. He’s probably so self involved that he hasn’t paid enough attention to you to have any idea if you’re interesting or not. This is a judgement on *him* not on you.

    1. “There’s this dude who’s come on way too strong, who flings various sexual innuendo and sexually-laden appearance compliments at me on Facebook and I’d started to get squicked out by it. But I couldn’t work out exactly *why* because he was more hinting than saying gross stuff and he was just flirting in a manner that’s widely accepted in my social circle (alas). And I realise, reading your letter, that I rarely even acknowledge that these comments exist, or if I do reply it’s with a subject change, and that I’ve been doing that for *months* or now that I think about it a whole year.”

      Yuuuup, I know this guy too. Several of them. Some of them do this to *every woman* they meet, and really enjoy living in the spaces of plausible deniability. So if any of the women ever directly say “hey, can you stop flirting?” they can say “what? I was just kidding! That’s just how I am!” or some variation. It’s like on a flirty scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being no flirting and 10 being directly asking someone out, they have to keep interactions with women at a 3 at all times, and then if anything they perceive as reciprocal flirting occurs, they ramp it up a notch, etc.

      I have met people who can pull off the fun-flirting thing really well, and others who always seem to be like “it’s a joke! Unless you want it to not be!”

      1. I might know that *woman* too. The co-worker -all four people in couples work at same institution- who tried to develop a secret (her live-in fiance not kept apprised), special, online friendship w/ my spouse. She sent him oddly suggestive videos like “Bad Romance” and asked his opinion of them. She would say things like “you’re a better feminist than me.” She asked him to always tell her if he was upset w/ her, as if they were more intimate than were. She asked if she “was allowed to care about him.” Then she would kinda neg him too, asking “Why are you chatting w/ me?” or “are you having a mid-life crisis” when she initiated contact. Is this the same “not really flirting” as when dudes do it or something else? How does the awkward army read her behavior? We cut contact. Was it overreacting?

        1. I’m not really good enough at people to get a full read on her behaviour (beyond that I agree it seems inappropriate), but I certainly don’t think you and your spouse were overreacting to cut contact with someone who was making you uncomfortable. I think that makes you both good at boundaries and respectful of your own relationship.

        2. @bleh: Flirting is fraught with interpretation and plausible deniability. You had to go with what you felt.

        3. I’ve never seen Bad Romance as ‘oddly suggestive’. Its never a good idea to oversee a partner’s social contacts. Its also possibly telling that it was your partner’s facebook page, and yet “We cut contact.” Not “he”. It sounds as if there isn’t a lot of trust and maybe a little more enmeshment than might be healthy. If your partner can’t handle even mild social enticement, its a good idea know that.

          1. All four humans were friends in real life prior to her attempts at online thing, so “we” cut ties. Could safely be accused of enmeshment, I suppose. Thanks all and good luck to letter writers.

        4. “Am I allowed to care for you?” She was testing the waters. Good on your guy for showing you. You were not overreacting.

          1. She was totally testing the waters. Good on the guy for sensing something was off, and good decision to disengage.

      2. Yeah twomoogles this dude lives exactly in the space of joking within my social context. I’ve known a few guys like him actually. It’s weird and hard to call out. But I’m reminded by this LW that I’m not reciprocating in any way – hell I even unfollowed him so I haven’t liked or commented on one of his posts for a long time. The stupid thing is, when I first met him I was entirely open to getting to know him better, but because of his endless comments it’s gotten more and more offputting to the point where I’m afraid to be even remotely friendly lest I encourage him. I feel like normal healthy behaviour might involve a little flirting sometimes but that if you get zero response that you should pull back. Also that you should be a bit less heavy on sexual inuendo with people you don’t know terribly well, you know, only bringing in that stuff if they start reciprocating. It’s tiresome and ever so slightly creepy.

        Of course this dude also has mental and physical health issues so my entire social circle is by default being nice and supportive of him, and the one mutual friend I raised it with (because I wanted to feel out if he’d done this sort of thing before and was a known missing stair or something) responded entirely with a barrage of sympathy for this poor guy with all his issues. Sooo. Ugh.

      3. Yes. This. I know a guy who made every Facebook post into something flirty or downright sexual. I couldn’t even post that I was going for a run without him turning it into something inappropriate. So I checked and found out he was doing this to EVERY female on his friends list. We had known each other from back in our 20s and he was the same way then, too. He’s in his 40s now, so I thought he’d grow up. Nope.

        I had ignored his comments (as had everyone else) for about 2 years. Finally, after he made my jogging post into something sexual, I responded by telling him to stop sexualizing everything I post about. He responded with “What?! I’m just giving you a compliment!” Right. So *I’m* the problem.

        I told him he needs to dial his “compliments” way down or I would block him. He responded by going through my Facebook and deleting every post he’d left, even questions in the beginning about where I reside and what I’m up to now, so my responses look bizarre. I can’t imagine how long it took him to find every post from 2 years back, but oh well. He hasn’t bothered me since, and I don’t have to worry about what my coworkers on Facebook think about the inappropriate remarks he would leave.

    2. “LW 805 – I dated that dude and it’s soul destroying. You’ll feel intimate and close while you’re listening to his stuff and comforting him and generally doing nice emotional stuff for him. He’ll seem to really like you, because he likes how you listen and are encouraging and supportive and whatever. Then when you speak he’ll start texting on his phone and when you start talking about your shitty day at work he’ll change the subject or look bored and give you one word answers and then when you fall apart and really need him he might not be there for you at all, or he’ll make you feel like he’s doing you a huge favour and you’re really needy. And it will be really confusing because he seems to really like you and he treats you like this super close friend, but then, he doesn’t seem to find you or your life at all interesting so how can he really like you? This dude is selfish. You probably can’t educate him on this issue.”

      Wow. You really nailed it there. You just described like, 3 exes of mine. I hadn’t really picked out the pattern before. Thanks for posting this!

      1. Yeah, I dated one of these dudes. He never laughed at my jokes, because he was waiting impatiently for me to shut up so he could interject his own witticism that was no longer witty because it related to a topic that was already dead due to him being the only one interested in it.

        1. So far, the degree to which my partners have laughed at my jokes is a huge indicator of the future success of that relationship.

          1. Now that I think about it, there does seem to be an outstandingly high correlation between length of friendships I have had and the amount of reciprocal laughter shared together (that is, where we are successful at appreciating each other jokes in comparable turns). Hmmmm.

          2. Yes, so much that. Joke laughter totally equals good intuitive reciprocation and most likely what will be good sex.

            Not laughing at my jokes, or worse, finding what I find lame or dumb or weird or humorless, is a HUUUGE red flag for incompatibility on almost all levels.

            Like, correlation, not causation. But exceedingly high correlation.

          3. Sex isn’t my thing, but the ability to have a mutual interest in and appreciation for what each person has to say is definitely a priority! Laughing at each other’s witticisms sure seems to me like a good sign of that interest and appreciation.

    3. Ugh, when you analogize my situation (I’m LW 804) to the creepy sexual innuendoes, that definitely highlights another layer of weirdness in this whole Sucking Vortex of Suckstasy for me. I kinda have a suspicion that he’s into me in a way that, uh, goes beyond friendship, but I don’t think he’d ever Use His Words, if for no other reason than I have made it clear that I am asexual and damn near aromantic and that he is not the exception to my 99% Uninterested state of being. I’m sorry your Facebook guy made the creepiness so explicit, and I totally understand about wishing you even had the option of returning to normal friendliness.

      1. Coming to this a bit late but I just want to say I get the exact same way (when people cling too much/contact me too frequently it makes me really, really uncomfortable), and I ID as ace/aro which can add another level of discomfort to the whole thing. Right now I’m trying to be really clear about my boundaries up front, because there are quite a few people out there who just can’t imagine that you wouldn’t want to hear from them super frequently, even if you don’t know them all that well, so they do not take the hint at all when you don’t respond to their texts/messages (which I have to work really hard not to get pissed about, because to me ‘not responding’ is definitely its own response). Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I totally get it and sympathize, and hope that everything works out. I think the Captain’s advice is great and will try to apply it to any similar situations I find myself in (because despite my best intentions it will more likely than not happen at some point) in the future.

        1. Ace/aro Jedi high five, if wanted! It definitely adds another headache into how to set and enforce boundaries, I find, because I want guys (in my experience, it’s always been guys) to know that I’m not interested in sex WITH THEM as individuals in the hopes that it will get them to stop dropping hints about how much greener the grass is on the other side of the Friendzone. On the other hand, I don’t want to lie about who I am, either, and I have had some really thought-provoking, insightful discussions with sexuals who appreciated my viewpoints in turn. Finding that balance between “I don’t want to have sex at all” and making it clear that “I don’t want to have sex WITH YOU” is a tricky act I haven’t balanced with a 100% success rate yet.

        2. So much for commenting on my phone–damn thing must’ve eaten my earlier reply! At any rate, I definitely get the added awkwardness about being too upfront about sexuality or lack thereof – since I consider it in the realm of possibility that I could make qualified exceptions, I don’t want to give guys (in my case, it’s always been guys) the impression that they could join the 1% of potential cuddle buddies if they just try harder. I try to be upfront about the fact that it’s not just that I don’t want to have sex, it’s that I specifically don’t want to have sex WITH THEM. At the same time, I see no reason to hide a prominent part of my identity, and I do take the possibly rose-tinted outlook that I can help increase awareness and consideration by being open with that label. Total digression by way of saying that I hear ya loud and clear!

      2. Heh nottakennotavailable I just assumed from your description that this dude was into you as more than friends. Sadly being asexual/aromantic doesn’t stop other people from fixating on you and then ignoring boundaries. Mainly what struck me was that you hadn’t replied to any of these messages yet he was still sending them, which took it immediately from awkwardness around different levels of prefered contact in friendship to dealing with a creepy stalker-ish dude who isn’t responding to feedback from you at all about his overtures (no contact is definitely feedback). I mean think about it! I sometimes send a few jokes or friendly texts to people I want to be closer to, and if they don’t really engage with the first couple I stop doing it and assume they’re not interested. I can’t imagine sending texts into the void for two months with no reply.

        The sad thing about my weird facebook guy is that I’m not even terribly concerned by it because it’s happened many times before and I know that eventually I’ll just unfriend him or block him if he reaches a point where I won’t take too much social flack for doing so. I am made weary by the thought that I can’t really do so just yet because of social flack where everyone will think I’m being mean to this poor dude (who has admitedly been through a tough time with his health). *headdesk* For now I’m just slowly squeezing him out of my presence with technology.

        Anyway. Good luck getting the message through to this dude – if nothing else you want to be able to hear your phone go *ding* and not feel a little surge of worry and adrenaline each time as you wonder if it’s the guy again.

        1. Good luck with your dude, too. I can personally attest to something you’re probably well aware of from just hanging around CA–it’s possible to have health issues and still not be a creepy jerkass! I hope your mutual friends figure out that bit of wisdom as well.

          Funny enough, this is not the first time I’ve been unwillingly cast as the Zooey Deschanel to someone’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt when I’m actually aspiring to be Melissa McCarthy. So I know myself that this, too, shall pass, but…ugh.

    4. when you speak he’ll start texting on his phone and when you start talking about your shitty day at work he’ll change the subject or look bored and give you one word answers and then when you fall apart and really need him he might not be there for you at all, or he’ll make you feel like he’s doing you a huge favour and you’re really needy.

      I dated someone for years who was kind of like this. He didn’t give me too much stuff of his own to listen to–he was mostly pretty withdrawn and kind of seemed to just want me around so that he wouldn’t be alone at family functions and so he could have sex whenever. He definitely didn’t seem to understand that feminism was a. important, period; and b. an increasingly important part of my life. I tried and tried and tried and tried, but it was like pulling teeth, I guess. One time I found such an absurdly concrete example of utter misogyny in a book I was reading, and I tried to read it aloud to him (it was a paragraph or two)…and he interrupted me halfway through to ask me where my roommate and I kept extra batteries in our apartment. Because the remote control was out of batteries. And for the whole 10 seconds I had been reading, he had been trying to channel-surf. That was that relationship in a nutshell. And that was during the years when he was trying to pay attention to me–just not in the ways that actually promoted and loving, mature relationship.

  4. I’ve texted with a fair number of guys similar to #805’s (usually met them online, though), and have ghosted on them without guilt. Or I’ve said as much – “I’m no longer interested, good luck to you, but I won’t be contacting you again.” Not only did they not really listen to me, they had a tendency to present their opinions as fact. (They also tended to give me irritating nicknames that I disike! No, I don’t go by the nickname I used 20 years ago, thanks. No, I don’t care if you like my nickname better. It’s not my name, and I don’t answer to it.)

    In my experience, asking “You don’t ask me anything. What’s up with that?” doesn’t lead to an answer, only a deflection back to himself. Ymmv, however….this guy may not realize it. Who knows? I would at least point this out, and then ghost without guilt if you get a dead end.

    1. @efmather and LW 805: Have you been dating my ex-boyfriend? Yes to him presenting his opinions as fact. Yes to him always steering the conversation back to him. Yes to the dumb nicknames that I hated. After experiencing his extreme self-centeredness, I dumped him. After which I got lots of Whyyyyyy? Which quickly turned into “you are such an awful person for not listening to me.” (Seriously??) Which lead to me blocking him in every way, shape, and form. The thought of him now still creeps me out.

      Google “dating a narcissist”. And then, DON’T date a narcissist. Far better men are out there. (Far, far, better.)

      Ghost to your hearts content!!

  5. Dear LW 804:

    I’m with the Captain: think for a few minutes (or seconds, or not at all!) about how this fellow will respond if you write that you’ll contact him when you’re ready. Then block him.

    Oh all right, send him a text saying you won’t be in contact until things chill out, then block him. Without waiting for a response.

    Dear LW 805:

    Your friend doesn’t sound like much fun. I’d bail on him. Even if he’s an amazing lover consider whether listening to him blather on with no reciprocation is a price of admission you’re willing to pay. (It’s not a price I’m willing to pay anymore.) Also, I don’t find that people who don’t listen make good lovers, but your mileage may vary.

    1. Yeah, blocking is almost certainly a necessity. In an odd way, I’ve almost come to relish these irritating intrusions – they’ve been a diversion from the larger mess that necessitated cutting back to text-only in the first place, and instead of being largely angry at forces beyond my control, I’ve instead been able to fling mental curses at Mr. Walking Adele Song for a few minutes after his attempts to Brighton my day (why that particular autocorrect grinds my gizzards so, I can’t say). Buuuut as therapeutic as the temporary re-directing of rage is, I realize I might be better benefited by, y’know, real therapy.

      1. “Dear LW 805:

        “Your friend doesn’t sound like much fun.” (from Mrs Morley, above).

        I read that and thought, well, that’s a bit trivial to say. Then I thought NO IT’S BRILLIANT, because I bet nobody’s ever said that to him before. “You’re no fun” might be the PERFECT thing to say to him. Imagine the deflation.

        Reminds me of my elder sister with her kids, when they were around 10 – 12. She used to say to the younger one when he was misbehaving: “Joey, don’t be such a colossal bore” and he would stop, horrified that he was being anything but entertaining. He had a big, bouncing ego so it didn’t squash him permanently but it made him stop and see his own behaviour.

        Still think you should block him, obvs.

  6. Oh hell. I do that same thing as the guy does to LW805. Never even realized… Not because I don’t care! But it sure must look that way to anyone texting me. Time to work on that, thank you!

    1. Thanks for fessing up! Would you be up for sharing why you do that thing? It’s a fascinating puzzle to people who might assume that not-caring is the cause.

      When I behave like that it’s usually due to illness, or to the other person seeming very overwrought and me not wanting to encourage that. I’m not quite sure why, perhaps because I learned that being emotional makes you vulnerable and is bad manners.

      1. I’m not Leiah, but as someone who tends to also do the same thing, I think the text medium can make it harder to tell the difference between a distracted “yeah, uh-huh”, and “I am totally interested in your stuff and am listening happily but I don’t actually have anything to say about it”.

        1. Exactly this. When my girlfriend sends me something cool and nifty, I will usually say “Awesome!” or something like that and leave it there. I don’t always have much to say about it, but I liked it and I’m glad they thought to send it to me. From her end, though, that ends the interaction and it doesn’t spark anything further. It’s an acknowledgement, but also comes across as a dismissal.

          I used to be a lot worse, not quite as bad as this guy (I really hope), but she’s been amazing at using her words. Because of that, I’ve changed a lot, and can see the big gap between how I feel and how I come across. I still hadn’t quite grasped the thing about why a positive answer was coming across negatively, so the insight here really helps.

          I come from a fairly stoic Midwestern family, so it’s taken a long time to see that silence and the occasional nod don’t really express the depth of what is going on in our heads. “I raised my eyebrows! That IS excited!” That realization is courtesy of my sister, who missed out on the stoic gene. =)

      2. In a chat medium, sometimes “cool” or “interesting” or other one-word answers are ways to indicate listening when you don’t have audio or visual cues. Like, “I’m still here/still reading” when the other person is giving you a lot of text and you don’t have a lot of text to type out. It’s not necessarily an awful thing to do, but over time, never asking someone a question and being very voluble when it’s your own stuff and not when it’s someone else’s stuff is telling.

      3. @misspiggy: I’m also not Leilah, but there are various reasons I do this:

        – Sort of in connection with having an avoidant attachment style, where I am not interested in the other person and don’t want to encourage them. In that case I wouldn’t answer at any length if they asked me about what was happening with me, though
        – I had a narcissistic mother who would talk about herself and her problems for hours on end and never asked me about me or gave any sign of noticing that someone was speaking when I tried to talk about myself. I didn’t learn much about how to converse in a courteous way growing up. So, I can resort to this learned behaviour in times of stress or completely without knowing it. In which case it is totally helpful if someone points it out
        – If I am really enthusiastic about something and my take on it, I get carried away and forget to consider the other person and their input. Essentially narcissism I guess
        – Suspected ADD

        805 dude sounds pretty narcissistic.

    2. I don’t text because I am too lazy to type responses on my phone.

      And I am not happy that my brother in law gave my mom and iPhone, put her on his plan, and taught her to text. She uses the voice function and will text me an entire paragraph, blessherheart. I had to tell her that I saved texting for urgent things, like “At baggage claim” or “Get milk!” and that I would be happy to email or call once I was home from work. (I keep my phone off at work and my company blocks hotmail.)

  7. Hey I dated 805, too. The best part of dating someone who won’t listen to you when you’re talking but expects you to listen to them is when you’re fighting and they’ve had their say but you haven’t had yours, and are never going to.

    (fly, fly away, there are people who find you interesting and charming and wonderful over the horizon)

    1. Move several states away? My parents have always vaguely wondered why all of their children’s lives just happened to work so that we scattered to the four winds. I’m the closest at 12 hours away by car. My two brothers are twice that far away, and on an entirely different continent respectively. Now there were more problems than just those of 805, but the tendency to expect us to be fascinated by their lives, and having no real interest in ours (unless they get to arrange them) was a good hunk of the problem.

    2. See her less often and for shorter periods. Go forth and read about narcissism (even if she doesn’t fit that perfectly you will learn strategies for dealing with self centred parents and how much that hurts). Get a therapist/psychologist of some kind, to work through the probably vast pile of issue you have thanks to having a parent more interested in themselves than their own children. Because there’s no way this isn’t the tip of the iceberg of you realising how messed up your childhood was and how that’s programmed you with all sorts of harmful behaviours and responses. Also, Ouch. I’m sorry.

    3. Oh, gosh, TheWhiteTree, that sounds so incredibly hard. Anisoptera had some excellent advice for you, and I heartily second what they said, but I just want to add: the problem is 100% on her side, and you don’t owe her anything.

      I say this because I think that while the fact that she’s your mom probably makes this way more painful for you, it also doesn’t change the facts that this relationship isn’t working for you, and that you don’t owe it to her or anyone to maintain it.

      Do you want to have a relationship with her? If she never changed, if she never started to show interest in you or your doings, how long would you keep trying to build a relationship with her? What if she never could change? Would you still want to have a relationship with her, for the rest of her life, if it were just like this?

      That’s a hard decision to make, I know, but you don’t have to decide anything right away. I want to propose an experiment: from now on, call your mom when you feel like it. Only call her when you genuinely want to talk to her. Don’t call her because you feel guilty. Don’t call her because you want to give her yet another chance to change her behaviour and show you that she’s interested in you and your life. Make peace with the fact that if you call, your conversation will likely be all about her, and then decide if you want to do that today. Call her if you understand that, and still have a selfish desire to interact. If you don’t genuinely, selfishly want an interaction just like all the others you’ve had with her where she talked your ear off about her life and didn’t ask about yours, then don’t call. See what happens.

      It may be that you will call her a lot less frequently. It may be that you will stop calling her altogether. It may be that she will eventually reach out to ask why. Explain yourself, or don’t. But making a choice to notice and act on your own preferences regarding your relationship with your mom seems like it would be a really healthy move, and may help you begin to do a bit of thinking about what you want going forward.

      Good luck.

      1. My mother is like this, and I eventually cut off contact. Really, my extended family of origin is all like this too, so we’re not in contact either. But… there was this 1 cousin I heard from infrequently, whom I reluctantly broke things off with this past summer (because, yes, she was never interested in my life).

        She keeps texting me, always when she’s having a bad day. She had one last week: “you deeply hurt me by cutting off contact” + “I love you unconditionally” + “you’re selfish” + “I won’t give up on you!”

        I’m not blocking her number because Reasons, but I don’t respond. I can’t figure out why she thinks the unhinged messages she sends would encourage me to renew a relationship with her. Anyone have any ideas?

        1. @Pqw: Ugh, that sounds so awful, and I’m so sorry you have to deal with that. I’m not sure why your cousin would behave that way.

          Hmm. One thing you could maybe try as a recon tactic would be to point out her behaviour and just see what she says?

          “Half your texts are about how much you love me, and half are about how I’m such a shitty selfish jerk. I haven’t even spoken to you for quite a while now, so I can’t have done anything lovable or selfish. I don’t know what to think.”

          “You keep telling me what a jerk I am, and yet you still say you want to have a relationship with me. I’m not going to apologize for anything I’ve done, and I’m not going to change how I behave to you. Can you accept this relationship on those terms, or are you hoping that something will change?”

          “It’s almost like you want me to think that I’m a terrible person and don’t deserve your grace, but that you’re generously offering it to me anyway, provided I give you what you want [attention/apologies/concessions]. Have I got that right? Because if so, that’s not a game I want to play.”

          Read on face, her behaviour seems like a very primitive attempt to manipulate you. I don’t know what she would say if you pointed that out to her, but it would be an interesting experiment, if you don’t feel you have anything to lose.

          I’m so sorry that your family hasn’t been much of a family to you. I really hope that you can look elsewhere and find your people. *hugs*

          1. Thanks for the reply, Chessie. I did try talking to her like you suggest a few months back – she got even more defensive, insisted that I should have known that my texts were poorly timed for her stressful life, said I was thoughtless & cruel, and claimed that I must be being ‘manipulative’, so she was going to ‘take a break from our relationship until I ‘returned’ to acting better’. {Stopped insisting on boundaries, I think she meant. 😦 }

            At that point, I gave up.

        2. Painful laughs of recognition here. I cut off contact before everyone had cell phones but if she had had one my mom would have done much the same. Along with a side helping of After everything I have done for you…

      2. Thanks for the kind words, Chessie. I do want to give her credit because she has made an effort to get better… our phone calls used to go:

        Me: Hi-
        Her:*off on a monologue for an hour straight*

        And now they go:

        Her: *simple, straightforward question like ‘how are you?’
        Me: Good! Making Italian food for dinner-
        Her: That reminds me of *long story about her eating Italian food that I’ve already heard a dozen times*

        Like, she’s asking me questions- yay!! But in response to my answers, she only talks about herself or someone she knows, and she doesn’t see anything wrong with repeating things she’s been saying for years. I don’t really know how to address that with her- like, it’s a totally normal way to talk SOME of the time, but not ALL of the time? I don’t know, I am not the right person to be trying to explain Remedial Conversation-having to anyone.

    4. I’ve kind of accepted that my family isn’t that interested in connecting with reality-me. They want to have those close, healthy relationships with daughter-me or sister-me, but they don’t want the inconvenience of actually engaging in a meaningful was. Which sucks? It’s a recurring blow to my self-esteem (28 and living with my mum), but I also now don’t have to care about my sibling any more. So that’s a perk?

      I take some comfort from believing that it’s okay not to like people – I dislike HEAPS of people, and there so many more I’m just not invested in! I can’t blame myself for someone else’s disinterest. The phrase “we’re not that close” has become soothing to me – this situation is common enough that people recognise the implications of the phrase. It hurts because it goes against so many ideas of “faaaammilyyy”, but it’s real and reasonably common. Some people eject, others redraw boundaries, some pour even more energy in. I think people usually switch between all three at different times.

    5. Dr. McBride’s “Will I Ever Be Good Enough?” If the title question feels painfully familiar, you’re going to want to read it.


    6. In my case, with regard to my parents, I think that person used to be me. In that I would babble on and tell them all about my life, and then not ask about their lives. I gradually grew up and started asking them questions. Sometimes I hear about things going on in their lives that I don’t really care about. Sometimes it leads to fascinating discussions and long exchanges of ideas. Sometimes, it’s just a reminder than we care about each other. I don’t have any ideas, other than general encouragement that the dynamic can change.

      1. Children are actually entitled to a crap load of labor, emotional and otherwise, from their parents. It isn’t a relationship of equals.

        Part of growing up is balancing out that equality to a relationship between adults, but there’s a couple of decades of not equal.

        1. Yes! My kids are 6, 8, and 11. At dinner, I ask each of them in turn how their day was, and some specifics about that. After we’ve done all that, I will often contribute a short blurb about my own day before we segue into something else. But I keep it to neatly digestible bite-size chunks, and it’s mostly to model to them how adults and civilized people converse.

          My kids are entitled to my fascination with them and how their day was and who they sat next to at lunch and why learning line dancing in gym isn’t as fun as basketball. I’m not entitled to their fascination with that white paper I’m writing, and my discussion with my boss about which funding venue looks likeliest to throw money at my proposal.

          It’s far too late for anybody to see this reply but I’m going to post it anyway. 🙂

      2. That’s kinda what growing up IS though? It’s really really not the same as parents being uninvested in their children, because to the kid, the parents are most, if not all, of the world for many years, whereas parents are adults and can get emotional support and validations from other places (each other if there are two or more parents, extended family, friends, etc).

        Don’t blame yourself for having been a self-centered kid/teen/young adult. Literally everyone is.

    7. Your mother and mine must be related. I’ve always felt invisible to mine. When I was a teenager she’d drone on and on and one about her feelings and interests and even her dreams of the previous night, but when I talked she’d get a blank look on her face and walk out of the room mid-sentence. When I moved into my own apartment she’d phone me and talk non-stop. I’d put the receiver down, go and do laundry or something for 20 minutes, then come back and she’d still be talking – not even aware that I’d been gone.

      1. I can remember my own mom doing this to her mom. Just putting the phone down, walking away, coming back and her mom never noticed just still talking. It was disturbing as a kid and now rips my heart out when I think… Oh god. Growing up with such a parent. What she must have gone through.

        1. …wow. My mom used to laugh about doing this before her mom died. Now I wonder if it hurt her more than she let on.

      2. The only time my mother ever actually listened to me talk about my academic work was the time she asked when I had brought a friend over and she couldn’t interrupt me without looking like a dick (my mum is very into presenting a certain appearance to strangers). I spent over a decade studying this topic, and that was the only time she ever actually let me talk about it for more than 30 seconds.

  8. LW #805, kudos for figuring that dating pattern out. Same here. So far I’ve only been able to break it by being consciously single, but that’s infinitely better than dating those dudes. Thanks for sharing the Toast link. I’d missed that and it’s always nice to have things you know in your gut to be true articulated so well.

      1. Yes! I was going to post this as well. Same here – completely life changing. It is a long thread, but so, so, so, so worth it.

  9. LW #805 – I’ve been there, done that, too, with someone I saw from time to time at work conferences. It took me longer than I care to admit to realize that I’d never even get the level of friendship I wanted with this guy, let alone a romantic relationship. (He was cool with hooking up, of course – at his convenience.) He was a smart, likeable guy who had interesting things going on in his life. He was also totally self-absorbed in a remarkably clueless way, so he had no interest in the things going on in my life.

    Two years ago, I decided to stop contacting him – easy enough, since all we did was email. I would get an email from him from time to time, typically very brief sharing a photo he took or a link related to one of my hobbies (he bothered to remember one, so he could appear interested, if need be) often with a “thinking of you!”-type message. Oh puh-leez! If he was ever thinking of me, it was only because he was lonely, and wanted female attention to make him feel better about himself. Anyway, I would sometimes reply, but keep it short and never ask about his life or anything. If he responded, I wouldn’t reply unlesss he specifically asked a question. He rarely would. It was very freeing to not put any effort into maintaing a conversation!

    LW, I think you dude is the same (not necessarily the exact same person!). If you feel like you need to be open to talking to him for professional reasons (why I will respond to my dude’s emails at all), then do so. But mentally & emotionally, go ahead and ghost without any further discussion – he won’t get it. If he’s like my dude, he won’t even realize that you’ve stopped making an effort. Also, if he’s like my dude, he’s got other women he seeks attention from besides you. Don’t let him waste your time and energy, which can be spent on people and things that actually enhance your life — not use you as an accessory piece to theirs.

    1. “Thinking ’bout you” is second only to “Hey” in the “oh, a lazy dude would like attention now” playbook.

      1. Oh my. I just realized why my ex would complain that I wasn’t paying enough attention to him when I would respond to “thinking of you” with silence or a <3, and nothing else. It never even occurred to me that that was a way of asking for attention. I just thought it was a way of being randomly affectionate without asking for reciprocation. I always assumed of her wanted attention, he'd ask for it. This guy was also a lot like 805's, though over the course of our multi-year relationship, I did eventually convinced him to ask me how my day had gone, but he always did it grudgingly and kept checking his phone through my answer.

      2. Yes, very yes. You know how you show me you’re actually thinking about me? It’s the same way I show you I’m thinking about you:

        By sending you a poo emoji because I know the little eyes creep you out a little, by texting “pants aren’t weasles!!” and refusing to ever explain, or sending you a photo of a particularly hideous thingie I know you would love, or telling you about a cool article or something that seems relevant to your interests.

  10. LW #804:

    Oh, ugh, motivational memes. Bonus points if they’re misattributed to a famous person who’d never say anything like the quote! (Einstein wouldn’t have believed in the law of attraction. Really. REALLY.)

    Ahem. Anyway. Since failing to respond hasn’t discouraged him and you don’t want to cut him off entirely … It’s not rude to reply with something like, “Hey there. I appreciate your efforts, but I’m really not into inspirational quotes, especially when I’m dealing with a crisis. What I need right now is some alone time. When I’m ready to talk again, I’ll let you know!”

    And if he contacts you beyond one “Okay, later,” he has given you permission to block.

  11. #805 is a lot like my brother. I’ll ask him about his work, his school, hobbies, etc and he’ll talk about them, but then he never lobs the conversational ball back into my court. If I stop asking him questions about himself, the conversation stalls awkwardly. He shows no interest whatsoever in my life. I wish we were closer but I have no idea how to build a relationship with someone like that.

    1. One option is to find things you can do together, so that you can have an interactive conversation about that thing. Go to a movie and then talk about the movie. Take up rock-climbing and debate different types of rock-climbing shoes. Visit your parents and then complain about them. Whatever floats your mutual boat.

      Another option is to say “Hey, bro, I have been feeling pretty unloved over here lately. You never ask me what’s going on with me or listen when I talk about things that matter to me. What’s up with that?” and see what happens. Maybe he’ll say “Crap, I never realized that I was doing that, but you’re totally right” or “You seem like a very private person and I didn’t want to intrude or be pushy” or “I’m freaked out by the tiniest possibility that you might talk about S E X because I can’t cope with hearing about that from my sibling” or something else that opens the way for a thoughtful mutual discussion of how you can build a better relationship with more mutual conversations. Maybe he’ll say “That reminds me of this fascinating anecdote about me” or “I just always assumed your life was boring” and reveal himself to be kind of useless. But at least you’ll have some more information than you do now, and some idea of how you want to proceed.

      1. These are great suggestions, and a brother is someone you’re in a lifelong relationship (so, worth the investment of talking it through) unlike someone you’ve known only briefly.

  12. LW #805:

    “I’ve already decided that I don’t want to continue the friendship in its current format …”

    Meaning you want to dial back to an acquaintanceship in which you don’t talk much? Or meaning you’d be okay continuing to pursue a more significant relationship IF he gets his head out of his ass?

    If the first one … I’m generally not a fan of ghosting, but a vague, “Hey, really busy now, won’t be in touch much” should do you, followed by a statement that you’re no longer interested in him if he presses.

    If the second one? It’ll likely feel better if you tell him what you need rather than phrasing it as a question. “I listen to people and ask them questions about their lives, and I like being with people who do the same for me. If you’re not into that, we should part ways now.” Or something to that effect.

    #2 is easier said than done for sure, and you don’t owe him an explanation. Pick #2 only if it’ll make you feel good to know that you gave him a chance to do better.

  13. #804: There’s a non-awful, although somewhat clueless, interpretation of your oh-so-motivational friend. Sending stupid cheer-you-up texts and memes really isn’t much effort (when we’re talking about a once-a-week kind of frequency), so this might not be a big deal to him like the unwanted attention is to you. Somebody says there’s an emergency, so you check up on them and send them cheering, nourishing emails, they say thanks a few times. So you keep on checking up and sending emails because, hey, they probably appreciate it! And it makes sense that they don’t respond, because we KNOW they’re in a very stressful time right now, and what, they’re going to write a “thanks” or a full reply to some cheerful pictures of puppies or whatnot?

    Some common biases: people are very happy to do something Caring and Supportive, ANYTHING, because it helps them feel like they’re doing something meaningful.
    And also people are very averse to setting boundaries and saying “That’s probably well-intentioned but please stop,” because it’s easier to let things slide than risk insult and confrontation, and then both the behavior and the potential perceived insult get worse and worse.

    Which all goes to say that I agree nearly completely with the Captain’s advice: you can tell how understanding the person is capable of being by testing how he responds when you actually need him to be understanding. If his response is anything beyond what you’re personally comfortable with, the answer is: not understanding enough for you.

    So if you’ve never told him you’d rather he stop sending you stuff – do that. The Captain’s script is great – acknowledging his good intentions, stating a clear request, and that’s it. It avoids fawning “I appreciate your efforts” (it does not sound like you are appreciative) and it makes clear that you need to be the person to decide when/if to get back in touch. It may feel somewhat blunt — and that’s really the point; you need to be able to make this point bluntly and clearly.

    I suspect you’ll feel better having told the guy to stop and given him room to do so himself (and then blocking if he doesn’t stop), than blocking him silently and having no idea where he stands or what his reactions have been. But that’s just my two cents.

    1. Was going to say somethng similar. If LW 804 hasn’t said anything about their preferences then I can very much imagine that the friend thinks they are being kind by continuing to throw out a supportive thought occasionally and letting LW know they and the difficult time they are going through haven’t been forgotten.

      There’s nothing wrong with LW being built the way they are, and not liking that kind of thing, but friend is not objectively a pest if they aren’t aware that what they are doing isn’t something the LW finds helpful or comforting, nor are they an idiot for failing to immediately get what silence means here.

      I hope the LW does ask friend for what they need and I hope friend proves compassionate enough to let them be gracefully.

      Best of luck with the difficult times you’re facing, LW. Hope you find your way to feeling better!

    2. This is a good perspective on the matter. A text once a week feels like a lot to LW, but it might not feel like a lot to the guy at all. Hopefully he’d back off if he knew it made her uncomfortable. And if not, oh well. Time to block.

    3. Hmmm, this is a good point. There are several other layers that I think are going into these texts (mostly that I suspect he wishes we were more than “just” friends. Why I seem to be such a magnet for these guys and how to shake them is fodder for a whole ‘nother letter…), but you’re right that it would likely be beneficial to both of us if I stopped grinding my teeth long enough to tell him to cut it out.

      1. Yeah, that gray zone’s just awful. :-/

        You can both have the best intentions, but the merest niggling hope on one side and the sense of annoyance and exasperation on the other make every interaction something tense and foreboding, like you’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop and it never does. And that’s one of the rosier scenarios.

        I feel like the Captain’s written about this before, but I’m not finding a heads-on post at the moment. So my own interpretation: Never feel bad about setting the boundaries that work well for you. You get to choose your own relationships so that you feel comfortable.
        Sometimes it’s “I like hanging out but stop making jokes about making out,” sometimes it’s “Being in touch is awesome, but less frequently,” sometimes it’s “Let’s stop speaking and never resume.”
        It’s nice and often helpful to give somebody the benefit of the doubt so that those boundaries are mutually acknowledged, but that’s secondary to actually setting and keeping them.

        All the best 🙂

        1. I guess my phone ate my comment when I tried to send it in earlier on the WP app–thanks, technology! Thank you for the kind wishes. I feel like this probably has been addressed in a way that touched on my issue, too, though perhaps it was the caps lock I had deployed when typing “OMFG LEAVE ME ALOOOOOOOOOOONE” that returned 0 search results in the archives. :p I will definitely be using the script, since I would like to know for my own peace of mind whether this guy is a less-frequent or never-again type of friend.

    4. Yeah, this happened to me when my mother died. There was a friend who would send “how are you doing” messages to me and then not be available for the response, good or bad. She apparently thought she was doing her part by letting me know she had thought of me. I started ignoring those messages (although she and I are still friends) and she has (apparently) stopped sending them.

  14. You could also try doing less in general – responding less to his messages, reaching out less, being unavailable – and seeing if he fills the gap with effort. But both of these tactics put more emotional labor on you, to get him to see a problem in the first place or to wait him out.

    Yep. This is exactly the emotional labour women are tasked with and then criticized for (labelled as “passive aggressive,” too “circular,” “indirect.”) Hinting and hand-holding and respecting a man enough that you think he’ll eventually Get It if you drop enough hints is exhausting, laborious, and, yeah, indirect. That’s because women are discouraged from stating clearly and upfront what their needs are. We’re not even really encouraged to explore precisely what our needs are, because that’s self-care (and therefore selfish) and requires time for introspection that could be better spent listening to someone strum Wonderwall for the fiftieth time in a row.

    1. What’s particularly shitty about the dilemma Seen but Not Heard finds herself in is that it’s up to her to cultivate and manage (this imitation of) a casual relationship that provides nothing for her but humiliation and confusion while supplying him with a confidante and cheerleader. Meanwhile, he can barely suppress his disinterest in her, is impatient when she speaks, and doesn’t even have the minor generosity it takes to feign respect. I mostly doubt that he thinks this arrangement constitutes a happy, healthy friendship, but he’s too lazy or selfish to change it or abandon it.

    2. I feel like the real trap of emotional labor is that to move toward parity, we have to do EVEN MORE of it. Because we have to bring it up, and explain it, and remind the other party that they’re doing/not doing the thing that we talked about, and, and …

      1. Good point, @manybellsdown. This is where an avoidant-insecure style can come in handy. An attempt or two to move toward parity feels worthwhile to me. After that, a fade might be in order.

      2. True. For me the litmus test is whether someone is willing to put in roughly equal amounts of any other type of labour. I have some friends of both genders who work hard to make a gathering go well; some who keep our network together; others who are great at talking through emotional stuff; and some will use their technical skills to help us when we’re in a jam. If someone brings something unselfish to the party, I’m going to appreciate that, even if some of us have to do the emotional labour bit for them. If not, it’s not my job to make anyone a functional human being or to spend time with a vampire.

  15. LW #804: I feel like I know where you’re coming from. My way of dealing with Things is usually a variation of staying at home, closing my doors and processing for a few hours/days/weeks. Only after that part is over am I able to receive other people’s comforting in a way that’s comforting to them. It’s hard to convey that idea, especially to someone whose processing style is totally different, and especially especially if they’ve never encountered it before.

    At my best, I use some form of this script: “I appreciate your concern and your attention, but right now I need some time alone to process. I will contact you when I’m ready to talk about it.”

    (At my worst, I just don’t tell anyone that the Thing happened. This is a bad tactic and I heartily disrecommend it.)

    1. Oy, Don’t Talk About the Thing is also pretty high up in my list of strategies for dealing with crises! Fortunately (?), the logistics of this particular issue required having my family in the loop, so at least I had some built-in support from the get-go. And I/ had a massive, “Wow, I never thought of it that way!” with your mention of receiving other people’s comfort in a way that’s comforting to them–I first encountered that phenomenon when my mom died eight years ago and have been trying to find ways of working with it ever since, as virtual strangers seem to be more distraught over her death than I am (long, complicated history). In this particular situation with this particular guy, it’s been pretty easy for me to dismiss his attempts at comfort just because I do suspect he has ulterior motives.

    2. God, Yes, THIS. I couldn’t even respond to people emailing me condolences and support over my mom’s death till roughly… um… now? Earlier this week? I could finally get together enough to aknowledge and respond to such, and the event was back in June. Even though I would have felt awful and abandoned without them, it still felt oddly intrusive to have them coming from someone whom I haven’t talked to since freshman year of college.

      1. Plus the awkward combination of people you haven’t talked to in forever and people who say dumb shit just because they feel obligated to say something. Can’t you just stick with, “Sorry for your loss” and be done with it? Which, BTW, I am sorry for your loss.

        1. Can’t it be a new rule that, if I don’t contact you first, don’t assume I need support from YOU? The people I needed support from, I contacted directly. I tend to be a really private person, unsolicited anything hits my OHGOD NO GO AWAAAAAY buttons. Probably because most of my socialization is online, and are we not always being taught to be careful with information?

          And, thanks. That right there is about the level I can cope with without it hitting my NOPE GTFO barriers.

  16. LW #804: If you choose to block this guy in your phone and cease all communication with him, that is totally fair and I will not judge you for it. It definitely sounds like he is not the best at reading you. However, I do want to suggest that there is a chance that this might be a case of oblivion. There truly are well-meaning people in the world who are that bad at reading social cues, and I know this because I used to be a person who would have been capable of making a mistake this huge without ever realizing it. It’s possible that your irritating friend genuinely still believes — or at least still feels he has a reasonable hope — that he’s brightening your day, that his texts make you smile even if you don’t feel up to responding to them. I think it might be worth sending a tactful response along the lines of what the Captain has suggested, and seeing how he reacts. Wouldn’t it be great if he said, “Oh, oops! Sorry, I didn’t know it was bugging you, I’ll knock it off.”

    Of course, you know the situation best, so I defer to your judgement. Good luck, and enjoy your time with your family.

    1. I do think there is some obliviousness here, though I kind of think some of that is willful. But I am planning to deploy the Captain’s script, if only because the result will give me a good indication as to whether I should go low contact or no contact.

  17. Being charitable about #804’s guy:

    There’s a *lot* of stuff about right now, around being a Good Friend for someone with MH issues / who’s going through a tough time, etc, and how Not Being There means you’re Not A Real Friend. There’s a chance Dude #804 has seen these and is trying *really really hard*.

    If this is the case, saying “Hey, I really appreciate your support, but right now it’s overwhelming and I’m finding it hard. Please could you dial it back / stop? I’ll let you know when I’m feeling better and we can catch up then.”

    This might work – it did for me in a similar situation, and the guy in question (after half a dozen(!) apologetically horrified texts) did exactly as I’d asked, and so we’re still good friends now.

    It might *not* work, in which case go ahead & block.

  18. I feel you, LW 804, I have been in a situation quite similar to this. Initially I considered the other person who I shall call St. a friend though St.’s neediness and intensity made me uncomfortable right from the start. I backed off and saw St. a couple of times in six months in public places, but the lack of contact in real life seemed to make the fantasies burn brighter. Things reached a stage where St. really started to pester me, phoning, sending pass the sick bucket emails like those you describe, and, what I found really creepy, sending me a text last thing at night and then again first thing in the morning. I reached a crisis with it all when St. wanted to spend Valentine’s day with me, a thought which made my flesh crawl. A friend referred me to …. Captain Awkward! I found much of interest in the archives — 620 and 621 were helpful, and especially 225, which finally informed my course of action. As you were thinking, I effectively said “don’t call me, I’ll call you”. I prefaced it by saying that I was finding all the attention smothering and stressful and I needed some space, and I concluded with “Thank you for your understanding”. I did feel conflicted because I had liked some things about the person. I decided to wait six months; as predicted in 225, I enjoyed the six St.-free months and am still so relieved. I did delete the phone number and set up a filter for emails, but as far as I know, St. totally got the message and has not contacted me. This may even prompt the other person to get some help with their neediness.
    So if you’re not already familiar with them, do read those archive entries and do a search for African Violet too. Good luck!

    1. Your situation and LW804’s situation sound VERY similar – I got a “let me show you what a caring, supportive boyfriend I would be, if you just let me out of the Friendzone” vibe from the letter.

  19. I’m a newbie to commenting but read this site a lot. The second letter resonated so strongly with me and I would like to assure the LW that it is most definitely not just you this happens to and has absolutely no bearing on how interesting you are (or aren’t). I feel it is quite prevalent these days for a person (in my experience the guy, as I am a heterosexual woman, too) to show little or no interest or to stop texting altogether, even if you’ve been on a date or hooked up or whatever. It does not make you feel great, but that’s because you’re a person with feelings and it’s perfectly OK to feel crap about it. However, once you let it go, it really does make you feel better.

    Here is what I did when a guy I met online and I dated three times, had sex, and he then went off the radar until he finally got in touch to tell me I was ‘too shy’ to have sex again with in the future ‘even though’ he thought I was hot. Gee, thanks for the benediction. Anyway, I was super upset because that’s something I worry about a lot, being too shy (although never for sex until he mentioned it), as you worry about not being interesting enough. I worried about it for a while and felt bad and felt as if I’d be single forever because omg I was TOO SHY for sex! Surely this was an unfixable problem and maybe other guys thought it too! But one day I stopped and thought, hmm, why am I giving him all this power? He doesn’t even know me; he based a judgement of me on three brief dates and not much communication, plus a first-time hook-up. I didn’t even enjoy the sex all that much and didn’t get anything out of the ‘relationship’ as he was terrible at texting and I might as well have talked to myself most of the time. Once I thought about what I wanted out of the situation and realised it definitely wasn’t him, I felt much better. I didn’t even grace his text with a reply until two weeks later when I just dropped him one to say cheerio. I honestly believe if you can focus on what you want out of a person and a relationship it will make you feel a lot better. You have as much power as he does and honestly he’s showing his personality nice and early so at least you can go ‘actually, nah, I want someone who’s really into me and what I do’. It has no reflection on you and you’re now free to find someone really worth your texts and your time.

    If you want to reply to him because I know that I’m not good at just ghosting someone, why not say something along the lines of ‘It’s been nice chatting to you but I’m not really feeling it any more, I wish you well!’. But if you want to just ignore him, I say go ahead. Give yourself the least stressful solution.

    By the way I’m no expert in relationships at all, so take this all with a pinch of salt if you wish 🙂 I just wanted to empathise because this is so fresh in my mind. Good luck!

  20. #804- Let Me Mope– Of course the direct approach is best, but for the sake of humor, entertain this idea. Go to:
    and hit “reionize electrons”. Copy one of the sayings you get to your inspirational pal daily. I doubt he’d catch a clue, but it might be amusing.

    1. When I’m in situations similar to LW 805’s, where I’m pretty sure whomever I’m interacting with sees more as monologue audience rather than conversation partner, I’ll sometimes test this hypothesis by responding strictly with song lyrics. Not relevant ones, mind you, but stuff from some of the Doors’ weirder songs, for example. I’m now envisioning conducting all future interactions with Walking Adele Song in some mixture of these reionized electrons and lines written while Jim Morrison was clearly high on all the drugs floating around L.A. at the time, and imagining the slowly dawning bewilderment on W.A.S.’ face makes me cackle.

  21. Oh dear. LW 805, this is me and one of my closest friends right now. And even though we are both women, or maybe because of it, it is so hard to call out such conversation hogging. The ultimate stroke of irony came when I coached her through getting some distance from a dude doing it to HER.

    My strategy now is to practice thinking “I don’t have to respond to this.” Also to be honest when she pisses me off. And filter emails. But I cannot bring myself to ghost. Jedi hugs because this is HARD.

    1. I related to this on a women-friend-level too. I’d been feeling more and more overlooked as a person in my own right, rather than just a sounding board, with close work friends. Or I thought they were close, but I guess my level was higher than theirs. Then I went through a tragedy that very few people can relate to (missed-miscarriage, still pregnant for 4 insane weeks after with poor care from my former ob) which really f*cked with my head, and they acted like nothing happened at all.

      I basically ghosted, even though I still see them from time to time at the office and try to be polite, but it hurts and it’s awkward. I don’t know if I did the right thing, and I know I am way too avoidant as it is, but when do you owe others explanations that they don’t really seem to care to hear anyway? I hesitated to comment about this, but it’s so nice to hear outside perspectives, for me anyway.

    2. I related to this on a women-friend-level too. I’d been feeling more and more overlooked as a person in my own right, rather than just a sounding board, with close work friends. Or I thought they were close, but I guess my level was higher than theirs. Then I went through a tragedy that very few people can relate to (missed-miscarriage, still pregnant for 4 insane weeks after with poor care from my former ob) which really f*cked with my head, and they acted like nothing happened.

      I basically ghosted, even though I still see them from time to time at the office and try to be polite, but it hurts and it’s awkward. I don’t know if I did the right thing, and I know I am way too avoidant as it is, but when do you owe others explanations that they don’t really seem to care to hear anyway? I hesitated to comment about this, but it’s so nice to hear outside perspectives, for me anyway.

    3. I had a very similar thing happen with one of my closest friends as well. She’s recently taken over managing our local weekly dance event (an ongoing process that has meant many many months of work and questions and new-ideas), also had a lot of stuff happening at her day-job and had some things going on with her family for good measure. I had to finally talk to her when we had lunch together and, per my expectation, we discussed Her Issues 95% of the time. I was totally fine with that – it was as expected and this SuperBusy Period in her life *will* pass…what wasn’t okay is when I wanted to tell her about my recent date in my 5% talking time, and she started doing stuff-related-to-dance-event on her phone as I spoke. Lunch was almost over, so at that point I stopped talking, finished out lunch, and gave a lot of thought to what I would say to her after work (when we were seeing each other next). I did decide that I needed to speak up (see: close friendship) and I did so with as much compassion as I could (she is legitimately swamped lately and overwhelmed and I don’t mind being primarily the sounding board…for a not-forever time period), basically saying “hey, I get it, you really need to vent to me because there’s no one else you can talk to as much, and Things mean we talk about your problems the vast majority of the time right now BUT I need your FULL attention when I talk about me, precisely because I don’t get a chance to do so often lately.” And…because she is lovely and caring, she really listened, got a bit teary, apologized, hugged me, and MOST IMPORTANTLY has been 100% better about it since then.

      Kbozukova, if this is happening with a close friend, I really recommend bringing it up. If you’re close, there should be some motivation on her part to be better…I hope! Good luck if you choose to address it.

  22. Re #805: Years ago I dated someone who was on the extreme end of this entitled thinking. He’d go on and on about his problems, but after a while I began to notice that he’d quickly find a reason to absent himself if I wanted to talk about something that bothered me. Or he’d promise to do something with me and change his mind at the last possible minute, when I couldn’t change the plans. Presumably by agreeing to do it in the first place he was just telling me what he thought I wanted to hear, just throwing me a bone now and then to keep me hanging on.
    I don’t know why I gave him as long as three months, to be honest, but it made me determined to break it off sooner if I ever found myself with someone that self-centered again.

  23. #805 SeenBNH– I have a slightly different take on this one– though the conclusion is the same. I think the the fact that he’s a guy and you’re a woman and whole getting naked thing is a confusing factor for the real issue: Your communication patterns don’t mesh– with the conclusion that you should stop trying to communicate. I’ve known people who consider coming up with things to say about their activities and ideas and inner life to be work to reach out to the other person while listening is the easy part. I’ve know people who consider asking about the other person’s life to be nosy with the understanding that the friends will volunteer information that they want to volunteer. I’ve known people who consider one word answers not to be dismissive but to be respectful. I’ve known people who value the chance to clarify their thoughts by talking it out, thinking out loud, and don’t spell out each time thank-you-for-letting-me-bounce-this-off-you. I don’t see any of these as necessarily wrong or letting the other person do the emotional work. I do see them as compatibility factors.

    What to do? I don’t care for the sudden ghosting option. Since the nature of your relationship is that of friends anyway with no discussion of boyfriend/girlfriend or an exclusive sexual relationship, I prefer the one where you take longer and longer to respond to his messages. That way you’re on speaking terms when you run into him professionally in a no hard feelings sort of way. I also like calling him on it, not because I think it will change his behavior, but because it helps me get the thought out of my head. I wouldn’t start with the assumption that he finds you uninteresting. I’d start with the assumption that he’s being rude. “Hey, I just spent a half hour listening to you go on about your latest work challenge, and all you have to say about my meeting with my boss is “cool!”? For me, this would be a way of facing my fear that he’ll spell out the you’re-uninteresting thing. If he does spell it out, you can safely leave the friendship with no doubts. If he has some other explanation, you’ll know that too. You’ll be ending things based on real knowledge rather than vague feelings. Note that I’m not saying to give him another chance. If you’re unhappy with the current relationship, that’s all the reason you need to end the current relationship. Like Jennifer has said, when the relationship is good, the things you do for each other won’t feel like work.

      1. Thanks. I’m someone who likes to talk out (or more likely write out) my thoughts as I consider things from all angles. I expect my friends to jump in when they have something to say. To me, asking questions to draw them out feels like interrogating. And I have great friends! We’ve figured out how we communicate and get along great.

        1. Yes. Personally I can very vividly remember a number of occasions where I’ve been very stressed by interrogative questions, or even startled into answering a personal question I didn’t wish to share the answer to. Or more mildly, had an unpleasant conversation because someone kept interrogating me about a part of my life I found boring and didn’t hugely want to talk about (school, work, etc). And I’ve really never had similarly stressful or anxiety-provoking experiences of someone just not asking me questions and leaving it for me to say what I chose.

          So although I know rationally that my experience isn’t universal, I tend to instinctively see things through that bias. I am very cautious when it comes to asking people anything. The risk of making them uncomfortable by unknowingly asking the wrong question often does feel bigger than the risk of just waiting to see what they bring up. And how far they choose to go with it once they start. Or of offering a story of my own as a conversation-starter. And I’m generally happy to listen to others go on at length, and also generally happy when they don’t ask me loads of questions but mostly just let me share what I’m excited about or what’s on my mind. I mean, there’s a happy balance there somewhere and there’s a place for questions in my life, but I get the feeling it’s a smaller place than some people here are describing.

          I notice though that LW805 said that she sometimes tried just talking about what she wanted to share and he was dismissive, though. So to me it doesn’t actually sound like a difference in communication styles here.

    1. I really like everything you say here, and I want to second not-caring-for-sudden-ghosting, though maybe from a different perspective. If two people have had a relationship with each other, I don’t think they necessarily owe each other much, but “I’m not interested in having this/these conversations now/ever” *isn’t* much. I think it’s just the bare minimum. I’m not sure how typical this is, but nothing has made me feel sick-in-the-stomach bad about myself the way being ghosted has. I know that’s on my own way of processing things and no one “made me” feel that way, but I still can’t imagine setting someone up for that.

      If someone isn’t respecting boundaries, or seems dangerous, or probably with a hundred other reasons, ghost away! But I really disagree with using it as a default way to tie things off with someone. I expected a lot more people here to a “use your words” approach in this case…am I missing something big?

      1. I don’t necessarily know that you’re missing something big? A lot of this is highly dependent on the individuals in question. I do agree with the general sentiment that ghosting isn’t overall the best way of cutting someone off, but I did want to offer perspective based on my own scenario. For me, it’s one of the “hundred other reasons,” in which I’ve previously felt that if I replied with even the barest minimum of contact to Mr. Walking Adele Song, I would be setting myself up for a barrage of texts along the lines of him “only wanting to help” and to “let [him] know when [I’ve] changed [my] mind” and “if [I] ever need anything, [he’ll] be there” and… Dude. I don’t have the energy right now to respond to the texts I’ve ALREADY been sent. It’s only now, two months after the last time I sent anything to him, that I was able to shake off the dazed confusion I’ve been in from the overarching situation to write to CA and ask what I should send him and commit to actually sending it next time I hear from him! I know 805 and I have similar issues that are still nonetheless not identical, but there’s enough overlap that maybe my own mental landscape extends, in some way, to her line of thinking as well, where she just doesn’t have the resources to deal with someone who clearly can’t be bothered with her actual needs.

  24. LW #805 I’ve had a string of these guys in my dating life. I refuse to ‘ghost’ anyone so I let them go with something like ‘this isn’t working’ I’ve tried calling them out on it and so far no one has really clued in nor changed their behaviour for longer than the present conversation. Afterwards I wonder if I’m too hard, cold or demanding. (I think it has to do with male sense of entitlement in our culture) I spend far too much time wondering these things and feeling like a bitch. Is this why I’m single? Do I expect too much too soon? So thanks for sharing. I often remind myself that I would rather be single than be in a relationship with someone who isn’t interested in me. In fact, my number one, non negotiable trait that I require in someone with whom I want to date or be friends with is that they have to be interested in me. Sometimes I think I should cross stitch that on a pillow to remind myself of that more often.

    And to the one who asked ‘what if that’s my mother?’ Well it’s my mother and on the Captain’s advice I’ve read the marvellous book by McBride “Will I Ever Be Good Enough?” and it was a game changer for me.

  25. men who don’t really see me as an interesting, thoughtful person, who never really listened to me (past the wooing stage) so much as waited for me to stop talking (with varying degrees of patience).

    When I met my husband, I had been dating the Moroccan Millionaire. It all seemed very glamorous (but it was stupid and I wasted the FF for a trip to Paris to hang out with him for a week and even though he was a millionaire, he wouldn’t even spring for a hotel – we stayed in his cousin’s studio apartment and she, apparently, had never been taught the art of housekeeping because it was filthy and I spent the first day cleaning the bathroom because I couldn’t stand it – also, my husband was horrified I had used my miles – “He’s a MILLIONAIRE and he couldn’t buy your ticket?” – and the MM drank two bottles of wine a day, one at lunch, after which he would change into his Frette pajamas and take a four hour nap, even though WE WERE IN PARIS and there were so many cool things to do, but he would say, “Zat is boring! I ‘ave already done ‘zat.”)

    Where was I?

    Oh. I had just gotten back from the week in Paris with the MM, who did not want to do anything fun or eat out and was frankly, an awful lover.

    Then I met my husband. My husband is not a millionaire. He does not have a PhD from the U of Paris. He does not have servants or two Jaguars.

    But he asked me questions about myself. And I realized that for the past few months, in the emails and skype calls I had had with the MM, he had never once asked me anything except that time in Paris when he wanted to make sure I was not Jewish.

    I dropped the MM in a second. There are nice men who are interested in the women they like and love and want to engage in them. They are out there. I promise.

  26. I’ve known a variation on LW 805. I listened, asked questions, and was attentive when he talked about his work; when I talked about mine, he’d interrupt with a slight smile and say, “You’re really hot.” Every time.

    Um, yeah, thanks for the compliment, but it actually translates to “I’m bored. You’re boring me right now.”

    1. I used to get “you’re so cute” when I would talk about something I was really passionate about. Like, oh, it’s so adorable she thinks she’s actually qualified to cogitate on matters of substance.

      Tell it to my degrees in Latin and Greek, buddy.

      1. How do you get people to stop saying that you’re cute? I’ve had this problem recently and it reeeeeeaallly bugs me.

        1. I typically just ignored it and kept going, if at all possible, but that was before I really had the words to explain that telling someone “you’re so cute” as a response to speech with real, germane content was infantilizing and gross.

          I think these days I’d probably say “I hope you realize that you are speaking dismissively about me and my ideas, and in a way that is intended to infantilize me and to leverage social pressure to make me shut up. Would you like to explain why you feel that is a valid response to my point?”

          1. I like this. I’m sure it makings things awkward, but then again I don’t know how you’d address something so insulting without it being awkward.

        2. I fear only by not being in their presence so they can’t say it to you. Because you cannot make a person do or not do anything. (Obviously you can just outright say “Please don’t say that. Thanks.” and insinst.)

  27. It seems to me that both of these letters are about emotional labor. While it’s nice when people reach out to you during a crisis to let you know they have you in their thoughts, constantly sending “inspirational” messages over two months seems to be a lot more about the sender than the receiver. There’s an expectation to perform gratitude here, or convey that it’s really not that bad, or to exert emotional labor to explain why things haven’t gotten better yet. It’s totally fine to ghost under those circumstances, you’re going through a crisis #804, you don’t have the extra energy to deal with someone’s need for your gratitude or your reassurance!

    LW #805 I can’t say for sure that calling this gentleman out on his behavior won’t produce results, but bear in mind that having to remind him to do the emotional labor in the relationship is in and of itself emotional labor. If you have to keep reminding him to pull his own weight, that’s just as much of an energy drain even if he shapes up for a little bit. It took me all week to read the massive MetaFilter thread on emotional labor, but it was very eye opening. I always thought “maybe I’m just not asking enough” or “maybe I’m not asking in the right way”. But you know, maybe he just doesn’t want to do any of the emotional labor, because he’s never had to and why start now?

    1. Telling 805 over and over would qualify as emotional labour. Telling him once, and then dropping him if he didn’t change wouldn’t be. It would depend on whether he was worth the trouble, I suppose.

    2. I did respond to a, “Hope things are going well,” with, “They’re not,” because I really hate playing that game, especially with people who I feel ought to know better. Of course that set off a flurry of things he wanted to do for me once I got back to New Place, and actually, that was the last time I replied. Screw performing gratitude in general–suffice to say I was thrilled when we skipped that ritual at Thanksgiving this year!

  28. Both these letters are, in my opinion, are about young men who believe they are entitled to your time and energy, without consideration of your needs.

    Emotional Labor and a Young Man’s entitlement to a Woman’s admiration – a terrifying true story:

    So, my eldest boy was raised with me on a mission to teach him to understand that we females have emotions and needs, just as valid as his. I carefully taught him that he has to pay attention to the emotional and psychological needs of the women around him, especially his significant other. We had conversations about rape and consent, starting when he was 12 years old, the first time he asked me what rape was. Those two conversations, consent and females have emotional needs, continued through his teenage years whenever he raised either subject. There were many conversations.

    He is a freshman major in a science subject at a very good college. My major and masters are in engineering, but I have moved into IT, because computers control machinery. The day after he got home for Thanksgiving, we were having a conversation about his college and the various departments there. When suddenly he started lecturing me on my specialist topic in IT! Saying things to me like – ‘well you probably don’t realize” and “well, I am sure you do not know that……”

    Every ‘nope cell’ in my body screamed, he was lecturing me on my specialist area! At first I tried to counter his statements “Actually I do know about that” and “what you are talking about is what I do for a pay check……….” but it did not work. He just kept talking over me, like I had not opened my mouth. This went on for around 10 minutes. I exploded, and ripped into him verbally for being so condescending towards me and for not listening to me.

    He stood there rigid in shock, tears welled up in his eyes and he said “but you are supposed to be impressed with everything I know”.

    10 weeks in college and the idea that I exist only as his “No 1 Admirer” has destroyed the previous careful teaching I had spent years instilling in him. The negative emotional effect his behavior had on me did not enter his head and my anger at his disrespect did not get me an apology, just a tearful rebuke.

    I replied “I do not need to be impressed by you, I need you to respect me and my knowledge and I need you to listen to me”.

    He walked away from me.

    The speed with which young men absorb entitlement is terrifying.

      1. That was honestly my read, tbh.

        It IS condescending to assume someone doesn’t know probably basic things about the field in which they work, but college students male and female tend to get very swept up in the new, “advanced” knowledge and ideas they begin acquiring in college, and love nothing more than to discuss these ideas with their peers and impress each other with their new “deep” thoughts.

        The desire for a child to please his/her parent is usually equally strong if not moreso, and while it doesn’t excuse him talking over and interrupting Anon (that is a basic respect issue indeed) there is a parent/child power dynamic in here addition to the female/male dynamic that suggests Anon might have an additional responsibility to her son to support, guide, and enhance his expanding knowledge in her field rather than just asserting her dominance and leaving it at that. That smacks of parental condescension in its own way — “I’m older and wiser than you so shut up” — and isn’t productive as children move into college years and become young adults who begin to interact on more equal footing with other adults.

    1. I’m so sorry that he reacted that way.

      From my more distanced point of view, I can also read it as him wanting to impress you with everything he had learned – but going about that in a terribly entitled way.

      And I think there is an element of college student in there too – when young adults start to break away and realize that their parents are human too.

      But neither of those negates the need for him to respect you, to speak respectfully TO you, and to generally be a decent human being.

      1. Being told “I do not need to be impressed by you” is soul crushing at any age when heard from a parent.

        Also, respect goes both ways. If we want to treat Anon’s son like an adult, blowing up at him isn’t any more conducive to useful conversations than being condescended to. If we want to treat him like a child, consider someone up thread said that children are entitled to emotional labor from their parents, and being a female parent to a male child doesn’t negate that.

        1. From Anon: the original comment was mine.
          1: After 10 minutes of getting talked over, with repeated attempts to get him to hear me, explosion was the only way to get his attention.
          2: He never would have talked over me like that before college. We were actually able to have conversations were we were both involved.
          3: Emotional labor works both ways in a relationship. I raised him to understand that. If he were 13 I would have used it as a teaching moment. He is 18, and was not like this before college, I expect better from him.

          1. And really, even if you take the gender out of the equation, many wise old people are sure to back me up when I say that in the long run the most important thing to know — the knowledge that’s really going to set a person apart — is how to listen.

      2. As someone who is currently in college, yes to all of this. I go to an engineering school with a really bad ratio of men to women (women are like 30% of the engineering majors at the most) and so many conversations with male students end up this way. It’s much less common with the girls I talk to.

        Even my own boyfriend, who is a business student, does it sometimes! And then I have to tell him to stop treating me like an idiot, and he’s always apologetic and it’s happening less and less frequently, but it just seems like a very easy thing for him to slip into. It’s so frustrating, and he doesn’t even do it with stuff related to my major, so I can’t imagine how upsetting it was for Anon to get talked over for something she does every day by her own son.

        Unfortunately I don’t have any advice here, because I’m still trying to figure it out myself. It’s just so exhausting sometimes when every guy you interact with wants to lecture you on some subject like they’re professors in training. Like thanks, but I already had 4 1/2 hours of class today and I’d rather not add to it.

    2. I think you should apologize to him, not because he was right to act the way he did, but because you were wrong in your action (rather than disengage and move away, you lost your temper and assaulted him). You can show him that adults sometimes do the wrong thing, but when they do, they own their misbehaviors, and at the same time, point out what he was doing that hurt you in the first place. I think you’re very interested in what he’s learning, not only because he’s your child but because it’s something in which you have direct knowledge.

      It sounds like he was being a typically socially ignorant geek, very excited about his Real College Work, and I’d bet that he’d very much appreciate your taking the time to explain to him “yes I think you’re a good person, yes I think it’s great that you’re passionate about this subject, BUT if you can’t relate to other people you’re probably going to have lots of problems in your relationships, so here’s what you could have done differently”. And then you could share what appears to be your passion for the same work he’s doing. How awesome would that be?! I would be the happiest dad in the world if one of my daughters (or nieces/nephews or friend’s or ex’s kids) wound up studying my undergraduate field and came to me with this level of excitement.

      He isn’t some special snowflake in need of coddling. Far from it. But he needs to not fear his mom blowing up the next time he’s excited about something, and he needs you to lead him a little bit more here. I mean, if I found out my mom was lumping me in with every other “entitled young man” in the world, that wouldn’t make me feel like I could talk to her in the future.

      1. >>a typically socially ignorant geek, very excited about his Real College Work

        I don’t think it’s really a “socially ignorant geek” thing, so much as just a “young person” thing. I am not socially ignorant or a geek, but I know I frequently came home from university bubbling with all the new grown-up things I knew, and I was definitely into my twenties before I started having conversations with my parents which involved me equally taking an interest in their lives and knowledge rather than reporting back to them about how exciting the outside world was and what it was like for me.

        Eighteen-year-olds look and sound like adults, and some of them are taking care of themselves and have to be emotionally independent from a young age and do a brilliant job of that. But I think if you have a healthy parent/child relationship, then eighteen-year-olds are often still looking for exactly the same kinds of recognition and reinforcement of the primacy of their own lives that younger children are. I can look back on myself as an older teenager, full of all sorts of new information about What It Meant To Be An Adult, and I’m deeply thankful that my parents were more tolerant of my teenagerdom than Anon seems to have been.

        I actually think it was pretty smart and switched on of him to be able to articulate “but you are supposed to be impressed with everything I know!” That’s some excellent stating-of-emotional-needs right there.

      2. I agree. An apology is in order.

        I can imagine a father complaining that he raised his daughter right, but then she went to college and came back with all these new-fangled feminist ideas where she thinks she actually knows something, has the right to think her opinions matter, and imagine the audacity to believe that she has anything to tell her old man.

        Surely it’s inappropriate for anyone to start sentences with “you probably don’t know that …” or “you probably don’t realize …”, but it’s the nature of teenagers to come into their own with all this new knowledge and have trouble adjusting to the idea that it’s only new to them, not to everybody. A wise parent doesn’t blow up at the kid to emphasize “I know more than you do, and you will never measure up.” The parent listens, smiles to him/herself, is glad that the kid is growing up, and doesn’t see it in terms of a power struggle over who is condescending to whom. No wonder the boy started to cry, and I can imagine a girl doing the same. You come home hoping to impress the parent that you finally know something, and get told the opposite. It has nothing to do with who’s entitled and everything to do with the vast disappointment in learning that you’ve failed to be seen as an adult.

  29. Sorry, but ‘Brighton your day’ made me laugh a lot, and hard. And brightened my day 🙂 Oh but I hate those inspirational memes, and I agree with those who think he’s flexing his boyfriend muscles. If you are in crisis LW you have a right to protect yourself, either with silence or a polite but clear statement that you don’t want to be in touch at the moment.

    I also dated #805. The not listening thing was only the tip of a gigantic iceberg of selfishness, entitlement, and dodgy attitudes towards women. His friends were all like that too. One of them finally asked me where I was from TWO YEARS after I first met him.

    1. My first reaction to the “Brighton your day!” remark was my Former English Teacher Hulk bursting out of all but her stretchy purple shorts at the lack of proofreading. My second reaction was that I started thinking about how the last time I was in Brighton, CO, it was to see the remains of my beloved car that got totaled almost a year ago, meaning his text didn’t even land in the same emotional area code that he was aiming for!

    2. Here in UK, the words “Brighton your day” against a picture of a rainbow would have a whole different meaning – Brighton (fun, slightly tacky seaside town on our south coast) is one of our national LGBTQ heartlands!

  30. Hi #804 – I can totally relate to having the “avoidant” coping style. I agree with the posters who have said that he is really sending those messages for himself – I’m getting the sense that he wants you to be strong and happy and over your crisis, *for him*.

    If you are getting really fed up with the sickly rainbows and dolphins, this site may provide a helpful antidote: http://despair.com

    Wishing you all the best.

  31. I was friends with a guy like the one in #805, at and one point, I did try to nicely explain how I felt like our conversations were mostly one-sided, that he’d tell me about all his interests and creative ideas, but when I tried to share something similar, I didn’t get much of a response. Cue much whining about how much I’d hurt his feelings by telling him that, that he always considered himself to be SUCH a good friend to people who were important to him, how he really does think I’m awesome, blah blah blah. After he got over his initial shock and horror that I would say such a thing, he did claim he’d try to make an effort to change. Less than 48 hours, we were right back to where we started. I just kind of shrugged and moved on, figuring that that’s just how things were going to be, and I dialed back on trying to share my own ideas with him. (Interestingly enough, if word got out about a Cool Thing that was going on in my life, he’d act hurt that I didn’t share it with him firsthand.)

    The friendship eventually imploded spectacularly. Not just because of that one issue, but all our problems seemed to stem from any time I tried to step outside the role he envisioned for me. That included listening to everything he had to say with wide eyes and rapt attention, apparently, and only ever responding with positive comments about how brilliant and wonderful he was. (In retrospect, there were a lot of gendered issues I didn’t see at the time. And I probably don’t even need to point out that he was about 8-ish years older than me, so I got a lot of “When I was your age, I thought that” and “Wait until you’re older”. Ah, it’s like these guys all read the same textbook.)

    Anyway! This is not to say that your relationship with this guy, whatever it may be, will end the same way. If you’re still interested in spending time with him, it might be worth telling him how you feel about your interactions. But I guess the point I was trying to make with my long-winded story is that his reaction to you telling him that quite possibly will give you clues as to how your future interactions will play out.

    1. Re: “all our problems seemed to stem from any time I tried to step outside the role he envisioned for me” –

      Oh gods yes, I just recently had a really intense friendship end that way for me too. This male friend of mine wanted me to be his constant personal laugh track. In other words, he wanted me to laugh at all the jokes he made, even if they were 1000% inappropriate and aimed at me and my life. I would try to ignore it (he’s 15 years younger than I am) because I expected some level of immaturity, but every time I tried to talk about other things he’d start it again. The more I fought against it, the worse he got.

      I eventually couldn’t take it anymore after he made a coat-hanger joke over my (wanted) pregnancy, blew up at him in an ugly way, and told him I was sick of all his jokes and to Just. Stop. It. Less than 24 hours later he ended the friendship saying I was “volatile, immature, and childish”. I’m still kind of horrified I stayed friends with someone like this for 2 months.

      So LW #805, don’t feel bad for cutting things off. These people think that friendship = letting others listen to them. Sometimes they do it out of narcissism, sometimes they do it out of deep insecurity (like my ex-friend). They may not believe that people will like them if they aren’t 100% in control of the situation. Either way, you can’t fix that for them and you’re not getting your own needs met out of that friendship, so let it go.

  32. LW 804 here, and I will actually go back through and read the rest of the comments later this evening, but I wanted to thank the Captain before doing so and say that I laughed hysterically when I read, “YOU ARE ACTING LIKE A WALKING ADELE SONG. LEARN TO LET GO, DUDE,” and actually kinda really want to use that exact wording on him next time he texts me. Alas, I don’t think he even knows who Adele is (he’s a few years older than I am…), so I think I will stick to a message ending with, “I’ll get in touch when I’m up for it.” Which I’ve come to realize might well be never, because the latest missive was, “When are you coming back to [New City]? I kind of miss you,” to which my mental reply was, “Pity the feeling isn’t mutual.” I’m definitely taking courage from the scripts for awkward in-person encounters, since that’s a potential issue, though I don’t think it’s a big one. My lease is up after the holidays, and I’m looking to move to a town that’s in the same county but farther south of where I am now. It will still be good to have those scripts on hand just in case, however.

    1. “Alas, I don’t think he even knows who Adele is (he’s a few years older than I am…)”

      … he can google it.

      1. Or more likely, ask me who the hell Adele is and what the hell I mean by comparing him to her work, thus inviting more text banter when I was trying to go for less. X( But I agree that Google is a wonderful tool that he should be using to do stuff other than find memes that make my diabetes multiply exponentially!

    2. “When are you coming back? I kind of miss you” — barf. Presumptious of MAS that he has a relationship with you where that text is even remotely appropriate (especially with silence on your end), entitled in implying that you have a role you are supposed to fulfill in his life back in New City, yet you are only “kind of” missed and not full-on missed. Not that he meant any of that in that way, but it is more than “kind of” demanding attention while being a bit insulting.

      1. Oooh, good point. I’ve been too busy cringing from the desperation that I can smell via long-distance text message to parse the…interesting choice of phrasing there. Maybe I should send him a link to “Someone Like You” with a remark about how much the narrator reminds me of him? :/

  33. Yes. Personally I can very vividly remember a number of occasions where I’ve been very stressed by interrogative questions, or even startled into answering a personal question I didn’t wish to share the answer to. Or more mildly, had an unpleasant conversation because someone kept interrogating me about a part of my life I found boring and didn’t hugely want to talk about (school, work, etc). And I’ve really never had similarly stressful or anxiety-provoking experiences of someone just not asking me questions and leaving it for me to say what I chose.

    So although I know rationally that my experience isn’t universal, I tend to instinctively see things through that bias. I am very cautious when it comes to asking people anything. The risk of making them uncomfortable by unknowingly asking the wrong question often does feel bigger than the risk of just waiting to see what they bring up. And how far they choose to go with it once they start. Or of offering a story of my own as a conversation-starter. And I’m generally happy to listen to others go on at length, and also generally happy when they don’t ask me loads of questions but mostly just let me share what I’m excited about or what’s on my mind. I mean, there’s a happy balance there somewhere and there’s a place for questions in my life, but I get the feeling it’s a smaller place than some people here are describing.

    I notice though that LW805 said that she sometimes tried just talking about what she wanted to share and he was dismissive, though. So to me it doesn’t actually sound like a difference in communication styles here.

    1. “Someone kept interrogating me about a part of my life I found boring and didn’t hugely want to talk about…” I have, at various points in my adult life, been the de facto Expert on All Things Jewish and Expert on All Things Type I Diabetic. Seeing as how my family’s culturally rather than religiously Jewish and I don’t have any sort of medical knowledge beyond my now-expired CPR/First Aid certification, my standard response to detailed, technical questions was usually, “I don’t know. Have you tried Google?” Of course, that was only after I’d reached the point where it finally occurred to me that I really didn’t give a crap what these people thought about me (the most frequent offenders were my ex-boyfriend’s parents), but the experiences definitely helped me relate to being selective about what I ask other people in conversation and how persistent I am with certain topics.

  34. I’ve got a combination of both guys wrapped into one right now, with a side order of “because you are A Female Who Likes Nerd Things™, that makes you infinitely interesting to me, because Normal Females™ can’t like Nerd Things™!” He’ll Facebook message me things that he enjoys (which means that I will enjoy them), interrupt me when I’m studying to talk, invite me on totally-not-dates-except-they-are, and recently crashed a post I’d made to wave his throbbing trivia member in my face. He’s very committed to the idea that we are BEST FRIENDS, but it’s entirely one-sided.

    What I’ve been doing (since I’ll have to interact with him on some level until he graduates) is to be Spock. Spock responds to everything (good, bad, or neutral) with one-word responses like “fascinating” or “indeed.” Spock is not interested in doling out emotional labor because Vulcans don’t have emotions. Spock reserves emotional labor (including advice, praise, and interest) for a few close friends, and sorry, Dude, you are just a redshirt. It is illogical to spend so much time and effort on a person who seems committed to a validation vending machine rather than a person.

    LW #805, all you’d be doing is giving back what this guy is already giving you: little emotional commitment and interest. He replies to everything with “cool!”? Then all he gets for his contributions is “fascinating.”

    1. Is Trek under his umbrella of nerddom? And are you feeling irritated enough with him to copy out that Spock/redshirt analogy as a reply to his next Facebook message? Because I kind of squealed with glee when I read that analogy and promptly wished that my own problem texter could get a clue if I simply messaged him a picture of Spock with one famously arched eyebrow in response to the next round of day-Brightoning!

      1. I don’t think Star Trek is one of his nerd interests, though Star Wars definitely is. I’d *really* love to say what I think of him to his face, but like I said, I have to interact with him until he graduates (a year and a half from now) and the last thing I need is drama. He’s also in my D&D group (though luckily the D&D group is mostly on Team Me and understands why he makes me uncomfortable).

        I’d hope your texter would get a clue, but then, he might take ANY interest as a sign that you’re still paying attention to him. :/

        1. Indeed, drama does make for some excellent binge-watching, including the best of Trek and other geeky shows, but isn’t much fun to binge-live.

          You’re right that any message that could be left open to interpretation is probably not what I should be sending someone who clearly doesn’t understand that a lack of messages is a form of message. Glad you’ve got a good group of backers, and good luck ignoring your pest!

  35. Does the advice for LW #805 change if it’s a friendship between two women? I am really struggling with how to tell my good friend that she’s acting like a complete narcissist when we talk online. In-person, she’s warm and friendly, but in our chats online for the past few months, it’s a one-sided monologue with no questions about how I’m doing, how my weekend was, etc. I will ask her questions when she says things about her work and her interests, but she’s not asking me any questions, so… I can’t really say anything about my life without it feeling like an awkward insertion.

    Has anyone here successfully worked their way through this problem with a friend?

    1. I’ve done “this style of communication isn’t really working for me and our friendship” with people before, either overtly or just by trying to move away from it. I don’t think I’ve ever been quite as upfront as “I don’t like the way you respond on IMs”, but I have had conversations like, “You know, I much prefer seeing you face-to-face! Let’s make sure we see each other more!”

      Do you have to engage with each other through online chats? Can you try and do more face-to-face time, or Skype/Facetime, and just keep email or DMs for making arrangements and things?

  36. I think I may be dealing with something similar to #804. One of my cats (Rosie) is sick and the vet hasn’t been able to figure out what’s wrong with her. She keeps losing weight and is extremely skinny now. But every week when my friends are over a couple of them comment on Rosie’s appearance and I’m just getting tired of having to respond to them or talk about it. Even though I know they’re just trying to commiserate with me I just wish they’d stop bringing it up. My cat’s appearance is a heart-wrenching enough reminder that she’s not well; I don’t need the constant verbal reminders on top of it.

    1. I’m sorry about your cat. I’m old enough to have lost a lot of cats, some of which would creep into bed after I fell asleep ans lay across my head to help keep warm.

      Maybe you should take her to another vet? If there’s a vet school near you, they probably have an associated hospital for critters, and may have tools that a regular vet practice won’t have. We took Clyde to such a hospital, and they used an MRI to diagnose a spinal problem that they were able to repair.

      Again, sorry about your cat, best of luck!

    2. Seconding J R’s sentiments about your kitty. I don’t really have any advice to give you about getting your friends to talk about anything else (except maybe, “Can we please talk about anything else?” I only got tuned into the Captain and the wonders of Using My Words fairly recently), but you do have my deepest sympathies.

  37. Late to the party, but here’s a way I got someone to back off who was kind of combining both LWs’ correspondents.

    For a while, I was getting lots of bored, make-him-feel-better flirts from an acquaintance via Facebook messenger. (Including along the lines of, “I’ll come to your town [500 miles away] sometime and take you on a date.”)
    He was really engaging with his mental picture of me and did not show interest in actual me. (And he was kind of doing the same for himself–imagining his future but not talking much about his current situation. Again, these messages were likely partly an escape to relieve boredom.)

    I had been mildly fond of him years before, and might entertain an actual friendship or relationship, but I was tired of the BS. I finally responded, “I’ve changed a lot since [we kind of knew each other 10 years ago], and I’m sure you have too. There’s a lot we’d have to talk about before taking things further.”

    And he ghosted–not an outcome I expected, but maybe what guy 805 would do? (Or, if polite, guy 805 might defer with, “I’m sorry, very busy with my own stuff and don’t have the emotional bandwidth to do this.”)

    This would not be appropriate if you have no chance of wanting to continue the relationship, but it may be a useful way of getting the uninvolved person to self-select out, if they dislike the idea that you might need something from them.

  38. Regarding #805 as a guy who is prone to getting into relationships (in the relating to one another sense, not the romantic one) where I’m the one who is excited and interested in their life and not getting any reciprocity does anyone have suggestions for scripts or things to avoid doing when dealing with women in particular. I’m concerned about coming off as a giant pulsating ass-zit who is demanding women make it all about me in terms of emotional labour because that is the general attitude they get hit with, when really I’d just like a chance to talk in the sharing circle and get ‘thats cool, tell me more’.

  39. Update! I hadn’t heard ANYTHING from Mr. Walking Adele Song since I sent my letter. Today, just before the Broncos game (and therefore when I was fortified by a couple beers when I saw the text at halftime), I got, “You Okay? I am a little worried about you.” Which I also loathe expressions of concern as means of getting in touch, but that aside, I told him, “No need for concern. I don’t want to be in contact. I’ll let you know if that changes.” So far, nada in reply! Here’s hoping I get more of the same!

  40. If LW #805 feels guilty about ghosting, she could simply respond to him the way he responds to her – with single words, until the conversation peters out. That’ll bring their friendship down to a casual acquaintanceship. And if they bump into each other again at a conference, she can exchange a friendly hello and head nod if she wants to.

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