#830, #831 and #832: Boundaries and the power of “no!”

Three letter writers who need some help saying “nope!” and making it stick.

Dear Captain,

I’m rapidly running out of patience with my housemate and am at the same time increasingly concerned about him, and I could really use an outside opinion on what, if anything, I can do to help him without damaging myself any further.

About four years ago I quit my well-paid but extremely stressful career to retrain as something that wouldn’t kill me. My friend, who was rattling around his large house alone, offered that I could live with him for a low rent/contribution to the household budget, because he wanted the company (he can afford to support both of us without my financial input, but I was uncomfortable with that). Although I’m working part-time, studying, and now doing voluntary clinical practice, my time is more flexible than his and when we started this arrangement I agreed to take on a higher share of the housework to make up for my smaller financial input. Problem is, “a higher share of housework” rapidly became “responsible for everything”. Literally everything, including making sure he got up in time for work, reminding him to shower, making sure he eats something other than cereal… It turns out he doesn’t need a housemate, he needs a manservant.

I did not sign up for that, but like a mug I let the relationship develop into some sort of weird pseudo master-servant mess, partly out of trying to be A Good Friend, partly out of shame at not being able to contribute financially (I have massive neuroses about money). For maybe the last two years, I’ve been trying to dig us out of that pattern. I feel like I’ve tried every mechanism suggested on this site and UfYH for apportioning chores, I’ve tried to help him find coping mechanisms for the time-keeping issues, I’ve tried so hard to help him build support networks I’ve managed to alienate myself from half our local friends… Nothing sticks. As soon as I’m not holding his hand, it all falls down, and that’s even more frustrating than me just getting on with it.

The thing is, he’s not incapable of looking after himself, in terms of skill-sets, rather he’s profoundly unwilling to take any kind of responsibility for himself. I wish it was a case of him being a lazy git because he knows I’ll do stuff for him, and gets on fine when I’m not there, but it’s really not. If I’m away for any length of time, he will just sit there in front of his computer for days, not eating properly, not getting enough sleep, and not enjoying himself either. He is quite aware he’s screwing himself over. At the same time, he seems to have zero will to address the problem; he seems to be passively waiting for me (or, since last summer, his therapist) to fix it for him.

I’m starting to feel like maybe I’m maybe the bad guy here, because what if it’s not that he’s unwilling to address the problem, but unable to because of… I dunno… something to do with executive function (although he flat out rejects this as a possibility)? That I need to be more patient and more willing to hold things together for him, and be a better friend? I just don’t know if I can do that. I’m exhausted, resentful that I don’t have time for my stuff that is not work or study, and feeling profoundly taken for granted. I don’t get any appreciation for the work I put in, it’s only noticed when I drop the ball (god forbid I get ill), and his absent-mindedness makes him actively unhelpful at keeping any semblance of order in the house.

Thing is, I do care about the little bugger, and I’m deeply worried that if I move out (and it’s got to the stage where I am planning this) he’s not going to cope and end up sick or fired or something. I recognise that this situation is largely my fault, I let him get dependent on me, so I guess it’s my job to fix it. I just have no idea how to. Do you have any suggestions on how I can disentangle myself from this in a way that is safe for the pair of us?

Many thanks,
Not Jeeves.

Dear Not Jeeves,

Move out as soon as you humanly can. Tell him in the simplest possible terms: “I’m moving out on (date).” Then follow through, and once you have, focus 100% on your own life and routine. The kindest, best, simplest way to do this is to tell him directly what you plan to do and then follow through on that plan.

Once you’ve moved out, check back in with him in like, three months, and make sure it’s a casual “let’s go to a movie” sort of plan. Do not drop by the house or hang out there, do not ask him questions about domestic arrangements, and do not invite “venting” about same. (If he brings it up, you can use the “Heh, that sounds rough, what do you think you’ll do?” + subject change)

My prediction: He will have an adjustment period where things are pretty messy and chaotic, and then he will either pull things together or he won’t. If he doesn’t pull things together in several months, then, as a friend, you can say “You seem like you’re having a hard time right now, have you thought about seeing a counselor or a coach to help you out?

You have to give the adjustment period some time to actually happen, which includes relearning the word “No” and letting him flounder/fail for a little while if that’s what he’s bound to do. You are not a bad friend if you stop being this guy’s unpaid Wife-Mommy. You are not a bad friend if you stop doing this even if he has “executive function” issues. If you swoop in and help at the first dirty dish in the sink it will be like you never moved out.

I know you’re tempted to prepare him for this or wean him off your support ahead of time and because you are a considerate person and this is something that would work for you in his shoes. I also sense a desire to try to convince him that this is the right thing for you to do. Resist these impulses! The situation has become so unreasonable and so beyond “considerate” that I think this will only create friction and confusion for you and nothing will really stick until you’re out of the house. Go! Run! Move! You can make this decision unilaterally, without him agreeing that it’s a good idea, and without drafting a plan for how he will take care of himself when you’re gone.

Dear Captain Awkward,

I’m writing to you to ask what to do about a situation I find myself in. For the past year and a half, I have been friends with Ben, a great guy. We hang out together, watch movies together, and deal with still living with our parents.

The only catch is that Ben has four big jumpy dogs. I don’t know how to tell him that I feel uncomfortable hanging out at his house because his dogs jump on me and get in my face. He tells me just to smack their noses and they’ll bop down. Which they do (for thirty seconds and then they jump right back in my face.) He pulls them off, but they jump right back on me. I’m not a dog person, and I would like to just watch movies without the dogs in my face every thirty seconds. I’m not scared of dogs, but I’m not a fan, exactly. I’ve had dates that are less pushy than these dogs! Help!

What are some scripts that I could use to ask him to control his dogs better?

Not a Dog-Lover

PS. I am a female person with female pronouns

Dear Not-A-Dog Lover,

Ben is a terrible dog owner and he needs to train his dogs not to jump on people. He could take them to obedience school. He could watch YouTube videos on training your dog. He could barricade them in a separate room when he has guests over. Telling you to “Just bop them on the nose” is NOT the way to handle it.

Since Ben is a terrible dog owner who won’t train his dogs not to jump on people, this seems like a good idea to stop hanging out at his house and only schedule things at your house.

If he asks why, tell him, “I don’t like hanging out at your house because of the dogs.

If he protests that they aren’t that bad or you should just learn to deal with them, say, “Unless you can barricade the dogs in another part of the house when I come over, I’d just rather keep hanging out at my place, thanks.

Important: Stating the boundary (‘I don’t want your dogs to jump on me, ever’) is only the first part of setting a boundary. The real work comes in enforcing it, which means refusing to come over if the dogs aren’t locked up, and leaving if you get there and he doesn’t follow through on his promise. If he wants to hang out with you, he’ll make something work. You are not making an unreasonable request!

Dear Captain and Crew,

I have a problem that I’m not quite sure what to do about. My girlfriend and I have been together for two years and I’m the first-ever female she’s been with. At first I thought our differences in terms of pastimes wouldn’t be that big a deal. She’s really into certain TV shows and I hardly ever watch TV and dislike it most of the time. I don’t negatively judge people who do enjoy TV. It’s just not my thing. About 3-4 months ago, my girlfriend asked me to try watching an episode of a certain series she really likes and I was open to giving it a shot but in addition to not really feeling the plot, the explosions and fast paced noisy nature of it made it difficult for me to even comfortably sit there and even pretend to be into it. It was a bit too much for someone like me who is used to much quieter ways to spend time.

I told her I wasn’t into it enough to keep watching and she didn’t complain. So for the hour or so she spent watching it I just did something else until she was done.

Then came the next issue. Recently, she’s been really wanting to talk about her celebrity crushes which both 1) largely come from this show and 2) are all guys. Now since I don’t watch tv, am not attracted to guys and don’t have celebrity crushes, this puts me in an awkward position. Now she accuses me of being jealous of her celeb crushes and trying to keep her from watching her shows (I don’t) and she keeps insisting that talking about celebrity crushes is something you’re “supposed to be able to do in a healthy relationship” but the problem is I just don’t have anything to add and these conversations just end up being her going on about celebs while I stare and nod. I really don’t know what she wants me to respond with here. Am I the weird one for not crushing on people I don’t know? Is this a conversation I need to be having? If so, just how am I supposed to have it?

Suddenly a Sounding Board

Dear Suddenly A Sounding Board,

You’re not the weird one. Your girlfriend is falling prey to the ““Love me, love my obsession. Love my obsession, love me” Geek Relationship Fallacy. You don’t have to love all the same pop culture as someone to be in love, and loving the same pop culture is not an indication that you’re meant for each other. Whether it’s Fantasy Football, the U.S. election, The Wire, or Supernatural fandom, everybody has that moment of “You are interesting to me, but this topic is not so interesting to me, and I have about 10 minutes of polite listening in me before I kinda tune out.

I think it’s cool for partners to let each other natter on about things of interest to them on occasion and you don’t have to have anything to “add to the conversation” to listen for a bit. Lately my Gentleman Caller is into listening HarmonTown when he does repetitive work at his job and I have personally experienced zero minutes of HarmonTown firsthand. I can enjoy *some* retelling of jokes from HarmonTown at the end of a day the way he can handle *some* “OMG let me tell you about this comment on my blog” jibber-jabber. The key is balance and having some awareness for your audience and not taking advantage of the other person’s politeness, which I’m not sure your girlfriend really gets. If you have an obsession that she’s not really into, maybe that can be useful in having the “Babe, can you give me just the highlights? In return, I promise not to recap my Sudoku puzzles/D&D games/philosophy classes for you in detail.” I’ve known couples who literally set a timer, or who have a “Can you sum that up for me in three sentences?” rule.

There is no one model for a “healthy” relationship, and if your girlfriend in her heart of hearts really wants someone to geek out about her fannish interests as a partner, perhaps she should go find that person! It’s definitely not okay to pressure you into becoming that person or imply that your lack of interest in pictures of Zayn or Poe Dameron or whoever is “unhealthy” or even unkind on your part. Quite the contrary, there’s something kind of sketchy to me about a young bi-lady in her first same sex relationship constantly parading straight men in front of her girlfriend and expecting you to have some kind of reaction to them. There’s something even more sketchy about implying that you’re jealous or that there’s something wrong with you if you don’t want to talk about it.

In your shoes I might try a very blunt broken record approach:

  • Straight boys aren’t really interesting to me” + (subject change). Repeat some variation of this every time she tries to get you to comment on one of her “crushes.” “I don’t really find boys that interesting, sorry.” If you are consistent about this, it might make it boring for her to bring it up to you. Eventually this might lead to a “I know you are bi, and I get that you are attracted to men, too, but I’m not the right audience for the details of that! When you’re with me, I want to hear about how you’re attracted to me” conversation.
  • Enjoy your show! I’m going to go read/listen to music/fix my bike. Come find me when you’re done.
  • I’m really glad that you enjoy it so much! It’s not really my thing, so these detailed recaps are kinda lost on me.” + (subject change).

There are INFINITY online communities devoted to every fandom and celebrity crush one can think of. So much so that, while I don’t recall the exact name or wording of the rule that says that mentioning several characters in a single sentence instantly generates fic about them,  I’m pretty sure that by the time I’m done with this post there will be a story about how Groot rides Hidalgo to rescue Dumbledore from Kylo Ren and then they all make out with Wash from Firefly, Will Graham, and Alexander Hamilton. In other words, your girlfriend can find many, many people to chat with about her obsessions who are not you. There’s only one you, and you don’t have to fill #1 Fandom Buddy role if you don’t want to. I hope she gets that and appreciates what you do bring to her life.

Letter Writers, you are not the unreasonable ones here, so be direct!

248 thoughts on “#830, #831 and #832: Boundaries and the power of “no!”

  1. Not Jeeves, please also don’t feel like you’re the bad guy somehow. You didn’t tie this guy to the bed until he forgot how to wake himself up. I also strongly recommend you move out. It’s the best thing for you and it’s the kindest thing for him in the end. He has resources of his own to fall back on (money, his previous house skills, etc).

    Sounding Board, could you find a different activity you both like to do together and make it a shared activity? Craft, colouring in, knitting, going for walks, mini book club, or something else? Perhaps she is feeling a lack of spending leisure time together?
    In any case, the whole “talk about boy crushes with my girlfriend” sounds incredibly awkward and unpleasant so I hope she knocks that off.

    1. I find myself curious about how Not-Jeeves’ friend functioned in between living at home with his actual parents or guardians and moving in with Not-Jeeves! Somehow he acquired a large house and buying a home is not a simple process. If he inherited it, home ownership that keeps the neighbors from complaining about the yard or the exterior appearance of the house is also no minor set of responsibilities. How did he muddle along and get on with adulting pre-cohabitation with Not-Jeeves? Was there any time spent on his own in between being parented and inviting Not-Jeeves to share his house? Sure, it is possible there’s an undiagnosed or untreated condition making adulting difficult and/or an inefficiently-operating executive function, but if that’s the case, nothing is going to improve condition-wise or function-wise if Friend continues to rely on Not-Jeeves to do the heavy lifting and adulting FOR him.

      You can be very sympathetic and concerned, but if there’s something a professional needs to be helping him with, allowing him to continue to avoid adulting and getting that help is not actually helping him in the long-term. Conversely, if there is nothing wrong with Friend and he just doesn’t like doing adulting / chores, you run the risk of getting fed up with him and damaging the friendship irreparably, and he’s not really being a friend if he is treating you like a Mom/Maid/Handyperson while he abdicates responsibility for going to bed and waking up on time, keeping his body and domicile clean, and eating a food on the regular (which sounds a lot like my 3-year-old niece, who would happily go play in mucky sewer run-off by the creek but never bathe, then throw three-day-long ragers while eating nothing but Cheezy Poofs, never napping, and running around barefoot in the snow wearing just a tiara).

      1. Buying a *small* home when you have executive function issues blows. Luckily I have the resources hire experts to do things like replace the floor (AARP-qualifying carpet for the lose), paint the walls (like seriously, what was with that fake wood paneling for mobile homes in the 60s?!), and scrub the place down (previous owner died last year, heirs put it on the market without moving in–bad mojo + 6 months of dust need to go). But there’s other stuff that I just need to suck it up and convince myself to do, because the whole sponge bath/rinsing under the bath faucet routine due to not having installed a goddamn shower curtain is not sustainable.

        My hypothesis, based on my own experiences with colossal executive dysfunction, is that Not-Jeeves’ friend was probably muddling along before NJ moved in, adapted happily to the new routine in which NJ took on many of the tasks that brought out the worst of his issues, and will eventually muddle his way back to normal because he has to. In short, Not-Jeeves, if it helps you at all to frame it like this, think of your upcoming move as doing both of you a long term favor.

        1. Out of curiosity, and you don’t have to answer, but is it putting up a shower curtain on an already there rod, or installing a curtain rod?

          If that latter, could I recommend something like this? http://www.homedepot.com/p/MOEN-72-in-Adjustable-Straight-Decorative-Tension-Shower-Rod-in-Brushed-Nickel-TR1000BN/204293378

          And you can totally ignore me, if you want, but sometimes I think of things like that as stop-gaps – even if it’s not perfect, it’s temporary, and it gives you time to be comfortable waiting for the permanant things, and… I like trying to be nice to people sometimes.

          1. The curtain rod needed to be installed. I bought one, with real screws and everything, and in fact managed to put it up today! Yay me! (We shall not speak of the writing project I was totally going to finish today and blew off in order to install it. :p )

            I actually had a similar tension rod (Target, rather than Home Depot) in my old apartment that I could have taken with me, but I figured that A) the new place is *my* place, purchased with my money, and knowing myself, any temporary measures I put in would become permanent, and I’m trying to use my new living situation as a reset button to start living in what I personally see as a more adult fashion, which basically means not half-assing when I know I can full-ass (?) a task, dependent, of course, on how many executive-function-related spoons I have to allocate overall. Also, B) I got to meet the new tenants of my old place briefly. They’re pretty young, so I’m guessing they might be able to put my good-enough shower rod and curtain to good use…maybe I like trying to be nice to people sometimes, too. 🙂

        2. My expectation is that NJ’s friend will probably find another person to share with him in the hope that they’ll take over the caring role. Maybe they will, maybe they’ll just steal all his stuff and invite their drunk friends round. But that’s his choice. For some people, that’s the only model of relationship they want and they’ll take the risks that go with it.

          The advice to move out is good though.

  2. Not Jeeves – I was in a relationship with a guy where I constantly just took on more and more responsibility for maintaining his day to day life. Making sure he was awake and showered for work, checking in on him while he was at work. Cleaning his house, cleaning up after his cat… I remember when he told me of his plan to rent out the place he owned and rent somewhere smaller in order to save money. I just remember the dread of knowing that I’d have to clean his house.

    I avoided breaking up with him for so long after I decided I didn’t want to be with him. How would he cope? Would he lose his job? What slack would others in his life have to pick up?

    And when I finally broke up with him, he was fine. He was absolutely fine. I was reminded of a quote I can’t actually find now, something along the lines of “I carried my problems with me like lead weights, and when I finally put them down I found that they were actually balloons as they floated away, and it was the way I was carrying them that made the heavy”

    Except it wasn’t the way I was carrying my problems. It was a person who couldn’t pull their own weight.

    I’m sure your friend managed to cope before you were on the scene. They will figure out how to cope again. And if something has happened where they truly can’t – the Captain’s suggestion to check in and suggest a counsellor in the intervening months is a good one. Much better than you doing all the work and waiting for your friend to just get better at looking after himself

    1. I agree. I mean it sounds like this guy was doing alright before LW was living there. He may fall on his face after she leaves but that may be the best thing for him. It may help him realize that he either A: needs to get help or B: is capable of taking care of himself.

        1. I always thought manservant just meant “personal servant who does things like dressing you and running your baths” a la Jeeves.

          But you’re right that many of us have been assuming LW is a woman without proof.

          1. Those are actually terms of art, and the opposite-gendered term for manservant is maidservant. Jeeves, however, was a valet, and the term for such a person who is and is employed by a woman is dresser or lady’s maid.

        2. My mistake then. I still stand by my comment. Guy was able to survive for years without burning his house down/starving to death. He’ll find a way to cope without the LW.

    2. @tessiselated — Seems like the metaphor for your situation is when you’re carrying a box between the two of you and you can’t figure out why it’s so damn heavy, and then you realize the other person’s sitting on their end of it and letting you drag it and them through the mud.

  3. Not Jeeves: get out of there. That dude is not your responsibility, and the situation isn’t your fault. He’s a grown-ass man, he can take care of himself. And if he legitimately can’t, it’s still HIS responsibility to figure out arrangements for how that’s going to work out, not yours to put up with it. Go and be free. If he gets fired for not showing up to work and gets lice because he doesn’t shower, it’s his own damn fault.

    1. Erm. You don’t get lice from lack of hygiene. You get lice if you encounter lice somewhere (e. g. an infested armchair). That’s it. (They actually even prefer a cleaner scalp.)
      You can fail to get rid of lice due to lack of trying, but that’s another story, and a bit more complicated because they can be awfully resistant. You can also get lice half a dozen times over again because someone you live with (*cough* my sister) has them and can’t be bothered.

      1. Washed my 4 y/o daughter’s hair nine times last summer. Nine. N.i.n.e. Finally cut her as-yet-uncut hair to chin length after the 7th time to make the combing easier. I wish this on no one.

        1. Before a person hits puberty, it is amazing how clear their skin is and how little excess oil they produce. My kids (twins) are seven years old and go for several days at a time without hair washes.

          1. I meant washed for lice, but yes, they get their hair washed probably 2-3 times per week. I only wash mine once a week after switching to curly hair hair products (deva curl, if anyone is interested), and my hair and scalp are doing much better.

        2. Tea tree oil in your shampoo can help. My mom used to make a mixture of shampoo, oil, and tea tree oil, leave it on for an hour or so, and then comb them out after a lot of shampoos. Then she’d put tea tree oil in our shampoo as a preventative measure. She’d also mix it with some water as a treatment spray for mattresses and stuff.

          We lived in a place that had it BAD and that was the only thing that worked for us.

          1. It may or may not be coincidence, but they finally went away for good after getting tea tree oil shampoo and a spiral hair comb. Thanks for the tips 🙂

        3. I even had lice twice in my adult life (the time I got them repeatedly from my sister counting as one instance), in a fairly fine hair long enough I can sit on it (and that I’m utterly unwilling to cut). The worst part was not the needed effort (combing an hour or two every day? check) – what was much worse was the shame. Catching lice is incredibly stigmatised (see above, the idea that if it happens to you, you’re clearly filthy and disgusting – while in fact it’s random); add that the anti-lice spray has a very strong stench that you can’t possibly wash out, so I knew that everyone around could smell what I was dealing with. Ugh.

    2. Agree 100% it is not LW’s responsibility to manage the dude’s life, as if he’s some kind of parasitic hand-puppet who needs their constant guidance to “live”.

      Here’s the thing, Not-Jeeves – Real life butlers get PAID to do the work (“hundreds of dollars a day”, according to modernbutlers.com – you can bet it is considered a *luxury* service, and with good reason, because that job is HARD WORK). And they have a formal contract (i.e. legal employment document) that entitles them to time off, and holidays, and sickness benefits, and generally outlines what they are reasonably expected to do. Even Bertie Wooster’s Jeeves had holidays/ a life outside butling, and was occasionally absent/ otherwise abstained from micro-managing Bertie’s life once in a while.

      I don’t know what kind of person can’t even set an alarm clock for themselves – If your friend really does have mental health/ executive function stuff that is hindering his ability to keep on top of things, then I’ve heard Social Services can provide subsidised help with that – as in, you contact your Local Authority and they assess the dude’s individual needs and assign a paid cleaner/ care worker… whatever the hell he needs, but the important thing is they get *paid* to do the thing that you are currently doing for free, because care work is work.
      Your friend’s therapist can sort that out for him, but it is not your responsibility.

      It’s kind of you to be so concerned for him, but for your own sake, take the Captain’s advice and move out. Give yourself permission to quit your unpaid butler job, and trust that you are giving him the space he needs to pull his act together, with the support of his therapist.

  4. How is it anyone’s job to make sure someone showers, unless you’re getting nekkid with him. You had me till that.

    1. Like, if that person is a kid or a disabled adult or has some debilitating condition that keeps them from showering themselves and you are their parent/carer and… nope. None of that here. Nope, nope, nope. I absolutely agree with everyone saying get the hell out.

    2. I mean it is some people’s LITERAL JOB because carer is a job that you can have, which you get paid for (or should, but a lot of people fall through the gaps)

      Even if you’re gettin nekkid with someone, anything beyond the occasional “I love you but you smell” is really pushing it. Partners are not meant to be parents. (there are some partner/carers out there but you’ll know if you’re under if them) I’m pretty sure this site has covered The Case Of The Smelly Boyfriend before.

      1. The thing about caring as a job though is that it’s a job. As in, someone calls you and says, “Hey, So-and-so needs help with shower-related things, how much do you charge and can you do it x days a week?” And then the carer goes in and helps So-and-so with showers and then leaves, Mission Accomplished. It’s an active negotiation–if I get paid to help someone shower three times a week, then that’s all I’m doing, and if someone wants more care, they tell me and we talk rates.

        Conversely, what seems to happen in particular with women is that men just think, “Huh, there is a lady-type person in my house, so that means I don’t have to do anything. She’ll just do everything! This is going to be great!” And the burdens on the lady-type people get worse and worse because the dudes just… stop. Because housework is work, and it’s often not fun work but it is necessary, so if I don’t *have* to do it.

        LW830, I too was once in your shoes. I moved in with my gunner and his best friend after my second deployment. Both of them wanted to date me, so they didn’t ask me to pay rent. They actually forbid me even when I said I would? So I started cooking and cleaning and whatnot. This lasted… two months, I think. Then I started realizing that they would leave dishes in the sink even though we had a dishwasher, and one of them spent all his time in the living room but wouldn’t empty his ashtrays ever or throw away his energy drink cans. I stopped tidying up the living room when I’d clean everything and then literally the next day it would look the same as it did before I cleaned–ash everywhere, empty takeout containers, empty soda cans. (Even worse, he never, ever ever cleaned his ferret cage, so the poor little thing would have a pile of poop in the back of the cage so it didn’t have to walk over it?????)

        I also tried to get them to kick in. I stopped short of chore charts, but I tried everything else. They wouldn’t. So I stopped cleaning. I cleaned the ferret cage when I cleaned my cat’s litter box, but only because I couldn’t bear the poor little thing suffering, but I didn’t do anything else. I cleaned only dishes I was using–if they want clean dishes, they could do them themselves.

        Honestly, it was a relief to move out.

        1. We have no indication that the LW is female though. The only gendered term they used is “manservant”.

  5. Sounding board – I do think that your girlfriend is out of line accusing you of being jealous, or of preventing her from engaging with her show just because you don’t want to engage in it with her (even if she is joking, I think it’s common and normal for you to not know what to do with those comments). Maybe you could ask why she has such strong feelings about you not liking her show (and the connected interests, like the actors), or why it’s such a big deal to her that you’re not willing to take part in the OT3 of you/her/show.

    I know that I was SO RELIEVED when I started dating another fangirl, because the two boyfriends that I had had before didn’t do fandom the same way, and were very derisive of my interests, how I expressed those interests, how I justified those interests. (They also did that thing where if I shared an interest with them, they gradually ‘outgrew’ it while I ‘refused to grow’. Ughhhhhh.) So maybe your gf has some expectations for you along the lines of “my gf will get me and we will have so much in common” that a) you didn’t sign up for, and b) are being challenged by you not loving the show?

    1. Yeah, I’ve sort of been on the other side of this and I totally wish he’d said stuff like that. This guy I was dating had zero interest in sport, whereas I would follow my team to the ends of the earth and haven’t missed one of their games in something like 12 years. The team (and watching it) is THE big interest in my life. I’ve always made this clear up front to everyone I’ve dated, because it occupies 75% of my Saturdays in any given year. The guy accepted this for the first year or so of our relationship, then suddenly we were having this huge argument about how he felt “dragged into” the world of my sport (even though I never mentioned it except when he asked “so did you win) and escalated into this massive rant about how I was bringing him down by reminding him of how when he was a kid his dad used to go shooting every weekend and his mum was really lonely and he never got to spend time with his dad and it was all my fault these feelings were rising up again and FEELINGSBOMB. It was a massive part of the reasons why we broke up.

      If only this guy had used his words like you suggest before reaching snapping point, maybe it would have been a little easier for us both.

      1. Speaking as a non-sports watching person, I actually get where your ex is coming from. It’s good that you lay it out up-front, but I don’t know that it’s possible to really understand what “I follow X team” means until you’re dealing with a sports fan. My dad is a huge football supporter, and to me, sports = being bored and feeling bad because we were required to watch games with him, which I hated, but we also had to be quiet and only support his team of choice. Sundays at our home were so awful, starting with evangelical church and ending with hours and hours of sports watching.

        Then again, I wouldn’t get into a relationship with a person who spends most weekends watching sports as their primary interest. My husband likes EPL soccer, but it doesn’t dictate our fun schedule.

        1. I get you. My issue was that he knew about it, I never tried to get him to come to games like I did with sports-lovers I’d dated previously, I never spoke about it and then suddenly after about a year he was acting like he had no idea it was going to be like this and exploding with FEELINGS that totally knocked me sideways. I’d have understood if he told me at the beginning that he was willing to give it a go but wasn’t sure how deeply involved he could get with me, given his background. But he didn’t.

          1. Yeah – it sounds like maybe he was keeping his thoughts and feelings on the downlow, and they grew into this HUGE ISSUE, compete with family history being applied to your relationship, and became the feelingsbomb that (understandably) took you by surprise. I don’t think there was any issue with you being a sports fan, more that it was an issue of him not using his words. A year is a long time to not bring up “Hey, I’m bummed that I can’t spend time with you on Saturdays”, right?

        2. That may be true, but it’s majorly immature of an adult to blow up like this instead of making their needs heard before they explode. His history is his to deal with.

    2. Yes! This expectation of “my girlfriend will have so much in common with me” might be very closely linked to LW being her first female partner -hetronormativity encourages a very “us and them” approach to gendered interests. For example, an ex-girlfriend of mine desperately wanted me to go to fashion shows and get manicures with her, ignoring the fact that I am moderately-to-very butch, based solely on the idea that since boyfriends never wanted to do those things, a girlfriend must. Fandom is very female-weighted, and she might see LW as a safe place to share views that are often looked down on.

      1. Yes. This. My ex and I were a bi-female couple, and one of the big differences I noticed (in my experience, though I am sure it is hardly universal with ALL same sex and ALL opposite sex couples) between being with someone of the same sex versus being with someone of the opposite sex was that without the gender differences at play, there was more impetus for merginess, and more potential GRF 3 rearing its’ ugly head because there wasn’t that built in, cultural insistence on separating or gendering interests. Not that that is a good thing – people can be into whatever they want regardless of gender – but it struck me as being easier to say, “hey – you can do your thing, and I can do mine” to a man rather than to a woman.

    3. I definitely think talking about her feeling and why this is so important is a good way to go.

      Some people are just not people who get really into fanning on stuff at all. Even if they have interests, some of us tend to have a variety of moderate interests, without delving deep into the obsession. (I would say obsession is just not a feel I have.)

      Perhaps the LW’s partner also needs to respect and accept her partner for who she is. She’s not a person who likes loud fast stuff, or obsesses about things. That’s not a bug, that is a feature.

      If they feel like common ground is really lacking in their relationship I would suggest that the LW and her partner try to come up with some other “together” activities. reading a book series together, or getting involved in some tabletop gaming or some other outside hobby? Ballroom dancing? SO many things they could do together that they might both enjoy instead of trying to like all the same things. Even the search for a new hobby to share could be a fun activity to do together. “Remember that time we tried making pottery?” “Zomg Lolz”

    1. Rule 34 states that if a thing exists, there is porn of it; I’m darned if I can think of the term for there being fan fiction of any two or more characters as soon as their names appear together in the same sentence.

  6. This is good advice. I myself am bad at being direct in face-to-face conversations, even when I know I’m entitled to be as direct as I want, even when I’m speaking up about important and necessary boundaries. It’s definitely a thing I’m working on.

    If I may ask a followup question of the Cap and commentariat: do you have any good strategies for getting the words out when you need to / overcoming conflict-avoidance?

    1. Figure out what you’re going to say beforehand. Rehearse it. Especially rehearse the very first words your going to say to bring up the topic. While that won’t make it easy to spit the words out, at least you won’t have to figure out the phrasing as you work up the courage to begin.

    2. When on the spot – I’ve learned that it really, really helps just to state what my feelings are, such as
      – I don’t like where this is going
      – Now I’m uncomfortable
      – Well this is awkward for me
      – I don’t know what you want me to say
      – I don’t want to
      – I need a minute, let me think
      – we’re getting sidetracked from the point

      The reason they say to use ‘I’ statements when confronting someone (‘I have a hard time when you do that’ and not ‘you make me crazy’ for example) is really because someone can argue all day long about everything else under the sun, but ‘I’ is the final arbiter of how ‘I’ feels. And respecting that is the absolute rock-bottom minimum of basic human interactions. If someone cannot respect your clear statement of your feelings, then they are the ones bringing the conflict, not you. Respecting your important and necessary boundaries is not a favour, or a gift, or a sacrifice – and if they want you to think that it is, then remember that they are not respecting YOU. You are allowed your feelings and you are allowed to want what you want. Having feelings and wanting things isn’t a source of conflict, because everyone has feelings and wants things. You are not a robot.

      A reasonable person (or family, or employer, etc) should recognise this and then conflict is avoided by working together to figure out how you can both get what you want. If you are dealing with an unreasonable person (or family, or employer), then the way to avoid conflict is figure out how how you can avoid/minimise interactions with them so your important and necessary boundaries are respected.

      I hope that helps!

      1. “someone can argue all day long about everything else under the sun, but ‘I’ is the final arbiter of how ‘I’ feels.”

        …unless you’re arguing with somebody who uses gaslighting techniques to tell you how you feel, or that your feelings are wrong.

        1. “I” is still the final arbiter of how “I” feels. Gaslighting fuckers just try to make “I”s forget that.

          (I am not saying gaslighting is not horrible. But I think that when the sentence “‘I’ is the final arbiter of how ‘I’ feels” is spoken in a context that makes it clear that that is a baseline and people who do not respect it are the ones causing problems in a relationship, disputing it is weird.)

          1. Speaking as someone who didn’t realize what a massively successful gaslighter her sister was until *many* years later, as well as someone with formal argument training (law school), there is another very good, very simple reason to stick to “I” statements.

            You keep it about *you*, and limit their opportunities to make it about *them*, instead.

            My sister was the queen bee for many years, and did not accept change as I got older–as in she seemed (and as far as I know, still does) believe I’m the same weird-for-no-reason, incompetent screw-up who exists only to make her life more of a trial that I was when I was under the age of 12. (Not saying I am those things, just that that is her perspective.)

            Unfortunately, it took me far too long to realize that the only successfully resolved agreement with her was one where we all bowed down and kissed her… …*ahem*… …feet, and did as she wanted.

            So no matter what the subject, be it who left the dirty Kleenex in the car to determining POA for my Mom, any time the word “you” came out of anyone’s mouth directed at her, then we were “all ganging up on her” and “didn’t want her in the family anymore.” The conversation, whatever the topic, immediately became he own personal version of woe-is-me, the-perils-of-Pauline full-blown melodrama, and nothing useful was achieved (except for regretfully, my Mom came to see at the end of her life just what kind of person her elder daughter really was.)

            (Mind you, this is a 40-plus year-old woman with a Master’s degree in Engineering.)

            So, back to the point… This is a conversation about you and your feelings, not them. The only way they play into it at all is they’re the one being a putz and treating you badly. And far too many people are excellent “hijackers”. My family in general has a long traditional European history with a culture where the question “How are you?” is not polite conversation, it’s an invitation to a 2-hour long dissertation on the woes of their personal existence. And they’re also known for getting by on sheer stubborn for millennia.

            You do not “debate” these people, or try to “discuss” things, if you want to get anywhere. You do not “suggest ” how things should be.

            You put your damn foot down and *tell* them point-blank, how it’s gonna be. And you have to hog the conversation a bit, in the sense that you give them as few opportunities to make it about them as possible.

            Turning 30 was a freedom for me, because to my mind it freed me from being a people-pleaser. “I am an official adult, I have a brain and an education, and I will fire them at will,” pretty much summed it up. Add that to a rapidly developed self-preservation instinct, and I finally started enforcing some simply-defined but effective boundaries. The big one?

            Does this person have any positive influence on my daily life at all? Do they do anything besides make my life more difficult?


            Then family or no family, long-time acquaintance or not, I cannot deal with your BS. Furthermore, I *will* not. And there are certain standards of courtesy and treatment you will adhere to when dealing with me, because even if you gave birth to me/paid my way/ *whatever*, I do not owe you *anything* beyond my gratitude. Nothing.

            My parents were always big on “taking care of number one,” for better or worse, and well, that’s what you’re doing. Don’t be afraid to be (what seems to you) a bit selfish or maybe a bit inconsiderate.

            After all, they’re certainly not being considerate of you, are they?

    3. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. If you can write it out (a password protected notepad app is great for this) and read it. I think what stops some conflict avoidant people is trying to script your responses to the argument afterward. It’s overwhelming and scary and exhausting and takes the fight out of you, yes? So don’t spend time planning rebuttals. Refer back your script ad nauseam. Be a broken record. “This is teen space, not adult space. You have 3 other spaces to choose from. Correct, no teens are using it right now; it is still teen space and there are 3 other rooms for you to use. I understand they are all full; those groups booked their space in advance. I understand this is an emergency meeting; that does not make this adult space. We have worked very hard to provide the teens with their own space and ask you respect it as they respect yours.”

      Can you tell I’ve been doing this for a few months? 😛

      1. I second this; I sometimes cover reception duties for my university department, and we get LOTS of students or prospective students who try to push boundaries around things like application requirements, course requirements, and deadlines, as though asking to break a rule in a slightly different way or enough times is somehow going to change things. (Sometimes people even try to contact different people in the department, hoping for different answers.) It doesn’t: ask the same question, get the same answer. It helps us that we’re always referring back to the same rule/policy, and if you set up a mental (or even written) script beforehand, as lauraflute suggests, this can serve that same function.

    4. I know this might not be the best advice or something other people necessarily agree with, but I am a big fan of the text. I have an issue where when I’m upset about something I can think of a whole articulate essay in my head raging at someone for what they’ve done to wrong me, but when they’re like “hey, you seem mad, what’s up?” I freeze and either say nothing or pretend everything is fine when it obviously isn’t. I just can’t make myself say the words.

      I know people say face-to-face is the best way, and in many respects I agree, but that isn’t going to happen if I can’t even say what I’m pissed about. Emails are too long-format and not conversational, but I’ve found with texts I really need to pare down my thoughts (thus avoiding extraneous feelings-talk and rambling) and I can say what I need to say because the person isn’t staring at me while I do it. It prevents me accidentally blurting out things I don’t mean and gives me time to go over stuff and make sure I’ve phrased it exactly right. Then later, when I see the person again, I know the big part is out of the way, and it’s much easier for me us to have a helpful discussion.

      1. In many situations, it might not be the best way. But I’m the same as you and my husband and I do exactly this. Just a couple of hours ago he sent me a text about something that was bugging him. We had three or four texts back and forth, now it’s resolved. We do this a lot and then when we’re home in the evening, we can enjoy snuggle time as if there was never a disagreement. I find that even if we bitterly disagree on something (in which case we often switch to email) it doesn’t affect the happy atmosphere in our home because it happened in a completely different context, ie text rather than in person. Even if a conflict isn’t resolved by the evening, we can enjoy happy snuggles without mentioning it and resume our conversation by email the next day.

        It works for us, it works for you, so perhaps there’s a chance it might work for LW.

        1. You know, my husband and I do this too sometimes, and I always wondered why it worked so well. The context thing makes a lot of sense. Plus, we both have a couple bad communication habits – his is responding to questions as if he has to know the answer or else, mine is being oversensitive to tone. Text and email short-circuit both of those.

          Thanks for the insight!

      2. I’m the same way in that I freeze when confronted face-to-face, and since I have even gotten paid to write, the non-spoken word is often my preferred method of communication. In my case, though, texts or emails sometimes dissolve into a point-by-point thesis on Reasons You [the Recipient, not you, arcticchar!] Suck, so for me, there’s still a place for in-person confrontations if there are reasons to preserve the relationship.

      3. Well, if it works, it works 🙂 I’ve resolved some relationship issues by texting while we were in the same room. On the same sofa. Sitting next to each other. It worked, while talking didn’t.

      4. Spouse and I totally do this, too. Part of the reason was to be able to hash things out without Kids overhearing (or without waking them up sometimes) but it works for those other reasons as well.

    5. Write everything down! Seriously, write out a letter of everything you want to say. You can just hand the letter to whoever you want to talk about it or read it aloud. Some people might be mean to you but who cares? And if they are mean to you, that’s a good time to just walk. So if the conversation becomes:

      “Why do you need a letter? Reading a prompt just feels awkward! Why can’t you just tell me how you feeeeeeeeeeeel???”

      Then your response becomes, “I see this isn’t working. I’m going for a walk, we’ll talk later.”

    6. I also am uncomfortable with conflict and would ‘wait for the right time to bring it up’. Which never comes of course and then the pressure builds-no good! What works for DH and I is we have a weekly ‘family meeting’ where we go over the mundane (I’m going to go to thing on Wednesday night can you feed the cats) and is also the designated time to bring up any issues (I’m feeling overwhelmed right now, can you feed the cats for the next week?). This gives me time to rehearse the words, nothing festers for very long, and we know that we will revisit the issue! YMMV depending on the relationship etc. but it has been one of our keys to better communication over the long haul.

  7. Not Jeeves – as someone with an executive functioning disorder (that has improved significantly with treatment and hard work, but is still an issue), one that caused any number of arguments early on in my relationship, know this: even if your friend has such an issue, it is not your responsibility to deal with it. It is especially not your responsibility to make sure that, on top of all the regular chores, you also make sure he eats and sleeps and goes to work. He clearly did these things before you moved in, and he can learn to do them again, but he needs to have the motivation to work at it. You moving out permanently may or may not be sufficient motivation, but that is not your problem.

    1. Truth. I have executive functioning problems so extensive that deciding what pants to put on can sometimes occupy a whole morning. Yet I live alone and have for years. Sometimes that means the dishes don’t get washed the same day, or even the same week, I use them. Sometimes that means I look around my residence, exclaim, “Holy fuckballs, this place is gross!” and book a cleaning service, because I can afford to do so and trying to take it on myself would result in a minimum of one meltdown before the dust got cleared away enough that I could actually see what color the floor’s supposed to be. But my system, as non-systematic and probably cringe-inducing to tidier people as it is, works for me, and I do the stuff that needs to get done somehow at some time. I’m betting Not Jeeves’ friend will eventually figure out a system of his own, too.

      1. Oh, lord, in a lucky/unlucky break, due to certain agencies being *extremely slow* about issuing permits, my research partner and I weren’t able to go out to one of our sites and start gridding last weekend, so instead my fiancé and I were able to make it through all of the laundry (minus the sheets and the hand wash-only) and also get to a movie for Valentine’s Day. Starting Monday, getting dressed has been An Ordeal for me, because now I have LITERALLY ALL OF MY CLOTHES to choose from, and the weather just changed so that most of my clothing is appropriate in terms of temperature/comfort. During the week I mostly do coursework and lab work, but all that means is close-toed shoes and a lab coat if my sleeves or bottoms are too short, so it does little to cut down on what’s reasonable to wear. I meant to leave half an hour ago, and am instead typing this while trying to decide what should be put over the sleeveless top I’m wearing or if I should just throw on a t-shirt instead (BUT WHICH ONE THEY ARE ALL CLEAN AND I HAVE SO MANY).

        1. Argh, temperature fluctuations! It’s been unseasonably hot where I am, so I’ve had another layer (heh heh…clothing…layer…I’m done now, I swear) of complication in my daily attire choices, which is: Do I wear clothes that are Clean, as in no wearing since being washed, or do I settle for clean, as in clothes that I have worn but that don’t smell like they’ve been worn? I’m a grade-A shvitzer, so if the temperature gets warm enough (in my case, if at any point, it goes over 55), I will start leaking like my pores are puncture wounds in a life raft, which of course runs the risk of totally ruining a Clean shirt after just one go. But sometimes I really wanna wear that 14ers or Grand Canyon t-shirt, even though they’re Clean! Gaaaaahhhh. Now tomorrow’s wardrobe is probably going to occupy most of the rest of my waking thoughts tonight. :p

  8. All good, but this particular phrase for Sounding Board lands funny for me: “When you’re with me, I want to hear about how you’re attracted to *me*”

    If SB wants more expression of attraction, I would raise that on its own, separate from the crushes.

    If SB doesn’t want to hear this level about her girlfriend’s celebrity crushes or crushes in general, I would talk about that on its own.

    And finally there’s the fact that these are guys. I’m straight and I don’t know the LW, but that seems like it could be a major factor for a person — especially if the girlfriend doesn’t stick to “this is what’s going on with me”, and has an expectation that you should have any feelings or opinions about these guys. *If* this is a factor, I would again raise it as its own thing.

    In particular, there can be a certain temptation (conscious or not) to raise an issue that there’s a social norm and script for, as kind of a placeholder for an issue that isn’t as well-supported. Especially if both are genuine live issues in the situation! The practical problem with placeholding is that then the underlying issue doesn’t get seen. And I could see either/both Emotional Monogamy and Show Your Feelings For Me might placehold for Guy-Attraction-Normativity stuff.

    1. Yeah, that phrase jumped out a bit at me, too. I think it’s the sort of thing that could easily start a tangential argument about “don’t I make you feel loved/secure” that could totally detract from the main point. I had some of those with a former boyfriend who constantly – and I mean several times daily – used to bring up his exes and all the great times he had with them. “Oh yeah, me and Jane used to do that. We used to love it. That TV show? Katie loves that! Do you want meatballs tonight? Jemima used to make those for me all the time, it was awesome. Let’s go on a day trip to Place. I had a really lovely day there with Emma once.” I started feeling like I was on a date with all of them at once. I told him it made me feel uncomfortable and he went BUT WHYYYYYYYY and I initially fell into the trap of saying stuff like “I don’t really want to hear about the great times you had with your exes because when we are together I want that to be about the great times you and I have together” and he used to accuse me of being immature and clingy and all sorts. In the end I stopped explaining and just said, “I don’t know her, so it’s kind of boring for me to hear about her” + subject change. He went through a stage of “Oh yeah, Jane…oh no, I’m not allowed to mention her” + subject change, but was OK after that.

      1. I think the problem with one’s SO obsessing over other people, whether exes or celebrities, is that it sounds like they’d rather have those other people as their SO, or maybe they wish you were like their obsession object(s), and not like you. Especially since “bonding” over a shared obsession isn’t a possibility here.

        My ex used to talk about her celebrity crushes (who were all guys I found kind of creepy) and her previous boyfriends (only one of whom I didn’t think was creepy), including her sexual activities with them. It was kind of alienating. It gave me the distinct impression that she was really just putting up with me because nobody better was available, like the last car on the used-car lot.

        I think it’s reasonable to expect from an SO that they say and do stuff to give you the message that _you_ are who they want to be with. If that isn’t how they feel, why are they with you? Just so they can have someone whom they can make feel bad?

        1. It extra sounds like they’re treating you as a backup when you confront them about it and their response is, literal direct quote here, ‘like I could get with them anyway’… Words fail me to this day… Well rid of him.

      2. I dated a guy like that once, and he was all “but you never bring up your exes AT ALL!” when I talked to him about how uncomfortable I was. Actually, I did — I just didn’t name them. I would say things like “oh, I went to Colorado with a friend when I was in college,” and just didn’t tell him that the friend was my ex-boyfriend Craig, who he knew about. Because the important fact (to me) was that I had been to Colorado, not who I went with. We had a very interesting conversation about that.

    2. Yeah I was also taken aback by the ‘When you’re with me I want to hear about how you’re attracted to me’ suggestion for a possible follow up conversation because to me thats precisely what the LW’s girlfriend is saying she doesn’t want – a relationship where she feels like she’s not ‘allowed’ to talk about her crushes on men.

      Bi women are often made to feel crap by being made to feel ‘less queer’, having to prove that they are lesbian or queer ‘enough’ to be in queer women’s communities, etc. When I joined a supposedly LBT women’s group (mostly just an L group in practice) I overheard biphobic jokes on one of my first evenings there, and when people were trying to get to know me they did it by asking questions about my sexual history which were obviously intended to weed out the ‘proper’ lesbians from the bi women. The LW may not be directly making her girlfriend feel that she needs to squash the par of herself that is attracted to men but she is very very likely to be getting that message elsewhere. So my reaction to this part is almost the opposite of Captain Awkward’s reaction – I do not find it in the least sketchy that a bi woman in her first relationship with another woman is taking steps to actively hold on to her bisexuality in the relationship rather than being subsumed as a ‘lesbian’ in a ‘lesbian relationship’.

      1. The idea that she’s “holding onto her bisexuality” is a good perspective, thanks! Maybe that can be part of the conversation that the LW has, like, hey, is this about wanting your bisexuality recognized by me or is there another reason you’re showing me all these men & boys all the time?

        1. The most recent Dear Prudence (much improved, IMHO, since Mallory Ortberg took over from Emily Yoffe) included a letter from a woman who was upset that her wife, who identifies as bisexual (the LW is a lesbian) would tell people she was bisexual when they referred to her as a lesbian.

          I thought Mallory’s advice was really good. As a person who identifies as bisexual and who has been in relationships with lesbians in the past, I can tell you that I got a lot of biphobic vitriol, accused of not being “queer enough” (I’m very femme-presenting), and generally felt shitty and excluded from a lot of allegedly LGBTQ-friendly events I attended, especially if I happened to be dating a man at the time. I always felt like my bisexuality was something I had to “prove” and, like Lily mentioned above, would often get interrogated about my dating history and was told that because the majority of my relationships have been with men, I obviously wasn’t *that* bisexual.

          I think that the issue of the LW’s girlfriend wanting to hold onto her bisexual identity is a separate one from insisting that the LW engage with her on a subject that the LW doesn’t want to. That being said, there are ways to affirm one’s bisexual identity that don’t involve endless convos about Dude of the Week, IMHO.

          1. This feels like a bit of a small petty point (esp since you’re bisexual yourself) but I didn’t really like the contrast between “her wife, who IDENTIFIES AS bisexual” and “the LW IS a lesbian”. The wife IS a bisexual as much as the LW IS a lesbian, and I feel really uncomfortable in general with “identifies as” language – it often seems to be used deliberately to avoid saying “is” and agreeing with someone’s identity.

          2. @simonewebb93

            That wasn’t my intention – I’m in the habit of using “identifies as” to make it clear a person identifies as something, not I’ve decided they’re something (as in, I identify as bisexual, just because I’m dating a man doesn’t mean you can decide to call me hetero). In the case of the Dear Prudence letter, the LW’s wife was correcting people who were calling her a lesbian because they saw her in a relationship with another woman and assumed she must be one. You’re reading intention into my language that isn’t there.

      2. Yeah, I also had the sense that she might be trying to assert her bisexuality or figure out how it fits into her relationship with the LW.

        I’ve had friends who came out as bi after previously identifying as lesbians, who did the same kind of thing in platonic situations, trying to talk a lot about hot guys with lesbian friends. One did it to the degree where it made me and at least one other friend (both lesbians) uncomfortable (we had never talked in such a sexually charged way about female crushes together, and her comments were sometimes phrased as though she was speaking for us as well or assuming we shared her attraction). I realized later that she was copying the ‘talking about crushes’ norms she’d observed in a different group of friends where previously assumed straight women came out as bi and comfortably established their new identities there, but the dynamics didn’t work with friends who didn’t usually talk that way, and I think also there’s something different about trying to engage (queer-positive) straight and bi women in talk about attraction to women and trying to engage lesbian women in talk about attraction to men.

        So it seems to me both like the LW’s girlfriend might be looking for some signs of comfort and acceptance of her sexuality that she deserves to have in her relationship, and like the LW might need to put up some boundaries about the way she’s doing it and work together with her to find ways that are comfortable for her sexuality and her experience of the relationship.

        1. I agree, partly because I just now realised that I do this. I’m a straight-appearing bisexual woman who is married to a man and has never had a romantic relationship with a woman. Often I feel my bisexuality is sort of overshadowed by my lifestyle. I don’t talk to my husband about any men I find attractive in any way, but I definitely do it with women. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this were what the LW’s partner is doing.

          1. But do both straight and lesbian women engage in these conversations with you? Why not talk to gay and bisexual men, too, if the subject is “men I find attractive” (I’m assuming your husband is not interested in other men)?

          2. I was talking about my husband specifically. There was nothing there to say I don’t have these conversations with my gay male friends – I do. (I don’t have any bi male friends close enough to talk to about that, but totally would.)

          3. Wait – I just realised you may have misinterpreted my comment. When I said I do this with women, I meant I mention women I find attractive to my husband, not that I talk to women about men I find attractive. Was that how you read it?

          4. Yes – it appears that was the cause of the confusion. Certainly I’ve known people who are attracted to the same gender to crush over people of that gender as a form of platonic bonding.

  9. Not Jeeves, for all the reasons the Captain and everyone else has mentioned you should move out. But also…you say trying to build him a support network has alienated you from half your friends. I am wondering what he does that means trying to introduce him to your friends makes them stop liking *you* for having him around? I think I can hear the buzzing of an entire angry hive of bees? You don’t have to answer that question for us here but I strongly advise you give some thought as to why so many of your friends dislike him so strongly that they’re willing to lose contact with you to avoid him. I mean, I already dislike a guy who’s treating a housemate like a valet but whatever else is going on all signs point to *leave now*.

    And if you want any validation on what is or isn’t reasonable re division of housework and money – it’s entirely reasonable to set boundaries around what housework you do for discounted rent. Being responsible for making him get out of bed and shower is a very very different level of support to doing a big professional cleaner style clean once every two weeks. Or some other negotiated and sensible arrangement to which (and this is the key part) you explicitly agree. And since you’ve tried to have this discussion many times and he won’t listen, all that’s left to do re enforcing that boundary is to move out. Moving does suck a lot I know, so I’m sending you sympathetic internet thoughts re that awful process. 😦

  10. #830: Other people have already told you that your friend isn’t your responsibility. My guess is, you know that on some level already, but you haven’t acted on that knowledge because of the consequences to your friend. What will happen if you’re not there to take care of him anymore? Something bad! And even though that’s not your lookout, you’ll feel bad if bad things happen to him.

    Chances are he’ll get himself together more quickly if you’re not there to be his safety net. If he doesn’t, however …

    What’s the worst thing that could happen?

    Say the worst thing is that he loses his job. Okay, that’s pretty bad. Will he never be able to get another job again?

    If he alienates all of his friends because he doesn’t shower, can he never get them back, or make new friends?

    Is he going to actually die without you?

    He’ll be okay. So will you. I hope you can take those first steps toward your own emancipation soon.

    1. I agree with you. It reminded me of a conversation with my son’s pediatrician when he was a toddler. I was freaking out because he wasn’t eating the food I was making him and was convinced I was starving him. The pediatrician said people will eat when they’re hungry no matter how stubborn they are. When LW was saying that his housemate would forget to eat unless prompted I wondered if that was true. Is he really forgetting to eat or choosing not to prepare his own meal because he knows that if he “forgets” LW will bring him a meal?

      #830 – you should move…asap! Your friend will be fine.

      1. I have ‘forgotten to eat’ on occasion when I’m in front of an attention grabbing screen. I don’t think it’s literal forgetting, it’s just meaning to do that and I will get to it later and I will get to it later and there’s another checkpoint and I will get to it later and then it’s three hours past the time I meant to eat and I am very hungry and getting food that requires minimal effort to prepare.

        So on that level, yeah, it’s 100% possible to forget to eat; eating isn’t very interesting, and if you’re doing something more interesting it’s easy to put off your meal to, say, later than when you absently told your LW-writing roommate you’d eat, or when they expect you to eat.

        1. Eating isn’t very interesting, food prep is not very fun, and the knowledge of future cleanup can be all very offputting, especially for those with weak hunger drives. In college, I actually had to move residences because if I didn’t walk past the cafeteria after class, I could and did often forget to eat for as long as 3 days and then wonder why I was so weak and tired. No hunger cues at all.

          But moving residences /was/ me stepping up to fix things so I’d be reminded more often. I didn’t make my roommates do the reminding or bring me food. LW’s friend will wind up stepping up too.

          1. Also, looking at the letter again, Not Jeeves doesn’t say that their housemate forgets to eat. They say he won’t eat properly/only eats cereal. Which I appreciate can be a problem, but seriously it is not the same as outright forgetting to eat, and it is not the LW’s problem.

          2. Also, “properly” when it comes to eating is pretty personal (I cringe when I hear someone describe someone else as ‘not eating properly’, because there are a lot of ways to eat properly and all of them are about you, the person eating, deciding “this is proper for me to eat”), and cereal is delicious and easy to fix. Especially when, as many have said above, you are very hungry because other things are more interesting than food at that exact moment.

          3. Wait – “weak hunger drives” – this is actually a thing? My life makes so much more sense now.

          4. Yeah, the weak hunger drive idea is something that was a big eye-opener in college. I’ve always been the opposite; if I don’t get my meals regularly I get super cranky and if I wait too long I start to shut down (once I almost blacked out in a grocery store because I had gone something like 7 hours without a meal [!!]). In college I made friends who did NOT work like that, and was incredibly surprised.

            (For those who have a weak hunger drive and don’t like it [if it’s working for you, then ignore this], I’ve found that exercise helps my body have more regular and “better” hunger urges since the extra output of energy reminds it that I should eat. I don’t know if it would work for someone whose hunger drive isn’t very strong anyway — for me it’s more a matter of knowing that 2 hours after I get exercise = time for food, so my hunger comes at predictable times and I can be prepared with meal/snacks — but IF this is something you want to try it may help.)

        2. While the LW does say that their friend doesn’t eat properly/only eats cereal, this could be a side-effect of forgetting to eat. If the point at which you come up for air from whatever has been distracting you is far enough past a reasonable hunger point, or you in fact only surface because your hunger is strong enough to distract you (which is pretty hungry, for me), your hunger has likely depleted your ability to think clearly or put much effort into making food. Even if you think “I would like a sandwich”, the prospect of finding all the materials and putting one together is too much for your current cognitive state (bread, cheese, meat, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes (which you have to slice), spread, etc) and your energy level, so you eat the cereal (or the Oreos, or whatever is within reach and requires no more than one dish and two ingredients and one minute). Also, if you are me, by this point you have horrid stomach cramps, and eating is the only way to get them to go away – for 10-20 minutes, at which point your insides will punish you for eating on an entirely empty stomach with more cramps, gas, and bloating.

          1. Maybe, but the entire “LW says their roommate doesn’t eat properly, let’s go from this to they aren’t eating properly because they literally forget to eat” seems like it’s internet-diagnosing and maybe not super-relevant to LW’s problem.

          2. I agree Aphotic Ink and would go so far as to say it is not relevant at all. The reason being that LW is not their friend and the letter didn’t ask “How can I eat regularly when I forget”, it was about a friend taking another friend for granted.

        1. Outside of that very specific and rare circumstance, it’s standard advice.

          My youngest child has birth defects that cause feeding issues, problems with weight gain, and works with an OT to learn how to eat properly. We have to prepare their food in a specific way, but are encouraged to feed them the same food we eat. Since they are a person with preferences, sometimes they doesn’t like what they are given. I was preparing a different meal for them when that happened, and was told by their pediatrician and OT to stop.

          That having control of their own intake was more important than eating every meal, and that as long as the food offered was something they were physically capable of eating, to let them refuse it and be hungry. That they would make up the calories elsewhere, and it would be okay.

          It is very hard to watch someone who almost died from malnutrition not eat. It is beyond what I can describe to watch your precious child you’ve spent two and a half years monitoring and recording everything that goes into their body down to the quarter ounce so that they don’t die, not eat.
          But it’s a stage of emotional development they need to go through, so 95% of the time as a parent, you just have to let your kid be hungry if that’s what they want.

          1. AFRID, or SEP is more common than you’d think, actually. And personally? I’d rather doctors air on the side of caution when it comes to the majority than give harmful advice to the minority. And many people have said they have found that advice unhelpful http://thefeedingdoctor.com/picky-eating-size-concerns-dont-worry-about-it-means-different-things-to-different-people-2/

            And it’s just not true that everyone will eat when they’re hungry.

            That’s besides the point that I believe in the Division of Responsibility when it comes to eating. The point is that doctors need to better for their patient than that.

      2. Heh, my mom has told me that when I was a toddler she had a conversation with my pediatrician about the fact I would only eat cheerios and grapes – he said as long as I ate enough of them, she just had to wait this phase out. He was right, I did, and the rest is history.

        I learned to cook when I got tired of being hungry.

      3. I have type 2 bipolar disorder, and I have, on occasion, in the midst of some of my worst depressive spells, not eaten for long enough (days on end) that it was potentially dangerous. It is a real thing that can happen, at least in cases where mental illness is involved (which we don’t know in this case, and we don’t diagnose over the internet or as people who are not trained to diagnose mental illness). I don’t want to add to any pressure for the LW to stay – I think leaving is the right course, especially becasue the housemate was clearly able to survive without zir help previously – but I do want to let people know that people experiencing intense depression can actually let themselves starve.

        1. Yeah, that comment sat a little badly with me as well. I have executive function problems because Asperger’s, and eating regularly has been a real problem in the past. When I first left home I went around two days between meals pretty regularly because I was floundering without the routines and structure from living with my parents. My overarching aim re: nutrition was to get at least one meal a day, everything beyond that a bonus, for years. Thankfully, I’ve got decent routines going nowadays, have a structured job *and* have discovered the safety net of online pizza ordering 🙂 (which I’m luckily in good enough financial shape to do every now and then), but I spent so, so long with the vague worry at the back of my mind that if an executive dysfunction flare-up got bad enough I might starve.

          1. *waves awkwardly from the back corner of the Asperger’s Club*

            Forgetting to eat isn’t a problem for me, what with the Type I diabetes (did I ever hit the genetic lottery or what?!). Not eating = everything gets all pink and sparkly, then develops an aura! Wheeeeee!

            Food prep, however, is a train wreck that can be foretold before the train so much as leaves the station. At just shy of 30, I have a comfortable rotation of walkable restaurants, online Chinese delivery restaurants, and a few straightforward recipes sprinkled in with Trader Joe’s frozen and canned Meals for People Who Love Food But Can’t Make It. So I totally feel you re: the impact of executive (dys)function on successful meal ingestion and the desire to praise the Elder Gods for online ordering. Appropriately timed, too, as I’m waiting on a sushi order that I placed as a reward for adulting hardcore today (including, but not limited to, an hour+ phone call with three separate agencies in order to straighten out a health insurance screw-up). 🙂

  11. I agree with the majority of this advice and thank you — as always! — for writing it. But: I’m really uncomfortable with the way you’ve phrased
    You are not a bad friend if you stop doing this even if he has “executive function” issues.

    Not because I think you’re wrong in the substance of the sentence — it is absolutely not the case that anyone I’m not paying (or who isn’t employed by the state) to do care work for me should have to do, well, care work for me. But I can’t work out why it is that you’ve put executive function in quotation marks other than to suggest that executive function issues don’t exist, or are actually laziness, or whatever else that adds up to them not being a real and actual thing. I’d not expect you to deliberately imply that but I seriously can’t work out any other reading. I’m kind of stalling on how to finish this, for which apologies; just… ow, I suppose. :-/

    1. I think “executive function” in quotes is because in this case it’s entirely the LW’s speculation and the housemate rejects the possibility, not because the Captain thinks executive function disorders aren’t real.

      1. If that was the way it was meant, it didn’t come across that way to me either. There have been a lot of letters in the past where the LW has discussed possible disorders and illnesses and I don’t recall CA using quotation marks like that.

        It’s possible that I’m just being sensitive considering how often those of us with EF deficits get accused of just being lazy.

    2. Intra-site search results show the Captain having referred to it before without any obvious skepticism. Chances are, as Marmot says, she’s both quoting the LW and acknowledging that the LW may be blindly speculating.

    3. The Cap is definitely on Team Executive Function Issues Both Exist and Massively Suck. If I’m remembering right, she has a few of her own. I assumed the quotation marks were because she was quoting the LW, who was using them out of speculation.

    4. I’m quoting the LW there, where they suggest that the roommate might have those issues.

      I have ADHD and I think executive function issues are real.

  12. Slight nitpicking: I’m not sure why the focus of the answer to LW #832 is so much on “straight guys”. It sounds as if the LW isn’t interested in guys, in general, and I’m a bit worried that girlfriend might interpret this as “OK, let’s find some queer guys we can talk about”, which really doesn’t solve the problem. (Incidentally, if it did, there’s considerable evidence that Poe Dameron falls into that category…)

    My sibling has several partners, who take a friendly interest in each other, and my sibling is happy to hear about their other partners. My (straight male) partner is happy to hear about my crushes on both men and women – I think he finds it endearing – and I’m happy for him to talk about his, and every now and then one of us says “OK, enough now, this is making me a bit insecure”, and then we reassure each other that they’re just fantasy crushes and we wouldn’t ever act on them. My close friend and her partner never talk about being attracted to other people because that’s something they’d rather not know about each other. As far as I’m concerned, these are all “healthy” relationships, because they’re all negotiated and agreed between the people involved. LW, you are not wrong, and your girlfriend isn’t wrong in what she wants, but it does sound as if there’s a mismatch and maybe she needs to find someone else who shares her fandom or at least her crush-style to talk about this stuff with.

  13. Not Jeeves: In your description of your friend, you parenthetically added, “(he can afford to support both of us without my financial input, but I was uncomfortable with that).” Even if this guy was in a really hard place with regards to money and resources, it would still be unfair for you to be responsible for his entire life, and we’d be telling you to move out. But it sounds like this guy has the money, at least, to pay for assistance when you’re gone. He’ll be able to hire a cleaner or a manservant or a new therapist or a dominatrix or whatever he needs when you are gone, and they will have the advantage of being in a professional relationship with a contract rather than a friendship paying with reserves of kindness. Please take the Captain’s advice and physically remove yourself from the situation before it kills whatever goodwill you have left.

    Not a Dog-Lover: SO MUCH SYMPATHY. I used to be terrified of dogs when I was younger, and I still don’t like them all that much.

    Short story time: I have a friend who used to have a filthy apartment. Before that he lived in a filthy house. He’d want to hang out, and I would occasionally go to his place and perch awkwardly on pet-hair-covered furniture and kick aside dust bunnies and dirt on the floor and plates of food left for the pets to lick clean (?!) but mostly I would say, no, I’m not going to your place, if you want to hang out you can come to my place. And so that’s what we did. Occasionally I’d say something that let him know that the reason I didn’t like going over there was that the place was a mess, but since the baseline never improved, it was obvious that having me over to his place wasn’t a priority enough for him to keep his space clean enough for that to happen. (I mean, there were genuine mental health issues involved in both spaces, but that didn’t change the fact that I didn’t want to be there.) So yeah. If Ben can’t make his place a place you want to spend time in by training or restraining his dogs, don’t go there. If it’s a priority for him to have you over, he’ll change. If not, you don’t have to spend time getting jumped on and everyone wins.

    Sounding Board: Ugh, you are not in the wrong here. I mean, I have sympathy for your girlfriend as a fangirl of television properties myself, but she needs to track a tumblr tag or something. It doesn’t matter if it’s “normal” to discuss celebrity crushes, it’s something you don’t want to do.

    Maybe try a script on the order of, “I’m happy you’re happy, but I can’t follow the details.” “I’m glad you’re having fun looking at pretty people, even if I don’t get the appeal.”

    I definitely cosign apricity’s advice above to find an activity that you both enjoy and carve out time for doing it together. Having someone reject your fannish interest can feel like a rejection of you, in a way, so reconnecting around something you can share is a good way to quash that particular jerkbrain reaction.

    Good luck to all of you!

    1. I agree completely about Not Jeeves. It also stood out to me that the friend has some problem-solving capabilities when it comes to his dysfunction as well. He already attempted a solution to the problem by inviting a friend to live with him at lower rent in exchange for more housework. It turns out that’s not a fair solution or the right one, because he needs more help than he advertised, but it seems like there’s some level of awareness on his part that he doesn’t live well by himself and that one way he can get the help he needs is with money. It might take him some time, but I’m confident this guy will find someone who will be able to fill in for those needs.

      1. I feel like if there’s anything I’ve learned from years of Captain Awkward letters, it’s that if one enters into a “I will do more housework if I pay less rent” agreement, it needs to be spelled out in writing, not just assumed that both of you know what “more” means.

  14. Not Jeeves: if you can afford it, try also getting a pet when you move out. Like a fish. You have a bunch of habits that are suddenly gonna have nowhere to go, I bet. Like, the habit of caring for another person so constantly. I think that if you transfer those habits to something else when you move out, it might help smooth the transition and slow down your guilt.

    Not A Dog-Lover, one of the great gifts of my adult life has been realizing I can just leave a place if I don’t want to be there. If you’re planning on still hanging out with Mr. Shitty Iditerod at his dog den, which is fine of course, I would recommend always having independent transportation lined up. And thinking hard about what you’ll say to take your leave if you need to go at different stages of the evening.

    Also, sometimes people have a hard time believing that others don’t see their pets in the same rosy “I touch your feces because I love you” light. A handy way to get around this is to tell the guy: “actually, I’m really afraid of you dogs. Let’s do the movie at mine,” and then to really let your fear of these dogs show through if/when you’re around them. This obviously is a viable strategy only if your friend is not a jerk. Either way, I recommend using your ability to leave a place early and often, when you hang out with him.

    1. Please only get a pet if you’re in a position to care for it for its lifespan. If you do get a fish consider something like a betta (and not in a gallon or less, just because they can survive doesn’t make it pleasant), not a goldfish that have a lifespan of up to or above 20 years.

      1. Oh, my god, yes. Speaking as somebody who worked at a pet store for several years, and actually did her research on everything we carried, fish are significantly more difficult to take good care of than people generally think (especially goldfish, which tend to grow to about a foot or more (the cheap ones get a foot and a half easy), and need at least small-pond-sized quantities of water in order to be healthy–even the babies need fairly huge tanks in order to grow correctly.) Please do not get an animal without doing ALL OF THE RESEARCH, especially because your chances of finding a me who can tell you what to do at the store are pretty slim.

      2. Preach. I’m still a little sensitive after having to put down my 18-year-old cat last year, so while I know there are perfectly legit reasons why people have to rehome pets sometimes, I’m convinced there’s a special place in hell for people who drop animals off at the shelter without so much as asking their friends or, hell, putting up a notice on Facebook seeking a loving family, just because pets have actual needs and aren’t just a source of snuggles and YouTube videos.

        1. Sorry for your loss. I worked at our SPCA for a couple of years and that very quickly made me very jaded about your average pet owner. I think there is a fundamental problem with how pet ownership is viewed in… probably most cultures and certainly mine (NZ). Far too many people love their pets but ultimately don’t love them more than their own convenience. I have all the sympathy for people who have really been put into a corner and have to rehome their animals, of course. The idea absolutely tears me apart.

          Senior animals are of course an expensive option but I cannot recommend them enough if you’re prepared for the cost and shorter time with them. They have properly developed personalities, dogs are definitely still trainable, and are awesome for lots of chilling and snuggling.

          1. People who give away pets because they have babies and it’s too much work or whatever.

            What are you going to do when you have a second kid, give the first one away????

          2. By contrast I have an acquaintance who doses his kids with benadryl every night because they are allergic to the cats and miserably sniffly and I’m like…no, this is the time for (ethical, careful, permanent) rehoming.

      3. You can often find senior animals at shelters and in rescue, too, if you’re more of a mammal person. And they are usually waiting a while for a home given their age. (Obviously only adopt a pet if you want that specific type of animal and care for it.)

  15. Not Jeeves – I recommend moving out not only because of the reasons that you are not responsible for your friend in this way and don’t need to be – but because in my experience changing that kind of dynamic also does not work very well.

    I had a roommate where he thought it would be a great idea if he paid for all of the internet bills and I would cook enough so that he could also eat my food. While I was ok with this initially, when I realized that he was actually expecting me to ask him if he wanted a plate and put that together for him – it was obvious this was not working for him. My method of “cooking for one” included a massive shopping trip and cooking bulk left overs to then eat throughout the week. This did not fit with his idea of me being in the kitchen and putting together plates for him.

    Soon after we switched back to just splitting the bills down the middle, he asked me to move out as he just wanted to live alone as he didn’t really need a roommate. When there is that kind of imbalance where one person needs the room in the flat and the other is open to a roommate because they’re lonely, could save some money, or other reasons – when the social contract fails, a positive maintenance of the financial one often isn’t enough.

    By you taking the initiative to move out on your own, you also avoid the risk of being evicted from a situation where you may not necessarily have all sorts of legal protections (such as a lease) keeping you in the place. And whether or not you have legal rights, taking the time and money to go after a friend with a lawyer is not going to exactly make where you live for x amount of months before finding a new place very positive. If it even saves you any money.

  16. Fantastic advice from the Captain as usual. One thing that made me wince though was “there’s something kind of sketchy to me about a bi- lady in her first queer relationship”, which acts like bisexual people are really ~*~just straight~*~ if it’s a man/woman relationship, and their bisexuality isn’t queer in and of itself (subject to wanting to claim the word queer for themselves, of course).

  17. Not Jeeves, this is something my therapist told me once when I was worried about a friend and I felt I *had* to do something:

    Your friend has a threapist/counselor? Then that’s it, it’s the therapist’s job to help him.

    – On one hand, he has someone he’s paying specifically to help him with this kind of stuff, so don’t put that pressure on yourself.

    – On the other, there is a professional presumably developing a therapeutic strategy for your friend’s particular problem; it’s better to leave it in their hands, instead of doing stuff that may run agains what they’re doing.

    Jedi hugs, if you want them 🙂

  18. Not Jeeves: also something I would add: what you’re doing for him? That’s a whole extra job on top of your schedule already. And, like jobs, if he really needs someone to do it, he can hire them. *He* can hire them, it’s not on you to fnd someone to take over for you. If he needs to be woken up and made to shower and eat… he can put together a list of job duties and hire someone. If he needs Jeeves, he can do that. But it *does not* have to be you, or your issue to solve.

  19. LW #831 – I love dogs, am a Dog Person, and will happily let a dog smooch all up on my face, but that sounds like a NIGHTMARE. I, too, have a friend who has a large, barky, lung-y, protective, poorly trained dog, and I no longer go to her house, because her dog is legit frightening. I love dogs, I do not love a 140 pound dog lunging and barking at me with its hair up because it has some serious protective/aggressive issues that she is not dealing with.

    The last straw was a backyard barbecue where another guest brought a smaller dog who kept trying to play with the big dog, which resulted in snarling, lunging, and teeth snapping UNDER THE TABLE WHERE EVERYONE’S LEGS WERE. (Did I mention there was also a six year old running around whose face was on teeth-level with the large dog?) I was fucking appalled that she didn’t crate her dog (or, you know, train it, ever). I left early because it seemed very likely that someone was going to end up with a bite wound in their leg or hand.

    Someone who thinks its okay to own four huge dogs and not train them, and also stands by with their thumb up their ass while said dogs leap all over someone is an irresponsible and bad pet owner, and I think you should not hang out at Ben’s house again unless he will shut his dogs in another room or crate them. If he won’t, then I would not go to his house at all.

    Just a PSA to all dog owners out there, also – letting your dog behave like an asshole is not doing the dog any favors, and expecting people to put up with your dog’s shitty behavior is being an asshole.

    1. I concur! I am a dog person and love big dogs, but having four dogs jumping on me? Ugh. that’s horrible. I’ve been punched in the face by numerous big dogs, and it HURTS (and is dangerous!) It’s perfectly reasonable to put your dog(s) in another room when you have guests.

      1. I invited a friend over and at the last minute she begged to bring her dog, which was New so she wasn’t happy leaving it home alone. She promised it wouldn’t stay in my house, just the back yard. It would be fine, she said. I was *only just* comfortable enough with the idea of her bringing a dog through my house to get to my back yard not to say HELL NO. I’m scared of dogs and I only said yes because I had not seen my friend in 8 months.

        Well, she brought the dog. She did not warn me it was UTTERLY HUGE, and boisterous, and excessively friendly. I do not like big jumpy friendly dogs. As soon as it arrived, the dog shat on my doorstep and in the ensuing confusion caused by Huge Uncontrollable Animal Rampaging Through My House, someone trod it all over my carpet. The dog jumped at me (on its hind legs it is taller than I am), my husband (who fortunately loves dogs) and our seven month old baby, who I had to spend the rest of the day stopping from learning to crawl on the formerly shitty carpet because just in case. The dog spent the entire visit jumping up at the window barking and trying to get inside. While it was out there, it produced an enormous quantity of shit, which we only noticed after my friend had left so we had to clean it up ourselves.

        My friend was profoundly apologetic and promised never to even consider bringing a dog to my house again. I accepted her apology but told her as politely as I could that I couldn’t ever come to her house again either, unless that beast of a dog was shut away somewhere. She thought this was reasonable and there is no good reason why the dog owner in the letter shouldn’t too.

        1. YIKES. I am made particularly nervous by the combination of big dog + small child (well, any combination of dog + child makes me nervous, because in my experience so few people have a good sense of how to manage those interactions.)

          I am a terrible dog trainer, and the fact that our dog jumps is mostly my fault. But unless a guest has specifically requested to see him (or if he’s sleeping, then that’s okay too) we put him on a leash, in his crate, or in a room in another building (it’s an old office) if we have guests. Because, well, he’s a TERRIBLY RUDE HOST. If he were a polite host, and did NOT jump on people and try to steal their food, then he would be allowed to stay out with company. He is also not allowed to visit people, because he is a very bad guest. I know other dogs who are good guests — they don’t invade people’s personal space, they don’t try to take things that don’t belong to them, they don’t assault the furniture. They still do doggie things (smell everything, lick themselves, lick an offered hand, etc.) but within the range of doggie manners, they are upstanding citizens.

          I think there are certain concessions one can make due to a pet, but I think in general one should consider whether one’s pet is a good host/guest before putting them into those roles.

          1. I have one dog who is a decent host and a nice guest, and one who Just Cannot. Unsurprisingly, the dog who Just Cannot is also the one who is so anxious that she is medicated and sometimes Thundershirted for it. She’s an astoundingly sweet dog, but extra people ramp her up to 11.

            As a result, both dogs get to have a nice nap in the crate they share when we have people over. Decent Host Dog doesn’t care either way, and Just Cannot gets to relax.

      2. It’s also crazy-making because it’s dangerous for the dog! In my city, if you have an excitable dog that accidentally bites a person or child, they can be taken away and euthanized even if the person bitten doesn’t want it to happen, and if you go to an ER or a doctor with a dog bite, they are supposed to report it and that can result in a visit from animal control. An accidental dog bite can have tragic consequences for the animal.

        1. Absolutely! The shelter where I volunteer has only put down two dogs (to my knowledge) in the past ~3 years — one that was dying, and one that attacked his owner’s neighbor. They also won’t accept new surrenders that have any known history of biting. So even if your dog makes it through the legal system after biting a person, if something happens to you or your living situation where you have to surrender it — things could be bad for the dog.

      3. “I concur! I am a dog person and love big dogs, but having four dogs jumping on me? Ugh. that’s horrible. I’ve been punched in the face by numerous big dogs, and it HURTS (and is dangerous!) It’s perfectly reasonable to put your dog(s) in another room when you have guests.”

        Big & Little dog lover here. Yes, to all that!

        Getting knocked down and headbutted by an overly friendly young Newfoundland is not ‘cute’, nor is getting bitten by an aggressive Chihuahua. Those things are scary and they hurt. Scary and hurtful isn’t cute!

        There’s a class of dog owner that has dogs so they can live vicariously through them. They get the satisfaction of seeing the effect of their dogs behavior on other people while still maintaining plausible deniability that they themselves are a good person. Those people are giving you information about themselves through their dog.

        A good person who has a dog with a behavior problem will either train or re-home them. They won’t offer half-hearted apologies for aggressive behavior. Or gaslight you into thinking you’re the problem because you aren’t entertained by being hurt and afraid. They accept that some people shouldn’t be around their pets because of age, health, or preference, and offer reasonable accommodations like hiring a dog sitter to take them to the park when they entertain, or putting them into a crate, or fenced yard for a hour when friends visit.

    2. I am Dog Person as well (the obnoxious kind that shows dog pictures like baby pictures?…yes, that too), and agree with you wholeheartedly. It makes me cringe hearing about people who blow off training their pups. My fluff nugget is “only” 50 pounds and we made no-jumps training a first priority when I adopted him. It’s never okay to assume someone will be okay with your dog all over them, even if they are a Dog Person; I also am allergic to anything with fur. I manage my allergy because I love my beasts, but if a dog licks my face I turn into a sad, sad itchy tomato.

      Not to mention even the most well meaning, friendly, happy-to-see-you dog can injure someone by jumping (not that you need more reason than “I don’t want them on me” to be valid). And after asking for help with keeping the dogs off and being dismissed? Seems like not only an irresponsible owner but a disrespectful and inconsiderate friend.

      1. I have had a 55 pound dog for approximately 72 hours and we are already working on “no jumping”. It’s very important!

      2. The size of the dog is utterly irrelevant. I remember once couch-surfing at a home that had two dogs, one of them a mini-dachshund named Poppy.
        Note: I LOVE dachsies. Particularly minis. I think they are the cutest thing on the face of the earth, like huggable sausages with flopsy ears. There’s a picture of me holding a neighbour’s dog and wearing an expression mooshier than if it were my own newborn child.
        I hated Poppy.
        She would not stop barking, unless it was to howl. She growled at everything that moved, which, since the homeowner also kept chickens, was a lot. She would not come when called, nor would she stay or lie down (I will allow that no dachshund really does “sit”, but in her case it was definitely a matter of won’t rather than can’t). She was not leash trained and nearly ran into the road a dozen times while I was walking her. She jumped on every piece of furniture in the house at least ten times and had to be emphatically discouraged from licking my face as I slept on the couch. She stole the cat’s food and snapped at me when I tried to feed her. This creature could not have weighed more than five kilos soaking wet and is definitely on my shit list.

      3. “Not to mention even the most well meaning, friendly, happy-to-see-you dog can injure someone by jumping ”

        Which is why we’re all very firm about making sure that my father-in-law’s seven month old Bermese mountain dog is taught not to jump, and why we were all on-board with making sure he learned not to bite too. He’s a puppy, sure, and he doesn’t always know his own strength…but he’s already big enough that he can stagger me if I’m not braced, when he jumps, and he can put his paws on my shoulders. (I’m not particularly tall, granted.)
        He’s a puppy, and he doesn’t know his own strength – and that makes it all the more important that we teach him to be gentle, and to not jump on people. Because he won’t *intend* to bowl the cousin’s baby over, but it’ll happen sooner or later if we don’t teach him better. Just like he would never intend to actually hurt any of us (probably) if he bit us while he was playing – but it still would’ve been bad, if he did. And worse if he’d done it to one of the little kids. So we taught him that if he bites, he won’t get attention. He never intentionally bites any more, and only rarely accidentally bites – and we reinforce the training every time there’s an accidental bite.

        Getting him to stop jumping is a bit trickier – he’s always so excited to see us, and he just wants to say hi, and it usually happens at least once before we realize he’s about to do it. But we’re working on it, and father-in-law is the most on-board with making sure the puppy learns to stop jumping on people; he’d be devastated if someone got hurt as a result, especially a kid, and he knows it – so he’s working to prevent it.

        But that’s one of the reasons why I’d absolutely cringe at the idea of booping the puppy’s nose to get him to stop jumping – he wouldn’t see it as a deterrent. He’d see it as a fun new game.

      4. I have two average to small sized dogs (the taller one’s head just comes up to my knee), and today when I was walking them I saw a couple of little kids who were grinning and waving at them. When I stopped to let them pat my pups (with parent’s consent), I kept them on a completely tight leash even though they’re both old and were tired because it was on the way home, and aren’t known for jumping on people, because that’s what you do when you’re unsure about the comfort level of the other people involved! And when new people come to our house, we keep them out of the way by grabbing their collars and nudging them backwards with our feet.

        My family and I didn’t do the best job of training them (puppy school dropouts 😛 ) in that they don’t sit on command unless you have food, and they don’t do any tricks or anything like that, but we have always made it clear that you don’t jump on people. I kinda question how much someone may care about their dog if they let them behave in the ways described in this thread, because that’s the sorta thing that could end with authorities called on them.

        Also Ziggy, I have an album on my phone just of photos of my puppies which has at least 435 pictures in it, which I delight in going through and showing people 😀

    3. It was a relief to move away from my sister’s house. I liked it there, it was close to school, I like spending time with my family, but….

      They have two big badly trained dogs. They have 160 pounds of dog between them. And those dogs really, really like jumping. They’re not aggressive or mean–they’re actually too friendly– but they’re big and jumpy. I hated it. I knew for a fact that those dogs could be trained out of it (because when sis and BIL went on vacation, and there was 0 reward for jumping on me, they stopped jumping within a day) but they just would. not. train them.

      So those sweet, loving, badly-trained dogs got crated when there was company. Because my friends did not want to be bowled over by dogs.

      Not a dog lover, I’m thinking it’s time just to stop going over to your friend’s house forever? When you have large dogs, you kind of have an obligation to train them. In my sister’s case, it meant that we couldn’t have our fragile, in-ill-health grandparents over because it was too dangerous. I got knocked over sometimes because even though I’m healthy and young, the dogs were still half my body weight. Ben needs to get to it.

    4. For goodness sake, yes. Even people who love dogs can be scared (or hurt) by jumpy/mouthy dogs. I’ve worked with horses and dogs (and parrots and cats) and not only does good training make them safer to be around, but it makes the animal much more secure as well because they know exactly what’s being asked of them and what the expectations of their behaviour are!

      The first time I went over to someone’s place I brought training stuff because they said they were having trouble getting their 14-month-old German Shedder to “come” and didn’t have a fence between their place and the road. Dog immediately tried to jump on me, grab my hand, grab my pant legs, and nip my butt before taking off for the road.

      If I hadn’t dealt with that before I would have been pretty shaken up, especially since owner didn’t even warn me. The dog was not aggressive — it was all play behaviour, but tell that someone who has just had their posterior bitten by a dog.

      20 minutes with a clicker later, she was fairly reliably coming when called, sit was good, and we were working on “gentle” (because big mouth, big teeth, overeager dog and tiny bits of treats = slobber everywhere, but the grass was so long I couldn’t just drop them for her). It had been a little bit since I’d worked with a big dog so I went home, watched a couple of youtube videos, and over the next couple of sessions there was no more jumping up, no more nipping, but TONS of redirective play with rope toys and balls and such.

      I’m not saying all dogs are easy, but this one sure was, she was THRILLED to have expectations she could meet.

      I mean, my cats sit, lay down, roll over, move to indicated area, jump through a hula hoop, fetch, sit still for nail trims… and they’re cats. I am not an amazing animal whisperer, I just watch friggin youtube videos and clicker training happens to be a thing I’ve used on everything from iguanas to coworkers.

      I need more ideas for cat tricks, btw. I’m working on weave poles but they’re currently made of um, tinker toys, so I’d like to make some proper ones.

        1. Aw, it really was just a demonstration on positive reinforcement and how EASY it is once you’ve figured stuff out. We sent someone out of the room and decided on a set of actions we wanted them to perform (it wound up being walking over to someone, taking their sunglasses off their head, and putting them on themselves). After that, no talking allowed, only applause — when they were doing what they were supposed to, applause got louder, but if they veered away from what we wanted, applause petered out.

          It took less than 60 seconds for them to put the sunglasses on. It’s shocking how effective it is, and you can see the person’s brain working as they receive positive feedback (and its absence).

          I wish I had my co-workers trained to do code reviews on command, I’d click them for good coding and give them jellybeans from my jar. Sadly they’d rather break the build instead.

          1. Half of Captain Awkward’s columns are a variation of how to use training techniques on humans.

    5. Seconding (or thirding or fourthing or whatever). I have a dog who is excessively friendly with new people for the first minute he meets them (jumping and wiggling all around and whipping with his tail) and I have not been successful at training it out of him because if he meets you twice then the behavior turns into normal greeting behavior like sniffing and tail wagging. But that doesn’t mean I subject other people to meeting him without warning them and restraining him and it doesn’t mean that I would subject my dog to being hit by people to “correct” him. The onus is on me, as the owner, to control his behavior and to make sure that people are comfortable around him.

  20. Oh, LW3, I have been where you are with Hardcore Geek Relationship Fallacies partner and the “If you love me, then you must love everything I do just as much.” In fact, the inability to say “Hey, you’re into X and that’s all good, but I am not into it at all. So you can enjoy X and I will do something else.” was a big contributor to why my ex is my ex. If you and partner have a good thing otherwise, it’s worth making an effort to get them to see that as much as you are not into their fandoms, that you support her right to geek out with others or on her own time..if she cannot, and if she’s passing an implicit judgment on you based on non-shared interests that is bleeding into other areas of your relationship, I’d take that as a huge red flag.

  21. Dear Not Jeeves:

    Leave, as if pursued by a bear. Seriously, you and your friend will be better off out of this poisonous dynamic in which you are the sole adult, and neither of you have autonomy.

    Dear Not a dog lover:

    I am a dog lover. Ben is an incompetent pet owner. He is doing a disservice to any dog in his house. This is in addition to the unfriendly way he’s treating you.

    On the off chance you actually want to remain his friend, the Captain is correct: don’t see him at his home any more.

    You can add “Yes, I know they are good dogs, that is irrelevant. I don’t want them jumping on me.”

    Dear Sounding board:

    Yech. How frustrating. I can’t add anything to the Captain’s advice.

  22. Sounding Board, I have not run into this situation with SOs, but I do have at least two or three friends who are very Love Me, Love My Dog about their obsessions, and they have a LOT of obsessions, most of which I do not share or find uninteresting.

    One friend in particular has had the same obsessions for nearly 40 years, and they tend to be things like critically-despised but fun bands (including boy bands), obscure TV shows, collecting objects that were important to nem in nir youth, seeking out every appearance of “It’s That Guy From That Thing” C- and D-list character actors even if they only exist on VHS or laserdisc, listening to ancient cassette recordings of live band performances that are mostly pop, hiss and audience chatter/screaming, wearing the same clothes and hairstyle they felt good in when ne were a teen, etc., including literal dogs you must love (or else). None of these obsessions are bad or unworthy, but their very unpopularity or less-known status seems to be the primary reason ne likes things, sometimes, and sometimes liking those things (in the case of dated television series from the 60s or 70s or boy bands) can be very, very difficult or impossible (for me).

    I have yet to find a perfect solution, because so much of nir identity is bound up in being A Liker Of X, Y and Z and A Person Who Wears P, Q, R Things and Enjoys Same A, B, C Activities Ne Has Done For Forty-Odd Years and not giving a fuck who says shit about any of it. And, frankly, ne is a really cool person and a good friend, and the obsessions and quirks are part of that.

    One tactic that has had some success is finding a shared interest or three, and reassuring your SO (or friend) that although you aren’t interested in watching “Full House” with them (my friend does not obsess over “Full House,” thankfully), you like THEM.

    I suspect some of the Love Me, Love My Dog behavior comes from being scorned for nir interests (which have rarely been shared by nir peers, or which were very popular decades ago but are no longer) which just serves to make nir even more fixated upon them as a “screw all y’all, I’ll like what I like” kind of thing. (Can’t blame nir for that.) There also isn’t much reciprocity–if you are obsessed with something, chances are ne probably won’t be too interested in it, and won’t make too much effort to GET interested, BUT ne won’t give you crap for or judge your interests.

    If your GF is of a similar personality, she may be attempting to mold who she is and know herself better, and may just want to hear that you like her, interests or no interests, and that her inner qualities and cool-person-ness are what matter most to you, not what pop culture she enjoys. A few years from now, Breaking Bad (or whatever) won’t be on the TV regularly AND will no longer be on Netflix or Amazon Prime (or whatever), but she’ll still be the same rad chick you wanted to be GFs with! Her interest in Breaking Bad (or whatever) isn’t what makes her awesome, it’s her kindness or wit or intelligence or whatever, and that is not dependent upon sharing a love for a TV show or character or song.

    Note also that, as a demisexual, I don’t have celebrity crushes either, and I thought I was weird because of that until recently. I could appreciate someone looking well-groomed or fashionable or having great hair or a striking feature like unusually green eyes or a dimpled smile, and find them beautiful or handsome, but I wasn’t ever going to feel sexual interest, even something as mild as a crush. At best I might feel mildly attracted because they are aesthetically pleasing, and enjoy gazing at flattering photographs of a celebrity like I’d enjoy looking at fine art. I need to feel an emotional connection with a guy I actually have met and have gotten to know personally before I feel sexually attracted to him (as that’s how I’m wired).

    Consider also how many women (or men) who are bored by sports date / live with / marry men (or women) who LOVE LOVE LOVE sports and they get along fine without the woman watching every sportsball event or going to games or eating out in sports bars or playing fantasy sportsball games. The partner or friend who hates sports is usually not subjected to endless “but this sportsballer, s/he sportsed so excellently, allow me to bore you with all the myriad ways Sportsballer sportsted extra-sportsingly, even though you don’t know the rules of this sportsball thing, don’t know the stats, don’t know any of the other sportsballers, and don’t care about the significance of this sportsball thing” talk. No. The sportsball-lover finds a fellow sportsball-lover to talk to, hang out in sports bars and watch sportsball in the arena or stadium or ballfield or on the telly with him or her. Likewise, your GF can (and probably should) find folks who also love the TV show and its male celebs, and talk about them to those fellow fans. It may also be her way of asserting her individuality and self-hood as a bisexual person in a loving relationship with a lesbian lady. “I am bi and I exist,” is what her crushes signify to me, on a small level. And I don’t see that as being anti-you or anti-your relationship at all, more like pro-her own identity. You certainly shouldn’t have to be her sole outlet and sounding board for that “cute dude celebrity” stuff, though.

    1. Note also that, as a demisexual, I don’t have celebrity crushes either, and I thought I was weird because of that until recently.

      Just gonna say, I don’t know that that’s really an across-the-board demi thing. Like, I’m demi (I…think I’m demi? I’m…mostly sure I’m not ace?), but I still get celebrity crushes. Firstly, it’s not always, y’know fantasizing about taking them to pound town, but secondly it’s…bah, what’s that thing called. That sort of one-way relationship fans have with celebrities, where they don’t know them, but can feel like they do, because of what celebrities share. Meph, I’m explaining it badly. I know other demi/grey-ace/ace folks who will also go on and on about their “celebrity crushes” for lack of a better term. (Celebrity obsessions?)

      It’s even moreso the case with characters, because characters you do get to “know” in depth.

      Which isn’t, like, all demi folk are like this, but a lot of us are? *shrug*

      1. I’m not demi but I don’t get celebrity crushes either. I’m never actually going to meet the Marvel Chrises, handsome though they may be, so what’s the point of having a crush?

        1. Well, I mean, what’s the point of having a crush most of the time? Crushes aren’t always something you act on, or even that you want to act on. Heck, I think most crushes are just, y’know…crushes. It’s feeling a little giddy, a little excited, focused on a specific person.

      2. THIS. “As a demisexual” jumped out at me for the same reason.
        There are ways to crush on a celebrity that are more idealization/aspirational than sexual, as well (and of course these can coexist!)

        1. *looks it up*

          Oh, that’s a good word to have in my vocab too, I think.

          There’s another one that I can’t spell off-hand, and am not going to look up on a work computer. Something like autochrissexual? It can fall under an ace/demi spectrum where people enjoy imagining or reading/watching sexual acts, without actually having the desire to participate in them. But I think that also tends to involve having a certain dissociation from your own body…?

          1. Oh, thank you. This term is so incredibly helpful to my life for, eh, reasons. Let’s just leave it at reasons.

      3. Good to know! It can just be a personality quirk of my own, unrelated to my need to bond emotionally with someone before dating/sex (or becoming besties and exchanging my more private thoughts).

  23. Not a dog lover: Dogs freaking adore me, which is unfortunate because I pretty much only like dogs in small doses. I am not a fan of dogs who make constant noise (yapping or barking) or lunge/jump at me or lick/slobber on me or make joyful piddle-puddles when I visit because they are so excited, or try to hump my legs, so I am very standoffish with new dogs until I know they are well-trained. I would be thoroughly freaked out by four huge dogs clambering all over me. Conversely, if they were four well-behaved dogs? I would hug and pet all of them and enjoy their company, because well-behaved dogs are the BEST.

    You’re not wrong to want to avoid being pounced on by four large animals.

    A friend-of-a-friend is a hoarder who basically buys cheap houses, fills them with crap (mostly computer parts and the like) and unhousebroken pets and fails to do basic sanitary cleaning chores regularly until the floors give out, then moves to a slightly larger cheap house and repeats the process. I have never set foot in any of this person’s houses and never will. This is not a knock against the FOAF, as he is a lovely person (and he keeps HIMSELF clean) and I am happy to bump into him socially when it happens. The thing is, he doesn’t have any hard feelings about people not coming to his house, because he knows it would be unpleasant for visitors. He’s made his choice to live without company coming to his place.

    Your dog-owner friend is either going to have to live without the pleasure of your company, or make his home a place where visitors feel comfortable. That mans training or corralling his dogs.

    P.S. I am also unpleasantly reminded of letter #823, where a large scary dog harassing the LW was not curbed by the owner, who was sulking because LW did not have sec with him.

    1. My dog learned to use a litter box/tray from the first day I brought her home, and that allows me to feel reasonably certain there won’t be a potty mess on the carpet or in some other not-for-peeing-or-pooping designated area when I arrive back home. Despite being only 14lbs, she is fearless about trying to ‘protect’ me from strangers but especially men – I know that this is due to a specific relationship I was in at the time I adopted her. It took months of my s/o being patient and interacting with me in a ‘non-threatening whatsoever’ manner for my dog to not go to threat-level-red/defcon level infinity the minute he stepped over the front door threshold. She barks ceaselessly at anyone new-ish if my back is turned and they’re ‘too close’ to me, but will quiet down as long as they sit and let her complete her inspection consisting of many sniffs at their feet/ankles. My point is that sometimes there are factors in play when a dog encounters a new person (or new-ish) and if they feel that the dog owner is someone who they would like in their life then it may be worthwhile to do ones best to work through what the dog is doing because, has past-related good reason. Not that LW’s problem has this feature, just something one could, but doesn’t have to, keep in mind.

      1. “sometimes there are factors in play when a dog encounters a new person (or new-ish) and if they feel that the dog owner is someone who they would like in their life then it may be worthwhile to do ones best to work through what the dog is doing because, has past-related good reason”

        Sure, but it’s still incumbent on the dog owner to take responsibility for the dog. The OP made a reasonable request; keep these dogs from jumping up on me. The dog owner refused to honor this request. The problem here isn’t with the dogs, it’s with the person.

  24. Dear Not a Dog Lover,
    I’m SO sorry you are dealing with this. Your friend needs to train his dogs.

    Like humans, dogs need to be taught how to contain their excitement. It sounds like they are not aggressive. they are just SO EXCITED THAT YOU ARE THERE AND MAYBE YOU WILL PET THEM MAYBE HUH HI HI HI HI SQUIRRELL

    But the thing is, is that they are not “good” dogs. They are not aggressive, they are friendly, but if they are all jumping and bounding and up in yo bizz, they are not good.

    Plus, there are 4 of them, so on top of them being generally excited about a new person and wanting to get to know you. (Dogs want to smell and lick your face because it is how they say hello to other dogs, they are basically wanting to smell you last meal, i know, gross, but dogs.) They are also likely fighting each other for attention, which probably just adds to the insanity for you, a non dog person.

    The “booping” technique is pretty much the worst training technique imaginable. It’s not an effective deterrent, and isn’t teaching them the impulse control that they need. They don’t need to be told to get off, they need to be taught to not jump up in the first place.

    I would recommend your friend look into the book The Dog Whisperer by Paul owens. Or watch some videos from the show “It’s me or the Dog” with Victoria Stillwell. They have great positive training techniques, I remember several episodes of It’s me or the Dog where they worked on this exact issue. It is certainly something that the dogs will have to work on. And your friend MAY actually need your help. (Hard to teach a dog to be calm in face of exciting things, without an exciting thing.) It’s not rocket science, only calm dogs get to hang out with guests, crazy jumpy dogs have to go to the other room. Reward calm behavior, ignore the bad behavior and remove them.

    Also if he’s trying to get them to behave by being the “pack leader” here’s a great article on why that is wrong: https://positively.com/dog-training/myths-truths/pack-theory-debunked/

    I know, it’s not your problem, and you don’t need to train your friends dog. I just… with the bad dog training… and I can’t stop wanting to educate… help… cannot… shut up….

    1. Mr. OtherBecky and I dealt with a jumping-up-on-us dog by training the jumping as a trick. If we ask for hugs, the dog gets to jump up on us and get petted and loved on until she wants to stop. If we don’t ask for hugs and get jumped on, we turn away and ignore her for about 5 seconds. She doesn’t jump up uninvited anymore.

      1. Oooh, I wonder if this will work on our younger dog.

        Another fun dog trick: we taught our older dog “jump” as a different command (using a thumbs-up gesture; she does very poorly with verbal commands but is good with gestural ones). If you tell her to jump (by getting her attention and giving her a thumbs-up) she sproings straight up. It’s HILARIOUS.

  25. Not Jeeves, run like your shoes are on fire and your butt is catching. I finally managed to cut ties with my own helpless incapable-of-functioning man baby “friend” after fifteen years, and I swear it’s almost more liberating than either of my divorces were.

  26. Dear Not Jeeves,
    Reginald Jeeves gets paid handsomely, a weekly night off, a yearly holiday, to live in and travel to the fanciest places in Europe and the US, and the warm, cozy satisfaction that Bertie is lost without him. Not to mention his pick of employers, and the not-always-subtle implication that he is very much in charge of the relationship and even molding Bertie into the person he wants him to be. Jeeves isn’t a servant, he’s a valet, and PG Wodehouse would tell you that those are very, very different things.

    You’re getting none of those things, and you’re being treated like a servant. Don’t feel bad about getting yourself out of that situation.

    1. Agreed! Jeeves would be appalled at LW’s situation and would definitely advise and assist LW in removing themselves immediately from such an awful set of circumstances.

    2. Uhhh, no. They’re not being treated like a servant, because servants are PAID, first and foremost. They’re being treated like a wife or mother (regardless of their gender identity, the way their friend is treating them is like a combination of wife of the “mousewife” variety, or mother of the “helicopter parent” variety). If they aren’t married to this guy, or this guy is not the fruit of their loins, then that’s yet another reason to get the fsck out of there at high speed, and put in an arrangement with the post office rather than leaving a forwarding address for their mail.

      1. You make a fair point, though I think one can be “treated like a servant” as an illustrative simile without actually being paid like a servant. Also, fun fact, in some languages “servant” and “slave” are the same word.

  27. Not a Dog-Lover, in addition to agreeing that you shouldn’t go to Ben’s house if he doesn’t make the effort to ensure you feel comfortable there – please don’t feel like you need to invite him over to your place every time you want to hang out. You might end up seeing each other less because of that, or you might spend more time out, or you might feel totally comfortable with having Ben over more often… But just because you don’t want to go to his place, it doesn’t mean you have to offer yours.

  28. LW #831: I think it’s time for you to find a new place to live. Regardless of the reason, you’ve become this dude’s mother. Lower rent in exchange for cleaning house I understand, but you’re working as this man’s personal care assistant. He presumably holds down a good job (hence the house), so he can afford to pay someone else do to these personal care tasks for him or he’ll get it together and do them himself. Either way, not your problem.

    It sounds like you traded a stressful job for a different, and weirder, stress. Sorry.

    1. This is what I was going to say! Not-Jeeves, you left a stressful job that was killing you … and got another stressful job that is killing you. But it got all tangled up in the friendship and living situation so it took longer to see it.

  29. Hey Not Dog Lover,

    I was once in a situation in which my partner had a dog who continually jumped on me, destroyed my stuff, and bit me when I tried to discipline it (the way my partner wanted me to). This turned out to be a giant warning sign that my partner didn’t respect me or have my best interests at heart. He wasn’t willing to take the dog to better training or do the discipline himself, despite my terror (and injuries!). This all might be a signal to you that this friend isn’t a good friend for you generally.

    1. LW 2 here. I appreciate the insight, but I really don’t think that Ben is a bad guy. I’ve dated controlling guys before, and Ben isn’t like that. He’s a good guy, who just hasn’t trained his dogs. I don’t know if he hasn’t noticed or is just used to dealing with it (Missing Stair) that he hasn’t thought to fix it.

      I’m sorry your ex was terrible, and I’m sorry he let the dog bite you. That must have been scary!!! Jedi hugs to you.

  30. Suddenly a Sounding Board:

    Oh my WORD do I feel you! You have basically described my entire marriage. My husband gets on these obsessive kicks about one subject or another and switches from one subject to another anywhere from every 2 months to every 2 years. Now, for me, I do feel some responsibility to draw on every last reserve of patience for him because he is a SAHD and, as such, I am his only regular adult interaction. But even I get to the point, quite often, where I tell him, “Listen, babe, I love you but I really don’t want to hear another word about Deadpool / Ron Paul / Warhammer / anarchocapitalism subreddit / (whatever).”

    The Captain’s advice is good – you really don’t have to share 100% of everything with a partner to have a great partnership, and I think a lot of us that were raised on Disney-esque media had to go through an adjustment period where we learned that.

    Good luck!

    1. Aside from a handful of bands, authors and artists I liked while still in school or college, and which I am pretty quiet/private about, and my current pets (whatever they are at the time), I don’t really have a signature “thing” because I’m guilty of being what I call a “serial obsessive,” wherein I get fascinated by a topic or TV show or book series or game or whatever, and I immerse myself in it, read books and wikis about it, and sometimes buy stuff related to it…just really wallow in it for about 6 months to a year, and then I move on. I don’t abandon the thing totally, I’m just interested in other new shiny things more. But I tend not to bore my friends and significant others with my latest “thing” too much. I’m too aware that I might get them hooked on it, and when I’ve moved on, they will be perplexed that I am no longer really very interested in the thing I got them interested in!

  31. Dear Not Jeeves, You sound kind and caring. Please consider that it is counter-intuitively kind to let someone stand on their own two feet when they can and should. You will do your friend a huge favour when you follow the Captain’s advice, and yourself, so it will be a win-win situation. In addition to the scripts that you could use if he brings up a problem, you can also try to encourage him by telling him that you believe that he is strong, smart and resourceful enough to deal with it. I am relieved to note that the risks of your withdrawing your services don’t seem too dire. You mentioned the risks that he might get sick or fired, but it doesn’t sound as if he’s liable to do anything extremely dangerous. At any rate, whatever happens, IT WILL NOT BE YOUR FAULT. It is never helpful or truly friendly to carry someone as you have been doing. Good luck!

  32. Not a Dog Lover,

    I am a total dog lover, and I have a formerly bad dog (who is now better, but not super great). She’s only one dog, but she jumps and barks and does other incredibly naughty things. I put her up when people come over. I also use that time to work with her so she can be a better dog. She has progressed from being afraid of (and barking/lunging at): all dogs, bicycles, cars, strangers, cats, etc., to a point where now she doesn’t react to cars or bicycles at all any more, is only afraid of dogs that are larger than her, and has gotten significantly better about strangers, enough so that I can have guests over and she can stay out (she snuggles!!). Part of this is that I keep taking her to obedience class (we’re repeating intermediate for the 3rd!! time which seems to be the charm, yay!!]). Another part of this is working with the dog at all times, and knowing her limits. All of this is to say that some dogs are easy, and some dogs are hard, but good dog ownership means putting in the work to take a bad dog and turn it into a good dog. Good dog ownership also means respecting other peoples’ boundaries with dogs, so not putting dogs up is unconscionable. Your friend has no excuse. If I can get a suspicious, leash-reactive, stranger- and dog-aggressive dog to let a stranger pet her and greet my parents’ dogs and friends’ dogs by playing, this jackass can get his overly friendly dogs to stop jumping.

    1. Not a Dog Lover,
      Just wanna say that CA’s advice and the above comment are spot on. I LOVE dogs. Love them. Roll around on the floor with them like a big, silly child. But if I had a friend whose dogs wouldn’t stop jumping on me? I’d stop hanging at said friend’s place. That kind of constant jumping, in your face dogness is super stressful. I have a friend whose dog can be a little like that, and if she doesn’t calm down and let us be (which she does 99% of the time) she gets crated for a “time out”. It’s not on you to learn to live with it. It’s on your friend to be more thoughtful and a better dog owner.

    2. I agree. I’m a total cat person now, (through temperament and circumstance,) but I also used to rescue dogs, and it is a total pleasure to have a dog respond to you, work together with you, and even come up with their own takes on being “helpful.”

      It is utterly wrong to not train a dog, who then becomes a victim of their own need to be a contributing member of Dog Society.

      Even a dog lover, Not a Dog Lover, would have trouble in such a circumstance. It is not a good host or hostess who is so indifferent to the comfort of their guests.

  33. LW #832, this is a tiny small part of your letter but I want to stress that you are NOT WEIRD for not having crushes on people you haven’t met. There is a huge spectrum of romantic and sexual orientations and some of them involve only feeling attraction once you get to know someone.

    1. I, too, wanted to mention this. Attraction is such a personal thing, it’s totally not weird if random celebrities / fictional characters / other peeps don’t light up your dopamine receptors. Plenty of people find that they only develop feelings/ crushes for people they know well.

      Bonaparte Cucumberpatch does nothing for me.

      I do have a thing for David Tennant, but the fact that I know he’s married kind of ruins the possibility for romance even in my dreams, somehow. We’re all idiosyncratic when it comes to what sets our hearts alight.

      1. Yup. I had one celebrity crush, twenty years ago, when I was still trying to work out what romantic/pantsy feelings even were. Since then, I just don’t find myself attracted to people I haven’t met except for a sort of totally non-squishy intellectual crushy way for people whose brains I admire. That’s not weird and nor is getting oneself off nightly to thoughts of Celebrity A in the nuddy as part of one’s sleepytimes ritual.

  34. I notice after I read a Captain Awkward post, I am actually breathing better—as if I’ve used an asthma inhaler, or taken medication for a panicky situation, or done one of those relaxation exercises where you tense all the muscles in your body as hard as you can and then let them all go.

  35. Something about the way Sounding Board’s letter was handled really rubs me the wrong way. If I’m honest, its probably because from what’s provided in the letter I identify a bit with the girlfriend. I am bi and have an excitable/passionate personality type, especially when it comes to fandoms. I don’t expect my partner to like all of the things I like -we don’t, he and I share some hobbies/fandoms and also have different ones. What matters to me is that he appreciates my genuine enthusiasm for things, even if he doesn’t feel the same way about that thing in particular. I hope that Suddenly A Sounding Board can find a way to appreciate her girlfriend’s excitement, while also communicating her desire to change topics more often.

    Where the letter response gets ugly is the following script: “I know you are bi, and I get that you are attracted to men, too, but I’m not the right audience for the details of that!” This script comes off as super biphobic! Yes, she should try to steer the conversation when it’s getting repetitive. But as a bi person, it would be super stressful to be with someone if I felt I had to walk on eggshells around them with something as innocent as celebrity crushes of a different gender.

    1. Biased because I’m also bisexual who has mostly been in f/f relationships, but as soon as LW said “she wants to talk about her male celebrity crushes” my mind went “womp, there it is”

      I would guess that the girlfriend is talking about male celebrities crushes because
      A) It’s a way to remind herself and others of her identity while in a (presumably) monogamous relationship.
      B) She’s worried (fairly or not) that LW has some internalized issues with bisexuality and this is her testing you.

      Based on what LW said in the letter about “healthy relationships can talk about celebrity crushes”. I’m guessing it’s primarily B with a good smattering of A.

      With all respect to the perpetually amazing Captain, I would not follow the script she provided, LW.

      You say “I don’t find straight boys interesting, please don’t talk to me about this”, it’s a highly likely she’ll hear “I wish you weren’t bisexual and since you are I wish you would just shut up about it.”

      Personally, I would say, figure out if you don’t like hearing about her male celebrity crushes because its “boring” or because it makes you jealous and uncomfortable. If it’s the latter, just tell her that, “you support and love her bisexuality but hearing about other crushes isn’t fun and it does make you jealous, so let’s figure out a mutually acceptable phrase or word for when it’s too much for me.”

      If, on the not small chance, you don’t actually support and love her bisexuality and were hoping that it would just kind of disappear the further along you dated, that’s something to realize and address within yourself, and figure out how that’s affecting your relationship and what to do about it.

      1. This is really interesting–I’m bi as well (I think; the ‘into guys’ part actually resembles what demis above have described as parasocial/aspirations/whatever; still a lot to figure out but nevermind) and my first thought was WTF is this person doing pressuring their SO into hearing about their celebrity crushes? Is this not a really rude/sketchy thing to do, regardless of the genders and orientations of anyone involved? If the partner is into it as well, there’s no problem; but if s/he isn’t, this would fall squarely into the category of “things I’d never do or want done to me because ew.” I do see the importance of feeling validated in one’s bisexuality, particularly since biphobia is a real thing in the queer women’s community. But this seems like a really passive-aggressive way of getting that validation–especially when she’s also projecting some “you’re jealous! gotcha!” onto the already-unwilling partner.

        1. I (also bi!) was just sitting here thinking, “Girlfriend needs to make some fandom friends she can squee with; that’s important and valuable but there’s no reason it has to be your romantic partner.” I can see how it could be expressed poorly but I don’t think it’s at all biphobic for a lesbian not to want to hear about how hot a bunch of dudes are.

          1. MTE. If someone is not interested in a particular gender, then there’s no reason they should have to participate enthusiastically in ‘Look how hot these five hundred people you’re not at all attracted to are, isn’t this a fascinating topic of conversation’ games or risk being accused of being jealous or biphobic. LW’s girlfriend may indeed be looking for validation in her bisexuality, but this is a really dysfunctional and passive-aggressive way of going after it. I find plenty of male celebrities attractive, but I don’t expect the straight men or lesbian women I’ve dated to be that enthused about squeeing over them with me. LW could ask her girlfriend if she’s looking for validation of her identity, but the girlfriend is being pretty rude, IMO.

            /also bi

        2. Well, yeah. I’m absolutely not a jealous person, but I really wouldn’t want to hear massively detailed accounts of my SO’s pantsfeelings for anyone other than myself because ew.

      2. LW 832 here again.

        See, this is the thing I keep tripping over. If she wants to affirm her bisexuality, I think that’s great. It’s still kind of a new-ish thing for her and I imagine she still has some sense-making left to do considering she only came to the realization around when I showed up.

        But I don’t think I can help with that using this celebrity crush method and I don’t think that I can give a truthful response in this situation without sounding biphobic and/or jealous even though neither of those is the case because my personal peculiarities around celebs are so unheard of as far as she’s concerned.

        So is there a way for a lesbian to help “affirm” their bi partner’s sexuality without having to hear about male celebs every day (and yes it’s every day now) while being expected to give a response that’s both positive and enthusiastic? Does such a response even exist? What might some other options look like?

        1. Here’s the way I see your letter and what’s going on: your gf tried to get you in to a show, you said “no thanks!” and she was ok with it. Now your gf is trying to get you into her dudes, and you’re not sure if “no thanks!” is an appropriate option here. She has also revealed that she is maybe less than ok than you/she thought with your “no thanks!” to her tv show.

          As the Captain says, your “no thanks!” is of course a valid option in every part of this scenario. What I would do is have a conversation with her about the tv show thing again and the crushes thing, separately.

          Tv show conversation–“Hey, you seem disappointed I don’t like this show. Is that true? Let me reassure you that not liking this show DOES NOT EQUAL me not liking/respecting you.” Have a conversation about her and your feelings about this, where she makes it clear this bums her out, and you can reassure her while being clear that you’re not going to get into the show OR be made to feel bad for not getting into the show. Make sense? My sentence structure was convoluted :p

          Crushes conversation–yeah, look, a “no thanks” is appropriate here. “I don’t like this thing” + reassurance + “my desired outcome is that I’m not the person you talk about crushes with.” Why is that, she asks? Let me quote: “I don’t think that I can give a truthful response in this situation without sounding biphobic and/or jealous even though neither of those is the case.” A handy addition here is: “In this situation, what are you wanting/expecting me to say?” And discuss from there.

        2. I feel you on the last part. I also have no idea what is the right response to someone going on about celebrity crushes. The only correct response seems to be ‘oh yeah, he is hot!’ and yet she obviously knows you won’t say that so…what does she want you to say? I’m baffled too. I also think the bi/gay part miiiight be a red herring? Because also here is this TV show she loves and you’re not interested in getting into. It really sucks to feel like your partner is trying to pressure you into liking something (and there is nothing better for making you never want to see that thing, ever) and I get the impression that’s happening here. Maybe that could be a way to start the conversation, rather than focusing on the celebrity crush thing first.

          ‘Hey, I’m sorry but I’m really not that interested in talking about this TV show, it doesn’t mean I don’t love you or care about your interests but I don’t see myself starting to watch that show in the forseeable future’. Followed by, perhaps, a gentle suggestion to seek out the fandom this show probably has? (I don’t know what it is but if it’s recent, or even if it’s not, there is probably an interent community out there dedicated to loving the hell out of this thing she clearly loves, waiting to welcome her with open arms.)

          Finally, just wanted to say that I feel like you are tired out from having to do the emotional labour involved in these one sided conversations. It really is tiring being in this position and I sympathise and send Jedi hugs if you would like them.

        3. There are commenters who have suggested various “ask her why she is doing this” ideas, and other commenters (and the Captain) have described requests you can make to limit the time you spend hearing about her fandoms and crushes. I think your best strategy sounds like a combination of the two, and may take more than one conversation. I suggest that you pick a “why” script that seems appropriate to start with, either one that is open-ended or one that directly asks whether she is affirming her own bisexuality. Choose one that fits what you know of your partner: will she be more likely to deflect with further accusations of jealousy if you aren’t specific, would she prefer to work through the problem in person or ponder it by herself and get back to you, etc. If she doesn’t know/realize why she is doing this, or gets defensive, no one can *make* her come up with a thoughtful answer, but I hope she will think about it. Whether the “why” script leads to a good heart-to-heart discussion of feelings or not, you are well within your rights to say “We don’t share this interest, but since I care about *you*, let’s talk about it for 30 minutes a week” or whatever limitation you find acceptable.

          There probably is a deeper issue(s), since it seems you’ve no reason to believe she was going on and on about celebrity crushes every day (yikes, every day!) to male partners, or even good friends, before now. (This is assuming she *is* going on and on, and not just mentioning a crush every day in the sense of “dang, that pie looks as delicious as DudeCrush, let’s have pie” kind of way; if it’s the latter—which I doubt, but just in case—then it is more of an annoying verbal habit your partner has that you have to decide if you can live with. If it is more like a verbal tic, I can offer you the dubious reassurance that she will start including celebrity LadyCrushes you also don’t care about as she becomes more comfortable with her sexual orientation.) You certainly can give her the opportunity to discuss her issue(s) on the subject. In the end, though, the thing you can *control* is whether you will sit through daily monologues, and you should clearly *not* do that since it is bumming you out. You can affirm her sexuality and fannishness in other ways; for example, give her the highest of fives and cheer for bi visibility if she comes to you excited that a character in one of her fandoms is confirmed to be canonically bisexual. I hope she will both address her own feelings and start putting more consideration toward yours. Best of luck.

          1. Oh, and with regard to conversational time limits, since I didn’t bring this up before: Taking some time to listen to her talk about her male crushes *specifically as they relate to her fandom* is probably doable, but there’s no reason you should have to take time out of your week to talk about them specifically as crushes, no matter how much you care about your partner. I left this page open for awhile, so dr_silverware’s comment wasn’t there yet when I posted, but I agree that you can separate the two. I split these into two hypothetical situations after realizing I had written a wall o’ text, so it reads a little odd, but I think you’ll get the gist:

            Situation 1: If she watches something on HBO, for example, she probably considers whether a character she thinks is hot got naked to be an important part of the week’s episode (“…and then we saw Actor X’s butt. It was glorious! *happy sigh* Then his character and Character Y went to face Character Z, which was really exciting because…”). Or maybe nobody’s naked but something good happened for the character this week and she’s glad he got to be happy because Actor X has a lovely smile, whatever. I feel that this is an understandable aspect of dating a fannish bi woman. You have the right to decide how much of that you are willing to tolerate and she can decide how much of that she needs you in particular to be the audience for; I am guessing that it will be much more tolerable to you if it’s not on a daily basis! (And again, you have the dubious reassurance of eventual female crushes that you also don’t care about because you don’t watch the shows.)

            Situation 2: Being regularly pressured to manage a “yes, I see why you think he’s cute” in response to a celebrity doing celebrity things on YouTube or whatever, on the other hand, sounds totally unfun, and like a trick a lesbian’s unaccepting friends or relatives would pull. 😦 If that’s how it feels to you, let her know that the current situation is not only annoying but will be hurting you if it continues.

            She shouldn’t have to keep her male crushes secret or quarantine them from your life together, but you should both be comfortable with the manner and frequency that they come up in conversation. She’s not doing her part to make you comfortable right now, but I hope she will with the right reassurances given and boundaries set.

            (Sorry I messed up the nesting, by the way; the previous comment was meant to be in direct response to SB_LW_832.)

          2. Okay, I thought I messed up the nesting but refreshing the page put my comment in the right place. Good to know.

        4. Is there room for something like “you’re bi and I agree that’s cool, and it’s fine that part of that is you noticing or even crushing on male celebrities. I’m lesbian, and I hope you think that’s cool too. Part of what being a lesbian means is that I’m not attracted to men, not even to enjoy looking at, the way you are with $celebrity”?

          Affirming her sexuality includes not expecting her to pretend that she didn’t date men before you, and asking if she wants you to back her up in correcting third parties who say things that explicitly refer to her as a lesbian (including “you lesbians” or “as lesbians, how do you feel about….?”) But that’s the view of one bisexual internet stranger; she may still be figuring out what it means in her case, and how much she cares what other people think.

          1. The LW is focused on acknowledging her partner’s sexuality – every day! – but it seems that her partner isn’t offering that same acknowledgment. There is more to sexuality and even to crushes than appearance; maybe its time to deepen the conversation, branch out into larger issues. What social problems are being brought up by these shows/crushes? Can you bring the conversation past a flash of male ass into the work her favorite celebs are doing for charities? Can you find common ground in discussing the sets and lighting, lead the convo in a technical or aesthetic direction that will interest you? Its always lovely to have an enthusiastic and young-minded partner, but if you’re chafing over shallow interests, the work involved in broadening the scope for mutual enthusiasm might be worth it, if your partner is mature enough to understand that acknowledging personal interests and sexuality boundaries needs to go both ways.

        5. Dang, every DAY?? I can think of about four reasons for someone to bring something up every day:

          1. It’s a Problem, and they’re trying to resolve it, but so far no conversation has addressed the underlying issue.
          2. It’s an interest that they don’t yet have a community around.
          3. They do have a community around that interest, which is swallowing their life/personality.
          4. They’re depressed/anxious, and using this topic as a conversational placeholder.

          I think you need to figure out which of these is going on, and I think you need to be really clear that this pattern is a big problem for you– not (necessarily) because of jealousy or biphobia, but because she’s being kind of disrespectful of you and your wishes about how you spend time together.

          These next thoughts are from my being someone who gets REALLY into things, often temporarily:

          Do you think this is a long-term obsession, or will it blow over? If it seems temporary, how long are you willing to wait? Are you interested in hearing about what she loves about the show? Examples of ways that could play out: She could give you brief recaps after new episodes of what happened and why it’s important. She could tell you about the core theme/mythology of the show and why it resonates with her. She could tell you which character you’re most like and why, then give you updates on only that character.

          My thought is that she really wants to share this interest with you, and because of reasons, she chose a superficial, low-time-investment method. But you both might be happier if you found a way to share her emotional connection to the show.

      3. If I’m reading LW’s letter correctly though, it seems like the crushes themselves and hearing about them aren’t the problem though. It seems more to me like LW has a bigger problem with her gf’s reaction to her response. LW never mentioned engaging in a big dramatic “STOP THAT!” or even a polite “Stop that please”. Just a “Can’t relate. Not much to add here.” which I find to be a really strange thing for LWs gf to fling jealous/controlling accusations at, especially if they’re doing this crazy dance every single day.

  36. a very dear beloved friend of mine, who I live with, has PTSD and severe depression and some other issues. when left to his own devices he doesn’t clean often (or well) and rarely eats, relying mostly on frozen food and cereal or food I prepare. He doesn’t bathe frequently. When he wasn’t self employed, I’d help wake him up and prompt him to get ready to go to work. This is very much a symptom of his illness. I do this stuff for him BECAUSE I WANT TO. I love him, I support him, and he has supported me in pretty big ways as well. It’s a consensual friendship thing, not one person taking advantage of another.

    Not Jeeves sounds like they’re in a horrific relationship that is very unfair and exploitative. I hope they can get out.

  37. #830, this situation isn’t your fault. You didn’t ‘let’ him get dependent on you, he set the dynamic up. And it’s not your responsibility to ease him into life without you. Take care of yourself, and trust your friend to take care of himself. He’ll probably be all right.

  38. LW 830/Not Jeeves:

    You are not the bad faith actor here. You have made every good faith effort to maintain both the household and the friendship, and have made perfectly reasonable requests to establish boundaries and reset the Status Quo.

    I know and I trust that you have done everything and anything (and likely more!) in your power to help and to effect the change. Unfortunately, that Status Quo suits your friend-roommate just fine and—unfortunately—there is nothing you can do to change that.

    And I agree with The Captain and everyone else: Moving out and getting some distance will do wonders. I’ve Been There, Done That and my only regret is that I didn’t leave sooner.

    LW 831/Not a Dog Lover

    My shoulders were up at my ears; of course having four large dogs jumping at you is frightening! And your friend is not doing any guest of theirs—let alone those dogs–any favors by being lax about Dog Behavior & Training 101.

    (Seriously, as a Dog Lover and Large Dog owner, “Off” and “No Jumping” and “Being Calm Has Rewards!” are the first things to teach a pup. Most humans give pause when seeing a Large Dog—even a familiar one—and for good reason (Spoiler Alert: Generally, Large Dogs were bred for work—including being intimidating to other humans). Good Pup socialization is as much for the pup as it is for the humans it will encounter).

    Yeah, those dogs should be removed to another part of the dwelling during a visit. You are perfectly within your rights to ask them to do this. You are perfectly within your rights to cut the visit short should your friend refuse your perfectly reasonable request. You are perfectly within your rights to refuse to go to friend’s dwelling because they can’t or refuse to be responsible about their dogs.

    LW 832/Sounding Board

    I am also struggling with this particular brand of GRF and I am also in the position where I have to step back, re-evaluate, and use my words.

    I think what is particularly challenging for me at this point is finding and/or rediscovering a shared interest we can enjoy together when so much of their time is being consumed by The Thing I’m Not Into (Anymore), and nearly to the exclusion of our relationship.

    I don’t think it is too much to ask to limit any discussion of The Thing to a block of time or a handful sentences. I don’t think it is weird that you don’t find The Thing or Other Fannish Things interesting or to your liking; different people like different things to the level they want to. I do think it is unreasonable to expect them Not To Talk About The Thing Ever as much as I think it is unreasonable for them to expect you to Listen Endlessly, while shaming you for not liking The Thing.

    A conversation is in your future. Find those shared interests. Find something to enjoy together, while allowing each other space apart to pursue each other’s individual interests.

    Pushback will happen. I know for me the hard part there is determining how much is knee-jerk to being challenged versus how much good faith effort I’m willing to put in and the Sunk Cost fallacy versus a Flag Of Impending Doom.

    Negotiations Are Hard, LW. And I wish you luck.

    1. My dog is all of 13 pounds and *I’m* mortified when he jumps on people (we’re working on it). I’ve put him in another room or put him on leash when we had company over and he couldn’t handle himself around them. And he’s small and fluffy and extremely non-intimidating! I can’t imagine letting FOUR giant dogs jump on a guest who wasn’t a major dog person.

      Anyway, just echoing the sentiment in case this friend tries to pull a “you just don’t get it because you’re not a dog person” kind of response. I have my dog with me 80% of the time, have volunteered with dog organizations, and work in a pet-related industry, and yiiiiikes that is not cool.

      1. I can honestly say that I–as a Major Dog Person–would be riding my nopetapus right out of the four large dogs jumping situation when it became clear their owner did not have control of them, nor was willing to corral them into another space. (Thus my shoulders meeting my ears!)

        LW: High five–if you want it–for being a far braver person than I am!

      2. I have a 17-pound dog who likes to greet by jumping, and it’s been really hard trying to train her out of it. The absolute hardest thing is that people often say, “Oh, it doesn’t bother me!” rather than cooperating with my attempts to get her to stop. I’ve had to explain to more than one friend that she doesn’t know the difference between someone who minds the jumping and someone who doesn’t, so I have to teach her not to jump on anyone at all. Anyone who has done any animal training will know that random rewards are the best way to *encourage* a behavior, so if the LW’s friend has fallen into the trap of “some people don’t mind so I’ll let them jump on those people”, it could be really really difficult to reverse that.

        Which is why the friend needs to start *right now, today*. But sadly the friend is probably not reading this.

        1. OMG that’s our housemate right there, innocently undermining our attempts to teach our dog to be calm when people come over by petting him while he’s being naughty. Even though we have explained Dog Training 101 to her, and asked her directly to stop it, more than once. *head asplode*

          (She’s not staying much longer, thankfully.)

  39. #831 Nothing clever to add but I know 2 people like this, both lovely people but completely oblivious to how badly behaved their dogs are & how stressful this is for other people. I can’t figure out if it’s because they love their dogs so much they’re unable to see their flaws, or if they’re avoiding admitting to themselves that they need to put some work into training them. It’s infuriating to watch them dismiss other people’s anxieties about their dogs’ behaviour (“that means he likes you!” “He’s a big softie really…”)

    #832 I don’t know if this relevant to you, but I find it really upsetting when people who know I’m a lesbian try to discuss ‘hot guys’ with me because I’ve experienced SO MUCH pressure to be attracted to men (whether that’s magazines & TV shows aimed at women assuming heterosexuality or my family throughout my childhood making it clear they expected me to marry a man) that when anyone tries to draw me into discussions of Daniel Craig’s hotness it taps into all those messages that being a woman who isn’t attracted to men is wrong/strange. If that’s something that’s going on for you during these conversations then maybe that’s something you could share with your girlfriend, while also reassuring her that you respect her bisexuality & don’t feel uncomfortable about her being attracted to men. It’s possible she’s worried that you secretly disprove of her being bisexual & having had relationships with men so is ‘testing’ you to see how you react, without realising how this makes you feel.

    There is also a female-bonding thing of talking about men which if she hasn’t spent much time around lesbians before she may be instinctively doing?

    1. #832 I feel the same way about all of this, even though I’m technically bisexual (afaik, still unsure about guys) but not very out: heteronormativity is crappy for those of us who aren’t straight, and can make any discussion of “hotness” feel like a game of Minesweeper that only we know about. I like these suggestions because they focus the conversation on “even though I love and respect you/your sexuality, this is making me uncomfortable, can we do X instead.” Wish I had suggestions for what X might be…buying obsession-relevant swag tends to make me less obsessively chatty, as does very gentle and good-natured teasing about it. From the other side, people will often let go of an obsessive topic of their own if I just give them the validating response they’re looking for: “that sucks!” or “you’re in love!” or “so hurtful!” even if I’m not actually feeling it myself (because I am not them).

  40. Sounding Board, I just want to echo others saying it’s worthwhile to ask *why* your girlfriend is involving you in all these conversations. I personally am a very verbal person, and getting to natter on about things and share my thoughts is a big way of connecting with people for me. It also helps me put my thoughts together in the first place. If my partner were to just say, “I don’t really care about what happened on Project Runway this week,” I would feel very shut down and affronted. If, on the other hand, s/he were to say, “Can you explain why you recap Project Runway for me every week?” Then that would open the door for us to figure out a good solution that worked for both of us. For example, Partner could decide to stick around for three highlights per episode, or could encourage me to identify some other person who’s really into Project Runway if they really couldn’t bear to hear about it at all, and substitute some other shared conversation instead.

    I just want to caution you that this could be one of those things where you think she’s just telling you something you’re not interested in for no real reason, and because you don’t relate to that impulse, you dismiss it. I think instead you should do a little digging first and try to get to the thing behind the thing – what she’s trying to get from you or the relationship by constantly talking to you about this stuff – and see if there’s another way to accomplish that.

    Of course, if she won’t help you at all with that little expedition then I think you’re fine to just change the subject or shut the conversation down. That also could give you some helpful information about your compatibility as a couple, though.

    1. Was just coming here to say this–sharing things I’m passionate about (including, yes, TV shows and celebrity crushes) is an important part of relationships for me. I listen to some of my partner’s political neepery even though it bores me, and in return they listen to me squee about shows they don’t watch and actors they aren’t interested in (as well as other things–I’m a rock hound and they aren’t.) I happily negotiate boundaries about these, where they can cut me off after a certain amount of squee (and vice versa), but that’s far better done as part of a larger conversation than as a sudden “okay enough about Fullmetal Alchemist/Alec Hardison/telling onyx from jet.”

      The truth is that for me, that kind of thing is so important to me that if their boundary was “don’t talk about your crushes at all” (or even, as I’m bi, “you can talk about your crushes on this gender but not that one”), I’d probably consider it proof that we are not long term compatible. But I think in most cases, if it’s presented calmly and non-judgmentally, a middle ground can be found.

  41. Not a Dog Lover, when you say “I’ve had dates that are less pushy than these dogs!”, does that mean that most of your dates have been at least as pushy as these dogs? Because that makes my heart hurt a little. 😦 I wish you best of luck with both the dog situation and also finding more-respectful dates.

    1. L, I’ve had a few bad dates who are bad with the whole boundary thing. Most of them have been fine, but I use black humor as a coping mechanism for uncomfortable situations.

  42. LW 832/Sounding Board – we only have your statements so I don’t know what your girlfriend is feeling/perceiving. My husband and I have some joint fandom interests, and some very much not-joint-fandom interests. For one, I love horror movies, they make him feel extremely uncomfortable. I don’t watch horror movies much anymore, which sometimes I am slightly sad about but mostly I just need to find a group who likes them but haven’t yet had time (multiple moves, etc etc). I’m into watchmen and fanfiction, I know he is so not; I will mention it to him from time to time but realize it’s not his thing and present it in a “lulz” way.
    We have plenty of things we share, hiking, photography, making – lots of other things we like together. Just not everything! It’s okay not to love everything! And I would never accuse him of being jealous of Rorschach just because he didn’t want to hear how hard I ship him with my OOC/vague mary-sue character (who in fact I don’t tell anyone about because it’s probably only interesting to me anyway hahaha)

    1. Not much to add, but *fistbump* to a fellow Watchmen fan. The folks I currently think of as my best friends are a group that grew out of the Watchmen fandom into something broader, and one of the reasons I think it works so well is that we do try to counter the GSFs when they arise. For example, our weekly activity is watching online movies together, and like for you and your husband, there are certain genres that some of us like and others nope out on – and that’s cool, we just remember that for weeks when not everybody can attend. Likewise, we try not to pressure each other to like other fandoms (I *cannot* do Hannibal), but there’s sort of an open license to squee over things we like, because it’s actively nice to enjoy someone’s enjoyment, if that makes sense. (Our friends who are sportsball fans are generally the same way.)

  43. LW 832 Suddenly A Sounding Board – as has been discussed in lots of previous posts, after you have the conversation, it’s important to assess how your partner reacts to your expressing the fact that you are separate people and that separate inerests are ok. Does she accept it? Does she feel offended or threatened by it? Is there any pushback after you set this boundary? A nice partner will be ok with it. A not-nice partner will equate uninterest with disrespect.

    My (now ex-) husband was a keen cricket spectator and player – I do not share this interest. Cricket bores me stupid, but I have acquired enough knowledge to hold a polite convesration about it when I need to. I like painting and viewing other artists’ work – he did not share this interest. But he thought that there was no difference between my not wanting to watch him play cricket all Saturday or attend club awards dinners with people I didn’t really like and where the main activity was an arcane points-tallying leading up to the announcement of the award winner, but nonetheless congratulating him at home and at family gatherings if he did win an award, and his not wanting to attend my exhibition openings (which I didn’t really mind) and frequently expressing negative opinions of art and artists in general in front of me, such as saying that original artworks were an overpriced waste of time and money (which I was really NOT cool with). Plus he’d sulk anytime I did things he enjoyed, but without him. 

    Dude, WE’RE SEPARATE PEOPLE!!! (and we sure as hell are now that we’re divorced)

  44. Not Jeeves — I can relate to your situation because I am experiencing something similar – I am house-sitting longer term for a friend who is working abroad and his elderly mother lives in the house next door and seems to think I am her carer/companion/cleaner/gardener. I work from home and she will knock on the door several times a day asking me to come over and clean her bathroom for $20/help her find her cat and bring it inside/do some gardening/climb on a ladder and reach books from high shelves/pop to the store for some milk etc.

    If I say I am busy she gets very huffy and upset and then makes very rude personal comments in front of others when I see her (I see her often as she lives right next door and for politeness sake I do pop round). For example last week after I told her I could not go to the drugstore for her she made rude comments about my weight and dress size in front of one of her friends. On another occasion she invited me over for coffee with some other people and then sort of pretended I wasn’t there.

    She does have some lovely qualities but she is used to having domestic staff like a cleaner/odd job man/gardener etc around her and expects those of us who are in this category (she sees me as being of a lower social class so I am in this category) to say “how high” when she says “jump.”

    It’s wearing. I try to help her when I can but have insisted that I can’t do so during 9-5 daily, but this has caused friction. Basically I don’t want to be her companion, I am happy to be a friend/neighbor but not a sort of au pair/ domestic staff member.

    1. Oh wow, that’s awful. Have you checked in with your friend about helping you set some clear boundaries around your role there? maybe this could be partially solved as an email or call from them to her saying “knock it off, mom.”

  45. NotJeeves, I’ve had that experience of feeling that you’ve slipped into a “master/servant” relationship with someone. The initial desire to help, the creeping feelings of guilt, the massive neuroses about money, all of it. And I’m familiar with the weird shame you can feel when you realize how unequal your relationship has become. But please don’t feel bad about extricating yourself. For one thing, I’m glad to hear NotBertie is seeing a therapist, and I really think he’ll be basically OK if you leave. Eating a lot of cereal and not showering won’t kill him, at least not any more quickly than the stress of being his unpaid valet will kill you. But more importantly, there is NOTHING WRONG with providing a limited amount of help. If you give someone a gift once, you are not obliged to give them a gift every month for the rest of their life. You’ve already given him four years of help! You have more than fulfilled the responsibilities you agreed to when you moved in, so there is nothing you need to “fix”. It is perfectly fine to treat this like any other house-share and simply move on to your next living situation.

    I hope your next housemate situation is one where the other person can stand on their own two feet and maybe even looks after *you* once in a while.

  46. For the dog thing, we could give all kinds of reasons why he’s doing his dogs a disservice by letting them act that way, or advice on how to train them, but I’m not sure how much it even matters in this situation. None of that is or should be the LW’s problem. They just need to not have dogs jumping on them. It’s not their responsibility to convince their friend to change his entire dog-training philosophy. Or to be the guinea pig/training partner to help him train his dogs.

    He just needs to put the dogs in another room, or accept that the LW won’t come to his house.

  47. “The key is balance and having some awareness for your audience and not taking advantage of the other person’s politeness, which I’m not sure your girlfriend really gets. If you have an obsession that she’s not really into, maybe that can be useful in having the “Babe, can you give me just the highlights? In return, I promise not to recap my Sudoku puzzles/D&D games/philosophy classes for you in detail.” I’ve known couples who literally set a timer, or who have a “Can you sum that up for me in three sentences?” rule.”

    My friend and roommate went through a stage of being HEAD OVER HEELS for Battlestar Galactica, which I just could not care about at all. But because she was my friend and roommate, we developed some accommodations that might be useful depending on what the cultural artifact is:

    1. she got to watch the show when it aired without any interference (including aggravated sighing 🙂 ) from me.
    (a) HOWEVER, I did not have to watch the show, and she had to be cool with that.
    (b) she could rewatch/replay anytime she wanted as long as it didn’t interfere with my plans for the common space, and since we worked different schedules, that didn’t come up much.
    2. after the show/the next day, I would talk with her about the show and be interested for 30 minutes. We would use a timer. And I would really be interested — listening, asking questions, etc., not pretending to be interested. I treated it like I was learning about her, and she was interesting, so what did she see in this show?
    3. If she wanted to talk more about the show during the week, she had to ask and I had to agree. Sometimes I was up for it and sometimes I wasn’t. If I agreed, she got another 30 minutes.

    Depending on the depth and breadth of your partner’s interests, these guidelines may not work — my current obsession is baseball, so rule 1 would be really burdensome, since during the season there are multiple games every single day — but they were really effective at keeping our friendship strong and fun even when we didn’t like the same thing.

    1. That seems super generous! 30 minutes is a lot. Props to you and your friend for being willing to talk it through and lay out ground rules.

      1. I suppose it depends how close you are. If it was, e.g., my sister, I would take for granted that listening to her talk through something that excites her or is concerning her for half an hour is just a very basic thing we do for each other. If it’s a more casual friend that might feel excessive to do often.

  48. I have a lot of obsessions about things, and I understand Spouse is Not Interested in all of them. Thing is, sometimes she will listen for a bit and sometimes she will just say, after I say one thing about Interest, “No. Not interested.” Or she gets annoyed at my habit of saying random facts. But it’s not like I’m going on for several minutes! I guess I feel for both partners in Sounding Board. Like, you may not share interests, but don’t always shut the person down from talking about their own interest. Don’t bore them either, though!

    1. Yes, people’s interests and hobbies and whatever it is they most enjoy talking about can be a really significant part of who they are. You don’t have to be fascinated by everything your friends say, but if you really spend a LOT of conversations with someone being bored or asking them to stop talking, there’s a point where, personally, I think you may be doing them a disservice by not just walking away or reducing your relationship..

      Not always, and often you have enougb other things you enjoy about each other and so on, and I think talking about crushes is a bit specific as a thing, but I know for me, if someone is bored by a significant percentage of things I say, I’m just not going to feel like we’re close friends, and I will probably try to reduce how much time I spend with them, and downgrade how I see our relationship.

      1. Yeah, I think every relationship between people who get intensely interested in things is going to mean figuring out what to do when you dislike a thing your partner is really into, but at the same time, an extreme disconnect in interests can be a deal breaker, and that’s hard but valid. I wouldn’t date someone I couldn’t geek out about TV shows with, including talking about which fictional characters should get it on and which ones I think are hot. That’s a thing I know about me. But that means if I were single, I’d only consider dating other fans; I think trying to get people interested in geeky hobbies they don’t already share has a much lower success rate.

  49. If someone let their dogs romp all over me and then told me to “bop them on the nose” if I didn’t like it, I’d probably bop that person on the nose instead. It is not my job to train their dogs for them and if it were, I wouldn’t care for hitting as a method to do so. 😡

  50. all the comments about dogs make me realise how well socialised *I* am to just put up with people’s intrusive jumpy dogs. Nearly everyone I’ve ever met with dogs lets them jump up at visitors, bury their faces in people’s crotches for an uncomfortable length of time, lick faces etc without a murmur from the owners, and I’m always made to feel like an anti-dog rude person if I object. I would never have dreamed of asking to have their dogs put in another room. I was totally stunned when I recently stayed with friends at their holiday house and their dogs were there, and they were obedient, non-jumpy and generally nice to be around (omg, dogs can actually *be* like this?)

  51. What I’m wondering now that I think about it is where people draw the line between biphobia and run of the mill jealous feelings. Obviously the non-bi partner being suspicious of their bi partner by default is problematic because that says “I can’t trust you because of the way *you* and *your people* are”. But is feeling uncomfortable or inadequate while hearing about *current* attractions your partner has to people who aren’t you necessarily a biphobic thing? It seems like something that would be considered normal in other kinds of relationships.

    1. I feel as though there are ways to express jealous feelings that are healthy and ways that are biphobic, though. Like, if you only complain when your partner talks about their [gender not yours] crushes, but don’t mind them rambling on about their [your gender] crushes? That’s biphobic. And even if you only feel selectively jealous, expressing that can contribute to the kind of stuff we’re talking about. It might be time to go, “You know, I can’t deal with hearing a lot about any of your crushes, can you please keep it to a minimum?”

      1. As a bi person dating another bi person, it can be deeply enjoyable (and sometimes sexy!) to discuss someone we both have a crush on. Having that experience is what makes it so clear to me that discussing non-mutual crushes is bearable only for short amounts of time. You’re never going to bring the other person around—you just have to agree to disagree on Carey Grant vs. Paul Newman.

  52. “[S]he keeps insisting that talking about celebrity crushes is something you’re ‘supposed to be able to do in a healthy relationship'”

    Two things struck me here:
    1. I don’t like “supposed to.” It has its place, I suppose, but when one person says to another “you’re supposed to,” chances are they mean “I want you to.”
    2. It may be part of a healthy relationship (though typing that, I’m not entirely sure what it even means), but that doesn’t mean your healthy relationship partner will want to do it all the time.

    1. Yeah, I really don’t like “supposed to” either or “healthy relationship” for that matter in this case. To me it smacks of “something is wrong *specifically with you* if you have any problem whatsoever with this” which I find really troubling and suspicious here especially since LW seems like she’s gonna get bopped on the nose no matter what she does (including, I imagine, if she decides to lie and go with “Yeah, he’s so dreamy!” as a response). And to have that happen every day (dear God why???) as if LW was going to somehow say something different makes me wonder if the fact that LW literally can’t win is by design. If the crushes themselves don’t make LW feel inadequate through jealousy then the gf makes her feel that way by going in about how wrong and unhealthy LW’s response or lack thereof is.

      To me it looks like somebody spamming a move in a fighting game and is really not okay and potentially BEES-y.

    2. The ‘supposed to’ gets me too. It’s like… there’s a very short list of ‘supposed to’ in a healthy relationship, and most of it is stuff like ‘not try to hurt each other’ and ‘respect each other’
      When you start using it for “You’re not allowed to dislike X thing I do because even though it bothers you me getting to do it makes this a healthy relationship.” it starts getting a little hairy. It’s not a way to shut down all discussion or to tromp on your partner’s feelings.

      I mean “Hey, can we take this general conversation topic off the table?” is well within normal friend dynamics. (It would be different if it was trying to shut down topics about their relationship and living together and NEEDS, but TV crushes are WANTS not NEEDS) I own snakes, I know people who do not like snakes, I do not insist that they have to listen to the latest cute thing my snake did or they’re a terrible friend. Me telling stories about snakes is a want, not a need. But say a topic like “Hey, it’s really loud in here and it’s starting to get to me, I’m going to need to scoot soon” would be a need, not a want. If that makes sense.

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