It Came From The Search Terms: If We Make It Through December

It’s time for my favorite Captain Awkward Dot Com Tradition: That thing where I answer the search strings people typed to land here as if they are questions. First, a musical interlude (Merle Haggard’s If We Make It Through December, lyrics at the YouTube link):

Now, the meat of it:

1 “How do you tell a friend that they can’t come over when you already invited them?”

Do it as directly and quickly as possible. “I know I invited you over later, but I need to reschedule, so sorry!”

2 “My ex wants to work on things but I can’t right now I don’t feel anything.”

Y’all broke up. One benefit is breaking up is that you don’t have to work on the relationship anymore.

There are exceptions to this, of course:

  • If you have children together, you have to work out a way to be polite and fair to each other as you deal with custody issues and also how to keep your child’s well-being front and center.
  • If you have property & financial entanglements, you have to work out a fair way to wind those down.

BUT THAT’S IT. YOU DON’T HAVE TO HAVE TALKS ABOUT FEELINGS ANYMORE.

3 “A male friend disrespected me by touching inappropriately publicly how to stop him and not feel awkward.”

Unfortunately there is no possibility of “not feeling awkward” because touching someone inappropriately is a really awkward thing to do! Being groped by a friend is a really awkward thing to have happen to you! The awkwardness is a given.

You can still tell him to stop. “Don’t touch me.” “I don’t like it.” “Stop.”
You can still tell him that what he did in the past bothered you. “I didn’t like it when you touched me that way, I need you to apologize and never do it again.”

You have nothing to apologize or be ashamed of here. The awkwardness fallout belongs to him and him alone.

4 “Guy can’t get over and stop thinking about girlfriend’s sexual past.”/ 5 “Love everything about my gf except her past.”

If you are having intrusive thoughts about your girlfriend’s past that are messing with your ability to enjoy your life and relationship with her, visit a therapist or counselor and do whatever it takes to work out your own issues around this. The issue is yours to solve, not your girlfriend’s. Your girlfriend’s past isn’t your business, it isn’t some burden you have to bear, it isn’t about you at all. Get. Over. It. or get out of her life and let her be with someone who doesn’t have these gross hangups.

6 “My sister bought me a car now she wants it back because she paid for it.”

I have no solution for this without knowing a lot more, but here’s a blanket reminder that when money is involved, put something in writing. Even for family. Especially for family.

7 “How to tell him the relationship is not working out so let’s just be friends.”

I don’t think our romantic relationship is working for me and I’d like to end it. I care about you a lot and I’d love to be friends someday, if you’re up for that.

Then you give him some space and let him determine the timetable of a friendship, if one is meant to be.

8 “He never hardly talks his communication is distant his hygiene gone what wrong he is so different or is it me.”

Big changes in someone’s appearance, hygiene, and communication style are worrying! The start of this conversation could be: “You don’t seem like yourself lately. Is something going on with you that I should know about?” You can be detailed – “You don’t seem to be bathing or taking care of yourself, you’ve gone really quiet in our communications.” Then see what he says.

9 “He wants to move in with me to save money.”

It’s okay to want to save money and move in with other people. HOWEVER, If your heart isn’t in this, if you’re not ready to move in with ‘him’ (either as a romantic partner, family member, friend, roommate), if you don’t think he’ll be a good roommate for you, it’s okay to say no. Other roommate situations exist and he can find one.

10 “How to tell your parents you’re moving in with your boyfriend.”

Send them a note. “_____ and I are getting a place together, our new address is ______.” Present it like the happy news that it is. Their reactions will be whatever they are.

11 “How can I make my mother accept my boyfriend she once rejected.”



You can’t make her do anything. What you can do is live your life as you wish – including dating who you want to date – and be happy. You can stop subjecting your boyfriend to her disapproval and limit how much time you spend with her. You can make sure she doesn’t have opportunities to be mean to him.

Your mom may come around with time or she may not.

12 “After 9 years together his family still wont accept me.”

That sounds incredibly painful, I’m sorry. After nine years, you know everything you need to know about how this is likely to go and what is likely to happen with this family. I hope you can stop putting any energy into trying to win the approval of these people. I hope your spouse/partner backs you up and doesn’t expect you to subject yourself to their bullshit. To me, that’s the big issue. Does your partner support you and defend you and shield you from his family, or does he expect you to play big happy family with them?

13 “How to behave at a dinner where a sister in law doesn’t talk to you.”

Strategies:

  • Ignore her and focus on the people you are glad to see and who are glad to see you.
  • Hash it out with her. “It’s super weird that you refuse to talk to me. What’s going on?
  • Don’t go to stuff that’s at her house.
  • Host your own extended family stuff in smaller groups and don’t invite her. If people ask why, tell them the truth. “She doesn’t talk to me, it’s weird, I can deal with it now and again for Grandma’s sake, but not in my house.”

It will probably never not be weird and she’ll probably never like you. I’m of the opinion that you don’t have to break bread with people who act like they hate you. It’s okay to call attention to the weirdness.

14 “My husband allows his kids and friends to torment me in our home.”

This is abusive and terrible and it needs to stop. A spouse who won’t stick up for you and who enables other people in abusing you is deeply in the wrong. I know step-kid-step-parent relationships can be fraught, but the kids’ parent needs to be able to say “You don’t have to like or love Step-Parent but you do need to be a basic amount of polite and respectful to them or there will be consequences.” Marriage counseling may be in the cards, or, if this is ongoing and hasn’t changed despite talking about it, divorce court. You deserve better.

15 “My boyfriend wants an open relationship but I’ve never been in one.”

Strategies:

  • If your instinct is to say “nope!” then say “nope!” You might end up breaking up if he wants an open relationship really badly and you don’t, but you don’t have to go along with this if you don’t want to.
  • Think about (and read about) open relationships and see if it’s something that interests you.

Bottom line: Your relationship needs to work for you. You don’t serve your relationship or the idea of the relationship or do something you are uncomfortable with to preserve it.

16 “If your boyfriend accept friendship but he want sexing for u only once is this true love.”

This is probably not true love.

17 “Did he really break up with me because the timing wasn’t right?”

Whatever the stated reason, he broke up with you.

18 “He doesn’t want me to watch porn but he does.”



Welp, this is a double standard. Are you comfortable with that?

19 “If he likes me why is he still online dating?”

This is one of those questions only “he” can answer. You could ask questions like “Do you want us to move toward being exclusive and dating only each other? Because I think I’d like to do that, if you are ready” or “Are you dating other people right now?

It’s a vulnerable question, but one well worth asking. If it reassures you, Mr. Awkward & I met on OKCupid, and I know we were both winding down some old business/going on some dates we’d already scheduled with other people in the first weeks of our relationship. We liked each other a lot from the beginning but it took a little while for it to all click in.

20 “Is it healthy to stay in a relationship with your first boyfriend.”



I get this question in the mailbox A LOT.

I can only ask questions in response:

  • Are you happy now?
  • Are you excited about the future you are planning together?
  • Are your daydreams about what your life could be like fulfilled within this partnership?
  • Do you feel like you are living the life you want to live? Do you feel like that life is possible?
  • If you want to change something about your life, is this person going to support you and roll through those changes with you?
  • If you wanted to make a big change in your life do you feel like you could talk it through honestly with this person?
  • Do you use language like “I feel suffocated,” “I feel trapped,” “I feel guilty” when you talk about the prospect of staying with him?
  • Are you tempted to cheat on them or already cheating on them (a common thread in the letters in the mailbox)?
  • What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen if y’all broke up? (Most likely answer: You’d both be sad for a while and then you’d be fine.)

Some people meet the right person/a right person for them really young and they grow and change together. Some people do not. I am in the second batch. I don’t know what’s right for you, only, make sure that staying with this person is a positive, active, happy choice for you and not just one made out of inertia and fear of being alone. Being alone can be so very liberating and great.

21 “What to say when you don’t want to hug.”



I tend to take a big, obvious step backwards and offer my hand to shake instead. See also: “No thanks, I’m not much of a hugger.”

22 “How to tell family I’m not coming home for the holidays this year.” 

Send a nice card or note. “Family, I won’t be joining you for the holidays this year, but I’ll be thinking about you a lot! Love, ____.” 

Greeting cards get made fun of a lot, but they are SO UNDERRATED as a medium for dealing with complicated/estranged-but-not-totally family or situations where you don’t really have words.

23 “Mindfuck of being a mistress for years.”



Sounds intense! It sounds like it should be a line from a poem, like:

“Her emotional accounts were well in arrears
From the mindfuck of being a mistress for years…”

Can we write this out as a group effort?

107 comments
  1. Io said:

    For 6 if it’s in the US then it would be legally considered a gift, and the sister would not be able to get it or any money back. Some ways to establish it’s a gift are: letters/emails/texts/voicemails where it’s mentioned it’s a gift, having a third party willing to testify it was a gift if it would be something they would reasonably know about, proof it’s been at the LW’s house if both sisters live apart, and proof the person it was given to was the sole payer for things like insurance and registration

    • JenniferP said:

      Good to know. Let’s channel all legal advice into “consult a lawyer where you actually live.” Thanks!

    • johann7 said:

      (This is technically legal advice, but of the general-knowledge sort, like “taking something from a retail store without payment or the permission of the owner is stealing” or “the IRS requires everyone making more than about $10,000 in the year to file tax returns”, not the specialized law practice sort.)
      General note for readers in the USA: if someone gives you a car as a gift – and it really is a gift – they should transfer the title to you right then; if they don’t transfer the title, they have not actually/legally given you ownership of the car. To add to CA’s list of special cases, ESPECIALLY for cars and real estate; getting it in writing is what legally determines ownership, so you don’t have another option. If someone balks at transferring the title/deed, that person is not actually giving you the thing as a gift, ze is lending it indefinitely while retaining ownership (this isn’t inherently bad, it’s just a loan rather than a gift); proceed accordingly.

      Also, for buying used cars (this shouldn’t be an issue with a dealer, unless that dealer is not operating entirely legally), you MUST insist on the current owner transferring the title (and that the current title be in the name of the seller in the first place). “I lost it,” is not an acceptable excuse – if the vehicle isn’t stolen, there are procedures to have a new title issued, and the current owner should be responsible for straightening that out, not you (especially since it becomes more complicated and difficult every time it’s sold without transferring the title; and if the vehicle is stolen, you probably don’t want to buy it only to have it reclaimed later). At minimum, if the car is ever towed, you may well need the title in your name to retrieve it.

      • BigDogLittleCat said:

        To paraphrase: when it comes to real estate and vehicles, an unwritten gift is worth the paper it’s written on.

    • Traffic_Spiral said:

      Yeah, but if it’s family, legality has little to do with it. I’d say if she bought it and she wants it back, give it to her.

      • TO_Ont said:

        Yeah, I didn’t read that as a legal question, either. Rather as a social/relationship question.

        • TO_Ont said:

          Although actually I recommend putting it in writing for big gifts like this as much for relationship reasons as for legal ones anyway… It’s too easy to misunderstand each other or think something is ‘obvious’ that isn’t.

          Unfortunately that doesn’t help now, after the fact, unless you have written emails or something that you can go back to to remember what the agreement actually was.

      • Leonine said:

        Lol whut? It’s not a dvd collection or granny’s silver teaspoons. It’s a *car*. I bought my sister a car a few years ago. If I suddenly decided I wanted it back, *she wouldn’t have a car*. Idk about you, but where I live, adult life requires a car.

        Livelihood > Faaaaaaaaamily

        • Let’s not forget some people are unable to drive and are still just as adult as those who can.

          35 and never owned or driven a car, here.

          • JenniferP said:

            Ok I’ve never owned a car either but in certain places you *need* one to participate in economic life. Can we be the kind of grownups who don’t take offense at things that are in no way intended as insults?

          • Leonine said:

            I get that. At the same time, the OP does drive, and I was responding in that context. I live in LA, and people who cannot or who choose not to drive are at a serious disadvantage in terms of education, employment, social opportunities, recreation, etc. It is a serious problem that is definitely not the fault of the people who can’t or won’t drive. Some employers won’t even interview you if you don’t have a car. It’s completely unjust, and the city has done almost nothing to resolve it. In a city with adequate public transport, an inability or unwillingness to drive might not be a problem at all, but it is a very serious problem *here* because it is almost impossible to participate fully in the local economy and society without a car. I don’t mean to imply that people who can’t or won’t drive aren’t adults, and I’m sorry if that’s how my comment reads. What I meant was that, in this city, it is all but impossible to do most of the things most adults want to do without a car. Some people here seem to see a car as a toy or a luxury, but *where I live*, not having a car is a severe limitation. If the OP lives in a place like LA, losing their car could mean losing their job, dropping out of school, etc. My objection was to treating the car like a whimsical object. A car is not a joke, and if the OP’s sister is threatening her livelihood, that needs to be taken seriously.

        • I don’t own a car or even have a driver’s license and I still fully agree that there are many situations where you really, seriously, have to have a car. Just because public transit is pretty good here doesn’t mean it’s good everywhere, I grew up in a rural area with very limited public transit. Even if you do have good public transit, that doesn’t mean it’s always feasible to take enough groceries for the whole family home on the bus, or that the last bus is never before your shift ends or that you’re able to spend an hour and a half (one way!) getting where you need to go because that takes two busses and they don’t connect well.

          • Raptor said:

            I’m only a recent car owner (April, after not owning one for a decade), and the biggest difference I’ve noticed is safety.

            When I used to walk to the light rail, I was flashed, followed, screamed at, and once saw a guy lighting a small brush fire.

            I still experience “That’s Gross” Street Harassment often, but my “I’m Going to Die” Street Harassment is down from once a week to once every couple months.

            I haven’t seen a penis out on the sidewalk since I bought my car. I was getting flashed by this particular group of dudes near the light rail more than once a month.

            I still take the light rail. I still work downtown. The only change I made was driving to the Park N Ride and nearby grocery store.

  2. lno said:

    He had told me that he and his wife were divorced / but his lies and excuses got more and more forced

    (four anapests per line!)

    • bemusedlybespectacled said:

      I told myself, “It’s just my luck / to be surprised by this mindfuck”

      • kingderella said:

        But then one morining, out of the blue
        She woke up and knew what to do.

        • Lix said:

          Now I’m just put in mind of Sylvia Plath, but that one was about daddy issues.

  3. Jenny said:

    He’d said he was leaving his partner for life/ But she was always the bridesmaid and never the wife/ He’d given her jewels and a nice pied-a-terre/ But they weren’t as fresh as the Prince of Bel Air./ She’d waited and waited — her patience was thin–/ And she wasn’t accepting this one on the chin.

    • Dr. Meep said:

      She was sure that she loved him. Oh, wait, was she really?/ But whatever she felt, could she leave, willy-nilly?/ She needed a plan to get out of this mess,/ Though nothing, she knew, would make it hurt less.

      • She summoned her bestie, sang I Will Survive
        Supercharged her Tinder for a dating test drive

        • ProfessorPat said:

          When from notifications there arose such a clatter,
          She logged into the app to see what was the matter.

          (apologies to Clement Clarke Moore)

          • Thanksforallthefish said:

            There on her screen was his face with a smile and a wink/up to all his old tricks it pushed her to the brink,
            Then “I will survive” came back in full force/ she swiped left and hit block and remained on her course.

    • M Dubz said:

      +1000 for the line about the Fresh Prince

  4. Dr Sarah said:

    Regarding 22, I’m not clear on whether the issue is “Huge family drama/unpleasantness which I want to avoid” or “Love my family, wish I could be there for holidays, but sadly work/finances/other situation makes it impossible and I am really said about that”.

    I would differentiate between the two for purposes of picking your answer. If it’s the former, the Captain’s answer is perfect. If it’s the latter, I think it actually is worth explaining the problem briefly and making it clear that you really would have loved to be there, and possibly (though this one is your call) also phoning to explain in person (or meeting up in person, if distance isn’t the issue). This approach should only be used for the ‘really want to be with my great family but circumstances prevent’ situations and never for the toxic ones where you just want to keep as far away as possible.

  5. 5 Leaf Clover said:

    #23
    Decide what you want and then tell him,
    And if you don’t get it then smell him
    Later, cause you’re out of here.

    • Leonine said:

      Best. Enjambment. Ever.

  6. Beth said:

    His wife had been distant and frigid for years
    They hadn’t had sex since – well, never you mind;
    He hadn’t enjoyed it, he said with a sneer,
    And I was the true love he’d hoped he would find.

    Alone every Christmas, sex only by day,
    My birthdays spent wishing he’d take me to dinner;
    No calling past five and no texting, no way
    No fancy meals out – well, at least I got thinner.

    He promised that soon he would file for divorce –
    (As soon as the kids were all out of the house)
    Events had to follow their natural course.
    But I was just adding some spice to the spouse.

    So how did I let myself in for this kick?
    A mountain of loneliness topped off with strife
    I look in the mirror, disgusted and sick –
    The mindfuck of being a mistress for life.

    • vanadiumoxide said:

      This is incredible, well done. (I especially love “adding some spice to the spouse.”)

      • Beth said:

        *beams* Thank you!

    • Yolanda B. Cool said:

      This is amazing.

  7. the mindfuck of being cheated on for over a decade before i knew it said:

    The poetry is adorable and all, but I have one question.

    Did you *know* you were a mistress?

    If not, yeah, that’s messed up, he is terrible, I am so sorry that happened, it’s entirely on him.

    But if yes?

    I hope it keeps you the fuck awake at night because you at least had some damn choice in the matter, unlike his ~primary~ who thought she was his ~only~.

    Take care now!

    • JenniferP said:

      New Poem: The Wife’s Lament

      • My name is wyf
        And in the night
        When backlit clock
        Is shynin bright
        I wake to hear
        The tip of toes
        The click of shoes
        The shush of clothes.
        He smells of scent
        That’s not his own;
        His lies unfurled,
        His secret known.
        Next morn I wake
        And pack the house
        To move away
        And leave the louse.
        His face is shocked
        His eyes are red.
        No more am wife–

        He made his bed.

        • LeighTX said:

          This is amazing.

        • isabeausuro said:

          You win the internets.

        • Thanksforallthefish said:

          love this!

        • Gretchen said:

          So much win

        • please tell me she also hired a cow to lik his bred

        • ladymer said:

          What I’m getting from this is the Captain needs to create a poetry anthology. Being a Mistress, The Wife’s Lament, Ode to an African Violet, Song of the Angry Bees…

        • VorpalSword said:

          SKELTONICS!!! Yes!

        • Fish Food said:

          This isn’t Reddit, but imaginary gold for the I Am Cow style.

      • Emmers said:

        “The Housewife’s Lament” is actually a pretty great song by Among the Oak and Ash.

        (Or maybe traditional?)

        “Oh, life, it is toil, and love, it is trouble; beauty will fade, and riches will flee.”

      • Leonine said:

        Love and trust betrayed,
        Transformed to rage at strangers:
        Bitter alchemy.

  8. peregrinations said:

    Re #19: depending on your situation, you might want to phrase it slightly differently, e.g., “are you looking for (interested in) an exclusive relationship”. In my recent online dating experience I’ve found some degree of open relationship is so common that it’s almost the norm (maybe this is unique to my experience as a 40-something in Large Liberal West Coast City?). In my last relationship we had talked about previous experiences with open relationships but neither had expressed or posted on our profile that we were in one or set on having one. When I had the “is this a real relationship” conversation I used exclusivity language, and learned that he was in an open relationship, and it was awkward. Since I am a person who is open to, though not set on, an open relationship, from now on I’m going to use more open and flexible language when talking about relationships with a potential partner. If you’re looking for exclusivity, though, then the Captain’s phrasing is perfect.

  9. Daffodil said:

    #20 – I’m married to my first boyfriend and we’re coming up on our eighth wedding anniversary. Which is not how it happens for the majority of people, but it’s been pretty great for me. The key is that it’s been pretty great in its own right, regardless of how many relationships I’ve been in. If you’re making mental lists of staying vs. leaving, please strike ‘but he’s my first’ from the stay column. Also strike it from the leave column, if that’s the pressure you’re feeling. If you’re feeling like maybe you’re settling for this guy and you want to see what else is out there, that’s a valid reason to put in the leave column, but it’s by no means unique to first relationships.

    • Andraste said:

      Five years together, one year married with my first boyfriend (I was not his first girlfriend, though). He’s wonderful and I am super duper happy I married him every day. I definitely understand the “but everyone says your first love won’t last” doubts, but try not to listen to them. The Captain’s questions are great. If you think about them and have positive feelings, that’s a good sign for your relationship.

      • megpie71 said:

        Twenty years with my first (and so far only) partner. We clicked over reading choices, we’re best of friends as well as life partners, and we’re independent enough that we don’t need to have the other around all the time in order to feel part of a relationship. Our smoochy cat/aloof cat pairing seems to work very well for us (he’s smoochy, I’m more aloof). Never bothered getting married, mostly because we don’t have/want kids, and there’s not that much property to be worried about.

    • sistercoyote said:

      My parents only ever dated (and according to my mother, never even really dated) each other, and they have been more-or-less happily (as all couples are, I think) married for 51 years. So love to all the one-and-onlys out there; it can be done.

  10. Knitting Cat Lady said:

    #20:

    My parents are the first and only partner for each other. They’ve been together 40+ years now, 35 of those married.

    It wasn’t always easy and they had to work at it.

    It can work out well, or it can end in disaster. And everything in between.

  11. stellanor said:

    re: hugs, my favorite no-hugs-plz method for people my age and younger is to intercept with a fist bump. (I usually intercept with handshake as suggested for people older than me because I am more likely to get a “wtf are you doing” response.) I had a huggy group of coworkers at one point and they all just learned that it was fistbumps for stellanor.

    I started doing it with kids who were instructed to hug me but were reluctant. I’m all about the bodily autonomy for children in circumstances not vital to their health (yes you do have to let the doctor give you that shot, no you do not have to hug Auntie Stellanor), so if a kid is told to give me a hug hello/goodbye but looked reluctant I started offering a fist-bump instead. And teaching them to blow it up. They seem to like it, and it is an acceptable greeting.

    • not really a lurker anymore said:

      When we’re doing goodbyes at family gatherings I tell my kids to go make their goodbyes and gives hugs/kisses/high fives/whatever as long as they say “Goodbye, thank you for inviting me/us.” Generally I’m around as they’re doing this because I’m doing the same thing so I can stop pushy adults. I’m going to add fist bumping to my list though. So thanks!

      • I work with kids, and I always make sure to say, “Would you like a hug?” (rather than “Can I have a hug?”, which makes it feel like they should do it for my benefit). If there’s the slightest hesitation, I always add, “You don’t have to say yes.” Some kids LOVE hugs, some are iffy, some very definitely don’t want one from their tutor.

        • Sarah said:

          Oh, I love this phrasing and will be switching to it immediately!

        • Jane said:

          I usually offer “wave” and “high five” as alternatives to hugs.

        • ReanaZ said:

          Other option is to ask: Would you like a hug, a high-five, or a wave? Options and autonomy. 🙂

  12. quail said:

    my first thought in 23 is that the mindfuck was in being a long-term dungeon mistress/pro-domme, where the problems might include forgetting how to interact with men that’s not telling them what to do and getting them to pay you for the privilege. i want that problem.

    • Yolanda B. Cool said:

      Ooh, I like That!

      Her emotional accounts were well in arrears
      From the mindfuck of being a mistress for years.
      “It’s not the heartbreak of knowingly cheating,
      But I cannot administer one more beating!”
      She pawned her whip and riding crop,
      And took a vow, no more she’d top.
      Then she bought a cottage and there retired,
      With the proceeds of being feared and admired.

      • quail said:

        ~*~*~*APPLAUSE*~*~*~

      • Guildenstern said:

        Nice. I like that that being tired of being a professional domme is a topic that also leads itself to slightly more light-hearted verse.

        A mistress from distant Algiers,
        Retired from spanking men’s rears,
        If just to forget,
        The emotional debt,
        From the mindfuck of domming for years.

        • Traffic_Spiral said:

          Hee! Win!

        • Yolanda B. Cool said:

          Oh, well done!

  13. Cherries in the Snow said:

    The hugging thing is an especial nightmare for me, having PTSD and having moved to a European culture where hugs are expected to be exchanged even between acquaintances. AHHH. I don’t like shaking hands either. I don’t have a lot of advice other than to say I’m not a hugger and hope people slowly get the hint.

    • Onomatopoeia said:

      This British lady hears you, Cherries in the Snow. The first time I went there to visit a friend, he introduced me to another friend of his who immediately embraced me and kissed me on both cheeks. It absolutely was not in a creepy way – it was just a standard greeting in that culture – but I was so startled and then flustered by it that I’m sure he must have wondered what on earth was wrong with me.

  14. EH said:

    I married my first long-term (as in, more than a month or two of dating) boyfriend and altogether we were together 7 years. Post-divorce I’ve been with exactly one dude long-term, and we’ve been together for 8 years.

    The Captain’s questions are really insightful.

    Something else I suggest considering: have either of you changed significantly since you got together, and how is that change (or lack thereof) affecting your relationship?

  15. Her emotional accounts were well in arrears
    From the mindfuck of being a mistress for years
    But when she grew tired of freeze framing her life
    She sent him off packing and married his wife

    • JenniferP said:

      Nice.

    • Amphelise said:

      IN LOVE with this one 😀

  16. Vicki said:

    This should be framed, or put on a pillow:

    Bottom line: Your relationship needs to work for you. You don’t serve your relationship or the idea of the relationship.

    That’s important whatever shape of relationship you each want. Don’t tie yourself in knots because someone else says polyamorous relationships are “supposed to” have a certain shape or set of rules, or.to live up to someone else’s ideas of how a monogamous marriage should work. Not even if that someone is your spouse, and especially not if it’s your mother or cousin or your partner’s best friend or a magazine article.

  17. AndyL said:

    #13 How to behave at a dinner where a sister in law doesn’t talk to you.

    Yeah, I don’t talk to my sister-in-law anymore.

    She’s left 10 minute long obscenity filled rants on my answering machine about some trash can she was standing next to and didn’t feel like emptying at DH’s grandmother’s house, demanding that he drive over and empty it. She intentionally excluded us from a Thanksgiving Dinner we had been invited to – that they weren’t even hosting – when we were out of work and out of food so we went hungry. Repeatedly acted like Don Rickles at my DH’s dad’s funeral, racing across the room – out of breath – to pant things like, “That’s so stupid, that sounds like something Mr. Andy would do!” in the middle of conversations she wasn’t even a part of. (I lost count after the 40th insult…) When she came over to our house, when I mentioned we’d had a cleaner in, she’d looked around and sneered, “what did it look like BEFORE?” Last time I had to attend a post-Christmas meal with them, she waited until everyone left the table, then snarled, “Do you have a DISORDER?” at me, before verbally browbeating me until someone came back who might over hear her, because I didn’t want to hug her. When my DH was out of work and couldn’t afford to hire an accountant until the next month, so his taxes were filed late, she and her DH reported him to the IRS so they could collect the reward. Her husband has shoved my DH’s head through a plate glass window, and she’s just as verbally abusive as he is physically.

    Every time we have let them near our lives, they’ve made things worse, especially when there was an opportunity to line their own pockets at our expense.

    No. I’m not hugging someone who has stabbed us in the back repeatedly. No, I will not speak to her if I can help it.

    Your sister-in-law won’t speak to you at dinner? Maybe it’s just possible you haven’t been very nice to her.

    • AndyL said:

      … And that’s the SHORT list.

      (It was HIS FATHER’S FUNERAL! WTF, lady!)

    • Thom said:

      My wife’s uncle doesn’t speak to her–like, looks right through her, will not respond to “hello,” that kind of doesn’t speak to her–and also does not speak to me.

      The heinous crime we have both committed against him? We’re both transgender.

      Maybe the Googler hasn’t been nice. But maybe the sister-in-law isn’t nice. (Or, heck, maybe they’re both not nice). There’s really not enough to say.

      • sayevet said:

        I’m so sorry, that must be incredibly painful if you still need to interact with him 😦

      • AndyL said:

        True! It could be either side.

        I’m sure it looks, from the outside, like I’m a total hag to my SIL, because we’ve refrained from dragging the rest of the family into the dynamic and they probably have no idea about half of the stuff they’ve pulled. But I’ve honestly run out of cheeks to turn.

        (Obviously, this question hit a nerve… we DID just have to spend two days with them because of a family event, so it’s a little raw.) I do answer when she speaks to me, though I keep it as short as possible. I just try to avoid that possibility at all costs, and keep a safe distance.

        I’m sorry your wife’s uncle is freezing you both out just because of his prejudices! That’s got to hurt.

        • Thom said:

          @AndyL,
          Yeah, it’s hard to tell from the outside just who’s to blame in such situations. It can run a whole spectrum. Such is the tapestry of family dysfunction.

          @sayevet, @MoonChild,
          Thanks. I appreciate it. I don’t care directly, because I have no emotional investment in the guy, since I’ve never even talked to him. But it hurts my wife, and I hurt for her.

      • MoonChild said:

        My husband’s step-brother (who is also his first cousin) does that to us too. Like, “Hi cousin/brother. How are you?” And he just doesn’t respond. I have no idea why. He does it to my husband, my husband’s siblings, and me. I’ve been in this family for 14 years and I’ve never once interacted with him. It’s so weird.

        Also, your wife’s transphobic uncle is a jackass. I’m sorry you have to deal with that.

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      Holy. Shit.

    • aebhel said:

      Or maybe she’s an asshole. Absent context, you’re just projecting all over the place.

      • Tattie said:

        *Nods*

        I know these are anonymous search terms, and this the person who wrote these words is unlikely to be reading through the comments, but nonetheless I’m finding this “second-guess the querant and reverse their narrative” phenomenon increasingly tiresome.

        • JenniferP said:

          “I’m finding this second-guess the querant and reverse their narrative” phenomenon increasingly tiresome.”

          ME TOO.

  18. Parse The Potatoes said:

    For 23, here’s my attempt:

    I never considered it one of my fears
    ‘Cause nobody thinks, “It’ll happen to me”
    I hope someday soon, I will finally be free
    From the mindfuck of being a mistress for years

    The hurt, the betrayal, the rage and the tears
    When the scope of deception was finally seen
    I’ll work with my Team Me, to scrub my mind clean
    From the mindfuck of being a mistress for years

    Things are bad (like this verse), but with help from my peers
    I’ll fight through this, and unlike this fake “Mr. Right”
    I won’t have to sleep with the guilt every night:
    His regret of being a cheater for years.

    • Emma9 said:

      Love a good title-twist in the last verse of a poem or song!

  19. S.H. said:

    18 “He doesn’t want me to watch porn but he does.”



    Consider telling him to mind his own damn business? Does the thought of telling him that seem scary? Will he react angrily? If so, it doesn’t sound like he treats you well.

    Does he show signs of being possessive and treating you like property? As the Captain said, how do you feel about that?

    If you don’t want to be controlled, it is okay to say “You do not get say over this part of my life.”

  20. DJ said:

    Sister in law not speak to you. I’m
    part of a group where someone like that with me. I concentrate on others no contact outside of group. Now no offer of lifts etc as doesn’t respond if no leaving one hanging. But she’s like that with those she doesn’t like (her preference those she doesn’t like not done anything) so as she’s like that with a couple of others no pressure on me to make more of an effort.

  21. johann7 said:

    #17: Maybe? We can’t read minds (yet, and we need to figure out our cultural baggage around this immediately, because the technology is nearly there), but I can say that people do actually sometimes break up with people they like because the timing doesn’t work – they’re already dating someone else they also like and is somehow a better fit (this is a big one, though it’s not usually framed as “timing”), they’re about to move cities for a job or school, they have some kind of personal crisis taking up all of their time/emotional energy, etc. It’s also often a face-saving lie people tell becasue they think it’s kinder than the real reason (or becasue they’re not sure of the real reason themselves but feel like they need to give a reason). I find it’s usually best to take people at their word unless they give a direct reason to do otherwise (or a statistically unusual pattern of indirect reasons).

    #19: Liking (in any sense of that word) someone doesn’t necessarily mean wanting to be in an exclusive sexual/social relationship with that person, right away (as CA notes) or, for some people, ever. Have the talk CA suggests, and if you want a relationship that is exclusive in some way(s) and he doesn’t, find a partner whose approach to relationships matches yours better (determining compatibility is what dating is about, in addition to the attraction to limerence AKA “new relationship energy” that some people feel).

    #20: That can’t be answered with a “yes” or “no” becasue someone being one’s first boyfriend has no bearing on whether the relationship is healthy for all involved. We can say it’s not inherently unhealthy to continue to date one’s first boyfriend for as long as the relationship works well for everyone involved. People’s concern around this can have a well-meaning basis – someone dating for the first time does not have experience in navigating a romantic/sexual relationship and thus is less likely to be aware of red flags and has no basis for comparison (people do tolerate all kinds of abuse because they don’t realize there are other options) – or it could just be parroting of a social norm based on correlation but not causation that doesn’t apply to your situation.

    CA’s questions are great for you to check in with yourself about how the relationship is working for you; if the idea that continuing to date this person (who happens to be your first boyfriend) is coming from other people, you might be able to figure out whether this is the result of well-founded concern or unfounded cultural bias by asking if there are specific behaviors they’ve observed that make them think the relationship isn’t healthy (and to specifically note them if so). Sometimes our friends and family see warnings or harmful patterns that we don’t see or minimize, and sometimes they mistakenly take “inexperienced people are more likely to stay in unhealthy relationships because they have no basis for comparison” as “staying with your first boyfriend for longer than [some length of time – who’s picking the acceptable length of time?] is unhealthy”. The latter may also be related to the mistaken belief that there is one single perfect partner out there for everyone or a relationship kind of FOMO, such that not (possibly) dating a lot of people in favor of continuing a relationship that makes one happy means one will miss an even better (or perfect) relationship. If you’re getting what you want from dating your boyfriend, definitely giving that up right now because a hypothetical relationship with a hypothetical person at some undetermined point in the future could possibly be “better” (whatever that means) does not sound like good decision-making to me, but then people are also allowed to start or end relationships for reasons I consider arbitrary or bad, so I’m not going to try to police anyone else’s behavior on that count, either.

    This line is key: “I don’t know what’s right for you, only, make sure that staying with this person is a positive, active, happy choice for you and not just one made out of inertia and fear of being alone.”

    #21: The script is good when one really isn’t a hugger in general; it might backfire (by being an obvious lie) in a context where one IS hugging a number of people but specifically doesn’t want to hug a particular person. You can also use, “No, thanks!” delivered with an upbeat tone, with or without offering something like a high five or handshake as an alternative, as you desire. The tone cues the other person to not take this as a personal slight (even if it is), so ze can drop the issue without losing any face, and the “thanks” indicates an assumption of good intentions on the part of the other person, such that you are expressing gratitude for their offer to engage in a well-meaning social bonding ritual. If ze insists on making it weird by pushing through the boundary or asking why, ze has broken the social contract, and you can cease any effort to maintain it on your end as well, allowing you to respond less politely and more directly with something like, “Because I’m not comfortable hugging you.” Further attempts to undermine or violate the boundary can be met with explicitly labeling the problem behavior and asking the person to stop, like, “Why are you making this weird and demanding to press your body against me* when I don’t want that? Please stop.” and can escalate to physically removing yourself from the situation or seeking third party intervention as necessary.

    *Someone – whether the hugger or a third party – who views “hug” as inherently innocuous or socially obligatory might be better able to understand an objection to “person pressing their body against mine without request or consent” than “hug”; specifically describing a behavior can help remove the social connotations that sometimes cause people to neglect or ignore the idea of consent, like the inverse of euphemism, where we intentionally obscure the denotation to make something more (contextually) acceptable.

    To end, a rhymed couplet in anapaestic tetrameter:

    The collected confusions, suspicions, and fears
    are the mindfuck of being a mistress for years

  22. kitmharding said:

    I think BDSM is messing with my brain, because I was interpreting that “mistress” in a BDSM sense and was *very* confused until I got down to the comments. Though from the essays some of the femdoms write, getting mindfucked by bad relationships in that context is not terribly uncommon.

    • Heart said:

      same here

  23. Butterzzz said:

    13 “How to behave at a dinner where a sister in law doesn’t talk to you.”

    Welp, since one of my SIL proudly exclaimed her racist beliefs and the other SIL is sleeping with a racist who collects DWI’s like their hot commodities, I don’t talk to them during dinner parties either.

    Hubby understands and stays by me when we have to interact with that family. I only spend 1-2 dinners with them a year, so it’s manageable.

  24. Clarry said:

    Nothing particular to add to any of the searches or comments. I did just want to say how grateful I am to have found this community where, not only do people share my general outlooks on boundaries and backbones, they also don’t blink when anapests and pentameters are throw around.

    • Emma9 said:

      Same, not to mention delightful newly-discovered words like ‘enjambment’!

  25. GreyjoyGardens said:

    #9: I’ve never seen a live-together situation based on “We really want to save money” and not “We love each other, we are compatible, and we are ready and willing to set up a household” end well. I used to live in Notoriously Expensive West Coast City and saw this happen all. the. time, because housing was that scarce and expensive. People moved in together before they were ready (yes, even within weeks of meeting! Yikes!), or with people who they otherwise wouldn’t have lived with, and it wound up either killing the relationship (and starting the whole cycle again with different people, argh) or an unhappy couple dragging things out more than was healthy.

    In my experience, it’s healthier for the relationship if people save money by other means – finding a regular roommate, moving in with parents even – it just puts less stress and strain on a relationship.

    Just because you want to save money/Is not a good reason to move in with your honey/It can disrupt your life in a way tectonic/Best to find a roommate platonic

    • annejumps said:

      Yes. Do Not base your decision to live together around saving money.

    • Jaz said:

      Yes! I moved in with a partner too soon because I was on the brink of homelessness. Our relationship improved immensely when I found my own place.

  26. tlh-in-tlh said:

    LW #3, CA’s advice is right on! I know it still feels awkward, but focus on how HE’s the one making it awkward, not you.
    LW #12, my sympathies. That’s difficult and painful, and like CA says, may never change. I hope *your* family supports your relationship. If not, try to focus on Team You and their support. Also, if there are possible legal entanglements, please make sure you have some legal help on your side.
    LW #14: That sounds horrible! Look for the CA posts about Darth Vader!
    LW #21: Whoop Whoop Whoop! Holiday Hug Ambush Alert! I especially like the advice for using the upbeat tone of voice.
    LW #23: We have some wonderful blues songs here! Y’all are great!

  27. Leonine said:

    Wow, really? So, I live in LA, and without cars, the commutes of the three working adults in my house to our early-morning jobs would easily triple. Since there are no grocery stores within walking distance, we’d have to take an Uber to do the shopping for the seven people who live in my house. Also, our friends and family live all over town, so it would be really hard to have a social life without a car; it would also be extremely hard to take my kids to parks or beachs or museums and impossible to take them to the mountains. But in fairness, I hadn’t realized that a random stranger from the Internet had been living without a car for eight years. You’ve made an excellent point. Thank you for your enlightening view on the topic.

    • Leonine said:

      That was a reply to nein09 upthread.

  28. Nelalvai said:

    @15, if you’re looking for some reading I recommend More Than Two. It talks about strategies and pitfalls and has a chapter for monogamous people trying out polyamory for the first time. I found it incredibly helpful when my boyfriend and I were talking about opening our relationship.
    I wish you well whatever decision you make!

  29. Light37 said:

    3. If there’s awkwardness, then it’s time for, “I think this is yours.” You don’t own the awkward, it’s his.

    4/5. If you genuinely can’t get over your partner’s past, sexual or otherwise, then you should not be dating them. I couldn’t date someone who had previously abused animals, even if they were now a great person. I also couldn’t date someone who went to strip clubs and harassed the dancers. I don’t think that’s what the people here are talking about, though. It reads more like, “My girlfriend has kissed more than five guys,” or “She’s bi and I hate that she ever slept with a man because she might cheat on me.”

    9. You need to be on the same page, whether this is a roommate or a romantic partner. Does he see living together as starting a life together in the latter case, or is it simply pragmatic? How do you see it?

    12. After nine years, I think this may be a boyfriend problem. Is he expecting you to go to all the family gatherings and suck it up when you’re badly treated? Does he defend you? Does he tell you the mean things they say?

    14. Get two cards. One is a marriage counselor, one is a divorce lawyer. Tell your spouse to pick one.

    18. Run.

    • Nine times ten said:

      I was also struck by 5. Something in the tone makes me suspect that it’s _probably_ the GF’s sexual history that the searcher has a problem with…but I did find myself thinking about how some people have done legit bad stuff, like stalking or abusing someone. If anyone reading this is wondering if it’s wrong to be worried about their partner’s history of bad behavior: nope. It’s really smart and sane to be concerned when you learn that your partner once did stuff that hurt people.

      • Light37 said:

        Yep, agreed. If you learn that your partner stalked an ex-or someone they never dated- then you are totally entitled to take that into consideration when you decide whether you should dump them and move to Antarctica.

      • TO_Ont said:

        I would go further and say you’re always entitled to take someone’s background into account when deciding whether or not to date them, even things like how many people they’ve dated.

        What you aren’t entitled to do is harass them about it, shame them, make them jump through hoops to ‘show you they’ve changed’ etc.

        If the person asking the question is uncomfortable dating someone who has had lots of partners, well, don’t date them then.

        If the thing that makes you uncomfortable is an actual ethical thing like ‘they stalked/assaulted/harassed/etc someone in the past’, just walking away is still probably the best option, but in this case more to protect you.

        • Thanksforallthefish said:

          Agreed. One version, you should protect yourself and get away, the other version, she deserves someone who loves and respects her for who she is not in spite of who she’s slept with.

  30. Kivrin said:

    I can actually tell #7 what I did… damn this is new. This probably only works for my situation, and we were long-distance, so I brought up that the relationship was actively making me unhappy and I couldn’t put myself through that, and I’d been pretending we were friends for two weeks and felt so much better. Told him I’d be happy to reassess in person if we made it there, but I wanted to be just friends now. It’s worked out fine so far? It’s only been a month and we talk less and I care less but that’s better than being miserable all the time.

  31. Emz said:

    I almost had a moment of “DID I WRITE #3???” I didn’t, but I’m dealing with the same issue. Friend grabbed my butt at a Halloween party! Still have difficulty making eye contact with him a month later! I don’t know if I’m mad per se, but I find it a little hurtful that he hasn’t really tried to apologize or anything. We’re not super close friends (hence part of the awkwardness) but we have the same social group and also we’re grad students so I see him around the department all the time. Mostly my attitude has been “friendly but detached,” but I’m not sure if I should try to say something to him. On the one hand, that conversation sounds super awkward! But on the other, I don’t really wanna give the impression that I was totally cool with his actions and that he should feel free to repeat them without consequence. Uggghhhh.

  32. Any awkwardness was caused by the guy who sexually assaulted you. Please feel free to toss the ball of awkward back to him. Friends don’t sexually assault their friends.

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