It Came From The Search Terms: The Thirty-First of June

It’s time for that monthly thing where we answer the search strings people typed in to find this place as if they are actual questions. This feature is made possible through the generous support of 979 Patreon followers. They keep the blog ad-free and allow me to pay rent and eat cheese.

First, as is traditional: a song

Lyrics here.

1 “Cheating on your best friend by making another best friend.”

“Love is not a pie,” as the lovely short story by Amy Bloom tells us, and people can have more than one very close friend without taking anything away from anyone.

2 “How to ask your neighbor to text before she drops at your door.”

I know at cultural expectations and norms vary widely around neighbors popping in without calling first depending on where you live, and I fully admit my membership in the “If it’s an emergency or you need something real quick, please let me help you! But if you’re dropping by ‘just to chat’ that is my literal nightmare, sorry!” club.

Next time your neighbor drops by, open the door partway without letting her in and  – once you ascertain that it isn’t an emergency – say something like “Hi there! Forgive me, but I’m afraid now isn’t a good time! But let me give you my number, and let me take down yours, that way we can text first and make sure it’s a good time.” 

She’ll say something (hopefully something involving the words”of course”!), and then (and this is key) you say “Oh, thank you so much! So sorry I can’t chat today, bye!” and then you shut the door and go back to what you were doing. You can’t let her in once you’ve told her it’s not a good time, or she will never take it seriously.

It will feel very awkward and like you’re the one being very rude, but it’s important that you begin as you mean to go on once you’ve set this boundary. In the future, if she texts first, thank her for asking, and then tell her the truth about whether it’s a good time at that particular moment: “Hi, thanks for texting! I’m in the middle of something, so now isn’t a good time, but if you still need help hanging that painting I can pop by after 5, will that work?” Also, if you otherwise like this person, try texting her and inviting her over for a coffee every now and then when it is good for you. If she refuses to text first and keeps trying to drop by, there is no rule that says you have to answer the door at all.

3 “How to question a narcissist’s intentions.”

What an interesting question!

In my experience with narcissists, which I would list as “way more than I’d like to have,” I find it more more useful to examine a) their actions, b) the effects those actions have on me or the world and c) the future (what I would like to happen now) than to get sucked into trying to question or even determine their intentions.

If something makes a narcissist look good they will always pretend they intended it all along, if it makes them look bad they will claim that they never intended it (and that it didn’t happen like you said it did anyway, and that you’re stupid to think it did, and anyway, it isn’t their fault, and maybe also you kind of deserved it?). Arguing about their intentions just feeds them. Or tempts them to gaslight you. Or both.

But if you can truthfully say “You did x. Whatever you intended, the effect on me was y. From now on, please do z” you sidestep the discussion of their intentions entirely. They can say “but I intended a, b, and c, not y!” all day and you can say “Of course! But y is what happened, so I need you to do z from now on.” 

4 “Will my ex reach out?”

Yes and no. Yes = When they want something, or when you’ve already moved on, or when it would be maximally annoying. No = all the times you kept your phone by your pillow wishing they would.

5 “Want to break up but scared he will kill himself.”

If you seriously think a partner is in danger of killing themselves, hopefully you can direct them to relevant mental health resources and call in their family and friends to take care of them. You are still allowed to leave. 

Possible script for family/friends: “As you know, Alex and I broke up. They are taking it very hard, and have mentioned suicide more than once. I need the people who love them to check on them and support them in getting help. I can’t be the point person for that – for my own well-being, I need to take some space and make this a clean break – so can I count on you to call Alex/stop by and visit/encourage Alex to seek treatment and help?” 

If you leave and they do eventually die of suicide, it was not your fault. They had an illness, and you staying as their sole support system/guilt-hostage was never, ever going to be the cure for that illness.

Finally, if you have any reason to think you are also in danger from a partner who threatens suicide (a depressingly common thing in abusive relationships), you get to choose yourself. You get to leave and not look back if that’s what you need to do to keep yourself safe. Call a domestic violence resource like The Hotline and get to work on making a safety plan.

6 “Make your male neighbour notice you are ill and come to visit you.”

Well, learn from the mistakes in #2 and definitely text before you just drop by his place!

And maybe try just asking him out already when you’re feeling better?

7 “Is it abuse if my dad hits me and kicks me.”

Yes. You might also find the hotline useful. It is wrong for anyone to hit or kick you.

8 “How to tell my parents I’m bi but I’m married.”

My inbox was a Pride month explosion of similar questions, so I’m glad to answer them all in one place.

Maybe try “Throughout my life I’ve been attracted to both men and women. I’m married to [Spouse] now, so I’m assumed to be or mistaken for a straight person, but please know that when people talk about the LGTBQ* community, they’re also talking about me.” 

9: “I’m bisexual do I have to break up with my partner.”

A) No and B) This is one of the annoying questions people who come out as bisexual get asked a lot by people who don’t get it.

You can be attracted to people of all genders and still choose to have a monogamous sexual and/or romantic relationship with one person.

10 “Nice guy keeps texting and won’t take no for an answer.”

People who won’t take no for an answer aren’t really all that nice. Let’s just remove that plausible deniability shield for his really annoying and aggressive behavior once and for all, ok?

If you haven’t done this already, text him one time to say “I am not interested, stop contacting me.” Then, never respond to any communication from him. If he texts you 100 more times and you respond, you’ve just taught him that it takes 100 attempts to get your attention, so he’ll start again at 101. Block him on all social media and generally lock down your info so it’s not so public. Don’t threaten him or yell at him in reply to his messages even if they get really weird or seem to escalate – every time you engage with him you buy yourself 1-3 more months of harassment.

Save the texts he’s sent you already, save the one where you told him to stop, document everything in case he escalates. Tell other people in your life what he’s doing (but also set the “DO NOT ENGAGE” rule for other people).

Most times, if starved for attention long enough, these guys drop it and transfer their fixations to other people. Other times…well…we’ve all read and seen the news about the other times. Be safe.

11 “How to answer to someone who invites you last minute to his party.” 

Do you want to go to the party y/n Can you go to the party y/n

If both are y, “Great, thanks for thinking of me, I’ll be there.”

If either or both are n, “Sorry, can’t make it, thanks for thinking of me, though!” 

12 “Is it reasonable to break up because you don’t like his kids?”

Kids are a huge part of his life, and, depending on their age, probably occupy most of his thoughts/efforts/money/priorities/time. Not all kids are likeable or gonna like you, but if you don’t like the most important people in your loved one’s life, maybe he’s not for you?

13 “What to do if a friend forgets to send a birthday card?”

If you normally trade cards, and nothing else seems “off” about the friendship, what’s the worst thing that would happen if you chalked it up to ‘they were probably busy and forgot’ and then you sent them a birthday card as usual? What if you called them or sent a postcard or text to catch up about general life stuff?

13 “Short bob with side bangs”

My One True Haircut.

14 “My husband doesn’t _____, but I like it very much.”

I’m really gonna need to know what’s in that blank before I comment further.

15 “Dating sisters”

Why, why, why would you do this? Did you defeat every video game you have on hard mode/achieve the pinnacle of success in your career/cross literally everything else off your bucket list? Why would you set yourself and an entire family up for so much failure and weirdness?

 

16 “How to be supportive when your man is gross?”

Gross…how?

And how gross?

And why is “supportive” the thing you’re trying to be? And not like, “Hey babe, please stop doing gross things/please do these things to be less gross.” 

I have so many questions.

17 “Why does a woman turn and show a man their back while talking?”

First, thanks to the Twitter follower who was like “I’m a blind man and even I can read this body language.” You made me laugh.

Second, if you’re a man wondering this, in the absence of other verbal cues from the woman like “Please follow me” or “Please keep talking, I want to hear this, I just need to look at something over there for a second,” maybe, stop talking?

 

 

 

103 comments
  1. Traffic_Spiral said:

    If the kids are under 18, breaking up is not only reasonable, but probably the most sensible and moral choice. you don’t want to put him in the position of choosing between you and his kids, and kids shouldn’t be around adults that don’t like them – especially in any parental capacity. It’s tough, because we’re fed this line about how everyone should love kids, and if you’re a woman, you should be overflowing with maternal instinct that will win over all children and make life perfect. Admitting to yourself that you don’t like kids, or just don’t like THESE kids is almost like saying that you’re an evil fairy-tale villain. However, sometimes people just don’t click, and trying to force yourself to make a happy family will just make everyone miserable.

    You might want to break up with “it’s just not working out,” and not “I hate your hellspawn,” but yes, definitely break up. You all deserve better than this.

    • jenfullmoon said:

      Right. Who wants an “evil” stepmother, or to BE the evil stepmother?

      I do feel sorry for nice people with awful kids, but what can you do.

      • RunForChocolate said:

        But the kids don’t even have to be awful! Kids are a LOT of work and noise and chaos.

        I have three (8, 10, and just-turned-14). I love them dearly, so dearly, but I have nearly full custody of them and that is a lot, and there are many days on which I think wistful thoughts about only having two kids. Or one. They’re great kids… one on one. They’re smart and affectionate and hilarious and mostly obedient and on honor roll and they have nice friend groups. But they’re also questioning of rules and authority, and they’re stubborn, and they have been known to ruleslawyer and use emotional manipulation in age-appropriate ways, and poke at each other (either literally or verbally) just to piss each other off. They’re wonderful human beings but I would totally 100% sympathize if somebody didn’t want to date/be with me because of them. I’m not at all sure I’d want to date somebody who was in my position, even if I didn’t have three of my own.

        tl;dr: it’s entirely reasonable for other people’s kids to be a deal breaker. For many reasons. You have to want the total package for it to work well.

    • Convallaria majalis said:

      I agree with Traffic-Spiral – but “not liking these kids” is not that informative. There can be so many reasons to not like particular children: are they in an especially trying age (like, 2-3 or teenagers) or going through something which is hard for them (like a death of a parent, a divorce, an illness…)? In those cases, if you really like their parent and can be honest with them about not liking the children, there just may be a chance. If you do not just click with them, then it is better for all to end the relationship in a responsible manner.

      Children are human beings so I find the concept of “liking children” in general quite weird: they are all unique and some are far more likable than others, just like with adults. The Captain’s suggestions are very good.

      • Traffic_Spiral said:

        How does *why* you don’t like the children change the fact that you don’t like them? At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter why you turn into the evil stepmother – you’re still the evil stepmother.

        • I mean, I think you could look at is as – are you willing to put a lot of work into the relationship with the children? Could you see your relationship with the children growing into something that you could both enjoy more with time and respect and effort? Not immediately getting along doesn’t mean you don’t ever like each other.

        • TO_Ont said:

          I think it does make a difference, because some causes are more changeable than others.

          If you don’t realistically think you will ever grow to have affection for them, then no. But lots of people (whether adult or child) don’t have an instant bond, or have some friction, or meet under circumstances that don’t bring out the best in them, but ultimately with time and shared experiences develop a close and positive relationship.

      • S.H. said:

        I don’t know. I’m not a parent, but I just can’t imagine any situation where hearing “I don’t like your children” can coexist with am intimate loving relationship. It doesn’t matter if the reasons are valid. This is not a situation where a person can be objective.

        If the children are almost grown up or already grown up, perhaps something like “It’s clear that your children and I won’t be close, and I don’t think it will work for me to try to pursue a closer relationship with them. But I support *you* having the best relationship with them that you can have.” But to outright say “I dislike your children” is going to be incredibly hurtful.

        • TO_Ont said:

          I wonder if it depends at all what you mean by ‘like’. I mean, a lot of people don’t ‘like’ their own children every moment, even if they deeply love them.

    • I don’t know about this – I think it’s very circumstance specific. Let’s face it – kids can be shitty! Kids of divorced parents can be extra shitty! It’s not their fault! It’s just how kids can be! And it’s really hard to like shitty kids who aren’t yours! You may not LIKE them right now, but can you be around them? Kids change quickly – maybe whatever is going on right now is temporary. There are times when I’m not mega thrilled to be around my partner’s kids (they are older teens), but then I can peace out and let them have some solo dad time for a bit when things get too hairy. Or they peace out and go hang with friends, or spend a weekend with their mom. But I’m not mean to them, or clawing at the walls or whatever. “like” is such a vague word here.

      If the thought of spending any time with his kids sends you screaming, then yes, break up.
      If you can be pleasant around them and get through this phase until they are older and better able to communicate/stop breaking things/calm down/can be left unsupervised/can do their own thing, or WHATEVER the current issue is, then maybe it can work out. How much do you want the relationship to work? If it’s too much work, then there’s your answer. If

      I see a lot of info on advice sites and comments where it seems like the general consensus is IF YOU ARE NOT 100% COMMITTED TO BEING A PERFECT MRS BRADY LIKE STEPMOM AT ALL TIMES, NO EXCEPTIONS, THEN GET THE FUCK OUT, YOU HORRIBLE PERSON. And that is insulting and absolutely not true. You are allowed to have times where you can’t stand those kids. You can’t tell them that, and you can’t act on that to them, but you can definitely find a friend and cry on their shoulder about it over drinks and pizza on girls night out.

      • Yolanda B. Cool said:

        Oh my God, thank you. As a stepparent with biological kids of my own, the cultural messages around step-parenting are weird to the point of toxic.

        Both my kids, who are generally well-behaved, went through a phase at 11 that could only be described as “nightmare fuel.” It helped at the time to apologize and acknowledge to my spouse that they were acting like assholes, because being around other people’s poorly behaved kids is the worst. They are both, FWIW, grown and well-adjusted human beings now. I’m starting to see the beginnings of this in my stepson at around the same age, give or take a year, and while I know it’s just hormones going crazy, there are times that I just duck out of the room and let his behavior be his dad’s problem.

        I also have difficulty with the idea that you must fall in love with stepchildren as if they were your own, or the relationship is doomed. If we told everyone who didn’t wholeheartedly adore their spouse’s parents to get divorced, there’d be, like, three married couples on the planet. Stepkids are basically tiny little in-laws with age-appropriate levels of behavior and self-control, and they can occasionally be as difficult as the fully grown variety.

        • JenniferP said:

          I’m loving all the step-parents or people with kids weighing in!

          My initial point is not to say you have to love everyone’s kids, but also, it’s a perfectly reasonable reason to break up if you know that you don’t, and it’s the kind thing to do if you know you won’t be able to hang in for the Nightmare Fuel years.

          • Yolanda B. Cool said:

            Oh man, Jennifer, I didn’t mean for that to come across as attacking you, and if it did, I sincerely apologize. I think your advice, as always, is great.
            I was more reacting to the “Mrs. Brady” trope that evilsciencechick mentioned. When you’re in the trenches, “Mrs. Brady” is a suffocating box to be in, and an even harder one to escape.

            At any rate, I’m a huge fan, and I think my excitement at being able to discuss the emotional logistics of stepparenting with the Awkward Army overrode my filter. Apologies!

      • NotABot said:

        God, thank you so much for saying this. I have a child and Partner does not, and I find all the information on what is a “bright line” break-uppable offense so disorienting. Partner does not like my kid all the time; finds it much more difficult to put up with challenging behavior than I do; has a tenuous-at-best grasp of what is/is not developmentally appropriate (like, no sweetie, the lawn mower is bigger than they are maybe in a few years) in terms of their capabilities and behaviors.

        But overall Partner is kind, supportive, teaches them things, listens to their endless stories about nothing, patiently enforces rules, etc. Kid has no idea that Partner sometimes feels that way.

        I think we’re too quick to judge stepparents. This is tough for Partner, and even I fall into the trap of, “WHY AREN’T YOU DOING THIS PERFECTLY” or “WHY CAN’T YOU JUST HAVE EXACTLY THE SAME BOND WITH MY CHILD AS I DO”

        It’s a learning curve, especially for people with no previous kid experience. I don’t think they’re at the point of loving each other yet, and that’s okay; they’re building the basis for a loving/caring relationship with positive experiences–and even not-so-positive experiences. Even biological parents don’t always automatically bond with their kids–honestly, kids go through phases where they’re difficult to like in general–but knowing them over time and seeing them grow and nurturing the relationship builds it. There’s such a stigma around talking about that, though, and the light can be shone so brightly on stepparents; there’s a lot of pressure there, and they generally come in many years behind on the bonding game.

        Re: the letter itself

        That said, I make sure I take as much of the pressure off as possible. I let Partner direct the amount they engage with the relationship, and don’t expect them to show up for every little thing (though they usually do). I would also advise this search-termer to talk with their partner, but to do it delicately. NOTHING is as much of a pain point for parents as, “Your kid sucks and these are the reasons and that’s why I can’t do this”. We know our kids aren’t perfect–but no kids are–and we can’t promise to instantly turn them into perfect angels who never set a toe out of line. Talk about what you would like to see happen in concrete terms. Use a lot of ‘I’ statements. Being a single parent dating is *hard*; especially for single moms, there’s a heavy dose of: you’re used up goods, what person would want to take on all that baggage, die alone.

        I think it comes down to: you have to want it. You have to want a life with your partner badly enough to grit your teeth and get through the bad stuff. You have to want a life with your partner badly enough to actively curate a relationship with their kids (unless they’re older/adults).

        If you don’t, then no judgment! If your expectations of the relationship can’t be realistically met with the constraints you’re working with, then it’s totally fair (better, even) to end it now. But, if you searched this when the kids were in the midst of a wild rumpus or melting down on the floor or GOD I JUST CAN’T CLEAN UP PUKE ONE MORE TIME TODAY, then maybe it’s worth talking it through versus cutting the cord.

  2. mrs whosit said:

    #10 – When I had my own annoying nice guy, I also stopped answering phone calls from numbers I didn’t know (including two calls from a hotel that was suspiciously close to his house, I discovered when I looked up the number).

    #15 – So, one of my best friends dated her sister’s now-husband for a while. Guy dated the sister, then dated my friend, and then dated and married the sister. It’s been almost a decade! But it was surely awkward at first. (A different friend’s mother, I learned as we were celebrating her retirement recently, also dated one of her sister’s husbands very briefly before she met her own husband. And they’ve all been married to respective spouses ~35 years now.)

    But still, yeah — dating sisters is a strange choice. (It was one of my primary thoughts after first hearing the Hamilton soundtrack, that I was glad my sisters and I never fell for the same person…)

    • Raptor said:

      My sister dated her now-husband’s brother first. It was a very short relationship, without a whole lot of feeling behind it. While she was dating now-BIL, now-husband was dating my sister’s then-bestie. Small towns? (Then-bestie is also the sister of my then-BF.)

      I married someone from another state, whose family I did not know at the time, and it’s worked out well.

      • Nanani said:

        My extended family includes a pair of sisters that married a pair of brothers, both from families with additional siblings.
        These would be my grandmother’s generation in tiny rural villages, fwiw.

        • Rhoda said:

          I grew up in a relatively large city and two of the sisters living next door married two brothers. I think one of them is divorced now.
          Their kids look eerily similar, not surprisingly.

        • In my family it was a sister and brother who married a brother and sister. Their kids called themselves “double cousins”!

          Rural, small-town life is almost certainly a factor.

    • Clorinda said:

      The wife of one of my husband’s brothers previously dated another brother. Everyone is fine. It can work out fine as long as all the people can be reasonable.

  3. WhoRunBusytown said:

    Re: 8, I think I’d say ‘I’m assumed to be a straight person’ or ‘I’m mistaken for a straight person’ or some variant thereof, but if they’re going to the trouble of coming out as bisexual to their parents, I wouldn’t use ‘I present as straight,’ because whoa I don’t have to be complicit in my own bi erasure, do I?

    • JenniferP said:

      Great point. I edited it, thank you.

      • Socchan said:

        Another quick thing on #8; would you be so kind to change “men and women” to “more than one gender”? The bi community defines bisexuality as “attraction to two or more genders/more than one gender”, and not all bi people are attracted to both men and women. (A lot of people were using “same and different genders” for a while, but that’s not true for all of us either, and not just because some of us don’t have a same gender to be attracted to.)

        Thanks in advance!

    • Agreed! I’m aroace and I don’t present as straight, I’m assumed to be straight, lol.

  4. #9 is possibly coming from a place of “if I’m bisexual does that mean I have to explore same-sex attractions or else I’m missing out?” The answer is still: you can if you want to/if you feel like you’re missing out, but you don’t have to. (I used to get really hung up on “but I’ve never actually had a relationship with a woman so how do I KNOW I’m bi?” but really experiencing attraction is enough to claim the identity, you don’t have to like consummate it or whatever.)

    • bats are cute said:

      I read it more as bi-erasure/fear of people questioning the “legitimacy” of their orientation. I’ve had similar issues as an asexual person; bi and ace people seem to experience very similar types of erasure within both non-queer and LGBTQ+ communities, with both telling them they aren’t queer enough to count. And it gets worse if you are in a heterosexual relationship, because then some folks act like you’ve forfeited your right to identity as queer.

      I have a weird relationship with Pride Month because of this, actually. It is the only time of year I feel defensive and uneasy about my identity.

      • bats are cute said:

        D’oh, apologies: I thought you were referring to question #8.

      • wordsintheinterim said:

        Just want to support your weird feels about Pride Month – I never really feel comfortable participating at LGBTQ+ spaces and events. It feels like there’s a kind of “you must have gone through this much trauma to ride” bar on that stuff sometimes, and being able to pass for hetero or allosexual makes me feel like I gotta trot out my whole relationship history to verify my right to be there. Pride Month always sends me into these anxious spirals of, “Oh, I should wear this to celebrate – but do I really have a right to wear rainbow stuff, I mean I never had to come out or anything, my relationships with men have been longer than those with women but that shouldn’t matter but I don’t want to make anybody feel like I’m appropriating their thing when I’m walking with my husband lookin’ all straight and shit oh god nevermind I’ll just stay home.”

    • This times 100. I’m in a very happy monogamous relationship with a man and then figured out I was bi 3 years in. I won’t lie, ALL the time I wish I could have explored dating and sleeping with women before I met Mr Moss, especially as every single relationship I had with a man before him was pretty bad, in the sense of ‘i don’t really have any romantic feelings here but am convinced I do due to internalised homophobia, compulsory heterosexuality and feeling I don’t have a good enough reason to break up, plus not knowing any different’. It hurts, and is hard. I often feel like I want that time back. What really helps is that I can talk to Mr Moss about it. He knows that my wistfulness around women has no bearing on how much I love him.

      • Just to add to my comment for number 9- if this is a situation where people are telling you that daring to call yourself bisexual while already in a relationship with any gender is wrong, because ‘why come out if you’re not thinking of cheating?’ (me: >:| ) then they are biphobic and misinformed.

    • Convallaria majalis said:

      Very good comments! I have also encountered this phenomenon, I mean, erasure of me being mostly asexual. I have met very few people to whom I have been attracted but for some weird reason my husband just checked all the boxes I did not even know I had. Nowadays I am percieved as heterosexual even though I still daily encounter emotions caused by asexuality (for example, I have a hard time understanding why my friend consider some actor sexy).

      I find it very sad that people deem it necessary to judge others from outside, based on how their situation looks from outside. It happens all the time: I have seen a trans woman being told off from a place for women because she did not look “femme enough”; I have been told I am not queer (or queer enough). It does hurt.

      • Drew said:

        Sounds like you’re a classic demisexual – but you don’t have to adopt that label, or any other, if you don’t feel like it fits! You do you (and apparently your husband) and the rest of the world can go hang if they don’t agree with how you identify.

        • Mimi said:

          Out of nesting for Drew:
          I identify strongly as Demi and part of the reason I didn’t come out locally is when I went on AVEN the only discussion in the forum at the time about my preferred designation was some allosexual “allies” arguing that Demi’s weren’t really ace. There was also some infighting at that time between “full” asexuals and “grey” asexuals. Shortly after that I found my orientation on a listicle of “Made-up Tumblr Labels” (alongside things like elfkin). Since I’m already married (and my spouse was pretty nonplussed about my exciting new discovery) it seemed like adopting the label that represented me best was going to be the most contentious part of identifying as Ace.

      • Mimi said:

        This is also my experience.

  5. Miscreant said:

    #17. You could be in a soap opera.

  6. Skeetpea said:

    #9 – Monogamous straight people are attracted to more than one person, and choose a partner based on more than just attraction. Why would it be any different for monogamous bi people?

    • Sapphire Jade said:

      ^THIS

    • Me said:

      However, if the underlying question is “I want to have sex with the other gender without breaking up with my partner”, and they’re in a monogamous relationship, they’re probably going to have to choose.

      • Sorry, do you mean other binary gender/other genders? There’s more than two.

  7. #16: Like, what kind of gross are we talking about? Is he not showering/brushing his teeth, that kind of gross. Even if it’s due to a mental health issue, it’s a kindness to say, “I love you, but it’s hard to be close to you right this minute. I will feel more cuddly if you go tidy up. I know it’s hard, but you will probably feel better too.” I say this as a person who has this issue.

    If it’s gross actions, say, he’s in trouble at work for sexually harassing his coworkers, or making racist jokes, that’s different. You can be supportive by calling him on his crap, not buying his excuses, and demanding better from him. “Hey, what you did was messed up. Maybe you can repair it and maybe you can’t, but there’s some consequences. Do better.”

    • Crane89 said:

      Maybe the man has a medical condition that causes gross stuff going on. If that’s the case, then talking to his doctor about treatment options + reaching out to support groups is somewhere to start?

      • Kelly H said:

        That would make the being supportive bit make much more sense

  8. Morticia said:

    TW for this comment Suicide discussion #5:I did leave, and he did kill himself. But, I had been a hostage long enough, and all the abuse he had heaped on me was not a price anyone should ever have to pay to keep someone else alive, no matter how ill they are. It was not my fault. And the Captain is right about the dangers. If I’d stayed, I probably wouldn’t be typing this. Please, take care of yourself first. It’s like being on a plane. You put your own oxygen mask on first, then see if you can help others.

    • Anonyish said:

      I’m sorry you went through that, and admire your courage in both doing what was necessary, and in talking about it to help others.

    • I’m glad you got out.

    • Traffic_Spiral said:

      You can’t set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm.

    • I’m glad you got out.

    • Thanksforallthefish said:

      I’m glad you made it out!

  9. KayEss said:

    #8 – My mother-in-law actually came out as bi to my husband and me using a script very similar to the captain’s suggestion, but from the angle of “given the current cultural and political climate, I am likely to become more vocal and active in LGBT+ spaces and activism, and I want you to know that it’s because I’m a part of that group and the issues they are confronting are personal to me.” If you expect your family to be supportive, that can be a good place to start.

    (Coming out is obviously significantly more dangerous and anxiety-provoking in a conservative, hostile environment, but it can feel scary in liberal/left families as well! I have never come out to my own loving, liberal, vocally and actively LGBT-supportive parents, and I probably never will.)

    • Convallaria majalis said:

      KayEss: I find it great that your mother-in-law decided to come out though just like you said it is a very personal choise. Best of luck to both you and your mother-in-law!

  10. Dana Lynne said:

    These are great, as usual.

    For No. 15 — But it worked so well in “Little Women”!

    • Laurie only *tried* to date Jo before moving on to Amy, so he kind of gets a pass. Almost. Except for the part where, before he proposed to Amy, he writes a letter to Jo asking if she’s SURE she doesn’t want to be with him.

  11. storyranger said:

    #3: I spent years, YEARS, punishing myself for having feelings about being treated poorly because I’m the type of person to assume everyone has awesome intentions all the time and they couldn’t really have meant to hurt me, could they?! And it gets even more complex when they’re someone you’ve been taught your whole life has perfect intentions by way of being related to you. And then when I decided I needed to take care of myself, part of self-care became ignoring intentions, just like the Captain said. The action is all that matters. The action, and it’s effect on me, and no, I’m not “choosing to let it offend/have power over me/whatever twaddle the mean people are saying these days to try and force people to think they’re complicit in their own abuse”, I’m not ignoring the consequences the action had on me. There’s a reason “actions speak louder then words” has become an annoying cliche.

    • Jadelyn said:

      I wish I’d learned all this earlier. I was the same – for so many years I hesitated to call my father’s behavior abusive, because surely he didn’t *mean* to be hurtful – and he does love my brother and I as much as he’s capable of loving anyone, but his behavior is so so so toxic that all the love in the world couldn’t mitigate the harm done. It changed everything and allowed me to lay so much guilt and self-blame to rest once I decided to stop basing my responses to my father on his presumed intentions, and instead keep going back to “yes, but what you *actually did* was Bad, so you can have all the best intentions in the world and still have left me with psychic scars that are going to haunt me the rest of my life.”

      Also, it’s an amazing tool for cutting short a lecture. Dad would start with the lecture and scolding me about how I had taken things wrong, he hadn’t meant for [whatever] to happen and blah blah blah, and I could just jump in with “let me stop you there, I believe you didn’t intend it that way but that’s what actually happened, so either we need to talk about that or we can just go ahead and end this conversation here.” It’s so satisfying to take the wind out of someone’s self-defensive sails like that.

  12. Sina Spacetoaster said:

    17. My mother likes to start a conversation by commenting on something, walking away to do something in her kitchen or bedroom while I reply, then shouting her response over whatever it is that she’s decided needed doing mid-conversation. Usually, her response is something along the lines of “What? I didn’t hear you!” She does this with anyone she invites into her home. Some people have odd conversational habits.

    Alternatively, the women you’re speaking with doesn’t want to chat with you.

    • Yavieriel said:

      I’m ADD and while not autistic, definitely don’t make eye contact as much as is common among more neurotypical society. I’ve definitely turned around to do something while in the middle of a conversation. It doesn’t mean anything except that I have ADD and am not in a formal context (i.e. I wouldn’t do this with a boss or in a meeting, and I’d apologize to a coworker or at a formal social gathering). I’d say if – and only if – the conversation otherwise seems to be going very well and the woman in question is responding positively, it’s a personal quirk.

    • thebhgg said:

      I definitely read this question as why the *woman* keeps talking. My wife does that to me and my hearing/natural language processing skills are not good enough to understand what she’s saying when she does.

      Reading it the other way requires accepting that the question has a dangling participle, and internet search queries are known to be grammar perfect written. 😉

  13. jude314159 said:

    I might be projecting, but 8 could be a “ugh! I came out as bi 10 years ago, but my parents have ‘forgotten’ now that I’ve settled down. what’s the script for hacking my way back out this fucking closet?” situation. I’m not sure of an effective script for this (not married, but related trial and error approach to finding scripts isn’t getting far)

    they could also be assumed gay. I mean, the balance of probability suggests a mixed gender marriage but we don’t know.

    • cleo said:

      I wrote a long reply that was apparently eaten by my phone so here’s my 2nd attempt.

      I was in this position. I’m a bi woman and I’ve been with my husband for 17 years and a few years ago i realized that almost everyone in my life assumed I was straight and that I’d accidentally had my bi identity erased.

      I don’t have any scripts to suggest because, at least in my experience, part of being bi is coming out over and over again, often to the same people. It doesn’t seem to matter what I say or how I say it.

      What worked for me was to find and become involved in bi and queer community, first online and then in person. And that’s what I lead with – I talk about my life, which happens to include doing cool queer things. It’s worked remarkably well with my mom, much better than I expected it to. When I came out when I was 21, my mom and I had exactly one uncomfortable conversation and then we didn’t talk about it for like 20 years. (My mom’s WASP, so that’s culturally appropriate behavior, but still annoying.) So I didn’t have high hopes when I started experimenting with being more openly bi in my 40s. But when we talked, I’d tell her about the book I was reading for my queer book group or the interesting event at the lgbtq+ Center I volunteer at. And she’d listen and eventually she asked me to tell her more about my identity. And I was able to tell her about my experience and how being bi is part of who I am and not just something I do behind closed doors. And now she’s one of my biggest supporters.

    • PintsizeBro said:

      I’m not in the situation with my parents specifically, but I do feel the need to “come out” on the regular – especially in the workplace. A new coworker is gay and me being out at work made him more comfortable being out. It also comes in handy when straight friends and coworkers say casually homophobic things without malice, but out of thoughtlessness. It reminds them to think about what they’re saying instead of speaking without thinking first.

  14. Kitty said:

    #3: in my experience with narcissists, they will never ever ever actually acknowledge the effect that their actions had, they will keep harping on about how they “didn’t mean it that way” and how you’re “too over-sensitive” ad nauseaum. The only way to deal with them in my experience is to give up discussion altogether and accept that they will never understand. Then when they do the unwanted behaviour, remove yourself from the situation.

  15. G Lefoux said:

    Just here to point out that nothing in #8 says they’re married to a person of a different gender; they could be married to someone of the same gender and have people assuming they’re gay. Erasure continues to not feel great from that direction as well.

  16. zaracat said:

    #15 I’d be giving it the side eye and wondering if it was genuine attraction or something else like actually liking sister A but it didn’t work out so sister B is second best choice and maybe it’s a way of keeping close to sister A so you can Firth her. Hopefully you’re at least talking about dating them sequentially and not simultaneously.

    Of course, things can always be creepier or just plain weirder than you ever thought possible, like my soap-opera-worthy experience of a very enmeshed volunteer group where one guy was not so much “dating” as having an affair with sister A – who was engaged but did finally break it off when she got married – so the guy moved on to sister B who was not only married but also had two small children. And then when the guy found out many years later that sister B’s husband had sexually assaulted his flatmate of the time (that’d be me), whom the guy had semi-secretly lusted after since high school (completely unrequited), the first thing that sprang into his head was that maybe it was a revenge thing against him. A side story which has nothing to do with sisters is that the same guy got another girlfriend pregnant and then dumped her, and this woman *did* take revenge, by making a hoax call to the fire brigade. We had a very long hallway and by the time I answered the door to the loud banging, I nearly got a fire axe in the face.

    Even in perfectly innocent circumstances, unless your dating pool is exceptionally small it’s probably not a great idea.

    • Just_Liz said:

      Holy crap, that sounds like quite the situation!

      I occasionally shock people when I mention that my brother-in-law is also my ex, and they seem even more shocked when I don’t seem bothered by it. The thing is, it has taken me years to get over the hurt and betrayal that they both caused me. He was the first person I seriously dated and the first person I had sex with (that part wasn’t a huge deal to me, but I think it still affected me to a certain extent), and because of my family circumstances, we kept it a secret so no one but my sister knew I was dating him.
      We ultimately broke up because he was spending more time with my sister than me on the precious times we got to see each other (it was long distance which sucked for many reasons) and also because he was dismissive of my anxiety and wasn’t terribly supportive. The breakup was emotionally grueling and horrible for many reasons, and to top it off, very shortly after I broke it off I found out my sister was seeing him and not long after that they got engaged. There were so many things that made the situation absolutely horrible and it made me decide to cut off contact with my sister for a long time.
      This happened 6 years ago and we’re now on friendly terms and I’ve even lived with them for a year. Largely I just think of it as being in the past but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten about it. I consider it forgiven in a way that a debt that cannot and will not be repayed is forgiven. It happened, the consequences were very real, and it was incredibly hurtful, but I am not going to spend my energy fretting about it or waiting for an apology.

      Suffice to say, I get that you can’t control who you love, but, for the love of all that’s good in the world…. just don’t do this if you can avoid it.

  17. cathy said:

    “How to question a narcissist’s intentions.”

    I could write a book on this one. However, for the sake of brevity, the simple answer is; don’t; or at least, don’t ask the narcissist; you are unlikely to learn anything meaningful. They are probably incapable of introspection because there are too many internal barriers to self awareness.

    Rule 1; recognise them for what and who they are, but NEVER let them know that you know. You can recognise them in two ways; firstly by how they behave towards those who they see as subservient or lower status; homeless people, shop assistants, random strangers, any minority at all. And secondly, wait until you have done something they don’t like, and appeal to their better nature; ‘Yes, I came home late without letting you know, but I saw an injured kitten and took it to the vet.’ Normal human beings will understand, even if the dinner was ruined. Narcissists will see your admission as weakness and double down on the condemnation; ‘I can’t believe you think a kitten is more important than me; that is so hurtful!’ Works every time.

    With most people the sharing of information is part of life; with narcissists it becomes something else. Knowledge is power and they will use any bit of knowledge they have against anyone they can find, so don’t ever give information away. If you have to interact with them then talk about the weather, or the football, or last night’s telly. Never tell them about your hopes, dreams, wishes or fears; they will store them carefully away and use them as weapons against you at a future point, usually to bring you down.

    The N’s intention is always to remain the subject of the discussion, the star of the drama and the person in the centre of the stage at any given point. It doesn’t much matter to them whether the play is a tragedy, a comedy or a five act opera; it is always about them. On balance they prefer tragedy, with them as Joan of Arc, eternally martyred to their family or friends, but any drama will do. At any funeral they are the chief mourner, at every wedding they are the tragic witness. If they don’t start the day as the centre of attention they will end it that way, somehow, and coincidentally spoil it for everyone else.

    Other people are not stars but bit players; the kind who don’t get a credit at the end. Meanwhile the N is Executive Producer, Producer, Consulting Producer and another ten roles added to that lot. The credits are their name over and over again.

    If you suspect you have a narcissist in your life then find out as much as you can about what narcissism is, tick off the checklist and then choose a strategy. In my case with non-family I walk away and block on every possible social media site. With close family I go for minimal contact, minimal information and zero emotional engagement.

    Whatever their intentions, your emotional, spiritual or physical wellbeing is not on the list; if their list were as long as the Encyclopedia Britannica it would still be all about them.

  18. Rhoda said:

    How sad is #7, that the poor kid even has to ask if it’s abuse. Poor kid.

  19. Re bff monogamy, I definitely feel like young people (I’m thinking girls especially, but I dunno, maybe young people in general) need more resources on how to deal with feeling jealous or how to come to terms with the fact that while friends fulfill a very real need, it’s important to see people as, you know, whole people, rather than as tools to fill the need with.

    It’s at least somewhat talked about with romantic relationships, but it is rarely talked about with friends. Loneliness can be so painful it gets hard to think straight. If anyone knows of a resource aimed at teens or kids ages 9-12 that both validates feeling lonely (or “disliked”) as a genuine wound while also emphasizes ways of thinking about people and relationships in a way that focuses on the whole person rather than “how do I get what I want / need out of this person?” I’d be interested.

      • Thank you. Are there any books or something, or does this necessarily involve an entire class?

        • cleo said:

          I saw an IFS trained therapist for several years and it was a great experience (and I didn’t have to take a class)

        • AllanV said:

          There are definitely books you can read and potentially work through exercises on your own or with a friend’s help. I’ve done it with a couple of friends and had it work well.

      • Britpoptart said:

        Is this similar to Transactional Analysis (Child/Parent/Adult = Id/Ego/rego, IIRC)?

    • Cassandra said:

      Very, very, very good point

    • Yes. I wish I had had something like this as a kid. I was VERY lonely and once my mum got me a book called ‘friend of the lonely heart’ she had found somewhere…this is not a recommendation because while the title had me expecting practical day to day help with coping with the painful feelings of loneliness it turned out to be a book about how you should make a friend in Jesus. I had already been trying that to help with my loneliness for years with no success, maybe Christian faith works that way for some people but not for me.

      To questioner 1, if your friend is making you feel like you are ‘cheating’ on them by making other friends, that is not normal or right. Friends can be controlling, like romantic partners.

  20. glomarization said:

    12 “Is it reasonable to break up because you don’t like his kids?”

    It’s more than reasonable. It’s … probably a very good idea. Extreme example: a kid in my extended family found their dad’s second marriage actually traumatizing because the new wife didn’t like them at all. Wife mis-treated the kid, and Dad let it go on for the sake of his marriage and to keep himself from losing adult companionship. The situation was very, very damaging to the kid, who was no longer #1 in Dad’s eyes, and was actively despised by Wife. It was kind of astonishing and very sad to see how much Wife threw herself into the Evil Step-Mother role.

    I mean, it’s OK to not like kids in general, or your significant other’s kid(s) in particular. But the kids aren’t going away (until they do, and even then they don’t magically disappear from the family forever). It was just terrible to see how this kid was hurt so badly because their dad decided to prioritize his romantic relationships over childraising. So much better to split up and move on.

    • n.b. said:

      I’ve seen the same, but the stepmother wasn’t even trying to be evil and child was already in college when Dad and Wife got together. Still, 4 decades and counting of harm because of those same dynamics. I think it’s a really great idea to break up if you don’t like his kids.

    • I’ve come to realize that my stepmom never really liked me. She wasn’t egregiously abusive, but it was not a great situation and it’s taken me a long time to recover. She and my dad married when I was 13, which only made it worse, given the turmoil already kind of inherent in being that age.

    • arizabif said:

      This is very much the situation with my step-parents. They absolutely disliked me. Having to live with people who dislike you is very hard. Having to live with people who dislike you, do not have your best interest at heart, and you are a child with zero ability to change any part of your situation? It’s soul crushing.

      Both my step-parents counted down the years until I would “go away”. Once I was an adult and more interesting/useful to them, THEN they wanted to be friends. Color them surprised when I wasn’t interested in being chummy with someone who resented my existence for 15+ years.

  21. Is it bad that I’m uncomfortable with the way that psychology today article (and actually, everything I’ve ever read on the topic) talks about narcissism? Like, is narcissism a medical condition that just = evil + abusive? It just feels so much like how the internet was problematically talking about things like “recovering from relationships with people who have XYZ common mental health issues” 5-10 years ago.

    The patterns of behavior often described in conjunction with narcissists are abusive and destructive. But there’s something icky to me about turning those behaviors into an medical label one can possess where those behaviors aren’t clearly the motivator of the label, but described as simply a symptom. For example, can narcissists ethically raise children, or is it taken for granted that those children will experience some form of abuse? Can we talk about narcissism like an illness that, when untreated, can take over people’s lives and relationships, but with treatment can be managed (like hoarding)? Or is narcissism something that means we should just forever lower our expectations? Can narcissism be managed, can it be overcome, can it be recovered from?

    If a disorder is just “set of destructive behaviors: never love someone with this disorder if you can avoid it” why not call them an abuser or a manipulator? Instead give them a label associated with the behavior? Even the name sounds inherently like an insult, or an accusation of moral failing.

    I’m definitely not an expert on the topic, so if I’m way off base feel free to let me know (or delete the comment).

    • The Awe Ritual said:

      I think these are excellent questions.

    • Part of the problem is, I think, there needs to be a way of talking about people who have extremely low empathy for others, across the board, in relationships. Because a person who can’t empathize with you will, in some way, abuse you. And while abuse is abuse regardless of a person’s inherent traits (an abuser who “only” dehumanizes people unlike them, but deeply empathizes with amd cares for people who they relate to, is still an abuser) low capacity for empathy presents different sets of problems. It can make abuse so difficult to recognize; many people who grew up with abusive mothers genuinely believed that *they* were messed up and selfish until they found explanations of narcissistic mothers and the specific kinds of psychological abuse that stem from a lack of empathy and dehumanization, as opposed to the violence or anger / yelling kinds of abuse.

      The extreme, premeditated nature of psychological abuse causes so much internal destabilization in the abused person because the abuser’s actions cannot possibly stem from someone who loves them or even sees them as people. The most physically abusive manifestation of a parent who cannot see their child as a person is Munchausen by proxy. But, non-physical abuse is still awful and bizarre.

      Currently, the only way people recovering from psychological abuse from parents, partners, or caregivers who have low or no empathy for others have been able to find each other, learn that they were, in fact, abused and did nothing wrong, and begin to name the abuse and begin to heal is through forums and support groups dedicated to surviving narcissistic mothers or parents.

      For now, the term, while incomplete and with it’s share of problems, has done a world of good for survivors of this kind of abuse who want to connect. It is a searchable term in a way that related terms aren’t just yet.

      The question of whether some people are truly, inherently (neurologically?) incapable of learning or growing their empathy is a good one. Likewise, if a person, say, wants to treat people better but knows they don’t empathize with others, is it possible to learn anyway? I’m not sure the science is in yet with an answer.

      I’ll end this by saying that many people conflate having a disorder like Borderline with Narcissism or a lack of empathy. Since the invention and cultivation of DBT therapy, it’s been demonstrated that BPD does NOT lead to low / lack of empathy. A person with BPD may be unable to feel for others when they themselves are under duress (similar to like compassion fatigue) and without treatment they may be in extreme emotional pain all the time. But *with* treatment, BPD patients can empathize with and care for people just as much as anyone else, sometimes even moreso. Their own pain is under control, so they can empathize with others again.

      So far, unfortunately, DBT doesn’t seem to evoke or increase empathy in people who are narcissists (for lack of better term).

    • Freya said:

      I will say it’s possible to raise kids well (if you are a person with NPD), but when I have seen it, it’s been in someone who will actively work towards being the best; this means that they’re actively working towards being the best possible parent and spouse, because that’s what is congruent with their self-image. You still can’t challenge it without facing the consequences, but The Best Possible Parent treats kids as people rather than extensions of the self, and so treating the kids like an extension of the self is inconsistent with being The Best Possible Parent. So they don’t do it 😛

    • Thanksforallthefish said:

      I like Igmerriman and Freya’s response and I am no expert either. But speaking as someone who had a 4 year brush with a 100% textbook narcissistic parent (bf’s mother), there was this thing where she fed off energy of others as negative or positive. This manifested in disturbing ways where she would shower her boys (3 sons) with gifts, money, praise, love, and tokens of affection sometimes but then turn on a dime and call them horrible things, and say the worst possible things. The point was for her, she benefited equally from their anger/hurt as she did from their love/adoration. Being raised by someone who holds those as equal benefit is confusing and incredibly traumatic and disorienting.

      I imagine if she had taken on the task of “being the best mother” as Freya mentioned, she could’ve excelled there. IDK what my point is. Just that…I agree with Igmerriman.

      • Thanksforallthefish said:

        Adding note: I meant textbook NPD which is slightly different.

        • Britpoptart said:

          NPD is often described as coming in two ‘flavors’ (when not also mixed with another or several other issues), one being your garden variety narcissist and one being the malignant narcissist (and there are shades of behavior in each category). My personal definition, having grown up with the former, is that there’s no animus behind the narcissism and it isn’t done to abuse ON PURPOSE. They are still unlikely to accept they have NPD or change, and prolonged contact is not great for your mental health or well-being, but they aren’t being narcissistic AT you, per se. It’s like an aggressive selfishness, or the stereotypical spoilt and doted-upon only child who gets used to thinking the world exists to serve his or her needs, if you know what I’m saying (obviously #NotAllOnlyChildren act like this). A malignant narcissist is easily confused with and, for all intents and purposes, functionally similar to a psychopath, and s/he may or may not be actively trying to hurt people around himself or herself.

          Caveats: Despite being raised by someone with NPD, and working for therapists with NPD clients, I do not claim to be an expert and caution against diagnosing anyone if you’re not trained to do so. Noticing traits someone exhibits that seem to be traits in common with a particular diagnosis/label is one thing, but deciding independently and without any clinical training in mental health fields of study that so-and-so is DEFINITELY someone with [diagnosis here] is at the very least a slippery slope.

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      There are narcissists and then there are Narcissists.
      We all have have some level of narcissism. It’s one of the many facets of being human.
      Someone who has more than a healthy set of narcissistic traits and whose behavior is narcissistic can learn and remodel their behavior if they, but someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder the only way to get them to behave better is to convince them its in their own best interest.

      A disorder is not just a set of behaviors, nor is it really an “illness.” I think of them as akin to computer problems. Bad behaviors which are learned can be re-written by learning new behaviors. Mental illness is malware or corrupted programming. You can (in theory) get rid of the bug or fix the programming. But a disorder, the problem is in the original operating system which is missing a critical component(s). You can’t fix it without replacing the OS.

      I have a family member with Histrionic Personality Disorder. (HPD is often mistaken for NPD because they are just as self-centered and manipulative, but while NPD can be aggressive and mean, HPD is more the perpetually needy person who relies on the sympathies of others. Think Blanche Dubois.) They don’t mean to be hurtful, or boundary trampling, or an emotional black hole, but my relative can no more see their impact on others than my colorblind uncle could tell the difference between green and red. I don’t blame my relative, but I sure as hell maintain no contact.

    • Hi nocuzzlikeyea, I’m not an expert, just someone who has been reading about NPD for a while because it interests me. So, one reason that writing about narcissism is so different from writing about any other mental illness, disorder, or neuroatypical condition is that no one, or nearly no one, with the condition is participating in the construction of the narrative, at least not knowingly, not even at a grassroots level. People with NPD are extremely unlikely to have the self-awareness to identify as narcissists, even when diagnosed. Combine that with the common understanding among psychologists that (so far anyway) NPD is untreatable (NPD exists on a continuum, with milder cases responding to treatment but not more extreme ones, afaik).

      So, the experts around narcissism are not those experiencing it, but rather 1) people in the psychology industry who are pessimistic and often disinterested because they know they can’t treat it and 2) ordinary people who have been so deeply hurt by narcissists that they have been forced to become experts to survive and heal (and of course, psychologists who are also victims of narcissists). The people seeking out the knowledge of the experts are not narcissists themselves (not knowingly, anyway) but people who have been hurt by them. What is written about narcissism is mostly by and for the victims of narcissists. And I think that certainly comes across. The narcissists simply aren’t listening, don’t want advice, and don’t think there is any problem, so “living with/managing your narcissism from an empathetic POV” is understood to be shouting into a void. I don’t know much about how people with milder NPD (or narcissistic tendencies) react to those narratives and why and how they go into treatment.

      I recall also that the diagnostic criteria for NPD were changed a bit between the DSM-IV and V in 2013. The idea was that NPD diagnosis was based too much on its symptoms and not enough on its cause (understood to be early childhood emotional abuse or trauma). And that more emphasis needed to be placed on the different types of NPD (more like “flavors” of how the NPD is expressed), and that it does exist on a spectrum. There was some controversy, and I wish I understood more about it. So, it’s interesting that you brought these issues up, too. Also, I think it would be fair to call narcissists abusers when they abuse, but they are narcissists all the time, no matter what they’re doing; it always flavors their behavior. So I think in that sense the label is useful for normal folks, not just in the DSM. After a job interview, for example, you might be uncomfortable working for a narcissist, but have no grounds to say, “I don’t want to work for this abuser.” For the simple reason that you don’t want to deal with that style of personality even when they’re at their non-abusive best.

      It seems that many people who have been hurt by narcissists are interested in learning about narcissism in a way that is centered around the experience of the narcissist– simply wanting to understand them out of curiosity, and often as a way to grapple with loving someone (family, etc) after coming to terms with the fact that that person does not and never did have empathy for them. Many people, especially after removing themselves from the narcissist’s orbit and taking time to heal, feel sympathy for the narcissists in their lives at the same time that they feel anger for the hurt. So I think there’s certainly room for talking about narcissism this way. On the other hand, though, people who feel empathy for narcissists and are being hurt by them are usually bending over backward already to look for a way narcissists can get treatment, manage their disorder, live better, and raise children ethically; whereas their healing seems to depend on abandoning those efforts. I think discussing narcissism as a treatable, manageable condition when there isn’t solid evidence seems dangerous to these empathetic people because they’re so ready to grasp onto anything.

      • BigDogLittleCat said:

        The difficulty with treating NPD and HPD is that the N or H is happy with their the foundation of their worldview: that they are the center of the universe and everything should be run according to their taste, which can change whenever they want. Why on earth would they want to change that? All their problems are the result of other people’s not doing what they should. If the universe would get with the program, everything would be awesome.

        On the other hand, the foundation of the worldview of Depressive, Paranoid, Borderline, etc causes them pain. If the Depressed or Paranoid view is reality, they will suffer their entire lives. So when they learn the depression/paranoia is a lie, that they can learn to manage it, so lessen its grip on their life, yeah, they WANT that. They *want* to be wrong.
        Narcissists and Histrionics, they want to be right.

        • Yeah, I certainly don’t envy either the person with NPD in treatment, or their therapist. My understanding is that some people with only narcissistic traits or mild NPD seek treatment because of the loneliness (family and friends frequently leaving them). And treatment revolves around methods of being kinder to other people. They’re also able to treat co-occurring issues (anxiety, etc) when NPD is mild enough that the person is willing to enter treatment. And the milder and earlier it is, the more treatable. I have never seen any statistics on this.

  22. Working Hypothesis said:

    In theory, there’s nothing inherently wrong with dating sisters… provided it’s within the context of a legitimate polyamorous relationship and all parties know what they’re getting into and are pleased with the arrangement. I’ve seen it work better than many trios, because there’s already a close bond between the metamours. (I’ve also seen it go horrifically badly far more often than I’ve seen it work, of course; but honestly, that is true about any given relationship form I could name, including conventional dating leading to monogamous marriage.)

    The real problem with this is that very, very few of the sort of people who ask strangers on the internet questions about dating sisters mean to do so by having an open, unpressured conversation in which all three-or-more parties decide they’re enthusiastic about this idea and willing to put in the work to make it succeed. The people who intend to do that have usually got it figured out already, and don’t need to go typing in keywords in the hope that something available will tell them how to do it.

    • It’s a bit like the people who google “is ______ cheating?”, where I’m like, romantic relationships aren’t FIFA, you can’t find the official rules in a handbook somewhere.

    • Thanksforallthefish said:

      I posted below without seeing this. This is also a great point. However…I am very secure in the self-knowledge that should anyone date my sister and myself simultaneously it would go horrifically badly.

  23. Anon for this said:

    My first thought on reading the person searching for “Dating Sisters” is that they are clearly looking to star in a modern day version of The Bonny Swans.

  24. Thanksforallthefish said:

    #15 My sister and I have some sort of magic attracto-charm in which many creepers are attracted to us both (4 year age gap). Usually older cis-dudes. In fact my first serious boyfriend was my sister’s friend first and they quasi hooked up once or twice. Then I dated him for 4 years. He turned out to be a manipulative abusive person and I think he went for me because age…like…he asked me out 2 weeks after my 18th bday….soooo the drama was never between my sister and me.

    Mostly we just roll our eyes when some dude that previously hit on one of us hits on the other…and now it’s actually more of a red flag for us….you hit on us both you’re not worth our time.

    So my advice to random internet searcher #15: consider why you want to date this sister vs the other. Do you find the new sister unique and awesome in her own right? Or do you just have some weird fantasy in your head about keeping it in the family/keeping close to the other sister/you saw a porno once about it? Don’t fetishize sisters unless all you want is one and done fun-time and all parties involved know what’s up.

    • AnonBee said:

      A former Dude friend was crushing hard on a mutual college friend our age (Ann). After Ann showed she was not interested (by marrying someone else) he ended up dating her older sister. Older sister actually married him.

      Everyone in our friend group gossiped about “he’s had a major crush on Ann for about 8 years now and probably still does, wtf?”. Ann confided in me how icky she feels that this guy is now her brother in law. (Not icky in that he would do something inappropriate, but icky that she had higher standards for her sister since Dude is the typical drunk fratty type and is part of her family now.) I still see Dude at gatherings that Ann hosts and it’s so slimy to me how he still subtly ignores his wife for Ann when they’re all together.

      • Thanksforallthefish said:

        Ugh to that dude! So creepy! That really sucks that she’s kinda now forced to hang out with him now.

  25. PintsizeBro said:

    Oh hey 13a could be about me.

    I didn’t get a friend a birthday card recently because… I hadn’t known him that long yet and I didn’t know cards were important to him (I did acknowledge his birthday in other ways, but cards are A Thing for him). At first he was upset, but then he realized that he couldn’t assume I would know what he wanted me to do. So he used words, and now I know and next year I will remember to get him a card.

  26. Bearpelt said:

    I just want to say that, as the person who has actually threatened to kill myself if my partner left me, you (as in, the partner being pleaded with) do not have to stay and have no obligation to stay.

    In fact, as someone who has been that partner, I implore you to leave if that’s what you want.
    That was, obviously, not a time in my life I’m proud of. Maladaptive coping techniques and severe depression led me to becoming an abusive partner. I didn’t fully understand what was happening, but when I did, I took steps to get out of that behavior and am confident I will never slip into it again because I now have the tools, resources, and education to avoid it again.

    But at that time, all I knew was that I thought I would die without them. I didn’t make an attempt when we did break up, thankfully, but here’s the thing: even if I had, it would not have been my partner’s fault. Staying would not have prevented me from trying.

    A partner who threatens suicide, whether they realize it or not, is being abusive towards you. And you cannot be the person who fixes that. Maybe someone else could help them, but you are the target of that unequal, abusive behavior and that context doesn’t give you the foothold to “fix” them. You are not obligated to stay. Leaving doesn’t mean any self-harm they attempt is your fault.

    It’s a part of my life that I still find hard to talk about because I will never fully forgive myself for what I did, but I think it’s important to hear someone who HAS threatened suicide like that to tell people who might be on the receiving end of such a threat that they don’t have to stay.

    I don’t blame anyone who chooses to stay for whatever reason. Sometimes things are complicated. Sometimes they’re not. But I also want to emphasize that I don’t blame anyone who does leave, either, and that you shouldn’t blame yourself.

    • JenniferP said:

      Hi Bearpelt, thanks so much for this, and I’m really glad you’re still in the world. ❤

      • Bearpelt said:

        Oh gosh, thank you. It’s a part of my life I don’t try to absolve or ignore, but hope to educate others with.

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      You sound awesome- you’ve learned so much and have such compassion and generosity to share this. You help make the world a better place.

      • Bearpelt said:

        Thank you so much!

        I do think that, to massively oversimplify, there are two types of abusers. There are ones like me, who didn’t have the knowledge and resources or knew how to have a healthy relationship and then there are abusers who abuse because they like the “advantages” it gives them.

        The former can be helped in a lot of preventative ways, I think. Had I known how to model healthy relationships, had the support I needed at my first college, known how to recognize my own depression, things would have been very different.

        The latter… that’s a much bigger discussion, I think.

        (For the record, it is also not the victim/survivor’s job to figure out which type of abuser theirs is from the two examples above. It can be helpful for an individual to understand what’s happening, maybe, but they’re not responsible for knowing which one their abuser is. Ever.)

        I think this type of thing is important for people to hear. I’ve actually told each of my partners I’ve had since that relationship about what I did and emphasized to them what my plans were for preventing it again. I also emphasized to each partner that if I ever behaved like that with them, they should leave me and not look back, no matter what.

        Someone with thoughts of self harm and suicide… a victim staying or leaving isn’t going to be what causes an attempt. Because a person with suicidal thoughts isn’t suicidal because they’re with their victim. That’s not how it works. The suicidal leanings come from a myriad of factors. If suicide was so simple as to be prevented by simply having a single Safety Blanket Person never leave them… then the treatment for it would be very different.

        For people who have had this threat directed at them, I really want to emphasize that even if they do make an attempt at suicide after you leave, it isn’t BECAUSE of you. That’s not how it works. It’s not your fault.

        And even if it somehow, somehow WAS your fault… what are you supposed to do? For those of you insisting that it must be your fault anyways, if anyone is thinking that, what were you supposed to do? Stay forever? That isn’t feasible. I don’t have to know the details to know that isn’t feasible. Once you’re in a relationship where a threat like that has been issued, there’s often not a good chance of it being healthy at any point without some sort of overhaul.

        You cannot make yourself miserable trying to help someone who cannot be helped by you. It doesn’t work. Please protect yourself.

  27. Pit bull said:

    I have to say something about “How to question a narcissist’s intentions.”

    Towards the end of my marriage to a narcissist, I started wondering about his intentions. The idea was not that good intentions would make his actions OK, but whether he was able to control his actions. I wonder if the writer is thinking the same way.

    Part of the reason I had not figured out that his behavior was intentional was that his care providers urged me to accept his behavior as something he could not control until his medical conditions were resolved. Eventually I thought about an incident in which he was behaving nastily toward me, then acted nicely to both me and a visitor – THEN returned to being nasty immediately the visitor left. It became clear that his intention was to behave nastily toward me and not let other people know. Finding out that he was able to control his behavior to such a fine extent sent me to looking at what his intentions were in other circumstances. They were to control me. Discovering his intention was key to leaving my marriage.

    All this was internal – questioning his intentions to him was useless.

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