#1124: “My girlfriend wants to move in and I am having major cold feet. How do I tell her?”

Is it me or is this cover of It Ain’t Me, Babe by Kesha the soundtrack for lots of the posts this week?

Now, a letter:

Dear Captain,

A friend that I’ve had for more than a decade recently said she wanted us to start dating. It’s not the first time we’ve done this – we dated at the beginning of knowing each other, and ended up splitting up because I wasn’t quite adventurous enough for her tastes, at the time. I didn’t hold a grudge, and we’ve stayed friends since.

I’ve known this person for a while, and I know that her life is not easy – she suffers from depression, and her life with her family has never been comfortable. She is convinced the family, and the fact that she’s had to move back in with them so often when things go wrong in her life, is the root cause of her depression – that her life would be better if she should just move out and away and stay in a constant environment. I have my doubts about this, but throughout our friendship, I’ve left open the option of her crashing wherever I was staying at the time, if she needed to get away from her family for a little while (because really, they ARE bunch of relentlessly negative humans, and while I don’t believe that they’re the cause of her depression, I definitely don’t think they help it.) She’s taken me up on the option a few times, for a weekend or a few days here or there… never longer than a week.

Since we started dating a few months ago, she’s become more and more strident about wanting to move in together (she’s been stuck living with her family for a year or so, since her last roommate/apartment situation didn’t work out), and start a family. As she puts it, if she doesn’t get out of there and get started on meeting her life goals, she’ll end up hospitalized. I’ve been… non-committal (not the best behavior, I know), saying I wouldn’t want to consider anything for at least a few months. That seems to have been taken as saying we would in a few months, and I now am getting forwarded house and apartment listings every few days.

To make all of this more complex, I have some personal history that makes me worried I’m reading more into the comments than is actually intended. My next relationship, after the first time we dated, was… not a particularly healthy one, and it ended horribly, with the other party in it sabotaging our (multiple) methods of birth control, in an attempt to get deliberately pregnant. Her theory was that when that happened, I would have had to marry her, and she could be assured of having a family at her funeral (she had a terminal illness). When I found out what had been happening and why (by having the first pregnancy test thrown to me with a ‘now you can’t leave me’ speech), that relationship did not end so amicably. It led to me having some huge trust issues around sex and dating – I’ve spent most of the last decade not being able to have romantic relationship with others, because of those issues.

The Once-And-Again Girlfriend doesn’t know about my issues. In the last decade, I’ve told a grand total of four people about what happened. Do I need to say something to her about how the comments are setting off my anxiety? How do I do that when I’ve known for a decade that I don’t want to go into the history of it, and her old opinions on the nightmare GF, and all of that with her?

Signed

-Uncomfortable With All The Buzzing

Dear Uncomfortable,

I think it is time for you to say:

“I need to tell you something and I need you to listen and not interrupt until I’m finished, ok?

When I told you I wasn’t ready to move in together but we could maybe talk about it in a couple months, I didn’t mean ‘we are definitely moving in a couple of months, let’s plan that!’ I am not ready to move in with you, and sending me the apartment listings is really stressing me out. Please stop.

I totally agree that you’ll be happier if you get out of your family’s place ASAP, and I hope you’ll look for a place of your own or a roommate situation that you can afford. But I am in no rush to move in together, and I need you to know that so that you can make the best possible plan for yourself.”

You do not necessarily need to explain your reasons or your anxieties or your fraught dating history to this person. Not because it’s unrelated – I do think your anxieties about what’s happening now are related to the awful way your ex treated you, and it isn’t strange to me at all that it would feel like history is repeating –  but I don’t want you to get sucked into the whole “Wait, you think I’m acting like her? That’s not fair!” argument with her when really, even if you didn’t have that awful ex or that history or these anxieties, you don’t want to move in with this person now.

Also, while I think it’s natural to share stories of how past partners have hurt us or let us down, there’s a very common miscommunication that happens sometimes when we do this. If you tell the story of your past partner’s contraceptive sabotage and other attempts to hold you hostage without making the “and you are unintentionally making me feel the same way she did with your enthusiasm for moving in” part very explicit, your current girlfriend is going to identify with you in the story and not necessarily get the message you want her to get at all. Then you’ll have to explain what you mean, and, ouch.

The most important thing you need to tell her is the information that you’re not ready to move in. It’s not what she wants to hear, and the why won’t soften it as much as you think it will. Whatever you say when you tell her, your girlfriend is probably gonna have a Not Great reaction. And I feel for her – I can totally see why you look like the answer to all her plans and problems right now, and I have a ton of sympathy for how embarrassed and helpless she’s going to feel when that illusion is cracked, even if her actions so far have been based 75% her wishful thinking/25% your passivity and fear of upsetting her. So I want you to know that you might have to do some repeating of “Ok but I’m not ready to move in together” and/or “Ok but I don’t want to move in together” even if she says some very scary and/or terrible and/or sad things that really tempt you to appease her. And like, if she says she might need to be hospitalized if this doesn’t work out, you might need to say “Hey, maybe that’s not a terrible idea, in the hospital they can treat you very aggressively, why not throw everything you can at your illness?” She’s using hospitalization as a dire threat or the worst possible thing, but if she needs it, she needs it, and there’s absolutely no shame in that.

Also, friend, you asked my opinion, so I’m gonna give you some more opinions in the form of questions:

It sounds like dating again was all or mostly her idea. Do you actually want to be dating her or was it just the path of least resistance? Are you being the noncommittal confusing dude in her life right now because you feel bad for her or because you love her and want her and know that this relationship is good for you? Sit with that for a minute, ok?

You’re not ready to move in with her. Do you see yourself ever moving in with her? Not all relationships need to trend toward cohabitation in order to be fulfilling and important, but if she wants that badly and you’re not that guy, is it time to be honest with yourself so you can be honest with her?

The above questions are me asking “Are you sure it isn’t breakup time?” Wanting to help a friend is great. Wanting to date a friend into being not-depressed as a way to help her meet her life goals is maybe not the best.

Also, your safer sex practices are locked the fuck down, right? Like you are at least scrupulously using condoms…that you supply…every single time you have any kind of sex that could result in pregnancy? You’re 100% sure about what contraceptive method she’s using and what its efficacy is and that she’s using it scrupulously? Maybe it’s time to work on some pleasurable-yet-not-procreative activities? She isn’t your abusive ex, but if you know you’re not ready to be a parent, make sure you are taking all the precautions you can take.

Okay, finally, say this is a happy, functional, awesome relationship that is going somewhere, a relationship that you want to be in, and you get through the “let’s not live together right now” conversation without breaking up. If I’m your partner, and I decide to keep dating you after something like that, I am probably never, ever, ever bringing up moving in with you ever again. So if you ever want to move the relationship in that direction, it is 100% on you to come forward and say “I am ready, I want this, here are apartment listings, yaaaaay!” and not expect her to jump effortlessly into doing that work.

 

179 comments
  1. Cosmoose said:

    It sounds as if the girlfriend here needs support for her depression, a buffer against a rough family life, and housing. While some of those might be supplied, at least in part, by a boyfriend, I am not sure it’s appropriate that the LW supply the entirety of all of them. Girlfriend needs a Team Her, and the LW needs to know that setting his own boundaries around how much of each of these he is willing to provide will be best for both of them in the long run. There is a kindness in not setting yourself up to fail; taking the easy, non-confrontational path early is not likely to turn out well.

    • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

      This. Not being the sole provider of all of girlfriend’s needs is the best that the LW can do for her; *especially* if she’s coming from an abusive background. If the relationship fails – heck, if the LW gets run over by a bus tomorrow – she needs to be able to have housing and support regardless of whether the relationship works out or not. (There are certain signs that it will not. LW, you don’t sound enthusiastic about having an awesome girlfriend.)

    • It’s not fair. The LW can’t be expected to provide all of that, and this woman sounds like she is in need of much more help than one untrained person can provide *even if that untrained person didn’t have the history the LW does*. She’s looking for somebody to take care of her and give her a way to avoid dealing with her issues. The LW had better be doubling down on the birth control because I would absolutely not put it past her to try exactly what that other girlfriend did, and this is very definitely not a couple who needs to have a child.

  2. In the “Sleepwalk With Me” monologue, Mike Birbiglia describes telling his girlfriend, Abby, that they can talk about getting married in nine months, which leads to her telling their families that they’ll get married in nine months. Sounds like Buzzy put himself in a similar situation.

    Buzz, please use your words, and say the things that the Captain recommends here.

  3. Abe Froman said:

    I feel like i nodded my head off reading this above. CA is spot on. You can’t “undepress” her by dating, moving in, or having a baby. And a serious reevaluation of your desire to be in this relationship is in order. Do what you have to do for you, not out of a desire to “fix” her.

  4. Firecat said:

    I don’t know you or your girlfriend. From an outside perspective, it looks like your girlfriend might be, at least partly, something I’ve seen friends who are trying to manage depression, anxiety, and other such things do. It looks like she might be thinking that “If I can do X, it will fix my entire life and everything will be great!” It doesn’t so much matter what the exact “magic thing” is…it’s that they were fixating on it as The Solution. And, of course, it didn’t work like that.

    And I can understand the desire to cling to the Magic Thing…when you’re drowning, and something looks like a life preserver, of COURSE you cling to it for all you’re worth. The Magic Thing maybe helped, some, but it didn’t “fix everything,” and dealing with the disappointment of that was almost worse than dealing with the depression in the first place.

    That’s not to say that Girlfriend doesn’t need to get the heck out of her parents’ house. It’s entirely possible that, for a variety of reasons, this might help her. But help her, not make everything better. And even though Girlfriend has a real illness, and that needs consideration, YOU MATTER, TOO. What you want – overall and out of this relationship – matters. So, like the Captain said, figure out what that actually is, first, and then go from there. I wish you and Girlfriend the very best. If you’re able and want to, please do update us. Know that a bunch of strangers on the internet are rooting for both of you!

    • mice dancing on the keyboard said:

      *sigh* I’ve had hundreds of Magic Things. It didn’t take long to figure that the Magic Thing’s promise was hollow, but even now, when I know I’m Magic Thinging, it’s still hard not to get caught up in it.

      • Spicy Onion said:

        I too have done this. I think it is important to remember that if you spent your entire life around extremely negative people, you are going to have some pretty judgmental and negative thoughts about yourself. Even if the *Magic Thing Happens*, the thoughts are still there. The depression is still present. That really can only be fixed with help of therapy and sometimes even more resources. (That is actually where neuroscience and social sciences struggle to pin down if depression is more nature or nurture). I think it would be great if OP re-framed this as being on “team her” while understanding that separating herself from the people she is around could also mean going into that hospitalization – not continuing to roommate hop.

        My son, who is not even a teen yet, is in an inpatient program for depression and suicidal thoughts. He has a general anxiety disorder and is atypical. School was a huge contributor to his depression – but even when that was removed (summer vacay), the depression didn’t suddenly stop. Now he gets to work on things four 8 hours a day and the turn-around has been unbelievable. Do not ever discount hospitalization.

        • M Dubz said:

          I’m sorry your son is suffering, but you are a kickass, amazing mom for getting him the help he needs. I hope you have an amazing Team You taking care of you while you participate actively in Team Kid.

        • LeighTX said:

          My teenage daughter is in treatment for anxiety and depression so as a fellow parent going through this battle, I want to say GO YOU for getting your son the help he needs. It is brave of him to accept that help, too. All the hugs to both of you.

        • Thursday Next said:

          Thank you for sharing this. My son, barely 11, has some similar issues, and while summer improves things, it doesn’t solve everything. I feel we may be headed toward more intensive intervention, and it’s good to hear that it’s helping your son.

        • BigDogLittleCat said:

          This. I struggled with a dreadful bout of depression that was compounded by a difficult, mentally taxing job laden with unrealistic expectations and no support.
          I resisted the cries of “get another job” because I recognized that I was fucked up and trying to do an impossible job, and if I found another job, I’d still be fucked up and I’d be trying to deal with a new job- if i could find anything that even worked for me. So I concentrated on fixing myself and adjusting my attitude towards work.
          A new job was not the answer to my depression. Dealing with my depression was a big part of the answer to my job. I’m still at the same job, and it’s still ridiculous, but it doesn’t affect me like it did.

          Mad props to you for being a great parent to your son!

      • like an angry apple tree said:

        SAME. Excellently said, Firecat.

        (And now I’m worried that I can’t tell the difference between Magic Thinging and making useful life changes)

        (None of which is my partner’s job to fix, change or manage for me, either way!)

        • I'm A Little Teapot said:

          To me, the distinction is “this would solve all the problems!! (TM)” vs. “this would help solve some problems, but I’ll still have work to do”.

        • CMart said:

          As a friend to someone who is currently deep in the anxiety/depression struggle (both physiological and situational) I too am often worried that I can’t tell the difference between Magic Things and Realistic Changes in my friend’s life, when she asks for perspective and advice.

          I suspect as an outsider it’s a little bit easier to see that “getting a puppy” is 80% Magic Thing and 20% Nice Change since my emotions and hopes aren’t tied up in the idea of getting that puppy, but I do worry that I might be overly pessimistic about Realistic Changes if I falsely think my friend is Magic Thinging about them.

          Lots to chew on here.

          • ReanaZ said:

            I think sometimes the only way to tell is to do the Magic Thing, or a version of it. I think it pays to be extremely cautious if something could leave you dead, in jail, or with a baby, but basically any other decision can be undone (and even two of those can totally be survived, albeit with a very different life path).

            I think I have done a LOT of Magic Things, and you know what? None was a panacea, but very single one of them helped. Every Magic Thing got me a little closer to actually understanding and going for things I wanted in life, got me a little farther from toxicity, and–perhaps most importantly–got me closer to the understanding that no Magic Thing was actually a magic thing and I still had serious work to do on myself and life-long chronic problems to manage. Even–maybe even especially?– the bad, expensive, semi-public failure mistake Magic Things.

            Because what’s the alternative when you’re too deep in? Staying stuck? I would generally encourage people to do Magic Things that wouldn’t result in one of the three exceptions above, with a side dish of pragmatism and ‘what if it doesn’t work out?’ contingency planning, not a main dish of it.

          • I personally find that a few things help with testing ideas.

            1. What does PMT (Potential Magic Thing) promise? (This is most useful if someone’s selling you on a PMT.) For example, let’s take something like a book that offers to help you change your mindset so you can accomplish more. Is the book honest that it’s a long process with lots of setbacks, or does it promise a quick boost of motivation that will Change Everything? The bigger the claims, the more skepticism you should bring to the table.

            2. What are 3-5 potential costs of doing PMT? For example, in your puppy scenario, what things could it damage? What will you have to give up to make sure it gets enough exercise every day? What financial sacrifices will you have to make in order to be able to provide food, care, toys, etc.

            3. What can you not do if you do PMT? Using the puppy example again, have you been used to taking long vacations on the spur of the moment? That might not be practical with a puppy at home. Was there a particular apartment complex you wanted to move into that doesn’t allow dogs?

            Sometimes you’ll assess these questions and still decide PMT is worth it, but asking them tends to turn it from a Magic Thing into Nice Change more easily.

      • Bobbin Ufgood said:

        Wow! This Magic Thing idea — I’ve done this too and didn’t realize it. Except I reverse Magic Thinged — When I was in grad school and my (entirely untreated) anxiety disorder could no longer be ignored (grad school is HARD), I decided that my boyfriend was the problem, and that if I broke up with him, I would magically feel better.

        Needless to say, it didn’t work, because my boyfriend was not the cause of my anxiety disorder (which has been significant and lifelong)

        I got therapy (MASSIVE THERAPY) and got on meds and got back together with my boyfriend (who was never the problem, poor guy), and we have been happily married for 14 years.

    • S said:

      My partner is talking about traveling soon as a way to offset some depression he is feeling. I totally support this, except he is a terrible traveler. He said something like “Everywhere you go is the same so I don’t need to spend that much time anywhere.”

      I realized that he never learned what I learned as a kid when I was traveling, and it is the same concept as finding your Magic Thing or fulfilling our other life fantasies.

      At the end of the day no matter where you go, or what you do, you are still you. You will still feel like the same person inside in Alaska or China or at home. There is nothing so Magic it can make you not be you.

      • ‘There is nothing so magic it can make you not be you’ is perfect.

  5. b.lils said:

    Yeah, it’s tough when you’re depressed because you have this underlying feeling of hating yourself, and then your brain casts about for reasons to justify the hatred. Like: “ugh, I’m such a loser….and… I’m single > I’m a loser for being single > Once I’m not single I won’t be a loser and I’ll feel better.” But it’s entirely possible that if you weren’t depressed you wouldn’t care nearly as much being single (or living with your parents or not having a family by age [x] or whatever).

    Which is not to say that the only reason anyone ever cares about those things is because they’re depressed — obviously people can care very much about those things from a completely rational, emotionally healthy place. But it’s interesting that the gf originally dumped the LW for not being adventurous enough and then initiated the subsequent dating. Has the LW subsequently become more adventurous? Or is the gf so focused on having a specific set of circumstances in her life that she’ll ignore her preferences in romantic partners just to be with someone?

    [Again, this is not the only explanation. It is completely valid, in a span of 10 years, to re-evaluate and re-prioritize what’s important to you in a partner or a relationship. Most people do! It’s just also a thing people do when they’re desperate to be in a relationship, any relationship.].

    Anyway, I feel for both the LW and the gf. I do think the gf is going to be very hurt and frustrated by all this, but as ever, I think the LW will ultimately be doing her a favor, because while living with her awful family is doubtlessly making things worse for her, I dont think getting out of that situation will, by itself, be a magic bullet. As the Captain said, she’ll be better off tackling the underlying depression first, even through hospitalization, so she can address the situational stuff from a clearer, less desperate place.

  6. ssbluridge said:

    I have been in something like this situation, and we had a horrible time exploring all the possible permutations of codependence for 7 horrible years.There is a victim-rescuer-persecutor triangle in these rescuing relationships, and participants get the opportunity to experience all three roles. I agree with the poster above about the life preserver, that is exactly what it felt like for me, but other times, I was really angry that he fought becoming more functional–I approved of him a lot more when I was down. We did have a child, and she is the best thing ever, and I successfully raised her, as a single parent who more or less got my shit together, and she turned out amazing. But I am here to tell you it is not good for the child, you can SEE it harming them; they deserve so much better than having to deal with the fallout from parents who don’t actually think highly of each other. I wish there were a lot better help and community out there for all the various mental health problems.

    • Nopetopus Cowgirl said:

      Oh yeah! Both glad and very sorry that I’m not the only one to have done this and brought not one but two children into the world as a result of the relationship. Unlike the way LW sounds in this letter, I felt very much in love, but it was such codependent love. The pressure to move in too soon because my partner was unhappy and the subsequent pressure to do so many things to temper her depression and her, well, temper, took a deep toll on me. LW I suggest you go to counselling to explore the possibilities that you are not being appropriately assertive, that you have difficulty listening to your gut, and that you feel you have justify yourself even in your most personal and major decisions to someone you’ve been dating quite briefly. It might be a real revelation…

  7. Me said:

    Reading your letter closely, there’s not really any indication that you actually want to be dating this woman, or feel anything for her beyond a fairly mild friendship and sympathy for her situation. It sounds like you’re okay being the kind of friend who lets her crash on your couch for a few days here and there, but not really much more than that. And I can definitely see why this is bringing up memories from your previous relationship – you’re worried that your friend is also using you for what she wants, without considering your feelings and needs. And I think it’s a very valid fear, and a good chance that your friend sees rushing into a serious relationship with you as a fix for her unhappy life. I don’t think she’s necessarily doing this in a deliberate, Machiavellian way, but the end result is the same.

    You definitely need to have that difficult conversation where you tell her that you don’t want to move in with her, and don’t see that happening any time in the foreseeable future. And she’s going to be hurt and confused and angry, and is likely going do everything she can to keep what she sees as her magic ticket to happiness. But the alternative is going to end up a lot more painful.

    And in your place I’d be really worried about birth control, particularly given that you have a limited ability to control its effectiveness.

    • B. said:

      I agree, specially whith your first paragraph.

      LW, it seems to me that your girlfriend is desperate and looking at yall’s relationship like a means to an end, while you sound at best lukewarm towards her and it seems that the consequences of the abuse you endured at the hands of your ex are still close to the surface (and no wonder!).

      Neither desperation nor a sense of obligation make for a good basis on which to build your relationship. As it’s been pointed out, this situation is a recipe for codependency. I think you each should take a chunk of time and energy to work on healing and building your own safe space each, but that work should be done separately from a romantic relationship. And it’s very hard work, and very hard to keep separate from a relationship unless all parties are commited to taking responsibility for, and dealing with, their own shit.

    • Ella Peile said:

      100% agree with “there’s not really any indication that you actually want to be dating this woman,”
      see:
      “A friend that I’ve had for more than a decade recently said she wanted us to start dating.”
      (backstory)
      “Since we started dating a few months ago,..”
      <The implication being "*my friend wants* to start dating, so we are."

    • TootsNYC said:

      I just want to repeat this, so it gets noticed the way it deserves:


      And I can definitely see why this is bringing up memories from your previous relationship – you’re worried that your friend is also using you for what she wants, without considering your feelings and needs.

  8. Iris said:

    I have spent time raising children with someone with untreated depression. I don’t recommend it. I know I may be pilloried for this, but I’m sorry, if she is unwilling to properly deal with her mental health issues she has no business taking on such a stressful role as parenthood. Of course people with depression can be, and are, amazingly awesome parents but not if they are waiting for the next magic thing to come and ‘fix’ them.

    In fairness, it did end happily in my case, but only because he got treatment and did significant work and I (and the kids) already knew what an awesome dad he was when he didn’t have a mental illness so there was some good faith there to get us through the hard times.

    • This isn’t about the GF wanting a child, though; just wanting to move in with the LW.

      • Rana said:

        No, having a kid is part of her “life goals” too:

        “Since we started dating a few months ago, she’s become more and more strident about wanting to move in together…and start a family. “

      • MysteryFan said:

        I think that there is a component of the GF wanting a child. At least that’s how I read this sentence in the OP’s letter. “Since we started dating a few months ago, she’s become more and more strident about wanting to move in together (she’s been stuck living with her family for a year or so, since her last roommate/apartment situation didn’t work out), and start a family. “

      • Reread:

        “Since we started dating a few months ago, she’s become more and more strident about wanting to move in together (she’s been stuck living with her family for a year or so, since her last roommate/apartment situation didn’t work out), and start a family.”

        That’s usually a euphanism for babies.

        • Oh, I missed that little bit! Yes, that’s another level of worrisome.

        • winter said:

          Well, LW doesn’t want a child, so it is kinda moot.

          • Hey Anonnynonny said:

            It’s not really moot, the LW already knows that birth control can be sabotaged. If the worst has already happened and his GF is pregnant the chances are she will go ahead with the pregnancy and he will be co-parenting with someone with untreated depression. Iris’ experience is highly relevant to that scenario and impresses on CA’s point to lock down birth control on his end or switch to activities that are less likely to be pregnancy inducing.

          • Me said:

            Oh, I missed that bit. Yeah, that’s really worrying. He can break up if his girlfriend is rushing too fast, or depending on him to fix her life. If she gets pregnant, and decides to have the baby, it doesn’t matter if they break up – the child will tie them together for life. And it doesn’t have to be sabotage – accidental pregnancies happen all the time. This is one situation where the guy is at a biological disadvantage – he has limited control over birth control (and condoms alone aren’t enough to ensure that pregnancy can’t happen), and if a pregnancy does happen, the woman has the final say over what do to about it.

          • Ankh-Morpork said:

            Does the girlfriend know that the LW doesn’t want a child, period? I feel like if he absolutely never want children or even knows for certain he doesn’t want children in the next, say, five or ten years that is a conversation he needs to explicitly have with her. If one of her key life goals is to have kids he needs to be really frank with her on where he stands with that, because I was getting the sense that his feelings with kids are all tied up with the story about his ex that he didn’t want to share.

            He doesn’t need to justify it at all – if you don’t want kids, you don’t want kids and no one should ever try to change your mind about that. But you do need to tell that to your partner, especially if she is nearing the age where she would need to have them in the next few years if she is going to have them.

          • whingedrinking said:

            (and condoms alone aren’t enough to ensure that pregnancy can’t happen)
            This is flatly untrue, and it’s a harmful attitude that needs to be stopped in its tracks. Condoms are actually very effective birth control *when used correctly and consistently*. The most common reason for condoms to “fail” as a BC method is that people don’t use them properly – they don’t put them on until after they’ve started having sex, or they forget or decide not to use them “just this once”. They are as effective as hormonal birth control when these factors are controlled for. There might be reasons why they aren’t the best choice for a given couple (including not wanting to have to deal with BC every single time you have sex), but it’s nothing to do with how well they work.

          • Nanani said:

            He can, and should, refrain from possibly-babymaking sex acts with anyone not 100% trusted to be on team no babies.

          • Emmers said:

            TW: reproductive coercion

            Re condoms: you’re much much much more likely to get Perfect Use compliance, rather than Typical Use grudging, if the person with the penis is the one who is motivated to not cause a pregnancy.

            In other words, “they’re not as effective as HBC” is a good thing to tell a vagina-haver who might otherwise be inclined to trust someone who’s like “come on, just the tip?” .

      • GF said she wanted to move in with the LW and start a family…

        Also, the LW says they’ve been dating for a few months. And that he told her “we’ll talk about it in a few months” which = now. So does that mean she was talking about wanting to move in with him and start a family basically the minute they started dating??

        • Hey Anonnynonny said:

          It sounds to me like a romance novel-style friendship dating fallacy – including the entirety of the time you’ve known each other as part of your romantic relationship. That way sudden changes or relationship upgrades don’t appear to be ‘moving too fast’ – “how can it be moving too fast when we’ve been friends
          for XYZ years?!”

          LW, your letter doesn’t hold much warmth for your girlfriend… do you want to be in a relationship with her or is this a scenario you find yourself in almost by accident? Some things to consider: are you attracted to her? Do you feel affection for her? Is this a pity relationship? You don’t have to answer these here, but for yourself I think you should ask these questions and work out the answers.

          • M Dubz said:

            En re: friendship romance dating fallacy. GOOD LORD NO. My boyfriend and I knew each other for three years before we got together, and were close friends for about a year. And everything reset from scratch the moment we started kissing. There’s so many things you don’t know about someone as a friend that you can only learn by becoming their romantic partner.

          • MsMildew said:

            M Dubz: I once ended up dating a guy I had been good friends with for nearly 2 years. He was COMPLETELY different as a BF than he was as a friend, and it was a NIGHTMARE relationship.
            You absolutely cannot use “time as friends” as a substitute for dating time.

        • That would be especially unsettling if so, but the wording of the letter may also mean that he *recently* said they could talk about it in a few months, she took it to mean they would definitely move in together in a few months, and so she is looking at places for them to live because she’s expecting them to need to find somewhere pretty soon.

          Or maybe she didn’t truly misunderstand and knows deep down that he didn’t give a very enthusiastic response, but since he didn’t say *no*, she thinks she may be able to persuade him by showing him all these places. Like if she can show him what’s available, he might start envisioning it and be more excited about making it happen.

          • Paulina said:

            Or she’s trying to essentially plan him into doing it, by going full steam ahead and making it difficult for him to say no; if he doesn’t push back he’ll get railroaded into a life he doesn’t want.

    • Mayati said:

      As the child of a person with untreated depression and BPD, I agree. People with mental illnesses that seriously affect their close relationships need appropriate support — professional support with proper boundaries, not just the limited support that it’s appropriate for a partner to provide — in order to be healthy parents. It’s awful that our society is so bad at providing that support, and deeply frustrating that we don’t have therapies that work 100% for everybody yet, and I certainly don’t mean to cast shade on people who have no choice in when and whether to have kids. I’m just saying that as one of those kids, I had a very bad time. The LW’s girlfriend seems to see him and their hypothetical future children as solutions to her mental health problems, and my shoulders go up around my ears at that. Children can’t fix depression and shouldn’t be brought into this world with those expectations already on them.

      • JB said:

        +1000.

      • Khlovia said:

        Howdy, sibling.

  9. J said:

    LW it sounds a tiny bit like you are worried about unplanned pregnancy but in your last relationship this was an issue. When either party is free to use contraception, in your case condoms, I find it tough to hear you express frustration and anxiety about something that’s 100% within your control. There are also non penetrating forms of sex, but let’s not muddy the water. I hope this is t what it kind of sounds like. You take the time to say ‘she suggested we start dating’. You don’t say ‘this girl i’m dating’ you make a distinction. And if someone said that about you, would you feel they had more or less commitment? I’m so sorry if i’m wrong but it kind of sounds like you’re not that into her, but you had nothing else going and hey it’s free sex but gosh darn it, those pesky condoms!! In my experience guys never like them and frankly (as a woman) neither do i, but in the realm of ‘control over unplanned birth’ they ARE an option so the unplanned pregnancy thing is totally in your control barring a freak condom accident. So you already know the answer to the next question: is this a ‘get the milk for free, and darn it i just don’t want a cow in my house?’ Or a ‘i like this girl and i see a potential future but just want to take things slowly’ thing? Because it looks from the tone of your letter that you are not into her, and you’re looking for excuses as to why it’s ok to keep up a relationship that you don’t really have a lot of plans to move to the next level.
    Having said that, it’s totally ok to not want to move forward but you are being selfish if you keep that information from her. It keeps her in a state of hope for something that will never happen, and that, my friend, is not cool.
    If you do actually see a potential future, do what Cap said. But be scrupulously honest, if you are her friend, these types of ups and downs don’t really help depression. And for the record, she does have a terrible reason for wanting to move in. Moving in together should not be an escape mechanism and it will not solve her life problems. That whole bit sounds bad. Expecting things like ‘once i pass this milestone my depression will get better’ is the path to more depression. Please recommend to her a therapist?

    • DropTable~DropsMic said:

      Uhhh…even if he uses condoms, they can be sabotaged. And if someone trusts their partner they shouldn’t have to worry about them sabotaging birth control, no matter what kind. It’s really not as simple as “just use condoms!!!” I mean, I think that’s a good idea for this particular LW, but it’s doesn’t magically make it not abusive to interfere with birth control with the idea of coercing someone into a pregnancy they don’t want.

      • JenniferP said:

        Condoms can be sabotaged, it’s always abuse, you should definitely try not to have sex with people you don’t trust, yes, but also, if this LW is not insisting on one every time they do something potentially procreative when this fear and possibility exists, that is some self-sabotage. His spidey senses are tingling that all is not right here. There is some of this that he can mitigate!

        The biggest part is “I don’t want to live together and I maybe never want to have kids (It ain’t me, babe)” conversations and I generally like to not get too hung up on technical solutions to emotional problems. But given that the number of straight dudes I’ve encountered who are way casual about condom use and way casual about reproductive rights politically and have no freaking clue how their partner’s birth control actually works but are also TERRIFIED of getting “tricked” into fatherhood is ridiculously large sample-size, it’s not ridiculous to mention it.

        • I'll come up with a clever name later...maybe. said:

          But given that the number of straight dudes I’ve encountered who are way casual about condom use and way casual about reproductive rights politically and have no freaking clue how their partner’s birth control actually works but are also TERRIFIED of getting “tricked” into fatherhood is ridiculously large sample-size, it’s not ridiculous to mention it.

          I actually met a guy who was 100% upfront with me on day one about how he never, ever wanted kids. Three dates in he wants some naked time and I ask about condoms. He acted like I slapped his face and went on and on about how condoms ruined things for both parties. I was using birth control but it was messing with my body and I hadn’t been consistent with taking it because of how it made me felt. I told him that I would consider having sex without a condom only after he presented me with a clean bill of health from his MD and a notarized letter indicating that he would support any child conceived from his condom free, great sex experiment. Never heard from him again.

          • J said:

            Yeah I just worry LW sounds like that guy. And I can’t count the number of guys I’ve almost had relationships with, for whom birth control just wasn’t on the radar. When a guy wants to have condomless sex with zero discussion or the having of the std tests and a talk about monogamy while having of the condomless sex, it tells you it’s likely he did it with other women and not only could have an std but just doesn’t care. Good for you! I’ve totally ended things with folks who don’t want to wear a condom but then balk at std testing!

          • Ugh, my nephew is 15 years old and is the product of “I never want kids, I told her I never want kids, but condoms are gross”.

        • solecism said:

          That would be my brother. Who happily accepted casual party sex from a woman he had no interest in (but who was very interested in him). Cue pregnancy scare. False alarm. Then another party, another opportunity for casual sex with the SAME WOMAN. Result, pregnancy. He really should have known better. And that child was not the Magic Thing that fixed her problems or gave her a relationship with my brother, beyond a semihostile coparenting one. They went to court twice over him when he was still very young. Neither was every able to get more than 50% custody. The kid is driving his own car now. Both of his parents are involved in his life, but it’s been a life full conflict and inconsistencies since the moment of conception. At least my brother and his wife (or the court?) made sure that he had access to therapy from a young age.

        • J said:

          And for me it wasn’t a PSA on condom use, more of a comment that this guy presents himself as a potential victim. When he kind of sounds like a guy banging his ex bc it’s convenient but he doesn’t want the inconvenience of an actual girlfriend or wearing condoms. I was primarily pointing out his story and motives were questionable given easy solutions he hadn’t mentioned. I think he’s trying to cast aspersions on her to project his guilt into her. Hey it’s ok I’m using this girl bc well she’s not overly stable and hey she might lie and sabotage the birth control I never participate in using. He didn’t say those words but I’m still hearing them a little.

          • B. said:

            But J, his ex *did* sabotage his birth control. No fucking wonder he’s afraid of it happening again!

            I disagree that he’s presenting himself as a potential victim, but in any case, he’s suffered that abuse before. There’re safe sex measures he can put in place, yes, but his fear around this is valid and understandable.

            To me, it looks like you’re projecting a lot onto a tangential aspect of the letter, and in doing so, you’re victim-blaming the LW a lot. He was asking how to get his girlfriend to back off with the moving-in-together planning, and briefly explained that the abuse by his ex made him feel (understandably) very anxious about moving in with someone who wants to start a family.
            That’s it. No mentions of using or accusing his girlfriend anywhere.

            TL;DR: Stop projecting the stories you wanna read onto abuse survivors. It’s victim-blaming and gross.

          • Vicki said:

            (Replying to B., but we’re out of nesting.)

            A friend of mine has an unusually sensitive radar for a certain shape of (untreated) mental illness. They’re aware that this may produce false positives, but have decided that the risk of not becoming friends with someone they’d do well with is worth it, to avoid the risk of becoming entangled with someone who would be likely to replicate emotional abuse they grew up with.

            That might not be the choice you’d make; I won’t necessarily avoid someone because my friend says “bees here.” But they are reacting to real signs, based on real past experience. “You don’t need to be this careful now” might be a reasonable thing to say; “what happened to you when you were younger was OK” is not. Not even if LW didn’t tell us the details–but he did. Maybe birth control sabotage is “worse” when the victim is the one who becomes pregnant–but that doesn’t make either one acceptable, or not abusive.

      • Cyberwulf said:

        I don’t think the girlfriend would actually sabotage the condoms, but she might – because she’s said to him “I want to start a family” – stop taking her own birth control because hey, she told him she wanted to start a family. Then all it takes is a little leakage or breakage or uh-oh I got carried away and…

        • Turtle Candle said:

          Yeah. It’s totally legit to be like, “Dude, if you don’t want a kid, use a condom Every Time, or don’t have sex where semen gets anywhere near a vagina.” I am a woman, and honestly, I did not have any sex that might have led to a pregnancy at all because it wasn’t worth the risk.

          But on the flip side, if you are genuinely concerned that someone might sabotage your condoms if you let them out of your sight, the answer is less to put your condoms in a lockbox than to break up with them. If I was genuinely concerned that my partner would sabotage my birth control, I’d be out of there so fast. Because, yeah, it’s easy enough to say ‘never let your birth control method out of your direct control’ but short of carrying your pills/condoms around on your person constantly, or a lockbox, that’s really difficult with a partner. Part of why birth control tampering is insidious is that it’s very hard to protect against with a long-term partner.

          • Feminist BI-tch said:

            Also, don’t date people you don’t trust is a pretty simple, effective rule.

    • LaMaria said:

      Letter writer mentions their ex sabotaged MULTIPLE kinds of birth control. To me that sounds like condoms were probably involved.

  10. Tangentially, not helpful for LW but maybe for others– I was held overnight at a hospital I checked myself into during a dissociative panic attack. While hospitalization and treatment is different depending on what exactly you need, what city / country you’re in, and if it’s voluntary or involuntary, in my experience, my fears of hospitalization were much worse than reality (go figure, anxiety making me more frightened than I needed to be, lol).

    Without going into too many details, that night ended up being the first night I slept deeply for a full eight hours with no nightmares, thanks to meds and being in a truly quiet room. Just that one “night off” was enough to reboot the treatment (therapy, meds, etc) and made it much more effective from then on.

    I don’t think it’s a good idea for LW to suggest the upside of hospitalization right now, but I did want to throw out my personal data point there just in case anyone else is feeling like LW’s girlfriend, that hospital stays have to be a last resort.

    Good luck LW and gf, I hope it works out for the best.

    • JenniferAndLightning said:

      Hospitalization is helpful for a lot of people. Certainly some people have horrible experiences and I don’t mean to diminish those, but people (myself included) often fear that hospitalization will lead to some earth shattering consequences like loss of custody or career or being exposed as unwell to family and friends and it is often a helpful experience that allows for some measure of healing and improved treatment.

      • Ruth said:

        With psychiatrist shortages throughout the country, it can also be a way to skip the (many months) wait to see a provider if you know you can’t wait that long.

  11. Eye said:

    Small aside, but did I miss LW mentioning their gender somewhere in the letter? I don’t think we know anything about them other than that they could get someone pregnant, and that doesn’t guarantee they’re a man or that the words dude/guy/dad would apply to them.

    • JenniferP said:

      Good point, I could neutralize all pronouns and language, etc. since the LW didn’t specify. Not-men can get their partners pregnant. I changed “dad” in the letter to “parent.”

      But male email screenname which I can see + not specifying pronouns at all (b/c it doesn’t occur to straight cis men that they ever might be misgendered) + ongoing pregnancy risk situations in the letters = indicates to me 99.9999999999999% likelihood that LW is man. If I’m wrong, I’m sorry. Letter writers have the opportunity to specify their pronouns and the ones who want to do. So as moderator I’m not going to correct every commenter that uses male language this time.

      • winter said:

        I appreciate the clarification. I didn’t want to derail the comments with a discussion about the pronouns/gender, especially since I assumed you might have some additional information like for other letters. Just, as a person who might also get misgendered, some assumptions/language is more uncomfortable than others.

  12. Dear LW,

    Please think carefully about the questions the Captain brought up.

    These too:

    – How do you imagine this relationship in six months? A year? Five years?

    – If you think of a long term forever partner, whose face does that partner have? Is it your current girl friend?

    – Imagine being with your girlfriend in the future. What’s the emotion that hits you first?

    Good luck.

    • CarolynM said:

      So much this, LW – really sit with the Captain’s questions and Mrs. Morley’s questions and be honest – you really owe it to yourself to make sure that a life with this woman is what you truly want, and that she wants YOU and not just the things (like an escape from her family) that you can offer.

      The downward spiral of my marriage had a thousand awful things, but one of the worst? After we separated he called and said he wanted to “try again” with me … because he hated the rules in his dad’s house, he hated the lack of privacy, he hated being so far from his band and friends. (I swear I was not married to a high schooler – he was in his late 30’s when we divorced!) No mention of missing me, wanting to make our marriage work or anything like that. It was a kindness in its own weird way … if he had managed to sneak one of those reasons in there with the others he actually said, I probably would have fallen for it. But instead, ME not even making the list of reasons he wanted to work on our marriage and move back in with me brought everything into sharp focus: He didn’t want me, he wanted the things I could provide for him and do for him. I was not the woman he loved, I was the woman who could support him in the lifestyle he deemed he deserved but shouldn’t have to work for. It was gutting to understand that, but liberating too – I still don’t know where the strength came from, but I told him to listen carefully without interrupting because I would only say all of this the once and then never again because it would hurt too badly, and then I spent the next half hour telling him all the reasons that our marriage could not be saved and that we were done.

      There had been another painful moment before he actually moved out – he told me that the only reason he was sticking around was “that piece of paper” – our marriage certificate. That was ugly. But after essentially telling me he wanted to move back in because it would be more convenient for him, that same sentence was freeing and set the course for how I moved forward with the rest of my life. I decided that in the future, I was worth more than a piece of paper and more than my stuff – I was worth being loved for ME.

      LW – accept no substitute! Do not move forward with this relationship unless you know that she loves you and genuinely wants a life with you and you aren’t just a means of escape from her family and perhaps a magical cure for her depression. Do not move forward until you know if this relationship is what you want instead of what you think you should want or feel duty bound to have.

  13. Bibliocat said:

    A friend that I’ve had for more than a decade recently said she wanted us to start dating.

    That’s a line straight outta hallmark.
    But seriously, please think deeply about why you are even dating this lady.
    And think about what you want and need. This level of passivity is worrying, I think.
    Take care, Buzz.

  14. buttons said:

    LW, as difficult as it might be to say no to her now, it will be far, far more difficult and painful to get her out of your apartment if and when you need her to leave. I’m sorry you’re in such a sticky situation.

    • Temperance said:

      We already know that she has issues with housing stability. If he lets her in, he’s going to become her new landing pad.

  15. Redgirl said:

    No one else has mentioned this, so maybe I’m reading into things too much, but this line really worried me: “As she puts it, if she doesn’t get out of there and get started on meeting her life goals, she’ll end up hospitalized.”

    Given that girlfriend wants to “get out of there” by moving in with LW, and given that her “life goals” involve starting a family (presumably with LW), this sounds an awful lot like she’s trying to put LW in the position of being responsible for whether she ends up hospitalized or not. Maybe I’m reading it wrong, and maybe it’s my own baggage talking, but it came off to me like a thinly veiled threat. “If you don’t do X, Y and Z, it’s going to worsen my depression so much I’ll end up in a hospital.”

    LW, I hope you fully understand that you are not in any way responsible for your girlfriend’s mental health and you are not her only option for dealing with her depression. In fact, moving in/starting a family aren’t ways to deal with depression AT ALL.

    • Same. It sounds like a threat.

      LW, it doesn’t sound like you actually want to be in this relationship. I think Girlfriend needs to make her own plans to get out, rather than counting on you to just ride up on your white horse and sweep her off her feet and fix everything. Everyone has to save themselves.

    • Smellanie17 said:

      I agree. Perhaps *I* am reading too much into it, but it sounded like code for “I’ll attempt suicide” and not “I’ll aggressively pursue inpatient care for my issues.”

      So I read the “start a family or be hospitalized” dichotomy as Not Good. I certainly don’t mean to say that people who live with mental health issues shouldn’t be parents or can’t be fantastic parents–that isn’t true–but I do think Girlfriend is maybe not in the best place to be considering starting a family if those are the only alternatives in her mind.

      • RabbitRabbit said:

        I didn’t interpret it as “I will pursue treatment” but rather “I will be utterly shattered and be committed involuntarily/due to catatonia.”

        Any way you look at it, her throwing that out there as a “I’m moving in or else (Dramatic Thing)” is manipulative, even if that’s not her intent. (I think it is her intent, to try to lock in a commitment, because surely she sees he is ambivalent, and she is focused on this as her lifeline.)

    • Temperance said:

      Thank you for saying this. This is such a horrible manipulation tactic.

      I have clinical depression. It’s *my* responsibility to take care of myself and get treatment. I can’t imagine looking at my husband and telling him that if he doesn’t do X I’ll get so much sicker that I’ll be hospitalized, and that’s exactly what she’s doing here.

    • Turtle Candle said:

      It sounded like an “I will attempt suicide” to me.

  16. Buzz, honey, get yourself into some therapy. I think you would benefit a lot from some introspection, and figuring out what *you* want. Build some healthy boundaries, develop coping skills for anxiety, try to lay to rest those trust issues you wrote of. You can’t fix your girlfriend, but you can give yourself a little tune-up.

    • B. said:

      Yes! Plus, a therapist is a great resource for talking about your current relationship and coming up with ways to say “not moving in together, babe” and make it stick.

    • Celeste said:

      I totally agree with therapy. There’s a reason the LW keeps finding women who are ill in some way and want him to provide them a baby to fix it somehow. Once is a fluke, twice is a pattern. The only thing worse than staying in this situation is recreating it again and again. Wouldn’t it be nice to be in a relationship that isn’t like this?

      • The Awe Ritual said:

        The previous situation, even without the current “the fire alarms are coming from inside the house” one, is a LOT to process and carry around. I HOPE LW is getting therapy.

      • Khlovia said:

        “…third time is enemy action!” As in, he’s being an enemy to himself.

  17. Modern Culture said:

    Going into our relationship, my (now) wife knew I suffered from depression and anxiety…and she was a licensed physician. She told me up front that she could not and would not be my therapist or physician. Her statement was a huge gift to us both as we both knew my meds and therapy were my responsibility, not hers. Over our 20 years together, when she notices a depression spiral she’ll tell me if I don’t sense it first. We are friends, lovers and partners, not one another’s caretakers. LW, your friend has to take responsibility for her health, not dump it on you or threaten you over it. If she’s never gone to therapy, this might be the time BUT don’t move in together unless your feelings for her are strongly positive.

    • This is really healthy and it makes me glad! Especially as a therapist whose last serious partner expected me to be theirs.

    • Wenchy said:

      That was a good way to start the relationship, and much more healthy than most.

      LW, you might try thinking about it — or even explaining it — this way: all relationships have ups and downs. They are always at least a bit of a rollercoaster, especially (make that 100X as much) when you are living together. If you aren’t in a good space before the really active part of the ride begins, then you are effectively trying to build your cart seat as you are hurtling forward. It makes things so much more likely to fall apart, and people are much more likely to get hurt.

      It’s better not to start living together in chaos while you are fleeing something else. She needs to get safe, even if it’s just a tiny perch. Catch her breath. That does NOT have to be with you. If getting away from the family home is all she needs not to be depressed, then it will happen even if she has roommates, or is in a basement efficiency, or is campus housing because she went back to school. “All it is, is that my family is there” is not equal to “and so I have to be with you.” And when she is safe and can breathe, you can both build something together that is more sturdy and solid before taking in on those major ups and downs.

    • That was a good way to start the relationship, and much more healthy than most.

      LW, you might try thinking about it — or even explaining it — this way: all relationships have ups and downs. They are always at least a bit of a rollercoaster, especially (make that 100X as much) when you are living together. If you aren’t in a good space before the really active part of the ride begins, then you are effectively trying to build your cart seat as you are hurtling forward. It makes things so much more likely to fall apart, and people are much more likely to get hurt.

      It’s better not to start living together in chaos while you are fleeing something else. She needs to get safe, even if it’s just a tiny perch. Catch her breath. That does NOT have to be with you. If getting away from the family home is all she needs not to be depressed, then it will happen even if she has roommates, or is in a basement efficiency, or is campus housing because she went back to school. “All it is, is that my family is there” is not equal to “and so I have to be with you.” And when she is safe and can breathe, you can both build something together that is more sturdy and so

    • My two cents said:

      One of the things that I have found wonderfully helpful about some of my relationships (partner and friends) is that they are appreciative if I point out a mental illness symptom, and then they do something themselves to address it. For example, a friend and I regularly have coffee, and if they have the same symptoms more than once then I tell them, and they thank me and know to work on it with their therapist. These relationships aren’t perfect in every moment and way, however I am quite impressed by their ability to take responsibility for their health.

    • This makes me super glad to hear! Your wife is awesome.

  18. neverjaunty said:

    LW, your evil-bee radar is in good working order and you should continue to listen to it.

    Your friend, who “decided” you two would be dating, pretty clearly sees you as her ticket out of her current living situation, and whether she’s doing so deliberately, she’s running guilt trips on you (saying that she’ll be hospitalized if you don’t go along with it) and measuring you for a useful role in her life.

    Also, this is a great time to resurrect the Captain Awkward chorus of Don’t Fuck That Lady! Someone who has announced you are going to have kids with them is NOT someone you can trust to use contraception responsibly or to cooperate with your use of contraceptives – and birth control, as you know, can fail.

    • B. said:

      “LW, your evil-bee radar is in good working order and you should continue to listen to it.”

      Well said!
      As someone below said, surviving toxic situations doesn’t make your radar broken re:detecting possible toxicity, it makes it better! So trust your gut on this, LW, it’s almost always right (and the few times it isn’t ain’t worth sticking around a bad dynamic to find out if it’s bull-flown toxic or just-a-couple-bees toxic, imho).

      LW, I don’t think your past experience is making you read too much into your girlfriend’s comments. I think your brain is recognising her impatience/desperation as a Problem, and trying to tell you “Girlfriend is asking us for things we ain’t ready to provide, Self, and also kinda looking at us like we’re her one-way-ticket out of Hell, and that is Bad”. Your anxiety around this is normal and valid.

      So, yeah, abort abort abort. Listen to neverjaunty and Don’t Fuck That Lady, do not proceed with Mission: Cohabitate, do not continue a relationship with someone you’re not enthusiastically on-board with dating and, if you haven’t already gotten therapy, it would probably benefit you greatly. This is a lot of stress you’re dealing with, LW.

  19. Not Sure If I Am Indecisive said:

    I am seeing a pattern here of _supposed_ lack of agency that LW might want to think about. The two relationships are presented as though he is standing around watching in surprise as these women get “strident” and decide to make him marry or live with or father a child with them, as though it is just happening all around him with his having no role in the situation as it gathers momentum.

    What I am tracking on: LW gets dumped (implied by his not meeting her need for adventure), agrees to be friends because she wants to (implied by his “not holding a grudge”), dates again because “she wanted” to, “leaves open the option” of her crashing with him, is “non-committal,” lets his evasions be misinterpreted, is “getting forwarded” house listings, has a history in which contraception is sabotaged by the partner (contraception was all under her control), gets a pregnancy test thrown at him and is told “now you can’t leave me.” Even the descriptive language is indirect, passive, nonconfrontational: “I’ve been… non-committal.” “That seems to have been taken as saying [x].” “The relationship was… not a particularly healthy one,” and it “did not end so amicably.”

    LW, you are and have been a participant in both relationships as they developed. You seem at least twice to have been drawn to women who feel comfortable making decisions for you, and you have made your own choice to allow the behavior to increase. Do you present yourself as someone receptive to, needing, wanting someone else to make decisions and move things forward? Do you in fact want someone who will be the cruise director in the relationship?

    Let me be clear: I think that is a-OK if you don’t like making decisions and feel most comfortable with a decisive person! I am that way myself! BUT. If that is true, I think it is important to be aware of this inclination and own it — and to be very, very careful who you partner up with. These relationships aren’t things that are happening TO you. You are making them too. If the relationship is not abusive (your letter suggests yours were/are unhealthy but not actually abusive), your passivity is as much a choice as their initiative. You present yourself as almost powerless, but I am side-eying this. Often, it is the person with less emotional investment, standing to the side being “noncommittal,” saying, “Hmmm, I wouldn’t want to consider anything for a couple months,” who makes the person who wants! wants! wants! the next thing feel like the powerless one.

    Right now, your choices aren’t taking you or these women to good places. When you think about your presence and reluctances in these relationships as active choices, you can perhaps start making different ones, or make some of the same ones more deliberately, with a better idea of what the goals are and a more equal balance of power in whatever relationship you are in. I wish you both luck and health and agency.

    • This comes across as a bit victim blamey. The LW is a survivor of abuse from the relationship with the contraception sabateur (because contraception sabotage is a method of control) and was so affected by it that he could barely date for a decade. I’m not sure what you are getting at going over the LW’s description of the events. To be frank that relationship sounds like there are a lot of details omitted that must have been very traumatic- presumably the pregnancy test being thrown was postive, but no baby is mentioned. A terminal illness is mentioned but not whether the ex-partner is still alive. I feel the LW has told us the bare minimum and not the partner’s personal business (her illness and her pregnancy) and focused only on the things that affected him directly. I respect that and I’m not sure I’m ok with diagnoses of secret misogyny or whatever else is going on with these unsympathetic comments (not just yours). I know that ‘she might sabotage my contraception!’ is a giant MRA talking point and it can cause a knee-jerk reaction in those of us who have encountered this, but that doesn’t mean it never happens or would not be a horrible breach of trust when it does. Also: where are you getting that the contraception was all the girlfriend’s responsibility? I am assuming that ‘multiple methods of contraception’ means the girlfriend was on the pill/had the contraceptive implant or injection/had a coil fitted, AND they used condoms on top of that which are currently the only method of contraception penis-havers have control over. Was the LW supposed to keep the condoms under lock and key just on the off-chance his girlfriend might perform the horrible breach of trust of sabotaging them?

      When you’ve been through abuse and you meet someone who you know isn’t abusive, maybe because they are your friend or you’ve dated before, being with them can feel safe and nice and the absence of the horrible feelings you had before can be inflated into ‘hey I really am happy in this relationship! I am, right?’ ESPECIALLY if you have little to compare it to. Getting out of that mindset is hard, even when from an outside perspective it seems to be screaming out of the letter that the LW is not feeling the relationship at all.

      Also, we talk a lot on CA about how people should not take a non-commital maybe for a yes…the LW’s gf has done exactly that. She’s probably also being all happy and enthusiastic in these emails, all like ‘I totally get to move in with LW in a few months and look at these lovely apartments I’ve found!’ This just makes the inevitable ‘I actually don’t want to do this’ a lot harder, especially if you aren’t sure.

      • Abuse survivor here, and I agree. When you’re in that sort of relationship, it’s very hard to see the forest for the trees, even if it’s obvious to outsiders.

      • B. said:

        Yes, thank you. Asking the LW what he could do in order to not attract abusers is victim-blaming. It’s not his fault his ex sabotaged his birth-control, and it takes time to rebuild your boundaries after that kind of experience.

        The LW has agency, yeah. He can communicate clearly what his boundaries are and break up with his girlfriend if she insist on not listening to him. But let’s not pretend those task are easy ones, or that they don’t take a greater amount of effort after surviving a situation where your feelings and noes are disregarded.

        • Thank you for saying this. The “what could you do to not attract abusers” is incredibly upsetting to read, and places more shame and judgment on the victim/survivor. I understand that the LW has agency, and that the advice was meant to inform them of that, but phrases like “you’re passive and let this happen” set my teeth on edge, because it disregards the intense emotional manipulation that’s a critical part of all abusive relationships. Not all of us are taught what emotional manipulation looks like, even those who have grown up with it all their lives. It can be tricky to spot, and trickier to assume agency when you’re under it.

          • B. said:

            “Phrases like “you’re passive and let this happen” set my teeth on edge, because it disregards the intense emotional manipulation that’s a critical part of all abusive relationships.”
            Yes, thank you for articulating so well why that kind of rhetoric is so wrong! I couldn’t put my finger on why it was bothering me so much.

            When someone is badgering you* to say “yes”, and refusing to hear your “no”, or punishing you for disagreeing, it can be incredibly hard and dangerous to stand up for yourself. When you’ve survived that kind of treatment, the learned behaviours that allowed you to survive often stay with you for a long time, and need to be conciously unlearned.

            For an uninvolved party to shame you for not managing to assert your boundaries to their expectations under those conditions is incredibly hurtful and dismissive.

            (* General you, not codenameminali specifically)

          • B and codenameminali, I’m so glad it’s not just me upset by some of these comments. It is not at all what I expect from this community and I have no idea where it is all coming from.

          • B. said:

            @mossyone
            I expected better from LW’s commenters, too. Maybe those victim-blaming comments have been slipping through the cracks in moderation, I don’t know, but they’re making the site way less friendly and safe for survivors of abuse (to be honest, since the #1065 debacle, whenever I recommend Captain Awkward I include the disclaimer “Careful with the comments section, it can get very victim-blamey when the abuser is a woman”). I guess since so many readers here identify as women who have survived abuse at the hands of a male partner, whenever there arises a situation which places together “woman”, “abuse”, and “partner”, some of them project their lived experience onto it regardless of what the letter actually says. Which is understandable, but very hurtful for the LWs and other commenters to have to read through. Erasure and victim-blaming are never okay.

            I don’t mean to diminish the experience of anyone who has survived abuse at the hands of men, but it’s important to remember that people can abuse or be abused regardless of their gender. Women can be abusers too, and men can suffer abuse too. It’s important that we believe the victims and survivors, *all* the victims and survivors, not just the ones whose lives closely resemble ours.

            Captain, could you maybe put up a note or a PSA post (or do something else that works better for you) to address the situation? It’s draining to have to speak up so many times against this. Thank you!

          • JenniferP said:

            I’m going to outright close comments, I think.

            I don’t hold with the victim-blaming.

            I do think the LW is presenting the whole relationship as something that is happening to him rather than something that he is choosing, and reminders that “Hey, do you WANT to be here? Like, at all?” are worth gently pursuing.

          • @B.

            FWIW, I’m a woman that’s suffered abuse at the hands of a man, and I found the comment upsetting too. Because you’re right, women *can* be abusers, too, and men *can* be victims.


    • BUT. If that is true, I think it is important to be aware of this inclination and own it — and to be very, very careful who you partner up with.

      Quoted for truth.

    • I agree with this comment so much. I feel really bad for the poor woman. It would feel really confusing to be to think I was in one sort of relationship but to be getting these passive-aggressive signals—it would probably make me wonder even more what was wrong with me. Be honest with her, decide if you actually want to be with her and take some responsibility if you do but if you just want to passively blame her for all the decisions you are forcing her to make, then do her a favor and let her free.

      She’s not a villain that you’ve passively painted her to be so you can convince a bunch of strangers online to tell you to dump her so that it won’t be your fault then either. Be an adult and own this. There’s no shame in a relationship not working out. A couple of online comics I’ve been reading have had this plot in the past few years and both halves of the couples were better after the breakup. Maybe you’ll find your Claire or Ashley.

      • B. said:

        All the decisions *he* is forcing *her* to make? What do you mean? My reading was that the girlfriend took “maybe discuss moving in together in a few months” as “I will move in with LW in a few months” and ran with it. Maybe the LW is not using his words as well as he could (supercommon after surviving abuse, btw, which is a situation in which you often get punished for using your words). Maybe he is and his girlfriend is choosing not to listen.

        In any case, the LW is not forcing her to do anything. He’s not the one bombarding her with apartment listings or encouraging her to change her living situation. His girlfriend is responsible for managing her depression and finding a way to attain independency away from her toxic family.

        • He’s not making any decisions. Ergo, he is forcing her to make them all. We only have his side of the story here– my read is that he’s not communicating any of this to her in a way that is clear. And she’s used to having to make all the decisions, so what is she supposed to think?

          If he takes CA’s advice, he will be communicating and making a decision. He is not doing her any favors with this passive-aggressive BS, or making her seem like a horrible person to a bunch of strangers (and him the poor victim). Which he clearly is, given your response.

          • Amtelope said:

            She is expressing what she wants clearly, which is good, especially if the LW isn’t. But she’s not listening for a clear “yes” from the LW before moving forward with plans. “Maybe eventually, IDK, it’s complicated” is not a “yes.” You shouldn’t make plans to move in with someone, or date someone, or have a child(!) with someone until they are clearly saying “yes, I am enthusiastic about this!”

            And the LW is the one who wrote in asking for advice, so I think the Captain’s advice is good. If the girlfriend were the one asking for advice, I would advise her to ask very clearly “Do you actually want to move in with me? If so, we need to find an apartment and set a moving date, and if not, I need to know so that I can make other living arrangements.” But moving straight to “here are apartment listings, let’s move in soon!” without finding out if LW is really on board is not cool, and “you’re my only salvation from a terrible situation, so you HAVE to move in with me” is even less cool.

          • Why does she have to do all of the work in the relationship and take all the blame too?

            I like that CA is telling him to do some work too, even if it’s just to use his words. At least then she’ll know that there’s a problem. I hope they break up and she finds a good roommate situation and then sometime later finds someone who actually wants to be with her.

          • TO_Ont said:

            No one can force you to decide to move in with them. No answer IS an answer, and no decision IS a decision.

          • B. said:

            @nicoleandmaggie
            Yes, I consider any person who had to endure birth-control sabotage by their partner a survivor or victim of abuse, thank you very much.

            Why are you so invested in discrediting the LW’s narrative about his life? Why do you react so strongly to his own version of his own story? Why are you so insistent that he’s being disingenous?

            No one here is calling his girlfriend a horrible person but you.

    • Rebecca Riley said:

      And furthermore, if you are attracted to women who like to run your life, there is nothing at all wrong with that. But you need to be very careful who you give that awesome gift of all that you are. Make very sure that she values you and thinks you are the shiniest best thing that ever came her way, and she wants to take the best care of you she can. And until then, you need to work on being a totally fabulous sort of person who can make his own decisions and plans, so that when she does give you an opportunity to cast all that you are at her feet, you have something worth casting.

      • B. said:

        “And furthermore, if you are attracted to men who like to run your life, there is nothing at all wrong with that. But you need to be very careful who you give that awesome gift of all that you are. Make very sure that he values you and thinks you are the shiniest best thing that ever came his way, and he wants to take the best care of you he can. And until then, you need to work on being a totally fabulous sort of person who can make her own decisions and plans, so that when he does give you an opportunity to cast all that you are at his feet, you have something worth casting.”

        Just a question, would you give this kind of advice to a LW who escaped a Darth boyfriend who kept trying to get her pregnant in order to lock her into a relationship with him and 10 years later finds herself in a relationship with a Sad Dude who is pressuring her to move in together at a faster pace than she feels comfortable with?

        I ask because I wouldn’t find that kind of advice helpful in that situation and I don’t think it’s helpful here either.

        I am perceiving that some comments are set on dismissing or diminishing LW’s narrated experience when they wouldn’t were the LW a woman and that pisses me off.

        • TO_Ont said:

          Yes, what creepy and unhelpful advice. No, do not date controlling people.

      • TO_Ont said:

        “And furthermore, if you are attracted to women who like to run your life, there is nothing at all wrong with that. ”

        Yes there is. Or men.

  20. Liz said:

    Please break it off gently with her and support her as a friend to help her get into a better living situation. But when she’s in a healthier state she’s likely to feel mortified that you dated her because you felt sorry for her and allowed her to move in out of compassion and passivity.

    And she really needs to figure her own shit out. It sounds like she has this idea that a man is going to solve all her problems and in my experience, y’all don’t do such a hot job of that.

    • winter said:

      Afaik LW didn’t say they’re a man.

      • LW didn’t say he was a man, but he did say he was in a relationship with a woman who tried to sabotage their contraception.

        • Feminist BI-tch said:

          Men are not the only ones who need contraception when having sex with a woman.

          • Absolutely true, but LW specified that his ex sabotaged their methods of *birth control*. Women having sex with each other don’t use contraception for birth control.

          • B. said:

            Hey cinderkeys, I think you meant that *cis* women having sex with each other don’t need birth control. Trans women exist. AMAB nb people exist. Some of them have sex with cis women.

          • @B: That’s true. I’m also tracking on the Captain’s referring to LW as “he” in the comments, guessing that his email address contain’s a traditional boy’s name.

      • Hey Anonnynonny said:

        Captain Awkward mentioned the LW being ‘not ready to be a dad’ rather than ‘not ready to be a parent.’ That’s where I took my cue that LW is male.

      • It’s clear that he is, though, from the story about his ex and her sabotage attempts.

        • Hey Anonnynonny said:

          I think what past posters were alluding to is that transwomen and genderfluid people can and frequently do possess the physical equipment required to get their partner pregnant. In those cases though, the term would be ‘parent’ rather than the explicitly male-coded ‘dad’.

          • winter said:

            Yes. We know LW and GF can get a child. That does not tell us that LW is a man.

          • JenniferP said:

            Hi. The Letter Writer is a man.

            I changed “dad” to “parent” though.

        • Hey Anonnynonny said:

          Putting pins through a condom-sabotage is not always something that happens to a cis man.

        • B. said:

          What Anonnynonny said. Being in a relationship with a woman and being able to beget children do not necessarily equal “cisgender man”. I assume that, as it usually happens, the Captain knows more about the LW’s gender than we do and took her use of “dad” as the cue to use he/him/his for the LW.

    • Turtle Candle said:

      It may, also, not be possible to break it off with her but support her as a friend. Sometimes a clean break is kinder, especially if someone has focused on you as The! Solution! To! Their! Problems!

      If you break up and can’t remain friends and support her, you have also not failed, LW.

  21. Bunny said:

    LW, I agree with what several others have said.

    Your GF doesn’t sound like she wants you. She sounds like she wants stability, a home away from her parents that she’s less likely to have to move out of (IME moving in with a partner tends to be more stable than moving in with a friend because the implication of asking your partner to move out is generally more severe than asking a friend/roommate to do so), and like she wants to start making a family. As in having children.

    And frankly LW, you don’t sound like you really want GF.

    You both want different things. GF wants a relationship with a clear forward direction, with a (short!) timeline on moving in and raising a family. You want NOT THAT. If GF’s depression and family issues did not exist, and if your past abuse and subsequent need for safety around those issues were not a thing? And if you two were explicitly enthusiastic about dating each other? This would still be the time for a serious conversation likely ending in a mutual break-up. Or at the very least ending in a reevaluation of the relationship direction and timeline.

    In this case your instincts as a survivor of manipulation and abuse are working exactly as they are supposed to and flagging GF’s behaviour as a Bad Thing.

  22. CleverGirl said:

    I was once in the position of being atrociously depressed, convinced getting away from my abusive family would solve my mental health issues, and moving in with and then marrying my partner at the time. I don’t want to go into the how or why, but it was the worst mistake of my life and even years later I am trying to get my shit together. God knows how it’s affecting my ex – we don’t speak.

    LW, I beg you to consider that while moving in together will most definitely not be good for you, it might not be great for her either.

    IMO you need to put the brakes on this ASAP, for the well-being of both of you. Do it with compassion, but do it firmly, and do it soon.

    I wish you the best of luck.

  23. Emma9 said:

    I agree with what the Captain and other commenters have said that it’s the kindest thing for you both to be honest about your feelings – regarding moving in together as well as the relationship as a whole – ASAP. You’re not wrong for feeling pressured and trapped.

    However, I think it also might be worth re-examining your internal dialogue regarding her depression and her family.
    “She is convinced” […] “I have my doubts about this”
    “while I don’t believe that they’re the cause of her depression”

    You are not, nor should you try to function as, her therapist, and second-guessing her regarding her own emotions feels like a not-great thing to do as a partner. Particularly when, just as your girlfriend doesn’t know about events in your past that are affecting you now, you can’t know the entire history between her and her family. Being aware that “relentlessly negative” people exist is one thing – living with them is another matter entirely.

    I agree with Firecat upthread that it’s very possible she’s Magic Thinging, and further with the Captain that she would be better off living either alone or with a roommate she’s not dating. But just the way you’re putting it is giving me a whiff of ‘Living with them can’t be THAT bad’, and if I knew a partner of mine was secretly feeling that way about me, I’d be horrified.

    That, and your use of the word ‘strident’ (which has a shitton of baggage attached to it), reinforce how vital it is for you to take a step back and ask if you genuinely like, respect, and enjoy being around this person. Pity-dating and grudging-dating do no one any favors.

    • purps said:

      I suspect LW is in a familiar trap called “if this problem is real I’m obligated to fix it therefore it would be best if it wasn’t real please”.

      I don’t know a better way to say this, btw, but as a bisexual woman dating I felt like I’d been trained from birth to be able to set boundaries with men around this kind of stuff, like, yep, dude, sucks that your band hasn’t taken off but you cannot just crash at mine for two years. But I found that an enormous number of the fallback cultural scripts around setting boundaries with women rested on _invalidating the reality of their experiences so as to get out of having to do something_. It’s a huge part of the “women are crazy/needy/dramatic” thing. IDK, take that how you will, but I think I sense some elements of “if her situation really is bad for the reasons she is reporting then I am obligated to fix it, so maybe it’s not that bad for those reasons?”.

      • AndTheRest said:

        “But I found that an enormous number of the fallback cultural scripts around setting boundaries with women rested on _invalidating the reality of their experiences so as to get out of having to do something_.”

        Woaaaaaah… you have clearly stated what has surely been behind a lot of sketchy decisions and behavior that I’ve not only experienced personally, but have observed happening to other women, in both personal and professional realms. Thank you for this.

        • Purps said:

          What’s funny is that it rests on this “if a woman is in trouble I have to help her” chivalry thing I think? Like, it feels monstrous to say “the princess is being menaced by a dragon, but I don’t really have the bandwidth to go get her right now and frankly I might be the worst person to do it because of our dating history. She’s going to have to figure it out herself”. But “she’s super dramatic it’s probably not a dragon” just seems to roll off the cultural tongue? At least I think it does/perceive it as happening that way.

          I’ve seen people describe the sexist duality as “women are, men do” and I feel like that helped me here.

      • TootsNYC said:

        _invalidating the reality of their experiences so as to get out of having to do something_

        This reminds me of the Deborah Tannen assertion that (as a group) men get the message that they are *required* to “fix things” for women they feel strongly connected to. (which is why when you’re just venting, he’s often trying to give you advice)

        So if a guy has gotten that programming (“it’s your job as a man to save ‘your’ women”), but he doesn’t want to “save” you or doesn’t think he can, then the only course left to him that doesn’t make him feel or look like a jerk is to somehow establish that you don’t need “saving.”

  24. kanel said:

    LW, reading your letter it sounds to me like you are not really sure yet if you want to be in this relationship, or any relationship. As someone wrote, you might benefit from therapy yourself, to work through what happened in your previous relationship. It can really make it easier to choose the right partner, to be a good partner and to have a healthy relationship. At least for me, two years of therapy made a world of difference.

    You already know that you aren’t ready to move in together with your girlfriend, but you don’t need to feel bad about it. Given the situation – you just started dating again, you don’t sound really sure about things and she sounds like she’s making some decisions based in her depression, which doesn’t make for very good decisionmaking – it’s not a good time to move in together. If you decide in a few months to split up it will make things so much harder. It’s actually kinder to her to say no to the moving plans. It is so much better to wait until you are both enthusiastic about moving in together, however long that takes.

  25. Lapis Lazuli said:

    Buzz, do you actually LIKE your girlfriend?

    You sound so uncomfortable with her and she gives you ex-girlfriend flashbacks.

    I understand that dating and romance have different paces for dofferent people, but it sounds like you really don’t like dating this person and are only dating them out of obligation.

    Maybe you should break up?

  26. Elektra said:

    “A friend that I’ve had for more than a decade recently said she wanted us to start dating”.

    That must win the award for least enthused, most passive way I’ve heard someone say “I am in a relationship”.

    Has a malevolent pixie placed you under a spell whereby you must obey the every wish of this person, regardless of your own desires?

    If not, I suggest you ask yourself whether you want to be with her in the first place, and breaking up if you don’t.

    Frankly, it sounds like your present dynamic isn’t healthy for either of you. She’s clinging to you as if you’re a lifeline, not a partner, and you sound like the only reason you’re with her is because it was too hard to say no.

    • agonist said:

      Yeah, if I found out that my partner was using that kind of language to describe our relationship it would sting, to say the very least.

  27. Cyberwulf said:

    Buzzing, it sounds like your girlfriend has decided that she’s depressed because she’s not coupled up with kids like An Adult TM, and hey, she’s been friends with you forever so you’ll do. I don’t think she’ll set out to trap you with a pregnancy, but she’s told you she wants to move in and start a family, and if I were you I would believe her. That’s not what you want right now, so tell her asap.

    Your girlfriend has problems you cannot fix. Moving in with a boyfriend and getting a couple of kids out of him won’t solve them, either.

    • Anonyish said:

      she’s told you she wants to move in and start a family, and if I were you I would believe her. That’s not what you want right now, so tell her asap.

      This is a really good point. Whether the LW’s girlfriend is driven by depression or anything else isn’t ultimately the issue here. The issue is that she wants to do things with the LW (move in with LW, presumably stay together for a long time, and have children together) that certainly at the moment he doesn’t want to do with her. And he shouldn’t feel he has to accede to these things because of the consequences to his GF, he should feel emboldened NOT to accede to them because of the consequences to himself. Putting yourself first is often framed as selfishness, and sometimes it is, but often it is both a right and a necessity, and that is the case here. There don’t even have to be Bees for it to be 100% OK for LW to say “You know what, I was happy to give dating another go, but things are moving way too fast for me. I don’t want us to move in together now, and I’m not going to be starting a family with you any time soon.” That’s not mean, that is having a say in your own damn life.

    • “it sounds like your girlfriend has decided that she’s depressed”

      WOW that’s uncool. This is like armchair un-diagnosing. WTF.

      • Inahc said:

        Er, the “because” after the “depressed” is what’s being decided there. Not the depression itself.

  28. like an angry apple tree said:

    >>Wanting to date a friend into being not-depressed as a way to help her meet her life goals is maybe not the best.>>

    In my mind, I am embroidering this on several throw pillows – “throw” as in “to lovingly throw at several people’s heads.”

    In real life I am not, because that would be mean. But. Well said.

    People with depression (*waves*) are just as worthy as anyone else to be partnered if they want to. HOWEVER. Being partnered will not solve our problems/brainweasels/anything. It’s such a common belief, I don’t mean to jump on it because I used to think kind of like that too, but… yeah. That is not the way out. It’s nice, it can be great, but as we’ve covered, a personfriend/partner is not a pacifier, or a life raft

  29. Guesty said:

    This sounds like a very classic case of someone hearing what they want to hear, rather than what was said. When this happens, it can make even basic communication difficult because there’s no way to stop someone from misinterpreting what you say, even if you say it very clearly. The Captain’s scripts are great, as usual, but I wouldn’t be surprised if even clear language gets muddled. The only way for the LW to really enforce these boundaries is if he’s willing to walk away if she can’t be realistic about his needs.

    It’s a huge red flag that the LW’s girlfriend is thinking about a family when she can’t even get out of her parents house on her own. She’s thinking about what she wants and what will make HER happy, but she SHOULD be thinking about what she has to offer as a mother and a wife. Other people are human beings, not band aids. Children don’t exist to provide their parents with meaning and happiness. She needs to get herself to a better place before she should even think about making huge commitments that require other people to depend on her.

    I 100% agree that the LW should try to get her to stop seeing hospitalization as a tragic fate. If she’s not already seeing a therapist, the LW should encourage her to do that right away. If the LW does see a future with her, he could make it clear that in order to get that future, she needs to get well first.

    • MsMildew said:

      +1000 to all of this

  30. Temperance said:

    LW, I see a number of red flags in your letter, and none of them really relating to you. Your GF has had repeated “issues” with housing, roommates, etc., which makes me think that she doesn’t have a stable job and that she’s a nightmare to live with. Don’t become her new landing pad and the cause of all of her problems.

    I have depression. I hate it. It sucks. However, it’s *my* problem, and it’s not because I don’t have other people doing what I want all of the time. She’s blaming her family and she’s going to blame you when you don’t give her a baby.

    • Yeah, this is not good for either of them. LW, please leave her. Being blamed for stuff that has nothing to do with you can be really damaging over time.

    • Lily said:

      I don’t think that’s necessarily true. It’s totally possible that her family *is* a nightmare (or at least a nightmare to live with) and they worsen her depression even if they didn’t cause it. I know several people who go from “basically functional adult with minor problems” to “suicidal ideation” within hours of visiting or needing to live with their abusive or otherwise dysfunctional family. (And if she didn’t mention them being abusive that still doesn’t mean that they aren’t, haven’t been or e.g. have not-treated problems that makes living with them a nightmare but that she doesn’t want to tell others. The friends of mine who had parents with e.g. substance use problem didn’t tell for years.)
      That does not mean you should move in with them, LW, just that it’s possible for her problems to be very real and indeed very much dependent of her family.

      • Temperance said:

        I don’t doubt that her family sucks, but what I meant with my comment is that LW’s girlfriend has had *multiple* housing situations fall through, so it can’t just be the family that’s at issue here.If LW takes her in, he’s the new landing pad every time she has a crisis of some sort.

  31. Cares_About_Others said:

    You let us know that you’ve know this person for more than 10 years. That’s a long time. If you don’t want to be with her, you need to let her know. If you truly want to be with her, you have to be willing to accept her situation for what it is. You can help her learn to deal with it on her own or help her deal with it on your end to the best of your ability. If you don’t know how you feel, you should tell her this.

    Honesty 1-1 and being direct is best. If after 10 years of friendship/dating she can’t accept honesty, then maybe the relationship and/or friendship should not continue.

    This all stems to quality communication, trust, and acceptance of people as they are. Don’t have unreasonable expectations.

    10 years is a long time. Don’t look for perfection. Just look to keep good connections and offer as much quality help for her and yourself as you can.

  32. Amy said:

    LW, what do you want here? It seems like your current girlfriend is conflating a lot of things:
    – Caring about one another
    – Being in a romantic relationship
    – Moving in together
    – Starting a family together
    – Her getting away from her family
    – Her treating her depression
    And basically treating them as a package deal. But those things don’t all have to go together. You could care deeply for each other, but have it be a platonic bond (friends/family-like) rather than romantic. You could be in a romantic relationship but not live together. You could live together but not have kids (yet or ever). You could not live together and she could still move away from her family. You could do every other thing on this list and her depression could be no better–or you could do none of them and she could still seek treatment.

    Since she’s handing these to you as a bundle, and it sounds like the entire bundle is not what you want, I think you need to break it down a little. Which of these things can you look at and immediately say “Yes, I absolutely want that”? Which can you immediately say “No way”? Which do you think you want down the line, but not yet? Which do you need more time to process before you’ll even know if you want it?

    Once you know those things, you need to have a serious discussion with her. Tell her what you’ve figured out (“I really want A and B, but I’m not sure about C yet. I really don’t want D.”). This will involve telling her that you can’t be the sole answer to all her hopes and dreams, which might be upsetting for her, since it sounds like she’s been imagining you in that role (which, talk about unfairly high expectations, wow). That’s OK–she can be upset–but she has to respect and accept what you’re saying anyways. Her needs don’t override your needs; you guys can work together to come up with ways for her to meet her needs that you can’t/won’t cover, but she can’t reasonably expect you to do everything she wants without regard for your own comfort.

    • kanel said:

      This is a really good way to break things down. I hope it can be of help to the LW.

  33. A lot of people are pointing out that you don’t seem to want to date her or be positive about dating her…I just wanted to validate that reading that may be hard. I’m sure you really, really do like her as a person. I’m sure you really want to help her, and indeed have been by letting her stay over and get away from her family so many times. Sometimes with friends, especially ones you have dated before, it’s easy to say ‘let’s make this a relationship, after all we really care about each other right?’ But you’re allowed to be with someone because you really, really want to be with them. You’re allowed to have relationships that are joyful, not just serviceable.

    I don’t want to assume but it sounds like you maybe haven’t yet had the experience of being in a romantic relationship that really made you happy, so you have nothing to compare to except abusive and just like of ok. Like you, I was involved with an abusive person and then afterwards I kept getting into relationships that I was…just going along with. For years. It’s a thing that happens and it’s hard to explain to people who haven’t experienced it. It’s like hey, they aren’t abusive right? You don’t feel like shit all the time any more and you’re so grateful for that, asking for joy and true happiness out of dating feels like too much to ask from this world. But it’s not. You deserve joy and you deserve happiness.

    If you want to break up with her: Remember that society has insidiously fed us the idea that it’s cruel and heartless to break up with someone unless they do something bad enough to ‘deserve’ it. When the person you are considering breaking up with also has depression that seems like it will become worse if you do, then it’s double hard because society also places the blame on you for making that depression worse when it’s not your fault at all, and even if it was your need to not be in the relationship matters also, and it matters more than her want to be in a relationship with you. Those societal ideas are wrong.

    I feel that the longer you go with the flow here re: her wanting to move in with you and start a family with you, the harder it will be for you to end it. If you really, truly don’t want these things it might be better to break up now. I agree with other commenters who say that she seems to be fixating on ‘moving out of family home and having a family with you’ as the things that will solve her depression, which of course is unlikely to be the case. That may be why she’s hurrying things so much. When what you want is something that would keep things at the status quo (e.g. ‘I don’t want to move in with her’) it is easy for that to be eclipsed by the relatively stronger ‘I want to move in with LW here are apartment listings isn’t this wonderful that we are going to do this?!’

    LW, I wish you strength in expressing your needs and wants to her, whether or not you decide to continue the relationship. I hope better times are ahead for you.

    • Yeah, one of the things that my therapist’s hammered into my head, post-abusive relationship, is that it doesn’t have to be “that bad” if you want to leave/bring issues up/etc.

    • B. said:

      Thank you for saying this, it’s very helpful and really clearly and kindly put.

  34. felixthegolden said:

    I feel for the LW’s girlfriend, I really do, as I’ve got a family like that, and I don’t doubt for a second that her depression (and difficulty getting along with roommates, maybe?) stems from a childhood with them. But IME getting away from them is only going to be the first step to recovery for her, and it is pretty bad news if she is thinking of LW as her saviour. She needs to learn the skills to be able to look after herself, and that includes being able to find a living situation outside of a romantic relationship – at least until she knows she’s able to live independently. And like I’m very aware that I’m saying this as a 40-something, and it’s all a damned sight harder and more expensive than it was in my day, but it’s still a disaster for her self development if she just moves from a fucked up dependent family of origin situation to dependency on a boyfriend, and it would be dependency, I think. You have to make sure this doesn’t happen LW, as much for her sake as your own.

  35. I knew nothing of Kesha but the fact that she covers a Bob Dylan song that Johnny Cash made into a hit is good enough for me.

  36. buddleia said:

    said she wanted us to start dating
    if she doesn’t get out of there and get started on meeting her life goals, she’ll end up hospitalized.

    OP, I feel like she sees you as her ticket out and may be using you to try to get a better life and avoid getting proper mental health care. Moving in together is definitely not the right move and this relationship may not be right for you.

  37. Heather said:

    So once upon a time, I was this girlfriend. I escaped my scrappy abusive family by running away and sleeping in a local church attic whilst temping in order to eat. My mental health was terrible, I was on the wrong meds, suicidal etc. Mania meant I could also be fun, so when an old best friend of 10 years past got in touch, we shagged and fell deeply in love/lust. I felt alive with him. He was infatuated with me.

    Even though a tiny scrap of reason inside me told me not to move 150 miles across the country to be unemployed and live with my friend, I did. He felt all the hot sexy temporary ego rush of being my rescuer. Two months later, I was catatonic with depression. After I developed psychotic delusions that the world had ended and everyone around me was a living corpse, I was hospitalised. Twice in a month. It traumatised him and became another chapter in a decade of cycling in and out of crisis. The love affair ended up a heart shredding argument and me moving 150 miles home and having to beg my mother to put me up so I wasn’t homeless. Again.

    It’s been ten years since I last saw that friend. It took a long time to forgive myself for not treating him with more care because he deserved better. I let him believe that true love could fix us both. He took it very hard when that didn’t happen. My leaving cut into old wounds of previous exes who hurt him. Our friendship didn’t survive.

    Do yourselves a favour and be as honest as you stand to be. Better that discomfort than tanking a friendship and watching your girlfriend suffer because you tried to paper over the problems.

  38. Tace said:

    Your friend wants someone who loves her enough to move in together, settle down into some kind of serious relationship and start a family with her.

    Regardless of how much you love her, you say you don’t want to live with her, you don’t want to settle down into a serious relationship with her, and you don’t want to start a family with her.

    If you do want to do any of that, it may be years away yet, possibly never with her, and also possibly only after you yourself have dealt with your own issues around relationships and trust.

    Those are BIG dealbreakers, right there; everything else is just details.

    You need to break up.

    It will be hard and painful – breakups almost always are – and you may not be able to salvage the friendship. Judging by this letter, you need to break up anyway.

    For one thing, if you’ve been friends ‘over a decade’ after being old enough to date when you met, then she’s not being irrational to start to think about settling down with a little more urgency than you may be feeling. Women’s biological clock is a real thing. (Not as serious a Thing as some people make out, but fertility problems and the menopause are real issues.)

    As her friend, you would be doing her a kindness to give her time to grieve your breakup and move on to finding another person. Judging by me and everyone I know, there’s a whole lengthy two-to-five-year process of casual-dating-hell, then getting-to-know-people then dating-someone-seriously then moving-in-together, etc. etc. etc. before we get to the whole ‘someone who loves her/family of her own’ thing that your friend says she wants.

    Also, what you’re doing now – keeping a relationship going when you know there are serious dealbreakers in play on your side – could be seen as ‘stringing her along’ or even ‘using her for sex’ (speaking as someone who knows how depression’s brain weasels work, always looking for the worst possible interpretation of ‘nobody loves me!’) so, uh, try not to be doing any of that?

    Best of luck, LW.

  39. “I have some personal history that makes me worried I’m reading more into the comments than is actually intended.” Probably not; it’s not an accident when a woman explicitly says a few months into a relationship that she wants to start a family, and soon. Women generally avoid this if they aren’t considering having a family with the person they’re dating, because it’s been drilled into our heads that wanting a family will “scare him off.” And it’s fairly straight forward when a person goes apartment hunting for two and then forwards the results to their SO. Maybe the hospitalization thing was meant as dark humor, maybe there is room for various other misunderstandings that isn’t explained in the letter, but WHY can’t the LW ask GF directly for much-wanted clarification? They’ve been friends for 10 years so why can’t LW address her directly? Is she super scary/abusive? Has she given LW reason to think something horrible will happen if he speaks up? Is LW hoping she’ll do all the work to figure out his thoughts completely on her own, then do the work of communicating what she thinks those thoughts are, then do the work to determine how to move on or break up after that? If it’s the latter, please don’t string her along until she’s having a mental health crisis AND her living situation is in jeopardy AND she’s getting dumped AND time is running out to start a family. Tell her now, when she can easily make alternate arrangements for herself.

    Speaking of interpreting comments, though, did the “buzzing” sign-off refer to “evil bees” as they’re often discussed on CA’s site? Is your letter a roundabout way of asking if GF’s actions are making you anxious because they’re a red flag of a an abuser and you should run? Is all your passive language because you feel GF is pushing you into something too fast, or pushing you around in general? Are you afraid to articulate your growing dread? If that’s what you’re asking, LW, then I could see how GF’s actions are those of a well-intentioned person who has depression and an unfortunate family, and is Magic-Thinging. But I can also see another version where she’s pushing for a relationship way too fast, trying to “lock you down,” is scapegoating others (her family) for her problems, is threatening and guilting you via hospitalization. It’s a totally relevant question but it’s impossible as a reader to know, and FWIW the solutions would be the same– tell her you won’t move in and start a family together, pay attention to your true feelings about her, be more assertive with boundaries. If she doesn’t react well to you articulating boundaries, it doesn’t matter whether she’s an evil bee or not.

    • GG said:

      Worth adding, perhaps: Even if your concerns were 1000% because of your past experiences and have nothing to do with her behaviour, it’s enough for you to pump the breaks on this and say that you cannot move in and/or you need to break up.

      Wanting to break up is reason enough.

      Wanting to have your own place is reason enough.

      I get being worried for her and caring for her and the future is scary and uncertain. But it sounds like you have enough on your plate to make you want to slow down, Buzzing, and that is fair enough. Whether that involves therapy or breaking up depends on you, but you deserve to honour your own feelings too.

      Also, for the record: I don’t think your girlfriend should rush into this just because you made vague noises about “maybe thinking about it” and I doubt she will be happy however you break the news to her. But as other commenters have said, you are not doing her any favours by staying silent. Sometimes the kind thing is to break unpleasant news to people and letting them have whatever feelings they have instead of telling them what they want to hear or staying quiet to spare their feelings.

  40. Indie said:

    Gaslighting alert: you say something and she acts like you said something else. She’s so persistent in hearing x whenever you say y, that you start to wonder if you’re the one who’s being off. After all, she’s so confident. ‘Maybe that past relationship made me paranoid?’ you wonder. No it didn’t! Contrary to popular belief experiences don’t make us paranoid/bitter/baggaged/ruined/unable to enjoy a Disney flick; they make us EXPERIENCED. Trust your gut.

    • B. said:

      +1000

    • goddessoftransitory said:

      YUP YUP YUP

      This whole letter reminds me of those upsetting morning dreams I have where I forgot I had a baby and gave it to my sister, or just remembered I’m technically engaged to someone I haven’t seen in years, or other rando anxieties that attach imaginary meaning to real life people or circumstances.

  41. TO_Ont said:

    This doesn’t really sound like cold feet Cold feet is when you really want to do something, but have some last minute jitters about taking the plunge. This sounds more like he was never excited about moving in together in the first place.

  42. Clare said:

    I’m inclined to be more suspicious of Girlfriend than the Captain is on this occasion. ‘If you don’t make this big commitment I will end up in hospital’ is a MASSIVE amount of pressure to put on somebody. What else is she going to want from LW once they’re living together 24/7? Helping out with rent and bills? Constant emotional support and reassurance?

    I also think it’s harsh to call LW ‘the noncommittal confusing dude.’ ‘Not for a few months’ DOES NOT mean yes. I think most of us would struggle to give a hard ‘no’ when it’s someone we care about asking for help. This is why ‘soft no’s’ are a thing and it sucks that the girlfriend is ignoring that.

    • TO_Ont said:

      Yes, the hospital comment sounds a bit threatening and a lot manipulative.

    • PintsizeBro said:

      I agree with you (and also Indie above). “I wouldn’t want to consider anything for at least a few months” is pretty far from “We will move in together in a few months” to someone who is actually listening to the words that he’s saying.

      I also read her hospital statement as “I will do something drastic that will lead to me being hospitalized,” not “I will have to seriously consider inpatient care as the next stage of my treatment plan.” The latter is being realistic and proactive, the former is a threat.

  43. Harpy with a harp said:

    Like some others who commented, it really doesn’t seem like you actually want to be with your girlfriend. Your use of the word “strident” which comes with a lot of patriarchal implications about women who dare to ask for what they want – implies a really not great attitude towards her. And you seem to think you know better than her about what causes her own mental health issues, which comes across as very condescending towards her.

    I really think it is best if you break up with her. She deserves a person who loves her and writes and speaks about her in a loving and not contemptuous and paternalistic way, and you deserve someone who you actually want to be with and who wants the same things in life that you want. Neither of you have to be bad people to break up, and there don’t have to be “evil bees” buzzing for you to break up – it just seems like at this point you and her want very different things, and you clearly don’t think highly of her at all, so you both just don’t seem to be the right people for each other at the stages in life you both are in.

    • I don’t disagree that they should break up. But…

      Something I’ve noticed happening a lot on CA recently is people pointing out that LW’s don’t seem to like the person they are talking about, and their reasoning is that the LW only talks about problems with that person. But the problems are the reason the LWs are writing. The letters are word limited. And when LWs say things like ‘they are a really great person, but they do [not good behaviour]’ the comments are often full of ‘well that person doesn’t sound so great if they are doing [not good behaviour]!’ It’s a lose-lose.

      As someone who would find it very unhelpful if I wrote to CA about a problem I’m having with somebody I otherwise liked and got a whole slew of comments telling me I clearly secretly disliked and looked down on that person, I’m kind of sad about this trend.

  44. ktjp said:

    oh LW. I have been this person too many times to count. Please don’t do this. The fact that the first sentence of your letter includes the phrase “said she wanted us to start dating” and therefore you are dating?

    I have cohabitated with significant others twice, and in both cases, it was not because I made the free and clear choice to do so — most recently, my now-ex sabotaged their own housing situation and just didn’t find an alternative, so it became “If we don’t move in together right now” (instead of in the year or so down the line that we’d planned) “I’ll be homeless.” They did that because they knew full well that I would sacrifice my own comfort and my own decent housing situation (which was perfect for me, but not for more than one person and a small dog) in order to make sure that they didn’t suffer. This is a repeating pattern in my relationships — being thrust into situations where the “right” thing to do seems to be disregarding my own personal boundaries for the other person’s convenience — and so I may be projecting here, but this will lead to nothing but frustration, misery, and potentially your SO redirecting the blame for their problems onto you if they actually managed to get away from their family and stay away.

    It is not the bad kind of selfish to not want these things for yourself. It’s protection and self-care to do the things that are best for you and your situation, even if they may not be what your partner wants.

  45. Jaybeetee said:

    I’m wondering if the commenters set off by this LW’s more passive language have, like me, a past experience with a person who did this sort of thing in not-great ways in the relationship? I’m not saying this is actually what the LW is doing, but his tone set me off a bit too, and I’m trying to be aware of it. I had an ex that would use language like this, and act like he was just standing there while all this STUFF just happened to him (relationship stuff, friendship stuff, family stuff, job stuff). It was a way for him to avoid taking responsibility for his part in these conflicts. Our reality together was that he was VERY much the dominant partner in our relationship, and even admitted occasionally to being “domineering”. But sometimes he would recount some argument or issue we had, and literally describe himself as a “passenger” who was helpless to stop or mitigate whatever it was I was doing. It was the narrative he told himself to make those conflicts Never His Fault (or even partially his fault), and apart from with me, I heard him doing it A LOT.

    Again, there is no evidence at all that LW is doing anything like this. I’m not trying to pillory him unfairly or dump blame on him. His GF is being too pushy and has decided moving in with him is The Answer To All Her Problems and isn’t paying attention to what he’s saying and it’s not okay. It just pinged my personal radar that he’s using a lot of passive language implying that his GF is just *doing* all this stuff, and he’s just kinda…there. Like others here, I encourage LW to define his boundaries and state them clearly to his GF, for both their sakes. It keeps him from being abused or taken advantage of, but it also keeps him honest that there are two of them in this relationship and influencing this dynamic.

    • Harpy with a harp said:

      It is definitely pinging my radar as well, it is very much how my abusive ex would describe himself as a passive victim of circumstances to avoid any responsibility for his actions or for his role in the relationship
      . The condescending/he knows better than her sort of language is also pinging some stuff with me.

    • Indie said:

      I think you make a good point and the captain’s suggestion to be direct solves both possibilities: ‘I have decided I don’t want to live with you; stop sending me listings” works regardless of whether the OP is genuinely being driven by pushiness, or whether pretending to be.

    • See, I had the opposite reaction- the LW’s expression of his thoughts and experiences reminded me strongly of myself in the past, and still sometimes today. I think reading our own experience into an LW’s is a feature of the CA comments and it’s natural. I also think it’s important that people re-read before posting and think ‘is this really about the LW’s situation or is it about mine?’

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