Long Answers to Short Questions Tuesday!

Hello everyone! I’ve tweaked the format for short answer question submission (explainer for how it works is here) for these posts to keep the number & scope of responses manageable and to better guard privacy. Here’s this week’s batch of answers. Thanks to all who submitted and helped me try out the new system, I learned a lot.

Q1 Any advice on how to compliment a longtime friend in his late 20s on his intentional emotional growth without sounding condescending? I can tell he’s worked hard in the last year to become more confident, vulnerable, and considerate! So far I’ve said, “I can tell you’re in a really good place,” but I want to honor the work I can tell he’s done, you know? Thanks! (Pronouns: she/her/hers)

A1: I think “I can tell you’re in a really good place” is a wonderful way of putting it, why not leave it there for now? “I’m so glad you’re my friend” or “I’m so proud to be your friend” or “You’re so good at ____” are always in season.

If you want to say something more, try asking a question: “You seem like you’re in such a good place these days. How are you feeling/How are you doing/What are you excited about right now?” If he wants to tell you about some of the changes he’s been making, you can make more specific affirming noises then.

Sorting out our own emotional well-being is its own reward. Your friend is happier. You are happier in his company. Honor his work best by enjoying its fruits!

Q2: Hey Capt.! I recently had to move home with my parents due to financial reasons. And I know that I’m lucky to be able to! But as a late-twenty-something its a bit demoralizing. Not to mention my mother still treats me like a kid. Any tips on keeping my spirits up? Negotiating boundaries (no I will not go to church)? Not feeling like a loser for living at home at nearly 30? Thanks! (Pronouns: she/her/hers)

A2: Hi there! This is probably a good time to remind folks that US culture is really big on the idea that moving away from home and establishing one’s own household is the sole path to becoming a ‘real adult.’ On an individual basis that might be a necessary path for some of us to breathe and thrive (it certainly was for me) but it’s far from universal. Cultural traditions, disability, care-taking, and financial realities keep lots of “real” adults close to home, not to mention that there are people who like living with their parents.

It’s okay if you prefer living away from home, it’s okay to feel upset at having to move back there, it’s okay to want to go back to having your own household again, but freeing yourself from the “I”m such a loser” framework frees others from harmful, often ableist messages, too. If you can’t do it for yourself right now, could you try for the sake of other people? The good news is that you’re already practicing reframing this – “I recently had to move home with my parents due to financial reasons. And I know that I’m lucky to be able to!” – so keep doing that as you tell the story to yourself and others. “I had some financial setbacks, thankfully my parents are able to put me up.” 

There is advice on some more practical concerns in another past post:

“Be nice to your parents.  As weird as it is for you to be home, it’s also weird and awkward for them to have an adult child back in the nest.  Be extra considerate about chores.  Volunteer for things before you are asked.  Cook dinner.  Wash up.  When they give you “helpful” (annoying) advice, say “Thanks, mom, I’ll think about it.”  Even if it’s wrong, you’ll think about it, right?  Don’t pick fights, sulk, or punish them for your circumstances. Thank them for being a port in a storm for you. Take a lot of long walks away from home to give them space and privacy from you.  Make effort to seek out their company and do stuff with them – board games, cards, renting movies, taking a walk after dinner.  Ask them about their days. Treat them like adult humans who you like and not necessary evils.”

It’s harder to treat someone like a kid when they are actively participating in the household like an adult. See if you can mentally convert some of the things that were rules in childhood (like a curfew) into consideration for others (“I won’t be home for dinner tonight and I’ll text if I’ll be later than 11:00 pm.”)

As for church, and other boundaries you want to set, consider how much of setting a boundary is about having confidence in your own integrity and your own needs. You don’t want to go to church, your mom wants you to go, as long as saying “no” won’t jeopardize your immediate housing security (sadly not something everyone can count on), she can ask as many times as she likes and you can say “Mom, thanks for asking, but I don’t want to go to church. I can have lunch ready when you get home, though!” “Mom, I know church is really important to you, and I respect that, but I also know that it’s not for me, so, no thanks! Enjoy the service!” every time. If she yells at you or gets really upset? That’s her choice. You still don’t have to go, and you might be able to go a long way by modeling the behavior you expect in return. 

People often think the next step is to convince her to stop asking, but you can’t control that, and you can’t fix her feelings. What you can do is to be consistent with what you said you’d do (not go to church) and experiment treating this like a recurring caring and friendly invitation that you’re politely declining vs. a primal fight for autonomy (which on some level? It is) and seeing if your mom adjusts with some time. Mine did, I hope yours does too.

Q3. I’m so exhausted all the time, and it feels impossible to get all of my responsibilities done. Whenever I have a free moment, and try to change gears to something relaxing or fun, my partner always seems to be nearby, asking me to grab things for them or take them to a myriad of stores… and by the time I’m done, it’s time for bed. I feel trapped in an endless, exhausting cycle. Pronouns: they/them or he/his. 

A3. Hi there! I must congratulate you. So few words, so many overlapping and interconnected issues, namely:

  1. You’re exhausted all the time,
  2. You have too many responsibilities for the energy & time you have and you’re overwhelmed,
  3. When you do have some down time, your partner jumps in to schedule things and ask for help,
  4. When this happens, you don’t say no.

My suggestions for starting points or processes for addressing the exhaustion/overload piece of this are:

  1. Consider a medical checkup, esp. if exhaustion is new or has grown significantly recently.
  2. Consider tracking where your time goes for the next a week or so, without judgment or attempts to optimize things. DON’T BE FANCY. No shiny new productivity tools or or tips or hacks or apps (how would we even know which one to recommend or apply without knowing what the issue is). I’ve had good luck with a simple grid with days of the week and times of day (downloadable template) and a pencil or pen. Another even simpler way is to end your day by making a list of all the things you did. Nobody’s gotta look at this but you.
  3. Block out 2-3 hours about 2 weeks from now (after data collection) where you can be totally alone and quiet and unreachable. Libraries are good for this. Bring your filled-out grids, some blank ones, some ways to make notes.
  4. What does the data tell you? (Past insights when I’ve tried this:  Commuting and eating take up actual time/I should stop pretending I’m ever going to get up at 6:00 am/My lowest-paid/lowest reward freelance client was taking up way too much time, time to either raise rates or quit)
  5. Consider at 5 -10 possible ways you might be able to address the overall “too much on the plate” situation. Discard anything that smacks of “work smarter, not harder” or beating yourself up for not being able to do everything on your list. Keep wishes & daydreams.
  6. Sort your list. What’s one step you could reasonably take in the next 24 hours? Is anything looking juicy and quittable? What’s the worst thing that could happen if certain tasks remained undone, or got deleted from your workload?
  7. Use a fresh time grid as a planning template for the week ahead, block out obligations and things you want to do. Can you start to see ways some of this could work better? Or maybe everything is still bullshit but you can see the shape of the bullshit a little more clearly? Great! That’s enough for right now. Treat yourself.
  8. See if you can keep this going and check in every two weeks: A free hour, thinking about what you need & want to do in the week ahead, brainstorming actions & next steps, treating yourself. Repeat. My hope is that you’ll slowly regain a sense of control.
  9. Important: Probably nobody is ever going to give you time to think or plan, certainly not most employers, so you’re going to have to wrest it for yourself and guard it carefully against interruptions. People are going to be very quick to offer hacks/tips/tricks (The Pomodoro Method! Habitica! Bullet journaling! Morning pages!) and those can be useful tools but they are not a substitute for an overall process for setting boundaries around your time and giving yourself permission – this 1 hour every week, this 15 minutes at the beginning and end of every workday – to think about your life and how you want and need to live it.
  10. You may want to share your process with your partner, especially as you go, or invite them to try it out, too, but consider focusing on yourself at first, with your own schedule & priorities uppermost.

Now, here are some questions I suggest asking yourself/your partner/the situation:

  • Is your partner able to do these errands alone? If not, what alternatives exist (find a delivery service, ask someone else they know)?
  • What happens if you say “No, I’d rather not do that today, can it wait?” or “I need to close my eyes for half an hour, can I come help you then?” or “Mind handling the shopping on your own today?” Not to argue (“You always jump on me the second I get home!”), but, neutrally, as if this is a perfectly reasonable thing to ask (because it is). If you have a habit of always agreeing to help when your partner asks, is it silly that they’d develop an expectation that asking isn’t a big deal?
  • Because you are so busy in other parts of your life, do you think your partner is trying to cross the streams of spending time with you AND getting all the errands done? What are your partner’s “busy” levels compared to yours? (I can easily imagine a situation where one person coming home from work is ready to wind down for the day and someone who has been home all day is like, “You’re here! Let’s get this party started!” aka “Life with kittens.”)
  • Can you both agree to interrupt that pattern, by setting aside clear blocks of time for errands/household stuff and relaxing/date stuff?

Best of luck in finding a way to be more intentional about how you spend your days and your dates.

Q4: Some neighbours (idk who) have a cat, Bob. He liked to hang in our backyard (stressing our indoor cats to the point of peeing on a bed) until we enclosed it ($$$) Now he sits on the mesh and fights my 14yo cat through it. This week I got close enough to Bob to read their tag + phone number. I didn’t text them at 2am (last fight) What do I say, and when? Pronouns: she/hers

A4: Maybe the next time “Bob” drops by for a fight, you can snap a photo with your phone, or shoot video if you can. Then you could text the number and say “Hello, neighbor, this is [Name] at [Address.] Is this your cat, Bob? He really likes to drop by and bother my cats at night. Any way you can keep him in at night?” 


  • The first time, wait until the next morning/a decent hour before you text.
  • Keep in mind that this person didn’t know about your expensive problems with Bob before this moment, they don’t have the same buildup of upset feelings. Start friendly, and focus on what is happening NOW and what you would like to happen NOW/IN THE FUTURE.
  • Keep expectations low. You’re probably not getting reimbursed for anything expensive you did to your yard. What you might get is “Can you keep Bob inside at night?” or “Hey, if Bob is being loud/disruptive, howabout I text you and you can come collect him?”
  • This vet I turned up in my Google search had some interesting suggestions.
  • I know nothing about where you live or what laws & rules about animals are like there. You should research the rules where you live and talk to people in your neighborhood. That way, if a direct request to Bob’s person doesn’t work, you can maybe find good next steps.

Moderation Note for this one: I rarely post anything about animals and animal welfare – Nicole Cliffe correctly calls this “the third rail of advice column work”- and this is why: People get very concerned about animals (a fine quality!), and sometimes also get very unrealistic ideas about what it is possible to do in regard to someone else’s animal in a way that crosses over into vigilantism or the fallacy  that the questioner is OBLIGATED to trap/steal/save Bob from his owners (an upsetting quality!). Unfortunately, “Bob” might just be an annoying quirk of this questioner’s neighborhood, and they may not have much recourse. If you’ve successfully convinced a neighbor to be more proactive about a cat situation, tell us about that! Catnapping fantasies or unfounded legal advice: No.

Q5: Whether I’m teaching my college class or explaining board game rules, people often forget small things I’ve already explained. Nbd, shit gets complicated, I clarify the thing if they ask. However, my anxiety spikes when they respond, “BUT YOU NEVER SAID THAT!! HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO KNOW??” Correcting them seems like punching down, so I just smile and apologize and stress. Do you have any better ways to deal if/when this happens to you? Pronouns: she/her/hers

A5: If you’re pretty sure that you are covering whatever it is adequately, it might help if you think of a strange “BUT YOU NEVER SAID THAT!” reaction (vs. a simple request to repeat or review the information) as someone else’s anxiety (or other feelings-reaction) flaring up at you. Their feelings are real, but that doesn’t mean you caused them, or that their feelings are the primary thing you need to address. What’s happening is more about them than it is about you.

It still feels weird/upsetting in the moment? But maybe knowing/reminding yourself of that can help you get some distance?

In response, you don’t have to correct them, but you certainly can. And you can stop apologizing, which I think is one thing that is stressing you out. Try being very neutral and factual, like, “I did cover that at the beginning, but it’s okay to go over it again. What’s tripping you up?” 

Another thought, teacher-to-teacher: When I get the same student questions a lot, or the same part of the instructions is breaking down for people, it’s usually a sign to either create & make available or edit a written version students can refer to.

Q6: My ex is fine but definitely Ex-For-A-Reason. Occasionally they’ll reconnect and it’s great! Eventually For-A-Reason shows up and I’ll cut contact. This happened recently and I handled it well, but I’m sad to gain/lose that connection again (for good, I’m done playing emotional yo-yo). Logicbrain knows I miss idealized ex, I’m not close to many people, and I’m generally lonely (but working on it!). I did good/regret nothing, but what do I do with feeeeeeeeelings? Pronouns: she/her/hers

A6: There’s no shortcut with feelings, sorry, friend. You feel them for a while, you be nice to yourself, you give it a lot of time and space, you redirect your attention to parts of your life that are satisfying. More detailed instructions here.

Q7: I have a friend that I wish was a small-doses friend, who I instead spend an evening a week with; we take a class together and take the same train home after. I’m getting frustrated with her for invading my space, through no fault of her own. How do I manage my feelings and maintain a friendship with her when I find her annoying sometimes and see her 1000% more than I wish I did? Pronouns: she/her/hers

A7: How long does the class go? I ask because time will take care of this problem pretty soon, right? And when the class is over you can take a break. In the meantime:

  • Who do you like in the class, who makes you look forward to it? Time to quietly branch out, make sure you meet and work with some other people during class time?
  • Make a list of reasons you like this person and a list of things you enjoy talking to her about. On some train rides, ask her about those safe, enjoyable topics. Choose to engage.
  • On other train rides, could you try saying “Hey [friend], it’s been a super long day, I need to put headphones on and tune out on the way home, can we chat next week?” thank her for understanding, and grab some quiet time. Sometimes people need quiet, it’s okay to ask!

Q8: I know you’re married to a great dude after having a not-so-great history with some dudes in the past. Do you have any advice on how to feel okay and safe dating when it seems like every small thing is a red flag and every expression of intimacy is terrifying? I don’t want to override my body’s fear signals but I also don’t want to be alone forever. Already in therapy. Pronouns: she/her/hers

A8: Hi! During the winter in 2012 when Mr. Awkward luckily crossed my path, I was trying to rid myself of certain habits like sleeping with people right away, being afraid to disappoint people, or letting my essential homebody nature and inertia steer the ship too soon.

Chicago winters are harsh, liking a variety of cosy indoor activities isn’t wrong, and yet, I wanted to stop living this Marilyn Hacker poem. I wanted to stop recreating cycles of “Hi, you seem nice and like you can carry on a conversation!” followed by “Let’s imprint on each other sexually!” followed by “Eh, just come over, I made soup!” followed by either “Hey bro, don’t you have your own apartment to go to?” or “Welp, I guess you’re my boyfriend now, I can work with this.” Maybe it was time to change something up.

What I had going for me then:

  • I wasn’t new at online dating – the novelty had definitely worn off, and I had learned from some earlier mistakes.
  • We teach what we need to learn – advising others  here had helped me re-examine my own history in a gentle light and helped me articulate what I wanted.
  • I liked my life, I liked my apartment, I liked my friends, I liked my work, I liked myself, I liked being alone. This empowered me to be very, very picky.

Again, thanks to the writing I did for this site, I did put some pretty specific guardrails in place. Seven years later I can’t say for sure how much was instinct and how much was deliberate, but this is what I tried at the time:

  • Small Doses. I scheduled first dates with new people on weeknights.Why this worked for me:
    • Dates like “Want to grab some tacos after work Tuesday?” kept things centrally located, low-key, and inexpensive. If I’m already out of the house for work, no need to fight inertia or put on a special shirt!
    • “School nights” gave me ironclad reason to wrap things up early, limit or skip drinking altogether, and avoid the whole idea of going home with somebody or inviting them home with me.
    • It kept weekends free for hanging out with friends (who I already knew I liked) or enjoying time alone. If I liked someone enough to want to book up a Saturday, that was good information.
  • Slowing Down. I scheduled first dates few and far between, and after each first date, I tried to give myself some time to decide about whether I wanted another one. For example:
    • At the end of a date, I tried to say stuff like “It was really nice meeting you, thank you for coming out” instead of “Sure, let’s do this again sometime!” so I could sleep on it.
    • Before making another date, I thought about what I wrote in all the dating answers on here: Is this person as cool as my friends? Am I excited to see them again and get to know them better? Was the actual time we spent on the date fun, comfortable, relaxing? Am I at least contemplating [kissing stuff]? Were there any red flags (more on this below)?
    • Unless the prospect of a second date made me want to say a wholehearted “Yay!!!!!!!!” it was a No thank you.” And I straight up cancelled/reversed on some things if I caught myself trying to talk myself into the idea of someone.
    • If I did like someone and want to have a second or third date, I waited a long time before inviting them to my home or doing any home/cooking/cosy OR sexy stuff. Not because that’s bad (cosy evenings at my place are awesome!) but because I personally didn’t want to lapse into that mode of least resistance right away.
  • Safety and Congruence
    • Basic Safety Stuff: I met people in public places that were easy to get myself to and from. I told friends where I was going. I asked people for real names. I did at least a cursory Google search, and left that info with friends, too. I made a Google Voice number to keep my cell number private. I texted my check-in person when I arrived on the date and when I got home.
    • Intermediate Safety Stuff: I gave myself permission to bail pretty immediately if something didn’t feel right, especially if I sensed someone was a jerk or being untruthful.
      • One time a man looked at least 15 years older than his profile photo. Another man had a very different body type than he did in photos. It wasn’t that they were unattractive in person, or that I expected movie stars, but I did expect…congruence? Honesty? Self-awareness? Whatever was going on, it wasn’t my issue to dig into, so I excused myself pretty quickly and sent some extremely awkward “Look, I can’t help but noticing you look really different from your photos. Since you look fine just as you are, I hope you’ll post some recent photos before you try this again! But the discrepancy is so jarring to me, I’m just not comfortable” messages through the app when I got home.
      • Someone whose profile said “divorced” whose story morphed into “I finally told my wife I wanted to separate last week and we are still going to be roommates for a while, is that a problem?” on the actual date? = MARRIED, WHAT YOU ARE IS MARRIED, SIR. I wish that person well, I don’t think they were evil (esp. since they ‘fessed up right away when we met), I know this shit gets complicated and expensive sometimes, but I had made it clear in my profile that I didn’t want to mess with married people or anyone with an ongoing committed romantic/emotional/legal entanglement, and someone who thought they could override that or worm their way around it was not for me. Let me have informed consent, or leave me alone.
    • Sorting “Red Flags”: Dealbreakers vs. Incompatibilities vs. Questions. These are/were some of mine, provided as examples. Yours/other people’s will be different
      • Dealbreakers (Red Flags): Untruthful. Mean to the waitstaff. Brings feature screenplay to our date expecting me to give notes on it. Mansplains my job to me. Takes “no thanks” as an invitation to negotiate: (“Come on, have another drink”). Keeps trying to push the level of intimacy higher than is comfortable, talks explicitly about sex a lot or keeps bring the conversation back there even when I don’t participate or change the subject. Talks during movies. Hipster racism (which is still racism!) or casual misogyny (totes misogyny!). Negs/Backhanded compliments. Handsy, grabby, a space invader.
      • Incompatibilities (Orange Flags): Mistakes first date for therapy session, downloads a ton of sensitive/personal info on me, overshares. Conversation has no flow, I either feel like I’m performing, I’m expected to be the audience, or it’s an interrogation. Explains jokes to me. Is weird about “who pays” – either insists on paying for everything despite me holding out money, or pulls out a calculator. Every story is a rant or complaint. Making plans is difficult, requires way too many texts, person has no suggestions of activities or places to meet, lots of “I don’t know, whatever you want to do is fine!” Crosses the enthusiasm/evangelism line, i.e. If we’re on a date and you like something a lot, it’s probably fun to listen to you talk about it, even if it’s not my thing! But if you start insisting that I must like a thing, too, or telling me how much a thing I like sucks, I will endeavor to never touch any part of your body with any part of my body. Also here? “I’m not attracted to them/just not feeling it, not sure why” and “Our investment/enthusiasm levels are mismatched somehow.” 
      • Questions (Yellow Flags): Only people from their lives they mention are exes/sex partners, no mention of friends or family. Evasive answers to questions like “where did you grow up.” Any serious topic of conversation gets deflected with jokes (which, it takes one to know one, but what are we evading/avoiding?) Gaps in their story, long silences that aren’t comfortable silences.

Dealbreakers/Red Flags meant something about this person was pinging my radar where it comes to safety and/or integrity.  I didn’t want to go out with them again, and I probably would prefer not to see again in this life. As soon as I sent the “hey thanks for coming out, I don’t think we’re a good fit but I hope you meet someone great” message, I tended to block them on the dating app. And, since I had some good friends who were using the site at the same time as me,  I also sent out a few “Hey, watch out for this username, he’s pushy as hell” warnings.

People who seemed to be kind & doing their best but were just incompatible with me got filed as “Nice enough, but not for me!” Someone didn’t have to be a bad person to be a mismatch for me & what I wanted. Realizing this, and putting into practice by saying “No thank you!” to spending more time with people – even when they were very, very nice people, even when I did not want to hurt anyone’s feelings – was an incredibly powerful and healthy realization for me.

If what I had after a date were questions AND I really enthusiastically liked the person, I might give things a little more time. I didn’t need people to be cheerful or have perfect lives, and I was definitely okay with someone being reticent about painful or uncomfortable topics or a little shy (especially when meeting a stranger for the first time)(especially in contrast to people who wanted to dump all their baggage on me). If we had a second date and something still didn’t feel right? I’d know what to do.

I don’t know where to stick this in the bulleted list, but it’s another important lesson of that time: I didn’t try to convert incompatible date-people into friends. New friendships were and are for people who goddamn delight me, where I feel strong connections and enthusiasm, not an awkward dumping ground or collection plate for people I didn’t want to have sex with because I couldn’t bear to say “You’re nice, but no.” 

That’s a lot of text, right? I swear at the time, in practice, it wasn’t that complicated. All these rules/practices were about knowing myself, giving myself permission to want what I really wanted and set boundaries with myself about that.

What happened was:

I went on a bunch of first dates over the course of 6 months or so. Those ranged from “Oof, awkward” to “Eh, fine” to “Whoa, that person is a catch! He’s wonderful! But not my catch!”

I went on no second dates.

Then I went on one great first date.

And a great second date.

And all my guardrails/checks-and-balances were important because they were a reminder to myself to slow down and pay attention.

And they were a reminder to let myself enjoy things, to appreciate how good things could be. Because I felt safe, seen, respected, loved, appreciated. Because things were easy. Because I could be vulnerable. Because things matched.

So I married that one.*

I hope that helps.

Let’s do this again sometime!



*I realize this makes it sound like we got hitched on the third date. No. We got married about 4 years after we met, though I knew that it was likely/probable within a few months of meeting.

P.S. I wrote some stuff about compatibility around living space/household stuff that fits in with the whole red flags/dating someone new/is this for me? discussion here (#7).

210 thoughts on “Long Answers to Short Questions Tuesday!

  1. Q7: I sympathize because I haaaaate accidentally catching the train home with someone I know and having to make awkward small talk. Is there any flexibility on which train you take? Could you tell her you’re going to grab a quick coffee or run into the grocery store after your class? Even if you end up taking the same train (like, say, it’s one of those once-every-hour trains), this might mean that you don’t necessarily have to see each other in the station be in the same compartment.

    This comment brought to you by my love of train reading and my hatred of those encounters where neither of you really wants to talk to the other, but it’s too awkward to sit in silence.

    1. I second this, although with the caveat that I’d say “I’ve got to run some errands tonight before I go home, so I’m not going to the train this time. See you next week!” Depending on the sort of person Q7 is attempting to avoid, mentioning getting coffee or grocery shopping could lead to “oh, a coffee sounds great! Let’s go!” or “Actually, I need to pick some stuff up from the store too!” Being boring and non-specific might be safer.

    2. I’ve had reasonable luck with a straightforward, “Hi, I need this time to decompress/shift gears, so if you’ll pardon me, I’m going to disappear into my book.”

  2. Q5: My roommate designs card and board games, and for the last one in particular he found he got a lot of questions even though it seemed simple. Sometimes things just don’t click for people, and sometimes things that make logical sense to you are not as logical to someone else. So he made a cheat sheet! There are extra cards in the deck so that each player can have one, and the card just lists the basic rules of how turns and playing a card work.

    It’s simple, it doesn’t take a ton of extra work to implement, and it helps make people less anxious or confused knowing they’ve got the rule card in front of them and can look at it if they feel lost. Definitely implement something like that cheat sheet for your games or your classes. I think sometimes we all just have too many other things going on in our brains and we blank out during explanations no matter how well they’re done, and having a written reminder can be a relief.

    1. Cheat sheets are honestly the best in any board game. Questions like “How many stones do I need to build a city?” or “Wait, what’s my character’s special ability?” diminish (won’t necessarily say disappear) pretty well.

      I will say when it’s something you know and understand super well, it’s easy to forget that not everyone is an expert (whether it be a game you play regularly or a subject you teach). You’re brain has the experiences to call back on and has developed short cuts to help you remember that when A happens, B happens too. I LOVE board games but I hate the process of learning new ones because there are so many things to remember (that are easy to forget!). Things can be fun and can become like second nature, but it will absolutely take some time (and repetition) to get there.

    2. This was my go-to at work when a new software system rolled out and I had to train people on it. I ended up making a bunch of one- or two-page guides that were essentially, “That question I know you’re about to ask me? Here’s a detailed walk-through with screenshots so I don’t have to spend an hour at your desk!”

    3. Q5, It may help your anxiety to focus less on the one person saying “But you never said that” and look at the group as a whole. If you did actually cover the point clearly before, then many of your other listeners are internally rolling their eyes at the questioner and thinking “Yes, yes, she did.” and thinking that the questioner is wasting their time repeating material already covered. Does the group look checked out as you re-explain the point? Then you’ve got someone who needs some extra time/assistance. Does the group look engaged, and nodding along with the questioner? Then you should take a look at how you explained the point, and think about how to make it clearer.

      If you choose to add cheat sheet/written instructions, get someone who isn’t very familiar with the topic to look over your material to make sure it is clear and explicit. (or ask for feedback from the ones using the materials) It’s too easy (because we’re humans!) to overlook the need to explain to others what is obvious to us.

      Case in point – I had to play a card game as part of a terrible team-building exercise. Simple card game, cards were dealt out, a player throws out a card, whoever plays the highest card of the lead suit wins the pile. Our instruction sheet said “hearts are trump”, with no further detail. Most of the other tables of players interpreted that to mean a card of the trump suit would win the pile – I pointed out to my table, and they agreed, that it was a meaningless phrase in the instructions, because it didn’t actually say that a card of the trump suit would beat a higher card of the lead suit. Whoever wrote the instructions incorrectly assumed that what they didn’t write would be obvious to everyone and common knowledge. Later, in another failure of clarity, we were told we couldn’t talk to other players, and then got scolded for writing notes instead. It’s so easy to say something that almost, but doesn’t quite, convey the point that you meant to make.

      To finish the story, (the part that isn’t relevant, but what made it terrible) after one test hand and then being required to play without communication; after each hand, the persons with the most and least cards were required to change tables. It became obvious that each table had received a different set of instructions. The point that was supposed to be made was how being unable to communicate with clients (particularly those with disabilities) made everyone’s life more difficult and frustrating.

      The point it actually made, was to make it clear which co-workers were incapable of admitting that they might be wrong, and which were willing to ride roughshod over everyone else in their confidence that they were right. The first two people who rotated into my table immediately dismissed the five people who were already there as completely wrong, and started arguing, silently, over which one of them was right. Our COO played the cards in the hands of underlings. Most of us just stopped even trying to play the game and did nothing through 15 minutes of increasing chaos and silent fighting. Good times.

      1. It also assumes that everyone there knows what ‘trump’ means in the context of cards. Depending on your audience that might be a reasonable assumption, or not.

        That sentence reads like gibberish to me, personally :).

  3. Love all these!!
    On question 1, someone just successfully gave me this complement… which was the best complement!!

    She told me, “Hey, I wanted to let you know something I’ve been noticing about you. There was nothing wrong with you before, but recently I’ve seen a dramatic change in you, in a good way. I know you were reading a book on insecurity and since then I’ve noticed Example 1, 2, and 3. From an outsiders perspective, I can definitely see the difference.”

    1. I have have some big emotional shifts the last year and I *love* when people I am close to name that and compliment it. It is usually still awkward as hell. I also think it’s important to recognise work, so I disagree with the captain a bit and think it’s fine to tack a bit at the end: “You seem to be in a really good place right now–it seems you’ve worked really hard at that. Just wanted to acknowledge it shows.”

      I would enjoy that much better than the 20 questions, unless they were asking in a “tell me your secrets” way.

    2. I was doing my MA, and one of the older students, who had since graduated and was running a clinic (we were both counselors), said, “You know, you seem so much more comfortable in your skin than you did when I first met you.” Since it was true, it was one of the best compliments I’ve received to this day, and recognized a lot of the work I’d been putting in.

  4. Just a little observation for Q2’s LW: While the “move out at age 18” thing may currently part of (white) U.S. culture, it’s an *incredibly* recent part, which was only enabled by a particular economic and cultural moment that meant abled white men around that age had access to well-paying jobs that would support them and plenty of cheap housing was available. Jump back less than a hundred years from today, and you’ll find that it was much more common to wait to move out until marriage (or later). With the way the economy continues to stratify income and resources, we’re effectively back before that swing into financial independence for (certain) young adults, but cultural norms haven’t caught up yet.

    1. Yes this! Rent and property are totally unaffordable for many millenials in the city where I live with my parents (and the city on the other side of the country where I would want to live if even I could find a job there). Though I’ve lived with roommates etc. before for jobs and college, in my parents’ culture it’s not otherwise the norm for them to kick their kids out or for kids to need to move out before marriage etc. But one thing I struggle with is being ashamed. I’m not really ready to admit to people in my city — that a) are white b) of some affluence by their careers or their parents and b) I’m not that close to (acquaintances from high school) but still care about What They Think — that I am living at home with parents because it’s Not Normal for someone my age and education.

    2. This! I am an employed, financially independent, single, mid-30s, grown-ass adult. My dad’s health is deteriorating rapidly. I get along well with my parents, especially my mom. We decided it made the most sense for our family to buy a house together and live in it together. This works for us – I help my mom with my dad, she helps with my pets, we support each other. The amount of comments I would get during house hunting when I’d tell a realtor-running-an-open-house was ridiculous. Like, maybe making some sarcastic judge-y comment to me about moving in with my parents isn’t the best way to sell your house to me?

      I hit the point where even though I am very happy with my current living situation, I’m almost embarrassed to talk about it. And then I was telling my friend, who grew up in India, about it and started quickly with my apologetic excuses and she stopped me and said “I’m from India, that sounds normal to me” and it was SUCH A RELIEF.

      Anyway, LW, as someone who is living with her parents for the second time after “moving out”, first by necessity, and second by choice, I think a lot of the Captain’s answers are spot in – it’s a hard transition for both sides but it’s usually workable with intentional communication. And there is no reason to be embarrassed about your situation and if society says there is, society can go sit in the corner until it learns to behave.

      1. It can happen at any age. I’m 50, and the time is coming when my husband and I will move in with his mother–in her house, because she won’t be able to manage the stairs in ours, and she’d never agree to move anyway. This also means that if any of our kids come back for a while post-college, we’d be a three generation household. Fortunately it’s a big house and everyone is both loving and polite, but still … not what I would have expected twenty years ago.

      2. That’s just weird; maybe it’s in the phrasing? My mom-in-law moves as a unit with us (she is helping us with the kids; we plan to take care of her as much as she needs as time goes on); we are house hunting and having an in law suite is an explicit need. To date we just both have apartments next to each other. No one’s given us flack for it; side eying the heck out of any realtor who gives someone grief for having an extended family. You’d think that would help them sell a big house!

        1. Could be. Though I do think that “older (single?) woman moving in with her child + child’s family” is still considered relatively normal/common in US society, especially if there are grandkids involved. Where a single adult moving back in with their parents is looked at very differently. To be fair, I’ve probably had more positive or neutral reactions than negative reactions but those negative ones definitely stuck in my head.

      3. Thanks for sharing this, zixi! Your situation is SO MUCH LIKE MINE and I am SO RELIEVED to hear it! I am 37, employed, financially stable, single (well, solo polyamorous & non-traditionally partnered), and share a house with my parents.

        My dad has Parkinson’s, so I help my mom with him, and my mom “co-parents” my dog with me. It works for all of us. My mom is also burdened with elder care for my 101-year-old grandma, who lived nearby with my aunt until recently & is now in a home but still requires a lot of care-coordination effort. I don’t know how my mom could handle that plus my dad by herself.

        In my case, the house is my childhood home; although I now co-own it with my parents, the fact that I’m sleeping in my childhood bedroom at nearly age 40 makes me embarrassed to talk about it sometimes! Even though I actually love my living situation and am quite happy with my life. (And I did redecorate the bedroom, lol).

        I was even considering writing to Captain Awkward for advice on how to communicate my happiness to people who are shocked & judgmental that I live back at home permanently now. In particular, my brother and sister-in-law think I’m quite crazy (but that’s a whole other story).

        1. A friend in a similar situation discovered that reframing it as “my parents live with me” made all the difference in the world. As you all get older, there will come a time when no one so much as lifts an eyebrow, but in the meantime to the extent you feel like giving an explanation, you can say health issues make it so your parents would have a hard time without your help.

        2. ….I think you might be me? My dad also has Parkinson’s (with bonus extra dementia) and I’m also 37 and my mom is also essentially co-parenting my dog… Although we at least, for better or worse, aren’t dealing with more generations. But, yes! So hard to love your living situation and then fear others judging you for it. And I’m sorry your brother and sister-in-law particularly are judging, given you’re the one taking on the task of helping out parents. All I got is to keep doing what works for you and let society deal with is.

        3. Living with your parents, looking after them and sharing a dog with your mom doesn’t sound partnered to me – how does that work?

      4. +1 (or really several) to the experience of Indian friends saying “meh, sounds average to me”. I like to remind people that the concept of the nuclear unit is very very new historically and still very culturally based (as in: my Quite Chinese friend [as in, he grew up in NY but is very culturally Chinese] who lives with his parents would never dream of moving out; he is their only child, after all; and my Indian friends as stated consider extended family living quite normal…it’s only certain cultures that associate adulthood with living alone/with a spouse). It’s also, if you have family you get along with decently, EXTREMELY helpful in parenting – I literally could not have worked the hours I work, much less have a social life, if it was not for living with my sister. Like one of the other commenters, I live in my childhood home (thankfully, in a larger room as a bedroom now!) with my mother, my sister, two kids, and several pets. At one point, my grandmother lived with us for a few years also. While I sometimes wish my sister would clean up after herself more, and while we have occasional frustrations over who left laundry in the dryer, it is overall a fantastic living situation for me (and my kids). Pooling resources and communal living is definitely my cup of tea!

          1. I have long believed that the “two parents + children = family” model in the US is a big part of the “breakdown of society” here. By redefining “family” as narrowly as possible, we’ve removed the cross supports that made family a stable unit. Now, many families could be destabilized by one financial/medical/emotional/social crisis, because they can’t redistribute the load when someone gets knocked off their feet.

        1. “While I sometimes wish my sister would clean up after herself more, and while we have occasional frustrations over who left laundry in the dryer, it is overall a fantastic living situation for me (and my kids). ”

          Replace “sister” with “partner” or “spouse” and you prove that the important factor in living with someone is compatibility, not relationship.

      5. Ha, one of my friends is West African and her parents were quite disgruntled that she DID want to move out after college.

      6. There was no way I would ever be able to buy something in our expensive housing area. My brother ended up with a weird auto immune disorder and is on disability. I would have taken him in to share my 400 square foot studio rental if he’d ended up homeless, but this thought stressed our mother out, so she sold her local home and we bought something together, and my brother and his dog came along.

        He has the basement, mom has the main floor and as stairs get more difficult and unsafe it will be the best place for her, and I have the second floor. We share a kitchen, laundry room and garage. It’s worked out pretty well. I’m the only one working full time, and neither of them can do very much around the house but they do some, and they run errands and look in on my cats during the day.

        My evenings are less mine than I’d like (and than we’d discussed) but I could push for more separation rather than eating and watching some t.v. with them. Mom hasn’t actually said that she just isn’t going to do any dishes ever (and she totally could) but it’s become clear that falls to my brother and me. We have a dishwasher and run it about twice a week. He loads, runs and unloads it during the week, I do it on the weekend. I enjoy walking his dog when I have the time and the weather is good, so that’s nice. And my brother is pretty handy. It’s actually worked out better than I hoped, although that could change. This just made sense financially, and my brother and I get along well. Mom has mellowed somewhat with the years. I always knew I wasn’t going to ever pair off, and had thought I’d grow old alone. That may yet happen, but I’ve got company for years to come, if all goes well. Which is nice.

      7. Yup. My older brother lives with my parents – but he has some mental health issues that preclude him from living alone, and it’s better/safer for him to be living with someone. It’s not a great solution because of some other dynamics but it’s the only one that’s workable right now.

      8. I am eagerly looking forward to the point when my parents retire and plan to move to my area, at which point we hope to buy a house together: my parents, my partner and I, our kid, and some number of cats. Sure, it may be awkward sometimes to explain, but the lived reality is something I am really looking forward to.

    3. I hate the stigma around living with people who aren’t your romantic partner past the age of 30. I’d kill myself if I had to live alone.

      1. Whereas there are some of us who are financially able to live alone, and do not have any obligations to support others, and really quite like it that way. While YMMV I don’t think you’d actually go that far.

        1. Ariaflame, I’m not sure how you thought this comment was helpful. I know a lot of people who would go that far (several who have tried and several who have succeeded). I myself have suicidal ideation. Why do you think you know what hardly_lovelace would or would not do?

          1. Well, it’s possible that they would, in which case they should definitely avoid that. In which case they should definitely seek some help as well. But there’s also a fair number of people who disparage those of us who *prefer* to live alone. As if we’d like it if we just found the ‘right person’. And I also don’t like the stigma around that. The implication being that those of us who don’t live with anyone are only doing so because we’re so unattractive that nobody wants us.

          2. @Ariaflame: and your preference to live alone has what to do with hardly_lovelace’s comment?

            hardly_lovelace was Not disparaging people who prefer to live alone. Their comment had zero to do with people who prefer to live alone. Their comment reflected the impact that the stigma at the center of OP’s question – our culture thinks it’s weird when adults who are not romantically involved live together – has on people who cannot live alone.

            If you don’t like the implication that you live alone because you’re so unattractive, maybe you should reconsider telling someone who cannot live alone that they “should definitely seek some help.”

          3. I thought the point was just that if someone has suicidal ideation, for any reason, it’s likely to be a good idea for them to seek help?

            Of course different people can be happier or mentally healthier in different living situations. Different people are different!

          4. It seems plausible that hardly_lovelace has sought help, and this is her solution/accommodation: if a person feels suicidal when living alone, and much better when they’re living with family, friends, or other housemates, why should they twist themselves in knots in order to live alone?

      2. Samsies. I live with 4 housemates and have no plans to move out of this situation until or unless I move in with a partner.

        Personally I have a few mental health issues and I learned a long time ago that I’m really good at self-isolating, thankfully it’s a bit harder to do when you live with 4 other people who care at least a bit. Even better if you can live with people who “get it.”

        I can’t even do vacations alone. I’m a total introvert, but we still get lonely.

    4. One more to say how much this norm of “leaving the nest” varies in different cultures. I’m in the Caribbean and we’ve been blessed to have been homed temporarily with hubby’s parents twice since we’ve been married. Is there friction? Of course, but there’s also a lot of love and support plus a chance for our little one to get to know his extended family better. I’d say multi-generational households are more common than single-nuclear-family ones around here.

    5. My oldest son (25) is chronically ill. He has to take 6 pills a day to be able to function. Because of his illnesses and medications, he can’t work full-time unless a very specific set of conditions are in place and many employers are not able to do this (we checked and they are not violating any ADA laws). So he lives at home out of necessity. He can’t pay rent/mortgage, utilities, food, car payment, car upkeep, etc. and pay all his medical bills (doctor visits, tests, medications) if he moved out. He contributes to the household, takes care of his own laundry, and helps out in other ways.

      So I don’t think LW 2 should feel ashamed or like a “loser”. Life happens and you make the best of it and sometimes that may mean moving back in with your parents.

      My main concern for my son is not “will he ever move out” but what will happen when he ages off my husband’s insurance. He doesn’t qualify for any ACA plans, disability or medicaid. I worry way more about that than some person who doesn’t know his circumstances making judgments about where he lives. I have lots of thoughts about other people and they way they live their lives but I keep those to myself because as long as it’s not affecting me, it’s not my place to comment.

    6. LW2: Your situation is not currently seen as part of ‘normal’ US life, but it really should be, as I hope these anecdotes are showing. If you can find a reliable, trustworthy roommate, the amount of genetic connection should not matter.

    7. Hell, jump back forty or fifty. It always amazes me to read midcentury stories where people in their thirties live at home because they aren’t married yet or teenagers are getting married and I have to remind myself that this was totally How People Did Things.

    8. My parents grew up in the 30s/40s and it was absolutely the norm for multiple generations of a family to live in the same house together.

      1. My Dad grew up in the 50s and 60s in Europe and his paternal grandparents lived with his parents and siblings and himself until the ends of their lives. There were far fewer bedrooms than people but I have never heard of him speak of that living situation anything but fondly. Well, he complained about his bed being uncomfortable but that’s about it.

    9. I really think it’s based on a model that completely de-emphasises relationships in favour of economic mobility. The idea that it is both good and consequence-less to move away from your family and community in favour of economic opportunity and “independence” is both modern, and in my view shaped by capitalism and a North American culture made up of predominantly immigrants who had to leave their families and communities behind.

      I live in a small apartment with my husband after living in a large house with roommates for years, and basically in a dorm before that, and I terribly miss having a bigger community at home. For these and property-value reasons, we are now building a small house in my mom’s backyard and honestly, I can’t wait. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to look after my mom while she ages, and for the day-to-day relationship building that geographic proximity provides. My introverted husband is grateful, I think, to have some of my at-home social energy directed elsewhere 😉

      I can totally understand how it feels like “failure” to move back in, but I hate how dominant, capitalistic, and shaming that model is.

      1. I have really noticed this (economic mobility being the be-all and end-all value). I don’t live in the same town as my parents, but I have lived in the same city for a decade and a half, and the minute I was unemployed I had a few family members almost immediately asking if I should move.

        It would have had to have been to a much smaller city with fewer job prospects, so it wasn’t even logical, but it disturbed me how automatic the suggestion seemed. As if a _decade_ of friends and community and roots that I had slowly and carefully created could and should _of course_ just be tossed aside for my ‘career’ (which I didn’t even like that much).

        But then, these were family members who had themselves made major moves in their lives for jobs. My parents moved to another continent, so I suppose they couldn’t really understand why I would dig in my heels about what seemed to them a much smaller cutting off of roots.

        1. I feel you on this! I haven’t had it come up personally, and I live in an area that’s as likely to have job prospects as anywhere else is, but I’m grateful that my spouse and I are both committed to staying where we are. When we bought our house 13 years ago, it was definitely with the idea of it being our forever house. We’re both introverts, and it took a good ten years to build up the vibrant social network I have now. While I know starting all over is possible, leaving those people and leaving my church would be heartbreaking to me. I know people vary, and being highly mobile is great for the people it’s great for, but I’m much more about being rooted in one place.

  5. >> I can easily imagine a situation where one person coming home from work is ready to wind down for the day and someone who has been home all day is like, “You’re here! Let’s get this party started!”

    Oh, hello 2012 when my partner and I thought we didn’t like each other any more because I had an extremely tally and people-heavy job and she was working from home writing a book.

    1. We did this too! I was at home freelancing and was starved for human company/to get out of the house, and she just wanted to take her shoes off and read a book to light classical music. I wish I’d known at the time that my local library has a coworking room where it’s okay to make phone calls – I would have been there 40 hours a week instead of growing to hate my own living room.

      1. I think this can happen also when there is a new baby, and one person is home all day and another is not. My partner and I are trying to be very self aware about this, as our near future newborn care plan involves one 8-5 job and one teach-at-night job.

        1. New baby; it’s SOOOO IMPORTANT to go out with the baby! I made the mistake of cloistering myself too much with my first and was going a little insane. Number 2, went out a lot more. Like, just to parks etc. MUCH BETTER.

          1. New baby; it’s SOOOO IMPORTANT to go out with the baby!

            Important note: Schedule baby’s birth in spring/summer, not late autumn/winter.

            Yeah, human babies don’t cooperate like that.

          2. I actually have the opposite advice 😛

            I found when my now-three-year-old was born, she really NEEDED some days at home. I tended to try to schedule a day at home between a day with outings. (A trip run a quick errand, sure, but not another day with baby-and-me groups, appointments, being social with New People and other nap-routine-disrupting things.)

            I have a good friend who had a baby a few months after me, and both her mother and MiL were determined to help her Get Out Of The House. Like, every day someone would be trying to get her and baby out for a walk, meet for coffee etc etc. It was TOO MUCH. Babies are learning so much about the world, especially when they’re young it’s okay to give them days in the familiar home environment!

            Obviously as baby gets older and more mobile (and the stay-at-home parent gets cabin fever) it’s preferable to get out more. And if you have an older kid too it’s probably unavoidable 😛 But I just wanted to offer my perspective and an alternative to the idea that you HAVE to get out of the house every day with baby.

            (Aaaand when I did start back at work I talked about baby ALL THE TIME, I could hear myself and just CRINGE, but I was so happy to be talking to grownups again, plus all my recent anecdotes were baby-related. I got over it, eventually…)

      2. THIS. I work part time from home as a crafter (and am very lucky to be able to support myself on this income), but my partner works in an office all day. I also recently moved, so my only local friends so far are… our flatmate. So when partner gets home, I’m like HI YOU’RE BACK WELCOME and half the time he just wants to flop down on the couch and not think for a while. These days I’m making more of an effort to Skype with a random friend in Old Town once a week so that I stay in touch and also have more social outlets, since I’m still trying to break the years-old habit of “I can’t reach out, only other people can reach out to me”

    2. Yes! I have a mentally heavy, lots of talking people job. DH is retired. I walk in the door and he is an animated chatterbox who wants to discuss every/anything, and I just want to sit for 30 minutes and decompress. We had a discussion about it, and he is mostly much better at giving me my time. (He schedules tasks to occupy himself for that time- walking the dogs, grocery shopping, laundry, etc).

    3. I remember my extraordinarily-extrovert housemate staying home for winter break and being SO LONELY. I worked fourteen-hour days at a VERY physically demanding, VERY pay-attention-to-others high-volume service job right before the holidays (think “restaurant on Valentines’ day” in terms of volume, only Valentine’s day lasts about ten days) and she NEEDED that contact (I was literally the only other student on campus). One day I thought she wasn’t home when I got home, and I thought I would be allowed to sleep and maybe shower, and she popped up from behind some furniture, I loved her (and still love her) dearly, but I burst into tears at that.

    4. Ah yes, same here. I was in my 1st job ever, with a 1h30 commute from an isolated house in the countryside, and my then boyfriend (now husband) was waiting his incorporation and taking care of the house/pets. It was so bad we actually broke up for 48 hours. What we did is we moved to (major city) where we could both have a social life outside of each other, as well as a decent Internet connexion.

    5. Yes, it can be tough when that is the situation or when one person is more introverted than the other. I’m very introverted, I need and crave alone time – not just time with close loved ones which I also need, but true alone time. It took awhile for me to be able to articulate this as an actual need to my husband who is pretty cool never being alone – he’s an introvert that prefers to spend all his time with close loved ones – so did not get it. Commute helps with that for me during the week and eating lunch with a book whenever I can, but especially on the weekends, I often will make up an errand to do by myself so I can have some time. With 3 kids, it is hard to have alone time at home, as soon as you sneak away they all come looking for you 🙂

    6. I hadn’t quite thought of it in this framing before, but it actually explains a lot about the problems my partner and I were having during the time when he was laid off and I was an introvert working 60-ish hours a week in customer-facing food service. I’d be completely drained and DONE WITH PEOPLE in my off hours, and he’d want me to accompany him to parties, dinners, and gatherings with friends because he had excess untapped socializing energy and was eager to get out of his apartment. And it explains why our balance has been so much better in the years since both of us got new jobs–he has full-time work and doesn’t feel that being home = “stuck” at home, and I work 40 hours a week in job that is still public-facing but much less emotionally demanding.

  6. I just wanted to say as a person who is slow at dating – 38, only one real relationship, never married I appreciate your answer to Question 8. A lot of times my friends – with good intentions – push me to go on second dates when I’m iffy on it. That isn’t fair to me or the person on the date.

    1. I used to have people push me to go on second dates…until I had this happen: I went on a reasonably okay first date, but there was something that wasn’t quite right. I literally could not put into words what it was, but something was there that kept me from wanting a second date. My BFF thought I was being too picky and talked me into agreeing to a second date. Second date was exactly like the first – okay, but just not quite right. As it happened, BFF and I had a planned weekend away so I was able to be non-committal about a third date. The night I got back from my weekend away I saw there were messages on my machine (back before voicemail, y’all!). Over 20 messages. All from him. Calling me, collect, from the state prison. I ended up having to call the prison to request that my name and number be taken off this guys list. I did ask if the call was to bail this guy out, but the officer I spoke to said that he was being held without bail. Whatever…I just know that after that I listened to that thing inside me that said “No second date for you” and never let a friend, however well intentioned, push me into a 2nd date I knew I didn’t want.

  7. A3’s partner may also be purposefully scheduling A3 for a bunch of chores as a means of keeping them exhausted so they’ll be more docile, isolated, and easier to control. If A3’s partner doesn’t cooperate with the Captain’s suggestions, RUN!

  8. The dating advice is so great. I also personally found it helpful to create a list of qualities I really want my life partner to have. I tend to enjoy meeting new people too much and get caught up in the new relationship energy/all humans are fascinating in some dimension cycle and then I’d be on my 4th date with someone & realize they hadn’t read a book since high school, but I’d be so charmed by all their travel soccer league stories I’d forgotten I cared. (For example). My list is pretty simple and it helps me be more precise when swiping/messaging/asking questions before a first date. Dating a guy for the last 3 months who meets every. single. one. of my “qualifications”…it’s terrifying but also delightful!

    1. Yes, I did a similar thing – a reminder to check in with myself around compatibility and not get carried away with initial fascination.

    2. You sound like me! All people are fascinating!!!!!! I regularly go to an event and come away with stories about my “new best friend!”

    3. Oh, this is great! I definitely often have great chemistry with people who are. . . not gonna work out, for various reasons.

  9. The ‘incompatabilities’ section of Q8 was a pretty big eye-opener for me. I had a kind of sinking feeling as I read it, because I simultaneously: do a lot of things on that list, and would consider most of them incompatabilities for me, too.

    Oof! Going to have to do a fair bit of thinking about that. Thanks.

    1. Hi! Those things were possible incompatibilities…FOR ME, SPECIFICALLY…my opinions/taste/comfort. Not universal!

      To your point, though, first dates were really good practice for me, and I learned a lot about myself in the process (good and bad). ❤

    2. I want to say that, while it is generally good to follow the golden rule and treat others like you want to be treated and not be a hypocrite, there is leeway in relationships for some level of unevenness based on personality and preference. For example, my partner and I both like drinking tea. He is much (like maybe 5 times) more likely to make me tea than I am to make him tea. This is fine because of our personalities and the other ways we interact. If you tend to monologue, and also hate when other people monologue, there is potentially a person out there who doesn’t tend to monologue and also isn’t that bothered when other people do it! So while you think about it, keep that in mind if it helps stave off an emotional spiral. And jedi hugs from an internet stranger who can be pretty inconsistent in this same way.

  10. Can totally relate to the almost-30-and-lucky-to-be-living-with-parents LW; and that’s some great advice, Capt! Not sure about LW but I tend to get irritable and lazy around the house and neighbourhood (I’m job-searching but it’s not fun, and living in the ‘burbs ain’t fun either) and while I miss my autonomy and solitude, I’m really, really, REALLY lucky to have what I have in my family, my home, and they’re the only ones that have been there for me my whole life – no matter what I’ve put them through. Thanks for the reminder for gratitude! To LW, I think showing your appreciation and adultness like Capt said, goes a long way (respectful dialogue, chores, helpful tasks like cooking, groceries, etc.)

    1. I’ve moved back in with my parents temporarily due to some cruddy life stuff happening, and I’m in my mid-30s, and it’s been…awesome. We check in with each other a lot to make sure things are going ok. I’ve always gotten along well with my parents so it’s slightly more like living with friends and slightly less like living with my parents, but there’s still that parent/child dynamic, for sure. My Mom has mentioned that it’s been nice having me around and I bring something new to the house so that there’s a lot more conversation and interaction going on. I also help out around the house, obviously, so that’s useful. And my Dad and I just hang out and watch shoes and make dumb jokes to each other, and it’s nice. I’m actually starting to feel a little bit TOO comfortable there, and I know I’m going to need to start making some plans. Because I really feel like I could live there for a good, long while, the way things are going. I like solitude, but I can also turn into a bit of a hermit when things get rough mental-health wise, so having a little bit of forced interaction has also been really good for me.

      I think having a sense of humour about it when you talk to people can make it easier. Like, you can acknowledge that, culturally, it can be perceived as embarrassing, while not actually being embarrassed by it. “Aw yeah, 35 years old, living with my parents. Awesome! Haha. But actually, it’s been going really well, and I feel so grateful and thankful that I had the option to move back in with them. I don’t know where I would have been if this weren’t an option.”

      1. I’m another 30-something living with my parents. Rent for the cheapest apartments in my hometown is still higher than what I get at my crappy job (which, to be fair, does pay more than minimum wage, just… not enough for a single person household), so I’m glad I’m able to live with them and not have to choose between living near my friends and being able to pay my bills.

  11. How do you date safely if you don’t have a friend to whom you can text where you’re going?

    1. Safety Apps! I use Noonlight (Or Safetrek) but there are a lot of others too. Or use a family member.

    2. Even though I have local friends, telling them where/with whom my first dates are isn’t a security measure I generally use. I am always my own transportation to first dates (so my date doesn’t know where I live, has no control over when I leave, etc.), and my first dates are always in public, well-populated spaces (a cafe, a restaurant, etc.–save the wilderness hikes and stargazing for once you know them well). For me, that’s enough to feel safe and secure.

      1. Agree with this.

        Also – personally, I find this to be another plug for first dates right after work. This will obviously depend on people’s geography, but most of my jobs have been in heavy “downtown” type areas. So meeting up somewhere near work both hits on those public space features but also isn’t near where I live. I’m someone without a car, so a place like “that great bar/cafe around the corner from my apartment” I save for when I’ve ruled out that immediate security concern.

        I also have to say, and this will definitely vary based on personal preference – but I never invite a date into my apartment unless I’m personally ready for sex. Not that it necessarily always goes there, but for me I’ve found that the boundary I prefer to make is one of “if you’re in my living space, I’m ready for this level of intimacy.’ I find that this helps me out, particularly as I live alone in a small apartment which I find easily magnifies my own perception of closeness.

        In terms of safety – I know that this varies so much from woman to woman and person to person, but often I prefer not telling friends if I’m going on a first date. While from a physical safety standpoint, I know that is riskier – but I find it helps me personally sort through if I want to keep seeing someone and how I feel. I have a lot of friends who will cheer lead a new dating prospect to death (give him another chance/he’s kind of cute/maybe you’re too picky/etc.) and I know that doesn’t help me out. But I think that there are ways to balance physical and emotional safety based on your own options and preferences.

        1. Agreed. I often liked to keep my dating life private for several reasons including but not limited to being a closeted bisexual, and having a few close friends with some charmingly antiquated ideas around casual dating. Nothing misogynist, but trending more towards the “cheerleading” Smithy mentioned above – “Are you sure you aren’t spreading yourself too thin, how will you ever know if you’ve found THE ONE if you’re juggling so many guys*?

          This might come off as a little morbid, but I always left my date’s name and whatever contact information I had either by my computer at home for a first date (I never brought people to my place after a first date, just as my own general rule) or on a post-it in my journal for subsequent dates.

          *they didn’t know there were women in the mix too, but the general sentiment carries

        2. It’s not quite as good on the off chance that something does happen (not telling who it is/why you’re out can reduce a lead), but you could just say you’re going to be at [place] tonight or something like that, perhaps? Or even just an eta for when you’ll be home is a warning that if you aren’t home, something’s up—this is the compromise my mom has worked out for her excessive worrying about me; I give her an eta and then let her know I’m home safe, and she knows to expect an update.

          1. I mean, I don’t usually inform my friends/family when I’m going somewhere or when I’ll be home unless I’m trying to make plans with them and the time slot is relevant. It would be very odd for me to just randomly say, “Hey, just telling you so someone knows–I’m going to be at (local restaurant) tonight, I should be home around seven” I’m pretty sure that would immediately get “Ooooh are you going on a date???” back, because why else would I tell them that? So I don’t do it, because I just don’t want to talk about my dating life unless I’m starting to get serious with someone.

            I’m not saying it’s a bad safety measure; it’s definitely a valid option. But it’s just one option of many! And frankly, for me, if the location and the feel I get from the individual are telling this is unsafe so loudly that I feel like I need to stack this particular option on top of the others I do…that’s a good sign that I shouldn’t go. I don’t need to date anyone who sets off the alarm bells that loudly.

        3. I never tell anyone where I’m going either, but I also am not comfortable getting in physically vulnerable situations with people until I know them enough to make my own jugement on them and actually trust them. So I don’t see the point of telling people anyway, and prefer my privacy.

          My first dates never involve getting in a car with someone or being anywhere non-public with them or drinking with them or literally anything vulnerable, so I’m really not worried for my safety any more than I would be with any other random social meeting.

    3. I left a note by my computer that said who I was meeting, where I was meeting them, and the time I left the house.

  12. Q3: Seconding CA’s advice for a medical checkup. I was going through similar “exhaustion came on suddenly” issues a few years back, and it turned out to be two things: my thyroid meds needed adjusting upwards and some fine-tuning, and a sleep test (doc referred me when I begged) revealed *severe* sleep apnea, as in “I stop breathing in my sleep every couple of minutes!” No wonder I couldn’t sleep! I have a CPAP and adjusted thyroid meds and my groove is back!

    And with partner wanting all the errands, I agree that if Partner can’t go on the errand or get the thing themselves, another friend or relative or a delivery service should be doing the erranding. It shouldn’t all be on you. I live by myself and I use delivery services, Amazon Prime, etc. as often as I can. In general, it can really pay off to use technology or paid help or favors from friends to rearrange one’s “spoon drawer” so you have more time to do the stuff you want.

    Q4: Solidarity from one Meowmie to another. My indoor cats have conniption fits from seeing…raccoons, of which there are all too many in my neighborhood. If talking to Bob’s owners doesn’t work, can you put a curtain or screen up to block your cats’ view of Bob and keep him from the mesh? If he comes around mostly at night, then you could just draw the curtains or put up a screen at night when there are no fun birds or squirrels to watch. I draw the curtains at night so my cats can’t see the raccoons in the yard (and the raccoons can’t look longingly in at the cat food) and it helps.

    1. (Asker 4 here)

      We’ve considered putting up a hard plastic barrier along the big of the fence where the neighbour’s shed (where Bob sits) and our shed (where our cats can sit and look down into the neighbour yards) – that would stop some of the physical fighting – but a week after we had that idea I saw Bob on TOP of the mesh fighting H. Which I can’t work out how to block off. And the other night Mocha (8yo) saw Bob on the mesh through the back window and was doing some almighty hissing and howling. I think I need a higher pressure hose nozzle (I go out there and attempt to hose him but I’m never fast enough + the spray barely gets to the neighbour’s shed).

      If the neighbours won’t keep Bob in at night, I could lock our cat door so that our cats can’t go outside, but that seems pretty dang unfair when they’ve got this lovely enclosure now.

      Before we got the enclosure we had a scarecrow which sprayed water when it detected motion – in theory I could set that up pointing at the neighbour’s shed roof somehow – but the risk of hitting human neighbours seems high and they would be utterly bewildered if it happened. It did seem to keep Bob off ground level in our yard tho before we got the enclosure (he’d sit on our shed, which ALSO stressed out my kitties)

      (Next letter “Captain, our neighbour has set up a hose which sprays us every time we enter our backyard. How do we address this? The hose is located in their back yard but it’s facing us and we can’t use our outdoor space now!”)

      We’ll try to get video evidence. That seems like a good way to approach it – with actual evidence that it’s definitely their cat (I know it’s their cat, but they probably don’t have the same knowledge-of-local-cats as me – I walk H (14) twice a day for up to 30 minutes, so we’re quite aware of which cats are around our street (and Bob is the only silver tabby).

      Also, when it comes to actually doing the texting, I think I’ll get my husband to do it. He’s much less angry about this than me. Which wouldn’t be hard. I’m HULK SMASH levels of angry with Bob physically attacking my babies. (I know, if H wasn’t on the shed roof, Bob couldn’t get him, but I can’t blame H for wanting to defend his territory!)

      As for council regulations – they offered me a cat trap for a week, but I only caught a different cat who is I think older and lives further away, and _much_ more rarely in our yard. I’ve since bought my own trap but now that I know Bob has a tag with his number on it, the only reasonable response to trapping him would be to call the number, rather than take him to a local shelter. We’ll cross the ‘what if they won’t keep him in’ bridge when we come to it I guess.

      It’s … possible …. that it took this long to get to read Bob’s tag because my early responses to finding him in our yard were to run at him screaming like a banshee. This clearly was not sufficient deterrent ><

      1. Hi, we have a neighborhood Bob (even the same color cat, apparently) who likes to torment our 2 inside cats and 1 inside/outside cat. The inside ones fling themselves at the window/porch screen making unholy noises when our Bob walks by (I swear he taunts them on purpose), and Bob gets into fights with our cat that goes outside. Our Bob does not have a collar, but showed up when we got some new neighbors, so we’re pretty sure we know who he belongs to. The thing is, if Bob didn’t fight our cat, we would have zero issues with Bob–he’s just a cat, being a cat, and god only knows what *our* outside cat gets up to when he’s not in our yard. I try to remind myself whenever I start feeling angry at Bob. Bob is an animal. He doesn’t know better, and odds are his owners have no clue what he’s up to.

        The best advice I have to give is to get a long-range water bottle/water gun (or use that scarecrow thing, that sounds awesome, and maybe you can set it so that the water just hits the top of the shed rather than all of your neighbor’s backyard?) rather than relying on the hose, because sometimes a hose takes too long to get going. Run and shout as you spray Bob, and eventually maybe he’ll run just from seeing you (that is what our Bob does now–he knows we do not want him in our yard, and quickly gets out of the way). Leave him alone once he’s out of your yard. Eventually it won’t be worth it for him anymore.

        And, if worse comes to worst, maybe do keep your kitties out of the enclosure when you can’t be around to watch for Bob. The very last thing you want is redirected/misdirected aggression to happen and end up with your own cats fighting each other (trust me, it is the absolute worst).

      2. If all the fights are happening at night, perhaps change your cat’s sleep schedule (if you can, if someone is around during the day). You basically just keep waking the cats up during the day and depriving them of sleep, and also playing with them until you’re completely sick of the sound of jingly cat toys. It’s supposed to take around 2 weeks for cats to go from awake-at-night to asleep-at-night. You also put them on a feeding schedule with their last meal close to your bed time. I’m having to do this right now because my cat picks at the closet door and strums her claws on the radiator late at night and it’s driving me BONKERS. This might keep them away from Bob because researchers have followed domestic cats and discovered that neighborhood cats operate territory on a timeshare; it belongs to one cat between the hours of [x-x] and another the rest of the time, and so on. Maybe Bob owns that territory at night.

        Also, if you talk to Bob’s owners, maybe ask if Bob is neutered. There’s a small small chance they’ll get him fixed. That seems to affect behavior.

        Finally, maybe cover the shed roof (or ask the shed’s owner to cover it, offer to pay and do it) with something that keeps cats off, like those pigeon spikes. Not that you can keep cats COMPLETELY off. You can also spray it and the fence with strong orange scent every day. Oranges are poisonous to cats so they hate the scent.

  13. Q7, sometimes you also just have to give yourself the gift of Running an Errand.

    I don’t know how far apart the trains are in your area. I probably wouldn’t do this for an hour gap, but for 15 min? “Oh sorry, I have to run an errand/take a phone call and will grab the next one! No, don’t wait for me! Oh, it’s kind of personal, I’d rather go alone!” Duck into a corner store and buy a candy bar. For 30 min, I wouldn’t do this often, but I might treat myself to ice cream and blessed silence on occasion.

    I have also found the “I just need to chill with my headphones/book!” strategy go over most smoothly if I thanked the person profusely afterwards, either right before they got off or by text: “Gosh, I needed that introvert time! Thanks for being cool with that. Isn’t it great when we find people we can sit in comfortable silence with???” Model it, normalise it, make them feel chill and cool for giving you that time, rather than awkward like they did something wrong.

      1. Also possible: “Oh, me, look at the time, I was supposed to make this phone call half an hour ago. I’d better skip this train – you know you can’t hear a thing when you’re riding it. No, don’t be silly, I have no idea how long this call will be. Get on home and I’ll see you next time.”

        Bonus points if the person you call knows your “I’m staying on the phone until Annoying Person leaves me alone, so please don’t hang up” code word.

        1. That reminds me of “rescuing” a former boss from certain meetings after 15 minutes with a note about an important phone call he needed to take. 🙂

  14. Q2: I am on the parent-like end of this equation (although adultlet is early 20s and not been fully independent, yet) and this advice is SPOT ON! We are about at the end of our rope directly because of the lack of any effort into the household or family. “I’m an adult I’ll [do/say/go] [who/what/when/where/how] I want” is exhausting.

    The entire “Be nice to your parents” paragraph would seriously eliminate the whole problem. Probably partly our fault for not starting out treating adultlet like a child. 😉

    I do hope you all get into a routine that makes your time with them (long or short) as comfortable as can be.

  15. It sounds like Bob the Hellcat is outside and the writer’s cats are inside, so cutting off the line of sight might break it up. If Bob can’t see in, he’ll find some other entertainment. Maybe some temporary heavy blinds, or even an opaque window sticker. It’s not forever, just until Bob’s habits change.

    1. That was my thought too. Bob may be trying to be friendly (badly), but breaking up the sightlines might really help.

      For what it’s worth, I have cats that go out. I want to know when they’re getting into mischief, but that doesn’t mean I can actually do anything about it. They’re cats.

      1. …you could keep them inside and not be a nuisance to your neighbour and a plague on your local wildlife?

      2. ‘it doesn’t mean I can actually do anything about it’

        Like, your house doesn’t have doors on it??? No one has a right to send their animal outside, it’s either downright illegal, or a privilege you might earn based on being respectful and responsible to your neighbours.

      3. Cats can be trained to stay indoors. They may sing the songs of their people, but they’ll adapt. And you’ll be doing them a kindness by keeping them safe from cars, dogs, and animal control. Also, indoor cats are less likely to get fleas and ticks.

        1. Or if Bob’s people really want him to spend time outdoors even though he isn’t at all well-behaved when he’s outside and trespasses on other people’s property and attacks their cats, they could always spend the time and money to make an enclosed outdoor space for him, like the LW has!

          The person with the more timid cats seems to be doing a LOT of work and taking on a lot of inconvenience to solve problems created by Bob’s behaviour. Maybe Bob’s people could do a tiny bit of work?? Or put up with a tiny bit of inconvenience??

          1. That said, people choosing to be bad neighbours isn’t really something the LW can control, unfortunately.

      4. Wow… just chiming in to say that having indoor/outdoor cats is completely normal (so is indoor only). Don’t worry about being an irresponsible criminal plague, lol. It’s a cat. And yeah, they’re tough to control, the LW has an enclosure and still can’t keep her cats from fighting (back) through it and chilling on the shed roof. They’re sneaky, weird and independent. That’s just how they roll.

        1. Normal or not, the cat’s behaviour is always the owner’s ultimate responsibility. They can choose to take on that responsibility and monitor their animal’s behaviour and resolve problems it causes, or just avoid the situation by not having an outdoor car, of just not having a cat period if they can’t handle the responsibility. Owning pets is not a human right, it’s a bonus.

          If your cat is just going about its business and that’s one thing, but if it’s being a nuisance to neighbours and you’re not taking active steps to resolve it, then yes, you absolutely 100% should worry about being a criminal nuisance!

          1. No one in this discussion, not even Bob’s owner, is even aware of their cats creating any nuisances to their neighbors, so I’m not sure who you’re arguing with about permitting nuisances. It’s up to neighbors, realistically, to tell the owners if the cat is being a nuisance; “nuisance” is unpredictable and can range from “I saw the cat walking around calmly within sight of my property line and that is UNACCEPTABLE” (true story) to “this cat is causing [x] problem.” The owner is probably unaware and needs to be made aware. And I very much doubt that in most areas Bob swatting at the LW’s cats through the fence or prowling the neighborhood is an actual criminal offense, but rather a problem that needs to be solved between neighbors.

          2. LOL, criminal no, I do agree with that. Municipal bylaws aren’t criminal law. But perhaps it depends where you live. I don’t think I’ve ever lived anywhere it was legal to allow an animal you own off your property unsupervised. It’s punishable by fines. Of course, people do it all the time anyway, and often it works out perfectly fine, but under the understanding that every single time it happens, their neighbours are doing a massive favour by ignoring it. So the onus is really on the person breaking the law to go out of their way to be sure their neighbours aren’t inconvenienced in any way. And morally, if your animal is going into someone else’s yard or on their shed roof and they don’t want it, it seems self-evident that it’s your problem to fix, not the homeowner’s.

            Maybe the LW lives somewhere where it’s legal to allow animals to roam, though, in which case you’re right, it would probably just be a dispute between neighbours and the subtleties might be different.

    2. Asker 4:
      My cats were inside, until we got professionals in to expand the cat run I’d built down the side of our house to encompass the entire back yard. This has successfully kept Bob _out_, but not out of line of sight, and unfortunately not out of claw range if they stick their paws through the mesh. Which both he and H (14) are doing, at times.

      They can get behind the blinds and curtains we currently have, and the windows to the backyard are large half-wall sized ones. I considered plastic to block the view from neighbour-shed but then I saw Bob on TOP of the mesh and that’s a whole different scale problem. 😦

      The good news is if they’re stress peeing now, they’re doing it in the backyard rather than on our spare bed. The bad news is, I’m worried about physical harm + reluctant to cut off their access to the outside every night because someone else is an irresponsible pet owner. (We’re in the city. There’s cars everywhere, as well as some native wildlife).

    3. That’s what I use to keep my cats from going nuts when the raccoons walk by. (Because I can’t call up their owners!) If Bob’s owners are not responsive, then the only recourse for the LW might be to keep her own cats from seeing (or smelling) Bob.

      1. Here I am thinking raccoons are cute and adorable and regretting that we don’t have our own tiny cute urban mammals

        (oh wait, we do have possums, which are WAY cuter than your possums. So there’s that)

        I’m glad you found a solution! I hope it doesn’t come to that, but it’s good to know it can work.

        1. I live in Toronto which is packed with raccoons and I can confirm that they are very adorable and smart! Also very destructive, producers of disease-causing poo, and startlingly lacking in fear :).

  16. LW1: try something like, “I love the way you’re so positive about yourself. Every time I’m having a bad self-image day, I try to emulate how you celebrate yourself instead of getting caught up in negative self talk.”
    Or, “I really admire the way you handled your anxiety disorder – you just faced it head-on like a bamf and that can’t have been easy. I hope I always have the courage to face my issues like you do.”

    Usually complimenting someone by letting them know they’re a positive example in your life is well received. Just wait for a natural opening in the conversation and be genuine about it.

    1. I love that! When I was starting on my mental/emotional recovery/self-improvement, comments like “I see how much you’ve changed, it’s so inspiring to me, I hope I can emulate you” were really great and encouraging. I think even just knowing that people are noticing a positive change can be such a great moment.

  17. Asker 4 here. Thanks so much for the answer!

    I think I’ll outsource the response to my much-less-angry husband so that I’m a step removed from the actual conversation, but your idea of including some video or photo PROOF that it’s Bob is genius!

    Not sure if links will get eaten, but if acceptable, here’s a thread of some photos of my cats enjoying the enclosure – https://twitter.com/siandart/status/1044807060116901888

    (I know this breaks anonymity but I’ve already posted in the local facebook group – with a photo and a great deal of rage – to no avail except the neighbours probably tagging me as ‘that cat woman’ and regularly tweet about Nemesis Cats of My Street anyway (usually we meet them on our twice- daily harnessed walks. He doesn’t like them out there either, I think he feels like the entire street is his territory, but I can keep them physically separated even if he wants to sit and stare for a while, because he’s on the leash)

    (I was in no way expecting the neighbours to be responsible for the enclosure cost, more just that it’s another drop in the ‘I’m doing everything _I_ can’ bucket, and I think our only remaining ethical recourse if the neighbours won’t keep Bob inside would be to lock our cats in at night. But that seems so unfair.)

  18. LW 2, have some advice drone someone who’s done it: please try not to feel like a failure if/when the process of transitioning into an adult relationship with your parents while living under their roof and somewhat dependent on them turns out to be rocky, non-linear, painful, etc. It’s a rough period, no matter how old you are or where they live on the scale of good parents to controlling jerks.

  19. Six years a college prof here: LW5, write it down, write it down, write it DOWN. Are you sure you covered it? Because by the end of class, particularly if it’s a topic I haven’t covered at least a half dozen times, I’m not sure of my own name. Put everything you want them to do up on the board. Print it out and hand it to them. Go over it while it’s up on the board AND in their hands. If they’re saying you didn’t cover it, you NEED to be able to point to something and say YES I DARN WELL DID. If they remain unclear on it, STOP STRESSING, put on your calmest face, and say ‘well, that’s why this portion of the class period is for questions, and I’m available by email and during my office hours if you need more clarification.’ Not everyone is going to catch every thing, but you want to make sure that if they’ve missed something, you can point to where you wrote it down for the purpose of making sure they knew it was there.

    Also remember: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, it’s going in the syllabus.

    1. I also teach some higher ed classes. It happens sometimes that I write things down (syllabus, class forum, on the board, etc.) and I think it’s clear. And then a student does something according to his/her own reasonable interpretation of what I’ve written down 3 times and I realize, wait – maybe that wasn’t as clear as I thought. So, I revise and make that change for next time. No big thing – I just revise and try to continue to clarify as much as possible.

  20. Regarding Q2, I am 55 yrs old and have been out of my parents’ house for 33 years. My mother still treats me like a kid.

  21. I am a parent (American) of one adult child (and a couple of non-adult children). My adult child got a great job after college and does not depend on me in any way. That said, if he needed to live at home because his job didn’t work out (or didn’t pay enough for him to afford housing, or . . . etc., etc.) I would be thrilled to have him home. And I would be hugely proud if we could make that complex relationship work.

    I am estranged from my own parents so know that not every family can provide a safe and loving refuge. But I love my adult child with all my heart, and I think more moms are like me than not. I hope that anyone out there who needs a safe parental port in a storm will know that the average parent is thrilled to have the time with you. (And it’s his/her loss if he/she doesn’t.) Let us treasure it together, understanding that these precious moments are finite.

  22. Q4, ymmv and I admit I’ve never tried this, but: wolf or coyote urine may be used to repel other territory-marking animals from your yard. My parents looked into the idea when they were trying to keep cougars off their property. The idea is that the predator urine stakes a stronger claim on your property, so Bob stays away. Necessary disclaimer that the smell might also repel you from your yard. Even as I’m writing this I’m having a lot of questions. Does this method adapt from country properties to standard-size yards? Would the wafting scent of wolf urine scare your kitty even more than Bob does? How are they harvesting wolf urine and were any wolves harmed/seriously inconvenienced in the making of it? Could you diy this idea and spread some of your cat’s pee-soaked litter around the boundaries of your yard? Does this comment meet the discussion guidelines?

    1. I’m pretty sure customs wouldn’t let me import wolf or coyote urine to Australia (and I have the same questions about whether it’d stress my cats out even more). I did look into it for a previous problem cat, and bought some of the green crystals that are supposed to deter animals – and what I did notice is that they didn’t faze H at ALL on our daily walks. Nor did chili flakes.

      I also have a lot of questions about the production / harvesting of exotic animal urine…

  23. LW4, if I had your problem with Bob, I would buy a water gun to squirt him with when he comes onto your mesh/on your side of the fence. Hopefully this will discourage him from coming without hurting him in any way. I have 3 cats of my own, one of which goes into neighbours yards pretty regularly, and this is why I would hope they would do if they didn’t want him in there. The alternatives are too horrible to think about but this I would be fine with.

    1. Sorry, obviously CA’s suggestion to see if the neighbours can keep him inside at night is the best option to try first. My suggestion was for if they refuse or if it happens during the day as well.

    2. Another possible solution is a turkey baster with nothing in it. You get up close to the cat and you poof them in the whiskers with air. A lot of cats just HATE that feeling, and a turkey baster can’t generate enough force to hurt the cat. There are also children’s toys that come with small air pumps–cars and so forth. We used one to teach a cat You May Not Sit Here, Where I Cook Chicken.

    3. Thanks Leigh and Jenny! I’ve considered a water pistol but don’t think I’d get good enough at aiming to hit him. Am considering getting a better nozzle for the hose though (but a water pistol WOULD be a lot more sneaky I guess.)

      He was deterred from being on the ground in our yard (before the enclosure) by a motion-sensitive scarecrow hooked up to the hose, but I can’t think of a way to hook that up at 8ft above the ground level and not accidentally also shoot the neighbours…

      Turkey baster is an interesting idea but I’m not tall enough for that!

      1. Nothing wrong with “accidentally” spritzing the neighbors if they’re Bob’s owners. It would get their attention. “Oh, the scarecrow? Yes, I had to set that up to keep Bob out of our yard.”

    4. I had a friend who hooked up a sprinkler to a motion sensor with fantastic results. The cat very quickly started avoiding his yard, even when he wasn’t around/awake.

      1. I’m pretty sure I saw on the Jackson Galaxy show a sprinkler hooked up to a motion sensor doohicky that was commercially available. Does anyone know what I’m talking about?

  24. Q8 “it seems like every small thing is a red flag and every expression of intimacy is terrifying? I don’t want to override my body’s fear signals …”
    Is it possible that your previous relationship was relatively recently over and that it had abusive elements? And so maybe you think you shouldn’t trust your fear signals because they are too sensitive?
    What helped me was time. It’s super tough, but you just have to wait while your psyche heals and soothes itself.
    I Craved an intimate bond with someone. I’m still alone but the quality of loneliness is different compared to the weird intensity dating used to have for me.

    1. Yes, I hav been in abusive relationships, then took a loooong break from dating. And my fear signals are so sensitive that cuddling, holding hands, flirting, normal conversational attempts to escalate intimacy feel like RED ALERT, RED ALERT, BAD THINGS AHEAD. It means I can’t relax, enjoy myself, or get to know anyone well.

      1. I had that. Turns out I am a lesbian.

        Which is not supposed to say anything about you, it’s just another data point.

      2. Yes, exactly. And now I prefer guys who are indifferent. That seems much safer than a guy who loves me because in my experience if he loves me then he’s going to abuse me too. But I’ve seen little glimpses of what a healthy, loving attachment is like so …

      3. Wrt “RED ALERT,” an issue I’ve consistently had with people I’ve been involved with is that they always fall asleep before I do, and I always lay there, feeling abandoned.

        With one (1) exception. When Exceptional Friend (innevitably) falls asleep before I do, he (somehow, I have no clue how) leaves his body behind for me to snuggle. It’s a fundamentally different experience.

        By which I’ve since concluded: those other guys? It’s them, not me.

        Tl;dr: maybe believe the alerts, or at least don’t dismiss them outright?

  25. A4, under the heading of “Caesar can only effect change in that which is Caesar’s,” may I suggest talking to your vet about Feliway? It’s a pheromone diffuser or spray that can help allay anxious feelings in cats. My vet office uses it in their cat treatment rooms and I also keep it in my house for my cat whose anxiety provokes gastric upset. It may be that you cannot prevent Bob from being a cat in your vicinity, but there are behavioral and veterinary options you could try to assist your cats in coping with the fact of Bob.

    We also have roaming outdoor cats as a fact of the neighborhood- cats who are loved and cared for and enjoy being adventurous- and my cats are also perturbed that someone is out there on THEIR porch living his best life while HERE I AM STUCK INSIDE. I sympathize and I wish you luck helping keep your kitties on an even keel!

    1. Thanks Brightlights – we’re constantly running Feliway and during the time they were stress-peeing moved a diffuser into the room it was happening in – I think it helps, but it wasn’t quite enough.

    2. I second this. If you have an outlet available near the points where the cats are meeting and creating friction, that would be a great place for a Feliway diffuser to reduce the aggression and stress on all sides.

      I really thought it was woo, but was at my wit’s end with two of my cats being aggressive to each other, which peaked a good six months after their introduction. Feliway was a miracle. An almost immediate miracle. (both cats had been previously dumped, and one wasn’t likely to be re-homeable if I couldn’t make things work) I used it for about two months, plugged in near the cat boxes where the fights centered, I didn’t bother with a third refill when #2 ran out, and the aggression has remained at an infrequent and tolerable level for about three years now.

      And things should settle down over time, your cats and Bob will work out a border truce, helped by the mesh not allowing them to do significant damage to each other. Feliway could be very helpful in them reaching truce level sooner. I used the plug-in diffuser indoors, but the spray might be a better alternative outdoors if you don’t have a handy outlet. Good luck

  26. Q8: A few thoughts from my experience, with a heavy dose of YMMV. So important, that YMMV!

    I don’t know if you are the journaling kind, but if that’s something you find helpful, it may help in this situation too. I have journaled about things that were good and things that were bad in a relationship, to help me see on paper if the person was right. This doesn’t have to be all at once; if you start dating someone you can keep it for awhile. (I have a former relationship that I ended partly because I realized that every time I journaled about him it was to talk about negative ways he was impacting my life; I hadn’t realized how unhappy I was until I read over what I had written over the past few months, and… there it was.) You can make a list of your own personal red flags and keep that handy, if you’d like. (Personal red flags can be seriously bad, like signs of an abuser, or something that is a bad sign for you. For example, I have cats that are non-negotiable, so a cat allergy in a date is a red flag for me.) You can also figure out yellow flags; things that might or might not be something to worry about. My personal example was dating someone who wanted to be Facebook friends with me right away; that tends to trigger my, “Whoa! Slow down!” When I talked to him about it, turns out his phone wasn’t working well and FB messenger was the only reliable way he had to communicate. He didn’t do anything else that made me feel like he was hurrying things or worrying me, so after awhile I decided that it was legitimately just a way to communicate, but had he started doing more things to make me feel like he was pushing me into a relationship then that would have been a sign to get out of Dodge. But the point is to pay attention to such data points (and again I say write them down! It’s much harder, esp. if you do decide to date someone, to forget what happened if you have it in hard copy somewhere). Furthermore, write down the green flags as well. If your date does something that makes you feel happy or cared for or safe, then write that down too. Part of the goal is to figure out if this particular person is going to work for you; part of it is to figure out what works for you overall. If you go on 10 first dates, none of whom are the person for you, and you notice at each one that you didn’t like Thing X (where Thing X is a trait/interest/etc. that they all share), then great! You know that Thing X in a potential partner = not for you! (It can take awhile, but gradually you get enough data points that you can weed people out on dating sites and such even without meeting them.)

    I also found (again, YMMV) when I was single and trying to find a relationship, that since that was a goal for me, I would have a plan to spend at least a certain amt of time each week (I think it was just an hour; not too much) trying to further my dating goal. Sometimes it was going on actual dates, sometimes going to new activities so I could meet people (either to date, or just to practice my “talking to new people!” skills on people I didn’t *want* to date, so there was less pressure), sometimes looking around/staying active on The Dating Site so I could see if there were any new people (and they could see me!). That helped because it gave me a specific time I required myself to do it, so I knew I was taking some actions towards what I wanted, but I didn’t have to spend a lot of time meeting new people (major introvert here). Once I had checked it off my list for the week I could be done, unless I wanted to do something more.

    Finally, about safety: Many people have talked about physical safety (meet in public places, drive yourself, have no alcohol, watch your drink, tell someone else where you are going, etc.). One of my ways of finding emotional safety for me is that if I feel like I’m clicking with someone, and if we’ve gone on a couple of dates together, things are maybe going somewhere, etc. (this also works for friendships, too), I will try a low-risk emotional bid for support. I will pick something that is making my life a bit harder, something small like maybe a hard thing at work that day, and share that with the other person. How do they react? Do they listen? Are they interested? Do they ask you about it later? Or do they blow you off, tell you your issue is no big deal, interrupt you, and so on? I’ve learned the hard way not to make it something that’s a Big Deal, not just because at the beginning of a relationship that can be a bit much weight for it to bear, but also because everyone knows that you’re supposed to listen if someone died or something big like that, so you may not get an accurate reading of the person.

    1. This is a great answer…as is CA’s advice. I second the last part of Jackalope’s comment. My first date with my husband followed a really crappy day at work. During the date I had mentioned my frustration with the day at work and he was really responsive and wonderful. It really cemented the good feelings I was already having about him.

    2. Seconding all of this! As a sort of counterpoint to the make a low-stakes emotional bid, I’ve found low-stakes disagree is helpful. Not a fight, just a few dates in…either say no to something or disagree on a slightly personal topic and see how they respond.
      I have to challenge myself to bring up something like that since I have a strong enmeshment and “whatever you want!” people pleaser streak, so I have to break orbit before it even happens. But if I don’t do that early on, I might find myself again in a relationship with a domineering opinionated person and then when we finally do have a fight…6 months in, I suddenly realize how much they don’t value my side of things.

  27. LW5 – if you find yourself getting to the “revising the written version” part of this, one thing that I’ve found helpful (generally in office hours instead of in class itself) is to hand the syllabus / instructions / handout to the student and together examine what it says, and then ask how you could explain it more clearly. Sometimes it gets me useful edits, sometimes it gets a sheepish response from students, but it has generally disarmed the defensiveness that students have around this sort of thing.

  28. Oh, Captain, thank you for your detailed answer to #8! I’m getting back into dating again, and this has so much good advice and positive reinforcement that I really, really need.

    1. +1 SECONDED. This and the Army’s comments are saving me writing a letter of my own! 😊
      I’ve blog-jumped to Captain Awkward recently and rather wish I’d been able to read much younger adult. Better late than never!

  29. Q5: I suggest ignoring them blaming you while acknowledging their feelings. For instance: “This is quite complicated; let’s go over it again.”
    I deal with these out bursts from my kids at times and have good success with staying calm and saying: “That seems frustrating, what shall we do to make it better.”
    As a parent I don’t think it is my job to take the blame and apologize for things not being perfect. It is my job however to help them redirect this emotional energy towards making things better. I think this also is true for a teacher.

  30. Just wanted to say thank you, Captain, for your extremely detailed and thoughtful response to Q8. I’m about to get back into dating again after ~1 year of awesome singleness, and this was EXACTLY what I needed to hear.

  31. I love the dating advice! I have been doing something similar for friendships (specially the part about not forcing myself to be around people I don’t feel super happy about) and it’s so freeing and conductive to having really good friendships.

  32. Q8. Oh gosh, what a great answer.

    Q5. Ah, yes. That. I think partly, it will just always happen, especially if you’re teaching a class. Some people will miss stuff, and some people will be defensive about that. I’m quite perfectionist, so I do always feel I *should* have absorbed everything and when I inevitably miss something I feel defensive about it, although I hope I’ve learned not to take it out on someone.

    It’s usually not really your fault or their fault — with complicated topics, people will miss things sometimes.

    I think captain covered most of what I can think of to suggest. Try to think of a way of thinking about and pointing out the problem that feel ok to you and try some to see which seem to smooth things over best. Maybe something like “There’s something I said early that I that I think we might have gone through too quickly, [explain problem]” or say “These things happen when we’re trying to convey a lot of information”

    If you’re teaching a class you shouldn’t be putting students down, but you also shouldn’t be letting one person’s frustration make you feel like you need to blame yourself, that can be unhelpful to the students too.

    You’ve probably already done this, but is there anything you can do to make the original explanations smoother? People are always going to miss small parts of a complicated explanation, but if you’re good at teaching you can get better at catching it. Maybe going over the main explanation, and then going over a list of “gotchas” afterwards. Maybe doing a few examples where you expect people to muddle through and you’ll need to help them. Or the first few times people do it for real, try to make it look like you expect people to try things and get it wrong and you don’t expect them to get it perfect. Maybe noticing the bits you keep having to explain and highlighting them more. From your post it sounds like you’re already good at explaining things, so most of this won’t be relevant, but it’s possible there’s some combination missing that would happen to help this problem.

    FWIW, I was quite late in life when I discovered how differently some people learn board games. For instance, some people really want a general guide to “usually do this” and don’t want to learn by trying because they’ll feel stupid if it turns out you’re “supposed” to do something this way or you can never catch up, but they hadn’t figured that out from the rules (me). But others really want a clear explanation of the rules and then not to be critiqued on strategy while they try things and figure out what happens (and generally do very well). That’s not exactly the split here, but it may help to recognise that there’s no one right way, people may need different explanations and it may be impossible to keep everyone happy.

    Although, I would have thought with board games, you ought to be able to avoid bad feelings, through a combination of good explanations, and low stress play experience that doesn’t make people feel pressured: I can’t always, but with only a few people it seems like a reasonable goal. Whereas with a class, you don’t want a bad reaction but you will probably still get some people who miss the explanation however well you pitch it.

  33. Dear LW2 – I had to move back in with my parents when I was 39 – 39! – because of a nasty breakup and the depressing realisation that I could not afford the rent without a partner and the fact I was still recovering from a serious illness so my career progress was, err, not.

    I spent a year lurking in the attic like a Gothic cliche. My parents took me to and from the station so I could carry on commuting to my job and therefore keep the job (this worked out very well – as I was getting well again and had a stable living situation, my performance took a stellar leap and I got a promotion). They refused to charge me rent so I could save money for a deposit on my own place, which was wonderful. They made me a hot dinner every week-night.

    In exchange, I did all the dishes, all the laundry, and spent a part of every weekend helping them out with the family business. I looked after the cats and ran errands and made a point of not being there as often as feasible, so we didn’t all get sick of each other. We are all opinionated, stubborn people, and there was much room for arguments, and I did a lot of breathing carefully through my nose and saying ‘That’s an interesting point. I should go and hang up the laundry now,’ instead of ‘HOMEOPATHY IS NOT A THING OH MY GOD.’ It worked, and in fact it did wonders for my relationship with my parents because they got to know the adult, reliable, considerate me and it broke down their previous working template of adolescent, scatterbrained, hot-tempered and thoughtless me. And I got to deal with my divorce without the vile spectre of NOBODY LOVES ME I WILL DIE ALONE AND BE EATEN BY MY CATS, which is admittedly a difficult spectre to dispel, but not having to face it while I was sick and grieving helped a lot.

    A few people tried to laugh at me – living out in the middle of nowhere with my parents at 40 heheheheh loser heheheheh – but I took a very deep breath and returned the awkward to sender – ‘I am very glad they are prepared to put up with me. I’ve had an awful few years and I don’t know what I’d do without their support,’ shut a few people right up. Or just ‘I’m extremely lucky,’ POOH BEAR STARE.

    Of course, when your parent is treating you like a wilful teenager you will not feel lucky and supported at all. My sibling has also had to move back home for health, break-up, and financial mess reasons, and it’s going very badly. I ache for sibling AND my parents – and I also think a lot of this angst and yelling is unnecessary, and sibling is being both ungrateful and ridiculous, acting as if doing chores was a meanypants parental imposition, losing their temper at all the ‘helpful advice’, getting resentful when parents can’t act as taxis, demanding money for clothes and travel and new iphones, refusing to apply for jobs – sibling is suffering the torments of the damned and is feeling a lot of toxic shame about the whole unemployed adult living off parents, and our parents can be extremely irritating, I know, but, the dynamic has gone to hell and my mother in particular can’t understand why we had such a nice peaceful time when I lived with them and yet not now, because she’s treating sibling exactly as she treated me. And the truth is, sibling feels like a great big loser, so they act like a great big loser, and the childhood narrative of useless angry teen and frustrated parents has sucked everyone down.

    TL;DR simplistic-to-the-point-of-uselessness answer – do not act like a teenager, do not act like a loser. Act like a calm responsible and considerate adult room-mate. Even when it’s really, really hard. Even when your parents are treating you like a child and assuming they can make choices for you. And for the love of sweetness, do all the dishes.

    1. TL;DR simplistic-to-the-point-of-uselessness answer – do not act like a teenager, do not act like a loser. Act like a calm responsible and considerate adult room-mate. Even when it’s really, really hard. Even when your parents are treating you like a child and assuming they can make choices for you. And for the love of sweetness, do all the dishes.

      I think that this is the critical part. The relationship to adult peers sharing living space has to be remodeled on all sides, not just the parents, and you have to keep remembering to do that until it becomes second nature. Part of that can include reframing things that your parents did when you were a teen and are still doing, in ways that are associated with a different relationship. Like, asking when you are going to be in if you are going out at night. From the adult child’s POV it may feel like being treated like a teen again, but it doesn’t have to be framed like that and if you reframe it in your head it can help. So in that case, your parents probably are used to knowing if a member of the household – one of them – will be back late. You’re a member of the household now, so they’d like to know it of you as a fellow adult in the household, not because they still consider you 15. E.g. it makes a difference if they hear noises in the middle of the night or put the chain on or know you planned to be out late and aren’t axe-murdered. “I’ll be back late, don’t wait up, I’ll text if I stay later than planned” doesn’t have to be a parent-child interaction, it can be adult-adult in a relationship that is different from that of casual-roommates – and you get to expect the same in return. It takes time on all sides to adjust. Sometimes you wish you hadn’t, like the time I was throwing up with food poisoning in the middle of the night and everyone assumed that as an adult I would rather have my privacy! We renegotiated that one later.

      1. Especially as my parents live so far away from public transport, me being out late does become a big deal for them – are they going to collect me from the train? What happens if I miss the last train? How much of a GIANT PAIN IN THE TUCKUS is it for my mother if I don’t get to the station until midnight because I was having a nice time with my friends? These are not ‘teenager’ things, these are issues that really affect my parent’s day.

        And yes, we also had to do a bit of renegotiating about my chronic health problems, between ‘erupt into mummy mode and do ALL the fussing and tucking in and holding-back-of-hair’ and ‘leave the adult child be (oops adult is having a migraine so unfortunate she can’t actually see and needs help finding her medication and a glass of water)’. Fun times!

      2. When I first went back for a long visit with my parents after moving out of the house for college (so 19 or so, first summer break), my dad did something I was so thankful for. He told me that I was an adult and as far as he was concerned I didn’t need to ask permission to stay out late anymore, etc. He did ask me to let him know if I thought I would be out late, but underlined, “This is just a courtesy so I don’t worry about you. It is NOT asking for permission bcs you can make adult choices now.” That was super helpful. (He also would let me know when I was there if they were going to be out late as a similar courtesy, so it wasn’t just one-way.)

  34. Re Bob the visiting cat: a motion sensor activated water sprinkler will get rid of Bob and avoid the neighbors. You may have to move it around a few times to convince him that there is no good place on your property to be a pest, but he will NOT like a shower and will leave.

    1. We own one of these but I haven’t figured out a way to set it up that won’t risk also watering the neighbours (who don’t own Bob)

      (I may reconsider my qualms about watering neighbours if I thought they were Bob’s owners tbh) .

      It did stop him hanging out _on the ground_ in our yard, but not on the shed. If I could aim it precisely at the roof of the neighbour’s shed where Bob does most of his fighting from… I’ll have to see. Setting it up 8 feet off the ground won’t be super easy. But I should definitely investigate again!

      1. I’m super late to the party but Jackson Galaxy gets a lot of mileage out of motion sensor air spray cans. Then you don’t have to worry about watering the neighbors!

      2. If I were your Neighbors Who Do Not Own Bob, I would be perfectly willing to have a conversation about this device, and where you might be able to put it so that I could get stuff out of my shed without being soaked. After all, there’s only one entrance, so maybe we could position the sprinkler so it doesn’t really project past that side of the shed.

        And if I needed to mow the lawn, I could conceivably ask you to turn it off first.

  35. #6, I’ve been on the opposite side of this issue. I had an on-again-off-again friendship with an ex for many years, and around three years ago I had to cut him off for good because HE was jerking me around and I was sick of it. He’d come back into my life, apologizing for hurting me last time, insists he’s in a better place now, and then for a while we have a great friendship, until he’ll go ice cold on me out of nowhere. Once he blew up at me and then blocked me, once he blocked me quietly, once he unfriended me and just stopped texting me, and then said “oh yeah, well I figured we shouldn’t be friends now that I’m engaged” which made sense, but I wish he’d had that talk with me weeks earlier when he’d made that decision!

    My advice is this, a friendship is allowed to ebb and flow, and it’s healthy to tell someone you need space for a while. However, if you feel the need to cut someone off completely, that’s a pretty final decision! You may get away with going back to them once, but not more than that, running hot and cold on someone is really hurtful to them. And communicate! “Hey Ex, I know I was interested in being friends, but recently your behaviors that lead to our breakup have resurfaced, and I don’t think I can deal with them even as friends, so I need to call it quits.”

  36. The dating advice is coming at just the right time. I’ve been happily dating casually for about six years in NYC. The only person I see at the moment is a married dude in an open relationship. And it’s not enough. I want a partner. Someone who will prioritize me and who wants me to prioritize him! SO many of the things that you talk about resonate with me and I’m so grateful for this site and your kind and straightforward advice. I’m ready to see what happens when I date like I really matter and that I’m worthy of a loving and awesome romantic relationship.

  37. The dating advice is coming at just the right time. I’ve been happily dating casually for about six years in NYC. The only person I see at the moment is a married dude in an open relationship. And it’s not enough. I want a partner. Someone who will prioritize me and who wants me to prioritize him! SO many of the things that you talk about resonate with me and I’m so grateful for this site and your kind and straightforward advice. I’m ready to see what happens when I date like I really matter and that I’m worthy of a loving and awesome romantic relationship.

  38. Sorry for the double comment! WordPress tripped me up. But your advice is so good, I had to say it twice 😉

  39. Thanks for asking Q8 and Thanks Captain for the condensed version of your dating tips!

    I’ve got the having criteria part down pretty well but definitely need to work on the not jumping into sex/hanging at home part when finding someone I click with. I had two relationships of about 2-3 months last year where it was living at their place by the end of the second week. In the second one met the kids before the end of week two XD

    I have ADHD and started dating at 32 so taking it slow is pretty hard because of my brain and also because my jerkbrain is replaying me all the societal bullshit. Buy your advice has definitely helped me both in the actual relationships and in shaping the place relationships have in my life. So huge thanks!

  40. Hey Q8, I really feel for you. I got out of an abusive relationship, and am now in a really happy healthy relationship, but the dating that led me here was SO SCARY, and I felt so worried that I was overreacting or underreacting to the things I observed on dates! “Is this about my ex, or the dude in front of me?” “Is this about the past, or right now?” Anyways, super duper empathy.

    One thing I don’t think I’ve seen mentioned here that tremendously helped me: if you have a couple of really awesome friends that you trust, I had a lot of luck with the whole “sunshine is the best disinfectant” thing. I would tell my Team EVERYTHING about my dates — what we talked about, what they did, how I felt, what I was worried about. This served a few purposes, each of which was really important:

    1) I could get a trusted third-person reality check on my reactions;
    2) Half the time, just talking about it out loud or even in text helped me realize or clarify how I was *actually* feeling about things; and
    3) If I noticed myself avoiding mentioning anything because it might make the guy look bad, NOPE NOPE NOPETOPUS GOODBYE DUDE.

  41. Thank you, Captain and commenters, for your responses to Q8. My last “date” (*he* thought it was one) was nearly three years ago, and it frightened, angered, and hurt me. He had previously said he wanted to be friends, but our next meeting basically started with him claiming “I changed my mind. You’re gonna be my girl.” Undeterred by my saying I wasn’t attracted to him, he went into a nonstop series of negging (“I could have any beautiful woman, but I’d rather have you”), boundary-pushing, outright cruelty, and — after I withdrew the hand he had taken — claims that I would be single forever it I believed in the importance of consent. Immediately afterward, I texted to say I didn’t want to see him again and blocked his number. I was terrified he would stalk me; he didn’t know where I lived, but he knew where I worked. I encountered him on the street the next month, he gave some BS about wanting to continue our relationship, I reiterated that I didn’t, and thankfully he departed.

    The primary reason I haven’t dated since then is a sheer lack of opportunity. Despite participating in many local social activities, I have yet to locate any place where people in my age group (20s-30s; I’m 31) congregate, and seldom encounter any. And visual impairment has always prevented me from detecting any nonverbal signals of attraction that might have ever been directed at me. But I’m also afraid of something like that happening again. My date with The Jerk was a walk in a well-traveled area, but for months afterward, I was afraid to go back there in case he was still haunting it in search of new victims and also because it newly bore such awful memories. (Our later encounter on the street in an area where I travel nearly every day was actually helpful — a reminder that I can’t avoid going *anywhere* he might be, and I can shut him down if I see him again.)

    All I can do is tell myself that I’ve learned from the experience and am not doomed to repeat every bit of it if another such asshat comes my way. I wanted to walk away as soon as he started being a jerk, but I know why I didn’t, and maybe I’ll know better next time.

    1. I was shocked and outraged that an adult would treat me this way, and thought I could prevent it if I defended my reasoning. (I was bullied by children as a child, but have mostly lived among kind adults)

    2. I was afraid he would get even angrier if I didn’t see this through.

    3. He had hit upon my weakness. I *love* giving people information about the town and area I live in. He had claimed to be new in the area and asked me a number of questions about it. I was so desperate to keep doing it that I kept saying “I just want to be friends and to tell you about (town) when it was clear this wasn’t what he wanted.

    4. I had said that I’d never been in a relationship, which he attempted to use as leverage to claim that I didn’t know how relationships worked.

    5. I relented the first time he tested my boundaries (pitching a fit when I wouldn’t let him drink from my water bottle), so he pushed them farther.

    Now I know that these weakness can be exploited,* and that someone can indeed be such a jerk to me. And I know my strengths:

    1. I have feminist knowledge on my side. I know that consent *is* important, including consent between partners. I know that If I’m single forever, it won’t be because nobody else believes in consent, and I’d rather be single forever than let a potential partner touch me however they wanted and rage when opposed. I know that “You’re bisexual? Great, you can hook up with my gorgeous bisexual ladyfriend!” is in this context a signal of a fetish or at best a manipulative temptation, not an exceptionally open mind. Apparently that’s more than some people have, if such tactics sometimes work.

    2. I’m (conventionally) beautiful, and know it. He acted shocked about that, claiming “Most single women think they’re not beautiful.” I haven’t proven to be *attractive,* but that’s not the same thing.

    3. A life amid kindness — including supportive people who I could talk with about this experience afterward — has prevented me from believing I deserve to be treated this way.

    I still feel less able to foil a charming liar, especially after learning that a quasi-celebrity I was a fan of is a horrible abuser (a common experience nowadays). But I can do more to protect myself from an honest asshat. And if one manages to hurt me again…it will hopefully be something I can physically and emotionally survive, as I’ve survived it before.

    *I’ve been similarly exploited before, when I happily gave an older man an impromptu lecture on local geology and he then asked for a hug, which I gave him out of surprise and immediately felt really squicked about.

  42. Q3: Assumimg there are no medical reasons for the exhaustion, I’ve found it hugely helpful to schedule my down-time/self-care time officially on my calendar on my phone. Like, I’ll think to myself, “I’m feeling overwhelmed. I’m going to block out all of Sunday and then Wed. night after work to veg/cook/watch tv/do my own errands/read/whatever.”

    If I don’t take this step, I’m the kind of person to say “yes” to everything, which eventually results in my time getting eaten up by others and their wants and needs. Putting me-time on my calendar also really helps me in the moment. If someone is like, “Hey can you come to my poetry reading on Wednesday?” I can respond, “Let me check my calendar. Oh … I’m booked Wednesday, sorry! Let me know the next time you read, I’d love to catch it one of these times.”

    For my husband, our formula is to say, “I am exhausted and cranky right now, how about you do those errands yourself and I’ll greet you back here with the biggest hug.” Keep it positive and honest.

    1. Yes to this! Six to eight months ago, I started putting a monthly “cocoon night” on my calendar. On that night, I don’t cook, do chores, exercise, socialize, or get on social media. (These are all fine things to do in general, but they take energy.) I run the date past my spouse to make sure no visitors will be in the house, even for a brief stop to pick something up. And I watch whatever tv I want and read something I’m excited about and eat pizza or take-out or popcorn and ice cream and probably drink wine and it’s so helpful for keeping my mood stabilized.

  43. Q3: I once did a “time audit” where I wrote down what I was doing every 15 minutes for a week. It felt weird and a little bit tedious at first, but it helped me look at my tasks and time management in a way I never had before, and I used it as a starting point to make some changes. I used a pad and pen, nothing fancy, and no one saw it except me. Maybe the same tactic could help you?

  44. Dear LW who is living at home:

    I lived on my own from the time I graduated college in 2007 until 2013. At the time I moved back home in 2013, I was suffering from a severe mental breakdown due to untreated bipolar disorder. I had recently graduated law school and due to a series of unfortunate decisions made as a result of said mental illness, I was prohibited from taking the bar exam at that time. And I broke up with an abusive ex who gaslit me so much that it took three years of therapy to drag myself back to normal. I moved back home right after that breakup, because I just couldn’t handle living alone anymore in the state I was in. My parents haven’t always been the easiest people to be around – dad also has bipolar disorder that wasn’t treated until I was halfway through college – and my mom is not exactly maternal. But they let me move back home and I stayed there for five years while I got my mental health and life under control. My parents, thankfully, mostly treated me like an adult renting a room. I would let them know if I were going to be out of the house all night or whatever so that they didn’t worry, but they didn’t make me feel like a teenager.

    Often, I felt the same way you do – like I was a failure for living with my parents at 30 years old. But I think part of the reason I felt that way is that it wasn’t my ultimate goal, and I felt like I was somehow letting myself down. I remember reading a Taylor Swift quote of all things, part of her “Clean” speech, that went something like, “You are not going nowhere just because you haven’t gotten to where you want to be yet.” And that helped, when I started reframing my life in that way. I was just traveling a path on the way to my goal of living independently again. Living with my parents helped me do that, because I didn’t have to worry about paying rent (although I did give my parents $300 a month for expenses) or being lonely or trapped in my own head. Having those burdens lifted let me get my mental health in order even quicker than I probably would have been able to living alone, and guess what? I got healthier, my finances got fixed, and I was single for all five of those years (by choice). In late 2017, I started seeing a great guy, moved in with him in October 2018, finally reapplied to take the bar exam, and now I’m happier than I ever could have been living on my own for those five years.

    My brother, on the other hand, is 28 years old and has no intention of moving out of our parents’ house. He pays for a ton of stuff there – he’s put in a hot tub and a chair lift for my dad, who has severe knee issues that hurt him on a daily basis, plus a generator, a home security system, new flooring, and all new appliances – and has decided he’d rather live there, put money into the house which will eventually be his anyway, and take care of our parents. There’s no shame in that! That is his goal in life. He has a good job, and friends, and just isn’t interested in dating at all, so he’s living his best life. And anyone who ever comments on him living with my parents as if it’s some kind of failing, he just says, “Good thing I don’t really have to care what you think.”

    In sum, just keep reframing it in your head that if your goal is to someday move out again, then you are just doing a thing right now that will allow you to eventually be in a place to do that. And if you change your mind and decide you like living there, then that’s okay too! Just do your fair share of chores, throw some money in the pot for groceries, and act like a roommate would act. There is no “right” living situation – only what’s right FOR YOU.

  45. Q3: Captain’s point about a partner being thrilled when you come home, when you want to wind down, really resonates with me! My partner had to tell me that he needs 20 minutes alone after we greet and before anything else happens, any requests/plans are made, just quiet time. I never even thought of it, but now I know and it helps us immensely.

  46. Q5: SO HELPFUL for dealing with my medium sized child! 🙂

    A7: last night I realised that I might be ready to think about dating, 15 months after leaving my ex, 2 months after the divorce came through. Your timing in this is excellent. It will be so useful to me. I may print it out and make notes 😀

  47. Oh, Q3. I feel your pain.
    I just had a really, really close variant of this question with my HS graduate.

    To everything (turn, turn, turn)
    There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
    And a time to every purpose, under heaven

    She is just. so. bewildered that she is neglecting herself! And she has no time! What happened????

    It’s February, she graduated last June, summer was lovely, and in September she started a job which takes more hours than high school did. Suddenly, as you say, ***it feels impossible to get all of my responsibilities done.***

    So we weren’t as formal as the Captain recommended, but we went through the segments of her day: morning before work, late afternoons and evenings after work. And we compared them to the hours she had in school, and especially to the hours during the summer, where she had much fewer responsibilities and besides, sunlight lasted longer.

    It took a long conversation before she agreed that “not doing her laundry right away” =/= “lazy”, not doing the weekly bread-baking =/= lazy, not helping around the house as much as she did as a high school senior =/= lazy, it all just = less available time.

    Now she has to do consider all the work she expects of herself, and decide what to keep and toss. And possibly our fmaily will have to do without home-made bread (costs less, tastes better! but the hidden cost is the baker’s time) and my daughter will have to ditch the guilt about not doing everything.

    1. how nice to have a mom who helps you DITCH the guilt. There’s such a stereotype of moms “piling on the chores.”

      I know that I have to make myself see that things take time, and recognize that, both for myself, and when I look at other members of the household.

      (I always told my kids, “The reason I want you to do this necessary chore, or your homework, faster is so that you will have more fun time. I promise I won’t use your speed against you by coming up with more chores once you’re done.” I think they assumed that i would.)

      I’m glad your daughter has a mom that she is safe listening to, and that she was willing to listen to you.

  48. Q2: yes to the cultural differences in attitude to this! I was looking at house designs for possible rebuilding last year and was fascinated (and pleased) to see that even the budget project home companies in Australia are now offering floor plans specifically aimed at multigenerational families, ie not just granny flat type accomodation but separate full-sized kitchen/living areas on different floors. I think this is partly a reflection of the changing patterns of immigration into my city, but also that my city is up there amongst the most unaffordable housing markets in the world and so it is becoming more normal for adult children to stay or move back home.

    I would have been quite happy for my adult child to stay living with me indefinitely, but it got difficult when I was suffering from severe depression a few years back and she wasn’t really sharing the load with household tasks so I kicked her back to her dad’s place. She’s now living in a share house, but now that I am recovered I would welcome her (and her partner) back under the same conditions as before – I don’t need her/them to pay rent but sharing the bills would need to be discussed and sharing the work of running the household is non-negotiable. I think that one of the most difficult aspects of staying/returning to live with family is renegotiating the boundaries and ways of interacting from being child/adult to being adult/adult, but it is also what makes the arrangement successful both in practical terms and how it feels for both parties emotionally. If you’ve been brought up in a family which has healthy boundaries and negotiating styles in the first place it is sooo much easier, but if not, now is a good time to start learning 🙂

    The other thing which can be a major issue in moving back in with family is pets, especially if this involves either party having allergies or phobias (or even just strong dislikes) or you’d need to make significant modifications like building fences or cat runs. Like, what do you do if your child really needs to move home but you can’t stand their dog, or you (or close friends who visit a lot) are allergic to their cat?

  49. LW 2, another person who lived with parents until extremely recently! I lived with mine between college and grad school (about a year and a half, minus the half for internships away), for a year after grad school, and for another year again after I went away to travel. I was working for most of that time (sometimes in my dad’s small business, sometimes elsewhere), volunteering, gardening, etc. (I know my unfettered enthusiasm for tomato plants was something of a trial to my mother, alas.) I don’t have any reasons that sound good to other people for why Iwasn’t out on my own — basically, I get on pretty well with my folks, and for ambiguous mental health reasons, moving out on my own was Not A Thing I Could Do Just Then. I didn’t pay rent, so I could save up my money when I was working. I confess I did not do an amazing job with chores; mostly just dishes and some laundry. (I do not recommend this aspect of my plan! I do, however, recommend doing Stealth Chores, so you can reap the rewards of parental gratefulness without parental observation.) In all fairness, I set a weirdly positive precedent for myself by starting out working in my dad’s clinic right when my mom was burning out as his office manager — my dad appreciated having someone new who was still familiar with his systems, and my mom desperately needed the time off. I think that goodwill helped carry me through my next couple stints at home.

    In my case, it helped that one of my close and nearby friends was also living with her parents for very similar reasons and with very similar conditions, so to speak — she was saving up money, sure, but she also felt emotionally safe and comfortable with her parents. In her case, the three years she spent living with her parents turned out to be an extreme kindness of the universe — her dad died unexpectedly in 2017, when he was 58 and my friend was 29. They had a very close and affectionate relationship. I think that it’s a lot less painful for her now, knowing that she was there with him up to the very end. She lived with her mom for another year after that, and will probably live with her mom again in the future.

    May no one in this comments thread ever have to go through what my friend went through. But I think it might be helpful to regard moving in with your parents (obviously dependent on your relationship with them) as an opportunity to spend a bit more time with some people you care about. It won’t be forever, and it’s possible (maybe even likely?) that you will look back on this period of your life with more tenderness and less embarrassment than you look upon it now. I mean: because I was home all of 2015, I had the chance to take a really great driving trip with my mom through a couple of national parks, something that I could definitely not afford to do with her now that I live on my own. We also went to movies and art exhibits and plays together, and generally enjoyed each other’s company. I don’t regret moving out, but I also don’t regret the time I spent at home.

    I would maybe consider finding a very low-key hobby that you can share with one or both parents that you can invest a little time in regularly and use as a point of conversation? For me and my mom, this wasn’t much of an issue (we’re quite similar personality- and interest-wise), but for me and my dad, having the tomato plants to strategize over and historic photos to chat about was a quiet place to come back to in a relationship that is not always the easiest (growing political differences, sigh).

  50. Q7
    Bear in mind the parable of The Bitch Eating Crackers. I don’t think it will make this friend *less* annoying to you, but sometimes it helps to name the feeling. (It helps me in similar circumstances, anyway.) She’s not an inherently bad person, but also *you’re* not an inherently bad person for wanting her to LEAVE YOU ALONE ALREADY.

    I would tweak Captain’s last point slightly. Instead of having ‘chat’ be the default, what if you try a script like:

    “Ugh, taking this class so late in the evening is making it really hard for me to wind down when I get home. (Or insert a similar true complaint.) I think I’m going to try putting in some headphones and zoning out on the train rides home.”

    Not in the sense that you’re apologizing to her for being unable to interact on the train, but as part of casual conversation; updating a friend on a new thing you’re doing with your life.

    THEN, after this pattern is established, if you’re feeling better about her or *do* want to chat on some rides:

    1. Check to make sure she hasn’t put on headphones/opened a book/similarly busied herself.
    2. Remove headphones.
    3. “I can’t turn my brain off. Wanna talk about X Mutually Enjoyable Topic?”

    eg, model the sort of behavior/boundaries you’d like her to observe.

    Obviously this won’t be effective if she’s the sort to not get hints, but worth trying otherwise.

  51. Q3, how much relaxation time does your partner get? Just one possible scenario, but if your collective responsibilities are a bit overwhelming, or just depending on how they were raised, they may be trying to get *everything* done before they take any rest or breaks. So if you have some free time now, the purpose of free time is to run errands.

    If you can imagine that being their thought process, the best and kindest way you can get some time for rest is by introducing them to that same pleasure and to the benefits of some time spent not “getting stuff done”. So they don’t feel like *you’re* taking a break and *they* still have to run all these errands.

  52. The app dating one could not have come at a better time for me. I’ve just started meeting people in person and I’m torn about how to move forward. Part of this isn’t helped by the fact that I haven’t been in a relationship before and I’m 22.
    Either way, I have met with a couple of guys who were nice but I seriously had to carry the conversation the whole time. I have friends who say they are just shy and I should give them a second go but I don’t know if I’m up to it again. Thoughts?

    1. Up to you?

      Here is/was my deal: Men who are shy, quiet, taciturn, “laid back,” hard-to-read, reticent (whatever you want to call it) in conversation are/were not for me.

      Those are not bad qualities for a person to have! Taking a little time to warm up before feeling comfortable to express yourself is just fine!

      But not ALL still waters run deep – sometimes quiet people are NOT more interesting once you get to know them – and I didn’t feel comfortable or have fun feeling like I had to monitor my conversation (am I talking too much? I’m talking too much. But when I’m quiet why won’t he sayyyyy anything. He’s just sitting there looking at me.) or fill awkward silences on early dates.

      So I stopped going on second dates with fellas like that. Did I miss out on getting to know some very good people? Almost certainly, but also, fine? I had done some time with “opposites attract” sort of dating and by the time I met Mr. Awkward (37-38 years old) I knew it wasn’t for me. I had a job teaching young artists, which often meant drawing out shy people and helping them feel confident in discussing their ideas, and I liked doing that…AT WORK. Not with a fellow adult man in my fun free time.

      For me, a “successful” first date isn’t one that necessarily leads to a second date. It’s one where you have a pretty good idea about whether you even want a second date. “You’re great, just not for me!” is a success.

      1. I hear you. I have a sweet guy-friend who I share many interests with, care about a lot, and might have potentially been attracted to…but he’s so taciturn that I often struggle to sustain any amount of conversation when we’re together, sometimes making for a wearying and frustrating experience. I’m also shy and quiet by nature, and sometimes feel as if I’m bad for wanting something I’m not willing to give…but I *do* push myself to be outgoing and talkative when the situation calls for it. And as much as I can relate to shy, quiet people, I’ve usually been attracted to talkative, outgoing, energetic ones who *show* their enthusiasm for the things they’re passionate about. Socializing with them for too long can tire me out, but can also be enlivening and rewarding. Unfortunately, I know very few such people of my age group in my current vicinity.

      2. Thank you SO MUCH for that last paragraph. I went on a lot of first dates, very few of them went on to second dates, but I generally had a good time, so – success! Sometimes people don’t get why I’m happy about the ones that “went nowhere”

        1. My big breakthrough on dating was when I got to the point where I could enjoy first dates just for the idea of going out on a date. I’ve been living in my city for two decades now and know it pretty well, but frequently I had someone suggest something that I hadn’t tried, either bcs I didn’t know about it or bcs I thought it wasn’t really my thing, but I had a lot of fun with it. (Some of those things are still not really my thing, but trying them once or twice was fun.) I also had some dates with people new to my region and got to show off what I love about my city. So win-win! And even dates that were a bomb made great stories later; I’m thinking especially of one where both of us were too newly out of long-term relationships and…. Yeah, SO didn’t work. But good story! (Also on that date I picked a coffee shop I’d never been to bcs I didn’t want to go anywhere I’d gone with my ex, but discovered “has seating” meant one TINY table in an itty-bitty 3×10′ spot where people stood to order. NOT ideal for a date!) I still chuckle to myself whenever I drive by that place. Good times! But that sort of thing made it easier to enjoy dating, the idea that I could have fun going out and doing things with a stranger even if I didn’t click with them and even if I’m an introvert.

  53. LW5, when my kidlet was small, they were sometimes defensive to the point of tears when I would ask them to stop doing something. I promise I’m not a mean mom! It would be something like “That’s a sarcastic tone of voice. Can you ask me again politely?” But the kidlet would wail despairingly, “You never TOLD me that I was sarcastic!”

    When they got older, it became clear that I was dealing here with a child who had Very High Standards for their own behavior and was getting a terrible scolding from their own brain for the awful crime of not already knowing that they shouldn’t have done what they did.

    The Captain’s advice covers this situation, but it might be helpful to know that this is what’s going through the minds of some of your students. It doesn’t even matter if you’ve covered the topic before or not — obviously they didn’t take it in the first time. They may sound like they’re saying, “You failed to do something important,” but what they’re really saying is either “I hate knowing I’ve done something wrong” or “I hate that other people have SEEN me doing something wrong.”

  54. I have a friend who recently described a first date to me as “I had such a great time, I’m definitely going on a second date, but I’m not physically attracted to him so I just want to friend zone him.” It’s none of my business, but I feel like if I were dating and a dude asked me out on a second just to try and friend zone me, I’d be pretty pissed off. Maybe I’m not looking for a new friend. I’m just wondering what your take is on the ethics of that. If you honestly feel there’s a person you’ve met who you enjoy being around, would be a great addition to your life, but aren’t interested in a relationship with them, is that something better said after the first date or several dates in? (this is just for my personal knowledge, I’m not like going to go up to my friend and tell her she’s doing it wrong)

    1. I need everyone to discard the idea of the friend zone.

      I also think people get some time to decide how they feel, and it’s not unethical to not quite know yet, or to not give people you just met constant updates on what your attraction levels to them are (or else you’re a liar?). This sounds more to me like “I think that he’ll end up as a friend rather than a partner, but like him enough that I want to give it one more date before I decide how I feel” than something unethical tbh? Your friend doesn’t owe this dude reciprocation of his affection, we don’t know that he doesn’t feel similarly unsure about her, early dating is for figuring this out.

      1. Yeah, fair. I guess it struck me as odd to know after one date that you definitely only want to be friends, but continue to date, which is to say, it isn’t my personal dating technique (and like I said, if I were at the other end of it, I probably would have felt needlessly encouraged and then sad. Also, unless I was 100% on same page, I simply could not accept that offer of friendship). I definitely understand the process of being unsure where someone fits into your life and continuing to date someone to figure it. Hey, I have another friend who basically dated a dude for weeks with this kind of hesitation, fell for him, and they seem really in love and happy together. Feelings develop, I get that, I think what just seemed odd was that I’ve never heard such an approach, it’s always been either “ehhh I don’t know, I’m not feeling it,” “I’m so excited to see this person again, he’s so great!” or “I’m not sure yet, we’ll see what happens!” This was a fourth approach I hadn’t thought of before, and I think at first take it felt weird and unfamiliar.

      2. I find lately that I don’t want to date people I wouldn’t want to befriend in the first place, and I perceive some of this figuring out differently.
        If a first date doesn’t work out on either side, I’d rather things end there. If there’s no friendship, fine, it was a nice time/I know we’re incompatible either way.
        If I feel like I like someone, I fall hard and easily for them–I don’t even flirt 99.9999999999% of the time because anything vaguely sexual or relationshippy with others feels SERIOUS and ESCALATING to me, and I want to treat it with the value it deserves.
        If one person feels the date/s is/are going well while the other person feels indifferent toward them but hasn’t been direct about their lack of interest/enthusiam…having been in the “going well and unaware of indifference” position, it feels to me like toying with someone’s emotions by stringing them along.

        1. I have (had) a dread of stringing people along and a love of directness, but also, people move at different speeds.

          “Successful” first date = You feel like you have a good basis for deciding if you want to go on another date
          “Successful” second date = You feel like you have a good basis for deciding if you want to go on another date

          “Two dates” isn’t a promise. Some people warm up slower than others.

          To be absolutely clear about this subthread: I permanently reject the idea that going on a few dates with someone while you figure out how you feel is deceptive or unfairly leading someone on.

          1. “I want to have lunch with you Tuesday” isn’t indifference–it may not be, or lead to, romantic/sexual/dating stuff, but an active desire for someone else’s company isn’t indifference.

            There’s also social pressure to say “yes” to “can I see you again?” “I’d like to go to dinner this week, are you free Thursday?” even when the answer to “do you want to go to dinner with this person?” is “not really” or “I’m not sure.”

          2. You’re all correct.
            What’s described here at large is pretty fair and kind.
            I’m sorry for coming across as misinterpreting.

            I probably should have been clearer in my own explanations, as what I’ve experienced as indifference was situations where there was a mismatch of interest, but I was being told by the other people “you’re cool/it’s fine” when I noticed red flags of them appreciating/accepting my efforts to them without reciprocating. Meanwhile, I’d often witness these same people *very enthusiastically* flirt with/proposition other folks, and later found out from third parties (other known partners of these people, or other people that they’d been demonstrably trying to get with) that when I was being told “let’s see what happens/figure things out as we go/everything’s fine with us”, these people were telling the third parties that “eclipse is just a friend/there was no chemistry after a couple chances”. I was never told directly of these people’s disinterest, and they were telling me to my face that I just needed to manage my expectations of wanting mutual enthusiasm when I saw them offer it to what seemed like everyone around me and still ignoring me.
            Also, being the last to know when many other folks are aware that someone doesn’t care was crushing.
            I still feel in some way at fault.

          3. If this is a pattern for you (people not feeling romantic interest but still going on dates with you) may I suggest you ACTIVELY try to create opportunities for them to gracefully bow out of the dating process? Unless you’re taking people on Italian vacations on date three, it’s less likely that they’re “exploiting” you than that they feel social pressure and can’t find a good way to back out, or that they simply warm up to some people more quickly than others but aren’t good at communicating that.

            So instead of “can I please see you again??” type questions that carry pressure, try things like, “I really enjoyed spending time with you, please let me know if and when you’d like to do it again.” Leaving the next move up to them. Or, “Is this a friend date or a date-date? Either one is fine, I just want to know” (if that’s how you feel.) Try to frame their potential “no” as a gift of clarity they are giving both of you.

            Rejecting someone who is very eager is hard. Back when I was dating it was the thing I dreaded most. I never got the angry blowback many women describe, but I did get a lot of guilt trips, “but whyyyyyy?” and sad puppy eyes. If you can establish up front there will be no sad puppy eyes, people will feel way more comfortable being honest. Not to say that every person will take you up on that, but your odds improve.

          4. hummingbear, I actively kept offering these people moments to exit, more times than I could count.
            “Let me know if you want to keep this going or not, both options are okay. I just want to know where I stand because unclear stuff is really uncomfortable for me” is my default mode.
            My eagerness is to find whatever configuration works best with someone, and I actively ask people what I can offer to make the dynamic optimal for them. I’d been friends with these people first, and I’d hoped to keep the friendship if it wasn’t working otherwise.

            Most of the time, I didn’t even realize these people considered what seemed “friendly hanging-out” as a DATE, because a date to me is something determined by both parties. Without sex or even any whiff of attraction after enthusiastically consensual sexytimes on the first/second date, these people would treat me again as “just a (more distant) friend” and I was desperately confused and hurting as to why they acted interest disinterested in talking with me or touching me when they were saying to my face and in text “it’s all good” and “I tend to be direct, so if there’s an issue I’ll let you know.”

            I wasn’t being given a gift of clarity, I was learning from third parties the people I liked had said “eclipse seemed only interested in sex” or “I wasn’t feeling it with her” without directly telling me “no thanks” or even slow-fading.

            Also, for context: these people were/are significantly older than me and more connected in our mutual social circles, so I was doubly anxious about being accepted by the larger group and thought I was blacklisted as an abusive/toxic person for being hurt by their rejection.

          5. As a default, I use “let me know” language and let other people make the first/next moves.
            I try my damn hardest to refrain from messaging or interacting with people unless they show interest and enthusiasm first, and even then, I make sure to offer them easy-access exits as much as possible. “If they wanted to be involved, they would make the effort” is practically my main rule, so I try as much as possible to make sure that people want to be involved.

          6. It sounds like you ran into a run of people who were both incompatible with you and not great at communicating with you about that. It sucks, it’s probably not anything you were doing wrong, or anything you can control or make sure never happens again, unfortunately. Maybe try asking – “Hey, I’d love to hang out next Thursday, but can I check – are you imagining that this is a date-date or a friend-date?” – if it’s making you anxious to not know.

            I don’t think it means that people *in general* need to be sure they want to be with someone before spending more time with them (like a second date) – the early stages of dating are for figuring that out.

    2. “If you honestly feel there’s a person you’ve met who you enjoy being around, would be a great addition to your life, but aren’t interested in a relationship with them, is that something better said after the first date or several dates in?”

      Depends how sure of your feelings you are, ai guess. I don’t think I would date someone with a deliberate _plan_ to try to become friends with them if I knew for sure they definitely didn’t want that… In that situation it might be better to ask if they wanted to be friends (and accept that they likely won’t)

      But that’s not really the typical scenario, is it? Who is that confident in either direction on a first or second date? I suppose maybe some people are, but generally the point of early dating is that you don’t actually know and are trying to figure that out. You may think you probably won’t want to date them but like them enough to see if you feel that way after a couple of dates, or you might think you probably want to date them but it doesn’t mean you’re sure or are about to sign a contract to become boyfriend/girlfriend/go to bed together/etc.

      It takes time to get to know people! And time to see what kind of relationship, if any, develops between people. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect people to ‘state their intentions’ when they’ve just met.

      1. That’s kind of why I was so taken aback by it – I was very surprised that my friend felt so confident in that scenario after just one date (and I’m only going off her words that one time, she may have meant something different, her opinions may have changed, etc). I know when I was actively dating, if I met someone who I was attracted to as a friend but not really physically attracted to, I’d probably see them a few more times with the intention of maybe physical attraction will follow. I think that’s fairly common. I guess I always functioned under the assumption that if we’re going on a date, it’s with the intention to see if anything romantic develops, and if that intention changes, I’d like to be made aware. Maybe that’s unreasonable of me, but picturing myself at the other end of that, it feels icky you know? And it may just be a fact of dating too, you can’t control how other people, dating is wandering into the big unknown of other people’s feelings. I would feel really hurt if I went out with a dude under the assumption that we’re trying to see if we want to date/sleep together/have a relationship, but the last couple dates he was just knowingly trying to make me an addition to his circle of friends (maybe because I would feel like I wouldn’t have put time into those dates if I knew that was the situation, maybe it’s also because a lot of male friends just like to use me as an emotional support girlfriend, but I think there are some feelings around a lack of agency there… I don’t know, feelings come up I guess, that’s just me here). My question was intended to be a “if you totally know this is how you feel” kind of situation, not a “you think maybe this is the case, but you’re not sure.” I understand the second scenario is much more common. I’ve generally functioned under the assumption for myself that once you know for sure you’re not interested in dating someone, you probably shouldn’t date them.

    3. I think that communication and (kind, productive) honesty are almost always good policies to have – so I agree with you that it’s good to let someone know sooner rather than later if you realize that you only want a certain type of relationship from them. I don’t think it’s very ethical, once you are confident about your feelings, to do the thing you’re describing. But I’m also with all of the other people who have said that maybe your friend has an idea about her feelings, but isn’t 100% sure yet.

      1. Totally, and we all know people who started out as friends and later developed an attraction, so anything is possible. She might be acting more sure than she actually is. Like I said, this was just for me, I trust her judgement to do the right thing, whatever that may be.

      2. Exactly this. If you feel everyone is cool with things being unclear, well, you only need to decide if you want to keep seeing that person and figure it out afterwards; if you feel there’s a bit of a mismatch in expectations, though, I’m a big supporter of “YOU CAN TALK ABOUT FEELINGS EVEN IF IT’S NOT AN INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP (YET?)”. It doesn’t have to be a big drama, just a quick “hey, I’ve been feeling a little anxious about this because I don’t know in what direction I want this to go yet – is it ok with you, or a deal breaker?” But that’s only if you’re somehow feeling weird or bad about it. If everything is fine, you have all the time in the world for that. Some dating apps make this all easier by asking you to state whether you’re also looking for friends or not, which can help

  55. Just want to say thanks to the writer of Q8 for such a great question, and to Jennifer for such a great response (and for all the work that you put into this site). Jennifer, could you please do a CA guide to dating or something? As an e-book? Like a compilation of all your great advice plus some new content?

  56. For Question 1:

    As a parent whose 24-y-o shows no signs of being in a position to move out, I just want to say thank you for making your FIRST point be: Be nice to your parents.

    This: “Treat them like adult humans who you like and not necessary evils.”

    It’s huge to have you home–the psychic weight of another human being inside my home is huge.

    Add to this the fact that once upon a time, I was responsible for the health, happiness, feeding, and butt-wiping of this human being, and that psychic weight gets even bigger. I may not be responsible for whether you’ve eaten, now that you’re 26, but those are hard, hard habits to break.

    It’s NOT like having a roommate. I do not need or want an adult roommate. The only reason you are in my home is because you are a family member. Act like one. Be pleasant to have around. (If you are paying me money, it’s not rent–it’s a contribution to the expenses of the household.)

    In my own situation, I try very hard to treat my child like an adult. To protect their privacy, and their non-family space. To recognize that they don’t go to church anymore. I haven’t been perfect at it (but then, my kid hasn’t been perfect at being a family member).

    Eventually my kid got so that they seemed to recognize and appreciate when I was doing it right.
    So when your parent does the “parent of an adult child” thing right, reward it.
    And be patient with one another as you work it out.

  57. Answer 3 is everything to me. Thank you Captain Awkward and thank you to the community member who asked the question.

  58. I’m in a similar place to the Q8 person – with the addition of having got out of an emotional abusive relationship about a year ago. I’m just starting stick a toe in to the dating pool, and have been sorting my own list of red flags/dealbreakers/incompatibilities – as well as dealing with my own BAD TOUCH/DON’T TOUCH ME reactions.

    I really miss affection, and touching, and I don’t feel comfortable with being touched with someone who I don’t have an emotional closeness with. (as an example, my friends and I hug all the time, but I don’t like that with strangers). But I don’t really feel attracted to anyone I’ve met so far. It’s early yet, but part of me fears I’m just not capable of feeling emotional closeness again. (yes, I am in therapy).

    I guess, I’m asking, any advice on this?

  59. To the LW feeling like a “loser” for living at their parents’ house and everyone else dealing with shame around this:
    Sometimes it helps to deal with social shame (as opposed to regretting one’s own actions) to think about who is making money off of your shame, and getting angry and resentful toward them. It may not be the MOST enlightened way to go about it, but in the moment it often works better than trying to appeal to my higher self. In the case of “leave the nest” pressure, credit card companies would love to profit from your shame so you’ll move out and go into sweet sweet debt; crappy employers who take advantage of desperate workers will profit from your shame if you leave home and end up between a rock and a hard place; banks and developers will profit from your shame if you’re driven to buy a “starter home,” any home. Industries that profit from isolated lonely oldsters would LOVE it if all young people left home out of shame. If a care-taking scenario is involved with the living situation, you could resent some imaginary particularly crap-ass nursing home.

    (no shade to people who work in these professions– it’s just a quick internal mind game where I picture the worst of the worst; eg. every single person who works in any sort of finance is basically Bernie Madoff. I know it isn’t *really* that way).

    I use this also for body shame. Like, “blurgh, I look too [x]! It’s the end of the world! Wait a second… who makes money from me feeling too [x]?” So far it has never been someone or some company that I’d willingly choose to bankroll if I weren’t feeling artificially inadequate.

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