2019’s Most-Viewed Posts

Thank you all for the kind words and end-of-year donations and patronage that have flowed in over the last week or so. I’ve been traveling and kind of made a point about not touching my laptop for a week or so, but I read everything and I’m very grateful. ❤

Everyone’s doing decade-retrospectives and my brain is melting at the thought of it. Ten years ago, I was still technically a grad student/adjunct teacher, I lived with roommates, I’d just finished my very last student film, Captain Awkward Dot Com didn’t launch until January 2011, and I didn’t meet Mr. Awkward until 2012.

But let’s do a 2019 round-up, yes? Here were the most-viewed/shared/discussed posts from the site in 2019:

First, a timely seasonal carryover from the very end of 2018,  “#1162: Is there room to compromise when it comes to alcohol and driving? (Answer: Why not set the default at “Don’t drink and drive”? I made a chart and everything.)

Next: #1215: ” ‘So…about your private reproductive decisions’ and other ‘small’ talk.” 

Let’s please stop asking people about their intense private life stuff out of passing curiosity, the idea of politeness, or because we think we’re entitled to know. When people have big news about babies, THEY’LL TELL U.

While the rest of the world catches up, this post has lots of strategies for answering (and deflecting/de-escalating) potentially fraught “small-talk” questions that can unknowingly hit real sore spots.

P.S. Letter Writer #1228 you’ve been in my thoughts and the offer to fight your family in real life if necessary is still incredibly open.

Third, #1219: “My friend’s boyfriend keeps ‘negging’ me.” 

This post has THREE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY ONE comments strategizing about whether it’s okay to tell a serially annoying dude “Look, could you stop?” and is often re-shared/cited for mention of “Schrödinger’s Autist,” a theoretical construct who only comes out in Internet discussions of cis men behaving badly toward women as a way to pre-excuse bad behavior (and has nothing to do with actual autism).

Fourth-most viewed is #1186: “How do I restore trust in my relationship?

Like the faux rank of “Captain” Awkward, “The Marie Kondo of Breakups” is a self-assigned comedy title because it’s one of my life’s missions to tell my younger self young people, especially young women, that a partner who keeps letting you down and leaving you wondering in the early stages of a relationship is probably not going to change for the better, and there’s nothing you can do to “love somebody more” into being who you need them to be.

It’s okay to want love, to risk, to try to make things work, but working at somebody who isn’t doing any work to be a good partner to you is a lonely and disappointing bet.

Fifth, #1218: “Irritability and constant criticism in a marriage. The post and comments are a good roundup of previous discussions of verbal abuse and safely extricating oneself from a draining and damaging partnership.

Good “Could this be abuse?” guideline: When someone who is supposed to love you is constantly mean and you start asking yourself “what’s wrong with me that’s making this person be so mean, how can I fix myself?” it might be time to visit LoveIsRespect.org from a private browsing window and start making plans.

Sixth, #1198: “How do I deal with work burnout and make my partner* happy?” (*My partner = my boss, who is *a* partner in the law firm where I work)

Notable for link to description of “insecure overachievers”and how capitalism hijacks anxieties and perfectionism in search of star performers, not caring who burns out along the way or how unsustainable and unhealthy the culture can get.

VERY GOOD NEWS: This Letter Writer sent me an update and is doing MUCH, MUCH, MUCH BETTER. ❤

Seventh, #1197: “He broke up with me but hasn’t moved out yet. How do I not ruin our last chance to make this work?” 

I had the worst time moving on after breakups (rejection sensitive dysphoria, yaaaaaaaay) and learning how to let people go was one of the hardest and best lessons I ever learned. I’m proud of this heartbreak omnibus and hope it can make a difference to others. There are enough ballrooms in you, Letter Writer, and I hope you are in much better straits now.

Eighth, #1194: “I’m moving in with my girlfriend and now my homophobic parents want to disown me. One of a series of posts on family estrangement and how to close doors to protect yourself and leave some open in hope of better things. “Forever is a long time, Sally.” Letter Writer, your parents don’t deserve you and I hope your new home with your girlfriend is a cozy and happy one that is everything you want it to be.

Ninth, #1233: “Is it ever safe to take a parent off a low-information diet?” 

People have choices about how they treat you, and relationships don’t get messed up overnight or for no reason, so when a parent wants you to have a “closer” relationship, does that obligate you to try to repair things in some way? Can they acknowledge why distance made sense at the time?

Probably one of the most personal posts I’ve made on the site, this brought up lots of stuff for me and was very much on my mind during holiday visits with my folks. When people talk about the past, my mom says “I don’t remember that” a lot ( A LOT) in a sharp, pointed way that clearly means “So, obviously it didn’t happen.” She’s telling the truth (she doesn’t remember) but it doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen or that my memories are lies. I still don’t know how to ever ethically tell our story or tell her about my writing here, but I know our story lies at the heart of many of the things I write here.

In tenth place, several posts around the topic of “WEDDINGS, WHY ARE THEY SO WEIRD?” came in within 100 page views of each other so I’m re-sharing them all:

  • It’s Mother-Effing Wedding Season Again So Let’s Chat. Your wedding doesn’t exist to fix you, your family, your friendships, your partnership, your body. It does not have to be your sole creative act that communicates your exact social class and crafting ability.
  • #1223: “Feminist Etiquette Wedding Help”. Your wedding doesn’t exist to fix you, your family, your relationship, your body, or the world. It’s a party so try to throw a good one that makes you happy and invites your guests in to what you want vs. trying to argue with each of them about why you’re allowed to want what you want. “Oh thanks, but we’re all set!” is a very useful phrase.
  • #1188: “Grief and empty chairs at the wedding feast.Maybe the idea of ghosts first sprang from the divided vision of grieving people, the way we can both see the party as it’s happening and see the echoes of what the party should be like, our longing giving shape and color to the empty spaces where our loves should be.”
  • #1189: “Fox News, Immigrant Family, and the F**ing Wedding Invite List.Probably the Uncle could have behaved himself for one day, but this thing where we tiptoe around bigots and keep negotiating with non-bigots for “more tolerance” toward bigots has gotta stop. We can work on tolerating/convincing/courting them once we’ve out-organized and out-voted them, let people who aren’t their direct targets run interference for a change.

I should also highlight the awesome series of guest posts from Lenée aka dopegirlfresh aka the GOAT who filled in for me during surgery in the spring. I plan to have her back in 2020, as well as some other exciting guests (Rae McDaniel has volunteered to peek into the inbox to answer questions about gender, we’re just trying to get a meeting on the calendar to figure out the logistics).

The blog motto for 2019 was “Quit working so hard on relationships that aren’t working for you” and I’m still ruminating on 2020’s. How do people feel about “Do even less work than that and see how you feel?”

Love and good New Year wishes to all of you in Awkwardland, comments are open.

Got an update for us (never an obligation, but we love to read them)?

Is there a post from the past year that you found especially useful?

Did you kick ass at setting a difficult boundary this year?

Did you decide to put in “less work” with a thorny relationship? What happened?

202 thoughts on “2019’s Most-Viewed Posts

  1. Captain, you inspired me to do less work this year with a couple of thorny friendships, a thorny therapist, and my narcissistic father. It has been great! I just stopped giving them my time and energy and now they’re not stressing me out anymore. The hardest part was deciding to do it, and everything else just fell into place (I don’t think my friends even noticed). Thank you!

    1. Congratulations on making the choice and following through! Those “friends” are worse off for not realizing what they’re missing.

      1. I’m not completely sure that’s always true. I have some friends where I wish they would put less effort into the friendship. I like them very much, but either I don’t reciprocate their level of investment, or maybe I have a different idea of how much work you need to put into a friendly relationship. Because I like them, I try to set good boundaries and not read too much into times when I feel crowded or favor-sharked, but honestly I would like them better and feel more relaxed if they would just put in less time and energy.

        Not saying that’s what’s going on with Amanda Carpenter, at all. Just that the idea that backing off should somehow communicate something to the other person and teach them a lesson isn’t always the most useful framing.

        1. I’m with you, Shifrah. When I moved here almost 20 years ago, making new friends was really hard, but I’m in a different place in life now, with some close friends I almost always want to see plus a bunch of perfectly nice people who I want to see very occasionally at group events, have fun, and then go home indulge my deep need for lots of solitude and home alone-time. It can be hard to balance their enthusiasm with my “I like you but this is as close as I (ever) want to be” feeling. It’s a “my diamond shoes pinch” sort of problem to have, but that said, I don’t “remove effort” or “back off” to send a message or change the other person’s behavior – I do it for my own energy levels, and they’ll either meet me where I am or the friendship will drift, and that’s probably ok.

          I think the “back off in an unreciprocal relationship specifically to get the other person to notice/step it up” move is a risky one if changing the other person’s behavior is the desire – What happens when they don’t notice/don’t step it up? “Doing less work” can still be the healthy first step in disengaging, the lack of response might be a sign to let the relationship go or drift (which doesn’t necessarily mean cutting a person off, more, try to enjoy them in small doses if you can and put energy into more sustaining friendships). On its own without talking to the person about what you want to be different, pulling back won’t fix what’s not working.

        2. Ooh good point! I think the “their loss – you’re awesome and they suck!” is a kind of sympathetic statement friends make after say, a breakup because sometimes getting dumped *is* the best thing but generally people don’t want to hear that right afterwards. So it depends on whether one is consoling someone, or talking about something more distantly. Because yeah, two people can not click as friends, or one person can want something more, without the other person having done something *wrong* but I think it’s so tempting to be like “this person caused pain, therefore they are bad!” But sometimes it’s just like that, no villains really.
          It’s hard especially with friendships, I think, because with breakups there’s a framework for it, but with friends, it is really harsh to say “I don’t want to be friends” or even “I don’t want to be *as close* friends” and I feel that typically torpedoes the relationship – so awkward situations can happen a lot.

  2. A friend recommended this blog to me in June and it has revolutionized the way I communicate (with myself and others) steadily throughout the year. No specific post to point to or thing to say other than I am a completely different person now than I was last year, and I owe a lot of that to the illuminating advice and awesome community I’ve found here. Thank you 🙂

  3. Long time reader, first time commenter!

    I really loved the Ballrooms post. I also want to say, I felt like this year saw you go to another level in your writing. You’ve always been gifted and given great advice, but there was just a different edge to it this year. Something in you clicked, and it’s been a truly beautiful thing.

  4. Happy New Year, Jennifer and all citizens of Awkward Land! I hope 2020 brings every one of you what you may need, and a lot of happiness on top of that. The Cap’s writing and y’all’s comments have helped me grow and cope a lot over the last 7+ years, so thank you from the bottom of my heart. Y’all are fucking awesome, keep up being great ♡
    I adore 2019’s motto (might just make it my own personal one, it has proven really useful and liberating) and am absolutely down for 2020’s suggestion, my Captain. Lead on.
    To many more years of great writing and community!

    1. As for putting in less work with a torny relationship this year, yes I did! It was awesome! Last year, as was tradition, I went to visit my maternal grandparents for Christmas and had to stay in a cold, cold, cold house (because they refuse to turn on the heating) and swallow my mother’s abuse because Youngsters Must Respect Their Elders. I got sick from the cold and the stress and had to walk myself to the hospital. On 25th December, at 5 a.m. The waiting room was warm, and quiet, and the doctors and nurses were kind to me even though they probably would much rather be anywhere else. I realised I felt safer in that waiting room than at my family home, so when they released me a couple hours later, I took my meds, walked back, got my things, walked to the bus station and got on the first bus out of that godforsaken town that I could find. Spent the whole day traveling, but I got home in the end.

      This year, I didn’t go. I spent Christmas baking and playing boardgames with my partner, visiting his family and my local family, and spending time with many dear friends who came back for Christmas. I called my grandparents to wish them happy holidays and. That. Was. It. No traveling, no biting my tongue, no playing the doormat, no cold unsafe houses. It is awesome.

      1. I am SO HAPPY FOR YOU. Your holiday this year sounded blissfully low key and relaxing. What a great gift to yourself. Happy New Year. 🙂

        1. Thank you, Sel! It’s been lowkey in the best way and I’m really enjoying it 🙂 Happy New Year to you as well!

      2. I too also did not go home for Christmas! I had a shitty semester and I am Jewish and super tired of playing at dutiful churchgoing granddaughter to the non-Jewish side of the family (and also wished to avoid the family alcoholic) so I went for New Years! And it was great! I commend you on your wonderful decision B. and wish you many excellent holidays in the future, especially the kind with board games.

  5. Thank you, Captain, for all your *supremely* helpful advice which really helps me feel less alone and less like the Mayor of What-Is-Wrong-With-Me-Ville.

    A huge, huge thing I did this year with the loads of emotional education I gleaned from this site was to decide: I Will No Longer Accept Unacceptable Behavior.

    I have had this notion brewing in the back of my mind, but I actually ran into a situation so abhorrent that I had no choice but to put it to the test: my oldest son had a brutal few months: two surgeries form a sports injury which triggered a scary diagnosis. (He’s stable now! He will be okay! But we have a new lifelong and life-altering new normal.) Anyway, my in-laws who live locally, were nowhere to be found during this and my husband was really struggling. When he called them from the ER where they were about to admit our son to the ICU/get a brain scan/other assorted horrors, they….didn’t really respond. Certainly, they didn’t offer to come to the hospital, or go sit with our other children who were at home. I called my husband’s brother and told him to run interference as my husband was looking for support.

    So the next day (!) they said they would help out with the other kids after school and come up to visit us in the hospital. (Thank God for friends is all I can say, because we have struck out, majorly, in the family department on both sides.) They did visit, it was awkward, uncomfortable, their visit was so short to not even require them to unzip their coats or unwrap their scarves. They took our other kids home, we told them one of us would be home later. My husband called them to remind them to take our other son to basketball practice…but they had already left. They didn’t tell us they were leaving our children unattended. They just…left them there, alone. At night. While they were worried over their big brother, and missing their parents who hadn’t been home in two days. My 12-year-old walked to practice, in the pitch dark, in 32* weather because he didn’t know how else he was going to get there. I had to leave the doctors who were meeting with us, my sick son’s bedside, and race home to my other kids who were crying, and scared, and pick my son up from practice. WTAF. My husband texted them and said, “why did you leave and not tell us? You should’ve waited until we got home.” They didn’t respond. Until the next day (!) we got this reply: “OK.”

    I decided that this behavior was so unbelievably unacceptable (after 20 years of unacceptable behavior directed at me, I always felt like a “trouble maker” making a thing out of it?), and it affected my KIDS, I told my husband I was out. No more. Not one more single minute do they get of me. That is it. They don’t get to come to all the awards banquets, games, recitals, take the pictures, brag….and not ever show up when the chips are down.

    I haven’t spoken to them since, that was 2 months ago. We spent Thanksgiving and Christmas without them, we made it through the hell of our son’s diagnosis and have found stable ground. Everything seems as clear as a bell when I tell myself, over and over, I will no longer accept unacceptable behavior. And it’s easier for me to recognize what is unacceptable. It’s like I finally have the rule book for a complicated board game I’d been playing for over 20 years but never really understanding, and always, always losing. Well, I get it now!

    Thank you, Captain, and all you fabulous and smart and emotionally healthy and available commenters, for teaching me about boundaries and what is acceptable behavior– if you want to be happy and functional and not a hot, crying, paranoid, “what if I just TRY HARDER surely they will come through for me THIS time” mess. NO MAS. Thank you for teaching me that family is who you choose it to be. xoxoxo

    1. My jaw is on the floor at your in-laws behavior and I’m super glad your son is on better footing and that you were able to draw a hard line to protect your family. ❤

      1. Honestly, take this in, take this alllll in: you have helped me get there. Your voice, your reasoning, your logic, your super-high emotional intelligence….you helped me draw that hard line. Because I could hear your voice in my head, imagine the commenters’ responses, and I knew what to do. You and your words and your heart are really powerful! I so appreciate you and this site.

    2. Hi, Marian! I just wanted to say that you protected your family in face of an incredibly tough situation and that you have all the reasons in the world to be proud of yourself. You are not the problem, you are a pro, A+ parent and I’m very glad that your children have you looking out for them. I’m glad y’all are doing better. I’m sorry your in-laws suck so much. Never let anyone make you feel bad about what you’ve done here, because you’ve done great. Best of luck with everything!

      1. B, thank you so much for your kind words. It has been so so so tough, hardest thing we’ve gone through as parents– scariest, too. (And it makes me miss my own parents terribly, who were kind and good and supportive.) We made it through, though–and I am very proud that we did, proving we can do it without my in-laws “helping” us in any way. I am owning this part: I am so freaking fantastic at taking care of my kiddos. And I know exactly how I will be to my kids and their future partners/grandkids when the time comes! We will be fabulous because we know how shitty it feels to be mistreated and unsupported. Thank you again for your encouragement, it makes me feel so much better!

    3. Marian, Jedi hugs to you and your family, especially your injured kiddo (I am so glad he’s doing better). Jedi extended middle fingers, ALL OF THEM, to your in-laws. What selfish assholes they are.

      1. You have no idea, NO IDEA, how much I love that imagary. I will tuck that away in the back of my mind and pull it out when needed. Thank you, Drew, you angel.

    4. Glad to hear your family is healing. Good job to you for staying strong especially through such a harrowing experience. This must be a theme this year. After 34 years with in law issue and lifetime of own family issues quite frighteningly similar, hubby and I have said enough is enough. Hard to be strong as everyone acts like you’re the bad guy. You’re not! Self preservation is supremely underrated. Hang in there. You’re ahead of the game once you know what game is playing. You can mourn for what isn’t, but ultimately, start your new year with the family of your choosing. We have.

      1. Wow, Crs, I am sorry you’re too familiar with in-laws like mine, but I also appreciate the validation of others experiencing horrible people like this. Way to go for saying enough is enough! It’s MIND-BOGGLING how much we put up with before we finally get to ENOUGH, isn’t it? But man, once we got there, it feels so good to know you can stop trying to fix things, understand, try harder…..whew, what a burden that is lifted. Best of luck to you and your Hubby and enjoy your new family 😉

    5. I would offer to fight your in-laws if I didn’t think it was counterproductive to you and your family never having to think about them again.

      All I can say is, that as the grandchild of an unacceptably behaved grandparent, I can tell your kids are already 100% on your side about this. Hubby may have complicated feelings, but I’m sure the kids are feeling the same sense of relief as you, and that’s where you, and they, need to be right now.

      1. Quill, what if I still wanted you to fight them, tho? 😉 It’s hard because they have amped up their campaign to be “good” parents and grandparents. This is their pattern: egregious behavior, they feel guilty but never acknowledge it or apologize and then a flurry of appeasement or extinction burst behavior to engage or makeup. But they never, ever use their words. Just lots of family-wide texts saying “PEACE AND LOVE!” (yes, all caps) and best wishes for every holiday, etc. I haven’t responded to a single one. They just keep going, I keep ignoring.

        I really hope my kids see through it, I feel absolutely awful about this aspect of it. I did use this horrible experience as a chance to talk to each one of my kids about what you do for a loved one during an emergency. How it’s not about what is convenient *to you* at the moment, how you show up and you help and you support during an emergency, and also–what constitutes an actual emergency. I will not raise humans who don’t know how to show love and support.

        My husband is choosing to have a very limited relationship with them: he responds to texts, saw them on his birthday (they stopped by with gifts for kids and him while I went to yoga) because he doesn’t want to keep our kids from them. But he is in agreement that I can be done and our needs come first. I am not stopping him from having a relationship with them, but I am absolutely done facilitating it, planning things, hosting every holiday in my home, etc etc etc. He is disgusted by them, but keeping that little window of access open allows him to not have any guilt as a son.

        Thank you so much for your kind words of support and perspective as a Grandchild, that helps immensely because that is the part going me the most anguish right now. xo

        1. I’m actually 50,000 bees in a trenchcoat and always down to fight, so… your call.

          As the grandkid – furthermore as the unfavorite grandkid because there’s apparently room for *that* in some grandparents’ minds – I can say that having parents who had reasonable boundaries re appropriate behavior (Re: Yes, it was shitty of your grandmother to give all your other cousins nice jewelry, your brother a hefty itunes gift card, and you an electric razor because “it’s for your upper lip” and you do not have to either use it or be grateful for it,) was the primary thing that kept my spirits up. I’m the oldest of 4 grandkids of a grandmother who somehow managed to make depression and anxiety contagious despite having already divorced my granddad and not being particularly active in my, my cousins’, or any of her childrens’ lives. My mom never badmouthed her but she was VERY vocal about “we have boundaries such as ‘lets not spend thanksgiving night trying to argue grandma down about her accusations that her dead ex husband cheated on her during the korean war because she found another woman’s name listed as “firstname lastname and son” in his address book.'”

          My younger cousins, due to being younger & not unfavorites, took a while to figure out that grandma was a force of misery, and she mostly ignored my brother, but they’ve all since come around.

          Dad has, I suspect, still very complicated feelings now that grandma is gone, but between my parents and my other grandparents, who managed to mentor a much larger crop of grandkids without weird drama bullshit, I had good models for “how to do the obligatory family stuff without giving grandma too much of your head space.”

          I don’t think your kids are going to be too swayed by the grandparents’ escalation at this time: they’re going to have the night of the horiffically scary abandonment stuck in their minds a while. Recently my cousin, the ‘favorite’ of my grandma, informed me that the Christmas of the Razor Incident was when she finally figured out that “Grandma was a really miserable bitch even when she thought she loved us and was doing the right thing.”

          We all get through, and the good thing is that you see your kids every day and have already provided them with solid ground to stand on.

    6. Sending hugs to you if you’d like them and sending BIG UPS because you got through several simultaneous things that are extraordinarily difficult. Sending good health and much happiness to you and your family. It’s kind of a relief, isn’t it, when you realize you can’t trust someone? A horrible, blissful relief when one can stop banging on that door that never opens. I have some choice words for those in-laws but I will keep them to myself.

  6. You’ve written some extraordinary stuff here. Kudos to you. Its really healing for me to see this unabashed heroism energy going out into the world right now.
    Oh, and I successfully barred my FIL from under my roof for telling awful jokes about sexual harassment and general grossness. Without this blog I don’t know if I would have had that action plan as a possibility. Huge stressor GONE.
    May the New Year treat you gently. You really have a wonderful, unique voice and amazing hard-won wisdom and also the courage to share both. *hearts*

  7. I took a step waaay back from two complicated relationships this year. One was my former stepdad. Another was a friend who I’ve known for a long time but haven’t felt close to in ….years? and felt our friendship had turned into constant negotiations, me making myself small so we could get along, and feeling I couldn’t support her latest series of life decisions. Both made me feel sad and guilty but suddenly I have so much more space and time for the other people in my life and making art.
    I am mending fences with another relative but taking it slow, accepting we may never be super close, and making sure I’m not doing all the work to make the relationship happen.

  8. In 2018, with a lot of support from the wisdom on this site, a therapist, and other resources, I took a huge step back from my horrible father, and have done no work toward that relationship since. Predictably, he has also done no work… so, there we are at no relationship. And it’s just fine. I approve doing even less work in 2020!

  9. Dear Captain,
    Thank you for your feminist perspective. In the last two years you helped me leave my emotionally and sexually abusive marriage after 24 years of trying to “make it work” and you have helped me set boundaries with my children. I tell everyone I know about your work and find myself summarizing your wise words frequently. I love the 2020 goal—it is exactly what my therapist wants me to do to continue to care for myself and put my own needs first.

    1. Congratulations on your freedom and very best wishes on a new year full of possibility, not obligation.

  10. I had the great cosmic luck to be planning my wedding at the same time that you were planning your wedding, and consequently writing advice about planning a wedding. I just want you to know that you were a godsend in helping me wrangle my Halpful Mom, and both set boundaries with her and redirect her energies in directions that actually were helpful.

    May the Force be with you in 2020!

  11. Captain, I feel compelled to share with you /We Remember Your Childhood Well/, by Carol Ann Duffy, which I have carried with me these fifteen years: https://www.lettres-et-arts.net/litteratures-francophones-etrangeres/carol-ann-duffy-remember-your-childhood-well+47

    I started reading the site in the summer of 2012, in a binge-read during a marked downswing in my mental health, and I’ve learned a lot and I’m so much better, now.

    It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to have you along on my journey. Thank you.

    1. I also wanted to say thank you for linking that poem. Even though it’s sad and frustrating, it’s good to know there are others who receive the “your memories are wrong” statements from family. It’s a weird thing to experience and hard to know how to respond to or even feel about it. This site has really helped a lot in being able to know where to start in sorting through my particular mess. ❤

  12. Doing less work on less-than-amazing relationships worked out great for me this year! I got to put energy where I want it to go, and worked on letting go of the rest in the practical sense and also in my head (that’s more of a work in progress). Therapy’s helped, moving to a place where I’m an over-achiever instead of an under-achiever has helped, and re-configuring some of my priorities has helped as well. This year, I decided I have three big priorities (the first is me/my health, second is my romantic partnership, third is the book I hope to write), and anything beyond that is like #20 on the list. Looking forward to doing even less!

  13. Using my Words, a Captain Awkward-inspired event:

    My office has a Halloween costume contest on the Friday before Halloween. “Val”, the coworker sitting next to me, decided that a cardboard sign with “Anything helps, God Bless” on one side, and “Not gonna lie, just need a beer” on the other, was an acceptable “costume.” (Val even walked around the office with a cup, “panhandling”.)

    With my husband’s help, I give bags (snacks and bus fare) to cardboard sign people (as well as socks and gloves), and Val knows this, and has even complimented me about it in the past.

    Inspired by Captain Awkward, I said, “Val, I have to use my words, even though it’ll make the rest of the day awkward. The people we give bags to are dealing with physical and mental illness, and even addiction. This is NOT funny.” Val said “OK” and was quiet.

    Val didn’t participate in the contest, didn’t walk around with the sign again, but did leave it up. When another coworker asked, Val made some excuse about work that had to be finished. By the end of the day, we talked about something non-work-related, but not cardboard sign related. Later, Val “liked” something on my social media about the winning costume (“It’s Raining Men” – a woman wore a raincoat, and carried an umbrella with construction paper raindrops with pictures of every man in the office). So, thank you, Captain Awkward.

    1. I wanted to add that a cardboard sign man, Chad, one told my husband that he doesn’t drink, but when he uses a sign that says “Not gonna lie, just need a beer”, people are generous. It says a lot about people.

  14. “And sometimes we look to the end of the tale that
    there should be marriage-feasts, and find only, as it
    were, black marigolds and a silence.”

    —Azeddin el Mocadecci

  15. Dear Captain,

    Your advice has helped me through some dark times. This column has been a beacon of clarity for me. The things that stick with me most are the hilarious and cogent “Field of No Fucks Given” tapestry, and also the amazing saying about how with some people, there is no way you can make yourself small enough to fit in their life. And that is okay. It’s better to leave them behind and expand into the person you really are.

    Thank you for all your hard won knowledge.

    1. The “Field of No Fucks Given” is like my personal totem and one of the many gifts this site has given me over the years. Reading Captain Awkward has been life-changing for me and has made me a better, stronger, and – I think – a truly kinder person because the things I do and give are done because I *WANT* to, not because I feel like the only way people will accept or like me (mainly family) is by doing what they want or expect of me. Learning how to set boundaries, have clear conversations about hard things, and focus on letting go of the people and stuff that only complicates my life (in the bad way) has been a revelation. So proud to be a Patreon and a member of this amazing community, and so grateful to you Captain for your wisdom and support!

  16. I just subscribed, thanks for your writings. It’s nice to be reminded that it is ok to be ambivalent about FAAMMILLYY…

  17. Jennifer, thank you for your writing and your philosophy. I miss having all the comments all the time, but it’s easy to see how that began to suck the life energy out of you. Not moderating all the time has put a new spark in your own writing. I hope you have a wonderful and rewarding 2020!

  18. Hi! I was Letter Writer 903: https://captainawkward.com/2016/09/21/903-i-have-to-be-very-strict-about-food-just-now-how-to-tell-familyfriends/

    The good news is that I am now (mostly) back to happy omnivore status. I am still definitely allergic to Balsam of Peru but none of the associated triggers (lemon, tomato, cinnamon, whiskey, and MANY OTHERS) seem to bother me. I have been able to mitigate the scary rash by avoiding processed food (which is not so hard for me because I cook at home so much) and using exclusively unscented products in my home. I have also started going way out of my way to make my house a place where people with scary food stuff can eat without getting sick (providing guests with lists of ingredients, providing dishes that accommodate most common allergies and intolerances, and so forth).

    The bad news is that my mom (who I love, but who has a lot of anxiety about Diets and Things Medical) was super not cool about my elimination diet and the reasons for it (confused because some of the food I had to eliminate was “healthy food,” pushing me to see her alternative medicine practicioners to get some other advice, and so on). My impulse had always been not to tell her, but I had planned a visit to her during the time the diet was going on, so I had to disclose. That visit went so poorly that I have doubled down on not telling her about health stuff, ever! My life is a lot better since I stopped telling my mom about health stuff. I’ve actually taken a step beyond that and stopped talking about my health stuff with pretty much everyone in my life except my spouse, and I find it works really well for me. By changing the subject I avoid getting the unsolicited advice that I don’t want and get to stay away from a topic I find hard, sad, and boring in any case.


    1. I’m glad you found and can avoid your triggers, and that is great to pay it forward. Medical is, yeah, private and definitely an area where people overshare.

    2. Hooray for getting your food stuff sorted! And your case of chronic unhelpfully helpful family and aquaintances! XD

  19. Slightly off topic, but would you ever be interested in me writing about 7 years’ experience of running the Captain Awkward London meetups?

    It has been and continues to be a great privilege, but I also have a lot of Thoughts.

    Alternatively I can write for somewhere else and send you the link?

  20. Got through another holiday season (year 3) of my father sending emails making plans for “family therapy” that we never agreed to, followed by almost apologetic emails (no actual apologies, but as close as he ever gets), followed by batshit emails accusing people of being gaslighting sociopaths (I’ve figured out how to block on hotmail, but things still go to spam on gmail and occasionally he’ll hit my husband’s email), then it repeats until just after Christmas. This year a new twist is that instead of attacking me directly he’s started on my sister who still sees them a few times a year and in addition to my mother who lives with him. (I would think this is evidence of dementia, but he’s been like this for at least 40 years, just verbally instead of email.) The great thing though is it’s just emails– holidays are so much less stressful without having to SEE him– no putting off making holiday plans until plane tickets are super expensive, no complaining about our holiday choices after he’d been given a chance for input but never gave it, no last minute plan changes to punish us for not doing what he decided he wanted at the last minute, no unwanted junk we’ve asked them not to bring, and best of all, NO TEMPER TANTRUMS, at least not in person. Not even the four year old at my in-laws had a temper tantrum this year. It was so pleasant.

    My mom continues to try to cover for him, even as he sends us emails accusing her of gaslighting him for 40 years because she sent us a holiday greeting email signing it “love Mom” instead of “love Mom and Dad.” My sister is starting to realize why I cut him off as he’s started targeting her the same way he used to target me.

    This site has made me realize I can tell my mom and my sister that it’s not their job to try to fix him. It’s not their job to try to get me to do anything. I don’t have to listen to pleas of “but faaaamily” and “it isn’t fair to your children”… it is fair to my children to not have to spend any time with a verbally abusive man who can’t behave himself for 3 days. This site periodically reminds me to be confident in my choices.

    And I remember that although I don’t want my mom and sister to act as go-betweens– if I wanted to say something I should say it directly– I can directly tell them that they’re not what he says in his emails. My sister is a good person. My mother has not been gaslighting him for 40 years. And so on.

    So, thank you again.

    1. I’m very sorry that your dad is a shitbag. It sounds like you’re doing a great job of practicing self-care and setting good boundaries with your family. I hope your sister and mom are able to see themselves the way you see them, not the way your dad tells them they appear.

    2. Oh, and I wanted to add… the biggest thing for me this blog has provided was realizing that this isn’t some shameful secret where my father is unique (verbally abusive, prone to temper tantrums, but not actually physically abusive) … but that he’s actually a type (an “Alice”) and other people have had the same experiences (including other family members covering for and everyone tiptoeing around)… and the “extinction bursts” timed with holidays are normal and other people have not only dealt with this, but they’ve dealt with it in a way that makes their lives better. That just provides so much confidence.

  21. I’ve been struggling to maintain an adult relationship with my sister for years now. I am a fiercely independent woman working in STEM (with first-hand experiences of the patriarchy), she is a stay-at-home mom with very toxic ideas about what it means to be a feminist. We can’t talk about child rearing because I don’t have kids of my own and “mama bear” gets upset when people suggest we can raise boys to understand consent, child rearing, and housework. I love to read and lifetime learning, she loves Netflix. We can’t talk about mythology or religion because it’s disrespectful to her faith. I seldom drink, she needs a bottle of wine to get through her day.

    She has been giving me the silent treatment for several months now because I shared some random trivia trying to make conversation – and I’m totally okay with it. Somewhere along the way I realized that I don’t like her (we have nothing in common anymore), I don’t respect her (if we met at a party I’d wander off to find someone interesting to talk to), and I don’t love her (she is selfish and mean).

    1. Isn’t it nice when the toxic hurricane is replaced with the gentle breeze of silence and you can hear yourself again? I hope you can find a way to be in your nephews’ lives so they get SOME sort of good model of consent, but if it means your suffering a tornado of abuse from your sister, they may have to learn that from someone else.

      People who use the silent treatment think of it as a punishment. They don’t realize it’s actually a reward for enforcing a boundary.

      1. “People who use the silent treatment think of it as a punishment. They don’t realize it’s actually a reward for enforcing a boundary.”

        That’s brilliant, that right there. Brilliant.

  22. Thank you for a year of super! You always have the best things to say and the best way of saying them. And your commenters too. Collectively, YOU’RE THE BEST. (It’s my first time commenting here so I’m thrilled to be joining you!!)

  23. Dear Captain,
    Regardless of when the decade actually turns, this year is the end of a major chapter for me – one in which I married an abusive partner and then escaped him some eight years later, and utterly revolutionized my friendship practices to boot. 2019 has been the first year in which I feel good about every relationship I have. Your writing is a major keystone in my ability to build and demand healthy, co-supportive relationships, and your voice echoes in – I would say – most of the support I give my friends when they’re in tough spots. Thank you so much for the example and guidance.

  24. I got out of the house, and I am SO MUCH HAPPIER with distance from my family (sibling especially)…. but I’m still too close. I need to work on setting better boundaries this year. And figuring out if actually cutting someone from my life is feasible without alienating the rest of my family… or if it’s worth it.

  25. I found myself quoting you several times last week. We have in-law issues, we’ll more an in-law with issues, and apparently we’re causing problems by not wanting to talk to him or have our young child interact with him. (Fortunately the family isn’t entirely siding with him). Your blog has definitely given me a lot of language to talk about the situation.

  26. Your blog was part of my inspiration to stop even the very, very, very limited contact I had been maintaining with my siblings.

    I realized that I cannot remember a single time with any of them, at any point in my life, ever, when I felt safe. When I was little I was physically unsafe, and when I got older it became very clear to me that even the one sibling I respect does not respect me in turn. Their acceptance is conditional on my not showing signs of my alphabet soup of conditions, and also on my acceptance that they in no way shape or form ever contributed to any of it and furthermore that my status as our parent’s special pet was (a) good and (b) my fault.

    I have chronic conditions that sap my energy, and I’m going to use that energy where it does me good.

  27. I’m about to move 800 miles away, and I’m leaning heavily on post #91 to Meet People and Make Friends, so, I would like more of that 🙂

    But Do Less Effort has also been super helpful! I stopped putting effort into Saving Christmas because, as you said, it was already ruined for me. Instead, I hashed out a 20-year-old argument with my mom and she actually acknowledged that she had done something wrong. Will she actually change her behavior in the future? No idea! Will I do better at calling her out? Better flippin’ believe it B)

  28. I want to add my THANKS CAPTAIN to everyone’s comments here. This blog helped me set boundaries with a dude that I was dating for a little bit. It didn’t work out, which made me a little sad, but I got to leave feeling like I didn’t sacrifice myself for some dude who was too much work.

  29. You are simply, THE VERY BEST. Reading your column has empowered me to make changes in my life, my family’s life and our home. I am no longer going along with the bullying that happens to me, to keep up a good show to others. Not my problem when someone asks why I’m not at the family function. I have set new boundaries and stood firm, much to others surprise and dismay. I couldn’t have done it without all your kind, strong, realistic words. You empower people EVERY DAY. If you start to get down, remember this. You are helping a lot of people. You’ve certainly helped me and I didn’t even realize I needed help. Stay the course. Keep writing. You rock. Xoxox

  30. Hi! I am the engaged (now married) enby from earlier this year! I posted some comments in the original thread, but I figured I’d update. I was Q7 from here: https://captainawkward.com/2019/05/24/friday-answers-of-varying-length-to-short-questions-part-1/

    Shortly after reading the Captain’s response, I sat down with my now-DH and we discussed boundaries. He talked to his friend and explained that while he’s happy to answer her calls, 11PM-2AM was Not Reasonable and she needed to find a better time. Happily, he was smart enough to say that it didn’t work for him and not go the “my fiance is horribly jealous, lol” route – I didn’t even have to prompt him. The late-night calls stopped. So did all the calls from her. I don’t know if she doesn’t have the time to call at reasonable hours or if she’d angry. I don’t actually care, I just want to sleep.

    The wedding itself went just fine. As it turned out, she couldn’t make it due to some obligations (IDR what kind). Kind of a bummer for DH, since we’d specifically set a date so everyone, including out-of-town guests, could make it, but them’s the breaks. We had cake, played music, had fun, and I didn’t feel like screaming at any of our guests. So it turns out I did all that worrying for nothing.


    On a recent visit, DH and I hung out in a small group that included her, and now she’s decided that I’m her BFF. I had to use scripts like “no, you cannot have my phone number [because you’re going to call at MIDNIGHT and I will SCREAM IN YOUR EAR UNTIL YOU HANG UP and also I don’t actually like you at all]” and “we are not in a hugging relationship” – luckily I already had them!

    She has just graduated college, and has now accepted a job in our city, just a few blocks away from where DH works. The two of us already have rules about visitors, but I think I’m going to sit down and hash things out with him again in regards to her, specifically. The thought of coming home after a long day of work to find her playing with some of the sentimental items that my deceased loved ones left for me… I don’t even want to imagine it. It’s not wrong to have different boundaries for one specific, boundary-challenged person who cannot take a hint than for all the other generally lovely and emotionally intelligent people we have over, right? Right?

    And not actually a big deal at all, but she has come out as nonbinary (still she/her, DH asked) and possibly bi/pan recently, like me. This should not bother me. But it bothers me quite a bit. Nontraditionally gendered jerk individual eating crackers, I guess.

    Happy New Year, everybody, and may 2020 have fewer people testing your boundaries!

    1. Congratulations on your marriage!

      I think your instincts are Dead Fucking On with regard to this person. It is absolutely fine to have different boundaries for someone who has already shown an appalling lack of awareness of where most people would draw boundaries, much less you specifically. And, like you, I am giving all the side-eye to the “hey, now I’m enby/pan too!” revelation. Perhaps that’s unfair, but when combined with the whole “hey, let’s be buddy-buddy” stunt she pulled, my guess is she’s trying to get you to lower your defenses while trying to take your place as the Awesome Partner That Hubby Deserves.

      Maybe we’re both wrong and we’re both maligning this person – but I don’t think I would take the chance. She can find other friends.

      1. Hard agree on this – people can be held to different standards without it being unfair if that is what is needed to keep you and your marriage safe. I wouldn’t hang out one-on-one with an ex that I had a really intense relationship with, but I might consider hanging out with a person with whom I went on one platonic date. Good luck and keep on keepin’ on!

    2. Ooof, man. I have so much sympathy for you, because I was That Person in my early twenties and it was super cringey in retrospect. The kindest thing anyone ever did from me was set good boundaries. I learned a lot from the people who decided they didn’t want to be around me any more, as uncomfortable as it was. I am much better now, and hopefully one day she will be too.

    3. Boundaries: sometimes we mark them with a cute little signpost, sometimes with a gigantic moat filled with alligators. Best of luck to you in putting up this electric cattle fence.

      1. Quill, I sat on this comment for a couple of days and decided I must reply – this is the best analogy for boundaries I’ve ever come across.
        It’s so perfect! So many people are afraid of making boundaries because they see it as hurting another person.

        But that’s the thing about moats – you can’t use them to attack people, even the ones filled with spikes and alligators. You can’t take your moat and fling it in a catapult, or bring it with you to invade another castle. It won’t hurt anyone just by existing, it just sits there being wet and alligator-y… unless someone is trying to get in who isn’t welcome.
        It won’t hurt welcome visitors either, because you put the drawbridge out for those people.
        If someone tries to enter your castle without your permission – well, it isn’t your fault if the water ruins their coat. They aren’t meant to be there. You didn’t put it there to hurt them, you put it there to keep people out of your damn castle. They could have avoided the water simply by not trying to enter once they saw the drawbridge was up!

        Anyway, thanks for letting me stretch that analogy – I think I will be using it if I ever need to explain boundaries to someone! Thank you for sharing it!!

    4. Good on you for thinking to talk about guest boundaries for her ahead of time! I just stumbled face first into a case where my usual handling of my guests was NOT ENOUGH for someone, and it totally blindsided me AND my partner (so we had a whole argument about who should have been responsible for, well, something like stopping the guest from eating half of their gift Swiss toblerone). So now we’re doing that thinking after the fact which is much worse than doing it ahead.

  31. I pretty much love every CA post ever, but I personally benefitted from the ones about faaaaaamily, because they helped me stop worrying about whether it was “fair” to go no contact with the people who make my spouse miserable. I also appreciated all of the guidance on parsing what is and isn’t one’s responsibility, because they helped me decide to get up and leave pleasantly when my own parents start bickering, instead of staying and letting it stress me out and make me sad (bonus: they don’t bicker in front of me anymore!) And finally, I appreciate every word of wisdom on living with a chronic illness. I’ve been professionally disabled for 4 years now, and I still need all the reminders to listen to my body, let go of guilt, be gentle with myself, etc.

  32. You know Captain, I think your 2019 motto and your blog in general deserve some credit for me finally learning to leave a job before hitting the “I’d be thrilled if this company burned to the ground” stage of DONE. Something finally clicked for me and I think it was understanding that I’m not obligated to keep trying to learn to live with being treated badly, that I’m not obligated to give a company six more last chances to do better I can just walk away.

    Just walking away has been pretty great. I don’t dread going to work, I don’t dread every single meeting, I don’t dread asking a question in work slack, I don’t dread asking for someone to review my work. *And* I’m still on fair to good terms with my former manager and most of my former coworkers because for once I had the sense to leave before I was completely 100% I-never-want-to-see-any-of-you-ever-again done.

    Shortly into my new job I made a silly mistake and the strangest thing happened: nobody jumped on the opportunity to treat me like I was stupid even though I basically handed them one on a silver platter. Instead the person who tested my work came over personally to explain what I’d missed because he didn’t want me to feel bad. It was so weird! Good weird, but still. Deeply, deeply weird.

    1. This warms my heart! I had a very similar experience to you, and everything you’re saying deeply resonates. My strong belief is that all 7 billion of us humans deserve the space and Grace to make mistakes. Here’s to your great new environment!

      1. Me three! I send friendly text to former boss and co-workers because I left before there was a bunch of built-up resentment! Yay!!!

  33. Captain, you’ve had such a positive effect on my live in the second half of this decade (when I discovered your blog). I think I originally found this blog when googling around for ways to deal with work stress and being overwhelmed on the job, but I got so much more than I ever imagined from you and this community (hello, one of the few good comments sections on the internet!) Pretty much everything I know about how to have healthy relationships I learned in my 30s, by reading this blog and the others it lead me to.

    As for how I’m interpreting your “do less work” motto, I’m using it on the main remaining problematic relationship in my life – the one I have with my employer. (or maybe the one I have with my own attitudes about how much work I “need” to do in life) My 2020 goal is to stop working regular overtime hours. I want to get to a place where I feel like I can stop being an over-achiever at my job, so I actually have enough energy to achieve things with the rest of my life. With the “what would Captain Awkward do?” mindset to setting boundaries that I’ve now internalized, I think I’ll be able to accomplish this.

    Thank you for the years and years of thoughtful and compassionate advice delivered via some of the most entertaining and articulate writing around!

  34. This is the year I stopped trying to manage the relationships between people I care about! Without me to run interference and play peacemaker, they’ve actually had to figure out their own issues. Sometimes this means conflicts get resolved faster and better. Even when it doesn’t, it’s a whole lot less work for me!

  35. Happy New Year and a joyous 2020 to you Captain and Mr Awkward. Thanks for being the wise older sister I never had but needed. ❤️

    This year I decided to do less work on the relationship with my dad, after he: bailed on our planned trip to see overseas family in 2018; ignored me for a year and a half after that; let me find out third hand from a cousin that he REMARRIED THREE YEARS AGO and never told me; got back into contact by showing up unannounced in my city with his new wife and expecting me to drop everything to go have lunch with them on no notice and forgive and forget everything he did, with no real apology or explanation or work on his part; after I declined to be ambushed into lunch/forgiveness, dropping out of contact again since September.

    So yeah. He knows what he did wrong, he knows what I need from him to begin to repair the relationship, but he’d rather avoid it and further damage the relationship than actually face it and do the work. And I am done doing all the emotional labour to keep this relationship going.

    I found a very profound meme/saying this year that fits the situation perfectly: “When you avoid difficult conversations, you trade short term discomfort for long term dysfunction”. I feel like I should send him a coffee mug with that embossed on it.

    Anyway, after explaining to him why his actions hurt me and what I need, I’m not doing any more work in reaching out or trying to manage his emotions. It’s on him now.

  36. I stopped making an effort with one of my friends and now I don’t hear from her ever.

    And when I try and get support from friends they tell me I need to be more understanding.

    My life is still a work in progress 😐

    1. I’m not complaining btw. I love this site. I just wish the process didn’t have to be a process! Hey ho. Thank you Captain for everything you do ❤

    2. I relate, Randomity! I want to do less because the amount I’m doing is exhausting. But when I do less I have fewer soul friends, which makes me sad.

    3. That’s hard! It’s ok to be sad about losing a friend, even when you know you had to let it go.
      Personally I’ve let go a friendship that I was doing all the work in this year. I let it slide into nothing over the last few years, since she was a total flake. It took her a YEAR to notice that we hadn’t spoken!
      She finally messaged me and my gut feeling was that I wanted nothing to do with someone who takes that long to miss me, so I finally told her how she’d let me down and that I was not interested in reconnecting. It was SUCH A RELIEF! I didn’t realise I was holding so much tension about it still until it was gone.
      Sorry I’ve made this about me, but my point is that it’s ok to be sad about losing the friend, but try to feel the relief of not having to chase this person, not having to feel like you’re *making* them do the friend stuff.
      Find some better friends, and appreciate the ones you have.

    4. There’s stages of this one, but I bet you will find, if not now then later, that other friends have similarly run out of the energy to make the effort with her.

      1. I’ve just been dealing with something similar. A close friend (I thought) – I realized that if I didn’t reach out or suggest plans I would just…never hear from her. So I backed off for a while to stop making all the effort and see what would happen. I got a text a few months later with a few words about “life event”! (We had previously been in touch pretty much weekly, but again, I guess that was all me). After this I messaged a bit again, but never heard from her unless I initiated.

        I had something big going on, and she didn’t really seem interested, and in fact, was negative when we met in person and I told her a bit about things.

        I’ve been wondering whether I should have handled it differently – maybe told her that if she’d like to be in touch, it would be nice to hear from her sometimes. Or, did we just get into a pattern where I made all the effort, and when I stopped, she took that as a sign that I was mad about something or that I no longer cared?

        BUT, as I sit here wondering about the myriad of things I could have done differently, she hasn’t bothered making any contact whatsoever, so….

        1. I knew we were growing apart,
          So I contacted her regularly for almost a year.
          She gave rare tepid responses.
          I told her I wouldn’t contact her again until she contacted me.
          She responded with anger.
          She apologized, and I forgave her.
          I backed off so the ball would be in her court.
          She didn’t contact me.
          I wrote her a heartfelt long letter about how much I missed her.
          She didn’t respond for months.
          She apologized and said she wanted me to contact her.
          I waited lest I answer too soon.
          She begged me to contact her.
          I gave a careful reply.
          She became angry.
          She apologized.
          I didn’t answer.

          Then I spent YEARS second guessing myself, wishing I’d answered, wondering where I went wrong, kicking myself for every misstep, dreaming about her realizing what she’d given up by turning down my friendship, circling back to what I might have done differently. I still fall into that sad sick cycle occasionally when I’m feeling stressed, but I have succeeded in not contacting her for 30 years. (I have not succeeded in keeping myself from googling her name from time to time.) I have obsessed far less over the end of sexual/romantic relationships.

          I think one of the hardest things to accept is that sometimes something is just going to suck no matter what we do. It’s nice to tell ourselves that we have choices because it helps us feel in control, but really could do it differently a hundred different ways and get the same ultimate outcome every single time. That’s not to say you shouldn’t try ever even a little bit, but at some point you have to come to the realization that enough is enough and enough was enough a long time ago. Good luck. And stop kicking yourself.

  37. Nearly this whole decade, this blog has been a huge support in my various problems of interaction. Sometimes I’d repurpose the advice from a particular post – one of my situations is $MARTIAL_ARTS_DOJO politics, which seemed to ping both on the family dynamics posts and a couple of the posts dealing with religious/political communities.

    Often times, I’d begin a letter to The Captain, and get about half-way through realizing that I’d started finding my own solution in the act of describing my problem – my drafts file is so full of these, never sent because the solution came to me before Jennifer and the crew of helpers ever had to read them. If Captain Awkward didn’t already exist, she’d have to be invented!

    Almost more precious than the help this blog has given me is the help it’s allowed me to give to others. Not only by recommending folks to come here and read, but in being able to pass along comfort and wisdom learned here, when someone near me has needed it. Sharing with confidence in my step and protected by knowing my own healthy boundaries as well as that of the other, while still letting them know I could hear them and recognize their own unhappiness.

    I’m also noticing the changes of priorities, and applauding them – like other commenters here, I sometimes miss what the replies to specific posts might have been, but oh the freedom of just turning off a time-sink like the duty to moderate replies, so very recognizable. Likewise, I’m glad others have mentioned Jennifer’s writing seems to have gone up a level in its skill and expressiveness. Building is slow work, but oh! the lovely building we get to be in, here on this blog.

    Thank you for being here, and many happy returns.

    1. I’ve had a similar experience in that this blog has gotten me through an extremely tough decade and I also find myself better able to both articulate and work through whatever problems come up in my interactions with others. I feel so much gratitude for Jennifer and the CA community.

    2. Yesyesyes! I too have begun many a letter to the Captain in my head, and found myself using her voice to imagine a response and then realizing that the True Use Your Words was inside me all along or whatever. Reading the blog super regularly has given me an extra boost to my own confidence in building and maintaining relationships and becoming a whole and incredible human being!

  38. 2019 has been A FUCKING YEAR.

    Captain, I want to thank you for everything you’ve done through this site – the community that sprang up around it, the letters, your advice, the advice of the community, the forum that was created, and your excellent example of setting boundaries and managing your workload. I’m actually grateful that you chose to start turning off comments more, as much as I miss the comment threads from the early days, because it was an incredibly illustrative example of the fact that it’s okay to set a boundary around your needs.

    The last decade has been fucking wild. 25 year old me could never have predicted half of what happened in it, and especially not the way the decade ended for me.

    Confession. Several years ago I went anony to send you a letter asking for advice about my partner, and got defensive about him in the comments. I wasn’t ready yet to hear that he was toxic, that he was going down bad paths, that I needed to leave. I was too caught up in the weird belief that’d built up between us that it was “us against the world”. It took me a long time to get to that point. I’m not going to say which letter, because I still feel super weird about it all, but I wanted to let you know that in 2018 things took enough turns for the worse fast enough that I could no longer live in denial of what was going on. I left him in late 2018, and 2019 has wound up being a year of staggering, unexpected, unpredictable and immense growth and change for me. I even did EMDR therapy! I’ve been re-evaluating not only my relationship with my ex, but my relationship with my mother, my family, my upbringing, the history and pressures that brought me where I was and the patterns that made the relationship I wound up in such a terrible inevitability. I’m in so much a better place now than I was before, and you have absolutely helped.

    While I didn’t deal well with the (completely correct) advice you and the community gave me back when, I can say that the advice sat with me, bubbling away. I kept reading here, I kept listening, I kept tucking away more and more of it into a little hidden corner of my mind. Your words and wisdom absolutely contributed to me figuring out, accepting, and dealing with the situation I was in and my only regret is that it took me so long to get to that point. That things had to get so much worse before I could recognise the situation for what it was.

    So thank you. You, and everyone here.

    I’m ready to face the next decade as being one in which I finally get to become the person I’m meant to be.

    1. Best of luck, Bunny, and glad that you’ve been able to get some value in the comments on your letter, however belatedly. Jedi hugs if you would like them.

    2. Soft Jedi hugs and best wishes to you. I hope things keep getting better for you!

  39. I love every comment on this thread (and the poetry — magnificent!). This website and the commenting community has been a personal and essential mainstay for me for… eight years? Ten? I don’t even know. What I do know is that no one does boundaries and honesty better than Captain Awkward and the Awkward Army.

    Here are some of the things I’ve been able to achieve, in part thanks to what I’ve learned here:

    I maintain a helpful geographical distance from the most difficult people in my life.
    I’m less motivated in my dealings with those people by pain than I used to be; I think I am reaching a point where I can think of them with some compassion. I’m glad about that.
    I’ve blessed and released a lot of bad relationships in my life over the last ten years.
    I’m so much better at boundaries. SO MUCH better.
    I went to therapy for two years, and it was great!
    I lost so much of what I had made and what mattered to me over a couple years of trying to help those difficult people — my savings, home, community, lifestyle. I think I did help where it mattered most, but the losses were scary. And I got everything back eventually, and I’m in a good place again, and an even better place emotionally. This blog/community gave me a lot of hope that kept me going through all of it.
    I’ve learned to value some relationships in a better way. And I’ve become a better friend/person, I believe.

    Captain/Jennifer: your clarity, your pragmatism, insistence and affirmations, your honesty — they’re really meaningful. Your own stories show that your knowledge is hard-won. Thank you for making this site. You do good work.

    Happiest of New Years, Awkwardeers!

  40. Captain,
    I was in a very dark place this time last year but you’ve really helped me turn it around.
    I’m separated, different job and in a new state. And not suicidal!

    Thank you for saying it’s ok to leave enough times for me to believe it.

    1. Good for your AdoraBelleDearheart! You deserve a life with light and joy instead of darkness. And hope – always lots of hope. Sounds like you did some really hard stuff in the last year but kudos to you for doing it! Wishing you an even more awesome 2020. 🙂 *Jedi hugs*

  41. It’s so good to hear about the progress everybody’s making. I’ve done a lot of “not putting energy into that situation any more” this year, on multiple fronts, and it’s done me good. I don’t think it would’ve happened if I hadn’t learned so much about boundaries, and the acceptability of calling out unacceptable behaviour, from this website.

  42. Capt. Awkward wrote, ” I’m still ruminating on 2020’s. How do people feel about “Do even less work than that and see how you feel?””

    I spent the first part of my life doing LOTS of work to make relationships work… which didn’t work, though I sincerely thought I could make it work, AND that I was responsible for making it work. Which I now know is delusional but gives one the comforting (?) sensation of control.

    Things changed when I had to live out-of-state for part of the week long-term due to a career-related project. Amazing how much better things got without me (and my anxiety) trying to micromanage everyone’s emotions so everybody would be happy-happy-happy.

    I never did succeed into impression-managing everyone/anyone into happiness, and I was certainly not happy trying to do so.

    Until I stopped doing that, and then experimentally did less, and even less, and even less, and now the same relationships are exponentially better and I can truly say I am a happy soul, PLUS, I discovered the capacity to be happy even when others around me are upset.

    2020: Do even less work and see how you feel.

    Love it. Been doing less work every year for almost ten years. It is awesome. And when I do things for others, it is out of a sense of joy, not obligation; and everyone seems to be able to tell the difference.

  43. “Quit working so hard on relationships that aren’t working for you” is a great motto, and it served me well in 2019!

    I was the Letter Writer for #1056, and that was An Experience. It’s fine-ish and I have now had zero contact with That Fucking Guy and his stepsister/wife for ten months. I plan to have zero contact FOREVER. That means I have a much smaller social circle, but I can live with that because it means I get to live without those people and their supporters/enablers. They did not spark joy.

    I declined the invitation to be a bridesmaid (!!!), opted out of the bachelorette party, RSVP’d “Nope!” to the wedding, and “Nope!” to the baby shower. I did not send gifts, which is tacky but no one has dared to complain. Getting your stepsister pregnant while dating someone else is way, way tackier.

    Ten months ago, my little dog passed away at the age of 15 (RIP Marshmallow “Crybaby” Skywalker). I got a “sorry about your dog” text from stepsister/wife. I didn’t respond and blocked her number. I’d already blocked his.

    Because I loved the animal name threads, I would like to share that my two kittens new are named Professor Mousetrap von Fluffbottom (“Mousetrap” for short) and Jolene (I sing it to her constantly and she tolerates it with feline disdain).

    1. I am sitting here shaking my head in amused and incredulous disbelief at – wedding invitation? baby shower? BRIDESMAID?


      Congratulations on an excellent decision on your part.

    2. I have no idea what the stepsister/wife was thinking – “yeah, let’s just ask the woman my fiance terrorized in an attempt to get her to dump him so he could marry me to stand next to me at our wedding, can’t be awkward at all!” I am also now imagining the horrible, awkward family occasions if they or their married parents get a divorce.

      I am so glad you’re away from these people and their enablers now. I’m sorry to hear about Crybaby, it sounds like she was a very good girl. Tell Mousetrap and Jolene that I have never met them but I love them very much.

      1. That Fucking Guy and stepsister/wife have been claiming that she was already pregnant when he started dating me, but she has graciously forgiven me for being a homewrecker. The thing is, if she really was already pregnant, then that kid was born a whole two months later than normal.

        1. Even if she was telling the truth it does not change anything. You can’t graciously forgive someone for being the other woman when you know about them and they don’t know about you. You were still being cheated on and she was an active participant even if she was dating him first.

        2. She… graciously forgave you for dating a dude when you honestly thought he was single (because he lied at least by omission)? Did she graciously forgive her stepbro-husband too, or was he totally innocent because [something something victim-blamey misogyny]?

          Looks like those two are a match made in hell, then.

        3. I just…what! Wow. Bullet so very dodged. Glad to hear you’ve stayed well clear of all of that. Congrats on all your badass boundarying

        4. How deeply unfortunate for that baby to have them as parents, and how wonderful for you that it is not your problem! And mazal tov on the (I am sure) adorable kittens!

    3. So, first: you rock. Second: I LOVE the names you’ve given your cats, and “Jolene” is a classic that will live forever. Third: Respect and love for Crybaby, as any Skywalker deserves. Fourth: I’m going to go all Miss Manners on your ass — not sending a gift is not, in fact, tacky. An invitation is not a solicitation for a gift (say this to yourself in your best high-pitched Lady Bracknell voice). A congratulations card is sufficient. And if you didn’t send cards, more power to you, as these two clowns didn’t deserve them anyway.

  44. A very happy new year to you, Captain and Awkward folks.

    Thank you so much for this site, I can’t even begin to express what a huge help it has been for me throughout the last decade. I started reading your blog in the first year of university and so have basically grown up with your wise words and compassion as a constant presence. Oftentimes the problems that you were writing about were things that I hadn’t experienced but more times than I can count I have found myself thinking back to an old letter because I’ve reached the point in my life where the situation DOES apply to me. Having your advice and wisdom there in the back of my head has helped me through some of the most challenging times of my adult life. The extent of your impact on who I am as a person is impossible to measure but I know that you have affected me profoundly and always for the positive.

    I am moving into the next stage of my life (marriage! babies! new family!) and it is such a comfort to me that I can look out at the scary unknown, safe in the knowledge that I have all of the tools that I need to thrive stored away from your wonderful advice. You have been the big sister that I never had and I am so glad that you will continue to be such a fantastic presence in our lives in 2020.

    I wish you every joy and love as we start a new decade.

  45. I dropped the rope in a long-term, not-healthy friendship years ago thanks to you. Last year I got the kind of detailed, mea culpa reach out from the other end of that rope that you hope for in mending a fractured relationship but, also thanks to you and the experiences shared by the commentariat, I decided to thank them but not pick it back up.

  46. In 2019 I’ve slowly adapted the “enthusiastic consent” model to my friendships. (I picked up onthe concept here at CA)
    Instead of bending over backwards to find a plan/date/event that suits them, I just back off from people who give me a lot of “dunno, I might, perhaps on Thursday I’ll let you know if I can make it etc.”
    It’s liberated me from trying too hard with friends who aren’t really willing/able to spend time with me, for whatever reason.

    1. For me, “Do Less Work” is complemented by asking myself, “What would a cis white man do in this situation?” At least 90% of the time my answer is “He would do what he wants in a heartbeat, with zero agonizing, and the other people would just have to deal with it.” While I don’t want to go full selfishness mode for a number of reasons, it’s helpful to remind myself that there is an alternative to politely putting myself last all the time.

      1. Making good friends with my inner cis white dude has been helpful. Sometimes I let him handle my business, and usually I politely ignore him and build community and work to include everyone, but knowing he exists means I can make the CHOICE, and therefore leaning into community building and working to make others’ lives better feel like a joy and not an imposition.

    2. Working on balancing enthusiasm with “the depression tells me I should hibernate until spring” in my relationships over here. Had issues scheduling shit in november, friend called me on it, I explained “sorry this has been a combination of actual scheduled things and depression fog, I 100% will be able to Do Something after the holidays,” and lo and behold we had an amazing new years that did not involve ANYONE who exhausted us in any way.

      Versus years when I’ve had to juggle family / college friend group one of whom is specifically exhausting to share living arrangements in and wonderful in every other way / aforesaid New Year’s Eve friend / aforesaid friend’s schedule re: parents & extended family, this year’s holidays were pretty relaxing, even though I had to do a lot of travel.

      (Annual college friend meeting has been rescheduled for “some bleak weekend in late January / early February when no one will complain about the default plan of spending slightly too much on food, attempting to re-induct multiple people into a fandom they don’t feel strongly about, Pokemon Go, and cards. Much. Easier. Plus, no one is planning on staying for a long weekend at my place now! Because we don’t all ffing have that much time off work/grad school. Hooray!)

  47. I think your repeated emphasis on “reasons are for reasonable people” and focusing on people’s behaviour rather than attempting to explain the reasons behind them helped me help a friend out of a relationship that was, if not abusive, was certainly toxic. When he was so miserable he was spending the night outside rather than in their shared apartment, or wondering endlessly why she responded in deeply unreasonable ways to normal relationship issues, I think my repetitions of “that’s not okay” and “I’m not saying she is abusive but I think you would find this checklist of behaviours helpful” finally got through. He left her, there was an extinction burst, he is much much happier now.

    I also found your philosophy very helpful when dealing with a fraught family situation (which I actually emailed about but has evolved since in that the person whose welfare was the urgent issue has passed away). Hopefully it has helped me be supportive to the people who need it while not making the situation any worse for me or anyone else.

    So thank you. And kudos.

  48. While I thankfully have a pretty nice relationship with my parents, your posts about estranged parents REALLY helped me be a better person when I talk with my parents about their semi-estranged relationship with my sister.

    It was VERY interesting when I started asking my mom, “Hey, instead of having [sister] forgive all offenses, past and present, and also do 100% of the work to repair the relationship with my dad, what if Dad started doing more of that work since you tell me that he also wants to repair the relationship? Also, isn’t it interesting that you’re the one talking to me about the relationship between Dad and Sister, and Dad has never brought it up to me? What’s up with that?”

    1. VERY interesting in that your dad started taking on more of the work, or in that your mom stopped talking to you about it? (Either outcome could be positive.)

      1. Sadly, no. Interesting in how these questions brought into relief the ridiculous double-standard in my mother’s mind: the should-be dutiful daughter vs the blameless, “bad social skills” dad of whom nothing can be expected.

        I brought up some amazing points that I had read here — like that phones work both ways! and how weird that *Mom* was the one doing so much emotional work about *Dad’s* relationships, what’s up with that? — and she listened and acknowledged, but then fell right back into “but why doesn’t [daughter] just forgive everything and extend infinite emotional energy to making a relationship with Dad that looks the way I think it should? So sad and mean that she doesn’t.”

        *shrugs* I hope I planted a seed for Mom to think about things differently, but maybe I didn’t. Time will tell!

        1. Oddly enough I’ve been in this exact situation as the sister in your situation. I finally had to tell my mom that if she wanted to continue to have a good relationship with me that she’d have to let it drop. I told her she didn’t need to explain to me why she was always siding with dad. She chose to marry him, she chooses to live with him, and if always siding with him is how she keeps her life happy then that’s also her choice and I understand. Dad knows what happened, what was actually said, what he did and how to fix it. She was upset and went no-contact for a couple weeks and then called to tell me she didn’t want to discuss it all again, and she just wanted to chat. It’s now been almost a whole year and I sure hope she isn’t bothering my siblings about it still but she seems to have finally realized she cannot “fix” this.

          After doing some reading here and on other sites I think situations like this come down to some parents having a very difficult time figuring out when and how to treat their own children as adults. They’re used to fixing their children’s problems and it’s hard for them to turn that off and accept their children are adults who have to make their own choices and solve their own problems.

  49. I’ve definitely read #1186 a number of times over and found it super useful for taking the first step of separating. The separation itself was physically and mentally exhausting but without it I would be feeling stuck and a lot less happy. Despite the fact I know it makes sense that I should put in less effort, and I also know that everyone thinks their own problematic partner is different (in this instance: in our 40s, queer relationship of 6+ years, Multiple breaches of trust during big life upheaving events of the last 2 years and multiple demonstrable efforts on their part towards fixing these things but then, yet more breaches of trust over the summer resulting in trial separation) I’m still wondering if it’s fixable when they ask if “we can talk”. I don’t know if this makes me weak or hopeful or too tired to see straight. Or if that even matters at this point. Thanks for all of your writings Captain.

  50. Hi there! I’ve been reading this site for ages, and lately I’ve been looking for an opportunity to say thank you. Here one is, so, thank you, Captain! I’m one of the many people who have been helped by your advice, in small ways and big. Here’s the biggest one:

    This year I got into a new romantic relationship, and soon I started to recognize red flags that I’d learned about from here. I broke things off before anything truly bad happened, and that turned out to be the right choice, because yikes. The day after the break-up, my ex, without telling me beforehand, took a three hour train ride to my city to corner me outside my home. I managed to get him to leave and have since, also thanks to the advice on this site, gone completely no contact. He sent a long, guilt-trippy email that I didn’t respond to, and mailed me back a gift I’d given him, but by now it seems like he’s finally gotten the message and is staying away completely. Let’s hope it keeps. And here’s to better relationship choices in 2020!

    1. That must have been terrifying. Good for you for establishing boundaries and recognizing the danger signs. Let’s hope he continues to leave you alone.

  51. I’m not sure how long I’ve been reading here, it’s got to be at least 5 years.
    Because of what I’ve read here, I’ve become a voice of reason and advice to friends when it comes to boundaries and communication. Advice comes easily, although of course I struggle to follow it myself, hahaha.
    I’ve “lost” a few friendships in these five years because I realised that just because we’d been friends for our whole lives didn’t mean I should have to put up with being let down or judged constantly.

    This site has greatly influenced my character and my ability to communicate, for the better.

    Happy new year, and here’s to many more!

  52. I finally started to feel like a person in 2019, and it’s mostly because of CA. Your posts about family and ‘that guy’ are my personal rosary, read over and over when I feel most fragile, warding myself against inviting them back in. I don’t post here often, it still feels like too much to type the words that I can’t say out loud, but I love this place.

    Also, if you need back-up, I’m in Michigan, and I’ll absolutely drive a few hours to join the Fight Letter Writer #1228s Family Club

  53. Kia ora e hoa – this site has been a source of advice, humour and reality checks for me for oh… at least six years, perhaps more?

    I arrived here seeking relationship advice, but more recently I’ve been getting a lot of help from the work advice letters. I support people through workplace conflicts and tricky work situations, most of which boil down to some sort of personality or communication issue (though we do get a few clear-cut legal problems, most workplace trouble comes with a side order of emotions). Thanks to this site, I’m reminded to set boundaries early, call for lots of time-outs and check-ins.. and hopefully I won’t run myself quite as ragged helping these workers out!

    It would be nice if more people acknowledged that our working lives are deeply emotional (and that it is okay to be a human at work!)

  54. The people in my life are generally good to have in my life so I’m happy keeping them around, but I appreciated the wedding posts so much! I got married this year (going well so far), and the run from getting engaged to getting married (less than a year later) was… awful in many ways, including multiple deaths of people close to us, largely unexpectedly. Let’s just say that it was hard to plan a wedding in the midst of all of this. In the last several weeks before the big day, when my now husband was in a complete fog because the last death was the closest and was on his side, when I was worn out from grief and stress and had decision-making fatigue the likes of which I hope to never see again, I would go compulsively read and reread your description of the Rice Throwing Argument, and it would make me laugh until I cried, or cry until I laughed, or maybe both. (And when I got to my own personal breakdown moment it was helpful to be reminded that other people had them too). So thank you for the virtual support during one of the most stressful and painful times in my life. We had a wonderful wedding day, if a bit sad at times because of all of the people no longer with us, and hope to never have another year like that again!

      1. May we please have a link to the Rice Throwing Argument? I’m not aware of this, but it sounds epic. Thank you.

    1. From that wedding post:

      “I was working four little jobs that almost but not quite made a whole job pay-wise but made 1.5 jobs time-wise, now with extra commuting!”

      Maybe a complete derail, but BLESS YOU for this.
      Bless you from everyone who is living on the gig economy, who has to smile and say everything is fine, and yes they _are_ looking for a real job, why, are you hiring?

      *cough* posting for a friend *cough*

  55. Thank you for everything you do, Captain. Your advice has been invaluable, and I think last year’s motto and this year’s motto are gold. ❤

  56. Captain, you inspired me to Do Less Work with my brother who treats me like crap. I can’t figure out why he’s like that, and it doesn’t matter- he still treats me like crap.

    So I stopped reaching out only to be ignored, or caving to my parents’ pressure to come to their house when he visited in hopes that somehow this time things would be good, or agreeing to his dumb demands, or pretending I’m okay with his lame excuses not to show up for things that are important to me. Instead, I just mirror him. If he texts, I text back. If he calls, I answer. If he invites me to something- with a legit invitation, addressed to me, with reasonable notice, and it’s convenient for me- I show up. If he asks for something, I decide if it works for me or not. No more Trying to Fix It, or initiating, or hoping that if I just do this one thing he wants, we will have a Normal Sibling Relationship. It is what it is and I’m done making an effort for someone who treats me as an afterthought at best.

    I feel like I got my dignity back. Thank you so much.

  57. Cap, I just want to thank you for doing what VERY FEW other advice sites do, and closing down the comments in advance of topics you think will cause infighting or potentially further distress the LW, the moderation team, the commentariat, or you. It’s restful and helps keep from muddying the waters with people having to be re-explained the same fundamentals of being a good, or at least minimally shitty, person a few thousand times because somebody turns up thinking that some segment of the population should be exempt from treating other people with dignity or basic human rights because of their right to their own opinion. “Do less work for unreasonable people” has kept me out of quite a few internet arguments.

    I’ve also been adopting some strategies here in regards to therapy & no longer living with my parents, who are not so much on an information diet as a “hide the dessert when they come over” type of diet, i.e. there are some things I’ve decided to no longer tell them about because their opinions and advice are unhelpful due to a variety of factors.

    Contrary to “doing less work” in regards to fixing the family I’ve actually improved my relationship with my brother, who lives halfway across the country, by making the effort to schedule checking in with him via an actual phone call. (Because he’s a serial text-forgetter and also it means that we have to have a conversation that takes a finite amount of time.) And with my former least-favorite cousin because even at a fairly liberal family gathering the queer cousins have to stick together, and guard the rolls. 🙂

  58. Your 2019 motto has really helped me this year, there have been several relationships where I’ve stopped trying so hard and I haven’t regretted a moment of it! I’ve taken that time not spent and put it into relationships I really want to build and also put it into my own development.

    I’ve also used my words last year to great effect and will continue to build this skill as it can still be SO DIFFICULT to do. I do best with my kids and do fairly well at work, but still struggle with using my words with my husband. To reference Tiffany Dufu’s great book “Drop the Ball”, I still like to use too much imaginary delegation with him where I figure out something I want him to be doing to get it off my plate, but then I never follow through with asking for help. I am also still to quick to take on more and more and more no matter what, especially again at home. Still suffering from Human Giver Syndrome apparently (referenced in Burnout: The Secret To Solving The Stress Cycle originally from Kate Manne in Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny) in summary: one class of people, the human givers, are expected to offer their time, affection, attention and bodies to another class of people, the human beings. You can guess who the human givers are in this situation I trust 🙂

  59. I am so grateful for the advise, wisdom and support flowing from the Captain, the Commenters and the FoCA forum. I have learnt so much about how to be a better human and I have pointed so many people to pages here. The information is invaluable. Thank you and here’s to even less work in 2020. ❤

  60. Captain, I (she/her) have been reading you since the very beginning, and I am so very, deeply grateful for how you share your wisdom and compassion, and this community that has grown here. I honestly feel like reading here has been one of the things that has allowed my therapy to have progressed so well. Some highlights:

    1. My marriage sucked. I wrote the Captain about it. My letter didn’t go on the blog, but the Captain did write some very kind things back to me. Reading here nourished me. It took me a very long time to leave, but a year and a half ago I did it! I am now:
    * living on my own (something my husband had me convinced I was incapable of)
    * in a deeply loving, non-monogamous relationship, with an amazing woman
    * finally out in all parts of my life, rather than an invisible bisexual
    * aware that the problem with my marriage ran a whole lot deeper than our sexual problems – like, the fact that my husband didn’t actually like me; he just saw me as a constantly failing fixer-upper. And also that he was just plain mean when he didn’t get his way
    * starting to use words like sexual assault and emotional abuse and gaslighting
    * only in contact with said ex, for financial stuff related to our separation

    2. The big recent breakthrough and associated New Year’s resolution: Looking back at my childhood, I wonder if I would have benefited from early intervention for kids on the autism spectrum – but that wasn’t really a thing when I was little. I have learned how to manage for the most part, but I’ve always been, and expect I always will be, socially kindof off-step. Like, I am very good at following explicit rules, but all that unwritten stuff is super hard for me. There are some social circles where I am accepted as weird but likable, but I have never, and never expect to, fit in with the “cool” people. My ex definitely wasn’t helpful in this regard – when I did or said awkward things, he would laugh derisively and criticize me, but he could never explain what I should have done instead. Just “not that.” Well, here’s the thing: I may not have an instinct for what’s “appropriate”, but I am super empathetic*, and I have good instincts for what is kind. So I have given myself permission to embrace the fact that I am a giant dork, stop worrying about fitting in with the cool people, and just focus on being kind. If people have a problem with that, I figure it’s kindof like Miss Manners says – sure I used the wrong fork, but the person getting up my ass about it is the one who is rude.

    * being on the spectrum doesn’t mean you necessarily lack empathy

    1. The great thing about this is that by being kind, you start to fit in better with and be more appealing to kind people.

  61. I’m not sure how long I’ve been reading here, because when I found this site I almost immediately read all the posts back to the beginning. It’s been at least 6 years, maybe 8. I credit this site with the strengthening of literally every relationship I have in one way or another.

    Thank you for all the time and energy you pour into this site. I really don’t know where I would be without it.

  62. I’m glad you posted the “low information diet” link. For various reasons, it turns out I need it this week.

    Thank you for all the amazing work you’ve done, and for this post in particular.

  63. Happy New Year, Cap! I just want to say that thanks to this site and the excellent advice you give, I used my words, didn’t worry about having the perfect ones to use, and made it awkward at Thanksgiving this year. My mother dropped some racist bullshit at the dinner table, and because that shit isn’t flying in my house at my table, I believe my exact words were, “Jesus Christ [Mom’sfirstname], WTF is wrong with you!?” She got super embarrassed, everyone else got quiet, and that was the last racist bullshit she dropped all visit. It was glorious. /highfive

    1. Congratulations! I admit that I was super apprehensive about Thanksgiving at my place, but my mom and I had a conversation ahead of time at which we agreed that we would Shut That Political Shit Down if it came up. I am guessing that she talked to Dad about it because he steered well away from anything more controversial than “I don’t like cranberries”.

      Christmas…well. Wasn’t at my house, which is all I’m saying about that.

  64. Re: #1233- a lot of what you wrote about in your post and here reminded me of Tara Westover’s memoir Educated. She does a lot of grappling with memory, stories that her siblings remember differently than she does, and making room for facts, ambiguity and pain in remembering. I hope it would be a healing read for blog community members struggling with similar relationships.

    1. Oh, definitely checking that out (my local library has 40 copies!) I definitely struggle with the knowledge that my siblings have totally different recollections of our childhood. We’re estranged now, but the feelings of “did I secretly convince myself that all of these horrible things happened when my childhood was actually great” hasn’t gone away yet.

    2. I loved that book (though it is a TOUGH read, trigger warnings for “all of them.”) Tricia Lockwood’s Priestdaddy as well.

  65. Happy New Year to you, Captain, and all of Awkwardland! I’ve been a longtime reader of this blog and this year I leaned really hard on the “do less work” advice. With the help of your wisdom, a rockstar therapist, excellent friends, and Lizzo on repeat, I left my relationship of 8 years. It was difficult, painful, and terrifying, but six months later, I am relishing the joy of living alone and finding peace in no longer having to keep track of my alcoholic ex-partner’s behavior and substance use. By doing less work to get him to show up in our relationship, I set myself free. I feel like my life is on track again, and I’m one semester into a graduate program I love.

    Thank you again for the resources you provide. I will turn 30 this year, and I’m so glad to have the gift of being excited about my next decade. I appreciate you all, so much.

    1. Congratulations and Jedi hugs if you would like them. It sounds like you have weighed anchor and are sailing free into the future.

  66. “Quit working so hard on relationships that aren’t working for you” has been a great overall guide for my 2019.
    Not working so hard on relationships (interpersonal and volunteering) that weren’t working well for me let me have time and space to step into relationships that didn’t suck, learn new things, and let go of things that weren’t my jam.
    I had time and space to kick ass through some really frenetic months at work and support some friends who really needed that I wouldn’t have been able to do while pouring myself into people and groups that weren’t pouring things back into me.
    I let “I don’t want to” be enough reason not to do things I didn’t want to do and it was incredibly freeing.
    Thank you for all you do, Captain, and Happy New Year!

  67. Thanks for all you’ve done for me, Jennifer. I’m so grateful you’ve written a book and responded to a letter I’ve written and countless others that I could have written. The Worry Wyvern column (and its comments) was lifechangingly good.

    My letter getting published – and so fast – changed me. And seeing it was #5 for 2019…

    In terms of the “what’s wrong with me” part of my letter, I now know that the answer is nothing. I feel convinced of my value despite a lot of childhood trauma and this relationship. The relationship is a lot of work still, of course, but I’m changing and so is what I will tolerate. I push back and stand up for myself, but I’m still generous with my emotional and instrumental support in the marriage whether or not that’s wise.

    Since the letter was published, I:

    -talk to my close friends about the marriage and share the letter and comment section. I can ask for support on an ongoing basis and hear about their similar struggles.
    -made a plan for extricating myself including a budget, neighborhood/apartment, and detailed steps. LIR helped me. I made a Pinterest board of what my joyful, healthy (to me) post-marriage life might look like so that I can visualize it.
    -zero tolerance for criticism from him and being able to see that for what it is — a way to distract me from an issue I’m raising to him about him.
    -work on myself: therapy for me with a lovely woman who sees me as largely okay; reading more about boundaries; observing healthy people; and investing in my own physical/mental well-being. I trust my own feelings and perceptions more than ever. I speak my truth and articulate my needs.
    -Not investing in relationships (other than this marriage) that feel like they pay back less than what I give.
    -I’m also working to become a gentler, better communicator but that’s also because part of my job is to tell people to do things and have them do it. It does help at home with holding the husband accountable.
    -work on us: we are in therapy, and it’s helping. We both do more for our own individual well-being, and the therapist has been able to get a few basic messages through to him: no matter what happened to you in the past, you don’t get to be selfish in your thirties; you have to communicate; you have to schedule things like housework and sex; you may see your wife as anxious but she is often right and you should listen to her; your wife is auper competent and together (this is true – I am more convinced of it than ever). I’ve learned that feeling good is more than enough of a reason to do something, that I can fail sometimes, and that repeating myself (“as I was saying…”) gently but persistently works. The ratio of good to bad has improved, and things are generally smoother, but let’s see if it improves enough for the long-term. Or quickly enough that I still feel like staying is my best bet.

    1. Thanks for updating! It sounds like things are better for you already, and will continue to be better whether or not you stay with this person.

  68. Not sure if anyone wants an update, but, I was the one whose husband was being super helpful to the point of annoyance while I was pregnant. Well, everything worked out well on that end, I learnt to reframe things and put a lot of help in the ‘bank’ so to speak. I ended up having to have a c-section so that bank of help was really awesome. lol. And the little Bun is now 7 months old and suuuper cute. And that’s not just me saying it – everyone tells me too. Seriously, gummy smile and a dimple in one cheek is the best.

    I have now, though, got a lot of Thoughts and Issues and Suggestions and possibly Trauma regarding how having a baby effects your life post pregnancy in the US particularly, looking back now I feel sorry for Past- Eggo was Preggo who had to go through it without my perspective. I should probably go to therapy honestly, when I think about the hospital time my heart beats faster. I also have a lot to say about pumping at work. Also, I’m working on our Family Leave advice docs for managers. If anyone wants to know about any of these things, I’d be happy to share my thoughts.

    1. Congratulations on the little one and surviving through all the way too much help! My little one is almost 5 now and I still think back to her delivery with a faster heartbeat. I didn’t have a c-section but I still had a hard time of it. Long story short, I had to get stitches (normal), but the doctor messed them up and I had to have them removed and re-done the next morning (not normal). Also had issues with doctors not listening, which doesn’t sound like it should be that bad but when you’re in the hospital and in a vulnerable position it is. I’m always still thankful for my little person, but after 9 months of healing after 9 months of being pregnant I knew I could not endure that again. So our plans of having 2 kids turned to one. I have friends who talk about having kids and they make it sound easy and it’s hard to hear some days. Other days things are fine! It’s a new kind of normal after having a kid I suppose. 🙂

  69. Happy new year, everyone!

    In passing, I’m amused at the idea that, at some point in their courtship, the Captain had to have a conversation with her future husband: “So, the thing is, if this relationship pans out, thousands of people on the internet are going to start referring to you as Mr. Awkward”

  70. Loyal reader for 8 years here! I’m so grateful for all the things. I have read and reread everything here so many times, shared posts/advice/scripts with so many friends, students, and family members.

    Thanks, Captain, for creating this awesome community and pouring so much into it. We 💕 you. Also I love the Patreon!

  71. Happy new year, everyone! I found this site right when I moved to a new country, and since then it’s been tough but this site has been a lifeline. I think I’ve been just keeping my head above water, which did require a ton of growing, but not actually doing any intentional self-improvement. Therapy is on the to-do list for 2020.

    As an unapologetic try-hard, I struggled with your 2019 advice, but I have a success story: I skipped a family wedding I was dreading this year during which my childhood abuser married an ex-close-friend. The world didn’t end, and my parents managed to edit their memories enough to decide it was the best outcome after all (I’m just too busy living an oh-so accomplished life abroad, you see). I’m starting to realize that forcing myself into any kind of relationship with this couple will spread this guck around my feelings toward my whole family, and I think my family is realizing this too, so they are giving me space & flexibility to figure out a way forward. I might never figure it out.

    So thank you to Captain Awkward and the commenters for everything you do, and best of luck to all in the coming decade.

  72. 2019’s Motto helped me so much. Every time I felt responsible for fixing a relationship or a situation, I reminded myself of that motto. It has been so helpful in letting go of having to control things and people that can’t be controlled. It has helped me learn to redirect my energy to things that are truly important to me! I don’t have to be trying or doing all the time. It’s ok to give things one or zero goes and no more. I am all for making 2020 the year of doing even less!

  73. 2019 was the year I left my abusive relationship. Thank you Captain Awkward for always responding with clarity and kindness to letter writers mired in the indecision and pain and confusion of a toxic relationship.

    For the letters about abuse I read and reread but “NOT” out of recognition. Even as I regularly got into weird “discussions” with my boyfriend past bedtime on work nights that left me crying in the bathroom/backyard/bedroom alone.

    For creating a parallel narrative that patiently countered the distorted reality that threaded my life until I could hear it for truth.

    Time in Abusive relationship: 6.5 years
    Time reading Captain Awkward: 4.5 years
    Time spent denying it was abuse while reading every word CA had to say: 3(?) years

    Leaving required years of reading and re-reading archives to “fix” myself so he would stop getting angry. Though he denied being angry, I somehow couldn’t stop flinching at the bite of his words, set of his shoulders, and intensity of his eyes.

    A CA reader sent Lundy Bancroft’s “Why Does He Do That?” I used it as proof mine wasn’t thaaat bad. A friend said my boyfriend sounded abusive, I stopped talking to her. I read Dear Sugar’s breakup “wanting to leave is enough” article and wept.

    Then I got A Diagnosis! Medication! Skills gained in therapy! He said, “so when are you going to stop being so emotional?” He gets mad at me over a kitchen salt placement.

    Read #1141 and cried.
    Read #1143 and cried.
    Re-read #1143 so many times.

    I reread “Why Does He Do That?” I read a description of symptoms of emotional abuse. I finally called it abuse.

    Years of slowly twisting myself in knots are done. I am the after of #1218 and #1143. Thank you for setting up the road signs long before I was ready to read them.

      1. Thank you! The cherry on top was I met someone terrifyingly amazing via the Friends of Captain Awkward Forum. Long distance and slowish, but flags are all green and I’ve never been happier, nor felt more honored and seen. I finally see the other side, the room of my own, my cabin in the fuck-its, people who like me act like they like me.

    1. What Jennifer said. Jedi hugs for you, if you would like them, and I hope 2020 starts to open a window to let you see the beautiful, strong, amazing person you are.

  74. “Did you kick ass at setting a difficult boundary this year?
    Did you decide to put in “less work” with a thorny relationship? What happened?”

    I’m really glad I started subscribing instead of just popping in once in a while after 2018 was just…awful. 2019 had many bad things but the difference was that while my friend deemed 2018 the “Cosmic Bitch Slap”, she invited me to name 2019. I said, “Give No Fucks” and it made a huge difference. Obviously, I still gave some BUT…I had *boundaries*, I stopped letting people who said it was okay for them to hurt me because they had major trauma stay close (“you go work on that and come back”), I stopped letting people gaslight me and/or tell me I couldn’t use that word because I didn’t have enough trauma, I cut off friendships and went with it.

    I was happier, more content, freer. There were some sad parts but in general, nope. “There are two wounds here and looking at yours does nothing to heal mine.” Spoken word.

    I thought I had turned into a big bitchy person but…at the New Year’s party I attended with a new friend, people who I liked and loved kept coming up to me and hugging me and telling me various forms of “I like you, you are awesome.” I was kind of amused and stunned. I guess maybe I was doing it right…

  75. Happy New Year all! I’m coming up on 6 years of faithful reading, from being linked on Facebook about creepsters. #547 was the newest post at that time, and I spent weeks devouring the archive. This site helped me help a friend a couple months later when she called me in tears about another friend being a Class A Creepster (our talk helped her decide to report his creepy ass to the police, and not only were they super helpful to her, he was convicted of what she accused him of and he spent time in jail for it). I come back to the archives all the time to refresh my memory and remind myself that Reasons Are For Reasonable People, No I Don’t Have To Fix My Relationship With My Mom, “But Faaaaaamily” Is A Terrible Reason To Stay Connected With Terrible People, and so many more. Captain, thank you for all you do. Commentariat, thank you for being generally awesome.

    1. “Reasons are for reasonable people” has become my touchstone in several challenging relationships in my work and personal life. It’s a perfect phrasing for a concept that I needed badly, particularly with a toxic boss who can’t keep his own instructions straight.

  76. I do free peer support community bibliotherapy sessions in Yorkshire and the advice, poem and song recs and mantras on boundaries have allowed me to be more effective at what I do. You recommended the Paris RX site which I found so helpful in finding new poems.

    I’ve been able to set better boundaries with abusive relatives and recommended your safety plan links to friends escaping intimate partner abuse. I can’t thank you enough.

  77. I have gotten so much mileage out of Don’t Try So Hard and its corollary Not Everything Has to be Optimized. Just reminding myself of either one helps me beat back the brain weasels much faster and more effectively. This (last) year I have been much more likely to: (1) do what *I* want to do (2) ask for what *I* want and (3) let others (partner/progeny) be responsible for their own stuff/way of doing things. I have been getting results: I am happier, my brain is clearer about what to do next, my family is happy and amazingly do what I want more often. (Maybe not so amazingly on their part since I am finally telling them what I want and don’t want.)

    1. So thank you, thank you SO MUCH for your wisdom and support!! Reading and re-reading your blog has helped me ENORMOUSLY.

  78. I ended a toxic friendship this year thanks to the advice from this site and it was SO LIBERATING. Even better, when I sent the “Thank you, but I’m just not feeling this. I wish you well in your future endeavors.” text I refused to rise to the bait when they texted back demanding answers, a(nother) second chance, etc. I couldn’t have done it without our Captain and the amazing commentariat here and your collected wisdom. After I received the whiny text, I started to type out a response, thought “WWCAACD” (What Would Captain Awkward And Commentariat Do?), deleted it, and blocked, blocked, blocked. Never looked back. Not even the tiniest regret. So to all who have shared words on this page – thank you. You’ve all given me tools to make myself a better person (this is just one example of so so many!) and I appreciate you.

  79. I’m a person who has an absolutely terrible time asking others for help when I need it. This last year I’ve had some mental health challenges that have impacted my work, and led me through this awful shame spiral where I was having regular panic attacks at my job, which led me to be less productive in the job, which created more shame, which led to more panics, etc. It got…pretty bad, and I didn’t want to admit it to anyone, even my counselor, and especially not my boss, who I felt I was letting down pretty much every single working day. The classic Breaking the Low Mood Cycle post pretty much nails it.

    Finally, things came to a head, and what helped me was the amount of advice on the site that boils down to “shame is not helpful here, do what you need to do to remove the shame, and instead emphasize actions you can take to move forward.” The advice in Question 1200 was really good for me, even though the LW’s situation and my own bear almost no resemblance to each other—what I needed was to find a way to minimize shame and foster my own sense of agency instead. I admitted to my counselor exactly how bad things had become, and she helped me make a plan for talking with my boss. I was able to come clean to my boss about what was happening and why, and to implement plans to improve things. My boss agreed to a grace period where we’d clean up everything that had accumulated without him asking me “why didn’t you bring this to me sooner?” Since I knew that I wasn’t going to have a shame party every single time I brought something to his attention (leading me to put off bringing it to him), it enabled me to just get shit done. It was a really difficult conversation to have, but my life has improved so much—I no longer sit at my desk literally immobilized by panic and dread! I’ve done some really good work over the last month, and I’ve gotten through the tasks that have loomed over me for so long that they made me feel sick to my stomach every time I thought about them. Thank you to the Captain and everyone who has contributed to the conversations about having difficult discussions, reaching out for help, and taking action in the face of anxiety.

  80. A friend and I said goodbye to each other this year and it was like, the best, cleanest breakup I’ve ever had. We’d been growing apart for a long time, and she’s always been… Difficult. Hanging out with her has long involved me swallowing hurt feelings and her swallowing irritation.

    But there was a suck cost fallacy there, especially because we were close during the years of her terrifying, life-threatening/altering illness. When she recovered, her life changed for the better and her social sphere expanded, but it also accelerated our “growing apart” process.

    Finally after a painful Facebook exchange and a few weeks of not talking, I asked her if she wanted to take a break from me. She did. The conversation involved lots of respectful language and “ok, so what do you need/want from our friendship at this point” kind of talk.

    And we agreed to… Not be friends anymore. We wished each other well with sincerity and then removed each other from social media, and that was it. It’s weird in retrospect, because officially and formally ending a friendship seems more like something you do in grade school than in your 30s, but… It was right for us. And the respectful way we went about it sort of erases the resentment that had been building from my memory of our friendship. I can think of her fondly now.

    Pretty sure I would not have initiated that conversation if we weren’t both Captain Awkward readers that were familiar with this culture and language of kindness and respect.

  81. CW: relationship abuse, rape

    I was LW #944 (https://captainawkward.com/2017/02/23/944-and-945-dudes-who-come-with-a-high-degree-of-difficulty/).
    I wanted to thank you, CA, and the commenting community for your kind and helpful responses. I don’t think I realised it at the time, but it did help me start to set some really important boundaries on a relationship that was quickly turning into a red flag festival.
    I wanted to provide a bit of an update, since it’s been a while.

    He did eventually tell his family about me (I don’t now remember exactly when), though I never did meet them. I escaped the relationship in November 2017. I am still in therapy (I took a break for a couple of months after the relationship ended and then started again with a new, wonderful therapist).
    I say “escaped” because yes, it was abusive. The boyfriend I was with at the time was emotionally and verbally abusive towards me, and later that year (2017) raped me, but I escaped, and I am safe now (or as safe as I can be). I did report him to the police, which went terribly bad, very retraumatising, made my PTSD from the relationship worse. And found out late last year when I was considering getting a protection order that apparently I had waited too long (he does know where I live, since I ended the relationship about a week after moving into my current apartment, though my building does have good security).
    I reported him because I am scared of what he might do to someone else in future, because even while we were together and talking about marriage, he would tell me that his parents would “import a bride” for him, and how women from his culture “didn’t say no”.

    I’ve been mostly dealing with PTSD recovery since, which is a long and slow process, I found out in the meantime that I’m autistic and ADHD, I’ve had a couple of relationships, one better than the other, after my last one I thought I’d never trust anyone again, but I recently decided to try dating again, and I’m also coming out as nonbinary.

    Captain, reading your blog has been the most invaluable resource for me, giving me scripts to use, advice to apply in my own life, and to pass on to others (I always find it funny that people come to me for advice when I am literally socially disabled) and I can’t thank you enough.
    I don’t have words for how much your writing has meant to me. Thank you!

    1. Thank you for sharing your challenging and courageous update! I’m so happy to hear you’re clear of that.

    2. Thank you for sharing your story. You are amazing (like, *seriously* amazing). I am so, so sorry these things happened to you, and I hope that you continue to feel stronger and safer and more confident in all of your amazing self. Jedi Hugs if you want them.

  82. I started reading the Captain almost right at the beginning, maybe 100 letters in. At the time I was in my early 20s and about to start grad school. I’m now a 32 year old Professional Lady (insert Jenna Marbles singing here) and I don’t know what sort of an adult I would be if not for the Captain. You’ve helped me establish properly boundaried (and therefore good) relationships with my parents, let go of a toxic relationship with a sibling, and focus on the kinds of relationships where everyone’s up for doing a lot of emotional labor for each other. I’m about to be engaged to the kind of emotionally and logistically supportive dude that I always dreamed existed but couldn’t be sure of, and reassurance from communities like the Awkward Army that it was better to be single than unhappily partnered helped me hold out for what I truly wanted.

  83. Another longtime reader chiming in here to say “thank you”. I started reading CA back in 2012-ish. At the time, I was in an emotionally abusive relationship and dealing with bucketloads of trauma from unrelated issues. I had been living in active crisis for years and didn’t have any good role models for healthy adult relationships. Captain, you’ve been instrumental in my growth and healing. I quietly read and absorbed and pondered your posts for years while I experimented with things like Having Boundaries and Believing in My Own Worth. I learned so much from your kind, compassionate, funny, insightful writing. So, thank you.

    Today I have good relationships with my family, a safe and loving romantic relationship, and strong connections with my friends and community. I’m in therapy. My mental health and physical health are both stable.

    I’m trying to make 2020 a year of giving even fewer fucks, and learning to channel my inner cis white dude (…as needed, of course). Here’s to a new year!

  84. This blog has not only helped me develop and enforce better boundaries, it has also helped me have more empathy and compassion for myself and others. Instead of telling letter writers to change, the captain meets people where they are, which was such a revelation to me when I first started reading the blog. The captain’s and commenters’ writing helped me realize—and truly accept and internalize—that all of us, including me, deserve to be treated with respect and care. Even if we are not “perfect,” which no one is. I always knew this intellectually, of course, but this blog has really helped me find a way to understand this at a deep level.

    It’s funny, but having better boundaries and greater compassion has actually helped me be more generous and open to others because I don’t feel as much of a need to protect myself and avoid vulnerability. I’m not perfect, have plenty of issues I’m working on, but so what? I don’t have to feel bad about this, or hide it, and I’m not going to judge anyone else for their challenges. And, if someone’s behavior hurts me or a relationship just isn’t working for me, I know I can enforce my boundaries and don’t need to endlessly engage with the problematic person or behavior. This has really helped me transform some of my close relationships and has lead some unhealthy relationships to end.

    Thanks to the captain and the community and best wishes to all for 2020 and beyond!!

  85. I’m a little late, but if anyone else pops by this thread, I wanted to chime in too.

    I started reading CA about… 2.5 years ago? I consider it one mark of my progress as a human that I went from “…eh, good advice but a bit too SJW for me” to “Hell Yeah!”

    I use “Return Awkward to Sender” a lot. I have referenced columns here on abuse. As it happens, when I first tripped over this website, I was still mired (but slowly figuring out) an emotionally abusive relationship with a real This Fucking Guy (no BS, I had him as that in my phone for awhile, before I started reading here). He’s been gone a little over a year and a half. The guy before him was also pretty f’ing bad (bad enough that over 5 years after he left, my friends STILL talk about how much he sucked – he wasn’t abusive, just a giant man-child).

    The 2010s were a rough decade for me. I was a recession child who worked every crappy job I could find, lived in the crappiest apartments my city has to offer, and managed to have two back-to-back bad relationships. I was in debt and broke all the time. I had few friends and my self-esteem was below sea-level.

    Today, I love my job, my apartment, my friends (new ones and old ones I’ve reconnected with), and family, and pets, and life. I’m happy with so much of my life. I’m still single, but dating and being damn choosy. I have one (1) Problematic Friendship, with someone I want to keep in my life, but in a smaller capacity. I’ve gotten much better at setting boundaries with this person, and speaking up when I see her steamrolling others. She’s been receptive, but I still feel like I’d like to see her in smaller doses than I do right now. I think I have a better idea of my worth than I once did. I don’t want to be with another guy who sees me as someone to “fix” (especially when they themselves are a a complete trainwreck). I recently received a chunk of money sufficient to clear my debts, which will make my financial life much easier going forward. I just got back from seeing a concert with friends in another city.

    I’m… still fat. I’m battling with my doctor to get a higher dosage of Adderall. And my car is a hunk of junk I hope to replace this spring. And I still have some self-defeating thoughts around dating and relationships. I still have some social anxiety, even if I understand intellectual that I’m no worse than anyone else.

    But those problems? I have to admit they’re so much *smaller* than the sorts of things I was dealing with say, 2-10 years ago. My life is a million times better, I’m way happier.

    And a chunk of that is due to reading this site, and CA’s advice. Thank you, and happy 2020.

  86. I had decided to skip both mine and my beau’s dysfunctional family dinner, and opted to stay in my PJ’s all day at home. Staying away from ALL family-drama, and playing Nintendo 64 in my blanket fort ended up being the best Christmas gift I could ever give myself. I picked him up later that evening, and we spent the following two weeks pair-bonding and being lazy TV-slugs – for the first time in ten years. We decided to make lazy-holidaze an annual tradition (instead of our former running around trying to do ALL the things type holidays that left us stressed and crabby and broke).

    Doing Less in 2020 is the goal! Doing nothing around the holidays is a gift! Thanks Captain for the amazing scripts, and helping me learn to appreciate the simple pleasure in holding firm to my boundaries!

  87. Wow. Sorry that you have to deal with that, Jennifer. But your response made me chuckle, so that’s something.

    1. I deleted it b/c why bother, but if that person is out there (and let’s face it, they will never go away), I will definitely justify my professional and artistic decisions for them personally here.

  88. I’ve been reading CA for years now. Years and years. Absorbing and learning and, I don’t know, priming myself for when I was finally ready to do what I’ve known for a while I needed to do.

    And then, this year, I was ready.

    I finally left my now-ex-husband after a decade and a half of an increasingly bad relationship, and found the partner of my dreams, with whom I am building a life. I didn’t know it was possible to be this happy.

    Thank you.

  89. Do Less Work 2020 is an intention I’m setting.

    Toward the end of 2019—specifically, for Yule—I walked myself through the 6 Steps to Completing Relationships for a friendship that has been lopsided for all virtually all of 2019. I can talk myself in circles about The Story of What Happened but at the end of the day, he lacks either the resources or the interest (or both!) to maintain our connection, and while that’s really sad, I get to respect that he’s made and is making his choices, and let go.

    It’s too new to have any information to report back, but I’m hopeful.

  90. Late to the party, but LW 1163 here (“screamingly jealous of my sister’s fiance”) with an update. It’s been almost exactly a year since I wrote, and I’m happy to say my relationship with Sister’s Fiance (now Husband) has improved a good deal. I don’t think we’re ever going to be buddies — there’s just too much about his personality that I find legitimately irritating — but I’ve come to really appreciate his good points. I even found myself getting incensed on his behalf during some drama his first wife caused a few months ago. He has been unfailingly kind and generous to me and it’s just impossible to hate someone like that.

    More importantly, my sister getting married did not ruin my life OR our relationship. Sometimes it still stings that we’re not joined at the hip like we used to be, but we do see each other about twice a week. She definitely still thinks about me and makes time for me. And to my surprise, I’ve been REALLY enjoying having my own apartment! I’ve never lived alone before and thought I would hate it. Turns out, arranging the place exactly how I want it and having it stay that way is actually pretty rad!

    In spite of all this, I still struggle sometimes with surges of sadness and anxiety about the whole situation. But as you advised, I’ve focused on keeping my behavior impeccable regardless of my feelings, so that at least I have nothing to be ashamed of. And it is slowly getting better as I adapt to the new Way Things Are. Thank you and the commenters again so much for your help.

    1. How great to read! I definitely thought of you when watching the new Little Women, esp. when Jo tells Meg, “You’ll be bored with him in 2 years, but you and I will be interesting forever!”

  91. Dear Captain Awkward and all Awkwardeers, a happy and healthy New Year to everyone. Captain, your work has made me a better person: I was both a Darthee and a Darth (with so so so much shame and self-hatred around that). Then I discovered this blog and although I just lurk I’ve read Every. Single. Word. Your constant, genuine kindness, wisdom, and compassion along with your good sense and effective, workable advice teaches me to treat people better (which yes! generally means Doing Less Work and/or Just Walking Away) and to get treated better myself. I’ve let go of relationships that ranged from toxic to mildly annoying/not sparking joy, I’ve learned to use my words, to take my alone time as needed, I went to HR about a horrible boss (and it worked!) — generally everything is better. I just… treat people more gently, with less clutching/controlling, and with way less effort and agonizing pointless labor. Now I try to act and react from a place of kindness, but also just let it go when people get all… people-y. Not my circus! And the commenters here always surprise and enlighten me with your kindness as well. This blog helps me be the person I want to be. Thank you.

  92. Hi CA! Long-time reader here. The Captain’s advice to others has certainly been a major part of my development as a thinker/feeling/communicator. What I notice the most is how much of what I’ve learned here I now try to teach to my students (I am the Dean of Students for an independent middle/high school). So much about boundary setting, listening to what people are telling you, knowing your worth, and more. So thanks, as always, Captain. Also, I will echo others who have pointed out the high quality of your writing this year. Thanks for continuing to share your craft with us.

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