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Captain,

It might be selfish, but I need to break up with this guy. We’ve been going out for just about 4 months, and for over a month of this time, I have been on the receiving end of hearing about how terrible this guy’s life is and how I’m the only thing that makes him happy.

I have listened, I have offered advice when asked (and I have been asked a lot), I have…probably put up with this for longer than I should have. I am no longer having fun with him.

He goes on and on about how his ex (with whom he has a son) is working behind his back to take their kid to live abroad without his “permission”, or how his work is so hard and he just doesn’t want to go in any more.

On the rare occasion he does ask how I am, he makes it about him again (“I get you. That’s like when I…”). If I try to take a night off to just do me, I get a barrage of messages asking “Did I upset you? What did I do wrong?”.

He admits he’s depressed…and he refuses to get help because he doesn’t “believe in therapy, because therapists just sit there and nod”. I actually find this a little bit insulting, because I’ve had therapy. He keeps telling me that, no, I actually just worked it out myself because I’m so “awesome and strong”.

…No. I worked with a qualified professional for over two years, and I have worked hard to get to the stage where I realise that this relationship isn’t healthy, and I probably need to get out.

I need to break up with him, because on a good day I have just about enough mental health spoons to deal with me. But…I feel bad because, well, I’m his girlfriend. Should I be able to deal with some of his spoons, too?

I know I am not responsible for his emotional well-being, but…how do I tell him nicely that I can’t be with him because I don’t want to go into a spiral myself, but without feeling guilty about him maybe not sorting himself out?

Kind regards,

I’ve Been Through This, I Can’t Do It Again

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From your host, peregrinations:

San Francisco Bay Area Awkwardeer Meetup!

When: Sunday, December 11 at 1 pm

Where: PIQ in Berkeley – UPSTAIRS!
91 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704 (Google Maps link below)
1.5 blocks from Downtown Berkeley BART station (on Fremont-Richmond and Richmond-Daly City/Millbrae lines)

What: Bay Area Awkwardeer meetup! Feel free to bring knitting, crafts, books, etc, or just yourself

About PIQ: PIQ is a bakery, cafe and pizzeria with a wide range of meat-based, vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options, and it looks like they have a couple salads for gluten-free folks as well. They have a big open floor plan with lots of seating and a reasonably quiet atmosphere (good for talking). We will be on the second floor which is fully handicap accessible (there’s an elevator on the main floor). Bike parking available, street parking for cars.
PIQ’s website: http://www.piqbakery.com/berkeley

Menu: http://www.piqbakery.com/menu
Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/piq-bakery-berkeley

How to find us:
I’ll be seated inside on the second floor, and will have a floppy-legged buffalo plushie with me. I will make a foldover sign saying “CA Meetup” to put on the table.

For more info:
Feel free to pm me on the forums, or email me at peregrinations74@gmail.com.

Hope to see you there!

Have a wonderful time.

Send your short questions on Patreon or Twitter (with the hashtag #awkwardchat) today – I’ll answer as many as I can before noon.

Last year, my aunt wrote to me that I’m going to hell for being gay. What do I say to her at grandpa’s funeral?

I’m sorry for the loss of your grandpa. That’s hard enough without adding the extreme awkwardness of bigotry and hellfire to it!

Fantasy answer: “See you there, you crusty bigot.”

Actual answer: It’s okay to completely keep your distance from her and stick with the family you trust. Imagine she is a stranger or work acquaintance if you must interact with her briefly – express sympathies, keep the topic of conversation on your Grandpa and the loss to the family, try not to get drawn into a lengthy conversation.

If she seeks you out and either tries to perform a close relationship with you (without actually repairing the relationship with an apology) or tries to renew or justify her mean words, try this, “I’m very sad about Grandpa and so sorry for the loss you must be feeling. I’m still very angry about the hurtful letter you sent me last year and we are not friends right now – let’s drop this for now and talk another time when you’re ready to apologize.” Then move away, and remember, she created the awkwardness.

Family doesn’t listen when I say Anxiety Disorder prevents me frm driving. Insists I get license. Am 29 in therapy. Scripts pls.

First step is probably to talk to your therapist specifically about this, and see if they will generate some kind of letter to your family (that can help make it “official”) and/or help you fashion & practice scripts.

Scripts that come to mind for now: “I’m seeking medical help so that I hopefully can drive at some point, but I’m not there yet. It hurts that you don’t believe me, but whether or not you believe me, I still cannot be a safe driver at this time.

I am crossing all my fingers & toes that you live somewhere with decent public transportation.

You know someone likes you/may want to date you; you’re not sure if you feel the same. How do you figure out if you like them?

One way is to go on a date if they ask you to and see if you enjoy it and want to do it again sometime. Remember: Going on a date doesn’t mean you are agreeing to “feelings” or “a relationship” or “returning their interest at the exact same level.” It’s okay to be undecided and give it time to develop or not.

I’m going to be starting my own business in the next year (excited squees!) What are some good scripts for those well-meaning, advice-pushing folk whom I love but really don’t know what they’re talking about (or may know what they’re talking about, but are not people I wish to discuss my business/financials with)?

How exciting for you!

For the “don’t know what they’re talking about” crowd, try some version of, “Thanks for the tips!” + a subject chance to something they are the expert on.

For example, “Thanks for the tips, Dad! I’m very excited to jump in and get started. By the way, I’ve been thinking about replacing the furnace at my place, what should I look for?

When the people probably do know what they’re talking about, try this: “Wow, I’d love to pick your brain in detail about this sometime when I’m further along in the process and I’m not in ‘holiday mode’/’having fun mode’/’celebration mode’/’relaxing mode’/’vacation mode’/’calm before the storm’ mode.” You want to communicate “I can tell you have valuable insights/I’m not in the right frame-of-mind to receive these oh-so-valuable insights, let’s wait until I’m not hopped up on holiday punch and can take notes!”

By complimenting people it disarms potential conflict, and saying “thanks I’ll think about it” is literally the fastest & most efficient way to get past any kind of unwanted advice, even if the advice is total shite and the intentions of the person are not good. Since you love these people I think it pays to think of their intrusions as evidence that they are excited for you – reward the excitement with compliments and thanks and channel the firehose of “expertise” away from the present moment.

How to approach academic group work when you think/know you’d do it fine/better on your own.

If you know you’d absorb the material you’re supposed to learn just fine on your own, and you know you can handle the writing and presentation skills involved, then use the project to level up skills group work is purportedly there to teach and model those skills for your partners-in-group-project-heck:

  • Delegating/Dividing up tasks
  • Listening/Inclusion
  • Consistent communication
  • Accountability
  • Constructive disagreement & critique
  • Peer-management
  • Assertiveness

It takes skill & practice to be gentle-but-firm with a teammate who isn’t pulling their weight, like, “Hey, you’ve been missing deadlines and group project meetings and it’s making me stressed that we’re not going to finish on time – what’s your plan for catching up?” or “Hey, you keep vetoing suggestions I make without offering an alternative solution. Can we make a rule that we don’t veto anything without proposing an alternate plan?” or “I have a lot of outside commitments right now, I really need meetings to start and end on time, thanks” or “If we try to run something by you and you don’t respond to any emails or texts within 48 hours, you kind of lose your vote” or “I don’t really understand your take on this, but I want to! Can you walk me through it again?” 

I think that 99% of professors know who is really pulling the weight on group projects and who is not and the learning experience is not so much about the specific material or individual excellence as it is preparation for white collar working environments which are like one lifelong group project.

 

[Eeep, I got interrupted by something I had to take care of during #AwkwardChat, so had to step away.

Let’s finish this.]

 

I feel like every single person I know is still in shock from the election. How do we support one another, and how do we seek out support, when everyone is exhausted and terrified? The Ring Theory breaks down when everyone is at the center of the crisis at once.

I’m not sure I have the answer to this beyond:

  1. “Only connect.”
  2. Don’t try to be perfect or put pressure on yourself to say the exact perfect thing to everyone at all times.

Support each other by spending time together. Support each other by listening, by being kind, by taking a shift to babysit for friends with kids, by throwing your doors open for a friendly pot luck if you can (or going to the pot luck if you’re invited), by giving what material support you can manage to organizations and individuals who will be affected the most. Pick up the phone or open up that Skype window or send that text or email when you have energy to connect. When you need to turtle, say “So sorry, I can’t talk right now” and rest/read escapist literature for a few hours so that you can come back to it. Take care of your own mental health to the extent that you can. Be present with each other and connected to each other to the extent that you can. Make some of the time about activism and grief and anger and some of it about silly jokes and pleasure of each other’s company. Be gentle with yourself and each other.

Way to say to friends, “I know you don’t like my partner of 14 years, I don’t bring them around you, stop sniping about them”?

I think you nailed it with a script right there in your question! When the sniping starts, interrupt it immediately and say, “I know you don’t like X, that’s why I don’t bring them around when I spend time with you. So stop sniping about them when we do hang out. I don’t want to hear it.

If you want to start with something slightly less confrontational, still interrupt them and try, “Why do you think I’d want to hear this about someone I love?

It’s okay to be pissed off/emphatic/not having it about this. It’s disrespectful to constantly run down someone’s partner to them. If they continue and insist, end the conversation/hangout and try again (or not) another day.

Favorite scheduling system/to-do list app/other organizational resources to help self-employed person get stuff done?

Ha, as I said on Twitter, this is probably a question for an organized person? I use a pen and a notebook and sometimes (when I remember where I put them) star stickers next to completed items. One of my students has a neat system where she uses a different color pen for each day of notes so it’s easy to see when things were written down, and I think I’m going to adopt that from now on. Besides, interestingly colored pens are pretty.

Family keeps putting you down for having only a BA; thinks you should be over failing last time, doesn’t acknowledge disability. 

Consider the possibility that your family are a) dead wrong about you, b) acting like assholes about this, and, c) that the energy you might put into changing their minds about this might be better spent getting the hell away from them. Take all possible steps to create a life for yourself where their opinions matter as little as possible to the choices you make about your life. Those steps could mean seeking out therapy & other support for your disability, moving away from them, spending less time with them, ending conversations where they act like jerks whether that means leaving a room or hanging up a phone or just letting a mean email hang there unanswered. Over time that also means surrounding yourself with people who DO appreciate you and believe in you and who don’t try to throw your real or perceived failures in your face at every turn.

Any tips on telling the difference between self-care and irresponsible avoidance (i.e. “I can’t because brain chemistry” vs. “I don’t wanna because activism is inherently stressful”)?

“Tips” I can ethically give:

  • If you know you have issues with brain chemistry that interfere with your ability to do stuff you want to do, treat those issues like the medical issue they are to the full extent that you are able. Do you need counseling? Start the process of finding a counselor or therapist. If you’re not already on meds, try to get some. If you are on some, take them. If you don’t like the ones you’re on, see if you change them up. Take care of yourself so that you are more able to do the stuff you want to do.
  • There are some great Twitter threads by former congressional staffers (thanks,@leeflower) on how calling officials in the U.S. is better than emails/postcards, and I really like this one by @sharonw that breaks down exactly what it is like for people who are anxious about calling. Best advice: Focus on *your* elected officials, the call itself is not terribly interactive, the staffers are too busy to really converse with you and nobody is going to argue with you or be mean, think of it like “casting a vote” – your opinion is recorded and everyone moves on with their day.
  • There are lots of kinds of activism. Find the thing that you are best set up to do consistently and do that thing. Go at the pace that you can sustain.
  • Consider that small actions can be ways of breaking a low mood cycle and that there can be a positive feedback loop from doing what you can.
  • You don’t have to be perfect or do it every second for it to count. Just start somewhere, however you can.

I’m “lazy” af. Depressed brain says “just get up & do the thing OH WAIT”. Strategies to confront/sidestep this logic?

See above? Treat depression like the medical issue it is. Try taking baby steps and seeing if you can break the negative feedback loop. Be gentle with yourself. Try again tomorrow.

How do I stop myself from getting too invested too soon when I start dating someone?

Three tips:

  • You’re gonna feel what you’re gonna feel, so keep in mind that beating yourself up for having feelings or talking yourself out of your feelings isn’t a good use of your time.
  • Pay attention to reciprocity. Does your dating partner do as much of the work of planning dates, initiating communications, expressing feelings, etc. as you? Try to match their level of enthusiasm and see how you feel.
  • ‘ware the bubble. It’s tempting to spend all your time and energy on a shiny new partner, but make sure you’re not losing connection with friends and family. You don’t have to see this new dateperson every minute of every day or leave your entire weekend schedule open for them. Get some alone time. Hang out with friends and family. Keep your routines going. The happier you are in your overall life, the better you’ll be able to make good decisions.

That’s all for now. Comments are open to add to suggestions herein!

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Captain Awkward…

I started seeing a man who claimed he and his wife were ok to seek outside relationships. He said the friendship of those outside liaisons was important to him. Seemed on-board; I heard his wife mention one or two outside-the-marriage dalliances.

I fell into an emotional clusterfuck with him. I truly didn’t want to be his “primary”, I didn’t want to tear him from his family, but I was emotionally invested in him on some level. He could be utterly sweet and he initiated daily conversation, but it often felt all about him. I told him how it bothered me when he reached out and shared a bunch of info and then proceeded to act what I thought was dismissively to what I told him. He said it wasn’t intentional but it always happened again. Were we fuck buddies, I wouldn’t have expected anything but because of the “friendship”, I was stupid enough to want the support and consistency that I get from my closest friends. But when it was good…it was goddamn magical.

1 year in, I learned that we’d crossed a line. I never got a succinct explanation but it related to the fact that our relationship was emotional, not just physical; they weren’t that open. He wanted to continue, secretly. I was unwilling to forego my attachment, so I stayed, for the magic and the self-absorption.

One day, after he dropped plans with me in what I thought was a crass way, I had a come-to-Jesus moment that I just didn’t matter to him when he didn’t need a distraction. I left. It’s been months. I hear from him sometimes because he wants to remain friends, but he’s been respectful of my request for way less contact and he isn’t trying to be amorous. But I don’t know what to do. Not talking has been awful, but talking brings back memories and leaves me wanting. I miss the intimacy but I’m emotionally drained. I don’t want to cheat but I kind of do. I feel like a failure and an asshole and like he has all the answers. I torture myself with thoughts that he’s found someone else. And I love him, but I think it’s ego that is truly driving my consideration of staying in touch with him. I’m so fucked up (I know this letter sounds awful).

What is wrong with me? Why is it I feel sick to my stomach about not having him in my life anymore, but I feel sick to my stomach about some of our interactions? Please e-slap some sense into me. I hate this and I can’t seem to get myself out of this rabbit hole.

Dear Letter Writer In A Rabbit Hole:

No slaps for you. You crossed paths with a charismatic liar who toyed with your heart and you feel like a pathetic asshole. It happens. Now we do damage control.

Step 1: Write him a message that says some version of “It’s time to let all of this go, please don’t contact me anymore.

Step 2: Block his number. Block him on all social media platforms. Block his email. BLOCK HIM. It’s time to go cold turkey and stop wondering “what if?” about this dude. You can take complete control of this situation by choosing to end it. The thing that makes it all better is time and distance away from him, and you can’t get the benefits of those things until you take them for yourself.

Step 3: Here is a really good song, called Better Things by the late (eff you forever, 2016), great Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings.

Listen to it on repeat. How long?  All of 2017, probably. Listen until the words are true.

Step 4: Get in touch with nice people who love you and who you can count on and spend time with them. Remind yourself that there are lots of kinds of love in this world and that you are connected to many other people who think you are important and value your time and who don’t suck you into weird cheating dynamics.

Step 5: Do some good stuff for the world. Bug your elected officials about things that are important to you. Find a neat volunteer gig that brings you in contact with new people. You need to distract yourself from texting some crap dude and the world could frankly use the energy you’re spending on thinking about him right now.

Step 6: Be nice to your body, whatever that means to you. Maybe it’s getting a massage, or a really great haircut, or culling your closet of things that don’t look or feel right, or getting enough sleep, or stretching for 10 minutes every morning. Maybe it’s dancing your ass off with friendly strangers for a few hours. Find a friendly not-creepy feminist sex shop and stock up on accoutrements and go to town on yourself.

How this dude made you feel in your body felt addictively good, I’m thinking. But he’s not the only source of that goodness – your body and its goodness belongs to you. Reclaim it.

Step 7: When you think of him, and you will think of him, acknowledge the moment and then move on. Don’t linger – distract yourself with something else. “I miss (Darth Vader). I’ll probably miss him for a while. Not gonna text him though. Oh look, kittens.

Step 8: What plans and dreams were you putting on hold while you dallied with this guy? Work plans, study plans, art plans, travel plans, daydreams? It’s time to dig back into that stuff and throw yourself at it as hard as you know how. DO THE THING.

Step 9: Forgive yourself.

Step 10: Forgive yourself.

Step 11: When you’re finally feeling like yourself again, these exes have a way of coming out of the woodwork back into your sphere of attention. I don’t know why, they just do. Be ready, ignore whatever bullshit he says, don’t respond to any messages from him, don’t hug him or “get coffee” and catch up with him. Sing along with Sharon. Laugh at the insipid stuff he says to try to get back in your pants. You’ve got better things to do than spend any more time thinking about that dude.

Step 12: Let time do its work. You WILL heal and you WILL get over him.

All love, no slaps,

Captain “I have been there” Awkward

*They’ve got a holiday album, btw. It’s so great.

Dear Cap’n Awkward!

I have a weird one, I’m hoping you might have some insight. I had a not great childhood, a turbulent teenagehood, and then spent my entire 20s with an abusive husband and a major drug problem. I got out when I was 30, did years of therapy, got clean, got stable, and now have been in a great relationship for a few years.

So what is my problem? Well, here’s the thing. I don’t have opinions about a lot of things and it’s really starting to wear on my BF as the years go by. I grew up very poor, and then of course when you’re a giant dope fiend, you’re not spending your money deciding on what couch to buy, or where to go for dinner, or… And my ex made it clear that my opinion didn’t matter, even when he asked for it first. So I guess the first 30 years of my life, I was trained/training myself not to have opinions on things because why bother?

And now, here I am, 42 years old. My BF wants to know if I think our new bookcase should be dark wood or light? And guess what, I don’t care! It’s still a novelty that I can buy a bookcase! It could be puke green for all I care. So I tell him that he can pick, I have no preference. Or the ever popular “what do you want for dinner?” Who cares? It’s all food! As long as it’s not something I actively dislike, I don’t care what I’m shoving in my face.

This isn’t relationship-ending levels of stress, but I can tell it’s bugging him. He thinks that he is “getting his way all the time and I never do”. But I have literally had that happen to me, and trust me, this isn’t it. I’ve tried explaining that I’m going to be happy no matter what color the bookcase is, and I promise that I don’t secretly have a preference and one day 10 years from now I’m going to explode because I WANTED LIGHT WOOD YOU ASSHOLE!

So… How do I go about re-learning how to have opinions? Should I just fake it, and randomly pick crap and say it’s my “preference”? It feels like lying but if it gets the job done I suppose. What do you think?

Not Even Sure How to Sign This

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How’s it going?

Anyone need to pull out the Kazoos of Civility yet?

An attempt to fry a turkey ends in fire

This seems like it’s going fine.

 

As for me, I’m in my pajamas, catching up on grading for a bit, though will switch over to reading Marianne Kirby’s Dust Bath Revival at some point. Will eat with a good friend & her family later. She is a most spectacular cook and her family is great. We are bringing cheese.

Dear Captain,

This is a bit messy, please bear with me… One year ago, a long time acquaintance, “John”, figured out my interest in BDSM. It turned out him and his wife “Julia”, were a dominant and submissive couple in a polyamorus triad with another woman, who I will call “Katie”. Katie is not a sub, and told John he was free to look for another partner to suit his other needs. She gave him a list of requirements for this hypothetical new submissive and I happened to I fit the bill perfectly.

Unfortunately there was a complete breakdown in communication between John and Katie. Even though I met Katie’s every requirement in an additional partner, she essentially vetoed me from the relationship. She says she is not jealous, but she’s mean to me every time we meet, even though I’ve been nothing but nice to her. I’ve made several attempts to build bridges, and she’s burned them every time. At this point Katie has stopped talking to me altogether, which is kind of a relief, I guess. I know John finds Katie’s behaviour aggravating and nonsensical.

John and I never really got over our almost-relationship. The other day we finally acknowledged the elephant in the room: that we were still somehow having a D/s relationship, just not calling it that. To summarize, John said that he wants to have me as his sub ‘on the down low’. Essentially without Katie’s knowledge. I know John and Katie’s relationship has been rocky lately. I have no love for Katie, but I don’t want to hurt her and I don’t want to be responsible for a breakup… But I care deeply about John and want to be his submissive, even if it is in kind-of-secret… I’m in such a tangled web I have no idea what to do. Any advice?

Yours,
Lovelorn Sub

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