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Hi Captain!

Thanks for your awesome blog. It helped me through a Darth Vader boyfriend break-up.

Now I’m dating a guy who is super lovely, like a beam of sunshine whose patronus is a golden retriever. The thing that sometimes overwhelms me is his enthusiasm, actually, maybe because he’s Australian and I’m an American whose been living in Britain for 10 years, who knows.

We’ve been dating for four months, and it’s been smooth and lovely sailing. We had our first point of conflict recently when a friend of mine came to visit.

My boyfriend didn’t go out with us because he didn’t like this friend from the get-go, and later he said he was baffled as to why I would spend time with this friend (who is a casual friend; I see him maybe once every 6 months or so, we go out for drinks with other friends). The friend, let’s call him Steve, is – to me – an over-the-top guy who is a bit of a mess, but we get on well and I don’t take him too seriously. He drinks too much and does drugs, and I don’t partake in the latter but am happy to go out for a pint with him and other friends.

It’s probably important to note that Steve and I had a very casual fling last summer and then it settled into a friendship by my choosing, a year before I started dating my boyfriend, and my boyfriend knows this and claims that it’s not a problem. (Steve is 28, my boyfriend is 29 and I’m 32.)

My boyfriend wasn’t concerned about me going out, and he bowed out because he didn’t like Steve, but later expressed a lot of concern about me having such a toxic and awful person in my life. I felt like it was an overreaction – I don’t really think much about Steve, he’s fun for a brief catch-up, tea or lunch, but I don’t feel he deserves that much energy, whereas my boyfriend went so far as to suggest that Steve – being a student-party-type – was really bad for me, and, quote ‘it was a red flag’, and he couldn’t understand why I would hang out with a potentially toxic person when I clearly was so otherwise good in my judgement of people.

We talked it out pretty well, but it left me feeling uneasy.

I admitted I didn’t want to NOT see Steve just because BF didn’t like it, and he acknowledged that it wasn’t intended to be a controlling thing, more that he (BF) was baffled because Steve is so unlike my other friends. (In general me and BF get on so well because we’re pretty straight-laced, non-party-types, and until Steve, we’ve each really loved and got on with one another’s friends.)

However, I wonder if BF is idolising me and thinking I can Do No Wrong and is a bit shocked that I do have friends who like to get drunk, or that I do occasionally stay up late drinking cocktails, and he hasn’t seen me do this much because we don’t like to do that and we don’t bring it out in one another. (One of the reasons I’m so enjoying BF is that he encourages the healthier preferences of my personality.)

BF is intensely into self-improvement and not having anyone Toxic in his life. We both came out of very difficult relationships where we were the ‘Carer’ for a really emotionally troubled partner, so I get the feeling he is anxious about me going off the rails, perhaps.

I felt able to assert that I needed to make my own decisions about my friends, and who I spend time with, but also that I respect his discomfort in this issue, so I think we reached a good conclusion, but I still feel a bit unsettled. Am I being silly – is he just plain jealous?

Thanks for your thoughts.

Sincerely,
Enjoying chilling out and would like BF to be able to chill out as well.

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From your host, “Catmom”:

San Francisco Bay Area Meetup

Saturday November 18th starting at 1 pm (ending 3-pm-ish pm to 4-pm-ish as people wish.)
Location: Whole Foods, 3111 Mowry Ave, Fremont.
This location is .6 miles from Fremont BART (about a 15 minute walk).
I am told it is wheelchair accessible.
There is both indoor and outdoor seating — I expect we will be inside.
To find us: Look for convener Catmom who will be wearing a “Cat in the Hat” hat (classic red and white striped tall top hat).
Feel free to bring knitting, coloring pages, questions about life, etc.

Thanks,

Catmom

Enjoy!

Dear Captain,

This woman (I’ll call her Glinda) and I have been friends for a few years now. We met through work, though we were in different departments of a large organization and seldom had a chance to actually interact in the workplace. But we had similar interests, lived in the same part of town and had several mutual friends, so we became rather close friends–she confided in me about her personal life, threw me a baby shower when I got pregnant, etc.

Then our work arrangements changed and we found ourselves working a lot more closely together: currently, at any given time, there are at least two or three projects we’re both working on, sometimes sharing responsibility for most of it. And Captain, I’m on the brink of quitting my job (and the friendship).

Glinda is constantly freaking out. About EVERYTHING. And since I’m her friend, she comes to me about it and I have to reason with her and calm her down and reassure her, often multiples times about the same topic, until she moves on to a new one. Half the energy I’d normally spend on work is spent managing her emotionally. She feels underappreciated by our bosses–she talks to me about it. She’s having second thoughts about a perfectly good decision that our team has made and started implementing–she talks to me about it. She gets frustrated by her interactions with other colleagues–she talks to me about it.

And I can’t not deal with those things because they’re not just friendship-related, they’re work related. If I don’t reassure her about her capacities being appreciated, she’ll become sad and unproductive, which will affect our work. If I don’t reason with her about that decision that’s giving her second thoughts, she’ll call a new meeting to re-discuss everything and change everything, wasting everyone’s time (including mine). If I don’t calm her down when she’s frustrated and run interference between her and the other colleagues, they won’t want to work with her/our team and we won’t get anything done.

Everything is twice as hard and takes twice as long, because I have to deal with Glinda. She’s my friend and I love her, but I don’t want to be working with her anymore. It’s literally draining me and turning a job I used to love into a chore.

Do you have any tips on how to deal with this situation?

Sincerely,

About to quit (she/her)

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From your host, Jane:

When: Saturday, November 18th, 2017, 1 pm
Where: Harvard Art Museum Cafe
32 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
The closest T stop is Harvard, on the red line. The museum is about a ten-minute walk across the Harvard yard from the station.
Venue: The cafe is located in the atrium of the art museum. You do not have to pay the entrance fee to sit in the cafe area. The cafe has a small selection of pastries and other snacks, but if you have specific dietary requirements you may need to bring your own food. The building is accessible via a ramp on Prescott Street.
How to find us: I will claim a table in the cafe area and set up a paper sign. I plan to bring my knitting, some coloring books, some art supplies, and possibly a puzzle.
What to bring: Crayons, more fun coloring sheets, other puzzles, opinions about the Peloponnesian War.
If you need more information, you can inquire on the “Boston” thread at FOCA or PM me (Jane_the_chicken.)
Have a nice time, Boston!

Dear Captain,

I just bought a new house (yay me!) and am still unpacking/deciding where things go. After living with family for about a year while I saved up to be able to afford a down payment, you can imagine how excited I am to be able to put my own decorating touch on my own space!

I invited my oldest friend over to see it over the weekend. While it’s nowhere near company-ready, and she knew it, she made many, many comments about “you should move the couch there”; “that picture I sent you on your phone would look good on your wall”; “did you know your floor sloped?”; “is this the couch that needed more stuffing? I can help you with that” etc., etc., etc. (I know, some of these sound nice but these are just the comments I remembered. The one that “got” me was the one about moving the couch. I actually had the couch specifically where I wanted. Oh, and she made a comment about one of my end tables being too big for the space. Well, I am downsizing so I can’t actually replace everything all at once).

I believe she comes from a good place, but this is how she is with everyone – constantly offering her opinions and advice when not asked for. It’s a non-stop verbal diarrhea and it’s like she can’t help herself. The onslaught was such that I couldn’t get a word in.

I’ve tried limiting my contact with her over the years for this very reason – I don’t like being told “you should…” anything. But I am a wimp at saying “You know, I didn’t ask you over here for advice, I just wanted you to see my new place.” When she left, she did say she was really, really happy for me, and I know she is. She’s just not one to keep her opinions to herself.

So, if I can’t change my friend, how can I change me? How can I get my internal “ugh, don’t tell me what to do” to become more external?

Because she really harshed my mellow.

Thank you in advance!

Hi there, congrats on the new house!

I think it is 100% okay to tell a friend “Oh, thanks, but I’m not looking for advice” when they reflexively offer advice. Your script of “Hey, I didn’t ask you over here for decorating stuff, I just wanted to show you the place” is totally fine.

See also:

  • Thanks for the offers of help – I’ll let you know if I need to take you up on any of that. Right now I am so happy to have my own space where I can put everything just as I like it.
  • “Cool, but the couch is exactly where I want it for now!” (Sometimes it’s easier to be assertive with positive statements).
  • “That photo you sent was really great, thanks.” (Make no commitments about hanging it)
  • I’m really going to take my time with any home improvements or decorating. This is a ‘showing off my new house’ visit, not a ‘hardware store list-making visit.
  • Huh, thanks, I’ll think about it.

Get ready for an aggrieved “Well, I was just trying to help” response, to which you can say: “I know you are excited and looking for ways to help but hang back a sec and let me enjoy the moment, will ya? I promise to seek your wise counsel if I need it.

Give her a few chances and some time to let her reset things. Her personality won’t change, but eventually, she’ll learn not to do this so much around you.

If you’re the reflexive advice-giver in this situation (um, hello, 1043 questions, I’m not just the Captain I’m also a member), here’s your reminder to ask first. Unsolicited advice is exhausting. Some examples:

If someone says they are enjoying a particular show, maybe try asking “What else are you watching?“or “Are you interested in some recommendations of things to watch next?” before you jump in with “You have to watch [fave]!.” Enthusiasm is great, but remind yourself that people don’t “have to” do shit.

If someone vents about a problem, ask “Are you looking for suggestions on how to handle that or just venting?” before you launch in with how they “should” have handled things. A “hey, this thing sucks right now” post is not an automatic cry for solutions. This goes a thousandfold for anything medical or related to eating. Are you the person’s doctor or nutritionist? Do you literally share a body with that person? Did they ask you for suggestions because they know you’re an expert on said topic? No? Great. Then stop with the “Have you tried _____?

And for the love of all that is holy and unholy, if someone complains about their iPhone or their Android device or their Mac vs. their PC or their Avid vs. Premiere or any technology problem, STFU about what they “should” have bought instead, forever and always, amen. I literally saw someone say “Well, this wouldn’t happen if you were running Ubuntu!” on one of my feeds yesterday in response to a question about Windows and it’s probably really good that I don’t have any telekinetic fire-starting powers.

I love helping! You love helping! We love helping! And yet? Unsolicited advice is exhausting and helpful intentions don’t make it less exhausting.

Letter Writer, I know you dread it, but the world won’t swallow you if you acknowledge your friend’s kind intentions while shutting down the behavior.

Hello! It’s that time again, where we answer the things people typed into search engines as if they asked the questions. First, as is traditional, a little song to get us in the mood:

Now, we descend into the Id of the Internet:

1 “How to ask out your TA (teaching assistant).”

Leave your TA alone until well after the class is over. This person is at work. They have to be a certain amount of nice to you and available to you. And this should go without saying, but, TAs, leave the students in your classes alone until well after the class is over.

If you fall in like or love with each other, the world won’t end if you wait a few months to express it.

2 “Everytime I mention my husbands skidmarked underwear he gets abusive.”

Sounds like your husband is a man who should do his own laundry, by himself, in a house he lives in by himself, alone, forever.

3 “I found sex things in my parents’ room.”

Put them back, leave them alone, and leave the topic alone. It’s not your business.

Monthly plug for Scarleteen as a resource if you have questions about the stuff you found.

4 “I don’t want to move in with my boyfriend yet.”

Listen to that instinct and don’t move in together until or unless you really, really want to and look forward to it. Not everyone we love makes a good roommate, and it’s very expensive and annoying to unlink households once you’ve linked them.

5 “How to invite yourself to dinner.”

Here’s an idea: Maybe invite the other person to have dinner with you another time, at an event that you host and arrange.

Failing that, be direct: “Is this a private event, or can I join you?” or “Next time you host one of these things, I’d love to join you” and be prepared to take no for an answer.

6 “Do you stay with the first person you have sex with?”

Nope! Some people certainly do, but it is 100% not a requirement for a happy life. The first person you have sex with does not own you and you do not own them. It’s okay to move on from a first love or a first sex relationship and find other people to be with. Your very favorite person to have sex with might be your first, or your 10th, or your 100th. Make love and commitment decisions based on what will make you truly happy.

7 “He said he couldn’t see the relationship working out right now.” 

This is a breakup, or a prelude to one.

8 “Holidays when parents hate spouse.”

Annual reminder that you do not have to “celebrate” with people who are mean to you and yours.

9 “How to go about a situation where you both like each other but she doesn’t want a relationship.”

Put the majority of your energy into other friendships, other dating possibilities. If “she” changes her mind she knows how to find you.

10 “How do I get my husband to be friends with my friends?”

This might not be possible, so my advice is: don’t force it. Invite him to spend time with you and friends, respect him if he doesn’t want to or wants to only in small doses. Not everyone is compatible with everyone else. Strive for friendly, fun, low stress interactions rather than pushing for deep mutual friendship. Give it a lot of time.

11 “Should I let him into bathroom when I’m there.”

If you are above the age of “little kid who needs help with the potty” and you need bathroom time to be Alone Time, that is an okay thing to want and to enforce.

12 “I said terrible things when my boyfriend & I broke up should I apologize?”

If you want to make a real apology and can do it without expecting anything in return, try this: “I know I said some pretty terrible things to you when we broke up, and I am sorry.” Then let it go.

13 “Is it a crime to say ‘fuck you’ on Facebook.”

Nope! Fuck you, Harvey Weinstein. Fuck you, Woody Allen. Fuck you, Kevin Spacey. Fuck all y’all predators and abusers.

 14 “My girlfriend keeps asking me if I’m okay.”

It’s good to check in with the people you love: Are you enjoying this, is this okay, how are you, how was your day, etc. But there is a point where it crosses the line especially if it’s constant and if you’ve already answered. Sometimes the answer to that question is “yes!” Sometimes it’s “Nope.” Sometimes it’s “Eh, I don’t know, but I don’t want to talk about it.

If you’re in this situation, 1) Be honest about your relative level of okayness when the girlfriend asks 2) Ask her to accept your first answer.

15 “How the feck do you get over someone?”

With a lot of time, and throwing yourself into other pursuits, and being gentle and kind to yourself. Mostly time.

16 “I don’t know why my boyfriend’s even with me he just won’t break up with me.” 

If he loves you and wants to be with you, and you want to be with him, what would it take for you to trust that? If you’re waiting for him to dump you, why not make the decision to end the relationship yourself? He’s not the only one with power here.

17 “Girl says ‘you deserve someone better’.”

Girl is saying “You and me, it’s not going to work out.

18 “My boyfriend doesn’t believe in my blogging.”

I’m skeptical of the viability of relationships between where partners don’t like or believe in the other person’s creative work. If you love blogging, keep doing that.

19 “You meet someone and find out you have mutual acquaintances. Is it ok to ask friend for number?”

Sure! I generally don’t give out my friends’ phone numbers or emails without asking their permission first, so maybe this is a better way to make contact: “I’d love to get in touch with [mutual friend]. Do you mind passing on my number or email to them and making an introduction?” That way the person has the information they need if they want to get in touch with you but they get to maintain their privacy.

20 “What do I say when I don’t want to get together with a neighbor for lunch?”

“No thank you!” “Thanks for the invitation, but no.” 

21 “How to tell your boyfriend he needs to shower.”

Babe, please take a shower.” Directness is kindness.

22 “How to tell him you only want sex.”

I’m in this just for the sex. Is that cool with you?” Directness is kindness.

23 “Poor boyfriend wants to move in with me.”

There’s nothing wrong with not having money or wanting to move in with a partner, but the wording of this search leads me to make this recommendation again: Do not combine households with a romantic partner unless you enthusiastically want to live together and are excited to live together. It’s okay to say “I love you, but I’m not ready to take that step yet. You should make another plan.

24 “What does it mean when someone says ‘maybe in the future?'”

They mean “Not now.”

25 “Ten kinds of people not to invite to your party.”

  • People who don’t know their own limits re: substances.
  • People who have done crappy stuff to you or your friends.
  • People who don’t respect other people’s space or stuff.
  • Racist people.
  • Sexist people.
  • Homophobic people.
  • Transphobic people.
  • Missing Stairs” (source: The Pervocracy, which is awesome but may not be safe for everyone’s work browsing)
  • People you don’t like.
  • The guy who sees that you have a guitar, grabs it without asking, and starts “jamming” in the middle of your living room.
  • People who use the word “sheeple.”

Let’s help this poor content mill writer who Googled this out!

26 “My new boyfriend suddenly became a jerk.”

What if you took evasive action now, and broke up with this jerk?

27 “Why is my crush everyone’s crush?”

Some people are just foxy.

28 “I refused to open my door to my friend who visits too often.”

If you are a person who drops by unannounced and uninvited, you gotta get used to the idea that people might not always be available, so I hope they took it in stride! Script: “Friend, I’m not always ‘at home to visitors.’ I need you to stop dropping by unless I’ve invited you and we’ve set something up in advance. Can we agree to that?

This script can be easily adapted for neighbors who like to just pop by (there were like 17 of these in the search terms).

Happy Halloween! I look forward to viewing many photos of animals and cute kids on social media today.

 
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Dear Captain Awkward,

I have an awkward social situation that I’m not sure how to handle. It’s been causing me a bit of anxiety, and so I’ve been avoiding dealing with it.

Recently I have had a rash of old friends who I am no longer close with contact me, wanting to either catch up or get together. Some of them I’m happy to have a chat with and tell them about my life and hear all about what they’re up to now, but when they suggest we start hanging out again I feel stressed. The problem is that I simply don’t know how to fit these people into my life now.

For a long time I was very mentally and emotionally unhealthy, and I self medicated with drugs and alcohol a lot and was a bit of a party girl. Right now I’m the healthiest and happiest I’ve ever been, and I can look back on those years with new clarity and insight. I see now that I tended to be drawn to people who were dysfunctional because it allowed me to feel like I had my shit together, even though I really didn’t at all. I’ve done a lot of work on myself since then, and I feel like a lot of the friendships I made at that time in my life are no longer fulfilling to me. I’ve purposely distanced myself from a lot of people, not because I think they’re bad, but because I now find their company totally draining. Hanging out with them became something I did out of a sense of obligation. I felt guilty at first until I realized how much happier and calmer I was without them, and that I now had room in my life to make new friends.

There’s one old friend who won’t give up trying to contact me, who I particularly don’t want to see. We didn’t have a falling out, I just realized that I didn’t really like her anymore due to her rudeness, self centeredness, and flair for the dramatic. I was ok with it when she moved a bit further away and we lost touch for a while. I hadn’t heard from her in a couple years, and I was pretty relieved. She texted me at the start of this year saying she had moved back into town and invited me to her birthday party at a bar. I felt an immediate sense of dread. Since it had been a couple years, I pretended that I got a new number or something and didn’t reply. Maybe that was wrong or short sighted.

A few months later she found me on social media and messaged me “WHEN ARE WE HANGING OUT?!?!” which both terrified and annoyed me. I thought it was a rude way to make contact with someone she hasn’t seen or heard from in years. I felt put on the spot and uncomfortable. It made me want to get together even less. I didn’t reply and hoped she would get the hint. She didn’t.

A few weeks ago she found me on another platform and commented on one of my posts “Hey! Let’s hang out!!!”. I didn’t reply and haven’t posted on that platform since. This morning I woke up to a direct message from her saying “(my name)?!?!”

I think at this point I need to be direct because she is not getting the hint and it would be cruel of me to continue this tactic, but I really have no clue what to say. I’m not mad at her, we didn’t have a falling out and there’s not really a specific instance that made me not want to be friends anymore. I don’t want to be hurtful. I’ve been on the other side, attempting to reconnect with someone and realizing that they had no interest. It sucked but I got the hint and let them go. For me, this friendship is over.

What do I say?

Sincerely,

Chronic Avoidance

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