Archive

Advice Columns

My friend Dana Norris writes a good companion piece to our plethora of “or you could break up?” posts here: “Dear Dana: After you break up with someone, how do you move on?

“Staying with the wrong person won’t make you happy, but leaving the wrong person also won’t make you happy. Leaving the wrong person doesn’t create happiness—it only creates space. And that space can be filled with any possible thing. At first it will be sadness and loneliness, then restlessness, and then, maybe, eventually, hopefully, a form of happiness. But at first, you take your slight daily misery of being with the wrong person and you ratchet it up so it becomes an acute daily misery of mourning a relationship that has ended.

In order to completely change your life, to leave the person you love and set out anew, you have to basically take a portion of your life and set it on fire. You have to metaphorically burn it down to prevent yourself from going back. Some people may be well-versed in the art of breaking up with a long-term partner and still staying friends, but I think only 10% of the population can pull that shit off. The rest of us light a match, throw it, and run.

Burning down your life sucks because you’re surrounded by ash and rubble and you’re also on fire. Because, you see, in burning down your old relationship, your old life, you’re really burning down yourself. You’re the one who’s on fire. Lots of profiles on dating sites and apps state strongly that they aren’t looking to date anyone who’s fresh out of a relationship. Why not? Because people fresh out of a relationship, especially fresh out of a long-term relationship, are kind of awful. They’re metaphorically aflame and can’t be any good to anyone until enough time passes that they can put the fire out. But, in the meantime, they walk around, burning, singeing everyone they try to kiss. They can’t be of any use to anyone until they calm down, accept their new single state, put out the fire, and allow for something new to grow.”

Read the whole piece for how to do the next steps, which Dana calls “1) Wallow 2) Fuck Around 3) Do The Damn Thing.”

 

The wonderful Miss Conduct at the Boston Globe answered a letter about a pair of sisters, one of whom is dating a dude who has a Nazi flag in his room. She nailed it:

“…the thing about Nazis is, they are a great place to draw the line…”

Let me add a script:

“Sister, your fucking boyfriend has a fucking Nazi flag in his fucking bedroom. What the fuck are you doing? YOU ARE DATING A LITERAL NAZI. LOOK AT YOUR LIFE!!!! WHAT THE FUCK!!!! GET RIGHT WITH THE LORD AND YOURSELF AND ALL THAT IS GOOD AND TRUE AND DUMP THIS NAZI ASSHOLE!!!”

STOP DATING NAZIS, EVERYONE, OKAY, COOL, GOOD TALK, THANK YOU.

P.S. Stop dating people with Confederate paraphernalia, too. SAME DIFFERENCE, Y’ALL.

It’s time to answer the questions people typed into their search engine as if they really asked them.

1. “How to make him want to start a family.”

There’s no making anybody want anything. Do you want to start a family? Then tell “him” what you want and ask him what he wants. “I know I want to have children, and I’m feeling ready to get started doing that. What do you think? What kind of timeline makes sense for us?”

If he wants to have children, too, you’ll find out and you can get started. If he doesn’t want children at all, or if his answer is a perpetual “someday,” well, you’ll know that too and can make some decisions about how to move forward. If this is the right person to start a family with, ask him. Speak your heart’s desire.

2. “How to be uninhibited during orgasm without disturbing the neighbours?”

If you live really close to other people you’re all gonna hear stuff sometimes. Earplugs, white noise machines, headphones, carpets, and heavy curtains are your friends. Part of living communally is learning to tune some things out and deal with a little background noise. Your neighbors will survive hearing you Do It every now and then as you survive the odd loud party or bit of toddler parkour. Still, to be maximally considerate:

  • Be generally aware of school nights/workweek nights and keep it quiet when you know it will likely keep someone awake or awaken them too early. (Try kissing when you feel a yell about to come out).
  • Use music or white noise machines. I knew my former upstairs neighbors were having sex the second Wicked Game came on (every time…every single time) but I appreciated the muffling attempt and the plausible deniability, and no doubt they appreciated the sonic smokescreen that let them have maximum fun!
  • Sound-proof your space. A rug on the floor. Heavy curtains over the windows and sometimes around the walls. Cover or block the nooks and crannies through which voices carry.
  • Done some soundproofing? Have a good time.

3. “Girl at work hardly ever speaks.”

Okay?

4. “Not ready for a relationship right now after a bad break-up.”

It’s totally fine to need some time after a breakup to fall back in love with yourself and the world.

If someone is telling you this, believe them.

If someone is telling you this and sleeping with you/doing other relationshippy-sort-of-stuff with you thats full of mixed signals, also definitely believe them. If people really want to be in a relationship with you they are capable of making many, many adjustments in their lives to do so, and it’s okay to say, “I hear you, call me if that changes!” and walk away from their sexy-and-confused selves.

5. “My ex says she doesn’t want a relationship.”

Then you don’t have a relationship. It really is that simple.

6. “What does it mean when someone says they don’t have time for a relationship.”

It means they are choosing not to pursue a relationship (with you), very likely due to having too much other stuff going on. Always reframe statements like this as a choice. It will set you free.

7. “Should I tell my mom my dad hit me?”

Generally, yes, I think you should, but if what’s stopping you from telling her is an instinct that says “If I tell her I will be even less safe than I already am” then use your own judgment about that.

If your mom isn’t the right person to start with, please tell somebody. I don’t know how old you are, anonymous internet searcher, but a school counselor or other adult you trust can be a good place to start. Also, here’s the National Domestic Violence Hotline number in the USA if you need to talk to someone anonymously at first. If you’re not in the USA, get on a computer your folks don’t have access to or open an incognito browser window and search for “domestic violence hotline” and your location.

8. “When a guy asks if you’re mad at him.”

Are you mad at him?

Were you even paying enough attention to be mad at him?

If you aren’t mad, and you weren’t really even paying attention, try “No, should I be?” if he asks you about it again?

9. “How best to deal with someone you care about but they are mean to you?”

Tell them to knock off the mean behavior, and avoid them until/unless they do.

10. “How to dump a guy you kissed once.”

A kiss is not a contract, so, try some version of: “I’ve enjoyed getting to know you but I don’t want to be romantically involved with you. So sorry, I wish you all the best, goodbye.

11. “What’s the meaning of ‘no thanks but nice to meet you’?”

One possible translation: “Thanks for hanging out/coming on this internet date today, I appreciate the effort that you took to wear a clean shirt and make small talk with a stranger, you seem nice enough, but we won’t be doing that again. Have a great life!

12. “How to deal with your Catholic parents who are insisting that you have your child baptized Catholic and you don’t want to do that.”

You got to choose this for your children, I get to choose for mine. Let’s find a new topic, please, or I’m going to have to hang up the phone/Grandbaby and I are gonna have to wrap up this visit for the day.

Be alert to the possibility they might take your child to be baptized anyway behind your back since apparently that’s a thing people do.

13. “How can I tell my boyfriend he smells like urine when I go down on him sometimes.”

Awkward Sex Rule: If you’re close enough to someone that you sometimes put your mouth on their parts, you’re close enough to say “Babe, let’s pick this up after a shower” or to go “hands only” if you don’t want to interrupt the action right then and/or to let him know at another time”Hey can you take special care to clean up down there before we get it on? It takes me out of the moment if things are funky.

14. “Write a letter to your friend with whom you had a quarrel, giving three reasons why you and him should resume your friendship.”

Three reasons?

Maybe try this:

Friend, I’m really sorry for [specific thing that led to quarrel and us not being friends anymore, WITHOUT making excuses or trying to justify it or explain further, ONLY apologizing]. I really miss our friendship and I hope we can talk again soon when you’re ready.” 

Send it out there, give the friend time and space, and see what happens. That’s all you can really do – all the reasons in the world won’t outweigh a sincere apology and sincere request to reconnect or convince someone who doesn’t want to be friends to come back.

15. “My boyfriend tells me to exercise and watch what I eat. It makes me feel horrible.”

Dump. Him.

16. “When bf doesnt want u to meet his friends.”

Dump. Him.

17. “How do you describe a relationship whereby you’re the only one forever reaching out for that person?”

One-sided? Unsatisfying? Soon-to-be-over?

18. “My boyfriend only cares about himself in bed.”

Dump. Him.

19. “Husband doesn’t like short dresses.”

Husband should only wear long dresses then, on his body i.e. the only body of which he is the boss.

20. “My old teacher doesn’t seem to remember me.”

Aw, that can be a really sucky feeling, but it happens. Your teacher has known a lot of students and it’s reasonable to think they might have trouble placing you especially if some time has passed. Gently remind said teacher that you enjoyed his or her class and take it from there.

21. “Korean boyfriend ghost dumped me.”

Getting dumped sucks, no matter how it happens. I’m so sorry. Remind yourself “He didn’t even care enough to tell me it was over” as a way to help yourself let go.

I would read a novel about a breakup with a Korean ghost-boyfriend.

22. “How to tell your boyfriend you don’t want to live together.”

“I prefer living alone.” “I don’t want us to live together.” “I’m not ready to live with you.” “Let’s not live together.” “I don’t see us living together.”

If he really wants to live with you, and you don’t want to live with him, there’s no magical way to deliver that news that won’t hurt his feelings or make him sad, but you gotta tell him so that you can both make good decisions about your relationship and living situation. People can have good relationships and live separately. Trust your instincts on this one and do not “try it out” if you aren’t feeling it.

23. “Dear Prudence sucks.”

She used to suck especially with regard to consent and sexual assaultNow she’s Mallory, and she’s pretty great.

24. “What do you do if your cousin passed away but you weren’t close.”

Consider sending a card to his parents and tell them you’re sorry for their loss. Greeting cards were invented for just this situation, you just have to sign your name at the bottom, and it will be a nice gesture of kindness to them.

25. What does the big relationship elephant in the room mean?

The “elephant in the room” is an idiom that refers to “the giant glaring problem that everyone is pretending not to see or talk about.” So this would be “the obvious problem in the relationship that we aren’t discussing for some reason.” Here’s hoping that it’s a cute baby elephant?

26. “How to stay informed politically without anxiety attack.”

I DON’T KNOW. I AM NOT DOING A GOOD JOB OF THIS. DID YOU SEE THE ELEPHANT VIDEO, THO?

27. Random shoutout to my friend Erin Lynn Jeffreys Hodges.

Hi! Hi! Hello!

This post brought to you by Patreon supporters. This also marks the opening of the 2017 Winter Pledge Drive where I gently shake the tip jar in the general direction of my wonderful audience. Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a Letter Writer to the blog, you are never obligated to update us. Use the advice that’s useful to you, ignore what isn’t useful, and go live your (hopefully) happy life where you are hopefully able to use your own bathroom whenever you want to. (This letter haunts me to this day and I really, really hope you are okay out there!). I don’t usually do updates although I love reading them at Ask A Manager partially because I never want to create a sense of obligation for Letter Writers.

That said, if you’d like to update people on how things are going since you wrote in, this thread is for you. You may want to try commenting from a different browser than you normally use or taking other steps to make sure you’re logged all the way out of WordPress to keep things anonymous.

Comment moderation note: If you are not updating us about a past letter, this is a good time to either stick to “Yay for you!!” comments or hang back and just read. Talking directly to Letter Writers in a thread you know for a fact that they are reading and participating in is a little different from commenting on the situation in general. People don’t owe us updates, they don’t owe us the decision that you would have made or advised, they don’t owe us a happy ending, they don’t owe us a breakup or the whole new lease on life that we rooted for. If they are generous enough to share how things are going now, hey definitely don’t need deluged with more advice or to have their decisions picked apart. You can hear the ending to the story OR you can be right about everything and today we’re only about the stories. Good? Good.

:chinhands:

Let’s do this.

 

Readers! Especially Readers Who Are Also Writers! Here is a blog you might want to know about:

Longtime Awkwardeer Rose Fox has started an advice site for writers called Story Hospital. Every week Rose answers a question from a writer who’s struggling with a work in progress or with writing in general. The site’s tagline is “Heal your relationship with your writing” and it reads a lot like a relationship advice column, with a balanced mix of writing tips and deeper analysis of what leads writers to feel blocked, anxious, or uncertain about their work. So far the site has covered being your own muse, writing peer-reviewed papers while feeling overwhelmed by academia, patching plot holes in novels, and figuring out when to let go of a script draft that’s just not working out, among many other topics relevant to both fiction and nonfiction writers. The site is supported by Patreon and patrons get cool perks, including inspirational postcards and access to a priority question queue. Rose has been a professional writer, editor, and book reviewer for 20 years and is overflowing with great advice. Take a look at their site, and if you’re having trouble with writing of any kind, ask them a question!

WordPress has changed the way that it displays these, but I have remembered to periodically collect the good ones. Let us now answer the search strings that people typed in to find this blog as if they are actual questions in the traditional way.

1) What does “I told you its over between us” mean

Rough translation: It is over between you, and the person would like you to stop doing whatever it is that you’re doing (calling them, hanging about, inviting them to stuff) because they want their relationship with you to be past tense.

2) My UK wife opens the front door naked

Sure she does.

On the off chance that this is a question and not a fantasy, a) does it bug you b) have there been strange consequences, like, with delivery people or neighbors c) have you tried asking why she does it?

3) When he criticizes your dress

“He” is being a jerk.

4) How to seduce a girl with chats

I don’t give seduction advice, but let me try to help you out at least a little bit:

Make friends with spelling and grammar and you will set yourself apart. Remember that dirty talk is fraught with peril and that one person’s sexting is another person’s staged reading of hilarious things out loud to their friends. Pay attention to what that particular girl likes and take your cues from her.

5) He mistreats me but his family loves me what can I do.

Mistreatment is never ok. I hope you can get away from him.

6) Boyfriend trying to make me better

Better, as in, no longer sick with the flu? Or some flavor of “improved” as a person?

One of these is acceptable. Hint: It’s the one that involves rest, broth, and marathoning Slings & Arrows.

7) How can u win a girl u love but have never met

Meet her and get to know her. Tell her you’re interested in her, but hold off on talk of “love” until you actually know her – that’s kind of intense out of the gate and it doesn’t work the way it does in movies. See what she says about that.

8) What does it mean when you only talk to someone when you’re sad

This may not apply to you, but one of the most common letters I get is a version of “Someone I care about is going through something really hard, and I want to be there for them, but I feel like their unpaid 24-7 therapist and it’s way too much for me. But I’m afraid that if I disengage, they will take it very hard because they don’t have anyone else to talk to.” Even people with the best of intentions can fall into unbalanced patterns and habits of communication. It’s great to have willing sounding boards and crying-shoulders who have your back in a crisis, but maybe re-evaluate this dynamic a little bit and call/text/chat/see this person when you are in better spirits sometimes. Seek out a therapist or counselor who is trained to really absorb and work with your sad feelings, or try a daily ritual of dumping your negative thoughts into a journal. See if you can leave some of your problems there so that you can be more present for your friend and have more reciprocity in your relationship with them.

9) My wife like to call me captain

Aye aye

10) Roommate repeatedly enters my room without permission

Animated gif of a girl riding an octopus and saying "nope!"

Install a lock. Say, “I do not want you to ever go into my room.” Start looking for a new roommate if this is not respected.

11) How to reply to a compliment from a friend

“Thank you” is the simplest and the most common/expected response.

“Please don’t compliment my appearance, it makes me uncomfortable” if you’re at work and it makes you uncomfortable.

12) How do you handle someone who invites others to your party without your permission

Tell them bluntly, “It’s not cool for you to invite people to my party without my permission, at least ask me!”

If they apologize and understand why you are upset, issue solved. If they try to explain to you why it’s not a big deal, don’t invite them to things anymore.

13) I’m not interested stranger facebook

If a stranger messages me on Facebook with anything remotely flirtatious –an overabundance of compliments, “I’d love to get to know u”, or most hilariously “hey” (as in, ‘I have done the work by reaching out, now, entertain me, woman!’), I don’t say I’m not interested. I skip straight to “Block.” In my experience, any attempt to say “Hey, do I know you/you’re coming on kinda strong” just leads to an annoying conversation where they get super-mad at me for not wanting to listen to their sales pitch. YMMV.

14) Become ambidextrous

Now you have me Googling this. Science seems to say “don’t.”

15) Sex with my captain

If you are in the armed forces having sex with someone in your chain of command is a very bad idea and could lead to career consequences for both of you.

16) When you see the real person and they are mean and 17) Someone whom always make u feel like shit

Disengage from them. Spend time with people who make you feel good.

She’s so good.

“But you know what? Some guys are funny and supportive and caring but they still don’t love you the way you want to be loved. They might be perfectly wonderful to spend time with, but there’s a point where too much wishy-washy nothingness, too much going with the flow, too much “Let’s wait and see,” adds up to an empty feeling in the pit of your stomach. You don’t know what to do about it, so instead of throwing a fit or walking out the door, you become someone who exists in the margins, someone who can tuck herself into the background and make do with whatever leftovers come her way.”