Behind a cut for emotional abuse.
Behind a cut for controlling and emotionally abusive behavior. Read More
It’s time for that thing we do, where we use the search strings people typed in to find this place as if they were questions.
First, as is traditional, a song:
1 “How to encourage husband to make friends.”
The subtext runs deep with this one, does it not? Like, where is problem originating? Is husband lonely and wanting to branch out socially and doesn’t quite know how? Is the husband treating the querent like his entire social world/cruise director/people-ing facilitator? (It happens). Is the husband fine being not very social but the querent is feeling squashed or mismatched here? (It also happens.) Did he ask for help?
I guess I would say that finding Our People is a lifelong project but Our People should not themselves be our projects. If the husband wants to make some more friends, he presumably has all the same resources that other people use to meet each other (MeetUp, hobbies, pubs, churches, sports, community theater/music, trivia night, political activism, volunteering) and all the modes of communication & social media people use to get in touch with friends from other phases of life at his disposal.
If a spouse wants to be supportive of this friendmaking effort, doing what you can to make sure there is time & money & space available for what he does want to do (“Sure, we can have a couple people over for dinner this weekend!” “Sure, go have fun! I’m gonna do my own thing tonight!” “Sure, I’ll be the designated driver, text me 20 minutes out and I’ll pick you up. Can you do the same for me on Thursday?” “Go ahead and take that art class on Saturday mornings, we’ll find the money.” etc.) is a pretty good place to start. Otherwise, he’s gotta take the lead and do the work, he’s not a toddler that you arrange play dates for or a dog you drop off at doggy day care. Also, in this process, make sure you don’t neglect your own friendships & social connections. These don’t all have to be shared.
2 “He just moved closer and now I want to break up.”
It happens. It sucks. I’m telling a story about it in Chicago this Friday.
With proximity, you have information that you didn’t have before. Be compassionate, be honest, be free.
3 “Breaking up because geography.”
Sometimes that’s a really good reason.
4 “Is it selfish to break up with my boyfriend bc I want to experience other people?”
Breaking up before the “experiencing other people” part might be the best order of operations if that’s what you want to do. I’m sure that’s not an easy decision, but what if you could make decisions about what you want without calling yourself names in the process?
5 “captain awkward how to dump someone”
- You can have a face-to-face conversation, you can use a phone call or a text or a letter if that’s what you need to do to be safe.
- Communicating your decision is more important than explaining your reasons. You don’t have to build an airtight legal argument that they agree with to leave someone.
- Own the decision. “I’ve decided to break up.” “My feelings have changed.” “This is the right decision for me.”
- If they ask for reasons, that’s ok – that doesn’t make them bad people! – but you’re not a management consultant pointing out flaws in their operation, maybe you don’t have to list the complete list of their liabilities for them in a vulnerable and hurtful moment. It’s okay to say “You didn’t do anything wrong, but my feelings changed and I know I would be happier alone.”
- Don’t pressure the other person to stay friends with you and don’t feel like if you say “ok yes let’s be friends” that you’ve made an ironclad agreement that can never be revisited. Friendship is its own unique thing, not a holding pen for all the people we don’t want to kiss.
- Have an aftercare plan for yourself – something where you get alone time, or see friends or family, and have space to feel sad or relieved or whatever it is you feel.
- If they need comforting about the breakup, you don’t have to be the one who fills that role.
6 “Hi dad mom died sex”
Whatever word association game is being played here, I want out.
7 “Mum got angry at me but idk why and she wont tell me or even talk to me.”
There’s no fair way to play this game your mom is playing, so, DON’T TRY. If she won’t tell you why she’s mad, give her a wide berth. Let her silence be a gift to you instead of the abusive burden she intends. She has choices about how to communicate with you. She is making a bad one.
8 “How to tell friends you can’t afford to go out for expensive dinners.”
9 “My grandparents hate my tattoos.”
Your grandparents are entitled to their opinions but not to be jerks about it.
You are entitled to do what you will with your own body.
Sometimes a cheerful “well, good thing it’s not your body!” response works to cut down on the comments, and sometimes the sincere discussion works, i.e. “Grandparents, given that it’s my body and the tattoos are already here and not going anywhere, what are you hoping for when you comment on them that way? Do you really want our relationship to be about these tattoos you don’t like, or could we find a way to just be kind to each other?”
10 “I’m scared my parents are gonna catch me stealing their Adderall.”
Well, yeah! Stealing another person’s prescription medication is illegal and wrong. It’s dangerous for you. It’s bad for them – your parents have that prescription for a reason, and if you’re stealing their pills they aren’t getting the medication they need. If you need evaluated for ADHD and to possibly be on your own medication, then ask your parents to help you do that. But stop stealing their drugs, please!
11 “Am I a selfish bitch for wanting more money?”
What if you could name the things you wanted without calling yourself mean names?
12 “Hinting that you want to get invited to someone’s house.”
Hinting doesn’t work. Try inviting these people to your house if you want to spend time with them, and if it really is about being inviting to something in particular just say it: “Next time you’re all playing badminton while wearing fancy hats, if you have room for me I’d love to join you.” Then withdraw. You’ve said your thing.
13 “Best response to someone who is seeking for a relationship from you.”
Hands down, the truth about what you want is probably best.
14 “Are grandmas always right about your gender?”
Not if their ideas about your gender conflict with what you know to be true about yourself!
15 “Why is my mom mad at me for taking a better job?”
IDK, but she’s not the one who has to work there, so your opinion is probably the important one here.
16 “How do you get your husband to set boundaries with his parents?”
He may or may not ever learn to do this and you can’t control that. So, you set boundaries with him, and with yourself. Basically “Husband, your relationship with your parents is yours to manage, but this is what I need from you to be happy and okay, so if your parents cross certain lines, I’m going to speak up and/or absent myself and let you deal with it.”
17 “My boyfriend is always counseling me.”
“Hey dude, if I want a therapist I’ll hire one.”
“Hey dude, if you want to be a therapist so bad, go be one!”
“Hey dude, even if you were a therapist, you couldn’t be my therapist, so stop.”
18 “Best friend wants to be roommates but she’s too messy.”
Tell her “Friend, I love you so much, but I don’t want to cross those streams. I think we would stress each other out a lot if we lived together.” It doesn’t have to be a judgment on her, just, people will be happier living with people with similar definitions of clean when they are signing up to share housing. Knowing this about yourself is a good thing, decide accordingly.
19 “How to friendzone a guy you led on.”
First step, RETHINK EVERYTHING ABOUT HOW YOU ARE DESCRIBING THIS. If we rewrite your whole question to “I wasn’t sure how I felt about this person, so I flirted with them, but now I’m pretty sure I just want to be friends, how do I let them know” we remove all the sexist assumptions that you owed your friend a certain outcome here.
Maybe try “I know we’ve been talking/flirting/kind of considering getting involved romantically, but I’m only interested in being friends.”
Then, stop flirting (it’s the kind thing to do), and give the person a little space to process and decide if they want to be friends, too. You are not being mean when you do this, you are giving them true information that will help them make a good decision about what to do next. Friendship is not a consolation prize or a holding pen where we herd the people we don’t want to make out with, it’s its own valuable thing.
20 “What should I tell him I’m doing this weekend.”
A) Whatcha doing this weekend and B) Is it something you want him to know?
It’s the difference between “Oh, I’m busy with this and that, you know” and “I’ve got family coming into town, here is our detailed itinerary of fun!” and “I didn’t schedule anything in particular, why do you ask?” and “I’m going to the art museum on Friday, wanna join?” All are perfectly acceptable answers.
21 “Best response to ‘what are you looking for’ on Tinder.”
What are you looking for?
- “I want to go to the comic book store and we’ll each pick out a comic for the other person.”
- “I want to put on old soul records and make out a little bit but keep pants on at least the first time we meet up.”
- “I want to come to your house and pretend that we’ll watch a movie.”
- “I want to eat pancakes at midnight and talk about books.”
- “I want to vanquish you at Scrabble.”
- “I want to have one awesome night of no-strings-attached sex and then probably never see you again.”
- “I want some cuddles and some good conversation but I’m not really about Teh Sex. Any fellow aces out here?”
- “I want to throw a two person dance party in my basement, please bring disco ball.”
- “I want to eat tacos and fuck.”
- “I want to fall in love someday and not pretend that’s not what I’m after.”
- “I want to play Dungeons & Dragons, but, you know, sexy.”
- “I want to recapture a night from 1997, where we go see The English Patient and then close down one bar after another until we end up watching the sun rise from your car parked outside my house. I will provide costumes.”
- “I need a cool extrovert to be my date to this swanky event and help me make small talk.”
- “I need henchmen for my world domination plans, please submit application.”
- “I’ve always wanted to build a pillow fort and then spend a whole Saturday in it in my pajamas. U up?”
- “I signed up for this nonrefundable blacksmithing class with my ex and now I don’t want to go by myself. Any recently broken-up people out there want to learn a cool skill with me?”
- “I never dated before and I want to try it out.”
- “I’m in your city for the weekend for a work trip and I’d love it if someone who lives here would show me around. Can I buy you dinner at your favorite local spot?”
- “Look this theater subscription isn’t going to use itself.”
What if instead of trying to find something that would be widely & generally appealing, you just got really specific about what you would actually like to do with a couple of free hours in the company of a new person?
22 “Can you pay someone in blood?”
Wait. What did you buy on Vampire eBay?
By request, behind a cut with a content note for past suicidal ideation (that is resolved & the person is safe/ok now).
Time for the monthly tradition where we answer the things people typed into search engines as if they are questions.
Before we get to it, it’s Pledge Drive Time! Twice a year, winter and summer, I interrupt our usual programming to remind folks that fun stuff like the Search Terms posts and the Friday short answers are funded by my kind and generous patrons and readers who support the site via PayPal and other ways. These donations allow me to keep the blog ad-free, invest substantial time in maintaining the community, reading the mailbox, and moderating comments, devote time to answering questions and writing new content, pay guest writers, and keep us functioning as an independent site. This year I’m trying to pull back on teaching and be a full-time writer, and your support is necessary and much appreciated for the care and feeding of me & my family. Please make a donation or become a patron if you can. Every little bit helps. (If you can’t afford to, don’t worry ’bout a thing, I’m glad you are here and reading.)
As is traditional, let’s begin with a song to set the mood. Lyrics here :
Scarleteen, that national treasure, has a guide for adults who want to help young people learn to handle romantic rejection with more grace (and less violence). Their “big five” principles for adults when talking to teens about their romantic and sexual lives and identities are also awesome reading.
Speaking of national treasures, here’s a perfect breakup anthem by The Womack Sisters (daughters of Cecil & Linda aka Womack & Womack, nieces of Bobby, and grandkids of Sam Cooke):
Dear Captain Awkward,
I’ve been seeing my therapist twice a month for about five years. I got lucky in finding the right person for me – at the time – on my first try, and he’s helped me through severe depression and anxiety as well as dealing with a lot of the underlying causes of same.
For the past six months or so I’ve been feeling like our sessions are not productive. I am in much, much better mental and emotional health than those first couple of years, I’m well beyond crisis, but I still have several issues I want to work on and the responses I’m getting from him are…disengaged.
Whereas before he was helping me work through tough stuff, roleplaying difficult conversations, pushing me to socialize more (world-class introvert here), even giving me homework between sessions, now I get bordering-on-snide comments like “ya think” and “oh really” and “I’ve already given you clues about where to start”. He also checks his phone at least once per session and has even taken a personal call once during a session. Clearly he’s no longer invested.
Yesterday I went to my session with two specific things I wanted to discuss, thinking perhaps I needed to be more focused instead of falling into the “vent about how stressful work is” habit that’s marked the last few months. Even though I told him outright that I wanted to work on these two things, I got very little useful feedback. Honestly, I think I need to see a female therapist because what I want to work on now, I don’t think he can relate to (he’s a straight white male in his 60s).
One of the issues he and I have been working on pretty much from the beginning is knowing when to let go of a person or situation or thing. Well, I think I need to let him go and find someone else to help me through the next set of issues. But…how do I do this? As you can probably guess, confrontation is not my strong suit but social awkwardness is. Scripts and roleplaying are very helpful for unfamiliar or difficult situations.
[insert clever alliterative name]
P.S. I did a search on the site but didn’t find this particular question. If it is there and I missed it, I apologize.
School/life has been kicking my ass this semester and I am really behind on search terms posts, friends. Let’s make up for lost time!
1 “I feel like I have said too much”
You are in the right place!
2 “Boyfriend won’t take showers”
Try bluntness. “Please take a shower, babe, you don’t smell so great.”
3 “My new partner has a filthy toilet”
Try bluntness, again. “Hey, this is awkward, but can you clean the toilet at your place?”
The longer you let stuff like no showering or a sketchy toilet go, the longer it bothers you, and the more awkward the eventual conversation gets.
4 “Guy doesn’t want a relationship because of depression”
Guy doesn’t want a relationship. Hope he gets some help for the depression and transfer your time and attention to a different guy or (better yet!) your badass self.
5 “Boyfriend is a MRA/My husband is a men’s rights activist”
(+ many more variations of this)
I hate saying “he is lost to you” but HE IS. Get yourself safe and far away as soon as you can.
6 “How to get the girl from long distance”
Ask the girl if she wants to be with you.
7 “My husband tells me I’m socially inept”
You might have a social awkwardness problem. You definitely have a mean husband problem.
8 “My bf makes fun of mental disorders”
Try bluntness: “Stop making gross ‘jokes’ about mental illness.” If he won’t, make him your ex-boyfriend.
9 “What effect on a new relationship does ‘getting intimate too fast’ have.”
If you’re asking about “when is it ok to have sex” my answer is “Whenever it seems like a good idea to both you and the prospective other person.”
One reason I advise going slow in getting to know someone and watching out for people who escalate relationships very quickly is that sometimes unsuitable people do this deliberately so you’ll be too high on orgasms and love notes to stop and evaluate a) whether they are really a good fit for you and b) whether the idealized picture they present in early dating is congruent with who they really are. The Dirty John podcast & article series (which gets allllllllll the warnings for stalking, violence) is a good cautionary tale about ignoring a lot of warning signals and outright lies because the feeling of being in love with someone who is so focused on you is so powerful.
10 “Boyfriend wants a love triangle with ex”
Hope boyfriend enjoys that love segment that he and ex are about to be in, minus you.
11 “How to respond to “you’re not my dad” from a 30 year old roommate”
“No, I’m not your dad and I don’t want to be, which is why reminding you to [do household chore][pay the cable bill][keep your mess in your room] is equally annoying to me! Can you just do the thing please? We’ll both be happier.”
12 “46 years old and my mom gives me the silent treatment”
The silent treatment is cruel and abusive. The only way to really fight it is to take the silence of an abusive person as a gift they are giving you. Your mom wants you to bow and scrape and ask her what you did wrong and chase her approval and attention. What if you didn’t do any of that, and just decided, hey, that’s her problem? If you’ve never worked with a therapist, this is a good time/issue.
13 “My family hates my bf because he hit me”
I mean…yeah? Do you get that this is a pretty reasonable position on your family’s part? Instead of trying to change your family’s mind about this guy, I hope you can work on getting yourself free of him.
Here’s a short film by a father and a daughter about her high school relationship with a boy who abused her. It is painful to watch (again, all the content warnings apply) but they made it to help people who have been there, or prevent others from going there.
14 “Coworker wears tons of makeup”
That’s your coworker’s face, not your face, ergo you are not the boss of it ergo nunya beeswax.
15 “How to reject short notice invites”
You can just say “Sorry, can’t make it” on a case by case basis, but if it’s a recurring thing with a person you really like, maybe try “I’d love to, but with my schedule I need more lead time to plan. Can we plan something for [future date] instead?”
16 “Do I have to extend an invite every fucking time Captain Awkward”
Apparently you do? If you’re always the person who does the inviting, it’s okay to pull back if you don’t have the energy for it, and tell the other person “Hey, can you make the plans next time? I’m a little burnt out on doing the inviting, but I do like seeing you.”
17 “Is it a disservice to give someone else your junk”
Most of the time, probably!
18 “Thank you for letting me know the decision and good lick to you”
Good lick to you!
19 “How to react if boyfriend wants to fix you”
“If I want a life coach I’ll hire one.”
20 “11 reasons why you should be bummed about missing big guava”
I’m guava-neutral, but, tell me more?
21 “He’s still on the dating app after a month/I know he loves me but he’s still online/Why is he still on the dating site/Why is his dating profile still active”
There is one person in the world who knows the answer to each of these questions, and that is the “he” in the equation. Could be he forgot to delete it. Could be he’s keeping his options open. Only one way to find out!
Step 1: You’ll need the head of a creepy doll, a bundle of hot chili peppers, any piece of political campaign literature stolen from a recycling bin, the grossest leftovers from the back of the fridge (something green is best), and glass of a refreshing beverage of your choice.
Step 2: Gather these items and bury them at the crossroads during the dark of the moon. Or, don’t gather any of these things – they don’t really matter, except for the beverage.
Step 3: Drink the beverage so your throat isn’t scratchy. Then ask the dude what’s up and tell him where your head and heart are at with this whole thing. For a new relationship, try “Hey, I’m thinking about taking my dating profile down – I’m really happy with how things are going with us and I want to see where this goes without the distraction of dating other people. What do you think about that?” For a more committed relationship, it gets a bit more awkward & blunt, right? “Hey, I thought we were in a committed relationship – is there a reason you’re on dating sites that I should know about?” See what he says. See if it washes. Talk about what you want from a relationship and see if y’all want the same things. See if you’re on the same timeline for figuring all that out. And if you haven’t already, please make sure you have those awkward, important talks about safer sex practices and STI testing if that’s something that affects you & this relationship. Sometimes you gotta be awkward in the name of protecting yourself!
I’ve found myself in a really damn sticky situation. I’m polyamorous. I just recently told my partner, we’ve been together for 18 months this June, we’re engaged, and we have a kid together. (For anonymity, I’ll be referring to my partner as Darin and our son as Ash.) I love Darin, and I love our son, before they came along, I didn’t know that kind of love was possible. I want to grow old with them. But I’ve recently figured out I’m polyamorous, and I told Darin, and he had said, ‘If you wanna go out with other people you do realise that we’d break up, right?’ And obviously, that’s the last thing that I want. But I feel really strongly that if I don’t explore my polyamoury, I’m doing myself a disservice. I feel like some part of me is saying, ‘You have to do this, if you don’t, you’re killing yourself.’ And there’s this guy, who I’ll refer to as Fireball, who I like and who likes me, and I did our natal chart for compatibility and we’re basically made for each other, unlike me and Darin’s which was 3/4 negativity and challenge.
My question is really, I feel like I need to do something about my polyamoury, like if I don’t, I feel like my Soul is dying, but my partner isn’t cool with it, and I have no idea what to do.
–I Don’t Want to be a B*tch to My Fiancé
I spend most of my tender youth in an abusive relationship that really fucked with my sense of what is normal. I’ve had lots of therapy to come to terms with it but honestly, I think at this point that it’s just going to be something I have to deal with for the rest of my life, so there isn’t really a “when I’m better” timeline I can look forward to. And yeah, that sucks, but I’m handling it as best I can. That’s not what I’m writing to you about.
After that relationship, and a couple of flings here and there, I met with a wonderful man I’ll call John. I originally intended to keep it casual but John was just such a lovely person that I quickly found I didn’t actually want that. He deserves a whole heart, and I wanted to offer it to him, so we got serious.
John was patient, understanding, supportive, honest, and loving to me. I tried my best to skirt the line of caring deeply for him and trying to protect myself from flinging into the terrifying bottomless pit of love without restraint that ate me alive before, and I don’t think I completely succeeded, because after about a year of dating he dumped me. It was a few things. I wasn’t as emotionally available as he deserved, he wasn’t as upfront about his insecurities as I deserved, and there was a maturity mismatch (John is a little bit younger than me, and I’m jaded as all fuck). He also said he had a “list of pros and cons” about dating me that just… does not compute in my head. I just can’t think that way, so his words on it really cut me deeply. We parted with a lot of crying and hugs, but I think he was right, and it was for the best.
The problem is this: I miss John terribly. I think I might still be in love with him because after all that I still can’t think of anything substantially negative to say about him. And he asked me if we can get together for coffee. I know closure is a myth, but mostly-healthy non-abusive humans can be happily friends with their exes, right? (Please tell me that’s right.)
Part of me is terrified that one look at that suave grin of his will have me head over heels all over again. Part of me is certain that there’s nothing he can say that will get me to hook up with him again. Part of me thinks that even thinking about it is just a terrible idea altogether. And part of me wants to prove to myself that I’m not unlovable, that I’m not destined to make every ex hate me forever, and that I can stop fucking someone and still be good enough to be cared about.
So…. how do I know when/if I’m ready to see him again?
How do I human? (She/her)