Oh yeah. You read that right. Putting this one behind a cut.
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.
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?
Spoiler note: I reject this “boyfriend,” and all his works, and all his empty promises, and all his creeping on young women destroying their self-esteem.
Dear Captain Awkward,
I’ve been seeing the same guy for almost two years now. We met when I was living in Colorado, shortly after we met I moved away, and our relationship there wasn’t ever really too serious, but I feel like both of us felt that we wanted it to grow stronger, so when I moved away we continued to see each other and have a long distance relationship, but we aren’t truly in a relationship because he says he doesn’t want to claim me as his girlfriend until I am 21. He is 29 and I am 19. I know that is quite an age difference, but I am very mature for my age, and I feel like he acts more as if he is 24/25 than a 29 year old. So after going to visit him in Colorado a few times, I actually found out that the first time I went back to see him he had a girlfriend, this really upset me because I felt lied to and betrayed, but he thought it would make me feel special to know that he cheated on his girlfriend to be with me. They ended up breaking up right after I saw him, and that was that.
Besides telling me that we can’t be together until I’m 21, he also tells me he can’t be with a girl who doesn’t have, in his words, “a perfect ass”, so he constantly is harassing me about going to the gym and working out, he will check in with me and asked if I worked out today, which is really upsetting to me because, I eat very healthy and I go to the gym daily, and it is because I like being healthy and feeling good about myself. I am not overweight or out of shape by any means, I’m [height and weight redacted by Captain A.], I wouldn’t call that out of shape, but he constantly is harassing me about the way I look. It is so bad that I don’t even want to show him my body because he always has something negative to say. The things he has said to me have really hurt my self esteem, and make me feel like I am not good enough in his eyes. He will say terrible things about my body and my looks but then the next day tell me how beautiful I am. It is hard for me to understand.
When I get upset at him for critizing my body and putting me down he will tell me I need to toughen up and that he is only trying to make me better, but it’s not because he is worried about my health, it is because he wants me to look a certain way, like some model he sees online. He has even said to me, “I see other girls and I just want to f–k them”..I just don’t know how you say that to someone you love, and he says he’s just being honest, and that he’s a guy and every guy I meet will think that about other girls. Bottom line is, he just makes me feel terrible about my looks, and I wonder will I ever find a guy who can love someone that has all of the flaws he points out in me, I know I will never be a bikini model, but I am in very good shape, and he acts like he is a bodybuilder or something, meanwhile he doesn’t even have a gym membership, eat healthy, or go to the gym on a daily basis. I have never, and would never try to change him, even though he is 29, doesn’t have a job and has no clue what he is doing with his life, I always encourage him and tell him he will figure things out. I never bring him down, or make him feel bad about himself, and he will say the only reason I don’t is because I think he is so perfect already, and it’s not that, it’s just that I love him for who he is and all of his flaws or imperfections make him who he is..I just really don’t know what to do anymore. He also, came to Florida, where I live now and went on a cruise with another girl, before I found this out he told me he was coming to Florida to visit me, but around this time he told me he met someone else and he never really loved me, that we were just friends,and that maybe one day if I was in better shape we could be together, so I was confused as to why he was coming to see someone he felt this way about, then the day before he came he told me the real reason he was coming to Florida was to go on a cruise with another girl, and he wanted to see me after..After that I blocked his number, but ended up forgiving him a week or two later. But even after all that he still disrespected me and treated me poorly when this should’ve been a time he was amazing to me.
I asked him if I could spend New Year’s and go to a concert with him and he told me I didn’t look good enough to be seen with him there..but Later on he said he needed me there and was so happy I came. I just cannot keep being put down so harshly, by the one person that is supposed to bring me up, I just don’t understand what is wrong with him, or what is wrong with me. obviously he can be good, and sweet to me and we have had some amazing times together, which is why I love him, but hearing him say such hurtful things makes me question his love for me. I just don’t know what to do.
Dear Lovely Letter Writer,
Your email subject line was “Does my boyfriend actually love me?”
No. He doesn’t. He may say that he does, or have feelings inside his head that he calls “love,” but the way he treats you isn’t how love works.
Is this the kind of treatment you want from a boyfriend?
Are you okay with it when he criticizes your body and makes you feel ugly?
Are you okay with him constantly lying about his relationships with other girls and women?
Do you think that “girlfriend” is a role that you must constantly audition for and prove you deserve? Over the course of multiple years? At the cost of your well-being and self-esteem?
I don’t have any scripts that will make him behave better or turn into the boyfriend you need and deserve. He won’t ever change or stop these asshole behaviors. He has been grooming you since you were 17 to accept his warped version of love and what your body should look like and how people treat other people (and he likely grooms and mistreats all his other “not quite girlfriends” too). He is an emotionally abusive asshole who picks on you to make himself feel better.
You end your letter with: “I just don’t know what to do.”
You DO know what to do and you already tried to do it (block him forever). You just gotta make it stick this time, and I’d love to help you do that.
Right now, you could text him and say “I am breaking up with you, goodbye.”
Then (also right now), you could block him on all possible forms of communication and delete his number from your phone. It doesn’t matter what he thinks or feels or says – once you decide to break up, it’s over.
Then, you could let yourself get really, really angry about how he’s treated you.
Next, imagine your ex-boyfriend as a flat piece of paper.
I want you to mentally crumple that piece of paper.
Make it really tiny and dense.
Did you crumple it? Can you feel it crushed very tight inside your fist?
Dear Captain Awkward,
My boyfriend and me have been planning to find a place together for 6 months now. He’s an amazing guy, he’s smart, funny, he understands most of the things I say, I always felt like he was a very reliable person and I know him for 8 years now. We’ve only been together for a little more than a year though.
I’m 35 and while I’ve got my own place and I’ve been working for a while, I haven’t been able to save anything so far. Only very recently has my income gone up enough for me to be able to afford things. My boyfriend is 27 and he inherited a lot of money years ago. Before we started having a relationship he used a good share of that to take a year off from work. The rest he started using when we started meeting. He blew a lot of money on clothes and since we don’t live in the same country on flights and transport. As did I.
In September 2015 we decided to move in together summer 2016. I told him I may not have the money to fix my old place and move things over to his country and pay half the rent and a deposit at the same time. He said he’ll cover it, whatever it takes. Since then I’ve been saving.
Sometime last year he ran out of extra money. He said he wanted to save in 2016. It’s April now and he hasn’t saved a cent. He said he wanted to sell some personal belongings but that hasn’t happened either. Additional money from his birthday (that was left after buying what he really wanted) was instead invested in a Kindle because he took up reading.
I handed in my resignation and my boss and me are currently looking for someone to fill my spot. By the end of July I’ll be jobless and would need to move in with either my mom or his mom if things don’t work out. We need to find a place for the end of June.
He says he’ll save enough in the next 2 months and it’s all going to be okay. I told him I’m extremely worried and he said he can’t do anything but reassure me that we’ll be fine right now. I really want to trust him, but this is my life and I’m starting to think he doesn’t quite know what he’s doing or he doesn’t do well with money or maybe he just doesn’t really want to commit. Mentioning his leftover birthday money simply got me a “Am I not entitled to use my birthday money as I please?”.
In the past 8 years I’ve never seen him not commit to things he wanted to do. He is very high on my list of people I would absolutely rely on, but this situation scares the shit out of me.
Dear Really Scared:
I recommend that you un-quit your job ASAP and do whatever you can to secure your own financial well-being. More to follow.
Dear Captain Awkward,
I’m a young lady of 23 years old. I am a supervisor at my job and make decent money. I have my own apartment which I acquired and pay for completely on my own.
My boyfriend of 2 years lives with me. I love him dearly. When we moved in together we made an agreement. Since I work 50+ hours a week, he would do the house work. He agreed. I admit that I’m a bit of a clean freak. My mom is OCD and so I’m used to a very clean house.
It’s been a couple months now. He doesn’t clean.
I used to write down specific things on our white board for him to do (because else he wouldn’t do anything???) and I talked to him about it. I asked him if he needed the direction or if it felt like I was micromanaging. He responded that he liked it and would appreciate it if I continued to do so. So I made a list for the week, made it simple and not over the top trying to keep in mind my cleaning standards, and made it easy by narrowing it down to a room a day (apartment isn’t very big). That way it’s less work for me, and he knows exactly what is expected.
He still ignores it. I find this extremely frustrating and disrespectful. He doesn’t currently work or go to school. I tried to explain to him my frustration, explaining that when he doesn’t clean it is upsetting to me because of a. Our agreement and b. I feel he is disrespecting all that I have worked so hard for. I clean when I’m home, I clean on my days off. Everyday when I get off at 11pm I make dinner and I also make breakfast. This isn’t too big of a deal because I like to cook. But if I’m cooking and cleaning and paying, I find myself wondering why he lives with me?
Whenever I bring up our agreement and explain that I’m starting to feel frustrated he always turns it around on me for some other injustice I have done him.
Please help, I feel like I’m babysitting and micromanaging, even if he doesn’t. Which is also something I have tried talking to him about.
How can I help him understand that I don’t want to be his mom and direct him all the time? And how do I explain to him the importance of chores because the direction he has asked for is not helping?
I’m not that bad of a neat freak
Dear I’m Not That Bad Of A Neat Freak:
I think the only way your boyfriend will “understand” any of this is if you ask him to move out. More to follow.
O Captain, my Captain.
I am sort of shocked at what I am writing you, as I’ve never had anything like this happen to me. I have a 34-year-old woman, and was in a long-distance relationship with a 37-year-old man until a few weeks ago. Then? After our first fight (over the phone), which I thought was fairly minor really, he disappeared. No calls, no texts, email, Facebook, smoke signals. I contacted his best friend to make sure he is still ALIVE – he is – he has just stopped communicating with me altogether. Has he broken up with me? Does he actually plan on resurfacing? I don’t know. But what I think you should know is that we have known each other for 20 years, making this behavior even more cruel.
Here’s how it started: we met in high school. I was basically in puppy love with him until he graduated (nothing happened), and then my first year of college or so, we spent time together. We didn’t have sex but we were intimate. That ended when I found out he was seeing someone else (which was fair, as we’d never discussed being exclusive) so I went my own way, feelings hurt. Then he moved far away, and we exchanged letters, and basically, we’ve kept in touch for the last 20 years. Often, we’ll be in town (the small town we grew up in) at the same time, and we usually drive around and talk and talk and talk. Once, we checked into a motel, watched TV, and kissed. But it never happened again.
This past Christmas, I knew I liked him and was tired of all the dancing around, so we consummated our relationship, if you know what I mean. I spent the next few days with him, and when I left for New York, I made it known that I would come visit him in the Midwest. And I did, several times. It was always just beyond wonderful and lovely and I really thought I loved him, although it was too early (?) to say that, so I didn’t. He did all sorts of nice things for me as well. One thing that concerned me about him, however, was that he hasn’t really worked at all in five years, although he has skills, and he isn’t trying to. He’s dead broke and refuses to work. But. Love!
So, the disappearance. I’ve taken it.. badly. I have basically been using his text box as an empty Word file, and I keep texting him – almost like I’m talking to myself. ALL I NEED is for him to tell me WHY he disappeared, WHY it won’t work out, WHAT is wrong with him, is he upset? What? And he WON’T EVEN GIVE ME THAT. It’s just cruel.
So it’s been three weeks now. Every few days I call him, hoping that this will be the time that he answers the phone and tells me JUST WHAT THE F HAPPENED.
And he never picks up.
About My Disappearance
I’m in an extremely delicate situation that I don’t know how to navigate – I hope you can help me.
About a year and a half ago, I realized I was neither in love with nor physically attracted to my boyfriend any more, but being afraid I’d hurt him, I put off breaking up with him for another six months. By the time I mustered up the courage to talk to him about this, feelings had been hurt, he had got depressed and failed his thesis twice. He told me that I needed to stay in the relationship for another semester until he tries to graduate again, to undo the damage I had done, otherwise his life would be ruined. Knowing that I had made a terrible mistake by stringing him along, I agreed to it, but I now really wish I hadn’t, because the mess is bigger than ever. (Since I’m no longer attracted to him, sex feels bad and I turn cold whenever he touches me, which he is upset about and we argue all the time; I’m emotionally distant but he wants me to be loving and supportive, and while I’m nice and generally friendly towards him, it’s clearly not enough, etc.) The current situation is terrible for both of us, but especially for him – he’s going to fail his thesis again due to my insufficient support, he’s worse off emotionally because, as he said, “my life was fine until you entered it – now the train has gone off the rails and everyone on it is dead”. His career-to.be is the only thing he’s good at carreer-wise, and now I’ve taken that away from him. Had I known this was going to happen, I’d not have hesitated about the breakup.
I still care about him, and I don’t want his life ruined, but I don’t love him as a girlfriend any more, and I feel like pretending just hurts us. On the other hand, he insists I should stay and try harder. He doesn’t accept it when I say that I’m no longer attracted to him – I should either get into specifics / “be honest and say the real reason”, or it’s only a “politically correct bullshit excuse”. (I feel like we are not compatible emotionally, and my feelings have changed towards him – that is all to it.)
Captain, what is the right thing to do? I don’t want to bail on him because he does need help, and I want him to have a good life. On the other hand, this relationship is becoming extremely toxic (to which we both contribute), and I’m scared this thing will end with him dead/ruined. I feel like the honest thing to do would be breaking up and offering my help as a friend, but I’m afraid he won’t accept that because I haven’t paid him back for my past mistakes. I’m also the only person in his life – I have read your post about this kind of situation, but I feel like it doesn’t apply here because I’m at serious fault in creating this mess.
How do I “unruin” his life? How do I help him without draining him at the same time? How do I give him a reason to end a relationship that he can accept? Please, help me. I regret having been a coward so much.