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Friendship

Hi Captain!

Tl:dr – What do you say when someone needs you to tell them that you care about them more than you do care about them? Is there a way to be honest but not make them feel like you actually dislike them? Is there a way to lie so that they actually believe you? Is there a way to get them to knock off asking you?

Longer-then-400-words-version:

My partner has a long-time friend who is lonely, isolated, sporadically employed, and who has some mental health issues. Friend is smart, funny, usually well-meaning, and knows how far to push friendship and charity without pushing too hard. My partner gives Friend lots of time and occasional money.

None of this is a problem. Friend doesn’t intrude on our family time too much, and my partner’s friendships are theirs to manage. Partner doesn’t bring Friend into every conversation or insist that Friend is at all of our events. Friend doesn’t usually inconvenience me at all, and if they do it’s in ways that I’m happy to do to for my partner, and because I have goodwill to Friend and I don’t mind hosting them or hanging out.

My problem is that Friend will sometimes initiate conversations with me about what a burden Friend is to me, and how Friend feels ashamed to be included in events that are important to me when they are Partner’s Friend and not My Friend. I don’t think Friend actually wants to be my friend – they don’t usually ask how I am, or talk to me when my partner isn’t around, or seem to care about me except as someone to listen to them (although they are like that with my partner, too, because Friend is very self-absorbed). I think that Friend would like it if **I** really felt a true friendship-like connection to Friend that would cause me to **really** want to invite Friend to stuff not as a charity, and to **really** want to hang out and chat with Friend, even though I don’t think Friend feels that way toward me or wants to feel that way toward me.

Friend is very smart, and certainly is very sensitive to how people feel about them and react to them, so Friend knows that, in fact, I don’t feel those ways. I feel charitable good will, Friend isn’t an unbearable pain to have around, and I love my partner and don’t want to keep someone out of our home who matters to my partner. Friend also knows when I’m lying.

So when Friend asks me these things, I usually do some combo of lie and deflect. I say that Partner and I both brought lots of our own friends and family to the relationship, and that we each hang out with and play host to each other’s peeps. I say that it’s my pleasure to have Friend over. But even though both of those things are true, I’m not answering Friend’s real question, which seems to be something like “don’t you care about me,” or even “why don’t you love me.” I do think that my partner loves Friend. Love is a wonderful mystery, because I can see that Friend is not a very good friend in a traditional sense, but that if you love a person, you just do love them. I don’t love Friend, and I like Friend only in a casual way.

Friend’s need to be loved and to be reassured both touches me and also annoys me. Friend is not good with social conventions like “don’t make people choose between lying or saying mean stuff,” and when they ask me these things I usually fall back on really strict social conventions like, “I am at best saying empty nothing right now and at worst lying because That’s What We Do,” but I don’t like it. Moreover, it doesn’t give Friend any of what they need – it’s neither honest nor kind.

Is there a better, more honest, kinder way to respond?

– Not Your Friend, But Not Mean About It Either

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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!

 

 

 

Dear Captain,

I am a female self-employed professional in a male dominated profession in her early 30s. My friend is a female of a similar age who is also a self-employed professional in the same profession. This person was my closest female friend in the profession. We would socialise and when things were going badly for me a couple of times in the last few years we have been friends, I would open up with her, share my problems and occasionally have a cry in her presence. I felt that we were open with each other and trusted each other.

Friend has some boundaries that surprise me, for example, even though she would seek out my company, once I went to hug her after not seeing her for some months, because I had been travelling, and she told me she doesn’t like to be hugged because she doesn’t like touching. I was surprised and found that unusual. Friend also asked not to be invited to my wedding in 2016 as friend “Hates weddings.” Again, I considered this an unusual request. I did not invite her but otherwise might have.

Friend became pregnant and was excited. I shared her excitement. She went on maternity leave shortly before the baby was due. I texted her offering to visit her at home if she wanted company (she demurred) and that I was looking forward to baby pictures. She send she would send photos.

Friend shares an office with another female self-employed professional in our profession (lady). One night weeks later, around November 2017, I was socialising with professionals in our field and I meet lady. Knowing lady shares an office with friend, I asked her how friend was. Lady shared the devastating news that friend’s pregnancy spontaneously terminated at a late stage and her baby was stillborn. I was shocked and saddened and expressed this. I immediately asked lady for friend’s address so I could send flowers. Lady responded firmly “Friend doesn’t want flowers”. I was surprised. I asked if lady would give me friend’s address so I could send a condolence card. Lady responded, “Friend doesn’t want contact with anyone. All messages are to go through an email address operated by friend’s sister.” I asked lady to send me that email address. Lady said she would. Lady didn’t send the email and I felt uncomfortable chasing lady about it given the no flowers/no cards information I had been given. I also felt uncomfortable with the idea of emailing friend’s sister, who I have never meant. I did not contact friend, or friend’s sister, out of respect for friend’s wishes, even though I very much wanted to share my condolences with her.

Finally, on New Year’s eve I texted friend saying that I was thinking of her, I had heard her terrible news, I was there for her if she needed support but that if she did not want ever to discuss the matter that would be okay with me. I wished her a better 2018. I got no reply.

Friend returned to work in January 2018. I work in a separate building and did not see friend for some months. I was waiting for her to reach out to me. She didn’t. I texted her a couple times offering to catch up for lunch or a drink. My texts were either ignored or she responded one word: “Can’t”. I let it go.

I saw her tonight at a networking event. It is now about 5 or 6 months since the still birth. I have not seen her since several weeks before her maternity leave. I approached her and she was civil, but not friendly. She barely smiled that evening. I was unsure whether her behaviour was directed towards me or whether she is just miserable. I made an effort to be friendly but to also give her space. I did not mention the still birth. She did not go out of her way to speak to me or say anything like, “Let’s catch up.” I left the event that night without saying goodbye to her, though it is possible she might have previously left without saying goodbye to me. Overall, friend’s behaviour was markedly cold.

I now feel like friend has placed me in an awkward position. I feel like friend has pushed me away. I don’t know if this is because friend felt like I was not there after her still birth, but I complied with lady’s “no contact” instructions. I feel like I can’t mention the still birth at this point because friend clearly did not want condolences at the time. It also feels deeply wrong to me to just smile and treat friend like nothing happened. I now feel like I’m walking on eggshells with friend and just wish that she had let me give her condolences like people normally do.

What, if anything, should I do? Should I accept that for whatever reason (and I have no idea why) friend no longer wants to be my friend? For the record I have no kids and am not currently trying, so there is no awkwardness about my family situation vs hers. It is now at the point where I am starting to feel secretly angry at friend for making me second guess how I should behave around her. My male friend has told me, when I have asked about it, to “just act normal”, but the problem is that friend is not acting normal towards me. I don’t know if I can, or should, try to fix it. I also don’t feel like continually putting myself out there to be rejected by friend. It is getting to the point where I am questioning whether to just let the friendship go, but it seems like a strangely unnecessary outcome. I have tried to be compassionate and respectful towards friend all along.

Thanks,

Puzzled

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I am a middle aged man, married 22 years with a son. My former best friend and I lived next door to each other , we became friends when I was 9 years old. We continued to be the best of friends into adulthood.We went on vacations with other friends and with our wives. When we got married, we were each other’s best man. We attended each others kids birthday parties, etc. up until 2003-2004.

In 1997 I was a manager at a large securities firm on Wall Street. My best friend was working in a hotel at the time, had no financial background or college education. He called me up desperate-essentially begging me to help him get a job as he wished to marry his girlfriend and start a family but could not afford to do so on his salary. Due to my position and influence in the company I was able to help him get a job working in my department. Later I left the company and moved on to a more prestigious firm which paid better. My best friend reached out to me again and once again I was able to help him increase his income by getting him a job in my department.

The first couple of years, things were fine. In fact I felt we became closer as we now had one more thing in common. My friend was younger than me and our relationship was similar to a big brother/little brother interaction. He would come to my desk and hang out at the end of the day and wait for me to finish my work-just so we could walk a few blocks together on the way home (we lived in different cities by this time) we would also have lunch together several times a week and email back and forth throughout the day.

About three years later, I noticed that my friend had become a bit distant. He stopped coming by my desk during the day. He stopped emailing and when I emailed him, he would not always reply or say that he was too busy to chat. I asked several times if anything was wrong- But he always denied it . After a few weeks of this,We sat down face to face -and I again asked him to tell me what the problem was. He claimed he was just very busy and had some problems at home which he would not elaborate on, and he reiterated that it had nothing to do with me. This only made things worse for me, as we had always been open with each other about our problems and now he was holding things back. All of this took its toll and with the tensions of working closely together, we began having arguments at work. At first these were minor disagreements which would quickly blow over. But things began to get more serious and eventually we had a huge fight. We both went too far and I felt bad about it. This took place right before I was leaving on a family vacation.When I returned home I checked my email and found one from my friend notifying me that the friendship was over. I was shocked that he would take things this far after 25 years and also very upset that he would be so heartless as to do this with a one sentence email offering no explanation.

Although we had unquestionably both made mistakes, the thought of losing his friendship was just devastating to me, so I took full responsibility for the fight that we had and apologized profusely and repeatedly. I was desperate . I emailed, called and left a note of apology on his desk. I heard nothing for three days. Then he called me at my desk and invited me to go to lunch. I was relieved, I apologized a few more times and he told me not to worry about it. By the end of the lunch hour we were laughing and joking as though nothing had even happened.

As it turned out that was the last time we spoke face to face. A few days later he once again stopped speaking to me. I repeatedly asked why , and he offered little explanation, only saying he thought we needed a break. I strongly suspect that inviting me out to lunch that day was a cruel vengeful tactic on his part- just to make me think we were cool, and then cut me off again. I accused him of this a year later and not surprisingly he denied it.

I tried for the next few years to get him to explain his actions. I cannot understand to this day how he could end a 25 year friendship over what was basically a rough patch that we hit for a couple of weeks. He refused to explain or even respond to my letters or emails which were I admit increasingly angry due to the frustrating and hurtful behavior on his part. After three years of this I stopped contacting him.

In the meantime he has relocated to another part of the country and he is a Vice President . Although I have had a successful career and am well compensated, he has now achieved a position which I have never reached in my 28 year career. I find this particularly galling, since if it weren’t for me he probably would be working as a waiter or bartender , and now he has surpassed me in my career. Instead of being appreciative or grateful- he refuses to even speak to me.

The older I get the more I feel the expression “life is too short” and I recently attempted to contact him again. I contacted his sister via social media and asked her to try to get through to him. I made it clear-and this is 100% true-that I have zero interest in patching up the friendship. All that I really want-and I think I deserve it- is an explanation for all of this. Why did he treat me this way after all I had done for him ? Why did he do it in such a coldhearted manner? He declined through her- stating that he does not want to “re-hash” everything. The problem is he never gave a valid explanation in the first place. He has managed to avoid facing me like an adult about this for 14 years.

I don’t imagine there is anything else that I can do to try to get to the bottom of this but I would welcome any advice or suggestions as this continues to frustrate me 14 years later.

Thank you.

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Dear Captain,

I am in a tough place with a long time close friend. My partner and I are currently roommates with this friend. We have been all living together for a little over a year in a shared apartment (everyone’s name is on the lease).

Friend is a wonderful, kind, smart person, but he’s been in a bad spot for the past 4 years and seems to constantly be in a very slow decline. We are all in our early to mid 30’s college educated professionals, but roommate has not worked consistently in years and nearly at all in 3. He’s been fired from multiple positions in a row. He has not ever had a relationship though he claims to want one. He is not in school, volunteering, or otherwise doing anything to move forward in his life. He’s clearly struggling, but while he’s openly discussed that he’s had issues with anxiety and depression, and is on medication/sees someone about this, he otherwise attempts to act like everything is completely fine. He spends large amounts of money he doesn’t have on his hobbies, hangs around the house constantly in his pjs, sleeps very late/stays up all night, and really only goes out if its to do something “fun” or if it’s related to his hobby, and is often not conscientious to the household as a whole.

Other notes on our and roommates situation

– He does pay his portion of rent. See next point for more on that

– He is not in a position to not work. He is being given cash by family members to float expenses but there is also large amounts of debt on multiple credit cards. His family is not able to do this indefinitely and it’s clear that his finances are a house of cards that is going to collapse.

– Partner and I do not want to live with roommate after our lease is up. We have a few more months on the lease, and for us all to find housing we need to inform him now. We do not plan to kick him out. Current plan is to offer to either turn the apartment over to him and move out, or take over the lease if he’d like to move. However I doubt he will get it together enough to make a plan to move (see above stagnation), and there is a high likelihood landlord would not allow him to remain in the apartment without us (see lack of income), so us moving “kicks him out” by default

– His alternative free housing option would be with a family member. This is roommate’s last choice option and he would hate it. It is not unsafe or abusive, but it would not be what he wants

– He does not have a drug or alcohol problem ( I am 99.9% sure of this)

– We knew he was having issues when we got a place together. At the time we thought it was more situational and less due to his actions/ lack of action, and that living with people who cared about him and were also productive adults would be helpful to roommate. My partner and I both agree now moving in together was a bad call on our parts

– We live in an area where finding employment in things like retail/ serving jobs/ temping etc is not difficult. He seems to think this type of hourly work is beneath him.

– It’s clear he views himself as a part of me and my partner’s family unit and seems to think he will remain as part of our household indefinitely.

At this point myself, my partner and all our mutual friends are extremely concerned about him. It’s become clear that his situation is a slow moving disaster but that eventually he’s going to hit some type of wall and not be able to continue on pretending everything is fine. Conversations to try to help him or make him see reality have been unsuccessful. Having a frank conversation with him is like nailing jello to the wall.

My question is, how do I explain to him that we are not going to be living with him on the next lease cycle without destroying our friendship or setting in motion an emotional collapse from him, while also making it clear he needs to take this seriously and make plans on how he’s going to house himself going forward. I’m worried about having to spend the next several months with an angry and seriously depressed roommate or alternatively him in a panic come the end of the lease when he’s done nothing to prepare. I do feel like I have some responsibility to preserve his mental health and our friendship in all this.

Thanks,

Failure To Launch’s Roommate

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Hi,

I’m hoping you can help me with some coping mechanisms for jealousy which will help me feel less like the shittiest friend in the universe. 

Long story short, a friend got a job I wanted, and I’ve spent months failing to not let it affect our friendship. The whole story is long but the important details are these:

She got an early start in the “big leagues” of our industry because of connections I didn’t have, beating me out for jobs before I even knew her.

A mutual friend promised me I’d be his first call on a job I really wanted, but then hired her.

I had a hard autumn, and overwork combined with personal insecurity culminated in me, in tears, while she tried to console me over the job she was (very rightly!) excited to start the next day.

She’s just gotten the reiteration of that job I really wanted. I’m still angling to get them to hire me too, at a lower title than hers.

Last fall I tried really hard to be supportive and excited for her and mostly failed. I’m afraid to spend the rest of her time in our city (she plans on moving… eventually) watching her get jobs I am equally qualified for because her resume is better. I also don’t want to look forward to the day she moves, just because it means I won’t have to compete with her for work anymore. I don’t want to feel like a terrible friend anymore because I can’t be happy for her, and I absolutely don’t want to force her to console me on big happy occasions.

I think her fiance dislikes me and I worry she confides in him that she feels uncomfortable in our friendship, or that she thinks I’m an incompetent artist. I will never actually know without damaging the friendship by pushing the issue, but it bothers me anyway.

I have read your “focus on yourself and what you like” advice, and the “back off and gently let reconnection happen” advice and that has been helping, but I’m worried that watching her have a job I wanted will disintegrate our friendship, or worse, if she doesn’t, or isn’t able to hire me. I need a way to restructure what’s happening in my head so I’m not feeling overwhelmingly betrayed by this friend who hired her, and jealous of her all the time.

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Dear Captain Awkward and friends,

Due to frequent moves both by me and by many of them, the seven or so people I consider my closest friends are scattered across three countries on opposite sides of the globe. (And most of them don’t know each other.) Nevertheless, I keep in frequent contact with them – we communicate at least once a week, often more. I’ve known them all for years (several of them for decades), they’re all very important to me, and they’ve been there for me in tough times, so I don’t think this problem indicates a major break in our friendships or anything like that, but. Yesterday was my birthday, and not one of them remembered it.

My birthday isn’t public on Facebook because I never liked the hollow “hbd” posts from people who I don’t really interact with. So the lack of a Facebook reminder is almost certainly a factor here. But I know that these seven friends know when my birthday is, and all of them have sent me birthday messages unprompted in the past. I didn’t even expect messages from all of them this year – it’s just that not receiving even ONE hurt a lot more than I thought it would. Especially because it’s not a secret that my birthday is important to me, moreso now that I have stopped celebrating most major holidays. Maybe it makes sense that more of my friends wished me a merry holiday-they-know-I-don’t-celebrate-anymore than wished me a happy birthday, but it still sucks.

And I don’t think I’m being a hypocrite here! I try hard to remember my friends’ birthdays, whether or not they have them on Facebook, and I make sure to send them birthday greetings. Which was all I wanted in return. One birthday text from a friend and I wouldn’t be writing to you!

Anyway. Any thoughts on how I should handle this? Do I bring it up with them? Do I admit how much it hurt? Should I obnoxiously remind them next year? Or should I focus on the nice messages my family sends me and the kind words from the friends I’m making in my current location, and try not to worry about my friends elsewhere? Do I just need to accept that if I don’t let Facebook announce my birthday, no one will remember it?

Thank you,
Birthday Girl
(she/her)

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