Oh yeah. You read that right. Putting this one behind a cut.
I have a school friend, “Susan.” We met last year when I started the program. Around the time this school year started, I started therapy to address Issues, and I came to the decision that Susan should become a Small Doses Friend.
I find Susan kind of draining to interact with, and I feel like she has a hard time respecting my boundaries. She often brings up subjects I’m uncomfortable with, and I feel like when I ask/ remind her that I’m not comfortable talking about X, it becomes a big production. I’ve also tried to explain to her that because of Issues, I don’t like to say “I love you” to friends because it feels smothering to me, but she often seems to “forget.” It also seems like lately when we hang out there’s a lot of complaining, nosy questions, and little honest enjoyment of each other’s company.
So, all of this considered, I thought it best to just enjoy her company when I can and detach when I can’t. We’ll both be graduating soon, I might be moving really far away, and I imagined we’d kind of naturally drift apart, as people do sometimes.
Just about the time I figured this out, though, she got engaged. She’d been talking for a while about how she wanted to get engaged and married Very Soon, so when she told me I was of course very happy for her and imagined that the wedding would be this spring or maybe summer at the latest. She asked me to be her Man of Honor, and I was really touched. I said yes.
A few weeks later, I asked her if she had an idea of when the wedding might be (thinking which month). She said they haven’t yet settled on a year, and the earliest possible date is a year from this summer. When I think about having to keep this up for at least another year I want to run away screaming.
I think I need to tell Susan I can’t be in her wedding, but I don’t know how to do that. I keep meaning to ask my therapist for help sorting this out, but then when I consider that I only have an hour each week to work on Issues with a professional, there always seem to be more important things to deal with than how to get out of a wedding. I’m wondering: is it wrong of me to want to ramp down this friendship? And how can I get out of the wedding commitment, since that seems to be what needs to happen?
Thanks so much,
27 Issues (he/ him)
This is mostly an attempt to get an outside perspective, as I’m not quite sure if this is An Actual Problem Worth Discussing With Said Person, or if this is just something Jerkbrain is blowing up to be bigger than it is. So, my best friend and I have known each other for about 8 years, are currently living in different places but are still in very regular contact, and for the most part she is an amazing friend with whom I have a tonne in common. The current issue on my part is about exchanging birthday presents.To be clear, I don’t really mind if we give each other presents or if we don’t, the issue I have is that it’s so inconsistent- we never used to do presents, then we did, then one year I gave her a birthday present and she didn’t give me one (our birthdays are about three months apart, mine is after hers), so I figured we weren’t doing presents anymore and didn’t get her a present for her birthday the following year, but then she gave me a fairly pricey gift for my birthday three months later so I had an internal freakout about being a terrible person and got her an equally priced Christmas present (we don’t do Christmas presents, not an issue) and then this year, again, I got her a birthday present because based on last year it appeared to be A Thing We Do, and I got zip for mine. If I’m being perfectly forthright, this happens because, while BFF is a wonderful, smart, kind person, she’s a little…well, inconsiderate isn’t the right word, she’s not that bad, but for her outside of her immediate family and her boyfriend gift-giving seems to be on a more “if it occurs to me and I don’t have anything else going on” basis, whereas if I think gifts are A Reciprocal Thing We Are Doing, I will make sure I get a gift regardless of what else I’m doing.
Again, it’s not that I feel entitled to a gift, I really don’t! This situation bothers me primarily because
(1) the part of my brain that gets really stressed out about social interaction depends on cues from other people when figuring out stuff like gift-giving, and the current situation is profoundly unhelpful.
(2) As the local oddball, I’ve always found it difficult to make friends, and I’ve been in situations in the past where I’ve made waaay too much effort to make friends with people who didn’t give a shit about me, and it’s always made me feel like shit about myself. This means that as a rule I don’t give presents anymore unless I’m absolutely sure it’s a reciprocal thing, because one-sided gift-giving reminds me of those times, and I never want to feel like that again.
(3) Related to (2), I’m not gonna lie, it is a little bit hurtful to spend ages looking for the perfect gift for a person and get nothing in return.
But again, as Frank Underwood would say, I’m entitled to nothing. My natural impulse would be to stop giving gifts to BFF, but for all I know I might get something from her next year and the whole awful cycle will repeat. So then I should say something, right? But what do I say? BFF doesn’t know this is a problem for me, and I doubt it’s a problem for her- I’m worried that if I say something it’ll come off as me guilt-tripping her. Any ideas? Or is this just my problem and I should keep it to myself?
-A Grey Warden
P.S.: She/her pronouns all round
Since my adolescence, I’ve not had sexual desire. I identified as grey-A for a while, and then switched to identifying as asexual when it seemed clear to me that I would not develop any sexual desire. I was happy with this assessment. I have been active in various ace forums since I was a teenager, and have many friends I’ve met that way, both online and in-person friends.
In the past year, I was diagnosed with disorder that affects hormones (not directly related to sex hormones–thyroid, etc.). I took medication for it, to relieve the chance of various serious health issues (increased risk of cancer, osteoporosis, some other things). As I did so, I–for lack of a better word–developed a sex drive for the first time. I am no longer, by any reasonable definition of the word, asexual, or even grey-A or demisexual. I have a frequent and persistent attraction to people and desire for sex, and it’s not exclusive to people I know well. There’s no real chance of going back, without risking the health issues that I took the meds for to begin with.
Captain, I’m terrified that I’m going to lose my friends. The whole “you’ll grow out of it” or “have you checked to see if something’s wrong with you?” tropes are both so common and so toxic to the asexual community, and so frequently off-base, that I’m hesitant to even acknowledge what happened to me. I feel like I’ve failed my community in a massive way. Part of me wants to just lie (that is, remain celibate and claim to still be asexual), but I know that’s wrong (and the ‘remain celibate’ part would be difficult). Part of me wants to just drift away so they never have to know that I was a fake asexual. I don’t want to lose my friends, but I have no idea how to say, “Guess what! I saw a doctor and went on meds and now I’m a sexual!” without badly hurting people.
No Longer Ace
Dear No Longer Ace,
Whatever happens with your friends and how they take the news (if and when and however you give them the news), please know this: Your sexual identity is there to describe you, in all your wonderful complexity. You are not here to “live up to” or perform it. Changes over the course of your life in how you feel about sex don’t mean that you were faking something before, and “I used to identify as ace, but that changed as I got older/dealt with some medical stuff that was affecting my sex drive” is a valid story to tell about your life if it is the true story.
Also, you treating your medical condition and having unexpected results isn’t a judgment on or a prescription for anyone else, so please resist any attempt to paint it that way. I can see why the implication that asexuality is a changeable condition that “just needs treatment!” is damaging to that community, but science also tells us that medication side effects and certain medical conditions can affect the human sex drive in multiple ways and directions over the course of a lifetime. You can’t be the only one who has ever been in this situation, so try to find the others and seek out their stories.
Here are some other suggestions for taking care of yourself right now:
- Go very slow and give yourself time to get used to everything. Figure out your own desires and well-being. You don’t owe anyone an explanation of anything, especially not right this second.
- If you can, find a trusted professional you can talk things over with.
- When you’re ready, find one or two close trusted people in your ace friend group to talk things over with. These should be people you have lots of things in common with in addition to ace activism and bonding. Tell them what’s up and see what happens. Tell them how scared and worried you feel about breaking the news. Don’t try to approach it as a Whole Group-issue. One on one is best.
- If they really are your friends, hopefully they’ll be kind to you and reassure you. They can be the ones who tell the rest of group for you, if that’s something you want to do. And hopefully the long history of affection and things you have in common will carry you.
- If they express shock and discomfort, here’s a script: “I didn’t choose any of this – not how I felt before, not how I feel now. I’m still the same person who is your friend.“
- If they are mean to you and/or dismissive of you or accuse you of hurting them or the community, I’m so sorry: You’re gonna probably need to bail on that conversation and try again another time. You’re not hurting them, or anybody, by being who you are.
It’s time for the monthly ritual where I answer the questions that people typed into search engines to find this place.
1 “I have a crush on a guy who treats me badly.”
Crushes can be fun, but unlike what you’ve seen on Buffy The Vampire Slayer and every other show/movie/comic, love doesn’t turn assholes into acceptable boyfriends. My recommendation: Fantasize darkly about dirty-hot-hate-sex with him at your leisure, but save your actual affections and time outside your head for people who are kind to you.
Now more than ever we must hold the line and not waste our time with charismatic assholes.
2 “Talk about sexual relation first time.”
There is a site called Scarleteen. It is a national treasure, and while it was built so that teenagers could get non-judgmental, scientifically accurate, kind and sensitive sex advice, adults should read it, too. This topic is covered amply in their archives and forums. The creator of the site, Heather Corinna, wrote a book called S.E.X. It’s great. They also have volunteers who answer questions confidentially.
While we’re on the topic, here are some other good books about sex:
- Come as You Are, by Emily Nagoski
- What You Really, Really Want by Jaclyn Friedman
- Big Big Love by Hanne Blank
Probably more recommendations in comments.
In the movies, sex just, like, happens. People stare at each other intensely and then grab each other and kiss and suddenly clothes are off and it’s all seamless and softly lit.
In real life, it’s important to talk about things with the person you plan to have sex with, especially when one or both of you is new at it. Everything from what consent looks like to “What are we gonna do about contraception (if that’s an issue in your pairing) and safer sex?” to “I think I’d like it if we….” to “Definitely please do not ever….” to “That doesn’t feel good, please stop!” to “That feels really good!” Real life sex is awkward, and vulnerable, and that’s part of what’s great about it. Get thee to Scarleteen.
Happy talking! And everything that might come after!
3 “Working with the person you had an affair with now its awkward.”
Without knowing the particulars (relative power structure in company, how it ended, what the feelings were and still are, how much time it’s been, did anybody know, what was the fallout, how much each person respectively likes/needs this particular job, etc.), some smart steps that you can control might be:
- Keep your distance. You probably work in somewhat close quarters, which is how the whole thing started in the first place, and you can’t fix that or at least fix it right away, but you can start to mentally work on keeping your distance. Stop keeping track of the other person – their moods, quirks, likes, dislikes, what they ate today, who they talk to, where they go, reading their horoscope, etc. Stop fixating on them. Use the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear to distract yourself, if necessary, or just say to yourself , “We broke up, it’s not my business, la la la” when you find yourself getting obsessed.
- Step up your professional game at work. Pay attention to the “little things,” like tidying your workspace, paying attention to dress & grooming, making sure you’re on time every day, being reliable & correct in your communications, keeping your boss updated on your projects, keeping small talk with coworkers very light and not revealing of personal life. I don’t think there is shame in crying it work – it’s a natural human response to stress and anger, and we shouldn’t be as dismissive of it as we are as a culture – but if you’re someone who is trying to keep an intra-office breakup private, try to do your crying in private. Put your best foot forward, even if you don’t feel like it right now. If you look to others like you have your shit together, it can sometimes help you keep your shit together.
- Polish that resume. Look for another job, or an assignment in another department. I know, it’s not fair that you should have to leave your job, but it might be the simplest way to cut the cord of awkwardness. Join a networking organization for your profession if there is one. Make some new connections. Take a class and boost your skills in something. Maybe you feel like you can’t or don’t want to leave your job right now, but reminding yourself that you have options can’t hurt. Anything that reminds you of your own value is gonna feel good right now.
- If there is stalking or harassing behavior of ANY kind, document & report it if you can. Whatever happened happened, but you don’t deserve to be terrorized or retaliated against professionally.
- Give it time. Like the pain of all breakups, this too shall pass.
4 “How to break up your daughters gay relationship.”
Try these search terms instead:
“How do I show my daughter I love her and accept her?”
“How do I stop being a homophobic asshole?”
Okay, speaking of affairs:
5 “What do you say to a married man’s wife who you have an affair with when she confronts you?”
Start with “I’m really, really sorry” and DO NOT try to justify or explain. The aggrieved spouse has probably saved up some things to say, so, just listen while they speak their piece. You don’t have to answer questions – “You should ask your spouse about that” is a good script if you start getting an interrogation, and if at some point you gotta end the conversation say, “I’m so sorry” again and refer the person back to their spouse, like, “I’m so sorry, I hear you, I know I hurt you. I don’t have answers for you, you should talk to (spouse) directly about this.“
There’s nothing GOOD you can say, so, focus on not making it worse.
6 “Husband doesn’t believe his mother hates me.”
What if you said, “You don’t have to believe me, but when we’re around your mom and (this specific behavior) happens, I do need you to (defend me/shut it down/back me up/leave with me).“
Focus not on the emotion (she hates you) but on the behaviors (the specific things she does that hurt your feelings or annoys you), and give him an idea of how he can best support you when those specific behaviors arrive. Choose your battles, and do what you can to minimize time with her. Annual Reminder: Nobody HAS to go home for the holidays.
7 “What to say in a Xmas card to a sister you did not talk with in five years.”
“Merry Christmas! I hope you’re doing well. Here’s [email/phone/the best way to contact me], can we catch up sometime in the new year?”
Take the pressure off to come up with something eloquent. This moment is literally what greeting cards are for – short, non-emotionally-charged communications. Give her a way to contact you and then leave it in her court. She’ll call/write or she won’t.
8 “Boyfriend does no chores and never wants to spend his free time with me.”
You could dump the boyfriend and get a cat. It wouldn’t do any chores, but least the cat would be cute and hang out with you sometimes.
9 “Happy birthday to a friend you had a misunderstanding and now friends again.”
Say/Text/Facebook Wall: “Happy birthday!“
Do you really want to rehash the misunderstanding? In someone’s birthday greeting? No. You don’t. Bake them a normal cake, not a shame-cake, and be glad that you mended fences about whatever it is.
10 “Boss upset I quit and I feel guilty.”
Your boss will get over it. Or they won’t, but you won’t work there anymore, so you don’t have to care.
11 “How to start the baby conversation with partner.”
“Partner, I’m thinking a lot about having a baby, and I’m pretty sure I want to start that process soon, with you. What do you think about that?”
Or, “I’m pretty sure I don’t ever want to have kids, so I wanted to see how you feel about that.”
Full disclosure, here’s how this conversation goes in my house:
We hang out with Commander Logic’s freaking adorable smart amazing children, aka, The Gateway Babies.
Spouse: “Someday, you know, my/our kids will….”
Repeat for a few weeks.
Me: “You keep mentioning these kids that will be doing stuff someday. Are these real kids or hypothetical kids?”
Me: “So, hypothetical. Ok.”
Spouse: (lots of stuff about parenthood and money and anxiety)
Me: (corresponding anxiety-brain-vomit)
Me: “If you really want kids, I’ll have your kids! I’ll have kids with you.”
Spouse: “That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.”
Me: “It’s what I got. I can be happy either way.”
Both of Us: …
Me: “Talk again in six months?”
Spouse: “Sure. Good talk, everyone.”
12 “What does it mean when a guy tells you ‘I cant ask you to wait for me’?”
It means, “don’t wait for me.” You have been or are about to be broken up with.
13 “A guy likes and comments on everything on Facebook stalker.”
You can: Set your posts using privacy filters so he can’t even see them.
You can: Unfriend his annoying ass.
You can: Block him so he can’t even know you exist on Facebook.
When/if…okay probably when…he contacts you through other channels to ask “Are you okay?” or “Did I do something wrong?” here’s your script:
“I wasn’t enjoying our online interactions so I stopped them.”
Monitoring a person’s every online breath is stifling and creepy. You don’t have to tutor him as to why.
14 “After party with my former students sex stories.“
15 “My toddler seems lonely but I hate playdates and playgroups.”
From what I understand from my friends who are parents of young kids, EVERYONE HATES PLAYDATES. The other parents hate it as much as you do. They are going through the motions because they want their kids to have friends and be socialized. They are something you suck up and do until you find some other parents that you a) can stand to be around while the kids are very small and drop-off/self-play isn’t possible b) can trust with your kids as they get older so you can take turns dropping off the kids and getting a few hours to yourself.
Do you have a co-parent? Can they take some of the play-date and play-group pressure off? Like, if you both hate that, can you take turns sucking it up for the sake of the kid?
Can you find more structured stuff – craft things, a local children’s museum, story time at the library, swim/dance classes – that allow your kid to interact while you check out and read your phone in the bleachers?
You’re a good parent because you’re noticing your child’s loneliness. You’ll do the right thing. And this won’t be forever.
Every month (thanks to nice Patreon supporters!) we examine the things that people typed into search engines to find this place.
1. “My bf is younger to me by two years and is half bald..but still he criticizes my looks.”
Criticizing your partner’s looks is not a good dynamic. What would it take for both of you to decide “I like the way you look and will say only nice things about that“? Because that’s what you deserve.
2. “My husband hates when I masturbate.”
Has he explained why it bothers him? How does he know when you do it? Does he masturbate? What’s your sex life like together? What would happen if you masturbate anyway?
I think that the relationship you have with your own body is your business and even if he is uncomfortable with it you should still do it! But before anyone issues ultimatums or makes “rules” for the other person, it’s worth getting to the bottom of what this is really about. Control? Envy? Feeling left out?
3. “Tried to be friends after relationship but it didn’t work.”
Sometimes it just doesn’t work. Here’s a poem:
4. “How can I make my make my male crush whom we’ve been been chatting come visit me?”
There is no making, there is only asking. “Would you like to come visit me?”
5. “My boyfriend keeps following me wherever I go.”
This is creepy and smothering. What would happen if you told him you didn’t like this and asked him to stop?
If the thought of asking him to stop is scary to you – you can imagine him being furious or refusing to stop or “punishing” you somehow – think about calling a trained person and talking through some ways you can safely get away from this guy and his behavior.
6. “How to write a long overdue apology.”
Keep it simple. “I realize this is long overdue, but I want to tell you how very sorry I am for (what I did). I hope you are well. Sincerely, (you).”
Don’t ask the person for anything, don’t justify, just say you’re sorry and be specific/take ownership of what it is that you did to hurt them.
7. “How to say no after you’ve already said yes.”
“I know I said I would (do the thing), but I thought about it more and it turns out I won’t/can’t/don’t want to/won’t be able to. So sorry for the confusion/inconvenience/change of heart.”
8. “Husband always asking if I’m okay.”
Some questions come to mind:
Are you okay? Is everything okay?
Is there a question you wish he would ask instead?
Is there an elephant in the room?
Does he think that you seem tired/sad/down in the dumps/cranky/not quite yourself/are you behaving in a way that would make it seem like something is not okay?
Is HE okay? Like, is he asking you if you are because he wants to talk about something but doesn’t it want it to seem like his idea? Is he a particularly anxious person?
This could be an annoying tic he has or it could be that he’s observing something about your health/happiness and wanting to check in. Figure out the subtext of what this question really is.
9. “How I can creep sex my friend.”
a) Watch this video. Put on your Halloween costume. Ask your friend to put on their Halloween Costume and if the two of you can have sex with you while you both have your Halloween Costumes on. Creepy, right?
b) Go to Scarleteen. Read every article on the site. Especially look at anything about “consent.” Don’t have sex with anyone until you fully understand consent.
10. “Short story on boss seducing his junior wife for promotion.”
I think the site you are looking for is called “Literotica.” It should have come up on the first page of search results, but, anyway, you’re welcome.
11. “Why does my mom find something negative in all my boyfriends?”
I don’t know, maybe but it’s worth asking her this directly. “Mom, why do you find something negative to say about all my boyfriends?” It could be she thinks that you have terrible taste, it could be that she thinks that you want her opinion, it could be a control thing. Has she noticed this pattern?
12. “Staying with him just because he was your first sex.”
Staying with someone maybe needs more/better reasons than that? Ongoing, current reasons, like being in love and having a healthy, good relationship that makes you feel great in the present day?
13. “A guy who is still on dating sites after he proposes to you.”
This is definitely worth talking about. “Why are you still on dating sites even though you want to marry me? Can you help me understand?” Make sure you both have the same needs & assumptions around monogamy, commitment, what “cheating” is and isn’t, transparency, flirting, etc. and that you’re both comfortable and on the same page with this before you get married.
If he says he’s just looking for “new friends,” please remember: MeetUp.Com exists. There are ways to find new friends that are not dating sites and that don’t make you feel suspicious and uncomfortable.
14. “How to tell your son his girlfriend is not right for him.”
Realize that you only really get one shot at this, and that the end result might be your son distancing himself from you instead of leaving her. Is she mistreating him? Is your worry for him worth the risk of having him turn away from you?
“Son, I know you love (girlfriend), but ever since you have been with her you seem really unhappy. There seems to always be conflict in your relationship, when I’ve seen you together she doesn’t seem to treat you with kindness or respect. I know as an outsider I don’t have the whole picture, but as someone who loves you and wants you to be happy, I don’t feel right staying quiet when I can see that you are suffering. I love you, and I’ll try my best to accept (girlfriend) for your sake as long as she’s in your life, but I hope you’ll think about what I said. You deserve to be with someone who treats you well.”
15. “9pm to 4am sexing”
Change your dating profile name to “Diligent Night Owl”?
16. “When a boyfriend wont introduce you to anyone in his life.”
This is never a sign that things are awesome, is it? Either something is fishy, like, he has another partner or spouse and you are a “side” relationship, or something is really messy with his family & friends and in trying to “spare you” the “drama” he is making you question his commitment and your place in his life, or he wants to keep you a secret for some reason. If you aren’t a Capulet and he isn’t a Montague and your families aren’t mortal enemies bent on mutual death and destruction, ask to be introduced. If he won’t introduce you, ask him directly, “Why not.” Maybe stop seeing him if he refuses or if the answer does not satisfy you.
I realize my problem isn’t as serious as other letters you’ve answered, but I figured I should try writing anyway since I don’t really have anyone to talk to about it.
I was friends with someone I’ll call “Oakley” from elementary school through high school. It was very rare for my parents to allow me to hang out with friends, so I really only got to spend time with Oakley if I was in one of their classes. The lack of contact outside of school didn’t exactly cultivate a deep friendship, and I didn’t keep in contact with them after graduating even though we only live a few miles apart.
This past weekend, my mother ran into Oakley’s mother at a movie theater, and they talked about getting together for lunch in the near future to catch up. I’m worried this catch-up-lunch is going to end with an obligation for me to hang out with Oakley.
I have nothing against Oakley personally, it’s just that: 1) School wasn’t a nightmare for me, but it wasn’t a great time either, and I imagine it being at least a little painful to have to reconnect with any part of it. 2) While I remember Oakley fondly, they’re essentially a stranger now, so what’s the point? And 3) I have no interest in socializing with *anyone.* (I made more “friends” in college and the following internships/jobs, but I avoided spending time with them outside of those contexts. I do wish I had real friends, but the idea of socializing makes me extremely anxious.)
I already asked my mother not to set up any “play dates” between me and Oakley (she was surprised and said it was a good thing I told her). I’m not sure what else to do or what she could say if Oakley’s mother brings it up. Any thoughts or advice?
(Note: I realize Oakley might not be interested in seeing me at all either. I’m just imagining a worst case scenario where Oakley’s mother tries to reconnect us.)