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Overthinking It

Dear Captain Awkward,

How do I respond to the ‘what are you looking for’ question? It feels like no matter what I say it’s never the right answer. If I say I want a relationship I feel like that reads as ‘I’m desperate to get married and have babies’ which I’m not (been there, done that). And, if I say I’m open to something casual then it reads as ‘I have no self-worth, this is an open invitation for you to use me for sex without any regard for my feelings or basic human decency’ (100% nope). I also hate that I might unintentionally give the other person certain expectations or drive them away before I’ve had a chance to get to know them and figure out what, if anything, I want from them.

Personally, I don’t go looking for a particular type of relationship. I just look for someone I connect with and hope that we are both on the same page. Sometimes it leads to a long-term monogamous relationship, sometimes it leads to something more casual but equally fulfilling, sometimes it leads to a whole lot of drama, and sometimes it doesn’t lead to anything.

Personally I’m open to a range of relationship options – depending on who the other person is, what our chemistry is like, and what else is going on in my life at the time. The only things I am 100% not open to are BS drama and being treated like crap.

So how do I answer the question in a way that helps me filter out the jerks and time wasters whilst still keeping my options open?

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Ahoy cap!

I am a university student who’s in the middle of those last weeks before the period ends that can be described as ‘hell on racehorse steroids’ and I’m failing one of my subjects. I feel super s***ty about, to the point that I haven’t seen my last evaluations (only the grade) but I know I have to get over my hurt and fear to see what I’m getting wrong and take advantage of my last ditch chance at passing this subject. Everyone tells me the professor I got is great, I do enjoy her classes, I don’t think she’ll be mad at me for asking for help, but I’m really embarrassed about my poor performance.

So cap, from your perspective as an educator, how do I get over my resistance to asking for help, I’m well aware it’s a largely irrational fear to ask a professor for guidance, it is their job after all. Any good strategies for communicating effectively with educators, professor, etc? Much appreciated.

The fluncky chicken

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Hi there,

I’m 36, my (ex)gf is 25. Met in August last year. Fell in love. Never met anyone like her and ticks all the boxes. I felt set for life (love, kids, the lot) and when she was there, there was no one else in the room (not something I had felt before).

We fell out over something stupid and then spent the next two weeks kinda reconciling but not really making progress.

Short version: she thought I deliberately misunderstood and belittled her, didn’t like it when I would storm off in some situations (it was completely unacceptable) and was upset that I didn’t ask her about her past. I hadn’t asked because it sounded horrible and I didn’t want to put someone I love through that again. I made the wrong call. Our sex life was strained due to an pre-existing psychological ED issue, which was exacerbated by her reactions.

On the other hand, I refused to be judged by the incredibly low standards her mentally and physically abusive, serially cheating drug dealer ex had set – she called me out about an innocuous photo on insta which kicked things off. I didn’t feel heard in the relationship and I had started to feel more and more peripheral to her life, despite the fact I’d looked after her through illness and post-operation.

Communication was poor and we had both made mistakes. A bit of regrettable game playing on both sides ensued, but throughout everything, I always thought that it was all temporary and we would get back on track. We just needed to talk it through and listen to one another.

She had given me the silent treatment on a few occasions and I was reaching out to try to reconcile. Then she sends me a message effectively ending it. I tried to message, I tried to call. Nothing. I wrote her a letter in which poured my heart out and gave it to her when she came out of work. She promised to read it. Nothing in reply. I sent her cacti (sentimental symbol for us), one each day for a week, each with a sentimental note. Nothing in reply. It’s been nearly a month since her last message.

I’ve effectively been ghosted, but from a relationship that was six months of love and plans and fun and joy.

I know she’s the one. And I know we can easily overcome the things we argued about. But we can’t do that if she won’t talk. What can I do, to either win her back (as unlikely as it seems) or move on with such little closure? I’m sad, angry, lonely, frustrated, scared, confused, desperate and utterly heart-broken. I still love her.

Any help here would be most welcome.

Thank you.

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Dear Captain,

I have been in a serious committed relationship for six years. We met in law school, moved across the country together, and have been living at my boyfriend’s (“partner”) parent’s house for almost four years. Yup! You read that right! We are both attorneys and we still live with parents.

I have been trying to convince partner to move out with me for most of those four years; obviously without success. He finally agreed to buy a house with me and we have a realtor and finance person. Except we really haven’t made any headway on moving out. Saving money has been slow going because we both work long hours which makes cooking meals at home difficult -and our kitchen is less than ideal. Regardless, when meals are made it’s usually (read: ALWAYS) at the expense of my mental and physical labor- not his. I have tried to get him to contribute more in this regard but to no avail.

If you haven’t already surmised by now, I am a classic co-dependent! I will mother you like no other mother! Except that means I don’t take care of #1 and probably explains why I’m even in this predicament!

Starting a career in law is very difficult and I live in an area with an impacted market. Nevertheless, I somehow convinced a well-regarded law firm to hire me and have been working there for around 10 months. I have started to become heavily recruited by other firms and my career has gone from 0-100 in one week.

Compare that to partner’s career trajectory: never seems to find the right “fit” in a job; liked his first legal job but had some performance issues and became ultimately unhappy; was let go from his last job; and hates his current job and is currently looking for a new job. All of his job woes make me scared for our future because I desperately need stability. Even though he’s a lawyer and so presumably he has the tools to be successful, I’m afraid that he will continue this trend of failing to work hard to achieve goals- even in positions that he doesn’t love.

Last night I was trying to fall asleep in my partner’s childhood bedroom with all of our adult belongings closing in on us and our large, living-room sized TV lighting up the room while partner watched something about video games even though it was late and even though he had to wake up early. My heart was racing with so much anger for him and myself. I want a partner that challenges me and can keep up with my career ambitions.

So my question is: Do I let this ride out and continue to be the supportive girlfriend that helps her partner out of continuous ruts? Is this what love is and have I missed the memo that being in a committed relationship entails dragging your partner along kicking and screaming when you’re traveling a lot faster than he is and you want to help him keep up?

Sincerely,

Not Your Mother

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I’m having an awkward problem dealing with jealousy(?) from my peers.

I’m mid-twenties and very new to the working world. I dropped out of highschool due to some very serious mental health struggles and have only managed to pick myself up in the past few years. I’m doing amazing now, though I will probably still be in therapy for a couple more decades. I don’t think this history is relevant to my successes, but it’s probably relevant to my raging “imposter syndrome” and insecurities.

Last year, I was given a very cool opportunity to program a small game, with dedicated art assets and various quality checks already in place. I had never programmed anything for money before, but I quickly taught myself what I was doing and I felt very supported throughout. The client is impressed enough that I was brought on for a second game with the same team. I’ve realized that I am Not Bad at this, and, more importantly, I love doing it enough that I want to keep going. I plan to take some real classes and branch out in my abilities so I can make this a full-time job.

Not everyone is happy for me, and I don’t know how to deal with negative responses to my new streak of “doing well,” especially as it relates to my work. A lot of my friends have previously tried to make their own games, often unsuccessfully. I got a lot of discouraging talk early on (“it’s actually really hard and you’ll hate it!”) but it hasn’t been as bad now that I have a completed game ready to go out and am working on the second one. It’s been a lot harder for me to cope with comments that minimize my achievements and make them into… well, not achievements. For example, recently an acquaintance (who has previously expressed interest in working in this field) asked what development tools I was using and said something like, “Wow, people pay money for that? Really? *I* could do that – I should start doing it too.”

I didn’t want to be publicly insecure about my abilities, so I wasn’t. But it made me feel really, really bad, like what I was doing wasn’t significant or valuable. I don’t know what to do to gracefully defend myself when this kind of thing comes up, or if I even should. I already have a lot of survivor’s guilt for how well my life has been going the past two years, when a lot of my peer group is Very Sad All The Time, so it’s possible that these kinds of comments are being blown out of proportion for me. How do I cope with it? What can I say?

Thanks,
A Real Programmer!
(she/her)

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Dear Captain,

I have been thinking about this one for some time now, and I’m stuck: What is a good response to “What are you up to tonight / this weekend / next Thursday?”

I loathe this question, and I’ve been getting it a lot lately. I get it from friends (who usually just want to find a time to hang and that’s not so bad), my cousin (who usually wants me to babysit), my mom (whenever she wants to invite me somewhere), and people I’m chatting with on dating websites.

This is why I hate the question:

1. I don’t want to give you a rundown of my plans. They’re private and you don’t need to know them. I kind of resent that you assume I will tell you.

2. I feel like it’s asking me to say yes or no to an invitation / commitment before I even know what it is (like, if you’re having a party I might be free, but my babysitting quota is full for the month so no to that). Ugh.

3. In the case of friends and dates, I feel like sometimes it’s a slightly manipulative way of getting me to do the actual asking / planning. Like, you want to hang out with me, but don’t want to ask me straight up. Why not? Just ask!

4. I don’t understand the point of the question. Usually, the asker will tell me why they asked after I answer, no matter what the answer is (busy, not busy, don’t know). No matter what I say it’s, “okay, well I was just gonna see if you wanted to [actual invitation / request]”.

I usually end up saying something noncommittal like “I might be doing xyz, but I’m not sure yet – why?” and waiting to see what the actual deal is. But I hate this because then I have to pretend to wait while I figure out if my original “plans” are going through before I give them an answer. Or, if I tell a potential date some generic things (oh, probably reading and writing a lot) and add that I’d like to take a break so they know I’m open, I’m engaging in the same coy behavior that’s bothering me in the first place.

It all feels like a gross, stupid game I don’t want to play. I know it’s a common question and I’m sure most people don’t mean anything bad by it. But it puts me on edge every time I hear it. Is it just me? Should I keep doing what I’m doing? Or is there a better way to handle this?

Thanks Captain!

Free for the Good Stuff

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