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Personal Safety

This excellent guide is full of gentle, direct scripts pulled from real situations.

Speak Up: Responding To Everyday Bigotry

 

I know we just talked about this, but this showed up in the box this morning and I want to show side-by-side how PREDICTABLE and DELIBERATE this kind of emotional abuse is. A partner who harps on you about your appearance is not a good partner. In other news, it’s about to get very crowded in the center of the sun.

Dear Captain Awkward,

My partner is worried about my overweight. It’s their most important issue, to the extent of regular arguments. One sided arguments, since they are right. I am overweight, and should be thinner. All our friends are thinner, so my partner is less attracted to me. My partner will not know what to do without me when I die early because of my overweight, so is only arguing for my benefit. Anything I could say is just an excuse. Including that I am the one with a job. That my partner isn’t any thinner. That I get up every day an hour and a half earlier to play with our 3 year old, quietly, so as not to wake my partner, until day care opens and I bring them there, so my partner can sleep late. That when I come home from work, my partner hands over the kid, while they rest by watching television. That after I put the kid to bed, I am asked to bring my partner food in bed, usually sweets, or fats which I am asked to fry. Those are just excuses, because my partner is unique in wanting to sleep late, and the kid is charming so playing shouldn’t make me tired, and my partner’s eating shouldn’t make me eat, and a few times in the past when my partner did let me go to the gym some mornings or evenings or weekends it didn’t have a major effect, and I should be able to get my exercise when playing with the kid anyway, and weight loss really is more about not overeating than about exercising. And anyway I shouldn’t be be blaming everyone else in the world for my problems instead of taking responsibility for them myself. So I don’t say any of that (which is a problem in itself, because then I am either behaving like a wall, or just agreeing to make the argument stop, but not getting any thinner). I do occasionally ask my partner to exercise with me, but they had a hard day, so I shouldn’t nag, and it’s not their job to fix my overweight. And since I know how important my weight is to my partner, whenever I overeat or eat sweets or carbs I must do it for spite, not because I need comfort for myself.

Any advice?

Heavyweight

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i.e. “Your Old High School Friend Is Not A Pacifier”

Dear Captain,

I have a dilemma I hope you can help me with. I seem to have acquired an internet friend with needs a bit beyond my capacity.

I’ve struggled with depression all of my adult life. Fairly recently I decided to go on medication, and wonder of wonders, it’s helped so much. Because of that, I’ve been able to make some healthy lifestyle changes.

I wanted to share about my experience, so I wrote a Facebook post. It was overwhelmingly positive. Many people reached out to me to share their experiences as well, including an extremely distant acquaintance from high school. Call him Fred.

Fred has also had challenges with depression. From what I can gather, he’s having some challenges with drinking and drugs too. Ever since my post, he’s taken to checking in with me every couple of days.

At first I thought that was nice–people supporting people in their shared experience. But his check-ins have turned into demands. Call me! I’m triggered! Call me! I’m suicidal! Call me! I’m in trouble.

I know how hard it is to ask for help. I get that he’s not in a place where he’s going to be graceful at it. I would really like to be supportive. He’s in a lot of pain, and he’s isolated. However, he’s stressing me out.

When he contacts me, it’s with demands that I stop what I’m doing immediately and talk to him. We’re not on equal ground–he isn’t willing to schedule a call to talk to me at a time where I have time and energy to pay attention. And his check-ins aren’t about me, they’re about me asking how he is.

Last night I stayed up (far past my sleep time) trying to get a sense of the territory of his dilemma. Two hours in, I asked him a question to try to understand, and he responded, “Plz stop analyzing it. It’s not helping!!!! You can analyze on your own time.”

Of course I am open to hearing that what I am saying is not useful. However, I’m not his therapist. I’m not even his friend. I’m just a concerned fellow citizen. This was at 1 am in the morning, after I had spent the entire afternoon worrying when he told me that he was drinking and thinking about killing himself. It really bothers me to be told that I am on payroll.

I don’t want to be a bad human here. I want to be supportive as I can. However, I need a way to set some boundaries so that I don’t have to feel worried, guilty, and sleep-deprived all the time.

Any suggestions?

Impromputu therapist
(preferred pronoun she)

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Dear Captain,

My workplace received an application from someone I knew about 10 years ago. “Dick” stalked, emotionally abused, and sexually harassed my good friend “Anya”. To make matters worse, at the time this occurred, Anya and I were both college students who knew him in his professional capacity–he was employed at our college, in positions of authority over both of us.

At the time of the abuse, Anya confided in me, and I tried to help prevent her from being stuck alone with Dick. I witnessed many of Dick’s behaviors first-hand, and heard about others. Dick underestimated how close Anya and I were, so I don’t think he ever realized the extent of what I knew about. I never reported it because Anya begged me not to–she was a college kid terrified of the fallout of making a formal accusation against a well-liked authority figure. There’s no official record anywhere of Dick’s abusive and inappropriate behaviors towards Anya. Anya eventually extricated herself from Dick, and Dick changed jobs not long after, so he’s been out of our lives for years.

Now Dick has applied for a job where I work. My bosses didn’t select him this time, but there are going to be additional spots opening in our offices in a few months, and Dick may apply for another position. Maybe in the intervening years, Dick’s gotten some therapy and is a healthier person now. But I can’t possibly un-know what I know about his past behavior, when I saw him violate professional and personal boundaries left and right. I wouldn’t feel safe with Dick at work, and worry he might go out of his way to hurt me professionally because of what I know about his past behaviors–or, worse, that he still violates boundaries. It’s also hard to forget he told Anya his fantasies about wanting to fuck me (…I was his student…).

If he applies again, what can I do or say? Is it appropriate/ethical to tell my supervisor that I’d be uncomfortable working with Dick because of past professional and personal (way too personal) experiences? The positions he’d apply for are above my pay grade, and I normally wouldn’t have any input on those hiring decisions. Is it appropriate to tell my boss that I knew Dick from one of his previous jobs, and have an unfavorable opinion? How much can/should I disclose? Dick may be a totally different guy now, and it feels awkward to bring all this up to my boss—is it even ethical?

I’m terrified just thinking about this. I wasn’t even the primary object of his obsession, but I can’t forget how creepy and awful it was.

Thanks for all you do,
Trying to be a Professional

Pronouns: she/her/hers

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Dear Captain and Company,

I recently finalized the ending of a relationship…I say finalized because I’ve been trying to break up with my ex since October, but she finally was able to accept it months later…no matter how many times I told her, “my feelings for you have changed,” “I’m no longer attracted to you,” et al. For the record, she’s not a bad person…hardcore GSF carrier, yes, but a generally decent, well intentioned (if a little misguided a lot of the time) human being. When the ending finally hit her, we were able to talk more openly than we have in months and are working out all the transitional stuff without conflict.

The question is this…we rent an apartment together with me taking on the bulk of the expenses as I make more money. While I could likely move with ease, she’s not in the same position…she wants us to stay as platonic roommates for another year, continue to work on our friendship as we move forward with our separate lives. Most of my Team Me think I am nuts for considering it. I’m torn. I don’t want to be the person who says, “F You, I don’t care, I am looking out for me,” but I want to be sure that I – and she, for that matter – can move on with our lives and be okay with it. I’m at the point where if I saw her with someone else, I’d be totally happy for her. No jealously, no angst. I don’t know that I trust her to be okay in the same way. It worries me that she refused to hear the very explicit statements I was making with regard to wanting to end our relationship, and I worry about how that could pan out should I meet someone else. On the other, we do work together in terms of splitting things up around the house well, and have pretty much been platonic roommates for the last year of our relationship.

Is this worth it to save money and hassle, or should I run, run, run?

Thanks, Domestically Challenged

Dear Domestically Challenged,

Listen to your friends!

RUN!

EXCLAMATION POINTS! YELLING!

You have been trying to break up with this person, by my count, FOR FIVE MONTHS. I just met you (sort of) but your friends have been watching this saga unfold and if they say “Run!” I say “Run!”

Breaking up is a unilateral decision. When you say, “My feelings have changed and I am breaking up with you” the relationship is over! The other person does not have to agree or consent for this to be true. And once you break up, one of the pieces of good news is that you get to stop “working on” the relationship. Some exes make great friends, and sometimes the transition is pretty easy because face it, you already were more like friends and like lovers. Not so with someone who refuses to accept the reality of your breakup and thinks you should “work on” that for another YEAR of your life.

Have you ever heard the expression “Sometimes the cheapest way to pay is with money?” I think it’s a nice gesture for the ex who makes more money to help the person who has less in the event of a breakup and dissolution of households, and if you can afford to pull together a security deposit-ish fund you could give her, it would be a kind gesture. On the one hand, your ex has manipulated you into staying longer than you want to and she has had five months to ponder “Domestically Challenged seems to be making noises about ending our relationship, so where would I live if we were to break up and not live together anymore?” and you don’t owe her any money (or more time). In your shoes, I would prioritize getting yourself out first and helping her second, if at all. On the other hand, sometimes the cheapest way to pay is with money.

Before you contemplate continuing a friendship with your ex, I think you need a space of your own away from her where you can hear yourself think, not another year (!!!!!) of dragging this out. Tell her you don’t want to keep living together. Offer her some relocation money if that’s something you can do. Consider staying with a friend for a few days to give her time to process the decision. Then move out of FEELINGSHAUS and into the next phase of your life. Then figure in where (and if) your ex fits into your life as a friend.

 

A series of letters from people who are trying to disengage but don’t know how. There’s some really toxic addiction and abusive behavior described in some of the letters, so, know that going in.

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