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Reader Questions

Hi Captain! I’m 22, she/her, and relatively inexperienced romantically, if it matters.

Last summer I met a guy on Tinder and we hit it off right away. He actually asked me to be his girlfriend the first time we met up in person (my friend insisted this was a serious red flag, but I didn’t see this as a huge concern as we’re both pretty young—at the time I was 21 and he was 22, so I thought he might just be a romantic and not necessarily a sign of emotional immaturity). We went out for two months, during which he told me he “really, really, really, really liked” me. But then he went through some really rough things financially and emotionally and started messaging me less. I asked if he still wanted to see me, saying I understood if not. He said he did but needed some space for a while. I told him if he was still interested by then, I’d be around.

He never got back to me, so I figured he’d move on, but I never really stopped thinking about him. A month ago I texted him, asking how he’s been. I swear I wasn’t expecting to rekindle things or even an answer, but he said he’d been thinking about me too and wanted to see me again. We were going to have lunch but later admitted we both wanted to have sex. We did, and after that, radio silence.

I know we weren’t in a relationship, but I’m hurt that he’d say he didn’t want it to be the last conversation and then vanish on me again. I thought he genuinely showed signs of interest: He was the first to say he missed talking and that he had been thinking of me, without me asking. Since he was at work when we reconnected, I asked if he’d rather talk on the phone later, and he agreed but added “yet I still want to keep talking” i.e. still keep texting. He called me as soon as he was done with his shift, while still at his workplace, then while going home he texted me saying even though it was only for a bit (meaning 18 minutes) he missed talking to me over the phone, and then he called me again when we got home. All our calls were over an hour. The day before we met up, he asked if I still wanted to have sex or do our original plans, saying he was fine with either—even after I asked if he was sure.

Also, I asked him if he had any problems from when we were going out. He said it was honestly great except one thing that was ‘mostly just his insecurities’ but that that was something better addressed another time. Maybe this doesn’t mean anything, but I can’t imagine someone saying something like that if they’re just gaming to get laid.

I really thought I had tried to be communicative and make sure we were on the same page, and I’d like to know if I had somehow misread the situation. Also I’m just sick of thinking about him. Any clarity or insight would be appreciated.

One more thing: days after meeting up, I discovered that he deleted both his Instagram and Facebook accounts. Not blocked, deleted. I saw him scrolling through Facebook when we met up, so he must have done this very soon after that. That made me wonder if something else is going on in his personal life or if I should be worried, but I’m not sure if I’m grasping at straws.

-Tired of Overthinking

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Dear Captain,

I have a friend who, for a long time, was a very chill person but as of late they seem to find fault in all I do and shame me for it.

For example: I’ll talk about a cute guy, and they will point out all the ways the guy is a bad dude or how I’m fetishizing being gay, somehow. Which is weird, because, how can you fetishize your own sexuality? Or I’ll bring up a piece of media I enjoy and they’re quick to point out every issue within the show, or I’ll even make an innocent joke about my own writing and suddenly the joke is under a microscope being picked apart.

I’ve spoken to them about the issue, even proposed we have a sort of signal (specifically, an emoji to include alongside our statements) along the lines of ‘this emoji means I just want to talk about this thing and not analyze it beneath a moral compass’. But even the most innocent statements seem to warrant a judgmental rant. They make me feel ashamed to the point I just don’t want to talk to them about anything anymore.

I’m a queer man with some shame-based trauma. This person knows that, and yet, it doesn’t feel respected, even after asking them to please keep this in mind during our discussions.

This friend and I are in a rather close knit group chat, so I don’t really have a means of stepping away easily and so I have to just face them and I try to suck it up but it seems relentless sometimes. I understand that there are morality issues everywhere one goes, but I just want to talk and chill out sometimes. If I want to talk about morality, I’ll talk about morality.

Any advice on how to get along better with this person or to avoid further upset with them? Are there any particular things I could say to deflect these unwarranted discussions?

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Dear Captain,

I moved to a different country (Country A) for my first job out of university. I’d visited before and loved everything about it, and was feeling pretty sick of my home country (Country B) at that point. However, I was also always confident that I would eventually move back to my home country to be near my family and friends from childhood/university.

While still living in Country A, I started dating an amazing man. We started the relationship very casually: I was up front about my long-term desire to move back to Country B, and he was equally up front about never wanting to leave Country A. However, we fell very much in love and stayed together for two years. I could write 1,000 words about how amazing this man is. The short version is that, you know how a lot of people say they knew their partner was “the one” because their partner felt like home? That’s how I felt (feel?) about him.

While I was falling in love with Country A and this man, some family problems made me realize how hard it was to be away from my family and closest friends. Last November, I was offered an amazing job back in Country B. It was the hardest decision I have made in my life; in the end, I took the job and moved back to Country B because I couldn’t shake the feeling that I want to be there in the long term, and staying in Country A was just prolonging the inevitable. My then-boyfriend and I broke up. In a series of very painful conversations, he made it clear that he supported my decision but would never follow me to my home country.

I’ve been in Country B for five months now. I like being close to my family and friends (my social calendar hasn’t been this packed in years!). A lot of relationships important to me have been strengthened. But I miss Country B, and I miss my ex SO MUCH. Every part of my daily life feels like he should be there, and I can’t imagine a future without him. We still text every day (trying to do the “friends” thing, though we’ve both been pulling back a bit). We’ve had a few “feelingsbomb” conversations where we talked about how much we care for and miss each other, but he reiterated that he is not moving for me.

Captain, how do you get over someone who could have been the love of your life if not for geography? I feel like I had one inner voice screaming at me to go home to my family when I was living in Country A, and now I have an inner voice screaming at me to go to my “home” with this man. I feel like I’m being torn in half.

Thanks,

I Don’t Believe In The One But What If He Was It? (she/her)

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Dear Captain,

(Resend with better subject heading)

I haven’t seen anyone write in with a similar story, so sorry if this is a repeat.

Summary:

I’m having problems with a female friend that I previously had romantic feelings for. I told Friend about said feelings in late December of last year, and spent up to last week trying to get a “yes or no” on the question of reciprocated feelings, or interest to pursue things later (Friend made it clear she does not want to pursue romantic relationships until after university – we are both in Gr. 12 currently). After lots of avoiding the question and deflecting responses, the answer was determined to be no, as of last week. I feel somewhat hurt that she didn’t tell me sooner, so that I could stop further romantic advances and save us both a lot of time and embarrassment.

Long version with additional context:

I’ve generally had trouble understanding my own emotions, to the point where someone had to point out to me that I probably had feelings for Friend. As a result, I spend a good month making sure that was the case, and then another week or so to work up to nerve to tell Friend about these feelings. The telling occurred just before Christmas Break.

Shortly after the break, Friend responds saying she doesn’t know if she feels similarly towards me. I understand this, because of earlier stated emotional issues.

My thinking was that she was afraid to say no because she didn’t want to hurt my feelings, so I assured her that that would not be the case. (Sure, it might sting a little, but once the band-aid is ripped off it feels better.)

In an attempt to sway Friend’s response one way or the other, I gave her a poem for Valentine’s Day. It wasn’t so much a love poem as a “hey I might be a potential romantic option” type of thing (I had composed the poem before any potential feelings for Friend had arisen, so it’s not I like I went out of my way to write a poem for someone who may or may not be interested in receiving it). If the reception to the poem was good, then yay! If not, well at least Friend will still be just that – a friend.

Still no change in response.

Fast forward to last week. After a long-ish talk and more reassurance that it doesn’t matter to me what the answer is, as long as Friend is honest about it, Friend finally said she didn’t see me as a potential partner.

(It’s worth mentioning that my romantic interest in Friend had diminished greatly by this point, due to other difficulties in my life)

On to the FEELINGS!

I’m not upset she said no. I’m upset she said “maybe” when she meant “no”. If she knew the whole time, and I (hopefully) created an environment where we could both be honest, why couldn’t she just say so?

In the past I had issues with boundaries (mine and other people’s), so it’s kind of a big deal to me that I respect people’s boundaries as best I can. It feels like to me, by not saying no earlier, that she didn’t tell me about a boundary she had, and I crossed that boundary multiple times. It hurts me to know how uncomfortable she must have been during my advances. And oh god the poem. It’s a mistake to give someone a Valentine’s poem if you don’t know how they’ll feel about it, and an even bigger one when you know they probably won’t appreciate it.

I tried to have a conversation with Friend about FEELINGS, but ultimately it was a monologue. It was a pretty short monologue, as I didn’t want a FEELINGSBOMB to go off. Friend’s response was along the lines of “conversations with a high emotional content make me uncomfortable so I just shut down and hope the problem goes away on its own.”

The conversation did not help things.

This letter is getting very long, so on to the point:

How can I communicate FEELINGS without it getting out of hand? How can I explain that what Friend did was hurtful without her just shutting down in the middle of the explanation? Am I getting too worked up over this?

— Hurt, Confused, and Overthinking Everything. [Male pronouns]

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Dear Captain Awkward,

SHORT SUMMARY:

I’m trying to find a way to normalise relations with my future sister in law (“Sally”). She has been with my husband’s younger brother (“Bill”) for many years and they’re marrying soon. I’ve been with my husband (“Frankie”) for about half that time and married a year. Sally is simultaneously very polite and welcoming, but quite cool and sometimes scornful (it seems) of things I have done. I admit in several cases this is my fault and would like to make it right. Other times she seems to deliberately exclude Frankie and I from events or avoid invitations from us. Frankie does not like her at all and I try to defend her and get Frankie to accept her, because she is Bill’s partner. I would like to get on better with her and get Frankie to accept her, for peace in the family.

LONG STORY!

Sally and Bill are very successful late-20s professionals in a big city, own their own home and have solid careers. Frankie and Bill’s parents are retired in a nice town. Frankie and I are in our early-30s, work in poorly-paid fields, rent in a much poorer area, and are not as set up in life due to planning to move elsewhere (so we live cheaply and are saving up).

I quite admire Sally, as she has excelled in her (demanding) field, seems to be a really decisive and motivated person, has gone through some hard legal stuff, has made the house look amazing, is really stylish etc. I try to ask about her achievements or compliment her skills (eg. the house, her work, even a nice dress) but she is very dismissive of any compliments. (I don’t say things like “wow you’re the best ever at your job!” but “that sounds like a cool job”, so I hope I don’t come across as sycophantic).

We have never seemed to click.

On the one hand, Sally is a consummate hostess. They hosted Frankie and I several times in their previous home, when we travelled to their city to see the extended family – I would try to buy them dinner in thanks but it was politely refused. (I felt as though we have taken advantage of them, and would suggest staying in a hotel, but Frankie would ask and I wanted him to spend time with his brother. I have said many times I will return the favour if we live somewhere they want to visit).

On the other hand, Sally has sometimes seemed … disgusted (?) by things I have done. Some family friends had visited from abroad, and I had failed to book a restaurant for all of us for dinner – she actually curled her lip and rolled her eyes at Bill. (the dinner turned out fine BTW). I have offered to plan a holiday for us all and pay for a cabin, but never been taken up on it. I have invited them to Frankie’s birthday and chose a date that suited them after contacting Sally to check, but then Sally booked a cabin for herself, Bill and Bill & Frankie’s parents on that same date. I have offered to help with wedding preparation etc but have not been taken up on it.

Sometimes this has definitely been my fault: in one case, a lawyer friend offered to refer her to a colleague re: her legal issue, unfortunately this somehow turned into my friend grilling her for an hour over the issue (when I was not there to stop her doing it!), and I was mortified (I had just wanted her to pass the contact details to Sally, as I had asked Sally beforehand if she wanted more information, and I don’t know how it turned out like it did!). Another time, Sally had very kindly asked if I was OK due to some relationship stress, I confided in her a bit (and was really grateful as no one else had asked) and then I think she attempted to help, in her forthright way (it came across quite bluntly), but Frankie became very angry and stormed away.

It doesn’t help that Frankie has never approved of her and I am concerned that Frankie and Bill’s parents also are (secretly) cool towards her. They have always been very kind to me AND to Sally, and Frankie has said his parents never outright expressed opinions on any partner he or his brother has brought home.

But – at the parents’ house, I made the mistake of laughing a bit about a text Sally had sent me (it can be hard to read tone and I was initially very upset, but was later laughing about it and how I had misunderstood), and somehow that turned into a conversation about her blunt manners. I left the room and later Frankie seemed pleased that maybe their parents share his feelings.

So I am very, very worried that some kind of “them and us” situation will develop, which will cause a division; I often stand up for Sally in discussions where she is not present, as Frankie can be critical of her. I ask: “How would you feel if Bill said these things about me?”; “I can empathise with her, I have similar worries” etc.

I accept that we’ll probably never be bosom friends due to the age gap and different interests, but I would like to become allies and maybe one day friends due to shared experience. I worry perhaps that she might see me as an interloper/stealer-of-thunder, as Frankie and I got engaged and married in a much shorter timeframe?

So I guess I am looking for scripts for three things:
1) to apologise to Sally for those past instances where I’ve made things awkward
2) to say I would like us to have a better relationship, or at least start on making one
3) to help Frankie understand that Bill has chosen Sally, and Frankie needs to get over the issues he has with Sally (I have outright said this, as have his PARENTS, repeatedly, but it is not sinking in!)

Please help –
Stressed-Out Soon-To-Be Sister-In-Law

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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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Dear Captain,

I’ve been out as a trans man for about three years. I came out to all of my extended family, with the exception of my grandfather. This was because he’s increasingly doesn’t have a great grasp of what’s happening around him, and my parents thought it would be too hard to explain it to him. I was of the opinion that it probably could have been explained to him at the time, but my family were overwhelmed by the stress of my transition and I decided not to push it.

So for the last few years, I’ve basically dealt with this situation by avoiding him. I have no idea who he thinks I am. Once, before I was out to my extended family, he loudly asked ‘Who’s that boy?’ So I don’t think he recognizes me as Former Granddaughter. This was a fairly awkward situation because he had no idea who I was or why I was at every family event. His condition has deteriorated enough since then that he frequently doesn’t recognize other members of the family, so it sticks out less that he doesn’t know who I am.

He’s now in the hospital and it doesn’t look good. I’m worried that my dad might ask me to visit him. I don’t know what would happen if I turned up at his maybe-deathbed. I really don’t want to be misgendered or referred to by my birth name, but it seems selfish to not visit a maybe-dying man for that reason. I also don’t want to have to try and explain all this to him when he is likely not going to be in a state of mind to take it in. I’m worried that my dad, who I’m very close to, will think I’m selfish for not wanting to go. I just know that being called BirthName is absolutely not an option, and I just don’t want to enter into the painful and confusing arena of trying to explain now, having avoided the subject for going on three years.

Am I being selfish? Should I suck it up and go? If so, how do I handle this situation, given that pretending to be his granddaughter is not an option? And if not, how do I explain this to my dad?

Love,

Only In The UK Would We Think This Was A Tenable Solution

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