Hi,

Me and my husband have been together for a bit less than seven years now. I have never really liked my mother-in-law and my husband doesn’t really like her company either. Also, everyone who has met her and I’ve talked about this agrees with me. She is exhausting to be around: she talks literally all the time about things only she is interested in. It’s also impossible to concentrate on anything if she is around: she will come and interrupt us with something else. I can spend about a day in her presence, after which I will be totally exhausted and sleep for a day.

What bothers me even more is that she wants to control and micromanage everything in our life. For example, me and my husband are attending the pre-Christmas party of the company that I work for, and my mother-in-law obsesses about it. She has bought my husband a suit (he could afford it himself) and she calls me often to say that I need to put my hair up for the occasion. I don’t really care and don’t know how to do it but she keeps pushing. She also gives us a lot of cleaning tips and buys a lot of cleaning utensils (that are not the ones I prefer, for ethical reasons) for us. She also always starts to clean our apartment when she visits. These are just examples, she has an opinion on every little thing in our lives.

The problem is that she never listens to anything we say. Especially for me, it is hard to confront her because she does get hurt easily. And I know she means well by everything she does. But even when we talk about these things quite straight (and my husband even harshly) to her, it doesn’t change her behavior. It will maybe work for a few weeks but then she will continue the controlling behavior.

Another problem is that because it’s not pleasant to be around her, we spend a lot more time with my mother. Even though both mothers live equally far away, we visit my mother a lot more often. It just isn’t as big an investment of energy from us to visit my mother. My husband agrees with me on this but I still feel guilty about it. My mother-in-law isn’t evil, I just personally don’t enjoy being in contact with her.

How can I reach a more peaceful existence with my mother-in-law? Should I feel guilty about visiting my mum more often? Is it ever possible to get through to her that we want to make our own decisions?

Thanks in advance,
An introvert who isn’t a native English speaker 🙂

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Hey Cap,

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

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Dear Captain,

Thank you for indulging me by reading my email. I have been a lawyer for the last almost 13 years and been at the firm where I am for the last 5. I was so happy to get this job as I have worked in other firms where my desperation to qualify as a lawyer was ruthlessly exploited in the form of terrible pay, or where I was the only person in the firm doing the area of law I do when I was still in the period where the law required me to be supervised, meaning that I had no-one to discuss cases with and was forbidden from having my own stapler or printer and had to walk down 4 floors to pick up printing, which was massively disruptive. For the first 4 years everything was great. I started the job on the same day as an older lawyer called “Jacob”, and we did the same job ie Big Deal Files With Lots of Money Involved That The Other Side are Fighting and the Court is Involved Which Have Massive Consequences If You Mess Up. Two things happened in 2015 – poor Jacob had a breakdown and messed up a lot of his files and left just after Christmas last year, and also I was ill for a few months with terrible ladies’ problems that caused me to bleed non stop, all over the office, for 4 months. I didn’t take any time off work apart from the day I was actually operated on because I had so many Big Deal Files with deadlines, and if I hadn’t done them they would all have gone to poor Jacob who was already struggling with his own work. So I messed up 2 files by not filing documents in time, because I was distracted by bleeding and/or dazed from meds. Unfortunately, “bleeding all over the office” isn’t a legitimate reason not to file documents in the eyes of the court, I should have made sure someone else did it (although if I’d been well enough to think “this, this and this needs done” rather than “aaaaagh stop bleeding” I would just have done it myself) and the cases got thrown out of court, costing the firm money.

After Jacob had a breakdown and left, I inherited all his files. I am now the only lawyer here who does this type of work (we are a very small firm). For the last 5 months or so, my own mental health has been getting worse and worse. More mistakes are happening, the bosses are reminding me constantly that I am costing the firm money, which makes me more nervous, so more mistakes. I am having multiple panic attacks daily, my hair is falling out, I end up being sick from nerves and I have started cutting myself after over a decade of not doing that. I have been having suicidal ideation since the summer but don’t really want to do it, yet find myself planning how I would. I have seen my doctor and been referred to a psychologist (referral came through last week, one session so far) so I am getting attended to by professionals. My husband and friends think I need to quit and get a new job, or at least have some time off. I don’t know how to get that though – Jacob’s “stress” was met with incredulity (“What does he have to be stressed about? We’re a very lenient firm”) and I can’t even articulate why I am finding everything so difficult that I need time off. My doctor has been trying to sign me off for the last 2 months but I have been fighting him off because I have too much to do. If I wasn’t here nobody else knows how to do this kind of work. The bosses know that my mental health is on a downward slide as I told them in the summer after an embarrassing sobfest in the office, and last week I had a file review where I was found to have not worked on some files and I broke down again, sobbing that I wasn’t well. The bosses squirmed awkwardly at the hysterical woman and said that they were a very lenient firm, and that in other firms I would have been fired after the bleeding disasters. I am worried that they are right and that I am just too useless to be a solicitor. I am also worried that I could make a mistake that causes the firm to be shut down.

One of the bosses, “Adrian” has a tendency to nitpick, and once a mistake is made, goes on and on about it, and will call me in to tell me to do something right away even if I am in the middle of something else. The other two are less inclined to lecture, but I still feel guilty for messing up their business. I am not messing up all my cases, just a tiny proportion, but any mistake on cases like this has massive consequences, in the way that the cases that the bosses and the one other lawyer here deal with don’t.

TL, DR version: I am very depressed and anxious and making mistakes which get me into trouble, then I get more depressed and anxious. Am I unreasonable when the bosses are trying to run a business to want some time off? I already had a week off in September to go away with my husband but the day I came back I was already panicking by 10am. I don’t want to stop being a lawyer, I used to be able to do this job. I don’t hate working here either, it is a nice place to work compared to everywhere else I have been, I just hate that this has spiraled out of control to this point.

Thank you again for reading, sorry so rambling

A once-competent lawyer

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Hi all,

What: Captain Awkward NYC meetup
When: Saturday Dec. 17th, 2pm
Where: Think Coffee, 123 4th Avenue, Manhattan

After skipping November due to election feels, the Captain Awkward NYC meetup is back for December.  This month will be board game-centric, I’ll be bringing Hanabi, Lanterns, and Coup. Feel free to bring any games that work well for a group with minimal table space (the tables at Think Coffee aren’t huge).

We’ll be at the Think Coffee at 123 4th Avenue, in the Union Square neighborhood of Manhattan this Saturday, Dec. 17th starting at 2pm.

Think Coffee is on street level with an accessible bathroom.  They serve coffee, tea, soups, sandwiches and baked goods.  They have vegan options.

I have chin length brown hair and will have a stuffed toy robot on the table with me.

My email address is pixarislife@yahoo.com.

Hope to see you there!

Emma

Hi Captain,

Earlier this year, I agreed to do some work for someone. We hashed out that I’d do about X hours/week, and they’d pay me $Y/hour. It was a hobby that I never expected to monetize, so I was really surprised that someone was willing to pay for it. Between my two official jobs and all the other stuff I’ve had going on this year (moving, cutting ties with my abusive parents, my mental health taking a nosedive), I hadn’t even noticed that they didn’t pay me… for months, now that I look back on my records. Add to this that the work, which used to be fun, now feels like an utter chore, and I really don’t want to do this anymore.

I need a script (email or text) to deal with them. Ideally, I’d like to a) maximize my odds of getting paid (I know there’s no guarantee, since we never signed a contract or anything, and luckily I can survive without the money), and b) make it clear that I will no longer be working with them, since this behavior is unacceptable. Any advice? All my attempts at writing something come out rude and profanity-laden.

-Why Does Everyone Feel Entitled to Free Millennial Labor?
(He/him.)

PS – any advice on not feeling foolish and irresponsible for not noticing this sooner?

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Captain,

It might be selfish, but I need to break up with this guy. We’ve been going out for just about 4 months, and for over a month of this time, I have been on the receiving end of hearing about how terrible this guy’s life is and how I’m the only thing that makes him happy.

I have listened, I have offered advice when asked (and I have been asked a lot), I have…probably put up with this for longer than I should have. I am no longer having fun with him.

He goes on and on about how his ex (with whom he has a son) is working behind his back to take their kid to live abroad without his “permission”, or how his work is so hard and he just doesn’t want to go in any more.

On the rare occasion he does ask how I am, he makes it about him again (“I get you. That’s like when I…”). If I try to take a night off to just do me, I get a barrage of messages asking “Did I upset you? What did I do wrong?”.

He admits he’s depressed…and he refuses to get help because he doesn’t “believe in therapy, because therapists just sit there and nod”. I actually find this a little bit insulting, because I’ve had therapy. He keeps telling me that, no, I actually just worked it out myself because I’m so “awesome and strong”.

…No. I worked with a qualified professional for over two years, and I have worked hard to get to the stage where I realise that this relationship isn’t healthy, and I probably need to get out.

I need to break up with him, because on a good day I have just about enough mental health spoons to deal with me. But…I feel bad because, well, I’m his girlfriend. Should I be able to deal with some of his spoons, too?

I know I am not responsible for his emotional well-being, but…how do I tell him nicely that I can’t be with him because I don’t want to go into a spiral myself, but without feeling guilty about him maybe not sorting himself out?

Kind regards,

I’ve Been Through This, I Can’t Do It Again

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From your host, peregrinations:

San Francisco Bay Area Awkwardeer Meetup!

When: Sunday, December 11 at 1 pm

Where: PIQ in Berkeley – UPSTAIRS!
91 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704 (Google Maps link below)
1.5 blocks from Downtown Berkeley BART station (on Fremont-Richmond and Richmond-Daly City/Millbrae lines)

What: Bay Area Awkwardeer meetup! Feel free to bring knitting, crafts, books, etc, or just yourself

About PIQ: PIQ is a bakery, cafe and pizzeria with a wide range of meat-based, vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options, and it looks like they have a couple salads for gluten-free folks as well. They have a big open floor plan with lots of seating and a reasonably quiet atmosphere (good for talking). We will be on the second floor which is fully handicap accessible (there’s an elevator on the main floor). Bike parking available, street parking for cars.
PIQ’s website: http://www.piqbakery.com/berkeley

Menu: http://www.piqbakery.com/menu
Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/piq-bakery-berkeley

How to find us:
I’ll be seated inside on the second floor, and will have a floppy-legged buffalo plushie with me. I will make a foldover sign saying “CA Meetup” to put on the table.

For more info:
Feel free to pm me on the forums, or email me at peregrinations74@gmail.com.

Hope to see you there!

Have a wonderful time.