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An antique brooch with a woman being bored by a man in art history (a la The Toast)

“Eugene, dear, why don’t you run and get your lute? Definitely go away. I mean go and get it. Your lute.”

Hello there, Captain Awkward,

I’m a young person and I recently ended my first relationship. We did truly love each other–even though I’m young, I can say that with absolute conviction. But there were many serious problems in the relationship: they had a horrible, rude friend who would flirt with them constantly (one time she actually kissed them on the cheek while in front of me) and despite my begging they refused to do anything about her. They were into Nazism, which I know sounds bad but they were more into the German Nationalism and never hated anyone, so I convinced myself it was “okay” even when it gave me the heebie-jeebies. However, that wasn’t even the biggest problem in our relationship, which was that they never seemed to care. They would say that they loved me, which I’m sure was true, and yet while I was fighting constantly with my semi-abusive father about them (who yells and feelings-shames me), they refused to even tell their family about me. They would go on and on about their interests and never asked about mine. We went on two dates during the whole two years that we dated, and I had to initiate both of them. They never had time to talk to me and they never could just spend time alone with me, despite how willing I always was to make time for them.

Yet, looking back, I can’t help but think that I didn’t do as much as I could have. Sometimes, they were just worth it. Sometimes they would be sweet and I could really understand why I fell for them. They certainly wouldn’t mind taking me back; they told me that they would always love me and in the week it’s been over they’ve been radiating Cher Lloyd vibes. And I don’t think I could ever really find anyone else who loved me and understood me like they did, since I’m very geeky and I have hobbies many people would consider weird. They were really the only person that I can ever imagine tolerating every part of me, and I don’t know what to do now that I broke it off. Not to mention every person that I’ve been going to about this has been hinting to me that maybe I made a mistake, which I can’t help but start to wonder as well.
What should I do? Did I make a mistake?

Sincerely,
Am I walking away from Sephiroth or Cloud?

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I am a straight male in the process of getting a divorce. I am the one who filed for it. I did so out of necessity because my spouse has been increasingly unstable and abusive throughout the marriage. I spent years telling myself that things would get better any day and that there was no real cause for alarm. Additionally, my soon-to-be-ex-wife struggles with a lot of legitimate and confidential mental health issues. As a result, as this problem grew and my marriage slowly marched toward its end, I told very few people just how bad it was. Because I spent the first several months AFTER I filed for divorce falsely hoping that the divorce wouldn’t really have to happen, I also didn’t tell people what was going on as the process began.

At this point, she has moved out, and our small child has been placed primarily with me by mutual agreement. And still, many people in my life have not been properly clued in to this major life change. I still have relatives, friends, and co-workers who casually ask me how my wife is, or talk to me about what a wonderful family I have (really, I hid this well). When this happens, I visibly wince at this point. I no longer want to respond to those kinds of comments dishonestly, but I really don’t want to tell the whole story. All I want people to know are the two facts that are key to my current situation (and not easy to hide): the fact that I am divorced, and the fact that I am effectively now a solo parent. What is the quickest, least awkward way to say this when I feel I need to? My goal here is to minimize follow up questions, and ideally also minimize hurt feelings. I am finding that some people definitely feel put off that I hid the truth from them.

Sincerely,

Divorcee Unmasked

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Willow and Evil Willow from Buffy Season 2

Willow, talking about Evil Willow: “That’s me as a vampire? I’m so evil, and skanky…and I think I’m kinda gay.” 1) How has this image never come up at the blog before? 2) Don’t marry off just one of the sides of yourself and kill off the other. They’re both you.

Hi Captain:

I have been in a relationship with  my boyfriend now for 5 years. I met Leigh when I was 19, fell in love, grew up together, and last year bought a house together; we even had an engagement ceremony so our family would feel more at ease with us living together. Even though it was just a front, Leigh already sees me as his fiancé. I think you know where this is going. 

Last year shortly after we purchased our first home, I met a guy through an online game. Jack fell in love with me even though we have never met each other in person. We texted each other day and night for months and eventually things got progressively worse. We started “sexting” and it was then that I started living in guilt, every living moment. I sleep talk when I go to bed at night, and it didn’t take long until Leigh found out that I was cheating on him emotionally. I knew what a horrible person I have been and hated myself for enjoying having intimate conversations with Jack. Most of the time, I felt downright disgusted about myself. I stopped talking to Jack, and he continued reaching out to me telling me he needed me and can’t live without me. Jack texts me every 2 weeks to tell me that he trusts me and will always be there for me but I’ve ignored them all, as I believed he was a temptation I have to stay away from. In order for me to salvage my relationship with Leigh I need to fully devote myself him and one day we will get married and have kids and live our lives like all the loving couple in the world. Leigh being the perfect man that loves me more than anyone in the world, he forgave me and decided to trust me again. 

I travelled solo as a backpacker just last week and made out with a girl and a guy that I met at  a bar. I almost had sex with a guy I met at the hostel but I didn’t for I know I am in a relationship. I despise myself for even having the horrible thought and genuinely enjoyed being hit on by them, having them telling me how beautiful and sexy I am. I had the time of my life when I was there, for once feeling as though I am single.  I thought I could just forget all about it once I get home, and concentrate on being the perfect girl friend again and wait for the feeling of wanting to be single to go away. Sleep talking didn’t help, as Leigh found out in my sleep that I have been apologising “for being a whore” and that “I’m sorry, I’m wrong”. He also managed to find a conversation of me and a friend regarding this situation. The guilt is eating me alive but I didn’t know what else to do. Leigh left me this morning, to travel by himself and to give me time to figure out what is it that I really wanted. He is willing to put a hold on this relationship and let me leave and “find myself” and “do whatever I want” as long as I don’t tell him any of that when I come home. I am with a man that loves me so much, enough to forgive me from cheating on him and would sacrifice everything in his power to make me happy. What more do I want? Am I really willing to let a man like this go just to fuel my desire of being single?

Lost

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Four letters about The Guy Who Would Be Perfect If Not For That One Dealbreaker Thing. I didn’t publish the 5th of this ilk that came in this week, which was about a perpetually-unemployed-and-not-trying, bad-in-bed man who was also mean. That one was too easy (Bees! Run!). These are harder because people don’t have to be evil to be not quite right for you.

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The monthly(ish) roundup of the questions people type into search engines to find this blog.

1. “My partner thinks I have genital warts but I have herpes what do I do?”

Both of you should get a full STI screen, if you haven’t already, and talk about whatever you find there. (‘Cause maybe it’s both). Or, if you’ve just done this, say “We thought I had HPV, but the screen showed that actually it’s herpes. You should get screened, too.

2. “My girlfriend is rude to my parents.” 

“Hey, you were pretty rude to my parents tonight. I don’t appreciate you (specific rude thing she did). I think they deserve an apology, and I need you to calm that whole thing down.”

If you bring it up, does she acknowledge the behavior? Is she rude to other people who aren’t you? Is she rude to your folks even after you talk to her about it?

3. “I joined a dating website to hurt him.”

Spite Dating: seems totally reasonable and like it will bring you and your Spite Dates nothing but happiness!

Or, ahem, maybe this is a good sign that whatever relationship you’re in has run its course and it’s time for you to find the exit, take some good care of yourself, give yourself some room to mourn and heal. Join a dating site to remind yourself that you have options. And then, when you’re ready, use that dating site and find new people who will be into you the way you want them to be. But do it for yourself, not at your (soon to be) ex.

4.” ‘I love you as certain dark things are to be loved in secret, between the shadow and the soul’ what does the line means?”

Reading the whole poem, it seems to me the poet is describing a love for someone for reasons that would not be obvious to everyone, in a way that isn’t necessarily healthy or a good idea, but is true nonetheless. It reminds me a little of the song My Funny Valentine. Lit Majors of Captain Awkward, what say you?

5. “I just don’t feel ready enough yet to be in a new relationship because I’m tired and now I want to be alone.” 

Embrace the alone.

Make your living space exactly what YOU want it to be. Eat foods YOU like, watch movies YOU want, listen to YOUR favorite music. Throw yourself into work, into school, into creative endeavors, into meeting new people or trying new things for their own sake. Or curl up under a blanket and wait out this eternal February with a good book. Spend time with your friends and family and people who love you. Be really nice to yourself. Heal. Get some rest. Feast on your life.

And when people ask, in a well-meaning fashion, if you’re dating anyone new or if you plan to, smile and say “I’m sure I will someday, but I’m really enjoying being alone right now.

There’s this picture of Katie Holmes from a while back that people were criticizing for being “frumpy” or whatever. I kind of love her outfit and would wear it in a heartbeat, but mostly what I want to say is “LOOK AT HER SMILE. THAT IS A PERSON WHO IS FEELING LIKE HERSELF RIGHT NOW.”

That’s you. Alone. Walking through the world like you know a secret no one else does, and the secret is that life is huge and amazing and you are strong and wonderful and there are all kinds of love in this world and relationship-type love is only one of them.

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I married my college boyfriend T three years ago, but our marriage became pretty awful. This past summer I went to a month-long program for my job and met M, who is honestly the most amazing person I’ve ever known. He gets me in a way no guy ever has. When we said goodbye he kissed me and it was like fireworks going off. We stayed in touch every day and realized we were in love. I knew I wanted to be with him, so I was upfront and honest with T about everything. T asked me if I would cut off all contact with M and go into counseling with him, but it was too late for that.

I flew to where M lives a few times and everything went to another level. He’s married too and has been unhappy for a long time but it’s more complicated because they have two kids. I moved out from the house T lives in (it’s owned by his company so I was the one who had to leave) and that was really hard. At first T was letting me stay a couple of months, then changed his mind and I had to leave in 2 weeks. Then he refused to keep our cat even though the apartment I found doesn’t allow pets, and gave it away to someone else. M is allergic but said he’ll live with them because that’s how much he loves me.

This summer M and I are moving in together. We’re keeping our current jobs until then for finances, and it gives him time to figure out how to tell his wife and kids. T and I are getting divorced, and I’m starting to feel happy again except T is telling everything to our mutual friends from college, including the girls I lived with, who are more my friends than his. He insists on telling all the details and blames me for breaking up our marriage. He’s prejudicing my own friends against me and against M, who he’s never even met. I’ve asked him to just say that we had irreconcilable differences and we’re moving on with our lives, but he refuses and says it’s his story too and he can tell it however he wants.

How do I talk to my friends without having to defend myself against everything? How do I show them how happy I am? I want them to meet M so they can see how good we are together, but feel like T has poisoned the well. I’m following my heart and it’s been really hard and I need their support, but I feel like T is actively trying to destroy that. I’m scared to lose them. What can I do?

Following My Heart

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Dear Captain and Co,

Almost 3 years ago I broke up with my then-boyfriend of 6 months.  We’d been friends before, and due to being in the same friends group, stayed friendly afterward.  I thought we would be able to make better friends than a couple, but I didn’t push the issue, as it was obviously awkward.  Then we both graduated college, moved to different places, and lost touch.  About a year, maybe year and a half later, he defriended me on Facebook, so we’ve been completely out of touch for a year and a half now.

My problem is that I owe him an original short story due to a lost bet.  The bet happened at the start of our relationship, and while I made notes about the story I intended to write, due to school and stuff, I never actually got it written.  I’ve had the time to write the story for at least a year now, but haven’t because I’m not sure that it’s still appropriate for me to contact him.  This keeps bothering me because it feels like a broken promise.  I promised a story and I didn’t deliver, and there was no time limit on the delivery so I could still keep the promise.  But he chose to defriend me and I want to respect that too.

Whenever I think of sending him the story, I think of saying in the email something like “I still owed you a story, you don’t have to get in contact if you don’t want.”  But that feels awkward enough that I haven’t done it.

Should I just write this off as something I won’t be able to complete?

~ Open to Being Friends

Dear Open:

Of course you should write the story, if only to get it out of your system and check “wrote story” off your mental to-do list.

But you shouldn’t send it to him, not only because he closed off contact with you, but because it’s your story now.

This dude passed through your life for good or for ill, and you have memories and feelings and lessons that you’ve earned from that that are part of your story. That story is yours to write, to submit, maybe to publish, to share, to develop. Don’t offer it up to some dude you broke up with to pay off a bet he’s probably forgotten about. Your muse doesn’t necessarily need to be your audience.

When you break up with someone, here’s what you owe them:

  • Communicating your decision in a clear way and not making them guess or find out about it on Facebook when you change your status to “Single” or “It’s complicated“, i.e. “Not quite single yet but definitely open to fucking new people!
  • Paying back money and giving back their stuff in a timely fashion and sorting out legal issues like leases, rent, custody of pets/offspring as fairly as possible.
  • Respecting their wishes about (lack of) communication and making your own boundaries and expectations clear.
  • Doing what you can to be kind and fair, but not at the expense of your own well-being.

You don’t owe them further communication. You don’t have to be friends.

You don’t owe them telling your story in a way that makes them look like the good guy.

You don’t owe them fulfilling old promises. Ever heard the phrase “All bets are off”? It definitely applies after a breakup. That’s your story prompt:

“‘All bets are off,’ she said…”

One way you can find closure after the end of the relationship is to reclaim all the stuff that is yours as YOURS.

If you are having trouble letting go and need to avoid all things that remind you of your ex (family, ex-friend, etc.), so be it. I hear you, and you should do what works for you. But if you’ve let the person go just fine, you shouldn’t have to give up your love of things you love just because they are associated with a past love affair. So what if your ex recommended that great novel or movie to you. You loved it? Cool, it’s yours now, part of your canon. Your favorite restaurants and bars and coffee shops and bookstores? Yours. Go there, head held high, and eat the delicious food and drink the delicious drinks. Friends you made during the relationship, who you would still like to hang with? Call them up. If you genuinely care for each other and have things in common besides common knowledge of some dude or lady, the friendship will work just fine. If it doesn’t? It wasn’t meant to be and you can let it go. Loving someone means letting a whole bunch of new experiences, associations, and inspirations into your life, and you’re not obligated to let go of stuff that you love (or worse, creative work you made) just because the person didn’t stick around in your life forever.

Letter writer, I pronounce you sole proprietor of any stories you write as a result of your relationship with one former datepartner. I also absolve you of the obligation to write any story whatsoever unless you want to for your own reasons.