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Hi –

The subject line has most of the relevant details. A friend of a friend (Jane) presented me with a screenshot of messages my boyfriend sent her through a major dating site. The messages themselves are innocent enough (about radio shows and favorite desserts) but whyyyyyyyy are you sending strange women messages on a dating site when we are talking about who we would have in our wedding party? He’s been shitty and distant and “I don’t know if I want this” for a few months, so I’m pretty sure he won’t be upset that I found out. I’m expecting a “You’re right, let’s break up” response, which terrifies me, even though I am so fucking angry right now at him about this. (Super extra fun, the intermediate friend is my boss’ wife, so this is bleeding into work because the friend discussed it with her husband, the boss). I’m so mad, and I want to confront him, but I don’t know what to do or say. I’ve never been in this situation before.

He sent this message three months ago, according to Jane. She didn’t see me until yesterday and didn’t feel like she knew me well enough to get in touch specifically for that, I guess. She said as soon as her Facebook sleuthing revealed he was with me, she stopped messaging him immediately. No reason to doubt Jane.

Sincerely,

Not Good Enough, Apparently

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Hi!

I’m pretty young (17) and my boyfriend of two years is now 28. We met through this sport which is really uncommon where I live and we were happy for the first year but since my parents got a divorce I’ve been feeling worse for every day. Now I don’t feel welcome in any of my homes mainly because they think that I spend too much time with my boyfriend (let’s call him J). So all in all I feel stressed because i don’t feel at home anywhere, I feel sad because my boyfriend is more about us being together all of the time than I am (though is was like that too like a year ago) and I recently started feeling suffocated, and that I want to be able to go out clubbing and exploring myself (also sexually and meeting other people, yes).

I just feel that he’s getting on with his life and that I still haven’t lived mine, so even though I love him and he loves me, I feel like I am wasting his time everyday since he’s looking for something real and is not exactly getting younger. At the same time he’s the perfect boyfriend who can always make me feel better when I get stressed out over family, school, job, this sport and more and if this wasn’t about him, I wouldn’t have any problems because he’d keep me happy and help me through this.

I can’t help but feeling that if it wasn’t for this particular sport which means the world to the both of us, I probably would break up and live my life for a couple years, including getting my own place, drinking at clubs, maybe study in a different city and get some tattoos (which he doesn’t really like but never holds against me). I don’t know what would happen if we broke up, maybe we’d just hold some distance for a while and then go back to normal, or one of us would have to quit.

This break up feeling is new though, it came when things got so much worse at home, so I can’t help but wondering if I’m projecting my feelings of betrayal and slight disgust that I have towards mainly my mother, onto him. I really don’t know what to do because my parents are too partial in this, none of my friends understands the extent to which this could destroy my life within this sport and how I don’t want to waste his time and I am just a wreck.

J also has to live in a relationship with someone completely unstable who breaks down in tears everyday which of course is worse for me, but it must be weary on him as well. I just feel really bad because he has always treated me like a princess through everything and has kept me sane through my parents divorce. But at the same time I want to LIVE! Find out who I am without him. I also know that I’m pretty unstable from 7 years of bullying and a manipulative relationship before him so thats not helping either…..

I just don’t know where to keep all of there thoughts because everytime I let them out I break down in tears..

Please help!

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Dear Captain Awkward,

After two months of just-can’t-get-enough-of-you, he went cold overnight. Just like a switch was thrown. No responses, no communication, nada. Okay, it’s happened before with other guys, I can deal.

What has also happened before which I CAN’T deal with is running into him again and getting that question. You know the one. “You’re not mad at me, are you?” [cue sheepish grin]

I simply cannot come up with a satisfying answer to this question. If I say, “why, yes, you’re a big shit-ball,” it feels like I’m giving up power somehow, and it’s easy to dismiss me as bitter, as someone who’s still hung up on him. If I say no, then he walks away feeling absolved. Either way, he feels good / righteous.

It’s surprising how often they turn up again with this question. I hate getting cornered this way, and I _will_ run into him again (small town). It’s hard for me to even articulate to myself why this question feels SO manipulative and self-serving.

I’d really like a script that is the truth, but also puts the responsibility for his shitty behavior right back where it belongs — on him. I want nothing to do with making him feel better about how he behaved. Make sense?

signed,
Being Prepared Gives Me Peace of Mind

Dear Prepared,

I’m sorry you’ve encountered Shirley Jackson’s Daemon Lover.

If you ever encounter this situation again, I offer you this script:

“Undecided.” + Awkward Pause + Turn back to whatever you were doing.

Picture this lady Viola Davis as Annalise Keating from the pilot episode of the ABC show How To Get Away With Murder that aired September 25, 2014 saying it:

Viola Davis from How To Get Away With Murder

You don’t need to act cool or smooth things over. You don’t need to reassure him. He knows you’d have a good reason to be angry with him, or he wouldn’t ask the question.

I hope everything starts to feel better soon.

Baby Elephant

It’s my blog, and I’ll lighten the mood of serious posts with photos of baby elephants if I want to.

Hi!

So here’s the setup; I’ve been in a long term relationship for a while now (going on a decade). We’ve lived together for most of this, we now own a house together, we aren’t married (and don’t plan on it) and don’t plan on kids. We also have a bit of an usual arrangement within our house, in that we don’t share a bedroom (or bathroom or office spaces) because I’m a very light sleeper and he snores.

So the problem: I find I’m desperately unattracted to him now. Sex was never fantastic with him, but I used to still enjoy it. I rarely got off with him, but I was ok with this (masturbation is there to save the day!). I’ve occasionally had stretches where I lost interest in sex for a while (say, 4-6 weeks at a time). I just shrugged my shoulders, asked him not to push me it on it because having him nag me about sex while I was in one of these phases just pissed me off, and I came out of the phase just fine. He’s not a neat person (and I’m uninterested in fixing this, part of the reasons separate bedrooms are great cause that mess is his problem to deal with), he’s very gassy (which, ok, I know, people fart, but it doesn’t really make me think sexy thoughts, and the separate bedrooms and offices are also great for keeping some distance for this stuff), and he has this attraction for old T-shirts he had in high school (which mostly just annoys me because SERIOUSLY you can still wear stuff from high school? But usually it’s not really a problem, he has to wear dress clothes to work so those are now only occasional lounging clothes). None of this stuff has changed at all during the course of our relationship; I pinpointed them before as possible problems, and have eliminated them as issues as much as I can.

But I’m not coming out of the phase this time. There’s nothing left for me to pinpoint as a problem. This time we are pushing 5 months of me being completely uninterested in sex (or anything involving us touching) with him. I can’t get myself to be attracted to him. I can’t. And I’m getting really tired of trying to force myself to be attracted to him. I’ve always had an …active imagination when it comes to imagining sex. This hasn’t ever impacted our sex life before; I’ve never had any issues placing him in fantasies before alongside all the other fun stuff. But I find lately that I’m almost repelled by picturing him in my fantasies or during masturbation. It completely kills it for me. Because there’s this lack of attraction, anytime he comes to touch me (whether its a hug, or a shoulder rub, or whatever) I completely stiffen up and just wait until he stops so I can relax.

He’s my best friend though. We still get along great for the most part besides. There’s just this giant elephant in the room of, “Hey, you know, we’re boyfriend/girlfriend, yet our relationship has been pretty much just roommates for months now.” What do I do? What can I do when I’m not attracted to him? I’m scared of moving on (I do still love him. I just don’t think sexy thoughts of him anymore), but I also know I’ll be dreadfully unhappy in the future if this is all there is in the future. I don’t even know how to begin talking to him about this. My biggest fear is that he’ll just sit there without saying anything once a conversation starts (this fear exists because it’s happened before in big conversations, where he’l just sit there without really adding any input and I’m left to say “well, so there it all is, it’d be cool if you had something to say about this” and it just never happens. Even during a therapy session we went to 4 or 5 years ago).

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Dear Captain Awkward:

About two weeks ago, I was broken up with by my then-boyfriend of nearly two years, P. I did not see it coming, at all. A week before, he had invited me to his family’s reunion in the summer, and he had spent the previous weekend with me.

P and I met on a dating website, after I had been single for a couple of years. We seemed to click right away, he was very attractive and intelligent, and was fun to converse with. The only major problem in our relationship, that I could tell, was that he was bad at emotional intimacy. Like, way bad.

When he broke up with me, he sent a bunch of mixed signals. The few times we saw each other or talked during the first week after, he was way physically (& not platonically) affectionate, and was telling me all about how his day was going. Needless to say, it was confusing.

I spoke with a friend who is mutual friends with P, and she confirmed that nobody knew that P was going to break up with me, and that P was being a sad panda about it. He said (to my best friend) that I should get in touch with him when I was ready.

I ended up talking to my therapist about it, and she suggested that I figure out why he had broken up with me. Initially he said it was because he didn’t feel the way for me the way he thought he should, but all of his actions pointed away from that. So, I texted him to see if he was open to talking, and off we went to our favorite diner.

That talk, to say the least, ended badly. He hemmed and hawed and gave weird reasons (didn’t want to move in together, which was odd because I was nowhere near ready for that either), only to change his mind the next second. Then he said, “I just never saw myself with somebody like you.”

When I asked what that meant, he mumbled something about my “eclectic” fashion sense. Then, he blurted out, “I guess I always saw myself with somebody more conventionally attractive.”

This obviously hurt. In the beginning, I often wondered how somebody like me could land a guy so freaking hot. And now, cool! All my fears and insecurities came true! Awesome!

I got angry, and told him that there was no way, none what so ever, that we could be friends after this. He got sad, and was practically pleading with me. He apologized a bunch, promised he’d be a better person in the future, all that. When I left his car, I told him that he could consider himself free from me, and I went and ugly-cried all over the place. I deleted and blocked him from everything, disabled a lot of my social media accounts to avoid lashing out at him.

In the process of that, I came across a post he made on Reddit, asking how to forgive himself after he had hurt somebody, mentioning how he was never proud to be seen in public with me, and how he knew from the beginning that he was settling for way less than what he wanted in a partner, namely in the looks department.

It’s less than a full day later, so I know it’s too soon to make huge declarative statements but: This has utterly messed me up. Like, I’ve always been aware that I was less than cute by society’s standards but I’ve never had a hard time getting dates/hook ups/relationships, so I figured I was doing okay enough. Now, I have to deal with the knowledge that a man I was in love with for nearly two years, who introduced me to his family and friends, who seemed to have no problem having sex with me, secretly wished I looked like somebody else. From the get-go.

I guess my question is: How to I survive this? I can’t look in the mirror without bawling. I’m so nauseated that I can barely stomach food. I am hating my body and my face a lot right now. And I know I shouldn’t feel that way, that this anger should instead be directed at him for being such a jerkface, but it’s easier to point it at myself.

For right now, I am so turned off to the idea of finding somebody else, even in the distant future, because now I’ll always be wondering at the back of my head: What if this hypothetical person will also lie to myself about loving me and having sex with me while actually being embarrassed by me?

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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 Awkward:

  • Dated a man
  • He broke my heart
  • We did friends with benefits
  • I called it off because I still loved him
  • We were friends
  • I tried to kiss him
  • He said no
  • I asked for some space to get over him
  • He granted it (nicely)
  • I came back when I was ready
  • He blanked me
  • He’s read my messages 
  • TOTAL blankage.
  • For WEEKS now.

I don’t get it. I know you can’t tell me why he’s blanking me but I really, really don’t understand it at all. He was really nice about giving me space, gave me a big hug, said “if you ever need anything…” – then when I was ready to come back (admittedly after only 2 weeks), he acted like I don’t exist.

Do you have any insights into why that’s happened? I guess there’s nothing I can do without making it worse, but I’d like to at least understand, y’know?

– Bullet Points Are Awesome

Dear Bullet Points:

I can’t read this guy’s mind, so whatever I come up with for you will only be speculation.

I have:

  • A brief story that you might be able to tell yourself about what’s going on.
  • A recommendation for you.

Here is the brief story:

This guy cared for you and was attracted to you, but it ended between you for a reason. Something just wasn’t working and making both of you happy. He tried to stay engaged – sexually, for a while, and then as friends, for a while, but at the end of the day it was just too much work, so he decided to bail completely, let some time pass, and completely move on. During the time that you took “space,” he learned something about how space was really good for him and how he needed it, too. I’m sure he felt weird and guilty the first few times that he didn’t respond to something, but over time it’s getting easier, and he’s figuring out that staying away is the right thing for him to do. At the very least, it prevents him from making promises he can’t keep or getting your hopes up.

Here is the recommendation:

Do the same thing. Block him everywhere. Stop obsessing about him. Decide for yourself “This is over, because I say that it’s over.” When thoughts & feelings about him come up, think them, feel them, and then put them aside. Distract yourself. For example, “I miss X, I wish he would call me. But I can’t do anything about that now. Right now I have to make dinner and then I will read a book.” That distraction & deciding not to think about something is really hard do to, but if you do it long enough it becomes a habit and then time does the rest of its work and you heal. But you don’t heal if you keep looking for communication for him and waiting for something to change. He made that decision to cut off contact first, but you also have the power to make it for yourself.

You’re probably not ready to be friends if this is still a story about how he broke your heart and about how the removal of his attention is breaking it again. The fact that he’s not communicating with you is its own answer. It says, pretty clearly, “I don’t want to communicate with you.” It’s a cruel answer, and I’ve been where you’ve been: bewildered, lost, hurt, addicted. It would be much cooler if he responded to your first communication after the break with “That’s good to hear, but I am still not ready to talk. I will get in touch when and if that changes,” but he didn’t. That doesn’t mean the message of radio silence is not a message, or is an unclear one.

This story where you fuck and fight and break up and make up and try to be friends even though you’re still in love has run its course. It seems like the common thread in every stage of your relationship is you wanting something he doesn’t want to give; this is just one more version of that. There were a lot of possible versions of a happy ending for you and this guy. The one you think you’ll get by receiving a communication from him now is “closure”, where you will talk through everything and come to some kind of mutual decision that feels good for everyone. I don’t think this ending is likely, so let me offer you another one: You’ll disengage and move on with your life, having learned something new about what makes you happy, and eventually you’ll meet someone else who will be equally invested in a relationship with you. You will get closure, because you will create it for yourself by making a decision to stop chasing someone who doesn’t really want to be involved with you and who can’t be counted on. Years down the road your former partner/lover/friend will be a passing blip in your thoughts.

When you doubt, say this to yourself, “If he wanted to reach me, he would reach me. Since he’s not reaching out, I must conclude that he doesn’t want to. That’s his choice to make.” Accept it, grieve for what you lost, and be good to yourself. Be good to yourself the way this person is not equipped or willing to be good to you.

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