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Here is #1168: “Is it unreasonable to want your friend to feign polite interest in your interests?”

Hey Captain,

I (she/her) have a close friend (he/they) who I’ve known for going on six years now. We originally met through real life things and bonded over having similar fandom-adjacent interests, although over the last few years our interests have diverged a bit.

Here’s the thing. When we hang out, they talk a lot about whatever they’re interested in at the moment – currently, it’s a bunch of bands. They’re really dedicated to these bands – like, to the point of going to multiple of their gigs all over the state, getting tattoos in the bassist’s handwriting, etc. – and while I personally have no active interest in these bands, I’m glad they’ve found something they like. I listen to my friend talking about them a lot whenever we hang out (which isn’t very often – maybe once every two months) and ask polite questions. They are aware that these bands are not in my wheelhouse, but even though it’s not my passion, I think part of being a good friend is showing polite interest in things your friends like.

However, when it comes to things I’m interested in – currently a Kpop group, a podcast, and my almost-finished medical degree – my friend changes the subject ASAP and doesn’t bother to ask a single question. I understand not wanting to hear hours and hours of talk about Korean awards shows or C-sections or whatever, because I know my interests are quite niche, and I do try to pick stories or topics which have more mainstream appeal and not ramble on too much, but I feel like I can only talk for a minute or two about things I like before the conversation swings back to my friend’s bands again. I’m not asking for them to be fascinated by my obsessions in the same way I am, just for them to return the same courtesy I extend to them – i.e. feigning polite interest for five minutes.

Also, when they don’t just hate my interests for no particularly good reason, they have some excuse about why they hate the thing I like so much they can’t bear to politely make conversation about it for five minutes – like, “someone I hate likes that podcast, so even though I haven’t listened to it I refuse to hear anything about it because now I associate it with this person”.

It’s hard for me to find other topics for me to talk about with them, since I don’t have much time for anything in my life at the moment other than my degree and my interests, and my friend won’t talk about politics or anything else that’s not, like, related to their life or interests.

This is a relatively small problem, but I’m not sure if I’m overreacting/have unreasonable expectations, or if this is genuinely something rude. I know it’s edging into Geek Social Fallacy territory, but I’m not asking for my friend to also be obsessed with my obsessions, just to be polite about them in the same way that I’m polite about their obsessions (which again, don’t interest me)! I like my friend a lot, and I don’t mind hearing them talk about their stuff because it’s nice to hear someone be passionate about something, but this (perceived?) lack of reciprocation is beginning to make me feel very neglected and unappreciated. We both have plenty of other friends, so it’s not like either of us desperately Needs the other person, but I would be sad to lose this friendship.

Should I say something about this to my friend? Should I just suck it up and accept that all our conversations will be primarily about their interests? Should I begin fading out of this friendship?

Thanks,

I Just Want To Be Asked One Polite Question

We’ll call this #1169: “My friend could replace me with a chatbot.” 

Hello!

Long-time reader, thank you so much for the good work you do!

I have a non-neurotypical friend, who I became more close to after he had a falling out with one of his friends. We have a lot in common, including intersectional stuff. He has mentioned being non-neurotypical, and has problems gauging social cues. I have a lot of friends in the same boat. I only mention because it means I try to be more patient with him.

Months back, I noticed that he never asked me anything about myself, and when I’d try to talk he would go off on (only semi-related) ranty, negative monologues. It’s exhausting, and hard to get him to stop, to the point where I have to be careful what I talk about. I was second-guessing the energy I was investing into the relationship, so I carefully used my words about monologue-ing. He apologized, and improved.

Still though, he never says anything positive. We could be having the best time, in the coolest place, and he’d still find something that offends him. I’d be ok if we were discussing genuine hurts, but it’s usually things that don’t affect him at all. Or things that affect me, but not him, but I have to manage his reaction. I’m open to listen to venting (especially important things), but it’s like venting is all he does.

He rarely asks how I am. When he does (twice a month?), I mostly get grunts, or distant/neutral ‘huh.’ Not once, not ever, has he asked follow-up questions. Captain, I’m not boring! He just seems to stop listening. I probably know every detail of his life but I’d be surprised if he knows anything about me, but he’s usually the one to seek me out.

Lately I’ve been avoiding my favourite online videogame because he jumps online as soon as I do, and I don’t always have the energy to hear (negative thing) about (abstract thing). This week, I politely, light-heartedly disagreed with him on a neutral topic, and he stopped talking to me for about 20+ minutes, while playing the game in such a way that guaranteed we’d lose.

So – my experience is that he has improved when I’ve asked him to. But, I’m so drained. My question is: should I have brought up the negativity & the seeming lack of interest in my thoughts on things when I asked him to stop monologuing? Do I bother mentioning that it’s really not cool to ruin someone else’s game? Should I tackle this all bit by bit? Should I throw in the towel?

Thank you for any insight!
From, An Increasingly Tired Human

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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 Cap,

I am an insecure introvert with a big ol mouth and the occasional attitude problem. I’ve worked a lot on being more careful with what I say and keeping work relationships more professional than personal. Then I switched to teaching.

Teaching, as I have found, builds a kind of in-the-trenches bond with your fellow teachers. My school is a ton of twenty-somethings, so there’s lots of engagements and weddings and baby showers. In fact, I was on bedrest with my first pregnancy and they got together an insanely generous amount of money to help me out without even having a shower. I really feel close to a lot of these people. But I still don’t get invited to any of the outside-of-work social events. There was a teacher who got married today and I saw a post on Instagram of a group photo of a bunch of my coworkers together all dressed up and having a blast. I really felt hurt.

On the one hand, I take a lot of during-the-day work time to be by myself and recharge from the stress of the job, plus I never go out after work (even before the pregnancy) because I’m just a homebody and I like to be at home with my husband. So it isn’t unreasonable to think that maybe people assume I don’t really do work friends at any level higher than Facebook. On the other hand, it’s her freakin wedding! I absolutely don’t want to cost someone money, or be a pity invite, because of my insecure feelings about being left out. Same for the several other events this has happened with.

Mostly, I just hate this feeling of “Oh so they don’t like me and I’m awful” combined with a new fear that staying home/my family being a large part of my social life is going to leave me without meaningful relationships outside my family. Now that’s kind of stupid because my best friends have been with me since elementary school, but three out of four have moved away and the one left in town… we are both total homebodies and are really horrible about getting off our butts and planning to do things together!

So my big question is, how do I manage these left-out feelings without letting them negatively affect my work relationships? My corollary question is, is it normal to suddenly be this worried about maintaining relationships and worrying that I’m a selfish person because I’m not very social?

Thanks for giving me some of your time,
Everyone Is Hanging Out Without Me

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Hi Captain Awkward,

I find myself in a very awkward but relatively low-stakes situation with a classmate. There is a woman in my cohort at college who has this weird habit of rescheduling other students’ social events (not just mine, but mostly mine). For example, someone invites the group by email out to go hiking, and she’ll respond saying let’s all go bowling instead. Once I invited everyone to a dinner party I was hosting at my home, and she tried to change the event to be a restaurant outing at a different time!

I understand that in the course of group planning, sometimes people negotiate things like whether to meet at 8 or 9, or whether to get Mexican or Italian, but her behavior is going way beyond that. And frankly, sometimes I don’t really care if everyone can make it – I just want to go see this awesome concert and it’d be even more awesome if others wanted to join.

There’s obviously a lot of GSF5 going on here. How can I talk to her about this without making it seem like I don’t care about her presence? I do care, and I love spending time with her, but I can’t accommodate her on every social outing. Also/alternatively, what is a polite way to indicate to the group, after she inevitably makes some “helpful” suggestions, that my invitation is not up for negotiation?

Just Send Me Your Regrets
(she/her)

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Hi Captain Awkward,

You are a great resource, and I’ve referred a lot of friends to your blog.

My problem is something I think I should totally not be having, but I am. I have a friend who I’ve known for years who will be getting married soon. Suzanne and I used to live together, and were quite close when I lived in a different city. Since I moved away a few years ago, we’ve still been in touch, but have been in less touch the past couple of years. Because of our past friendship, and how much I value her, she was a bridesmaid in my wedding when I got married a year ago.

Suzanne is now getting married. She’s asked a few people to be a bridesmaid, but when I flew in to attend some pre-wedding festivities a few weeks ago, I realized that she wouldn’t be asking me. I’m not planning to talk to Suzanne about this. I know that it’s OK for people to choose whoever they want to be in their bridal party. But it still really hurts. I find myself comparing myself against some of the other people she’s asked. I also find myself questioning our friendship, and feeling like I may have misinterpreted how close we are, or have been in the past. I also then start to go down the road of thinking of other people with whom I’d like to be closer, but who don’t seem to return the feelings of strong friendship.

The logical part of me realizes that people move on, and recognizes that it’s natural that we’ve grown apart, since I’ve lived a way for a few years, and we now no longer talk on the phone regularly. The illogical part of me is upset and hurt that she didn’t pick me, and wonders if I should just let this friendship die completely.

Do you have any advice for moving on, and being mature about this? I’d like to reach out after the wedding to rekindle our phone call check-ins, but I don’t want to impose if she really has moved on.

Former Friend

Thanks for the kind words, Former Friend, and wow…”former” friend?

To me, the wedding party thing is a side issue, and you’ve already handled it/are in the process of handling it. You’ll let your weird hurt feelings be what they are, you’ll acknowledge to yourself that being asked to be in her wedding was something you were counting on and it’s more important to you than you initially thought, you’ll most likely go the wedding, you’ll say nice things to your friend and have a good time, and maybe after the wedding you’ll continue to drift or you’ll find a way to rekindle your friendship. I hope you rekindle the friendship. There’s “I would have been in your wedding if you’d asked me, you know! Is there a reason you didn’t?” and then there’s “I am so happy for you, and so happy to see you!” You know and I know which one is the right thing to say to someone you love who is in the middle of a big life event.

To me, this is a question about loneliness. Your friendship landscape doesn’t look like you thought it did or like you want it to. You’re a newlywed, still settling into being part of a couple and coming off a pretty busy year or so if you just got married, so this seems like a perfect time to take stock of where your other relationships stand and make sure you’re nurturing your own social connections. It takes more effort, or a different kind of effort, to maintain friendships when you don’t have proximity & being in the same life circumstances to connect you and to make friends as an adult. So what can you do about that?

Can I make a plug for the annual weekend away with a few close friends?

I have a friend group who does this as much as possible, at least once a year, often 2 or 3 times/year. Not everyone comes every time, but everyone in the group is always invited, and here’s what it involves: You, them, snacks (cheese!), wine, an inexpensive vacation-rental-by-owner somewhere that’s near a major airport hub and also maybe on a lake, pants with no waistband, laughing until stuff comes out your nose, the anticipation of planning the trip, the 10,000 jokes and stories and inside jokes that come afterwards, trading books & nail polish colors, telephone pictionary, side trips to local tourist attractions/wineries/cider mills but lots of down-time with no real agenda, the prospect of karaoke & a spaghetti dinner at the local Legion post that we never actually make it to, no spouses. IT IS THE BEST THING. DO IT.

There are other ways to foster community and closeness with people near and far:

  • The monthly or weekly casual dinner.
  • Join a choir. (No, really!)
  • Write paper letters. (No, really!) What if you wrote a letter to Suzanne that laid out how happy you are for her and how glad you are to know her? What if you wrote one letter to someone in your life – friends near and far, family, former teachers & mentors – every week or every month? It can just be a card, if you’re not a writer. If you don’t know what to say, start with: Thank you. I’m proud of you. I’m thinking about you and wishing you well. I’m so glad to know you. I’m so sorry that (bad thing) is happening, is there anything I can do? I’m so glad that (good thing) is happening to you, that’s the best news!
  • Do some social stuff without your spouse, like a weekly class or workout group, a weekly breakfast or coffee with a friend or friends. You just got married, so I suspect a lot of the last year or so has involved a lot of “We…,” so what can you do that’s just for you and about you?
  • Get a subscription to a local theater company or concert series or museum membership for you and a friend. Built in friend-dates + seeing new stuff = nice!
  • If you can, take the older people in your family out to lunch or invite them over one by one and ask them all the things you’ve ever wanted to know. What was it like when they were young? Who was their first crush? What kind of stuff did they used to get in trouble for when they were kids? What was their wedding like? What’s their favorite place they’ve ever been? (This is a good Home for the Holidays strategy, too – seeing relatives separately from The Big Day of Celebration & Whatnot can be way more relaxing).
  • If you can, take the teenagers in your family out or invite them over for dinner one by one and let them talk at you about everything that’s on their minds. My godmother used to do this for me when I was a kid and it was seriously the best to have the company of adult who treated me like a person and not a student or offspring to be molded for a bright future.
  • Take up a cause. Help people register to vote, canvas for a political candidate, read to old people and kids, see if the library needs help sorting anything, work at the food bank, pet & walk shelter puppies. If it heals the world a little bit and you can and want to do it, do it.

That’s a giant list, so don’t do all of it! Pick one thing and try it. In a few months, try something else. You might not get exact reciprocity, and some of your friendships might remain not quite what you want them to be, and you might feel sometimes like “what am I doing this for” and that’s okay. It’s okay to be hungry, it’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to be lonely and think “but isn’t there something else that’s supposed to be happening?” The only way I know to deal with that hungry feeling is to put some love into yourself and into the world and see what comes back. It won’t come back exactly how you planned it or in a way that you can even predict, but it will come back.

Dear Captain Awkward,

I began dating someone in August even though we both knew we were moving to different cities at the end of the month. August was great, I learned more about what I want in a relationship, and we left on good terms.

This person was in my new city recently (in early October), and we resumed our “relationship” for the week he was here, but I said that after he left I wanted to stop communicating for 2 months so I could concentrate on my new city and get over him. He agreed and said that was fine.

Which brings me to today. This person and I have begun the “2 months of no communication” that I requested. It has been about a week and I just received this message from him:

“I know we are not supposed to communicate but I was thinking about the mean comment I said the other day. It was dumb and hurtful. I am sorry, I was stupid, you re sweet.”

So here is the incident where the mean comment occurred:

While we were together in my new city, we met some friends for brunch. I mentioned that the previous night he and I didn’t go to a certain concert/club because we weren’t dressed up enough. He said something like “Yea we can’t go dressed like shit. I mean, can you get in dressed like that?” and he gestured at me. I can’t remember his exact words but he basically proclaimed that I was dressed like shit in front of friends. I completely froze. He could tell something was wrong so after we left the restaurant he asked me what it was and I told him. He said I was right, that was fucked up, and he is sorry.

And now he is saying sorry again. I appreciate this, but the problem is it feels like “sorry” is not enough.

So my question is, how do I respond to this? This is a person I enjoyed getting to know, who I felt a connection to, and who I hope I can have a friendship with. Here are two drafts I came up with:

1. Thanks for saying this.

2. I’ve been thinking about it too. And a lot of other things. The past, patterns I get into with people. Maybe you can help me answer some of my questions sometime. For now, let’s stick to the 2 months thing.

Do you have any suggestions or insight? Your scripts always seem so mature and brilliant. I think, ”Obviously! That’s what you should say! Why didn’t I think of that!”

Thank you so much! I love your blog.

Sincerely,

E.D.

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Hello Captain!

I am looking for scripts/advice dealing with a situation that I tangled myself up in.

A friend I made over the summer, and became quite close to, recently started giving me the silent treatment (I’d say about a month ago).

Although it was hard for me to accept, I decided after olive branching twice that “Hey, this is the unspoken African VIolet. Alright. We were there when we needed each other, and this sucks, but it’s time to move on”

Except, my Best Friend on Team Me is also friends with this person I will call Gentleman.

Gentleman is best friends with *her* best friend. So, it is a given he will be at most social interactions.

I have tried my best to be smooth about this; I’ll give a polite “Hello” or something along those lines in a group setting. I will not venture to engage any more than is required.

Except he *pointedly ignores me*, will turn away from me, and also engage everyone around me so I have no one to speak to. Friends may notice but seem unsure what to do, and I often forget this is what’s happening, so I have to scramble to interact (or go silent, which results in me starting to panic).

It is made more awkward because if I disengage with this group, I lose my only close friends.

I am trying to pick up more hobbies, meet more people, but I cannot change that this is the small group I will interact with most. I am just…not sure what to do.

Which would be fine and dandy, except he..just invited me to his birthday on facebook? And my friends have insisted I go or I “am making things more awkward”? They seem frustrated with the situation (as am I!) but I have already offered an olive branch or two to him, and he clearly does not want this (that’s ok too!).

Suddenly changing my mind would upset the friend group I believe. But, I am worried because I get the feeling that mutual friends are trying to thrust us together in the guise of helping. I do not think it is helping, and Gentleman is a shy person.

What…can I do? How can I navigate this social necessity? I don’t want to be like “please don’t invite me if he is around”, as he is always around.

But I’d like to be able to, yknow, recover? It takes time for me to make friends, and accepting a “no closure but no friendship” situation is rough for me.

Suggestions, capt?

Sincerely,

I Accepted The VIolet but My Mutual Friends Didn’t

The Geek Social Fallacies run amok in your circle! Even the person who super doesn’t like you carries them!

I think you should decline the party invite and give this person a little space.

And I think you should invite your friends (actual friends) to do some stuff one on one or in smaller groups. It’s time for you to put the idea of The Group on hold for a while. Groups & relationships only work if they work for the people in them. Suffering for the idea of the relationship, especially to preserve other people’s idea of what that relationship should be like, is madness.

And your script for your friends is: “Hey. If you want to make things less awkward, howabout speaking up when Gentleman gives me the silent treatment to all of our faces? Instead of pushing me to make everything okay, and pressuring him to invite me to stuff, which means I end up enduring the ‘cut direct‘ on the regular, howabout we give everybody a little breathing room. Not everyone has to be friends with everyone else. I’d settle for ‘distant nod’ terms and I’ll come back to group stuff when Gentleman feels the same, but I’m not subjecting myself to the silent treatment ever again. He is being a jerk about this, and I’m sure he has his reasons, but that doesn’t mean I have to pretend that’s not what it is.” 

Reaching out to your friends in smaller groups, or singly, will mean a small cultural shift in how things work, especially if you are not generally the inviter/social fulcrum, but it’s work worth doing. “Can you and I go to breakfast, just the two of us?” is a nice invitation if you usually see everyone all together. I also suggest you throw yourself into another hobby or class or activity that takes you into a slightly different social scene for a bit, too. It will help you keep yourself aloof from friend-scene drama if you flex your “I know how to meet other cool people” muscle.

_____________________

O Captain my captain (or guest!), please help:

I’ve got a problem that isn’t necessarily distressing to me, but it is very perplexing, and it’s something that has me feeling kind of stuck.

The quick background is that I am in a friends-with-benefits sexual relationship with my ex and best friend. Our friendship is one of the best things in my life: we’re open with each other, we make each other laugh, and we support each other. We both care very deeply about the other person, and the sex is connected and amazing. This has been going on for a little over a year, and we were together as a couple for a little under a year. In many ways aside from sex, our behavior isn’t all that different from it was when we were together: we hold hands in public, we’re cuddly, we see each other and talk to each other more than we do with anyone else in our lives. We try not to be very physically affectionate in public to avoid confusing friends and family though, and we definitely don’t call each other boyfriend and girlfriend. Because we’re so honest with each other, he knows I’m still a bit in love with him, and I know that he doesn’t want to be a couple and why.

While this sounds like it could be a stressful or unfair situation because of the feelings being “uneven”, I am genuinely happy with what we have! It provides me the best friendship I’ve ever had, intimacy, affection both physical and emotional, great sex, and a ton of support. I’m sure eventually the arrangement will end, but I do know I’ll be sad and will miss the physical parts of our friendship when it does.

So what’s the problem? It’s that I feel so much pressure to define the relationship further for the sake of others or to move on. My friends express concern that he should just “make up his mind” or “admit that you’re really a couple”, or that I should date. I’ve attempted to date, too! But I find myself comparing my dates to the established and happy intimacy I already have, and I don’t feel that would be fair to another person. I don’t know what my next steps should be. Am I fooling myself that this is something that could make me happy for now? Am I setting myself up for heartbreak somehow? Is it possible to move on while staying so connected to the person I love most?

Thank you,
Friends with Bafflement

Dear Bafflement:

Winter is Coming, and having a reliable and trusted friend/bedfellow is not the worst idea ever. You also don’t owe the world a relationship that other people can understand. Romances and sexual relationships don’t have to move forward in recognizable stages or last a lifetime to be valuable.

I can see why your friends are concerned if they know you to be someone who wants to be married, etc. someday. Sadly, The Dude Who Would Like To Keep Things Very Casual While Also Enjoying What A Good & Caring & Always-Available Girlfriend You Are is a common figure in our common folk mythology and his stories are not often happy ones. In your friends’ places I might wonder if you were being totally honest with yourself about how cool you are with everything. I would especially wonder this if “He” (how amazing and wonderful he is, drama around your past breakup, the mismatch in affection & relationship goals, etc. ) were a frequent topic in our conversations and if your case for how great things are sounded (out loud) like you are trying to talk yourself into something. When I’ve been obsessed with someone and talking about how no, really, our relationship is special, and these are all the very good reasons I’ve decided to accept less than I really want, wise friends have said to me, “Do you think he thinks and talks about you as much as you do about him?” Is that what your friends are saying, or are they projecting their own desires for security and certainty onto you (also possible)? Nothing makes a case like success, so if you’re happy, try going with “All good, thanks!” instead of a lot of details about Him for a while and see if their reservations recede.

As for your romantic life in general:

Am I setting myself up for heartbreak?

Yes, but you always were, and you always will be as long as you love other people. Heartbreak is the human condition. The most obvious thought experiment is: What happens if Friend meets someone else next week or next month or after five years of being with you all the time and does really want to be in an exclusive romantic relationship…with them? And all the cromulent reasons for ‘not being a couple’ that you patiently understood all this time become not true when it’s this person? That would completely gut me in your shoes, like, Stevie Nicks + Lindsay Buckingham Performing Landslide Together-gut me. Less obvious but true: Romantic relationships can end on amicable terms and for great reasons mutually decided upon, and it can still hurt like hell when they end. And hell, Lindsay and Stevie look beautiful on that stage.

“Is it possible to move on while staying so connected to the person I love most?”

Yes, in that your life is going to move and change no matter what you decide. If your heart’s desire is a monogamous relationship with someone who is long-term committed and devoted to you, it’s going to be hard to meet and fully engage with someone who might give you that if your heart (not to mention time & energy) is still engaged with Mr. Friend and if in your heart of hearts you still wish things were different with him. Still, you can date new people if you want to. Try to realize that nobody new is going to compare to someone you’ve had a great time with in bed and out of it for a year when you’re eating awkward first date dinner with them. You’d have to compare things to back when you and Friend first met. Poly dudes might be your best bet for right now, because they are also the most likely to be accepting that you have this amazing connection with someone else and not try to compete with or displace it. Always remember: The wonderful qualities in you that brought such a sexy and fun relationship your way in the first place are still in you, and they don’t belong to Mr. Friend, they belong to you. In meeting new people, you might be surprised by someone who makes you call up Friend and say, “that was great and I’ll always care about you, but I’m done with the sexytimes kthnxbye.

You could also decide your dating plate is happily full for right now. If you take this route, I would encourage you to throw yourself harder than ever into your work or school or artistic pursuit or hobby and to make sure that your social life includes many people who are not Friend and who are not connected to him. You’re getting happily laid on the regular, you’ve got good friends, so take all the effort that “dating” takes and apply it to other things you really want to do with your life. I say this because while I take you at your word that things are great, I also take you at your word that you are more into Friend than he is into you, and I think it would be smart to make sure that you’re doing the other things that make you happy and fulfilled.

I’m glad you are happy and hope that you remain so.

________________

Hello Captain,

First off, thank you for all the work you’ve done on your blog. Thanks to reading through your archives, I was most recently able to tell the boss on a project I was working on, “Sorry, can’t do that,” to an additional task that was So Not in My Job Description and that I didn’t want to do without offering a rambling litany of excuses that were only half true! And guess what – the project was successfully completed anyway, and I got praised for the efforts I did put into it! Yay!

But of course, there’s a “but,” one that is unrelated to that project. My best friend was recently sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison, and in another, inconveniently located state, no less. I haven’t exactly been blurting this out to everyone I know for the sake of my friend’s privacy, but a few people I consider close friends are in the know about the details, and for the most part, they’ve been nothing but supportively awesome examples of a fantastic Team Me.

The problem is one friend, “Thomas.” Thomas is, shall we say, a bit of judgmental prick when it comes to violations of the law and my friend’s violation in particular. He seems to be of the opinion that my friend got off easy and that serving his term in a different state (which is, as you might imagine, somewhat distressing to his family and friends), is only appropriate, as my friend has to learn that his actions have an impact on others around him. Naturally, my usual reaction to this is to throw my phone across the room and go out for a walk to clear my head.

I’ll then get a text hours later to the tune of, “Sorry if I’ve offended you.” To this, dear Captain, I usually have no response. So far, I’ve been ignoring the pathetic attempt at an apology and switching topics with no lead-in when I do get around to texting him back, but I’d really, really like to tell Thomas where he can shove both the apology and the high and mighty opinions that led him to needing to make one. Is there a script for doing so with less vulgarity than I’ve fantasized about putting into my response? I know the obvious solution is to simply not discuss my newly in-depth knowledge of how law and order actually works in America with him, but Thomas already kind of knows, and it’s been my go-to for brushing off why I really can’t get interested in his latest girl drama.

I know I’m likely to get some reaction along the lines of, “Well, why are you still friends with him?” to which I respond that I have good reasons for which I obviously don’t need to seek advice.

Sincerely,

Friends don’t tell friends to go chew on broken glass, do they?

Good job asserting yourself with your boss, and I am so sorry about your best friend. That must be so scary for both of you.

This topic came up in a slightly different way recently, but sometimes the answer a friend needs is “You can think and feel whatever way you want about x, and you can also try to have enough sensitivity and care for my situation to keep it to yourself. When something affects my life and my loved ones so harshly, I’m not in a place where I can treat it like Debate Club.The old “comfort in, dump out” or “ring theory” of “not being a poophead to people in pain” comes to mind.

Thomas may remain your friend, but he’s not currently a safe place for you to talk about your best friend’s situation, so I hope you can vent elsewhere. I think you well within rights to say, “You have offended me and that ‘Sorry if...’ text wasn’t really an apology, was it? You have a right to your opinion, of course, but I have no idea what made you think I want to hear about it right now.” See if you get a real apology and go from there. It might be time for Thomas to become a very “Small Doses” friend for a couple of months.