Why Is He Riding the Bus For Hours Every Day When His Partner's Car Is Sitting at Home?

Comments

1

1) Headline uses he/his pronouns for CAR while CAR doesn't identify themself. Was something edited out or did the headline writer just assume?

2) CAR: This isn't all on your partner. Yes, he's being manipulative with all that breaking down. At the same time, you need to develop the "mental capacity to handle him breaking down", think of yourself as stone cold if needed.

3) Second letter signoff is ROOMMATE and Dan's response calls them PROBLEM in his response. I wonder what LW used for themself and what the full name for PROBLEM might have been. Anybody have any good guesses?

2

Was it ever a relationship?

I've known an assortment a gay men over time who have fallen in love with self-centered ultra insecure drama queens. But typically they're drop dead gorgeous, or great artists, so that's why. Hard to blame them.

3

Ankylosaurus...

I saw the original email.
Agreed.
Brain fart.

4

CAR: grow a pair and DTMFA
And develop a spine and some communication skills before you hook up with anyone else.

ROOMATE; screw all you want.
Your civilization is swirling down the crapper, no reason you should exercise any more moral judgement than apes in the jungle, whose civilization, incidentally, has a better prognosis than yours.

5

Dan;
any thoughts on the difference in societies' response to Covid vs AIDS?
Back then few timely quarantines could have nipped HIV in the bud;
society sure as hell didn't shut down;
the response then seemed maddeningly cavalier, vs the overblown hysterical panic of today.

6

His Nurse. This is a poor comparison. One disease requires the exchange of bodily fluids to transmit, the other can jump person to person if they just stand too close together. Those require very different means to prevent transmission.

And yes, there was a huge effort to disrupt gay male culture and any activities in the larger culture that involved exchanging bodily fluids (blood transfusions, for example).

7

Apologies for the self-promotion, but I wrote a thing that CAR might find valuable, which can bed be found here: https://link.medium.com/xjO1PPiBV5. It's about identifying and short-circuiting those cycles of unproductive and even toxic reassurance.

"The healthiness of a relationship is measurable, at least in part, by how free the participants feel to express their hurt, to seek redress, to offer redress, to forgive. But this stuff is, in a word, messy, because hearing “you’ve hurt me” from someone you care for is in itself painful… which makes it very easy to make the hurt you’ve caused about you, and that’s no good for anyone.
...
“It’s okay,” we insist, trying to interrupt the infinite loop of “the pain I’ve caused you causes me pain.” But here’s the problem with “it’s okay”: it doesn’t distinguish between “I’m not hurt” and “I’m hurt and I forgive you.”"

8

I'm having serious trouble seeing the potential conflict in asking to use the car. Is the fear that the partner will get upset if he doesn't want to let it be borrowed? Hell, I still borrowed my ex's car on occasion after we broke up and before I moved out and it was only an issue once. I'm not a car owner, so maybe I just don't understand. The part about caring about the car more than the partner makes me think it must be a really nice car that he wouldn't let anyone borrow. Sounds like they both are nightmare humans, tbf.

9

l-dub 1, you are scared to ask your partner for something that will not affect them and will dramatically decrease the likelihood of you contracting a potentially deadly infection during a time of pandemic. and they aren't offering. oof. i mean... you gotta ask. and if they say no or have a breakdown, well... you already know what the situation is. as dan said, you are a hostage. think about that and act accordingly.

l-dub 2... keep fucking your way through this pandemic!!

10

I'm really surprised that neither Dan nor any of the commenters (so far) have addressed this: "I don't have the mental capacity to handle him breaking down into tears on top of everything else going on including, full-time work, 3-4 hours of commuting, cleaning the house, and cooking dinners." In addition to working full time in a stressful situation and spending 3-4 hours commuting, CAR still has to do the cooking and cleaning while their partner, who is out of work and home all day, apparently isn't taking on the bulk of these responsibilities? That seems as big a jerk move as not offering the loan of their car! I can't imagine why CAR wants to hang on to this guy.

11

@10.

I'm forwarding your comment to CAR.

12

@3 Dan Savage: Oh gosh Dan Savage responded to my comment. This is like that time I went to a hockey game and Patrick Marleau made eye contact with me during warm-ups, acknowleding each other as two humans at the arena.

13

There is something not adding up about CAR's situation. Why would there be an assumption that politely asking to use the car cause any conflict, unless the LW were going to do so in a resentful or accusatory way? As in starting a fight by leading with "you're literally putting my life at risk by not offering," which is not truly the case unless the LW is in an actual risk category, and in any case how did anybody miss that the BF shares any such risk pretty much equally already? And if the boyfriend is so afraid of losing the LW, why would he in any case cause a problem by refusing a polite and reasonable request of this nature?

It takes two to have the kind of communication dynamic LW1 describes. Why is the boyfriend so insecure about the relationship? Maybe the LW is doing something to make it so. Some abusive relationships work like this also, with one partner always playing on the other's abandonment issues. Either way it is unhealthy for both. I don't see this working i the long term.

14

@10 Really important point you've brought up here that shouldn't be overlooked. If the partner is staying home all day every day and LW is going out risking their life to get to and from work, work all day, etc. and then coming home and taking care of the partner, holy crap that's so messed up regardless of the car. It's exactly backwards from how it should be. The partner who stays home should be taking care of the one who is going out risking their life to work every day. The fact that he hasn't INSISTED that you use his car rather than take the bus just puts this all completely over the top.

At best, the partner is an inconsiderate, entitled, abusive asshole with no regard for your life. They say that in times of crisis we find out who our true friends are. I hope that people who are finding these things out right now won't forget them once the crisis has passed. Maybe it's not practical to break up with someone in the middle of a pandemic, but once it's over it might be a good idea to re-evaluate everything in the light of what you're learning now.

15

Who writes the headlines? This is the second one running that genders a LW when the letter didn't (or it got lost in editing).

Using in the word in the sense that Patty did in My So-Called Life when she told Graham they needed one, LW should stop acting like a passive-aggressive wife, however easy it is to slide into a wifely role when partnering a first-timer. That I can recall.

16

"if we can't address and resolve even simple conflicts then there's really [NO] hope for us over the longterm."

17

I have some subtle but significant disagreements with Dan's approach to CAR.

All we know for sure is that the BF's behavior, and CAR's acceptance of it thus far, is messed up. Maybe the BF should be regarded more as having such very significant psychological issues that he's not in good enough working order to be in a relationship with, or maybe the BF is manipulative. Almost certainly both.

We also know that CAR has a significant issue, for having gotten into a relationship with such a person. (CAR, sometimes the cause of that is insecurity; one might feel that finding a person with big problems will mean they won't leave you.)

We also know that the BF doesn't care enough about you to offer the car to you let alone disinfect it too.

Very importantly, we also don't know if you feel comfortable breaking up and moving out right now in a time of lockdown.

If you do, I think the situation is 99.9% hopeless, but trying what Dan suggests (though probably futile) will provide each of you a very valuable growth situation as your life paths hopefully part ways.

However if, as is extremely likely I imagine, you don't feel comfortable breaking up and moving out right now in a time of lockdown, then don't. Do ask for the car to try to keep him from killing you by not offering it, but I wouldn't break up now, and then be stuck there living with an ex. That sounds like a nightmare to me at the best of times and lockdown isn't that.

Not that your current situation doesn't already suck, but living with an ex you just broke up with would probably make it exponentially worse.

To avoid this, I recommend putting your probable breakup on hold like everything else on the planet.

18

Jesus, just ask to borrow the fucking car. This is really some crazy ass "but I want him to offer" bullshit. You have reached the point where you ask an advice columnist for help -- hoping, just crossing your cute little fingers, that he can find a magical solution -- but you haven't bothered to ask to borrow the fucking car? What the fuck? Ask. Chances are, the car will be yours. If not, then fight for it. If it is too much of a battle, then ask Dan. My guess is, he will tell you to DTMFA.

But for heaven's sake, start by asking. Then write the fucking email.

19

@18 Ross
Given everything else CAR wrote, if I were in her place I'd say if I have to ask I'm breaking the fuck up with him instead.

"If I have to ask" is a frequently invoked personal principle of mine, in recognition of how little it often means when one has to ask.

20

Your partner is manipulating you with their tears/ breakdown, LW. My nearly four yr old grandson does it when he doesn’t get his way. And as others have said, you are the work horse here and you don’t confront your partner? Start there. They clean the house, they prepare food because you work. While you lay down some rules re his chores round the house, ask him to lend you the car so the both of you have money to buy food, because if you get sick via public transport, who is going to be his mommy?

21

One thing about the housework/dinner thing -- we don't know their situation. Maybe partner is literally physically incapable of doing those things. Chances are LW would have mentioned that, I suppose, but people forget to mention the darnedest things. Just saying.

22

"I feel like I can't bring this up to him because I don't have the mental capacity to handle him breaking down into tears on top of everything else going on including, full-time work, 3-4 hours of commuting, cleaning the house, and cooking dinners."
"because I don't have the mental capacity to" say can I borrow your car for X days/weeks?
Are they afraid of blowing up and telling their partner to shut up? That they will blow up if their partner says no, instead of asking for the reason? That they will break down in tears too and look weak? What is so wrong with trying to comfort a crying partner? Is it just silent tears? A "break down" sounds like a crying panic attack, some sort of anxious crying, and I think that should really be addressed with a mental health professional immediately.

The first few thoughts that occurred to me, if we don't assume with the LW that bf is being mean or dishonest, are that bf may have a medical disorder where he easily sheds tears, but more likely he is depressed. It seems like this should be treated as a medical condition. Luckily if he's depressed he can get teletherapy much more easily these days, but in this case LW should more be concerned with whether bf is willing to get help and planning an escape if not.. but.. LW seems like the weird one who doesn't seem to have a timeline to fix or replace their car, and can't ask to borrow their boyfriend's car. It's not clear if bf is happily out of work, or looking for work, or working from home, that seems important.. I'd wonder if LW has anxiety or depression themself.. I really didn't like the vagueness in the letter, one person's "slightest bit of conflict" or "life isn't going so perfect" might be their partner's "nightmarish health/sex/money/family issue", the details of why they think the previous crying was excessive would help.

23

LW... Besides asking him to borrow the car, you might want to start a different conversation like "I think it's important that we both can grow to handle life's difficulties with calmness." And both try to keep stepping in that direction together.

24

Curious - If you have to ask, you don't know beyond the shadow of a doubt :p

Digression: If you want to ask if someone is being mean or rude, it's probably a bad idea. If it was an accident it's faux pas not to give them the benefit of the doubt, and if they understood their mistake then they'll probably double down. In the first case, it works better to say "why didn't you do things (the way I expected)?", sometimes you learn something new, sometimes you at least get some acknowledgement of the mistake even if it was intentional. The real question here is if he'll lend her the car, if he says yes, then she can ask why he hadn't offered. The answer might be "last year when your car broke down you took the bus for a couple days before you got it fixed, I figured it was the same this time sorry" or "I assumed you'd take my car if you wanted, you don't have to ask". I also acknowledge that it's unusual bf didn't say anything too, whether that's intelligence, distraction or mental health, carelessness, selfishness, malice and self harm about the virus, or some combination, is not so clear.

25

Maybe Philo, a therapist could help this person unravel why they have such reactions.. for now the LW has to get out from being treated like this. The breadwinner who catches PT during a Pandemic when a car is available, and sorts the cooking and housework as well.
I call the partner lazy and the LW has to push past fear of him falling apart.. why would he if LW asks to use the car?... and insist he share the work, and ask to use the car.
His thoughtlessness for the LW’s welfare would be such a red flag to me, I’d be packed and ready to walk ASAP.

26

CAR, how about getting your car fixed? If this is a hill too high, just ask your partner to borrow the car already. If you are really doing the cooking and cleaning as well, ask them to do this as well. If the situation is as described, yeah, this will cause a blow up, but it's a blow up you need to have, so get as much out of it as you can. Maybe your partner is as selfish as you describe, but that also means you're putting up with this shit and need to make some changes as well, like not putting up with so much shit.

27

Is Mr CAR on the autism spectrum? I have learned over the past six years that neurotypicals value politeness while autistics value directness. It would not occur to him to offer to lend you his car because he assumes if you want to borrow it, you'll ask. So you'll have to put aside your feelings that asking would be impolite because he "should" know it would help you, and ask! Now, if he really will go into full meltdown at a reasonable question like "hey, since you're not using your car, can I take it to work?", coupled with the fact that you are doing all the cooking and cleaning while working and commuting -- !!! -- I would ask, what the hell is he bringing to this relationship? Why the hell are you with him after three years of abuse and manipulation? At minimum he should be seeking therapy for his inability to control his emotions. If he is not seeking help for this, he's got you exactly where he wants you and he's getting everything while giving you nothing. Like Dan said well, it's a hostage situation. DTMFA -- and perhaps get some therapy yourself to figure out why you put up with this for three years.

So ROOMMATES are already fucking, which makes asking whether they should fuck kind of moot. Either it's going to blow up in your face or it's not, what more can be said?

28

Slomo @21: Or the partner is working full time from home. He should still be doing his share of the cleaning and cooking, unless as you say he is physically incapable of doing so.

Philo @24, I'm with you on the "if I have to ask." "If you really loved me, you'd read my mind and offer to lend me your car" is passive aggressive. Like I said, anyone on the autism spectrum would be driven absolutely batshit by this sort of approach. And even if one is not, it might just slip their mind. This pandemic is causing all of us to focus on our own immediate situation and forget about the broader world. If CAR is blithely setting off every morning on public transport while Mr CAR has his own work to do, if Mr CAR is not a public transport user and has no idea what it's like, if CAR has never expressed any unhappiness about the situation (out of fear of upsetting him), it might not ever have occurred to him. Sure, Mr CAR "should" have offered, but he didn't, so CAR needs to say "hey dork, lend me your car." In a far nicer way, of course.

29

I don't think it is good or useful to try and diagnose strangers on the internet, especially because the solutions are the same regardless. Communicate, figure out how to break the patterns.

I was in a relationship just like this when I was younger and I understand exactly why the LW is afraid to ask about the car. When you have convinced yourself that this partner is good enough for you, and you have invested so much of yourself into caring for what amounts to an adult child, you feel like you are needed. Like you have no other options. People like that have the most convoluted reasons why they say no to things and sometimes, if they are great manipulators, they have trained you to argue with yourself in your head. They have given you so much bullshit to work with that you construct their arguments for them in your head. When you describe what you are going through to anyone else you sound crazy, but I am willing to bet LW has a whole laundry list of "reasons" and sometimes the thought of hearing your partner confirm your suspicions, confirm your disappointment, is too much to bear.

Emotional abuse and manipulation chips away at your sense of self, your sense of logic, your sense of Independence. A master codependent manipulator will convince you that you have already merged with them, that you and you alone can keep them alive, keep their delicate flower from wilting. It's all bullshit.

LW, you are in a codependent relationship. Forget whose fault it is, start planning your exit, or you will be signing up for an entire life of this.

30

@24 Philophile
"If you have to ask, you don't know beyond the shadow of a doubt"

True, and I should give examples of the category of extremely significant times I use that principle. (And the much more frequent times I don't.)

It's just that the one thing I do know if I have to ask...is that I had to ask. And some things, in fact the the /very/ most important things in my life, would've had no value then. Absolutely zero.

I've got one particular perfectly exemplary story in mind that's just too monumentally tragic to drop into this little chat. Sometimes a purely symbolic thing of unparalled importance that one had to ask for has no value if asked for.

@27 BiDanFan
"Is Mr CAR on the autism spectrum? I have learned over the past six years that neurotypicals value politeness while autistics value directness."

Brilliant point. No one ever thinks I have a point when I say it about myself, but this is one of the things that makes me wonder if I'm spectrum-y.

"ROOMMATES are already fucking...what more can be said"

Yup that's why I couldn't address that one!

""If you really loved me, you'd read my mind and offer to lend me your car" is passive aggressive"

True, but (assuming the answer to your brilliant question about the spectrum is 'No') breaking the fuck up with him over it (once the lockdown era is over) wouldn't be /passive/ aggressive. But it would be too hasty to not attempt communication first.

31

@Pizzacunt
What a wonderful username. Those are two of my most favorite things in the world!

32

Lava, 20-- I was thinking of a child's tantrum too.

I like Dan's advice. I'd add very specific instruction on how to let him cry it out. It's a matter of staring him down.

He cries. You glance at your watch, wait one minute, then repeat the same thing you said about wanting to use the car. He cries again. You wait one minute again. The crying will get louder and will become accompanied by statements along the lines of "you don't care about me" and "you don't love me" and some things that seem to demand answers that begin "how can you ..." Each time, you wait one minute. (Two repetitions of the Jeopardy theme song in your head should do it.) Continue for 5 repetitions. It should get boring. That's the idea. You want your opponent to get bored. If he's still crying on the 6th repetition, get up, go to your room and read or listen to music for 10 minutes. Then come out and repeat the opening discussion about the car or whatever else you want.

Watch Andy's reaction.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B90FbXk7Nnk

Expect the hysterical outburst to get worse before it gets better. This is called an extinction burst. If it gets up to the point of a suicide threat or action at self-harm, I know this is tough, but you must call 9-1-1. "I'm sorry to bother you, and I hope this is nothing, but my boyfriend is crying and sitting on the ledge of the 20th floor (or looking for a gun or has a razor in his hand or hasn't stopped screaming for 20 minutes that he's going to kill himself). He has a history of getting hysterical like this at times, and I wanted to call to say exactly what's going on." Make sure you make this call where he can hear you. He has to know you're calling his bluff.

The 9-1-1 operator will know how to advise. The advice will NOT be "just give him what he wants so he stops crying."

33

Maybe it's obvious, but once you've fucked the roommate, you can't really unfuck them. So why not continue?
Its too late to think about long term consequences.

34

If CAR’s BF doesn’t want CAR driving the car, he could drive CAR to and from work in the car. During the commute they would have lots of time together to talk through their issues.

35

I don’t see LWs behaviour as passive aggressive, they have been programmed by their partner’s constant meltdowns, to avoid conflict. It’s perfect control/ abuse tactics, yet done with tears and not fists and nasty words.
Perfect solution, Whirled @34. She borrows the car or he drives LW to and from work.
LW, it is not safe on PT, it’s enough you are out working. Please insist he help you here. For whatever reason he hasn’t noticed the danger you are in then educate him in how to share and expectations re household chores. Because obviously nobody else has.

36

Okay I'm worried because CAR is clearly in an abusive, toxic relationship and yet so many of the commenters seems to think it's their fault? That they are somehow responsible for this manipulative behavior and are abusing their partner. By never upsetting them and putting themselves at risk so their partner never has to deal with anything they dislike apparently.

And also caring for the partner like they were a five year.

CAR DTFMA. Your boyfriend needs therapy. I mean if a friend was in a relationship where they couldn't talk about any problem they were having because their partner would break down would you say 'this is a wonderful relationship and you try everything you can to preserve it', or would you say 'run and run fast'.

37

I have to say the lack of empathy on the part of every single person here with those of us poor suckers who actually have no choice but to take the fucking bus is mind-blowing.

I take public transport. It is no big fucking deal, you bunch of privileged asses.

Don’t get me started on the not-so-passive “if I have to ask” style of communication. I still have the scars from being raised by someone who resented me for years for not having mind-reading capabilities.

39

@37 cockyballsup
"I take public transport. It is no big fucking deal, you bunch of privileged asses."

You know, right, that absolutely no one here thinks taking the bus is a big deal.
(Well that's not true, a lot of people wouldn't consider taking it, and I as someone who is happy to take the bus I agree with you in normal times...but these are not normal times.)
What we think is a big deal is taking the bus when taking the bus has a significant chance of /killing/ you.

40

@curious, I’m talking about taking the bus now, as I do. The LW hasn’t mentioned age or underlying medical conditions, so it is doubtful the chances of the bus killing him are that high, or in any case any higher than, say, the grocery store killing him, or for that matter killing the person doing your shopping or ice fetching. Recent research in NYC puts the overall mortality rate at 0.5%, including the old and infirm. The risk for a younger healthy person would be much less.

I can’t believe that CAR would rather DIE than having a slightly uncomfortable conversation with his bf, so I’m calling bullshit on his letter. I do think CAR is a drama queen who get off on stewing on the belief that BF is passively trying to kill him though. I think CAR secretly loves the idea that he might die on bf. What better way to spite the boyfriend!

41

@40 cocky
No one regardless of their risk factor should be taking the bus right now if they have access to a private vehicle. If they, if you, do not I'm sorry that's the case.

42

Just to clarify, random antibody testing showed that about 20% of New Yorkers had coronavirus. Of that 20%, about 0.5% died; i.e., about 0.1% of the overall population of NYC. It is still a large number of people and I am not minimizing the tragedy.

43

@41 p.s
I am aware of an (unfortunately) few studies that suggest that the death rate is lower than thought, but they are mixed news. For one because dying isn't the only problem. People who almost die can suffer extreme pulmonary damage. Many people get horribly sick, far sicker than they ever were in their lives.

And the stats you're probably thinking of which I'll paste below (I forget if I've shared them here yet) suggest that 15% of the population has it. One and a half of every ten people you see. And it's /extremely/ contagious. (Ahem, don't get on a bus, man, if you have access to a private vehicle.)

Ok, here are some stats:

The known US case count currently stands at 923,612.(1) However, given the pathetically limited testing, it's too bad we don't have more data on how many more have actually had COVID; but the ones we have are alarming:

"About 15% of pregnant women admitted to two maternity wards in northern Manhattan in late March and early April were already infected with the new coronavirus, though most had no symptoms..."(2)

A Stanford study found "more than 50 times"(3) as many people have it than are known to.

15% of 330M = 49.5M
50 x 923.6K = 46.2M

In other words, both of those studies suggest a total number of US cases not 923.6K, but somewhere near fifty million people in the US who have COVID-19 right now.

Yes, that apparently means a lower fatality rate, but it also means if you get on the bus you ride with COVID-19.

Here's some unrelated stats:

US Deaths
58,220 (4) Vietnam War 1961-1975
52,092 (1) COVID-19 2020 February 29 to date
We're blowing past the Vietnam War at at high speed; the difference between yesterday and the 2 days before it was 2,341 and 2,338 deaths. At that rate COVID will take the lead on Sunday over the Vietnam war in terms of US deaths.

(1) https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/
(2) https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/04/antibody-surveys-suggesting-vast-undercount-coronavirus-infections-may-be-unreliable
(3) https://www.cuimc.columbia.edu/news/new-york-city-1-7-expectant-mothers-test-positive-coronavirus
(4) https://www.archives.gov/research/military/vietnam-war/casualty-statistics

@42 cocky
"Of that 20%, about 0.5% died"

Died so far, man; it takes time for this virus to kill the vast population that has it.

44

@43 p.s
""Of that 20%, about 0.5% died"
Died so far, man; it takes time for this virus to kill the vast population that has it."

By which I mean, has the infection rate stabilized for long enough for that mortality rate to be meaningful?

45

p.p.s.
If you had no other exposure risk than to take the bus with ten people with who weren't wearing a mask, the odds are that you'd get it.

46

Normally cbu, @37, I take PT too. Have done all my life because driving a car escaped me. Distances are not my speciality. Lucky children are home and can drive.
They don’t know enough about this virus, cbu, or how to curtail it. Yes lots of people catch PT, my youngest does to get to his work, he’d rather the train than ask for a lift.

47

My son’s job is a fifteen minute train ride away, and we live in a semi rural area so trains are pretty empty. Also, the infection rate here is flattening, unlike in your country, cbu. Whatever people can do to minimise contagion, they need to do that.

48

Some very good advice from @32. My only concern is the possibility that the boyfriend may escalate, eg become more aggressively abusive.

A question for @30 who says "It's just that the one thing I do know if I have to ask...is that I had to ask. And some things, in fact the the /very/ most important things in my life, would've had no value then"

Do you mean things like having to ask if someone loves you? That's all I can think of. I did in fact have a relationship with someone where I had to ask if he loved me, if he found me attractive, etc. He had a panic disorder and had never had a serious relationship before. He was not in good enough working order really, and it wasn't a great experience.

49

@48 elmsyrup
I did not know until google just told me that elms made syrup!

"Do you mean things like having to ask if someone loves you?"

Yes, sort of.

Since you ask I'll talk about it even though it was really much too complicated and much too traumatic to feel comfortable talking about. So I need to just touch on it.

It's about one of my parents; they were, and behaved, extremely fucked up; absolutely never should have been a parent, and people didn't need to know them long to know it.

They died (of something easily avoidable were they not an unequaled fool). Their dying was a long process, and I did everything I could, including to be there for them. I would have liked it if anywhere along the way they would have treated me less badly. As it was, the most difficult thing about their passing for me was that that became no longer possible.

Now getting to the point, by relating a common scenario in their end times. Whenever whoever else might be in the room with us left, this parent behaved as thought I wasn't there and they had become alone (instead of me being there too). They'd pick up something to read for however long it was just us.

At some point someone wanted to talk to this parent about this, to ask them to not do this. But I explained that it wouldn't mean anything to me if they had to be asked not to treat me this way. If this was the way they wanted to continue to treat me in their very short remaining time, I wanted them to be who they were happy being. It was their time, and finding fucked up ways to treat me badly was their jam.

It wasn't what /I/ wanted, but if they had to be asked to not do this, it would've had no value. Because their choice was the whole point.

Please remember this is not a letter to an advice column. In one of those, one might suggest ways such a fucked up situation could have been avoided. It's too late for that, and I did everything possible. I wrote this only as an example of something I wouldn't ask for.

(Of course I'd ask to use a bloody car.)

50

@37: I'm a bus rider too.

51

I'm a little freaked out by how harsh people feel when their partners cry, there seems to be a lot of agreement that this is abusive? I've cried about relationship problems or endings a lot, mostly to myself, but sometimes in front of a partner. I've never thought that silent tears would be offensive or manipulative, are they? I know I've bawled a couple times in front of partners, I was embarrassed about that and felt I needed to learn to calm down better, that does feel wrong. But shedding silent tears in front of a partner seemed like a show of vulnerability and trust when I feel I don't have to hide it, is this not a common experience? The last times I cried in public were at funerals and I got sympathy rather than annoyance, seemed like I was doing it ok... how can you tell if crying is manipulative?

Shows of pain may be very uncomfortable but pain is a part of life. Bf should be able to answer why he stays in a relationship where he cries and panics somehow, and whether he does something similar when single, because it sounds like bf wants to leave and LW is insisting on staying together. Because LW is reading his problem as insecurity instead of the relationship being a bad fit for him, because he is in fact choosing to stay while appearing unhappy for some unknown reason. Maybe he's never had to break up before and is making a mess of his first time.

52

I think it's important to ask for reassurance when you feel needy or unsatisfied and are thinking about growing some distance or leaving, to let another person make a conscious agreement to reassure or distance. If you ask for reassurance and the support of his car, and he says he can't handle it, maybe that distance is appropriate. Maybe just in your heart until a vaccine is available, just work on plans to move out for now.

I didn't think that there was a limit of how much reassurance or support you could ask for from your partner before it became abusive, as long as you're not repetitive about it and can accept a "no". If you feel this is a big problem, maybe stop reassuring bf that it's not a problem.

Curious, thank you for sharing. A lot of people don't understand the long term consequences of our decisions that well, but we have to make them anyway. I'm sorry for your loss of both parent, and hope for improving the relationship.

53

@52 Philophile
"your loss of both parent"

Actually just one of my parents is deceased. I was only using a plural pronoun to avoid specifying their gender; sorry to communicate so confusingly.

My other parent has dementia so that relationship won't be getting much better either, and they've been pretty impossible for 15 years; but except for a while a half century ago it was never /as/ bad, either. Given the remaining parent's situation and health, and the existence of COVID, I'd say it's a coin flip over whether I will ever be able to see them again.

WRT the departed one I feel good about having done everything I could to make it better. I also feel good about giving that parent the gift of the joy of getting to treat me the shitty way they wanted to.

This parent was the least aware and least self-aware person imaginable; such a mystery they were the main reason I studied psych. It was sad that they never knew who I was (or, for that matter, who they were themself); so there was so little they could understand I had to offer them. They imagined they had much to offer me, but as it turned out they hadn't and didn't.

In a surreal twist, I never felt closer to that parent than when they were no longer conscious and sliding towards their end; too bad their wall didn't come down earlier.

54

@curious: My deepest sympathy. That sounds awful. And yes, I completely agree, to have to ask completely undoes the result in that situation.

@Philo @51, I also cry when I'm upset. I think--although perhaps I'm engaging in a biased reading of the text--that the general objection isn't to crying per se, but crying combined with allowing that to shut down all conversation about the dispute. For instance, I cry, but I still talk; I express what upsets me about what's going on, and ask what, precisely, upsets them; I try to control the crying, or, if I can't, I ask for a few minutes to pull myself together, and I leave and come back in ten minutes and try again to have the conversation in a calmer state.

So my read/hope is that it's not that crying is bad, it's that some people use crying as a way to avoid having to come to any compromise, by acting as if they are just so distraught they can't possibly discuss it.

55

I'm very much with Dan here, CAR.

"I feel like I can't bring this up to him because I don't have the mental capacity to handle him breaking down into tears on top of everything else going on"

He needs to demonstrate a serious commitment to working on this response - and do so in a way that doesn't put YOU in the position of being his support in any cases of disageement or conflict WITH YOU - or you need to leave. Intent aside (I of course can't diagnose him, but this is a common response pattern to conflict for people with conditions like NPD, anxiety disorders, and rejection-sensitive dysphoria), not necessarily a conscious manipulation tactic - the behavior has become abusive. It has you walking on eggshells, not able to ask for a basic, obvious bit of help like using his car. That is not a healthy dynamic for either of you, and it's only going to become increasingly abusive if it's not addressed. Dan's analogy of a hostage situation is accurate - it's Cleavon Little's Sheriff Bart taking himself hostage in Blazing Saddles (without the justification that he's trying to avoid being mudered).

As Beachykeen notes @10, this isn't the only serious problem you describe. I think your best course is almost certainly to leave, but since you say you don't want to do so, I'll advise a final effort to set necessary conditions. Read up on the Grey Rock method for handling emotional manipulation, which is basically what Ankylosaurus's second point is in the first comment.

@13: "Why would there be an assumption that politely asking to use the car cause any conflict, unless the LW were going to do so in a resentful or accusatory way?"

Because of a persistent history of melting down over the mildest perceived criticism or conflict, which CAR explicitly notes ("anytime things don't seem to be going perfectly he breaks down into tears and worries that our entire relationship is about to come to end"). This is a common defense mechanism that can easily become abusive.

@27: While it's true autistics don't necessarily think to offer things that are only a matter of social norms and not a clear, material means of aid in the particular context, it's not at all true that we tend to not offer help in exactly these kinds of situations. "You should take my car" is a clear, functional way to resolve an overt problem, and that's exactly the sort of situation in which we DO tend to make an unprompted offer, as opposed to something like a norm of offering something to drink to a visitor who has given no indication of thirst. (I've explicitly memorized that as a norm, though I don't always remember to do it, but I think I mostly do, though it'sess necessary with my long-standing friends who know that it's fine to ask or just help themselves.) It's also irrelevant - the problem is the abusive pattern of emotional meltdowns when confronted with even mild conflict or disruption of ideal expectations, and while the underlying cause may help inform how Boyfriend can best seek help, it doesn't make the pattern any less abusive or mitigate the harm.

(Also: "Like I said, anyone on the autism spectrum would be driven absolutely batshit by this sort of approach." That's true - it's utterly maddening and can easily become an abusive dynamic itself. But we also tend to deal with direct, actionable requests BETTER than allistics, who are more likely to find them demanding or rude without whatever normative social dance is required by the local culture to frame or encode a requeat, and since the defensive emotional response is the problem, I wouldn't suspect that autism per se is a significant part of the issue.)

56

There's a pervasive myth (including/especially in psychological literature) that autistics lack a theory of mind or empathy (or have more limited functions on those counts). In fact, autistics tend to be MORE aware that other people do not think exactly like us exactly because we're a minority neurotype. Because we're almost necessarily aware that other people's minds are not ours (theory of mind) and don't think the same as we do, we are LESS likely than allistics to assume that our views, needs, preferences are shared by others and that we can therefore intuit their internal mental states, contributing to things like a preference for direct, literal communication and over-explaining (and e.g. not assuming that because we might personally want or expect to be asked X in a given situation that everyone else will; a lifetime of applying the solipsistic projection of The Golden Rule and having it fail to accurately anticipate the desires or needs of others has a tendency to disabuse one of belief in its utility). When you've learned that relying on assumption and projection mostly leads to failure, you tend toward explicit, direct communication as the only possible functional norm. We fail to ask not because we don't know that someone might have needs or desires that we do not have in the moment or because we wouldn't want to accommodate those, but because we're aware that we can't possibly know what those are - exactly because the other person is not us and doesn't necessarily think like us, and even when it comes to social norms of which we are aware, we know that those norms are not universally held by people in a given cultural context - and it would be absurd to run through offering a list of every possible thing another person might conceivably want every time we talk to someone.

Ironically, the allistic interpretation that a lack of normative non-verbal cues and failure to adhere to normative social scripts demonstrates a lack of theory of mind on the part of autistics is itself a demonstration of normal (as distinct from pathological) ALLISTIC solipsistic projection and the ALLISTIC failure to apply an accurate theory of mind - they can't imagine that we aren't basically them and don't think like them, so they interpret the behavior they observe as though they themselves were engaging in it and therefore falsely ascribe the internal thoughts and motivations that WOULD result in such behavior for THEMSELVES to others (I Am the World fallacy, or solipsistic projection). The Illusion of Transparency is another common effect of the normal, more solipsistic allistic theory of mind.

57

@54 ciods
Aw, thank you very much.

I was hopeful throughout their long decline. Because, after all, dying can be a growth opportunity. And one time they excitedly shared a little spiritual realization that that opportunity had provided.

(Oh, and I mean very little; it was a first, spiritual-preschool-level step, from which nearly everyone else makes more. But hey, good for them!)

When they were done sharing, I was going to try to respond; ready to have the exchange I'd been hoping for. But no, they just shut off like a light switch. They appeared convinced that they--the parent--had just given me wisdom. The possibility that we could go further, that I could have anything to say of value or benefit to them, seemed never to cross their mind. The next visit and the next I was hopeful too, but that one time had been it. No exchange, only the pretension that one time of teaching /me/ something.

Still, I was happy for them that they got to grow a bit, and got to feel they had something to teach.

@55 John Horstman
""You should take my car" is a clear, functional way to resolve an overt problem, and that's exactly the sort of situation in which we DO tend to make an unprompted offer"

Thank you very much for the helpful insight, JH!

58

Oh curious, that story about your parent made my heart ache because it was similar to my mother’s death. The last two years when in the nursing home she was so rejecting, so mean, never trying to have a warm intimacy with me. I made her a crochet blanket when I was fifteen, she’d had it all these years and someone took it to her in the home. She told me she didn’t want it there to take it, I didn’t. Then later it was no where to be found. I can only assume she got rid of it. That just broke my heart. like you with your parent, I let her have her form of relating.
Such a cruel way to leave one’s child, hugs to you.

59

Whirled @34, good suggestion!

MsAnon @36, who thinks it's CAR's fault?

Cocky @37, wow, where did that come from? I too am a carless city dweller. CAR clearly does not live in a city whose transport links are as good as mine because it takes him an hour and a half to two hours to make the journey each way. He implies this journey time would be much shorter if he could drive. So you're the one who's lacking empathy with your attitude of, just take the bus, bitch.

60

@58 LavaGirl
I'm so sorry that happened to you. Like with your mom, my parent had never been /so/ bad as at the end.

While some capitalize on the end's growth opportunity, it embitters (perhaps further) others instead.

When I was a little kid in school everyone made and painted a pottery item as a gift for their parent. Mine didn't keep it long; it still sits here on my shelf as a reminder. I should probably smash it, but it's so beautifully colorful, and I put a whole bunch of rolling papers in it.

61

I didn't understand 'having feelings [does not equal] catching feelings'. Does this mean something like 'just because you have feelings, don't suppose your sex partner has them too'?

The main letter has been easily and directly dealt with by Dan, @10 beachykeen and everyone else. Easy for us to say, but maybe hard for the lw to hear and put the advice into action.

62

@5v6, John Horstman: "When you've learned that relying on assumption and projection mostly leads to failure, you tend toward explicit, direct communication as the only possible functional norm."

Doesn't that grossly overgeneralize? Autistic people surely do not all have the same coping strategies or personality type. Surely some have more self-insight and some less, there are extroverted and introverted autistic people, and so on. Repeated failure of assumption and projection might just as easily lead to the insecure attachment style hounded by anxiety and fear of abandonment the LW describes in the boyfriend. If you are as used to failure of projection as you describe, then surely you can never be sure you assumption of a partner's love (based on prior experience) is true, and then every small disagreement may well feel like confirmation that you were wrong, you were never loved, and this is the end. Especially if there were past events such as being dumped unexpectedly, which surely for many autistic people who may not have guarded against growing to depend on their partners for certain things (social interaction, for example) is potentially more traumatic than it would be for many allistic people.

I mean, I think I am allistic (not 100% sure) and I have constant abandonment fears like the BF because of past failures of assumption and projection (unexpected dumpings, for example) making it impossible for me to trust my instincts at all - though I do my partners the favor of not expressing it in the way CAR describes his BF acting. Nosirree, I just turn it inward until medications are needed to stop me from wanting to die.

For the record, I myself would certainly have offered the car. But as an introvert I pretty much only have bandwidth for one thing at a time, and things sometimes don't occur to me because something else is on my mind.

63

@curious, I have friends, had boyfriends, and had a parent, with whom I can and could just spend quiet and comfortable time together. In fact, with my Mom when visitors left it was a relief to us both as introverts to just be quiet and read or watch TV together. I feel like this is something extroverts just simply can't get their head around, for example. I always felt uncomfortable talking about intimate things with family members and avoided such discussions - my times with them were more about togetherness and showing comfort and love.

I don't know your relationship with your parent and don't want to presume, but maybe they simply had a different experience of and feelings about these behaviors and events than what you assume. Maybe they thought they were just spending quiet comfortable relaxing time with you recharging (especially being sick and probably exhausted after visits from others) and never knew how you took it because you didn't tell them. Maybe you were the one they felt they could just rest with because you were the one they felt closest with. And from your descriptions I am not sure how they were supposed to read your mind that you wanted to tell them something when you didn't say anything to let on.

To some people words mean a lot, to others its actions that count. Show, don't tell... The people who dumped me most cruelly were the ones who kept saying "I love you," so I am one of those who put very little store in words. I feel much more loved reading with a loved one present than discussing feelings.

64

Curious, I'm sorry for both the loss of your parent and the loss of hope for improving y'alls relationship, sorry to be unclear. I may have been in a similar situation, I discouraged my mother from speaking to my partner because she was very mad and I was afraid that she and my partner would verbally excoriate each other. I feel careful about preventing others from protecting me though, that sounds next to self harm, I'm not sure I made the right decision.

Ciods - I liked the way you described how you cry, I'm similar, and the bit about leaving to calm down is so important and can be hard when you feel trapped in the same place.. but you never really are unless something very illegal is going on. And trying to have the conversation calmly anyway.. That seems very important too but the only conversation anyone seems to be trying to avoid is about car repair/replacement and car loans or rides. LW's complaints were just so vague, the worst thing the bf did was not offer the car, which seems weird, but not as weird as LW avoiding the conversation.

"some people use crying as a way to avoid having to come to any compromise, by acting as if they are just so distraught they can't possibly discuss it."
I think it takes 2 people to successfully drop a subject unless there's a break up, one sided conversations can often precede a break up.

Crying about relationship problems seems like someone is ready to leave or needs some serious distance if the problem continues. It seems more natural for someone to cry about our relationship problems if they were hurt by something that I did. If I had offered a reasonable compromise and it was met by crying, I'd ask them what they needed to calm down. If I had to leave until they said they felt calmer I'd consider that an argument for therapy, the upset person should leave to calm down. I'd say I'm not going to do what you want, I'm going to do what I think is best for us, but if you want to calmly talk about it and compromise I'm open. If they grew more upset, I'd ask if they felt they couldn't calm down about the subject with me, and wanted to break up to calm down. The specific question seems important: do you want to work on a compromise or are you giving up on calm compromise and would rather break up? Do you want to look for help to calm down, therapy, meds, or would you just like to drop the whole relationship and look for someone you find it easier to calm down and live with? This case is different, if my request to borrow the car was met by tears or a refusal to answer, I'd say that I was taking that as a "no" and I thought it was selfish not to lend out the car during the pandemic, I didn't feel loved, and make plans by myself to move out.

If bf won't lend out the car and doesn't have a damn good reason, he's just not that into LW. If LW can't ask for the car to find out for sure, they are not that into the relationship either. Both giving and asking for help are important ways to show love. It is what it is.

65

BidDanFan since you asked, #13, #18, #39 and you.

There is a LOT of unintentional victim blaming here. From the people pissed about LW not wanting to take the bus, the people who assume that LW is expecting his boyfriend to read his mind and missing the whole 'hysterical breakdown' aspect of the relationship.

I agree LW needs to leave but he doesn't seem ready to do that and when you've spent years being told that you're keeping this person alive it can be hard to walk away, no matter how necessary it is.

That's the problem, this guy has been manipulating him throughout the relationship and he can't tell up from down anymore. He worries that asking to borrow the car, a car BF is not using and would make him safer and more comfortable, would trigger a breakdown, not say a difficult conversation about their relationship, but a basic request about a car, and yeah I can see why this guy is having issues here.

Just because someone is crying doesn't mean the other is somehow wrong. I get the feeling people hear about the tears and decide the LW must be at fault for some reason.

66

@62 cocky
"I think I am allistic (not 100% sure)"

I've become increasingly unsure about whether you're allistic too.

@63 cocky
I know your intent was to help, but I thought I made it clear in the penultimate paragraph @49 that it should not be treated like "a letter to an advice column".

"I don't know your relationship with your parent"

On that we agree.

"and don't want to presume"

And I wish you'd respected my admonition and not done so.

Now, it's true that spending time together with people without needing to speak is perfectly fine. (Oh, and this is neither news to me nor am I an extrovert.)

However, this observation does not apply /at/all/ to that episode in my life; I utterly repudiate it's relevance. You should have know that just from reading it, and I can promise you that it's true from living it.

And even more importantly, it was just plain fucked up to say it when I'd asked people not to. I had taken care to ask it not to be, but you went ahead and used it as an opportunity for you to present an interpretation that made me wrong. This would be a good time to apologize.

@64 ciods
"I was afraid that she and my partner would verbally excoriate each other"

That doesn't sound like a conversation that would've been good to have!

67

@55, 56 John Horstman - just want to thank you for sharing that really enlightening and insightful perspective.

68

Thanks curious. At the end I think she was so sad to die after ninety eight years and with still a strong mind and ego though very frail body, that sadness consumed her. I rang a death doula and she said one needs to respect how people chose to go thru the process of dying, and so I did. I’d never leave my children that way though, still caught after death by such behaviour.
/ cbu, I know now why I respond to you, an introvert like myself. I hope you and Dan, being PT users, that you both wear masks/ gloves.
/ is this two men in the letter? I’m confused.
LW, do you two talk about your partner’s meltdowns, after they happen. Do you mention how these behaviours effect you, how they control you? Why do you do all this work, is your partner unable to sweep a floor? If you do want to stay in this relationship, you need to push back against all the noise. And ask straight to use the car.
Then later, perhaps the two of you could do couples therapy and deal with this malfunction in how you two communicate.

69

I know what you mean cbu, re trusting one’s instincts after others’ behaviour leaves one guarding one’s heart.
If you go to thoughts of suicide, that’s a big worry.
Hugs to you.

70

Philo @51, I don't think the issue is that this guy is shedding silent tears. CAR says "he gets so emotional whenever there is even the slightest bit of conflict" and "anytime things don't seem to be going perfectly he breaks down into tears and worries that our entire relationship is about to come to end." The result of this is that CAR lives in fear of bringing up anything that might be even slightly upsetting to him. This is not the same thing at all as someone crying at a relative's funeral, at a soppy film, or even because they've had a bad day. In your example, getting emotional and crying due to relationship conflicts, how do you know when it's manipulative? I would say when you see the pattern that whenever your partner brings something up that upsets you, you cry, and they back off whatever it is they were asking you for, with the result that you always get your way. If you're prone to crying when conflicts happen, what I'd suggest is that you excuse yourself until you can discuss their concern calmly, with the result that you end up hearing their side and either deciding they have merit, or coming to a compromise, or that you still feel after analysing their side rationally that you're in the right.

"it sounds like bf wants to leave and LW is insisting on staying together." It doesn't sound that way to me at all. It sounds like BF fears SO MUCH that he will be left, even a tiny thing like "you left the lid off the toothpaste again" triggers abandonment issues; he can't cope with these, but he's learned that having a meltdown gets him exactly what he wants, an apology and reassurances that CAR isn't going to leave and everything's fine and please don't cry and the next morning, there's the damn lid off the toothpaste again and CAR can't even mention it now. See how this works?

MsAnon @65, let me take this opportunity to state that you have misread me if you think I am assigning "fault" by pointing out the fact that CAR has not asked. Not asking and not getting does not make him a victim. Being on the receiving end of three years of emotional manipulation makes him a victim, and yes I do understand this is why he's not asking, but he does state that he expects Mr CAR to offer ("Not once during all of this has he offered to allow me to use his car"), and that's clearly an unreasonable expectation where Mr CAR is concerned because he has not offered by now and therefore he isn't going to. So either he asks and risks the meltdown or keeps taking the bus. Not good options but they appear to be the only ones (aside from the creative, ask him to drive him to work, which is still asking and potentially still risking, or just take the keys and say bye, which means deferring any meltdown until after he gets home).

71

For his part, I am now gonna blame the victim and say that he is contributing to this dynamic by putting up with it. "It kind of feels like he might care more about his car than he does about me" is some melodramatic stuff. Does he spend hours detailing the car or something, or is CAR just melodramatising what seems like garden variety thoughtlessness? Both these guys need to work on their communication skills and self-esteem, IMO.

72

I would say it's unusual for a couple to put off dealing with potentially serious and derailing differences because merely the suggestion of discord sends one of them into meltdown. Of course this is something for which they share responsibility. But has the more teary partner, in his first relationship, got an underlying physical-medical or psychiatric issue? Is he traumatised? Is he pathologically conflict-aversive--so that he needs to see a therapist?

73

Hi BDF, I'm always glad to hear your thoughts.

"when you see the pattern that whenever your partner brings something up that upsets you, you cry, and they back off whatever it is they were asking you for, with the result that you always get your way."
What if the pattern is that you only cry when it's really important to you and threatening the relationship, and your partner responds to your tears as important and offers compromises that could make both happy? That sounds normal. How can you tell if they are backing off because they respect their partner's pain and are offering compromises they are comfortable with, or if they are being manipulated?

It seems valid to choose to save your partner pain. It does not seem healthy to blame your choices on your partner, even if they are abusing you in clear ways. An abuser doesn't cause others to leave them with the abuse, unfortunately. It is a person who decides they don't want to be abused and has given up trying to persuade their partner to refrain from abusing them who has the strength to leave.

If they back off of asking me to change my behavior, then I assume they can tolerate my behavior. If I am crying because they are doing something that hurts me and they back off in the moment, I don't assume that they're going to stop doing what they want unless they promise it, if I really want a change I know it won't happen unless my partner agrees. In turn my partner must be true to themselves and only drop subjects when they feel it is right, assume that I am doing my best to please them, and only change their behavior for me or offer compromises if they feel it is the right choice for them. And I try to do the same for their tears. I think that sincerely doing what you feel is right is an important responsibility.

"there's the damn lid off the toothpaste again and CAR can't even mention it now. See how this works?"
No I don't see why CAR can't mention it now.
I can see why CAR might decide to get separate toothpaste bottles and drop it.
I can see why CAR might decide that he wants a partner who can reliably cap the toothpaste or at least stay calm about toothpaste and break up.
I can see why CAR would tell bf that it's important to be calm about things like toothpaste and it's difficult for CAR to handle bf's upset behavior, but they'd like to try therapy to see if he can learn calmer habits before breaking up.

It's weird that CAR describes the relationship as going strong even though bf is crying about the relationship all the time. CAR adores and loves bf... but feels bf loves his car more and has 100% fault for their poor communication so blames his bf for being unable to ask about the car.

It is not clear to me that some crying is insincere or malicious and this crying is easily identifiable.

74

The Sulk: An odd gift of love — Alain de Botton
“.. At the heart of a sulk lies a confusing mixture of intense anger and an equally intense desire not to communicate what one is angry about. The sulker both desperately needs the other person to understand and yet remains utterly committed to doing nothing to help them do so. The very need to explain, forms the kernel of the insult: if the partner requires an explanation, he or she is clearly not worthy of one. We should add: it is a privilege to be the recipient of a sulk; it means the other person respects and trusts us enough to think we should understand their unspoken hurt. It is one of the odder gifts of love.
...
It is also, at times, the greatest privilege for someone to look beyond our adult self in order to engage with — and forgive — the disappointed, furious, inarticulate child within.
...
The most superficially irrational, immature, lamentable, but nonetheless common of all the presumptions of love is that the person to whom we have pledged ourselves is not just the center of our emotional existence but is also, as a result — and yet in a very strange, objectively insane and profoundly unjust way — responsible for everything that happens to us, for good or ill. Therein lies the peculiar and sick privilege of love..”

75

Philo @73, if it were easily identifiable no one would fall for it. Right?

I think the main difference between these two people and the people in your hypothetical is that neither of the people in this letter is in good working order to date. I would bet that Mr CAR is not doing this on purpose. He's not faking tears to get his way. He just can't deal with his emotions and perhaps when he was a child, either he was not allowed to express any emotions at all, or perhaps the only time he was listened to was when he threw a tantrum, so his young mind learned that this is how he can circumvent difficult conversations and his adult mind just does it automatically. It's his failure to address it that I'm faulting him for, not for doing it in the first place.

For his part, as I said, CAR seems to have such low self-esteem that he can't stand up to Mr CAR, which no doubt stems from -his- own childhood issues. So they aren't bad people, they are just damaged and both of them should get help to learn to be more functional. (Sorry if this makes less sense than I'd hoped, I was interrupted and now have a video call, so for once I'll stop rambling!)

76

Hi BDF, I feel about the same way. I'd be interested to hear details about how they work it out if they choose to try. It is a huge abusive red flag if you can't agree that it's important and a basic responsibility to calmly talk through issues and attempt basic calmness in general, hopefully they get on track.

77

Hi Philo @73, let me continue my response!
"What if the pattern is that you only cry when it's really important to you and threatening the relationship,"
I would say that's better than Mr CAR, who seems to cry at the slightest hint of conflict, but it's still red flaggy to me. By coincidence one of the video chats I had last night was with a friend who's been with his primary partner for eight years but has wanted to break up with her for five of them. He just can't bring himself to hurt her, so he is miserable. When someone wants out of a relationship and you cry and they back down, that sounds manipulative to me. Think of ITS from the weekly column. Let's say he has made up his mind to leave the wife he is not attracted to. He tells her, she cries, he backs down and stays. Is that the result he wanted? Is it the result either of them is going to be happy with in the long run? I would say no.

"and your partner responds to your tears as important and offers compromises that could make both happy?"
WILL they make both happy? Or is the partner just saying what you want to hear so you'll stop crying?

"That sounds normal."
Sounds normal as in typical or common, but I'm not sure it's normal as in healthy.

"How can you tell if they are backing off because they respect their partner's pain and are offering compromises they are comfortable with, or if they are being manipulated?"
By not accepting the compromises, then going back to them when they are calm and asking them what they really want? Ending any conversation that upsets you to the point where tears come?

"It seems valid to choose to save your partner pain." But not at your own expense. Again taking ITS as an example. It is valid for him to save his partner pain by not being brutally honest about his reason for leaving. It is not valid for him to save her pain by sticking around when he does not want to be with her.

"If they back off of asking me to change my behavior, then I assume they can tolerate my behavior." Or that they can tolerate tears even less well than they can tolerate whatever behaviour they were asking you to change, or that they don't have the psychological tools to deal well with conflict.

"No I don't see why CAR can't mention it now.
I can see why CAR might decide to get separate toothpaste bottles and drop it..."
These are all HEALTHY, RATIONAL responses to the behaviour CAR would like his partner to change. As we have established, CAR is neither healthy nor rational, as he has allowed himself to be held hostage by this selfish man for three years. He does not have the tools to take the actions you recommended. He knows that if he does X, his partner will react in a way that he can't cope with, so he learned to avoid the reaction by not doing X, with X being raising any uncomfortable topic no matter how minor.

"they'd like to try therapy to see if he can learn calmer habits before breaking up." Now this I agree with completely. They are both bringing their baggage to this toxic dynamic and they both need to understand and fix their unhealthy programming before they can move forward.

"It's weird that CAR describes the relationship as going strong even though bf is crying about the relationship all the time." I don't think it's "all the time," it's whenever a conflict arises. Most relationships only experience conflict a tiny percentage of the time. When there is no conflict they are happy, but when there is, they cannot resolve it productively. They believe they are happy because they have learned not to resolve the conflicts, but to avoid them by CAR not ever bringing anything up that bothers him, which, as you say, is not real happiness.

78

@73. philophile. I don't think it's the default, in most relationships, for a non-crier (or a less-frequent-crier) to assume that a crier is crying to try to head off calm discussion of a difficulty. No. A crier is rather crying because they are hurt by their partner; have hurt their partner; misunderstand their partner; have different, possibly intractably different, views, values or priorities to their partner, or because of the sadness of things not being perfect, or not being as good as they were. These things are sad; they prompt tears; they make easy criers and less easy criers alike sad, regretful, lonely. The usual response is to comfort whoever's crying, not to construe the tears as a device intended to forestall dealing with an issue.

There is a very particular relationship pattern where one person habitually cries, and the other backs off from seizing and discussing problems they're having. This is a dynamic both people have contributed to, and needs to be addressed as both of their problem--to resolve together.

79

" that's better than Mr CAR, who seems to cry at the slightest hint of conflict"
How can anyone tell if Mr CAR is crying about something really important to him or a slightly important or minor conflict?

"He just can't bring himself to hurt her"
To hurt her by rejecting her? Rejection doesn't have to get personal, people just want what they want. That sounds like he is really full of himself, that her life is better with a reluctant partner than single or with someone who truly appreciates her. Why can't he provide this extremely necessary support of her poor fragile being as a friend? ps I think when you're afraid of your partner but want to stay or when you start to act insincerely and care more about protecting your partner than acting with sincerity you've lost the right to claim you're in good working order, I feel that way because I've felt afraid of my partner or the urge to give in to shut my partner up and I think it was my problem if I wanted to stay unsafely close to him in that situation. If you're just saying what you want your partner to hear that's clearly a mistake, I don't see why anyone would blame their partner for their insincerity.

"When someone wants out of a relationship and you cry and they back down, that sounds manipulative to me."
It sounds weird to back down from wanting to reject someone because they are crying, more appropriate to comfort them with confidence that they can move on to a better life without you, they deserve someone who can truly appreciate them. It's also weird to cry to the person who is rejecting you, as if you want to be with someone who doesn't want to be with you, that sounds scary not loving. But sometimes it's just crying about a sad incompatibility or because it's sad to suffer unrequited love, when you agree that parting is best for both.

""It seems valid to choose to save your partner pain." But not at your own expense"
I don't see why it's invalid if my partner offered to clean the toilet sometimes too, even though he's offering a compromise at his own expense. Or if I just got separate toothpaste bottles even if I would have preferred a partner who could cap our shared toothpaste and have to give up my dream, maybe I'll get over it if I appreciate the sex. I think any compromise is fine even BDSM as long as the agreement is sincerely given. It is no good if CAR thinks it's loving to resentfully give in to bf or avoid conflict.

Maybe I should have said that it's weird that CAR can minimize his boyfriend's tears by saying that they are still going strong in spite of them. I disagree that tears should be treated as insincere or problematic or minimized or discouraged, only if they are accompanied by an inability to calm down or discuss the situation calmly does it seem like a mental health issue, and it is the calmness which should be encouraged, discouraging tears is very different from encouraging calmness. Reward works, punishment not so much.

I hope CAR read Dan's response and the comments and can add some new tools to his toolbox.

Harriet,
"There is a very particular relationship pattern where one person habitually cries, and the other backs off from seizing and discussing problems they're having."
It seems to me that you can ask a person whether they think they are crying about something very important and central to the relationship and life. And if they say that the toothpaste cap is very central to their relationship and life, trying to understand that should be the focus, not the tears. If they say it's not important but they can't help crying, then seeing a therapist to learn calming techniques or try meds seems to be the logical next step. It doesn't seem hard to tell which case it is as long as you can ask whether it's of minor or major importance, instead of assume that it's minor but also treat it as major.

80

Also BDF, If the way I think is normal to cry doesn't sound right to you, how do you cry differently?

81

Philo @79, "How can anyone tell if Mr CAR is crying about something really important to him or a slightly important or minor conflict?"
Because CAR says, "he gets so emotional whenever there is even the SLIGHTEST bit of conflict.... anytime things don't seem to be going PERFECTLY he breaks down into tears and worries that our ENTIRE RELATIONSHIP is about to come to end, even though we've been going strong for nearly three-years now."

"To hurt her by rejecting her?" Yes. Rejection hurts.
"That sounds like he is really full of himself." Actually it's lifelong depression and self-esteem issues. Her needs are more important to him than his own. Don't worry, in our conversation I made all the points you made, and hopefully that bolstered his decision. Time will tell.

"It sounds weird to back down from wanting to reject someone because they are crying, more appropriate to comfort them with confidence that they can move on to a better life without you." Again, this would be the healthy response to someone crying. These people are not healthy. This also goes against the pattern you identified: the partner does not comfort the crier while standing firm about their decision, but offers compromises. Can you see the difference?

"Maybe I should have said that it's weird that CAR can minimize his boyfriend's tears by saying that they are still going strong in spite of them." Yes, of course it's weird; we well adjusted observers can see that a relationship that (mis)functions in this way is not a strong one, but because of his issues, he cannot see this. This has been my entire point.

"If the way I think is normal to cry doesn't sound right to you, how do you cry differently?" This is about how people should act, not about how people do act. But since you ask, I am far more likely to get angry than to cry. I am not recommending this approach either.

82

I'm finding this discussion harder to continue because there is, as with all things in life, not a one size fits all approach. Is crying because someone asked you to be tidier reasonable? Probably no. Is crying because someone says they are breaking up with you reasonable? Probably yes. Is compromising on cleaning reasonable? Probably yes. Is compromising by not breaking up with someone reasonable? Probably no. Too many variables. It seems obvious though that Mr CAR is, under most circumstances, overreacting and either needs therapy or is being a manipulative drama queen. Which one? His willingness to get that therapy will decide.

83

@79. Philophile. But it's vexatious when someone cries at the slightest contrariety. If it's actually over the toothpaste cap--meaning over something of the usual importance of a toothpaste cap--and not e.g. a difference over whether to have children, over sexual frequency, over who makes decisions on spending and holidays etc., then it would seem unfair and vexatious to the non-crier for the toothpaste cap to occasion such a disturbing show of emotion.

There might be a reason that the slightest thing sends one partner into floods of tears e.g. an unresolved trauma. But the crying partner should be prepared to go into therapy and/or embark on a therapeutic course of self-reflection to deal with this. In other words, I don't think it's reasonable for the crier to go off on a crying jag at the toothpaste cap, but to say to the effect, 'don't mind the tears; it doesn't really affect or matter to me'. It's a typical response to tears to think that the crying person is really upset and trying (consciously or unconsciously) to communicate something through their tears. It's understandable that someone backs off seizing hold of a difficulty or failure to sync because their partner is crying.

84

BDF I think you said you were kinky in a dom way. So if your new partner gave you permission to dom them and then wrote to Dan that they were afraid of you because you spanked them in bed and they wanted vanilla sex but can't bring themselves to ask you because you're so scary and if they mentioned their consent they said it didn't count because they felt coerced.. And really all you did was spank them and you had every reason to think it was ok.. Dan's going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say you were wrong to coerce them and they should probably dump you because you're not in good working order but they could try giving you another chance and telling you that you have to stop coercing consent and take baby steps with bdsm and stick to vanilla for awhile if they couldn't bear to dump you yet.. would you agree that you should have known they were insincere? What if they said that bdsm sounded like something for losers, and you got angry and said shut up some people think it's awesome, and then they consented to give it a shot to see if it was as silly as it sounded, and you spent an hour talking about limits and then tried it out.. was your anger abusive since they responded with an insincere promise and told Dan that you got angry about everything?

People who blame their insincerity on others are freaking scary. If CAR can't ask for what he wants, it's not Mr CAR's fault, they are both 50% responsible for their conflicts and 100% responsible for their own actions, maybe CAR can learn to ask or maybe it's not a relationship he can grow in. Unfortunately that means that if you dated a crazy Mr BDF and didn't stop having sex with him when you read his letter, you'd be choosing to keep an unhealthy conflict. It's painful to act with sincerity but sometimes I guess it's necessary to fall in love with someone who is hiding their true colors and accept that you judged them wrongly and misplaced your trust, but it still might not be that easy to leave Mr Crazy BDF if the sex had been off the hook. You'd have to completely accept that bdsm was bad for him no matter how it appeared in the moment and realize you never had any idea who they sincerely were and that hurts. Insincerity is scary.

I think it's important to ask for what you want. If you can't ask for what you need then you will manipulate people to get it like an ignorant inarticulate precious child monster. It's strong to be able to ask for what you want and to learn to respect "no" when you hear it as well. It's hard to learn how to deal with "no" and some people didn't learn good ways as children, to explore the reasons for the "no", and think about how they can get what they want inside the new restriction instead of wasting anger on the restriction and trying to control others' choices. I understand that rejection is painful, it's painful to accept that another doesn't feel the way you want them to feel. That doesn't mean that it's better to ignore the parts of reality that feel bad, it's not helpful to enable someone's delusions to make them feel better, neither is it helpful to strip someone of their delusions if you can't give them a different coping mechanism, just tell the truth when it's important and offer comfort if it's sincere. Plus if this guy tells his wife what she wants to hear then he does it to you, too, how can you trust a word he says?

I think it's important to act with sincerity. I assume that my partner is acting with sincerity, this is exactly why it hurts so much and is unethical when I find out they've acted insincerely and must try to discern truth from lies. If they offered an insincere promise and broke it, I wouldn't blame myself or pretend it's acceptable, I try to acknowledge that the trust is gone and figure out what I want to do with the new truth. Definitely be very careful about offering them ways they might rebuild my trust.

85

I don't think my main point came across.. that CAR has the means to escape this pattern all on his own. By testing if his partner's tears are based on deep pain, or do not as is common reflect deep pain. He can test by asking whether the issue is major or minor to Mr CAR. If Mr CAR can explain his pain in reasonable terms and CAR made an incorrect assumption that the issue was minor, he can only discover that by testing. If Mr CAR can explain why the toothpaste cap conflict caused deep pain for him, maybe Mr CAR was in fact being reasonable and normal. Or Mr CAR will take an unreasonable position, like he had deep feelings about toothpaste caps that he never mentioned before, he just can't calm down and talk about things reasonably and can't acknowledge that this is his problem and CAR should leave. Or Mr CAR will admit to being less calm than appropriate and hopefully he wants to learn to calm down.. he can try self help stuff or therapy or meds...

(and he might surprise CAR by actually being reasonable, saying he burst into tears because of the way CAR had pointed out the mistake, by telling him that if he really loved him he'd be able to do simple things like put the toothpaste cap on, by calling him an idiot about a toothpaste cap, continuing to complain about it for an hour, or some other deep toothpaste cap related mistake that CAR made and needs to acknowledge and change by talking, if he can't guess the issue from the tears)

86

CAR's suggestion was that his lover cried because he supposed that every difference, no matter how minor, threatened to end the relationship. This is irrational. For CAR's lover to go on believing this, when all the facts point to CAR's being committed to him, is not only irrational but potentially pathological.

87

Philo @84, as much as I do overshare in this forum, I am not comfortable with your using me as an example, since that road could lead to "it sounds like you were raped a lot." The issue of partners who cry at inappropriate times is not part of my experience, so I'm not sure why you're bringing in an unrelated example unless it's some sort of gotcha. (For the record, I switch between dominant and vanilla; if my partner is not submissive, I have no problem at all forgoing D/s and thus your hypothetical would never happen.)

So leaving this irrelevant hypothetical out of it, I think what you are asking is, what if a LW is lying, or at least, presenting a skewed version of the facts that is not accurate? This is the risk we take by only ever having one side of the story. We have to believe the LW's version of events because we don't have another one. Sure, they could be lying, but unless something is entirely implausible we have to take it at face value. Yes, we know that CAR has his own issues, and therefore is likely to be misreading his own situation, but this is his situation as he sees it. We can ask him if perhaps his perceptions are inaccurate, but if we presume LWs are not telling the truth then advice becomes impossible.

So yes, if Mr CAR reads this letter and recognises himself, he should start a conversation with CAR and say, is this really how you see things? Are you really afraid to ask me for simple requests because you fear my reaction? And they could use it as the starting point for a conversation, hopefully one that includes the words "couples therapy." If Mr CAR sees the letter and thinks, whoa, none of this is true, CAR is just fishing for sympathy from an advice columnist, then he might decide to DTMFA.

Anyway, I agree with your position that sincerity and honesty are important, and that neither of these two can communicate effectively, and that if their relationship is going to be a healthy one, one of them needs to take the first step towards addressing these issues, and that since CAR wrote in, that one needs to be him.

88

Harriet, I agree with every word you've said on this thread.

89

"I don't have the mental capacity to handle him breaking down into tears on top of everything else going on including, full-time work, 3-4 hours of commuting, cleaning the house, and cooking dinners."

Pardon the shit out of me, but did I understand correctly that on top of everything else, duder is sitting at home pointedly NOT doing the housework? Did fearies steal this man and replace him with a feral coyote in man pants? Were you tricked into marrying a newborn who is now entering the Terrible Twos? Did you eat a witch's cottage? Because I don't see why the fuck else a grown ass man is pulling this shit in the year of our lord 20-fucking-20 and I'm exhausted even contemplating his existence.

90

BDF - I'm so sorry that my example made you uncomfortable. I'm not sure what spanking has to do with rape, but I do feel really bad that I touched a nerve and sad that my point didn't come across as a result. How about a personal example.. I told a guy that I didn't like monogamy after the first time we had sex. He said he wanted to date me anyway but he started acting jealous and suspicious even though we had been functionally monogamous, so I broke up with him. He said he wanted to keep seeing me even though I was hooking up with someone else sometimes, but later blew up at me. Told my mom I cheated on him. Just went on about how he loved me so much but I never really loved him (I had only said that I loved him and never wavered) and that I forced him to be nonmonogamous. He was a smart man who was very twisted up about something. I was sad he couldn't calm down but I'm not sure what more I could have done besides let him work out his demons with others. (I am wired a bit different from you, I am strongly attracted to a primary partner, more monogamish than poly at least so far). It was pretty nasty to experience someone who held a lot of anger toward me and couldn't calm down to explain why, I imagine he was angry about something else and just took it out on me.

This letter reminded me of him. LW seems to be seeking a way to borrow bf's car without asking and seems really angry that bf didn't offer the car. His reasoning is that his bf cries too much and he doesn't feel loved, but I think that's unreasonable that he doesn't give bf the benefit of the doubt and assumes the issues are minor, I'd like to hear the details to see if I'd agree. And unless bf said that he loves his car more it's unfair to put those words in his mouth. Also that he reports they have been going strong even with frequent crying, he seems to overlook his bf's perspective. He doesn't seem to feel a sense of responsibility to stay calm when bf is upset so he blames his actions on bf. He's uncomfortable with the crying and goes out of his way to avoid it but also won't talk about the issues that are causing crying beyond repeating that they are minor. It's like he simultaneously treats the crying as minor and resents his partner for the tears, and treats these minor issues as major to avoid the tears. He and Dan blame LW's inability to ask on bf, but Dan does say that it's important to ask even when it's hard, even if he's blamey about LW's past mistakes. But Dan also suggests an aggressive confrontation about tears and to tell bf that he made a mistake and cried too much, which I think would backfire, especially if bf does have good reasons for his actions, he's going to wonder why CAR can't calm down and where this anger came from and it would make CAR look even worse. I would have said more about how it's important to keep acting with sincerity, if you are afraid of bf, take some distance until you can calm down and make your life feel safe so you can keep acting sincerely, don't blame bf or you'll be fighting about nothing instead of making your life safe.

91

Harriet, I agree that if Mr CAR did say that he was worried that their differences would cause CAR to break up him when CAR had shown composure and commitment, that would indeed be irrational. But the wording was ambiguous. If Mr CAR had voiced worry that their differences were making the relationship too difficult to continue for Mr CAR, he might feel he should break up with CAR, but is being persuaded to settle down and accept that all relationships have bumps and that the grass is really greener where you water it. The wording was ambiguous as to whether Mr CAR was worried about being broken up with, or that he worried that he should act to end a relationship that had too much conflict. All CAR can do is try to calm down and find out what bf wants and whether he wants the same things or not.

92

Maybe I've been really unfair. LW might have been writing in to ask about ways to ask his bf to borrow the car while remaining calm even if bf started crying. I'd say to ask for the car in a casual manner like you just thought of it and not with resentment, "hey can I borrow your car for work for X days/weeks?" unless asking for rides may be more convenient for them. If his bf starts crying for some reason, ask him why he's crying and try to comfort him for a few minutes. If he's not calming down, ask him if the issues he's crying about are major or minor. If he says they are major, ask him if he's thinking about breaking up because of them or if he can see the relationship getting better.. this is the most difficult possibility he might be crying because he's unable to say "no" and is really checked out and unable to communicate well, just take it as a "no". If he says they are minor, tell him it's hard on you when he cries about minor issues, he can learn ways to handle them more calmly, would he like to try? Maybe he will calm down and you can verify that since he thought it was minor that you'll be taking the car.

93

Philo @90: "I'm not sure what spanking has to do with rape," and I'm not sure what the comparable ease of dating men versus women has to do with rape, but you drew a line connecting the two way back when, the shock of which I haven't forgotten. At any case I need to focus on work, but I've enjoyed this conversation, and only differ with you on certain nuances (for instance, CAR does not sound angry to me). CAR does have the power to attempt to change this dynamic, and if the boyfriend will not participate in changing, he can and should leave.

94

Hi BDF, I'm sorry you seem upset about some conversation I think I vaguely remember from a few years ago? I hope if you figure out why it was important that you'd tell me, but I don't really get why you hold a grudge against me nor can I remember what you had been upset about or see why it's important, all I can do is hope you can get over it.

I'm glad that you enjoyed this conversation in spite of my bad example, that's what really matters. I'm fine agreeing to disagree whether LW appears to hold hostility, frustration, impatience, annoyance, or displeasure, only he can really tell us what he feels and he didn't use those words. I think that Dan is angry because he advised LW to tell his bf " you let him know that it's this behavior—this behavior of his—that's threatening your relationship." and "If you'd rather die than risk upsetting your partner.... that's not a relationship, CAR, that's a hostage situation."

He seems to say the crying is wrong and blames CAR's choices on Mr CAR.. it's certainly not a hostage situation, nothing is stopping CAR from leaving if he wants, it's just tears not a gun. I don't share the sense of danger and I don't think Dan explained his judgement calmly and logically by exaggerating. I have a strong sense of danger that CAR has a hard time calming down and asking for what he wants. This is a particularly difficult time to figure out how to calm down and get what you want inside covid restrictions.

I'm totally agreed that in general, if Mr Car won't lend out his car or rides when asked, that he is not showing reasonable concern for CAR's safety, or even for social safety, and it would be awesome if CAR said he deserved to be with someone who cared for him better and could spare some energy for others, and left. After getting all the ducks in a row maybe, it's the worst possible time to break up when you're living together..