The Vine: September 9, 2009
Last year, I moved out of state to live with my boyfriend.The move was based on financial necessity; I was recovering from an operation and couldn't work.The boyfriend (let's call him Adam) had a fully-paid-for home in his family's hometown as well as work contacts to help us get back on our feet.The downside is that we share the house with his brother who is a horrendous slob.
The brother, Jake, turned the upstairs living area into his bedroom, which forces me and Adam to walk through there to reach the bathroom and our bedroom.The room is a pigsty; as I type this, there has been a trash bag full of garbage sitting by Jake's computer now for three months.
The biggest problem is Jake's dog.She has turned this bedroom/living area into her bathroom, and several days can go by before Jake will clean up the mess.If he's feeling especially lazy, then he'll toss a bath towel on the floor to soak up urine, only to leave that towel there for weeks.On one occasion, Adam and I were overtaken by a putrid smell only to discover Jake had been sleeping on a bed covered in dog vomit for three days.It's a detriment to our health and to my sanity — I cannot live like this.
And yet I don't know how to make it any more clear that something has to give.I've cleaned up after the dog, as has Adam.The only person who can get her to do her business outside is Jake, and a good fifteen hours can pass between backyard outings.Neither myself nor Adam are successful in getting the dog to go outdoors; when we let her in, she runs upstairs and goes on the floor.
We've both told Jake that this kind of behavior is intolerable.I've cried, I've pleaded, I've threatened to throw the dog out of the house.I have two cats of my own and use their litter box as an example of appropriate sanitation, but it's done little to help.
I believe there are two reasons why I've been unable to convince Jake to change his ways: 1) the brothers are joint owners of the house, and so Jake doesn't feel he needs to change anything for his brother's girlfriend, and 2) the dog belonged to their now-deceased mother.In a depressing and perverse sense, the dog has become the embodiment of all the things Jake cannot receive from his mom: comfort, affection, devotion, loyalty.I'm sure Jake could benefit greatly from counseling, and I've suggested this to no avail.When Jake lamely attempts to discipline the dog, he cannot even hold a firm tone of voice for fear of upsetting her.She is his baby, his girlfriend, and his touchstone.
The reek from this dog is taking over the house, permeating everything.I have to hold my breath as I walk through Jake's living area lest I gag.I welcome any suggestions on how to yet again discuss this problem with Jake and Adam.
Love The Dog, Not The Poop
Again with the Hoarders-type scenario…
Jake is sleeping in dog vomit.This is a bigger problem than you or Adam can probably solve, and in any case, it's Adam who needs to solve it.It's Adam who needs to tell Jake that he needs counseling, a dog-behavior class, and a professional clean-up crew, and it's Adam who needs to set deadlines for Jake to enroll in or arrange for these things and then call the Department of Health, and Animal Control, if Jake refuses or drags his feet, because the situation is a health hazard for everyone involved, pets as well as humans.
You can do those things, I suppose; you could tip the Department of Health anonymously.But the issue for you isn't just Jake; it's your boyfriend's relationship to him and to the squalid living environment, and your feeling, I suspect, that you can't really put your foot down because you owe Adam.
Enough.The house is disgusting to the point of health hazard; maybe you can't get through to Jake on that, but you can get through to Adam.Tell him you appreciate everything he's done to help you after your operation, and you appreciate the thought, but you can't live like this — and won't.Either something changes within a certain time frame, or you move out.And you'll need to research options on that front, whether it's moving in with family temporarily, dipping into savings for a motel, taking a job you don't like much so you can move out…don't make an empty threat.
Adam is stuck in the middle here, which I can sympathize with, but he really needs to take steps to get the house cleaned up, because the house isn't the problem.The house is a symptom of Jake's psychological disarray, and if Adam doesn't try to get his brother untracked — not to mention showing his girlfriend that letting her live in a fetid dump is not okay with him — neither of them is going to have much else left.
Make the point as strongly, but as compassionately, as you can that it has reached the point where government agencies will intervene.Then make it clear that you have your own breaking point, and you'd prefer that the situation not reach it.But if Adam's not going to take action, you should prepare to.
Hi Sars. I'm not sure how to start this, so I'm just going to dive in.
I've been with my boyfriend for almost 8 years, and we've been living together for almost all that time. I'm 32 now, and my boyfriend is 27. Yes, I knocked him clean out of the cradle, I admit it. Even though there was the age difference, for years it was the most fun, stable relationship I've ever had.
Over the last year, I've realized something really sad — that I'm not in love with him anymore. It's that terrible cliché of loving someone, but not being in love. I think we just kind of grew up, and grew apart. Those little things that used to be endearing — they're not anymore.And the differences that I used to feel were complementary are just widening the space between us.I've thought it over, thought about so hard I thought my head would crack open, but I've come to realize that I want to be on my own again.
The problem I have is that I have no idea how to tell him. I'm sure he knows that I'm not 100% happy — even though I think I'm putting a brave face on, I definitely can attest to some visible ennui. However, he is terribly co-dependent, so I think he may be in denial about how bad things are. Even though so much of the physical intimacy is gone that we're basically roommates that sleep in the same bed, he's still talking about our future together.
I've been in relationships before, but never this long. And the break-ups I've had were more of the "Argh! You cheated on me! Get out, jerk!" type. Big blow-ups that were painful, but mercifully quick. This is the first time when I still care for the person, but I just can't be with them anymore — and I have no idea how I can tell him that.
This is pretty much a divorce, without the legal fees. I need advice on what to say, how to make it as gentle as possible, what I should have planned in terms of living arrangements. I'm fine with him keeping the apartment and most of the stuff, but I'm not sure if I should find my own place before I break up with him, or if that seems like I've been planning it for a while. I mean, which I have been, but still. Also, should I give him a couple of months' worth of my share of the rent when I move out? Are these even things I need to worry about at this moment?
This is all further complicated by the fact that I don't really have any friends I can talk to about this. All of my friends are "our" friends, so I can't really get advice from anyone. This whole thing makes me feel incredibly lonely, and like the most mean-hearted girl in the world.
Anyway, I desperately need advice about breaking up with someone when simply throwing key belongings in a suitcase and driving away just isn't possible. Is there such a thing as a civilized break-up?
(At least I came to my senses about one plan: since we'd long ago decided that we didn't want kids, I was going to say that we had to break up — wait for it — because I really wanted to have a baby. If that's not a plan with potential to backfire, I don't know what is.)
Sorry for the parts of this that sounded like bad high school poetry
There is such a thing as a civilized break-up — but you may not get to enjoy such a thing if both parties don't feel the same way about said break-up, which it sounds like you may not. But that doesn't mean you can't conduct yourself in a civilized, kind manner, at least as far as breaking up with someone allows.
The first thing you should probably do is allow someone else into the cone of silence.I get that you share friends, but sometimes adult life requires us to pick sides or otherwise navigate break-ups between mutual-friend couples, and if you need to talk to someone about the situation, you should do that — not just because you need to feel less isolated with your decision, but also because that friend could conceivably provide a place for you to stay for a night or two following the initial discussion, which is not totally necessary but can provide a key fighters-to-their-corners time so that neither of you is making big rent- or stuff-related decisions in the heat of the moment.
Before you have The Talk, you should have a bag packed and another place to stay.It's not that he'll freak out, or make you leave, but if you have the option of clearing out for the night and letting the dust settle, you should avail yourself of that.
Once you've got that set up, tell your boyfriend that you need to talk to him and that it's important.Turn both the phones off, sit down, and tell him what you just told me.Tell him regretfully, and don't recite it, but don't pussyfoot around it, either; "I'm not in love with you anymore" is the shittiest thing to say, or hear, that there is, but you do have to put it right out there and not give him false hope.He needs to know what he's dealing with so that it…gets dealt with.
Do some thinking beforehand about how he might react, whether he would beg you to stay or propose couples counseling, and whether that's something you want to try or whether you just want out.If it's the latter, don't agree to the former because you feel guilty — you will feel guilty, but you've spent enough time half-pretending everything's okay, and you need to end that now, unambiguously.
Tell him you can have the division-of-property talk later; try to resist any efforts to deal with it that day, and stick to negotiating the end of the relationship itself.Have a plan for moving out, and once you've had the talk, set that plan in motion as soon as you can.
But there's no way around except through.It's horrible, it's messy, it's not going to get done in one discussion, and it's going to make you feel like a black-hearted hag more than once, and I feel you, but try to remember that people do survive this, on both sides, every day — and that the alternative isn't any better, for either of you.
Find a place to sleep over for a night or two if you can, and then rip the Band-Aid off.The hardest part is not really knowing how it's going to play out details-wise, and often, you can't know until you start.I know it's hard and scary, but you'll both live.Start.
I know you've probably touched on this subject a million times, but I went through Vine archives, and can't quite find what I'm looking for.
Two years ago, I met "Debbie" as I started a new job. She started a week following my start, so we quickly bonded, being the new girls in a fairly cliquey office. We also discovered that we were fairly close in age, didn't particularly like our in-laws (does anyone really like their in-laws?), and had a similar sense of humor.
As we became closer to the other people in the office, we attended weekly office happy hours, but as a group. I did enjoy talking with her, but socially, it was always in a larger group. When she moved to another office in the same organization, I saw her less and less, but still at the weekly happy hours.
I found out through the grapevine that Debbie had been fired, which really upset me. I did not have any way to contact her (we never exchanged cell phone numbers), but did ask around for her number from one of my co-workers, who was unwilling to give me her number without getting her permission. Since we were all busy, he never got around to giving me the number, but I was always thinking of her, and was really upset about her losing her job.
When a co-worker planned a small gathering of friends, she invited Debbie and myself, and we reconnected. We exchanged cell phone numbers, and I spoke to her fairly often after that. I really felt badly that she had lost her job, and made sure that I took the time to hang out with her, both because I enjoyed her company, and also because I thought she needed a friend after losing her job. I also invited her to several networking events, to help her meet people in the industry who might be able to offer her a job. After several months, she found a job on her own.
A few weeks later, I was laid off due to the economy, which stunk, but was completely understandable since I was "the new girl." I let Debbie know, thinking that maybe I would be able to get a job where she had been working. She immediately went into blame mode, telling me that I should be very angry at our former supervisor, that he was evil, a snake, etc. Granted, I wasn't thrilled with losing my job, and I was slightly bitter, but what are you going to do?
Throughout the five months of my unemployment, she would call me to check in, which meant that I would listen to her badmouth our former boss, her current boss, and everyone she had ever known. It was exhausting. Then I get a phone call from the lobby of my building, she lost her job again, and comes up to my apartment in hysterics. I calmed her down, and after several hours, she finally went home.
Now we're both unemployed, and we're spending a lot of time together. I quickly realize that she's batshit crazy. She wishes cancer on her former employers (by the way, I find out later that she's been fired from at least four jobs in four years), yells instead of talks, is an expert on everything, and is generally unpleasant. Quite a few of our common friends have slowly moved away from her, and I was left holding the bag.
Here's where I'm encountering the problem. I decided that I was sick of the drama, holding her hand, cleaning up her shit, so I keep my distance from her. At first, I only answer the phone after she's called me a couple of times. I would never make plans with her, and when she suggested getting together, I would let her know how busy I was, maybe another time, etc. I slowly stop responding to emails, texts, and Facebook posts.
I think she has gotten the hint, and then, BAM! FIVE phone calls to my cell in one day, followed by a "I miss my friend" text at 11 PM. Several more phone calls, emails, texts, and posts over several weeks unanswered. PLEADING text messages, saying that she's "worried about me."
Now she's calling mutual friends, asking them if I'm mad at her, and if they can intervene on her behalf. I'm absolutely furious, but I just want her to leave me alone. My questions are these: do I call her, tell her that she's literally the craziest person on the planet, block her from my phone and Facebook, or hope that she'll finally get the point after all this? If I need to confront her, can it be handled via email, or do I have to meet her for a coffee somewhere? I have to admit that I'm not the greatest at confrontation, and had avoided her, thinking that she'd get the hint.
I also don't want my issues with her to interfere with the few people who include her in group gatherings. I'm not bad-mouthing her, and would never make anyone choose to hang out with her or me. It's a big enough group that I could hang out without really hanging out with her.
Thank you in advance for your sage advice,
She Knows My Address Fer Chrissakes!
You have two choices: continue hanging out with her, gritting your teeth and pretending the two of you have a friendship; or tell her that you don't appreciate the barrage of contact or the leverage of mutual friends, and you'd like some space in the relationship.Nothing's going to change if you go with the first option.Call it.
Yes, the second option is uncomfortable, and could cause some very mild discomfort for the others who still invite her around, but I wouldn't make that my focus here; that's their problem to manage.Your problem is that you don't want to continue your friendship with Debbie, and you hoped not to have to say so in so many words.You can't have it both ways, alas.
I don't think you have to have an in-person meeting to do it; a phone call or email should suffice.Tell her you didn't mean to worry her, but the flurry of phone calls and texts and whatnot made you uncomfortable; you don't appreciate her asking other people to intercede; and you'd like her to leave you alone.(I'd leave the phrase "batshit crazy" out of it.)Then you have to leave it alone.Don't apologize, don't defend yourself, don't let her guilt you into responding directly or through other people.Once you've said your piece, let her rage or whatever, and don't respond.
It doesn't make you a bad person; you just don't want the friendship anymore.But if that's the case, it will hurt her feelings, she will react, and you will have to tolerate it until it dies down; that's just how it goes.It's okay to break up with a "friend" you've grown apart from; you just can't expect the friend to be okay with it right away.
Maybe this is too much aggro for you, and you'd rather just socialize with her very occasionally and not poke the crazy; that's also fine.But if you go with the hint-free approach, understand that there's basically no way to do it where she'll just go on her way all "okay, then."
Tags: friendships roommates the fam workplace