Heart in a Blender

The Eve 6 Guy’s advice on Twitter crushes and toxic parents

In this installment of Heart in a Blender, ’90s rocker Max Collins imparts some serious wisdom about relationships and social media.

Hello, Input readers! I am writing this intro as I rocket down Interstate 40 in a tour bus — AKA a steel horse — toward Greensboro, North Carolina to save some lives with three chords and the truth.

The questions for this installment of the column were very good and required some pretty deep reflection on my part. If you’re here for humor and levity, this may not be the one for you. We get into the weeds of personal relationships this time around, and I hope, dear reader, that you find it helpful.

Unhappy couple

Dear Eve 6 Guy,

I’ve been with my partner for a few years. I met him on Facebook in a group for artists. Neither of us was looking for a relationship when we found each other, but we each liked the things the other was posting and lived in the same city, so we started talking privately over FaceTime. Eventually we met in person and started dating, and now we live together.

There were certain personality traits that I saw in him that were extremely attractive to me: He is creative, smart, outgoing, sensitive. I have a weakness for that type of person, and when I find them I am completely helpless to resist. You’ll see in a minute why this is a problem.

So my relationship with my partner was great for a while. But life stresses, the pandemic, and time have made things rough. I still love him, I really do, but things aren’t at all how they used to be. I would really like to get counseling with him, but he doesn’t want to. He says counseling doesn’t work and that they’ll just convince me to leave him. Currently neither of us are happy, and we fight all the time.

Meanwhile — and this is the bad part — I started developing feelings for a Twitter mutual of mine. I haven’t told this person, and I never will. I don’t actually want to pursue anything outside of friendship with them. But remember when I said I have a thing for creative, smart, outgoing, sensitive people? Well, this person ticks all the boxes. And I wish they didn’t. In fact, they remind me in an uncanny way of my partner back when things were good. This makes it all so much worse.

So this is what I’m asking for help with: How do you stop having a crush on someone? I don’t want to cut off contact with this person on Twitter, I just don’t want to see them in that way because it’s painful for me. And how can I find happiness with my partner again?

Thanks,

D

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Hi D,

People throw around the word communication like it’s easy to do, or something. “Just communicate,” they’ll say. It’s never been that simple for me. Matter of fact, it can be completely counterintuitive. Unless you’re a sociopath, you’re probably reluctant to hurt people’s feelings — even if it’s in the service of truth — and the alternative is to lie by omission.

I’ve been there, believe me. Like most lessons I’ve learned in this life, I’ve needed to take the test multiple times in order to get the grade — and even then, I’ll fall short. Communication is hard. I’m talking about real communication. Not some of what seems to pass for it — i.e., yelling, tit-for-tat scorekeeping, and shit like that.

Real communication involves rigorous honesty toward yourself and the other person, all with loving intent. It requires making yourself vulnerable and realizing that the other person is entitled to an emotional response — be it disappointment or even anger — and that your desire to spare them those uncomfortable feelings by not communicating is actually contributing to the problem.

Honesty in relationships that is devoid of humility isn’t honesty; it’s a weapon.

The fact of your current situation is this: If you both continue to allow inertia to guide the course of this relationship, it’s as good as cooked. I’m emphasizing the hopelessness here because it can be helpful to do so sometimes. The goal is to get you to realize that you have nothing to lose by being completely honest.

Now, a quick caveat: Being rigorously honest doesn’t mean using the truth as a cudgel. Don’t be like the reality show character doing a confessional in which they say, “I’m the type of person who tells it like it is, so I called her a [bleep] to her face.” Honesty in relationships that is devoid of humility isn’t honesty; it’s a weapon.

Sometimes the temptation to engage in bitter arguments proves too formidable, and we succumb. Once those base instincts kick in, all real communication ends, and you’re suddenly on the battlefield. Position yourself above the fray! Recognize the temptation to punish, if it arises, but don’t give in to it. Stay calm and measured and let the emotions pass like the ephemeral mental storm clouds that they are. As my psychic soulmate Marianne Williamson says, “Play it classy.”

Your request that he do counseling with you is reasonable and good. His reasoning against it — “The therapist will just tell you to break up with me” — is lame and highly manipulative. Do not swallow that swill. Tell him this in your own words: This relationship is not working for me. I love you, and I really want this to work, but us trying to figure it out on our own has gotten us to where we are now, and where we are now is untenable.

Beware the perfectly natural urge to protect his feelings too much here. Remember what you’re doing is quite literally an act of love toward him. You’re being honest, which is a necessary component of respect. You’re trying to turn the relationship around. You’re willing to put the work in.

He may not choose to see it that way at first; he may respond out of fear. That’s okay. You’re not taking responsibility for his reaction. If he says, “So you’re giving me an ultimatum?” say yes. No cushion. Yes, I am giving you an ultimatum because I love you, and I want this to work, and what we’re doing now isn’t working.

I suspect some of the discomfort you feel around your Twitter crush is that it further highlights the unhappiness of your current partnership.

Regarding your online crush: Don’t be too hard on yourself. It doesn’t sound like you’ve crossed the ethical boundaries of your relationship with word or action, and the mind is gonna be the mind. Point being, it’s not something you can control. Your crime is basically thinking another person is cool and cute, and I hate to break it to you, but even if you were in a healthy relationship, that sort of thing is gonna happen. I suspect some of the discomfort you feel around your Twitter crush is that it further highlights the unhappiness of your current partnership.

Let honesty and love be your true north. Notice any resistance you may experience speaking from the heart — and do it anyway. Be comforted in knowing you are doing the right thing no matter the result.

Yours,

The Eve 6 Guy

Block ’em all?

Dear Eve 6 Guy,

Usually advice columns are kind of shit, but yours is pretty cool, so I’m writing to you to solve a two-year-long dilemma of mine. Good luck.

The family I grew up with is pretty much crap. To the point that I have no contact with my mom or dad. I hear from my brother occasionally, but we don't mention family things. My husband and I have two young kids, five and six.

I cut off my parents and my extended family from my social media. My husband has his own social media and posts pictures and information about the kids — not super-private stuff, but more than I want my parents to know. He’s removed my parents as I asked, but he won’t remove my extended family, arguing that they aren’t involved. I argue that they’ll talk to my parents, which eliminates the whole point of doing this for privacy.

Also, I don’t like that people like my dad’s cousins are seeing all this. I think if you’ve stuck up for my alcoholic piece of shit dad who showed up drunk at the hospital the day my daughter was born, no, you don’t get fucking Christmas pictures of her on Facebook now.

I originally cut everyone out more for fear that my parents would do something shitty to my kids — but we live too far away now for me to really call it a safety issue anymore. Part of me feels like I’m just being petty at this point. Who’s right, me or my husband? What do you say?

Thanks,

Bitchy and/or Protective Mom

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Hi Bitchy and/or Protective Mom,

First off, I’m sorry you’re going through this. It sounds really shitty. From the tone of your question and the instance you describe at the hospital, I’m getting the impression that your parents aren’t merely obnoxious, but genuinely toxic.

I am not one of those people who thinks it’s necessarily a good idea to cut family members out of your life because of political or religious disagreements, and I do think that we can be too quick to do so. But. And it’s a significant but, which is why I made it its own sentence. If family members are in the process of harming themselves and others through alcohol and drug addiction, I am a firm believer in not enabling them on that front in any way whatsoever. Not imposing consequences for bad behavior can be a form of co-signing said behavior.

This gets controversial, and I don’t pretend to have any special knowledge of the protocol here. I’m speaking from personal experience as a sober alcoholic who has dealt with family members who are similarly afflicted. There is a group called Al-Anon that can be very helpful in this regard. The basic philosophy is that you do not allow yourself to be sucked into the vortex of the active substance abuser. Everyone in the vicinity of the alcoholic suffers.

Carrying around the weight of a grudge can be exhausting.

If you are able to extract yourself from their lives, that can sometimes be the best course for both your sanity and their will to get help. Emphasis on sometimes. Expecting them to get clean isn’t helpful. They may, they may not. But sticking around to the detriment of your own well-being isn’t helping them or you.

Pain isn’t always a good motivator, but it can be. I only made the decision to get sober because I became sufficiently miserable. I got to a place where the pain of living as I was outweighed the hypothetical pain of attempting to live sober. Would I have gotten there if everyone in my life continued to put up with my bullshit and act like everything was fine? Maybe. It probably would’ve taken longer. And being a blackout drunk who inevitably would end up behind the wheel of a car, “taking longer” could’ve been catastrophic.

I don’t think you’re wrong to establish stark boundaries here. I guess the thing to watch for in yourself are your own resentments. Not for how they affect your estranged family members, but for how they affect you. Carrying around the weight of a grudge can be exhausting. The intention behind the actions you’re taking matters. Remember that at least one of your parents is a sick person. Addiction is a disease. Your intention shouldn’t be to punish, but to make your parents see that you will not tolerate them hurting you or themselves without consequence.

As to the question of whether or not your husband should block your other family members, I would say if it isn’t a question of safety, I’m not really comfortable prescribing a should. I don’t think either of you are necessarily wrong. Take a moment to examine your reasons for wanting him to do the blanket block. If these other family members have harmed you or threatened you or your family’s safety in any way, I would unquestionably cut them off from socials.

But if it’s more of a case of their not condemning the actions of your father sufficiently, that falls in a different place on the harm continuum. Again, check your intent. Is it to punish? To avoid gossip? Or to protect your own emotional security? Meditate on it and make the decision when you feel centered.

Yours,

The Eve 6 Guy

Read previous Heart in a Blender columns here. Have a question for the Eve 6 Guy that’s tech- or internet-related (Grindr woes, Twitter drama, etc.)? Send it to Eve6guy@inputmag.com.