Are you married to someone Ask MetaFilter told you to dump? April 15, 2015 7:57 PM   Subscribe

There is a lot of DTMFA in Ask posts. Often, there's a lot of DTMFA in response to questions which involve a romantic relationship, but where the question is of the form "Who's right?" or "Where should we live?" or "Should we buy or rent?" but not "Should I D this MF?" I was just wondering: are there a lot of members who are now in marriages or other more-or-less permanent relationships with partners who've been the subject of dump-urging pileons in Ask? Or did all of you actually D the MFs as instructed?
posted by escabeche to MetaFilter-Related at 7:57 PM (119 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

Not precisely, but I asked a fairly rambling anon question way back in college about whether it was a bad sign that the idea of marrying my boyfriend was terrifying, even though I loved him. A lot of people told me in so many words, not to dump him, but to chill the fuck out and just enjoy myself because odds are I was NOT going to marry him, because lol young college love. And they were right!
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:00 PM on April 15, 2015 [9 favorites]


I was about to tell the story of my marriage, which appeared in Salon's Ask Garrison Keillor column a long time ago when we were just dating.... It's actually an awesome column from Keillor and pretty sweet the way the whole thing worked out.

But recently we've been discussing how people feel justified in taking our personal stories from Metafilter and reprinting them for the entertainment of others, and while I'd love to tell the story to this community, I'd rather the story not end up in the New York Times (or even Salon.) So, I guess not.

Viva open culture, I guess.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:49 PM on April 15, 2015 [27 favorites]


I'm divorced from someone that I knew in my heart AskMe would tell me to dump, so I never had the courage to write the question...

Happily divorced though : )
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 10:11 PM on April 15, 2015 [33 favorites]


Readers, I lawyered up and left him, the MeFi way. I read Too good to leave, too bad to stay and posed a few anonymous Qs. Got some advice that was way too harsh (projecting, no?), some that was so-so, and some that was spot on. Moved out. Agreed on a settlement, and now 12 months later I am loving my new life, and I think he is happy with his too.
posted by Thella at 10:42 PM on April 15, 2015 [17 favorites]


Let's put it this way: Barring a goddamn miracle, if you married someone MeFi told you to dump, you won't be married long.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:13 PM on April 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Let's put it this way: Barring a goddamn miracle, if you married someone MeFi told you to dump, you won't be married long.

I mean, let's be fair - it's possible that someone could just be REALLY bad at expressing themselves through writing, and accidentally portray a basically fine situation like a catastrophe.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:23 PM on April 15, 2015 [35 favorites]


Not anymore, though it took me longer than it should to do what needed to be done.
posted by b33j at 4:21 AM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I can think several posts where people ignored AskMe advice and they seemed happy with that decision. But it's feels wrong to put someone's personal life up as an example for people to gawk at, so I'll let it be.

Suffice to say that DTMFA is usually good advice.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:49 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I mean, most relationships do end eventually, and usually everyone feels at least a little "good riddance" after it's over. So "you'll break up and you'll eventually be glad you did" is a pretty safe prediction any time you see a relationship under stress.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:57 AM on April 16, 2015 [13 favorites]


Yeah, confirmation bias FTW.

If you ditch someone of course you're happy about it later. but you will never know for sure what might have happened had you stuck it out. And vice versa. Humans are very good at retroactive self-justification, aren't they?

Why yes they are!
posted by spitbull at 5:24 AM on April 16, 2015 [16 favorites]


Anon question; got a ton of DTMFA/he's-just-not-that-into-yous. I gave him time/space him work through the most terrible year of his life (we were in the middle of it when I asked my anon question).

After he recovered from the Year of Unending Shit and Grief, he put in a lot of work into our relationship to make up for the time he was emotionally... preoccupied. We've been living together for awhile; we're a really solid unit who are happy to work hard to make each other happier; we don't fight; and we've weathered a car crash that totaled the car, multiple health crises (here's hoping we can go 3 months without emergency room visits; let's make it to June 21), and multiple family emergencies/deaths.

We talk about marriage openly and calmly, like it's a given.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 6:12 AM on April 16, 2015 [64 favorites]


I've definitely read questions where the asker says or implies that their relationship has improved a lot since they ignored a DTMFA pile-on. Quite recently someone answered a question by saying that they had once posted anonymously, received near-unanimous DTMFAs, ignored them and solved the problem together with their partner. Like Brandon, I don't feel comfortable linking to specific examples.

DTMFAs are very easy to write and often gather a lot of favourites. It's no wonder they outweigh solid plans for fixing relationship problems in almost every difficult relationship question. That's not to say every relationship can or should be worked on, of course.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 6:28 AM on April 16, 2015 [16 favorites]


My guess is that a lot of the people who married instead of DTMFA Dumped the Meta Filter Already instead and aren't here to talk about it.
posted by Segundus at 6:49 AM on April 16, 2015 [29 favorites]


I posted a question about my relationship a long time ago. No one told me to dump him, and I wouldn't have because it wasn't the point of my question.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:18 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


When I see a thread where the asker is complaining about their non-abusive but having-of-personality-flaws partner, and there's a pile-on of suggestions to DTMFA, I want to ask all the advice givers if they themselves have long term relationships?

Having been in a few long term relationships myself, I just don't get the rush to the "dump 'em" advice. No partner is made to order. And good God all those partners are putting up with our crappy personalities too.

"Dump 'em" gets tossed around so cavalierly here. Maybe when I was 20 I thought there were infinite fish in the sea, but at 40 I feel very lucky to have found someone great who I can make some compromises for.
posted by latkes at 7:46 AM on April 16, 2015 [74 favorites]


I married a tuna sandwich that I'd left out on the counter over night and you all told me to dump. And MetaFilter, you were wrong. So wrong! Or maybe we didn't actually get married, maybe we just talked about it. It's hard to be sure. We can't find any paperwork, and neither of us can remember much from that day. We were both hallucinating like a mf.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:50 AM on April 16, 2015 [101 favorites]


Me.

I asked an anonymous relationship question about five years ago about my boyfriend's excessive partying (which he prioritized over our relationship), and there was a bunch of other drama too. And yeah, the DTMFA-a-thon was pretty much unanimous.

I didn't, but the answers did give me the confidence to lay some things on the line and be a lot more direct with him about what I expected from him if things were going to work. In response he told me that he was ready to start taking our relationship seriously, and he meant it. We moved in together about a month later and have been together ever since, through three cross-country moves, health problems, money problems, caring for an elderly relative, etc. We got married six months ago.

Our relationship has really never been easy (we are very different people and both hella stubborn) but we love each other desperately and we've both worked very hard on understanding each other and supporting each other and communicating more productively.

AskMe wasn't wrong that our relationship was in pretty bad shape then, but answers that said "RUN... This will never get better" were definitely wrong. It's so much better now that we just laugh about how things used to be. We know we were both stupid, crazy, immature kids then and we needed to grow up. And we feel very fortunate that we managed to do that together.
posted by the turtle's teeth at 7:53 AM on April 16, 2015 [82 favorites]


I don't think there's anything wrong with reminding someone who's clearly unhappy and being mistreated that they can leave any time they want. I think we all need to hear this sometimes because we forget it. If they hear that, think about it, and choose not to it's their decision and that's fine. Given that we're only hearing one person's point of view, and they decide to write a big long thing about how some jerk is treating them like garbage, even if it's not the point of their question, I think it's a safe bet that the person really is treating them like garbage and they need a reminder that it's not okay. My proposition is that if someone isn't really treating you like garbage you don't sit down to write a big long thing about it looking for help. You're free to do whatever you want with the advice you get, but simply getting the advice doesn't do any harm.
posted by bleep at 8:03 AM on April 16, 2015 [34 favorites]


This is an area where I've had pretty close to a 180-degree change of opinion since I first joined Metafilter years ago. Back then, when I'd see the occasional Metatalk post complaining about the prevalence of DTMFA answers, I would generally come out in favor of them; my belief being that just because two people agreed to date for a time does not mean than they are obligated to try to make it work indefinitely, every second you spend with the wrong person is a second you are delaying meeting the partner that would make you happier, so no use continually trying to make chicken salad out of chicken shit.

I don't know if it is me that changed over time or if it is Metafilter, but lately I find myself continually shocked at how low some people's DTMFA bar is, to the point that I frequently wonder if some of the people answering have ever actually been in a long term relationship with its normal share of ups and downs (on preview: Jinx). I've said this before on here - I sometimes suspect that there is an element of "Internet Tough Guy" syndrome involved when people curtly answer relationship questions. On AskMetafilter, the answerer can be the biggest bad ass, don't ever take any shit from anyone, tough-talking, no compromising, amazing person they fantasize themselves to be. This is great for running up your favorite counts with the most strongly worded, finger-snapping, head-shaking advice possible, but rarely is it actually usable advice in the real world dealing with real people.

There is also the issue where answerers will take one, single moment from somebody's relationship and assume that you can gauge the quality of the entire relationship based on one person's bad moment. In which case, pretty much every couple in the world should break up. A good recent example would be the thread where a woman's boyfriend was mad at her for giving back a bike she had been holding onto for a friend for a number of years. The question was filled with DTMFA advice, even though whether or not to break up with her boyfriend was not the question that was being asked. Even if you agree the boyfriend was being a jerk here (which I do), this one, single incident simply does not give anyone unfamiliar with the couple enough insight to make that judgement. How many of us in long-term relationships would be dumped if we were judged only on our absolute worst moment?
posted by The Gooch at 8:12 AM on April 16, 2015 [88 favorites]


Let's put it this way: Barring a goddamn miracle, if you married someone MeFi told you to dump, you won't be married long

That's sort of what this question is about, isn't it? To test the common wisdom?

Yeah, confirmation bias FTW. If you ditch someone of course you're happy about it later.

But that's not the question being asked. The question is did you stay together in the face of DTMFA advice? There's a very objective answer to that.

My guess is that a lot of the people who married instead of DTMFA Dumped the Meta Filter Already instead and aren't here to talk about it.

Out of curiosity, what is your reasoning there?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:20 AM on April 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm still dating someone MeFi told me to dump. A year ago I wrote a question asking for advice about some problems I was having with my boyfriend of 6 months. The replies weren't unanimous in their chorus of DTMFA, but there was a lot of it, mostly because people said he would never change. But I decided to talk to him instead of dumping him. It wasn't just a single conversation. It was multiple conversations over a period of a couple months. But I thought he was probably worth it. And he worked really hard and changed his behavior without making a big deal out of it (i.e. he didn't keep telling me, "I'm going to change!", he just did it). We've been living together since last fall. I think he is the sweetest man I've ever known.
posted by colfax at 9:12 AM on April 16, 2015 [30 favorites]


I've never posted about my own relationship concerns with my boyfriend because I know people will tell me to DTMFA. I'm just trying to muddle my way through it.. and when I run across a relationship thread where I think I can add valuable advice.. I always try to say "If you want to stay with [person] then I suggest A, B, C.." because it's fine, dandy, and easy to tell someone to get the hell out of a relationship, but it's harder to suggest ways to go about fixing them.

I also heard something on the radio this morning. So many times it's not what someone should do or shouldn't do. It's why they don't trust themselves to make those choices for themselves. Why do they need us to tell them to DTMFA? This is why I'm always happy that the second most frequently suggested piece of advice is to get therapy.
posted by royalsong at 9:14 AM on April 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


The road to marriage is littered with ditched motherfuckers.

In fact I'd venture to suggest that many of not most of have been the ditched motherfucker once or twice.

So in general terms of providing advice for readers other than the OP, especially for those who might be contemplating their own motherfuckerness in any given relationship, seeing a consensus that motherfuckery like yours leads to or justifies ditching in AskMe Utopia may have some value.

Just remember though that motherfuckerness is a state of mind, and pretty diagnostic of the human condition.
posted by spitbull at 9:17 AM on April 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


I've seen some extremely strange DTMFA pieces of advice, in one case so bizarrely out of left field I thought it was a parody (again, won't link, but it was weird, no lie). I usually feel as though some people can't wait to give DTMFA advice, probably because of a mixture of projection and some other stuff I won't opine on out loud. I once asked an anon question where I preemptively asked not to receive that advice. To everyone's credit, I didn't, but I'm quite sure that if I hadn't preemptively stated that, the chorus of DTMFA advice would have been fortissimo. And yep, the guy and I are still in the relationship I wrote about.

So I would be not at all shocked to find that a fairly healthy percentage of people who received that advice shook it off and are in perfectly fine relationships now, maybe with some couples therapy or what have you to help them along.
posted by Button-down sock at 9:32 AM on April 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


By the way, the reason "motherfucker" is so fun to say as a derogatory expression is that it accents a labor-velar trajectory (recursively encoded in "fuck," the ur-type of this phonosemic exception to arbitrary signification), as per Roger Wescott's underground classic 1971 paper on "Labio-velarity and derogation in English," which I've mentioned in more detail on MeFi before.

"Douchebag" works similarly, albeit not with an initial bilabial.
posted by spitbull at 9:33 AM on April 16, 2015 [62 favorites]


Metafilter: "Internet Tough Guy"

(quote marks obligatory?)
posted by amtho at 9:35 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Dump 'em" gets tossed around so cavalierly here. Maybe when I was 20 I thought there were infinite fish in the sea, but at 40 I feel very lucky to have found someone great who I can make some compromises for.

Another -- some might say better -- option is to stop thinking you have to make compromises to a smelly old fish, and live your own life.

IMO, independence trumps codependency, but YMMV.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:42 AM on April 16, 2015 [13 favorites]


I'm divorced from someone that I knew in my heart AskMe would tell me to dump, so I never had the courage to write the question...

Happily divorced though : )


Exact same situation here. Man, do I ever wish I'd asked, but I probably wouldn't have listened anyway.
posted by desjardins at 10:06 AM on April 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


The answers are also going to be skewed because if you break up with someone, it's hard to say what would have happened if you didn't. Like, it's very unlikely that breaking up with someone is going to make your life worse in the long term assuming you're generally able to take care of yourself, and that they don't commit some kind of life-wrecking retaliation.

I'm sure I could have broken up with my husband and today I'd be like "my life is good! glad I did it!" but instead it's "my life is good! I'm glad I didn't!"

Dumping is rarely a huge mistake, in my opinion. Minor mistake at best, and minor mistakes are par for the course in life.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:14 AM on April 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Another -- some might say better -- option is to stop thinking you have to make compromises to a smelly old fish, and live your own life.

The idea that there is no middle ground between Smelly Old Fish and Perfection is what bothers me about DTMFA attitudes. Not everyone wants a long term relationship, but I do. At this point in life I've learned that there is no such thing as a flawless human (self especially included). If my partner dumped me every time I veered into my less desirable behaviors, I'd be alone a long time ago. Fortunately for her, I also have many desirable qualities and am committed to trying my best. If at my worst I was abusive then sure, she should go, but since I'm not, I'm glad she is willing to put up with the hardest parts of me, and trust that I am doing my best to work on stuff, and is willing to just let go of certain differences we have. (And vise versa in that I try to do the same for her.) To me, and even though especially at first there were times that I found things about her and our relationship really hard, (and I know there are times she's felt that way about me) that's a great relationship.
posted by latkes at 10:15 AM on April 16, 2015 [39 favorites]


Though I do think the mental exercise of What Would Metafilter Say is very useful. It's much like the trick of flipping a coin to see if you're disappointed with the outcome.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:16 AM on April 16, 2015 [41 favorites]


On AskMetafilter, the answerer can be the biggest bad ass, don't ever take any shit from anyone, tough-talking, no compromising, amazing person they fantasize themselves to be.

Yeah, I think there is something to this. I also think that when someone posts about something their partner is done, it's frequently the tip of the iceberg for a lot of lesser behaviors the OP has been papering over. I know when I asked for relationship advice IRL, I was asking about one specific thing that happened and I couldn't see the years-long pattern. I recently looked through an old email account and was stunned to find that my ex and I had a fight less than six months into the relationship that we were still having ten years later. I wasn't on mefi then, but I wish someone could have made me see that this was a pattern that was unlikely to change.
posted by desjardins at 10:20 AM on April 16, 2015 [18 favorites]


I think there are a few different factors with all the DTMFA stuff going on on MetaFilter. I feel like the most common situations I've seen are:

a) "This is an X-Y problem, you asked about X when your problem is actually Y" human relations questions certainly have happened on AskMe, and if you are the first person to identify Y you usually get a lot of favorites and positive feedback from the crowd. It creates a group dynamic where everyone is reaching to win the Find Issue Y Scavenger Hunt even when the problem really is just X thing the question is about. This happens especially in the context of abuse, where sometimes gaslighting and self-delusion really does happen in abusive relationships and other times MetaFilter is playing the "find the secret abuser" version of the scavenger hunt and there's nothing actually there but a bicycle.

b) "DTMFA" is the short version of "sometimes you have to not be in a relationship with someone even if you love them so intensely that the thought of leaving is devastating, and it WILL take time, but it will be okay in the end". I think the most heartbreaking relationship questions I've seen are the ones that can be summarized as "this relationship isn't working and these problems really can't be fixed, but I still love this person. This doesn't make sense. Why is it happening?" I think we all want to believe that love finds a way, and also if it really isn't working, that our feelings will change and we'll know when it's the exact right time to end it so it won't hurt. This is frequently true at the end of both the very best (partners have incompatible life goals) and the very worst (abusive situations) relationships.

c) "DTMFA" is the short version of "you need to make up your mind and decide if this is actually a dealbreaker or not and then respond accordingly." I see a lot of questions where someone comes in to AskMe to try and find out whether a particular behavior is okay in a relationship, whether it signals that (s)he's just not that into you, etc. Barring an abusive situation, the answer is very frequently that in fact, everyone is different and there are no rules beyond asking yourself if you're comfortable with the situation, talking to the person about it if not, and then determining an acceptable compromise - or breaking up if that's not possible. These questions can be frustrating to answer and sometimes that's why you just want to give a snappy one-liner response. A related type of question is the one where the discussion and compromise has happened and still isn't really working, and the asker seems to be hoping that AskMe can come up with magic words that force their partner to change their behavior.
posted by capricorn at 10:40 AM on April 16, 2015 [33 favorites]


I've actually been on the other side of this: my partner wrote a letter to an internet advice column (so not Ask MeFi) about an aspect of my behavior that was really bothering them, but which they were afraid to bring up to me, and which got a slew of "that is super terrible, dump them NOW" type responses. My partner frequently finds conflict upsetting and had basically been asking for a non-scary method of broaching the topic with me, but our relationship is otherwise solid.

A week or so later, they brought the issue up to me for the first time, I went "Shit, I'm sorry to have upset you, and I agree that this is a really bad behavior on my part which I definitely need to fix. Let me try ideas X Y and Z to improve the problem, yeah?" and we had a conversation about fixing the issue. I read that particular advice column and put two and two together, and went "...by the way, did you write this particular advice column about me?" and got a response along the lines of "Yes, I was totally astonished by the comments! I'm so sorry, I didn't expect at ALL to get that kind of response!" And we talked out the rest of our feelings surrounding both the original issue and the advice letter, I worked on the original problem, and I've repeatedly checked in now and again to see if the original issue is still a problem. (It is not.)

I mean, no harm done... but it's definitely colored how I respond to offhand "dump that person, not a good relationship period" kind of responses. Now I try to frame my response to questions like this along the lines of "Consider how this behavior is impacting you. Is it worth it?" or "This behavior is not okay. Please talk to them about such-and-such" and leave open the possibility that I'm not seeing the full situation. I still sometimes say "Wow, this looks like a bad relationship," but I try to be less binaristic in how I respond to relationship issues.
posted by sciatrix at 10:47 AM on April 16, 2015 [29 favorites]


I don't think there's anything wrong with reminding someone who's clearly unhappy and being mistreated that they can leave any time they want. I think we all need to hear this sometimes because we forget it.

I agree with this. I think that some amount of DTMFA is a good corrective for the toxic messages that women in heterosexual relationships still get (albeit not on Metafilter!): Give Him A Chaaaance, What About The Children?, It's Up To You To Make A Relationship Work, and Men Are Pigs Who Cheat/Lie/Don't Do Housework. A relationship with someone who actually treats you well is not some sort of unicorn.

Obviously, we only get one side of the story with the relationship Asks, and I am sure they are often written in the heat of the moment. And yes, Metafilter does jump to DTMFA quite often. But I think that women, in particular, need to hear that they don't have to settle for shabby treatment.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:55 AM on April 16, 2015 [63 favorites]


I've actually been on the other side of this: my partner wrote a letter to an internet advice column ...

That's really interesting, and how wonderful that the two of you were able to communicate about the matter and work it out! Do you think your partner would have felt comfortable bringing up the issue with you when they did, if they hadn't gotten the advice they did from that column? I think that's the part that I wonder about the most: I can't really imagine people ever dumping someone solely based on responses from an internet forum, but I would think that hearing those DTMFAs could help them to feel like they have a legitimate issue.

Kind of like capricorn's "c)" option above, I tend to assume most DTMFA proponents (though there are a few extreme exceptions) are really using it as shorthand for "what you describe is serious and you don't have to put up with things as they currently are." Yes, it would be nice if that were spelled out a little more, but perhaps there is some value in hearing that at least some people consider the matter to be serious enough to take major action on if it doesn't change?
posted by DingoMutt at 10:58 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


But I think that women, in particular, need to hear that they don't have to settle for shabby treatment.

This is an excellent point. Recently I was browsing the relationship advice section of another popular forum, and came across a question where the OP was upset because her boyfriend continued to flirt with other women in front of her, despite the fact that they had talked about it and she had made it clear that it upset her. Maybe I'm just spoiled by Metafilter, but I was really bothered by how many responses boiled down to "guys are just liiiiike that," or "it doesn't meeeeannn anything" - basically the bulk of the responses were telling her that she was wrong for being upset about his flirting and that she needed to just deal.

I suspect a question like that on AskMe would have garnered a hefty share of DTMFA responses, and while perhaps the "right" answer really lies somewhere in between these two extremes, I have to think it's a lot healthier to be reminded that your feelings are legitimate and that you can take action if you want than to be dismissed so out of hand.
posted by DingoMutt at 11:06 AM on April 16, 2015 [49 favorites]


I think they would have eventually, yes--the issue was that they'd tried gentle hinting about the issue and I had just completely failed to notice the hints and realize that this was something seriously bothering them. If anything I think the advice column response might have made them feel defensive, like this was a choice between "ignore the existing problem" and "break up now," which obviously it was not. Mind, I can't speak for my partner, so I've let them know this discussion is happening, and they do have a MetaFilter account if they'd like to comment further.
posted by sciatrix at 11:08 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I know for a fact that I have at certain times in my life behaved like the kind of selfish, entitled brat that AskMe would unequivocally have told my then partner to dump, had AskMe been a thing then.

She didn't. She set me straight instead, and didn't dump me for another two years, and I'm a better person for that.
posted by flabdablet at 11:45 AM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


And yet if she had dumped you you would have deserved it. And in an ideal world either you'd learn from it and not treat people like that again, or keep getting dumped and not have anyone to inflict your bad behavior on. I'm fine with all of these scenarios.
posted by bleep at 12:17 PM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


And is she glad about those two extra years?

I went through a really shitty stretch where I was the last woman men dated before, having gotten their shit together, they met their long-term partner. I'd hear, later, about how much they learned from me. Yay for them, I guess.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:34 PM on April 16, 2015 [45 favorites]


I went through a really shitty stretch where I was the last woman men dated before, having gotten their shit together, they met their long-term partner. I'd hear, later, about how much they learned from me. Yay for them, I guess.

Oh FFS. I would actually have to go and seriously kick the ass of anyone who said that to me. Seriously, I'd have to be talked out of doing them bodily harm.
posted by holborne at 12:38 PM on April 16, 2015 [14 favorites]


Present self would be seriously dismayed if past self had posted a question like "My bf doesn't believe me when I tell him about the things he does when he's blackout drunk - how can I present this information to him in a way he will understand?" (or any of the other completely screwed up things that used to dominate my thinking) and was met with anything other than a tsunami of DTMFA.
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:11 PM on April 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


I've been in my relationship for much longer than I've been on Metafilter, so yes, any advice I give comes from many years of making things work together with my partner.

But I think that women, in particular, need to hear that they don't have to settle for shabby treatment.

I usually try to give the Asker advice about setting boundaries, making their needs known, talking it out. But any case where I've just told someone to get out of a relationship has probably been to a woman who I feel is selling herself short and doesn't need to keep taking crap off her boyfriend/husband.

My heart breaks for all the very young women Askers who are trying to be the cool girl, who discount their own needs and feelings, who think they can't do better, or have to keep loving the same guy at 21 that they thought was hot at 19.

I didn't listen to anyone who saw through the dirt-bag guys I dated in my 20s, but I guess I always hope I can spare someone else my mistakes.
posted by Squeak Attack at 1:12 PM on April 16, 2015 [24 favorites]


For five years, from the time I was 18 until the time I was 23, I dated a guy who was straight-up abusive. Not just a jerk or thoughtless or what have you, but should-have-been-in-jail abusive. It's startling to me now when I read lists of "How to know if you're in an abusive relationship" because I could have checked every single box. But I know for a fact that I wouldn't have listened to people who told me to dump him. Just no way; I was positive that I could fix the relationship and that we would get married.

I hope the young women here are wiser than I was, but honestly, I think some of them probably aren't, just because, as others have noted, they're bombarded with all sorts of messages like "Give him a chance" or "Men are pigs so the next one will be that way anyway, might as well stay with this one" or, even more insidiously in my opinion, "You have to be married by the time you're such and such an age or you'll be alone for the rest of your life." I find it horrifying.
posted by holborne at 1:35 PM on April 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


Do you think your partner would have felt comfortable bringing up the issue with you when they did, if they hadn't gotten the advice they did from that column?

Hi, I'm the partner.

The issue in question was an issue that came up repeatedly when we were together, but when we were together in a specific space. For the sake of this conversation, let's say that putting your feet on the coffee table between the two armchairs in the Starbucks could cause rocks to fall from the ceiling every thousandth time you did it, and we'll pretend this is the thing that Sciatrix did. Something that, unto itself, is a bit annoying sometimes (but not even most of the time--a thing we all do occasionally), but in one specific location that it occurs, it has the potential to bring about injurious or fatal consequences.

Now, my mother also liked to put her feet up on the coffee table in the Starbucks. My mother was a terrible person who took great joy in screaming in response to any perceived correction to her behaviour, so when you said, in a very timid, frightened tone 'Uh, Mum, could you take your feet off the table? I am concerned that rocks will fall," she would start screaming at you wildly.

This meant that I was afraid of bringing up this specific issue with Sciatrix, because my experience with an attempt to bring up the rocks was that it resulted in consequences EVERY time, whereas just letting the feet be on the Starbucks table resulted in consequences one time out of a thousand. So I wrote a letter to an advice column asking how one should bring up someone you love putting their feet on the table at Starbucks in order to not be harming the one you love and in order to keep the situation calm. The response I got was actually terrifying unto itself. "DTMFA!!! This person has no respect for you, no respect for your life and could KILL EVERYONE IN THE STARBUCKS!"

It was actually the least helpful advice I could have gotten. I was hoping that the advice columnist would do what they normally do, which is specializing in providing scripts and conversation starters for difficult conversation and I got DTMFA.

But I still brought it up and I would have brought it up no matter the response I got. It was a bit tearful, when I did, with a lot of apologizing, but I wasn't even sure, at the time, that Sciatrix knew that putting your feet on the table at Starbucks COULD make rocks fall, at all and even if she did realize that, I thought she was so in the habit of putting her feet on the table that she didn't realize that she was putting her feet on the table at STARBUCKS, the land of rocks falling! We had a meaningful conversation and it fixed things. The DTMFA did not help anything at all, and just added more fear to my end of the conversation.

We are very happy and I think that broaching such a difficult topic gave us a lot of communication skills that will be of great use to us in the future of our relationship.
posted by NotATailor at 1:43 PM on April 16, 2015 [53 favorites]


if she had dumped you you would have deserved it. And in an ideal world either you'd learn from it and not treat people like that again, or keep getting dumped and not have anyone to inflict your bad behavior on. I'm fine with all of these scenarios.

How about the scenario in which one learns from it as the result of a conversation and request, and then never does it again? Some people are reasonable. Really. I am continually surprised, after my own formative experiences with UNreasonable people, but there are a lot of nice people who listen and adapt. Treating people like ultra-Skinnerian abstractions is one way to make them, bit by bit, less open and nice -- it's worth trying reason first, most of the time (not all the time, but most of the time).
posted by amtho at 1:51 PM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well now I'm just trying to figure out what The Thing actually was! Leaving the front door unlocked when you go out? Cooking while drinking? Picking fights on the subway?
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:52 PM on April 16, 2015 [14 favorites]


Parking next to the gutter (in X parking lot)? It's a convenient space because no one can park next to you on the driver's side, but very once in a while something might fall down the gutter when you get out of the car.
posted by capricorn at 1:58 PM on April 16, 2015


Thank you for sharing that, NotATailor. I think my general impression has been that since nobody is likely to outright dump someone just based on internet advice that no likely harm is done by sincerely-meant DTMFAs, but it is good to be aware that that's not always the case. Your perspective is not one that I'd really envisioned before, and I'm sorry that your experience with that advice columnist was so wholly negative. Again, thank you for sharing; you've given me something to think about.
posted by DingoMutt at 2:02 PM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]



How about the scenario in which one learns from it as the result of a conversation and request, and then never does it again?


That's a wonderful thing. I have experienced this myself. But if it's something your partner did once or a few times, you talked it over and patched it up, then you're probably not going on AskMe for advice. If you don't know if you can or should patch it up, and you want advice, some of the advice is probably going to be "You aren't required to give anyone the benefit of the doubt if you don't want to risk it not getting better."
posted by bleep at 2:02 PM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


As best I can recall, I've only ever responded to a Metafilter question with DTMFA once, and it was this one. And I'm actually going to stand by that. The knife-throwing, suicide-threatening, four-year-old-son-scaring fiance really needed to be dumped.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:40 PM on April 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I got a lot of DTMFA answers the one and only time I ever asked a relationship question. We're not married, but we're still together five years later. I'm still glad I asked the question because a lot of the non-DTMFA and a handful of the DTMFA responses were really useful in resolving the issue. Sometimes strangers' perspectives make it easier to see that reasonable people really can see the same situation very differently.

Also, re-reading my question all these years later, I realise that quite without meaning to, I wrote the question in a way that strongly favoured the answers I wanted to hear at the time. I didn't do it consciously, I intended to be completely honest, but I omitted details which I think would probably have softened many of the DTMFA answers.
posted by lwb at 2:58 PM on April 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


at times when my husband and i are mock fighting or being boisterous, one of us will say to the other, "I'M TELLING METAFILTER!" sometimes complete with, "DEAR METAFILTER, [restating of whatever it was in the most inflammatory, circumcised cat declawing way]!" which partially comes from bruce springsteen :
My wife will often tackle an argument with me by saying, "SAY THAT in your next interview, Mr. Bruce Springsteen!" Bruce said. "She's implying that there's a gap between an opinion I've just voiced and my public self. In a public forum it would shock, outrage and disquiet my fans. She usually is right so she wins."
posted by nadawi at 3:01 PM on April 16, 2015 [63 favorites]


at times when my husband and i are mock fighting or being boisterous, one of us will say to the other, "I'M TELLING METAFILTER!" sometimes complete with, "DEAR METAFILTER, [restating of whatever it was in the most inflammatory, circumcised cat declawing way]!

Haha! I thought my wife and I were the only ones who did that!
posted by DingoMutt at 3:05 PM on April 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


also, once upon a time i had a shitty experience with mefi as it relates to relationship stuff, sorta. from my side the responses/reactions seemed very cruel, even though i was admittedly being pig headed and not a good mefite. i try to never bring it up because i don't want people to see my bad behavior and i try not to ever read it because i don't want to remember who said what. i only bring it up now because it feels very on topic. it changed how i respond to people in askme. i'm much more likely to just close a tab that pushes a button of mine for whatever reason rather than going in with my claws out. i'm not 100% successful, but i like to think i'm better than i used to be.
posted by nadawi at 3:06 PM on April 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


I have to think it's a lot healthier to be reminded that your feelings are legitimate and that you can take action if you want than to be dismissed so out of hand.

Yes, very much agree (I love reading this entire thread, by the way). Also, because AskMe is an advice site, I would wager that many of the people posting their relationship questions are people who are less confident in their instincts overall. Otherwise, they'd be making their decisions without the input of strangers on the internet. So a quick "Your feelings are legitimate and you don't need to be with someone who makes you feel that way" reply can be helpful even if it doesn't result in an actual D-ing of the MF.

I don't have any experience with AskMe posts about romantic partners that resulted in DTMFA responses, but I have posted some questions about friendships (mostly Anon) and the DTMFA-esque replies I receive are always a relief. As a woman I feel a lot of pressure to Get Along With Everybody and Don't Make Waves and Don't Show Anger so hearing someone who doesn't know me say, "Yeah, that's shitty, ditch 'em and move on, end of story" instead of a long, fraught, "Why are you overreacting like this, you need to be friendly and nice, have you considered their feelings, I'm sure it wasn't so bad" (that I tend to reflexively berate myself with when I have an interpersonal relationship problem) is kind of incredible. It's reminding the asker that they have the power to walk away, that the other person is not the only one in the equation who matters.

That affirmation helps me stop feeling guilty for having a problem to begin with, and frees me up to focus on a solution. (Which may or may not be DTMFA.)
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 3:07 PM on April 16, 2015 [15 favorites]


As best I can recall, I've only ever responded to a Metafilter question with DTMFA once, and it was this one. And I'm actually going to stand by that. The knife-throwing, suicide-threatening, four-year-old-son-scaring fiance really needed to be dumped.

The worst thing about this is that I thought you meant a different question about a knife-wielding, suicide-threatening fiance that really needed to be dumped ...
posted by DingoMutt at 3:08 PM on April 16, 2015 [15 favorites]


Haha! I thought my wife and I were the only ones who did that!

Haha is right, we also do that! Not too long ago during a quarrel my husband yelled to me that I wouldn't even say anything like what I has just said to someone on Metafilter, causing me to respond back, "Oh yes I would, but I'd fully expect that comment to be deleted!" and the absurdity of it all just made us bust out laughing.
posted by barchan at 3:17 PM on April 16, 2015 [24 favorites]


Now I'm worried about what an awful person Bruce Springsteen is in real life.... :-/

DUMP THAT MOTHERFUCKER ALREADY, PATTI!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 3:39 PM on April 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Misterben doesn't read Metafilter, but I tell him about it enough that he has a pretty good idea of what the tropes and the culture are (at least from my POV). (Example: He'll often say "...because cats are weird.") The other day I told him that if I posted a question about a difference of opinion we had about the way to load the dishwasher or the number of pillows on the couch, that Metafilter would tell me to dump him. Maybe I was exaggerating a bit. Not all that much, really.
posted by matildaben at 4:12 PM on April 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


But I think that women, in particular, need to hear that they don't have to settle for shabby treatment.

desjardins' law: if a woman asks "am I being unreasonable?" the answer is usually "no"
posted by desjardins at 4:16 PM on April 16, 2015 [34 favorites]


Honestly i think the vast majority, like, 9/10 of the threads i read that become DTMFA pile-ons just make me sad. Because it really is just a fucked situation, and it seems totally deserved to me. Very rarely do i go "what the fuck is mefi thinking?"

For the most part, if a lot of those people are still with those partners, i'm sad. Some scary stuff has been posted on here, or just sad stuff. And it's definitely more often than not.
posted by emptythought at 4:17 PM on April 16, 2015 [16 favorites]


I think there's definitely some selection bias. People reach out through the ether when they're out of other options, usually. And they're usually out of other options because things have gone wrong.
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:54 PM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ugh, in my earlier comment referencing Wescott, the first part of Wescott's "labio-velarity" got iPhoned into "labor"...

It was a scholarly citation about motherfucking derogation so I feel obligated to correct belatedly. Linguists probably figured it out but just to explain, it means first you eject with your lips, then you clear your throat, basically, when you say "fuck" with feeling. Wescott says this is a naturalistic gesture of derogation encoded as a preference in English morphological structure. Add initial sibilance and initial or terminal plosive stops and you can describe most of the oldest curse words in English. They mimic bodily expressions of disgust.

Definitely the best fucking paper about cursing in linguistic history, it's a cult favorite among those of us in the Peircian lineage.
posted by spitbull at 6:32 PM on April 16, 2015 [13 favorites]


Dumping is rarely a huge mistake, in my opinion. Minor mistake at best, and minor mistakes are par for the course in life.

The good relationships I have had, even when they were short, make me disagree very strongly with this sentence. Other times, sure, the consequences of breaking up are very minor, but even in not-great relationships there can be a lot of good parts, and breaking up means you lose the good along with the bad.

There are a few commenters who so reliably pipe in with advice to break up that it is amusing to read, though of doubtful utility to the poor asker.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:38 PM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I posted an anon question asking how to deal with family and friends who were sure that my somewhat secretive boyfriend was married or in a relationship with someone else, and I got a lot of DTMFA along with advice on how to spy on him. It's three years later, we now live together and we plan to spend the entirety of the latter parts of our lives together.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 12:53 AM on April 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


I asked a few years ago about my-then fiance wanting us to get counseling right after I was diagnosed with cancer because he didn't like the way my son and I interacted. I got more than a few answers that leaned toward DTMFA, mostly because he needed to put his needs front and center just as I was about to undergo serious treatment.

I no longer have cancer in my life. Or him.
posted by kinetic at 3:26 AM on April 17, 2015 [22 favorites]


I won't let my husband join metafilter as I'm absolutely certain you lot will tell the basatard to dump me.

To be fair to metafilter, I keep a tiny Jiminy Cricket version of Jessamyn on my shoulder to stop me being a total arse when I'm trying to talk about sensitive stuff. "What would Jesus do?" is horseshit. "What would Jessamyn do?" has kept me out of prison on many occasions.
posted by taff at 4:11 AM on April 17, 2015 [20 favorites]


Yay for them, I guess.

Oh shit. That's a bad thing to say? I figured it was a compliment. "You are smart, wonderful, and right. I did act like a shithead.".

I can see why it's not perceived that way, though.
posted by josher71 at 4:45 AM on April 17, 2015


This made me go back through my question history. I have never asked a question about a relationship directly, evidently, but I've asked plenty of questions that have to do with relationships (e.g. how to deal with distance, what gift to get, etc).

And one of the early ones actually could have had the correct answer DTMFA, but not a single person said it. (There was no info in the question to indicate that was the correct answer, though, even though in that case the dumping had actually already happened and it was the walking away that wasn't happening).
posted by nat at 5:31 AM on April 17, 2015


I remember alltomorrowsparties question and her story was one of the sweetest I've ever read. So glad to hear they're still going strong.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:59 AM on April 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, because AskMe is an advice site, I would wager that many of the people posting their relationship questions are people who are less confident in their instincts overall. Otherwise, they'd be making their decisions without the input of strangers on the internet. So a quick "Your feelings are legitimate and you don't need to be with someone who makes you feel that way" reply can be helpful even if it doesn't result in an actual D-ing of the MF.

I think this actually gets at, for me, why off-the-cuff DTMFA responses seem... less than helpful. Because it's replacing one set of voices telling an unsure, insecure person what they should do with... another set of voices telling them that their perception is invalid and that they should do a different thing.

I've helped a couple of friends now through situations and relationships that were seriously bad for an assortment of reasons, some of which involved bad bad behavior from a partner and some of which were just about incompatibility. And the one constant I've found with people who don't trust their own judgement and want my advice is that... well, they don't trust their own judgement. The way to get them to do that isn't to tell them what they really should do. Instead, if I want to help my friends build up their self-confidence, I've found that what helps is to give them my feelings on their situation but also to be clear that they're the only person who gets to decide what to do about it. It helps to vocally agree that they're right, X behavior is unacceptable, or to say "it's okay to feel hurt about that, here's how I would fix it"

I'm an anxious person myself who frequently does not trust her own judgement, and you would be surprised at how easy it is to read "you're doing it wrong, again" from answers on a site like AskMeFi. Especially if the people giving their responses assume that of course the asker will trust their own judgement above others and shrug off advice that is obviously wrong. And especially especially if responders, too, assume that the asker is wrong about their assessment of the situation. I get the impulse to tell people "hey, that behavior is clearly abusive, get out NOW!" because it's no one wants to let that shit slide--but I find that people in abusive situations actually respond better to a litany of "Yeah, that is not okay, I agree with how you're feeling. If it was my partner, I would expect X better behavior than that, and I know in my situation my partner would have Y response if I brought it up. Even so, man, that feeling upset is totally justified" than they do to a bunch of people telling them to ignore their feelings and do a particular action.
posted by sciatrix at 7:37 AM on April 17, 2015 [18 favorites]


I think this actually gets at, for me, why off-the-cuff DTMFA responses seem... less than helpful. Because it's replacing one set of voices telling an unsure, insecure person what they should do with... another set of voices telling them that their perception is invalid and that they should do a different thing.

...along with umpteen other voices with other advice to be considered by a person who knows better than any stranger on the internet what's best.

It's not like DTMFA is ever the only advice given, and it's not as if that advice is a decree the asker is bound to.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:25 AM on April 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


I used to be a lot more careful about avoiding DTMFA responses than I am now. I've come to give DTMFA answers more readily, the more I've come to appreciate what I think the value of relationship advice in AskMe is. I always try to explain my reasoning behind it, to express why I think DTMFA is a reasonable response to the circumstances. My thinking is, if I can show this person that some internet stranger (me) thinks that their situation is unacceptable, then that may help give them the strength to recognize it is unacceptable. Maybe they will DTMFA, or maybe they won't--maybe, instead, my DTMFA advice will give them the strength to recognize the value of their boundaries. Maybe it will help them speak up for their own needs, stand up for their own value. Very rarely do I give DTMFA advice like, "This person is an unrepentant asshole, so give up on them." Instead, I try to give DTMFA advice like, "This relationship is all borked up, and I think you know it. Notice the specific ways in which I, internet stranger, think it's borked up. Don't you deserve better than such borked up bullshit?"

A lot of times, I think the role of an Ask.Me chorus isn't to tell the OP what to do, but to give the OP the tools they need to recognize what it is they already know they want to/should do. We offer different perspectives, different conceptual schemes through which the OP can think through their circumstances and their options. I write responses to human relations questions with the hope that, in light of my answer, the OP will be in a position to say, "Woah, when you put it that what, I can totally make sense of my situation and figure out what to do." But even if I fail at that, I think the result is still valuable--it puts the OP in a position to determine why I have failed to provide a valuable perspective. Being in a position to figure out why someone is wrong can really help you figure out what is right.

I also try to always consider where my advice will fall in the thread. Only very rarely do my answers end up at the beginning of a thread. Usually, it takes me a while to get to a question, and so my answers are usually nearer the bottom, or at least in the middle. So, I try to "read the room", in the sense that I try to consider what specific message I want the OP to take from my advice, and how I should shape that message in light of everything else that has been said. It means I don't focus so much on the specific outcome I want for the OP (the different options have almost always been presented already in the thread, by the time I'm commenting). Instead, I try to focus on the whys and hows behind the OPs question or the suggested advice that I think is best, and I try to anticipate what lingering issues the OP may have. With that sort of purpose in mind, I don't think it matters so much whether my specific advice is DTMFA or something else. There's more to any human relations question, to any human action, than just yes-or-no.

A while ago, I gave a DTMFA answer that, the OP later noted elsewhere, actually helped her get out of a terribly abusive relationship. That's...something I keep in mind. I wouldn't say I'm proud, because my role was just finding the right words to express something that I think she already knew deep down. But, I guess I would say, I was touched by it. I appreciate that I got to help someone in that way. I am so sad that the circumstances allowed me to be helpful as I was, but I am so glad that I did manage to be helpful. It is an experience that I try to keep in mind, whenever I find myself leaning towards advising DTMFA. I don't know how often my answers are helpful, but I know my approach has helped at least once, and in a significant way.
posted by meese at 10:20 AM on April 17, 2015 [13 favorites]


Yeah, it's very rare that I don't say "end it, and here's why I say that."

Having occasionally been in a situation where any competent person would walk away while I clung to the barest scrap of excuse of hope, sometimes I add my DTMFA to the list just because I can imagine myself: "Well, those 5 people who didn't say dump him, they get it!"

It's in hope that if nobody else has gotten through to them, maybe mine will be phrased in a way that rings a bell. (I think that must be a thing that generally happens, because every now and then it was me and I get a MeMail about it.)
posted by Lyn Never at 10:43 AM on April 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not DTMFA, no, but I am married to a woman who luckily didn't see the AskMe question about proposing until it was anonymized, unlike several of her friends.
posted by klangklangston at 11:34 AM on April 17, 2015 [11 favorites]


I posted a question about marriage and whether or not it was the be-all and end-all in a relationship because I was ready to get engaged but my boyfriend hadn't proposed.

I got a ton of responses telling me that my boyfriend didn't love me and he was never going to propose and just stringing me along etc. etc.

A lot of these people clearly hadn't actually even read the question.

But I also got some FANTASTIC advice, and well - he proposed in November last year and we're getting married this September.

There are sooo many times when DTMFA is excellent advice, but equally as many when it really, really isn't!!
posted by JenThePro at 2:50 PM on April 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


I asked mefi (anonymously), and mefi almost unanimously told me to DTMFA. I didn't listen. We talked it out, we stuck it out, and we got married. That was about seven years ago. The divorce will be final next month.
posted by agentofselection at 8:31 PM on April 17, 2015 [15 favorites]


A lot of times, I think the role of an Ask.Me chorus isn't to tell the OP what to do, but to give the OP the tools they need to recognize what it is they already know they want to/should do.

As I hinted in a recent answer, there are some relationship AskMes where the asker wants permission to leave a possibly-broken relationship, and the role of AskMe is to grant that permission from outside the relationship. I think that has value, because empowerment is important regardless of the state of the relationship or its resolution.

Permission is a broad thing, and the relationship AskMes that I now comment in tend to be ones where the OP might best be guided past misgivings in a relationship that, as described, seems pretty decent. I am old.
posted by holgate at 8:49 PM on April 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


I always thought it was about getting people to quit their MFA programs.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:38 PM on April 17, 2015 [16 favorites]


I guess I should stop flagging "DTMFA" comments as "derails," then.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:38 PM on April 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh, man. So many times in my 20's and 30's I WISHED others in my shoes could have told me to walk and WHY. I was young and foolish before social media, so I had to muddle through with years of therapy...

In truth, I probably only post comments to AskMe questions based on 3 major or 5 major relationships, but I dated heaps and stuck out multiple relationships that were total dead-ends. Hindsight.

My husband is still a TOTAL gem, and he has his failings, but none none none of those resemble anything described in the DTMFA/RUN answers I have ever given here.

Now that I worked hard on myself and have a great relationship, I would never want to limp along or gamble on the troubles described in the AskMe's I've commented DTMFA to. Life is so hard. Mr. Jbenben came out of the box as described, and I wouldn't trade this experience of adjusting in the moment to life's difficulties with him vs. anyone with the serious flaws I apply DTMFA towards.

An older and wiser gent I know in a very successful 50 year long+ marriage was talking to me about his younger sister's marriage. He noted they have always kept separate finances, and that they've been together a long time --- and he kinda petered out the topic by adding that they're still together, but MEH.

I knew what he meant.

Sure, you can settle for OK. Sure. But it's not really your best shot at fulfillment and happiness, is it?

People weather all kinds of storms and grow together and come out stronger at the end. Solid bones and a mutual willingness must be present.

I don't regret being of the "DTMFA Crowd" if that helped anyone recognize the point their partner was or was not mutually putting in the effort. Ditto any time I commented that someone appeared to have such severe mental health issues that professionals rather than a romantic partner was the right resource of support.

Relationships are hard, yo. Foundations of mistrust, hurt, and lopsided efforts rarely are fulfilling and happy longterm. They might succeed, tho.

Meh.
posted by jbenben at 11:59 PM on April 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


An older and wiser gent I know in a very successful 50 year long+ marriage was talking to me about his younger sister's marriage. He noted they have always kept separate finances, and that they've been together a long time --- and he kinda petered out the topic by adding that they're still together, but MEH.

I'm sorry, I don't understand. If people have separate finances then...what, exactly? They shouldn't be together? Their marriage fails some sort of test? I'm not following.
posted by holborne at 10:14 PM on April 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


I have on occasion thought about posting a question about my relationship to AskMe, and usually thinking about how I'd word it and what the response would be is enough to help me fix it (the AskMe-in-my-head answer is usually "you should really talk to him about this"). I agree with Lyn Never that the mental exercise is useful.
posted by corvine at 4:11 AM on April 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've seen enough of those relationship threads devolve into pile ons and exquisite corpsing that I reflexively cringe when I see a relationship thread with a whole bunch of comments.

It's pretty common for someone early in a thread to start a speculation chain, where the speculation becomes accepted fact after a few posts, then people just start adding new assumptions and interpretations, usually with a bent toward demonizing one of the parties (shockingly, it seems to usually be the party who hasn't told their side of the story). A lot of the DTMFA advice is just the relationship equivalent of those comments telling people to call 911 for anything out of the ordinary.

I don't see anything wrong with offering possible interpretations, but they really get out of hand sometimes as people pile on and create increasingly elaborate narratives. sometimes over the explicit objections of the asker. It's one thing to believe that sometimes the asker isn't seeing the forest for the trees or something, but people can go overboard with the assumption that the asker is an unreliable narrator.

Projection is normal, and people's projected experiences aren't worthless, but if they're compelling enough and happen early enough in a thread, they can take on way too much weight.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:44 AM on April 19, 2015 [10 favorites]


"I'm sorry, I don't understand. If people have separate finances then...what, exactly? They shouldn't be together? Their marriage fails some sort of test? I'm not following."

Ha! I knew I had explained that badly, sorry!!

It was so much more than that. The context was that he and his wife had been married for forever, were very close, and shared a lot of happiness with their children and grandchildren. Via contrast, his sister was stuck in a cycle where there was a lot of controlling and withholding emotionally and practically going on. The sister's relationship worked as long as she remained in the box her husband defined and demanded, while my friend absolutely adored his wife and felt like their success was informed by mutual respect and understanding between them.

A little more backstory there is that one of his longest friendships is with a man both world famous for his philandering and his talent, and while this gentleman never shit-talked about his friend, ever, he did convey to me that there was sadness in the lives of the children of this famous philanderer...

The overall takeaway from this wonderful man who has been doing Life much longer than us, is that you reap the respect you give to others in spades.
posted by jbenben at 9:32 PM on April 19, 2015


The context was that...

So, how is that widely applicable?
posted by jaguar at 9:47 PM on April 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


But I think that women, in particular, need to hear that they don't have to settle for shabby treatment.

I have an absolute fuckton of answers in Ask, but am pretty conservative in my DTMFA advice. (Half my uses of 'DTMFA' is me disagreeing with my learned colleagues and suggesting the poster not DTMFA, in fact.)

But the one that sticks with me is actually a poster who is male. His spouse was so clearly abusive, in ways she refused to fix. He asked 2 or 3 questions about his relationship and the responses were wall-to-wall DTMFA. Then he started posting variations on the question anonymously and got the same answers again.

I hope that's what he ultimately did. I wish I knew; I wish the best for that guy.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:58 AM on April 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


feels like there's a pretty bright tonal line between the aggressive command of 'dump the motherfucker already' and the suggestive 'hey have you ever thought about leaving because of these reasons'

it's something that I've noticed while listening to a lot of Dan Savage. which is that, while he has decent advice to give, he also kind of maybe trusts in his super subjective, filtered interpretation of the text to command someone to make a lifechanging decisions. he, of course, does it because it's a relationship podcast/column and it's dramatic and funny and he's sort of famous for it. but that kind of attitude plays out different on an internet forum because you're actually engaging with someone at a one-on-one level and the things you say can be really offensive or even damaging.

askme is not a stage or a soapbox for you to rail on about relationship principles like a talk radio host, it's always felt a lot more intimate than that. and maybe the good faith assumption is that the asker is capable of taking a step back and understanding it for an internet forum that it is but for someone who is confused, emotional, hurt, etc, the strong, aggressive language often used on askme can be too much. I don't think it's a lot to ask for people to take a step back and maybe dial their language down a bit and maybe not to rely so much on the memetic 'dtmfa' initialism
posted by runt at 9:00 AM on April 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


Years ago I asked a question about a dumb fight that took place early on in my relationship (under an old disused account). If I recall correctly, I received almost a perfect 50/50 split between:

-Your SO is an abusive fuckwad, you should dump him, you're obviously miserable and a shell of yourself

and

-You are an irretrievable asshole, your SO is probably already plotting to dump you and rightly so.

My SO and I are still together and happy--I suppose we'd get married if it were important to us or necessary to do so. I chalk this up to one of two things: either AskMe jumped to some pretty extreme conclusions based on one bad day in a relationship, or the SO and I are That Couple --the ones who're such abominable wastes of human beings that we could only ever be happy with each other. ;)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:40 AM on April 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


he, of course, does it because it's a relationship podcast/column and it's dramatic and funny and he's sort of famous for it. but that kind of attitude plays out different on an internet forum because you're actually engaging with someone at a one-on-one level and the things you say can be really offensive or even damaging.

He does it because the original conceit of the column was for him a gay man to be condescending and derogatory to straight people the way advice columnists at the time he started were condescending and derogatory to gay people, and they've never fully gotten away from that tone. He says this in literally every interview where he mentions the origins of the column. He's actually much kinder in the podcast especially if he has someone live on the phone with him then it's more a conversation and less of a rant.
posted by edbles at 2:33 PM on April 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


: either AskMe jumped to some pretty extreme conclusions based on one bad day in a relationship, or the SO and I are That Couple --the ones who're such abominable wastes of human beings that we could only ever be happy with each other. ;)

OR you were having a bad day and just needed to vent and didn't need advice. Since that's not what AskMe is for, you can't blame people for not assuming that.
posted by bleep at 2:40 PM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


OR you were having a bad day and just needed to vent and didn't need advice. Since that's not what AskMe is for, you can't blame people for not assuming that.

No, I distinctly recall asking for specific advice--the fight was over and I was looking for concrete steps on improving the situation that led to the fight. But everyone got hung up on who was right or wrong in the fight, and I think at one point a mod even stepped in to be like, "yeah...that wasn't the question." I'd rather not link myself to my old account, though, so I guess you're free to believe what you like about it.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:47 PM on April 20, 2015


He does it because the original conceit of the column was for him a gay man to be condescending and derogatory to straight people the way advice columnists at the time he started were condescending and derogatory to gay people, and they've never fully gotten away from that tone

yeah, I've heard that too. but he pretty much does this to everybody in the podcasts that I've heard, hetero or not, so I figured it was one of those high concept things that maybe don't get acted out on the ground. if there is a pattern, it's that he snarks mighty hard on people with super straightforward communication issues questions that he must get hundreds of and which have these obvious, boring answers (talk to your partner, say what you just said to me, etc) that have been written about since the first dating column. he's pretty lenient on fetish questions for heteros, even going out of his way to express his discomfort for some niches but still showing support (ie the adult baby anal play caller). same for polyamorous callers.

and that works for him because he has a listenership/readership who appreciate him for his personality and his snark. but not everybody is Dan Savage or Emily Post or whoever, no matter how hard they try
posted by runt at 7:26 PM on April 20, 2015


OR you were having a bad day and just needed to vent and didn't need advice. Since that's not what AskMe is for, you can't blame people for not assuming that.

wherein we reproduce the bad faith readings of AskMe right here in our very own thread about AskMe
posted by runt at 7:29 PM on April 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


" I chalk this up to one of two things: either AskMe jumped to some pretty extreme conclusions based on one bad day in a relationship, or the SO and I are That Couple --the ones who're such abominable wastes of human beings that we could only ever be happy with each other. ;)"

It's because relationships have a tremendous amount of internal context that's hard to communicate, and relationship questions almost never include all of the information that even a moderately close friend would know when they give advice.

So answerers then frequently project from their own lives to fill in the gaps, and of those there are a consistent few Bulwer-Lyttons who either through their own sincere, improbable relationship experience or their imagined history thereof see abuse, malingering and gaslighting lurking behind every bland communication failure. They're the folks who read AskMe in lieu of Night Nurse or Racetrack Romance, and they'll tell you to DTMFA every single time.
posted by klangklangston at 11:05 PM on April 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


So answerers then frequently project from their own lives to fill in the gaps,

Well, ok - but really, we're talking about human relations questions on a Q&A site wherein the As aren't usually provided by professional humanologists. What else do you propose?
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:04 AM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


> So answerers then frequently project from their own lives to fill in the gaps,

Well, ok - but really, we're talking about human relations questions on a Q&A site wherein the As aren't usually provided by professional humanologists. What else do you propose?


That people become aware when they're projecting and explicitly identify it in their answers. Many people already do, in various "This reminds me of something from my past, and here's how I handled it" ways. There seem to be a lot of people who assume that anything that reminds them of something from their past must be exactly like what happened to them (resulting in "You have to do X because Y is definitely going to happen!"), or that something outside their own experience is obviously wrong, because it's never happened to them.
posted by jaguar at 7:30 AM on April 21, 2015 [12 favorites]


I feel that here I should note that I love AskMeFi, and in no way should my bemused reaction to the fallout from a long-ago question be construed as a Problem With The Site. But the MeTa asked for stories of people who were still with/married to a MF they'd been told to DA, and I wanted to add myself to the list.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:10 AM on April 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


That people become aware when they're projecting and explicitly identify it in their answers. Many people already do, in various "This reminds me of something from my past, and here's how I handled it" ways. There seem to be a lot of people who assume that anything that reminds them of something from their past must be exactly like what happened to them (resulting in "You have to do X because Y is definitely going to happen!"), or that something outside their own experience is obviously wrong, because it's never happened to them.

Yeah, fair, absolutely. But ultimately, with questions like these, we can only ever speak from the authority of our own necessarily limited experience and observations. I think it's better to be cautious about framing replies in those terms, to admit room for equivocation, etc., but I think most appreciate that all any answerer can offer is their own perspective. I think this is kind of understood given the nature of the site.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:14 AM on April 21, 2015


I only asked once through Anon, and got the DTMFA almost immediately. Thankfully, they were right, when I sunk the body into mid-lake Michigan, it never resurfaced.

I wouldn't have thought I would have gotten such useful answers to "Help, I need to dispose of a dead body!" but time and again Askme has been there for me.

Thankfully, being smart from the very beginning was some good advice which I've followed since.
posted by quin at 9:47 AM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


The idea that there is no middle ground between Smelly Old Fish and Perfection is what bothers me about DTMFA attitudes.

As someone who has suggested "maybe it's time to let this go" in many an AskMe, part of that lack of middle ground is based on the fact that the asker has taken time to write up what they have a problem with about their partner but they are either
  • telling us instead of their partner or
  • they have already told their partner and their partner blew them off.
So I doubt anyone is suggesting there's perfection to be had so much as saying "you're unwilling to work on this with your partner and/or they are unwilling to work with you, and you have apparently identified this as a potential dealbreaker. So just call it quits."

Savage, mentioned above, has talked about the price of admission with a partner - things that maybe irk you but they are just not going to/are unable to change and that you're just gonna have to suck it up and live with if you stay. Can't take it? It it something nobody should take, like abuse? Go. Is it trivial enough that you can just learn to shrug it off? Do so. Or you change it... if they can/will.

Nobody really posts to AskMe without already knowing that those are the three possibilities. They're there for the coping strategies or, just as often I think, because they need to learn what this situation sounds like to other people from the outside. DTMFA is the "this really sounds crappy" variant. I am sure some people retreat from that and think "no, that's way too big a reaction for this." Which would in itself be a useful way to learn that maybe this is just a price of admission thing for them.

tl;dr: if there's often a lack of middle ground in relationship AskMes it's because the question usually indicates there's not middle ground to be had anymore.
posted by phearlez at 10:18 AM on April 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think this is kind of understood given the nature of the site.

this amount of skepticism is far more of a shibboleth than you might think. the kinds of relationship advice that gets trotted out at my office that are probably filtered down from Cosmo and the like and then are actually acted upon makes my heart quake. and that's not even put forward by people who are really any good at rhetoric
posted by runt at 12:31 PM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


You know... I've been on this site for almost ten years, including my entire adult life, and I don't think it's a coincidence that people say I give good relationship advice.

I think the advice here often comes off as strident in a vacuum, but you have to realize what it's reacting to - an entire culture that stresses acting out regressive gender roles, ignoring your own feelings, and staying with your partner no matter what, because breakups = failure and singlehood = pathetic.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:45 PM on April 21, 2015 [15 favorites]


Nobody really posts to AskMe without already knowing that those are the three possibilities.

Whoa, no. I'm not sure you understand just how thoroughly warped most peoples' received wisdom re: relationships is. Or just how young many of the posters to AskMe are. I am pretty sure that I was only vaguely aware of the realities you describe when I started lurking at 25, and still had hopes that it was untrue and that there was some kind of fourth way through where I could, like, psychically resolve shit. AskMe is where I learned that those are the three possibilities.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:19 PM on April 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


You don't think that what you call a 4th way is actually just "get them to change" with a completely unrealistic expectation of what people can/will change?
posted by phearlez at 1:41 PM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think I thought it was literally some kind of magic? I had no real-life human models for romantic relationships at any point in my formative years, only literary/cinematic ones. As a result, I am pretty sure that part of me assumed that there was some kind of narrative order to the world which meant that people would have the necessary epiphanies at the necessary times after a long montage set to sad piano music, and I just wasn't doing the montage right.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:53 PM on April 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


I am profligate with telling people to DTMFA because I have been single during all my time on MetaFilter, so I know exactly what I'm talking about!

Seriously though, I do think that a lot of the relationship questions have the answers right there in the (usually) wall of text. Times like that, it seems like one of the useful things I can do is hold up the mirror so they can see what's reflected back. Sometimes seeing something outside your own head is really useful, it gives it more weight and can make you realise that actually no, you aren't making it up or telling yourself stories. And sometimes those answers are: I am not happy. I am not loved. I want more than this. I am scared that this is as good as it will ever get. I am scared that if I leave, it will never be this good again.

I've been in a relationship where I was told I was making up stories of how things were and they weren't always like that, and sometimes that was actually true. I've been in an abusive relationship. I've been in a relationship where I tried to convince myself that if I just worked even harder to be satisfied with less, everything would be okay—no, wait, that was pretty much all of my relationships. So I can totally understand why people post to AskMe about things that they probably know, deep down, are actually going on but can't admit it yet for [reasons]. And it is one of the paradoxical things that it is often much easier to grasp what's happening when it's not happening to you.

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had been on MeFi back during those relationships. I'm sure I'd've gotten a lot of DTMFAs, but I wonder if I would also have gotten answers that helped me to understand I already had the answers. I just needed to have them reflected back at me.
posted by Athanassiel at 12:00 AM on April 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Something I'm noticing in reading this thread is that this topic is really hard to discuss without focusing on specific examples, because the general topic is so broad to where many of us are probably talking at cross-purposes. Despite my earlier comment in the thread, I've definitely read my share of relationship questions where somebody's relationship seemed fundamentally flawed to where DTMFA is the only sensible advice.

My issue is simply that I think the bar for when to suggest DTMFA is frequently set way too low. Just a few minutes ago my wife got upset with me because I didn't notice she had done something different with her hair this morning. I can just imagine how the AskMe advice would read if either of us had written a question around this:

(Me being the asker: "Your wife is emotionally abusing you. Consult a divorce attorney.")
(My wife being the asker: "I'm so sorry, your husband is obviously cheating on you. DTMFA")
posted by The Gooch at 7:43 AM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


the difference is - and the reason for the jokes in my house - is that neither of you would write that question. the act of bringing it here takes it from one of the million things that couples just get over into a more serious issue evidenced by the asker not just getting over it.
posted by nadawi at 7:58 AM on April 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


That question could show up. But there would be a lot more backstory about how you met, what efforts one of you had to get the other to become exclusive/move in/get married, how you balance chores, how she never compliments your sartorial choices, how she gets angry when you ask about clothing, blah blah blah, all of them to explain how it all got to this point where a hairstyle became a Big Thing.

It would not be a question about hair and noticing style, it would be about a relationship where a pivot point had manifested itself via a hairstyle. And we'd know that from the surrounding provided context.

Nobody would say DTMFA to the hairstyle situation where a question had lead-in as brief as what you wrote above and followed it up with "and she's right, I don't always notice these things she does and which are important to her. What are some ways I can learn to do this thing that is important to her?" or "Since I am completely not focused on hair, what are some other things in other areas I can do to show the same sort of attention?"
posted by phearlez at 9:17 AM on April 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have an ongoing struggle keeping my child from putting his feet up on the coffe-table at Starbucks. Now that I've learned that this can cause ROCKS TO FALL FROM THE CEILING and (maybe even) KILL EVERYONE, I have more tools in my parenting bag and feel much more confidently prepared for the next time we encounter this situation. Best MetaAsk ever, would read again!
posted by riverlife at 12:23 PM on April 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


ROCKS FALL, EVERYONE DIES
posted by phearlez at 12:50 PM on April 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


We're still going strong, though AskMF did help us by convincing him that there was a problem that needed solving and getting us to have several sober discussions about it (as opposed to the drunken crying blame-game that prompted the post).
Actually, this has happened with us twice. Once was about how he wanted to buy a house in the suburbs and I wanted to rent in the city. We bought a house in the city that is now worth twice what we paid for it. The second was about how I wanted to get married but didn't want kids and he wanted kids but didn't want to get married. We have neither right now, but frequently have talks that entertain the idea of both. I'm still terrified of giving birth, but there's c-sections and therapy. He's still terrified of long, drawn-out divorces, but there's pre-nups and marriage counseling.
posted by domo at 6:26 AM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was advised to DTMFA years before I finally did, or actually just waited until she presented me with such a preposterous choice that it was more like "Are you fucking crazy? I'll never agree to that." than actually actively dumping her.

But it did turn out in the end that she was a mix of a grifter/sociopath. I don't know/can't know if I was just "crazy in love" in the early days and didn't see it or whether the character of our relationship was different at the end and she was truly, lovingly devoted to me early on or not. I just know with more certainty how it ended.

I think part of it was that I am and will always be wired to be very loyal and very devoted to the folks I love and with her particular mix of upbringing, self-esteem, intelligence and psychology that ultimately it was like what Ferris Bueller says about Cameron, "She won't respect him, because you can't respect someone who kisses your ass." I didn't see it as ass kissing then but some of it I certainly do now. I think her respect for me dwindled as I gave more and eventually she sort of just imploded.

I don't think that the DTMFA advice actually helped me except by steeling me for the possibility that I was being played, perhaps 18 months to 2 years before I started noticing it.

Metafilter and MeFightClub had folks who were here for me, particularly while she turned about 95% of folks we both knew against me (classic sociopath breakup - I, the victim of it, was painted the villain and the ostracism was intense). I picked up and moved to California, both to take care of my parents and to lick my wounds. But I also reached out and found a new, markedly different (especially around love, loyalty and self-respect), love, with whom I have been 3 years and going strong. I hope for good things, and living is easier for both of us here than it was for me in Baltimore.

I guess to answer the original question posed here, I saw and still see DTMFA advice as a strong signal that something that needs to be addressed is wrong. But I don't see it as an imperative for dumping. For me, leaving a long term relationship on the advice of a stranger (albeit from a cultivated community) on the Internet is not really wise. Certainly the advice can be as useful as any "objective" or at least outsider advice - it can be surprising, innovative, polarizing as compared to internal thoughts and private analysis. But I could also pay a professional therapist for the same thing. Or even get a tarot reading. Sometimes that outside perspective can be just as usefully sparked by random patterns of symbolism.

But to me, DTMFA is about as useful as getting the Death card in Tarot (to those unfamiliar with the card, it doesn't usually represent the literal meaning of the card name; most times it represents instead the concept of irrefutable or profoundly important change - it's sort of a powerful, meant-to-be-scary sort of symbol for renewal). To me, the renewal the card represents is something that could happen just as easily within a long term relationship as it could in the next one. And for me, as long as both parties in a relationship are willing to stick around and see it through, there's a lot to be said for sticking with that relationship and seeing it through. That's why vows/promises related to long term relationships are, and I think should be, very important to us as individuals and to us as a culture and society.
posted by kalessin at 7:54 AM on April 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


it was like what Ferris Bueller says about Cameron, "She won't respect him, because you can't respect someone who kisses your ass."

I'd forgotten that; it is such a great line. I wish I had been able to understand it when I was in my early 20s and was so desperate to try to save a failing relationship. I ended up with someone who, in addition to all the earlier problems, didn't even respect me.
posted by Area Man at 8:48 AM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Well, ok - but really, we're talking about human relations questions on a Q&A site wherein the As aren't usually provided by professional humanologists. What else do you propose?"

The best choice is generally to avoid answering the question, followed by asking for clarification, then by answering but being extremely circumspect and explicitly talking about how you handled a similar situation. Otherwise it's far to easy to give in to the Dunning-Kruger hubris and thirst for drama.
posted by klangklangston at 9:01 AM on April 23, 2015


I recently asked a question about my marriage, and while I don't think I got any direct DTMFA advice, I did get MANY answers that were extremely harsh and seemed to assume the situation is much worse than it is (which I blame a little bit on people coloring the question with their personal experience, but mostly on my lack of clarity). The answers of "You're being cheated on!" were especially upsetting because I was not expecting to hear that AT ALL since I emphasized in the question that I did not suspect cheating in the slightest.

I got a few helpful answers from people who did seem to "get" what I was trying to ask, but based on this experience I don't think I will ever post a relationship question again because I found the majority of the answers to be so extremely negative that they were painful to read.

In the end this confirmed my suspicion that internet strangers can only be as helpful as the very limited information they have to draw from, the text from one person's skewed perspective on a screen.
posted by Librarypt at 1:23 PM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


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