Advice

On sunk costs and shitty marriages

Hi Coke, as I edge closer to 30 and more of my friends are starting to settle down, I’m starting to notice a weird pattern among some. There’s been quite a few instances where friends who have been in serious relationships with their partners for 5+ years, many for a decade, seem to part ways shortly after getting hitched. They are happy, in love, dedicated, super enthusiastic about their wedding and then they get married and suddenly something seems to crack and they split up very shortly thereafter. In most cases it’s happened in much less than a year after the wedding. It’s so weird. They’ve all lived together for multiple years, had pets together for years, and all that grown up shit but somehow signing a piece of paper changes things? I don’t understand. What’s different? Thanks in advance for your insight!

 

You’re looking at it all wrong. It’s not the piece of paper that changes things. The piece of paper and the marriage that it represents are merely symptoms of the larger problem, which is that by and large, human beings are terrible at making rational decisions where emotions are involved, and people rarely have the self-discipline to cut their losses and walk away.

The phenomenon that you’ve observed is a prime example of something called the “sunk-cost fallacy” applied to relationships. The sunk-cost fallacy is faulty reasoning that further investment (i.e. marriage) is warranted on the fact that the resources already invested (i.e. time, energy, and a sizable chunk of their youth) will be lost otherwise, not taking into consideration the overall losses involved in further investment (i.e. the emotional and financial misery of the inevitable divorce.)

People in their late twenties who’ve spent years in long-term relationships are faced with increasing pressure from social systems to conform to the proper stage of life transitions. Everyone and everything (often times even their own biology) are constantly nagging them to settle down, get married, start breeding, etc., and so they fall prey to this faulty reasoning and decide to plow through to the next stage of life regardless of whether their relationship is healthy.

You’ve got a shit-ton of aging Millennials limping along in stale relationships who don’t know any better because they’ve spent the last half-decade having the same arguments in the same restaurants and then going home and having the same sex with the same person, and rather than disappoint their parents by going through the temporary pain of a much needed break-up, they throw a Hail Mary pass with the mother of all major life decisions and decide to get married. Fuck it. Why not? What’s the worst that could happen? So they forge ahead with big smiles.

Of course they’re super enthusiastic about getting married — they have to be. They’re on a year long roller-coaster ride of planning a wedding. Sure, they’re secretly terrified of their relationship’s mediocrity, but all that existential angst gets hurled to the edges as they start doing loops. With a little denial and a decent bachelorette party, they can almost convince themselves that everything is going to be all right. For a good long while they get to soak up all that positive reinforcement from friends and family. They get to be the center of attention, and they get to feel all grown-up. Eventually the big day comes. They say a few magic words, they cut a cake, and then suddenly all the fun stuff stops.

I don’t have to tell you what happens next. You’ve seen it. Within a few months the reality of “til death do us part” comes along and slaps them in the face like a big wet dick. They realize they’re actually pretty miserable, and then it finally dawns on them that they don’t actually have to be together.

Basically, the marriage itself is just an extended director’s cut of their break-up. It’s gross, I know, but we’re flawed creatures in a flawed system. This is just one of those things that happens.

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Advice

On running for congress

God I hope you read this one.

Someone working with the Democratic Party approached me and encouraged me to run for US House of Representatives. It’s a red district in a blue state, but the district went for Hillary in ’16, and has gone for democratic presidential candidates since at least 2000.

Coke, I’ll barely be 30 by election day. I have no formal government experience, but I am politically active in small ways. The thought of running for something this big is terrifying, but the incumbent is a dick, and I keep coming back to the fact that even though it’s scary, somebody has to do it. Why not me?

I have major imposter syndrome about doing this, but at the same time it feels like the rulebook has been thrown out and everything is upside down. Since the 2016 election I’ve been thinking more and more about running for something, but didn’t think I actually would for another decade or so. It feels crazy and unattainable, and yet maybe a millennial with healthcare experience is exactly who we need in office right now. Maybe it’s time for a paradigm shift.

I guess my question is: should I do this?

 

Fuck yes, you should do it. Run. Campaign your face off. Win.

You’re young, but you are ready for this. I know it seems terrifying, and I get the whole impostor syndrome thing, but I promise, you can totally do the job. Not to be a dick, but a trained monkey could do the job. Congress is filled with idiots and empty haircuts. You’ll be shocked at how many grinning simpletons there are and how few noble geniuses. You can be one of the good ones. I’m serious. You really can do it.

Let me know if you need any help. If you decide to run, I’ll be there for you every step of the way. Hell, if you turn out to be cool, I might even help raise you some money.

Go on. Do it. Get on out there and fight the good fight.

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Advice

On more fun-sized advice

2016 was the year you died as my hero. I wouldn’t be surprised if you started being okay with banning words and inciting violence against conservatives. Still, we had some good times together. I’ll always cherish you for that. But for fuck’s sake, can you answer some fun questions like you used to?
I’d punch a thousand Nazis in the face before I’d ban a single word. As for fun questions, here you go:

Kill, Marry, Fuck: Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Steve Bannon
Kill Donald Trump. (Duh.) Fuck Mike Pence in a sex tape scandal so he’s forced to resign. Marry Steve Bannon and immediately take half his money in the divorce after he slaps me around on our wedding night.

Fuck, marry, kill: The bastard child of Andy Warhol and Edgar J. Hoover, Nikola Tesla, Farrah Fawcett.
Kill the Bastard Child of Andy Warhol and J. Edgar Hoover. (Because that sounds like a really cool movie.) Fuck Farrah Fawcett (Mainly for the alliteration.) Marry Nikola Tesla (I like ‘em smart.)

Fuck, marry, kill: Freud, Jung, Lacan. (I apologise: I’m *really* high.)
Kill Lacan. (I’d cut off his dick with a mirror.) Fuck Freud. (The sex would include oral, anal, and genital.) Marry Jung. (Mainly because I wanna be in a poly relationship with Emma Rauschenbach.)

Worst case scenario query: Would you rather have The Donald go down on you or eat Kellyanne Conway’s box?
Both at the same time, on camera, for the whole world to see as evidence at the impeachment. (Don’t ever say I’m not willing to sacrifice for my country.)

Do you support Calexit?
Fuck no. I’d let Texas go, but never California.

Are you a capitalist?
We’re all capitalists, darling. The best of us are merely reluctant and try to cram as much socialism in with it as possible.

But can Canadians do anything?
Stay cool and re-elect Justin.

I feel really lost without you at a time like this. I wish you could be our leader. Would you ever run for office?
I’m not the one who runs for office. I’m the one who gets fucked up with senators and congressmen and then changes their minds.

can my life get any lower than dropping out of art school
It’s not as bad as you think. Trust me. Go find your hustle, get shit done, and make your own way. Do that, and I promise that in ten years, “art school dropout” will carry a lot more weight than “art school graduate.”

I’ve just realized I’ve been writing my secrets in this little box since I was a teenager. That’s beautiful. I love you.
I have them all here. It is beautiful. Thank you.

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Advice

On three responses

i told a guy that i’ve always wanted to get a tattoo. he said, “why put a bumper sticker on a ferrari.” do i have a stick up my ass or is that kinda fucked up.

 

Response #1 (The High Road): “Comparing me to a car is a particularly disrespectful form of objectification, and it’s insulting to imply that a tattoo would somehow be degrading.”

Response #2 (The Middle Road): “You don’t get to have an opinion on what I should do with my body.”

Response #3 (The Low Road): “You put racing stripes on a Ferrari, motherfucker.”

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Advice

On serving in the trump administration

Dear Coquette,

I was contacted by the Trump transition committee.

I read your blog religiously, and I think that you’re a measured person. I really need your advice on this matter.

I ‘m an African-American man dedicated to alleviating poverty, housing, and homelessness. I submitted my resume, cover letters, and letters of recommendation to both transition committees before election day. My entire life is devoted to helping people out of poverty. The Trump transition committee, to my amazement, contacted me for an interview. They’d like to interview and screen me for a few positions in HUD and HHS. I was told I will be interview for a policy-related position, working on a team to help implement his would be “New Deal for Black America.” The next position is more managerial, “something like a Deputy Chief of Staff” for an Office. I told them my dates of availability for the interviews, and they said they will soon get back to me for a confirmation.

I didn’t vote for Trump. I voted for Clinton thinking that she would win. I love persons of color, I want to help homeless low-income families and help calm the perverted and pervasive stigma that exists in these systems and institutions, and so I want to act as a pocket of resistance.

What do you think? Should I work for a man who has heated rhetoric with the promise of working on policy issues that could help millions of Americans?

 

Yes. By all means, serve.

Fight for the position. Act as a pocket of resistance. Protect the interests of the left. The Trump administration desperately needs forward-thinking subversives to fill its ranks. The worst possible outcome for this looming nightmare would be if the executive branch of our government were to become constipated with a bunch of right-wing, reactionary goons.

There is no shame in working in the Trump administration. You wouldn’t be working for him. Fuck him. You would be working for the American people, and we all need you now more than ever.

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Advice

On the underground resistance

Are you freaking out? I’m freaking out.
Yes. I am freaking out.

I can’t fucking take it. I hate the news outlets for covering it like this. It’s meant to maximize our suffering. If trump wins I very seriously may commit suicide due to lack of faith in humanity.
Don’t commit suicide. We will get through this together.

I’m terrified.
Me too.

Drop the arrogant tone, kid.
Go fuck yourself.

I’m watching the votes roll in and I cannot stop crying. I’m so fucking nervous right now.
Go ahead and cry. This is worthy of your tears.

Fuck Gary Johnson. Fuck Gary Johnson. FUCK GARY JOHNSON!!!
Ralph Nader did this to us in 2000. History repeats. Such is life.

Coke, I’m watching the numbers come in and I’m freaking out. Help.
I cannot help you. We must accept this new reality with strong minds and calm hearts.

I’m so scared.
That’s okay. Just know, the republic will survive.

I feel like we’re all going to die in a nuclear holocaust now.
This will not result in your death, though unless you resist, it may result in your enslavement.

I am numb but almost in tears. What is happening?
A neo-fascist with a personality disorder conned his way into being the leader of the free world. It happens. Don’t worry. We will all be around to watch his downfall.

Do you have any words of comfort for us in this time of great fuckery?
Yes. In this time of great fuckery, know that you are on the right side of history, and though we may face difficult times ahead, it will only provide wings for the better angels of our nature.

Coke. I’m crying. I’m shattered. I’m in Australia, watching in horror and I can’t even begin to process what you guys are feeling. I’m so sorry.
It’s okay. We got this. The man will fuck up in such a way that he will not see the end of his first term as President.

what are we going to fucking do
Resist.

Coke, I don’t want to live in this America. Trump almost President? I would rather die. It feels like the only option right now.
It is still our America. This is a grotesque fluke. The system will correct itself.

How the fuck is this happening?
America is filled with a small-minded, hateful, and willfully ignorant population of uneducated rural white voters. Trump got them to show up to the polls. Don’t worry. This will not happen again.

How do we Impeach a sitting president nowadays, by your estimation?
It will be quite easy with a con man like Trump. He is imminently impeachable.

What do I do? What do I do? What do I do? Please, give me something tangible that I can work toward to help this horrible country. Please.
Stay engaged and fight. Resist. Do not back down. Never give up.

What Now?
Fuckery.

What the actual fuck?! How, why, I don’t even know what to say right now.
Breathe easy. We will survive this.

This is all just a stress dream, right? I’m going to wake up and Clinton will be in the White House.
No. This is reality. Accept it.

Coke, please? I’m scared of Trump. I’m angry and sad and empty. I was so proud to be an American -so proud to be a Michigander. Where do we go from here? How do we make this okay?
Your state fucked the whole country tonight. It’s not okay, but it is what happened. Now it’s time to pick up the pieces and move on.

Never has “embrace the fucking change” made more visceral sense. What just happened?
History fucked us, as history is wont to do. We have no choice but to embrace it, for now.

Jesus fucking Christ. What happens next? What. Happened.
Tomorrow happens next. It will be okay. This is a shock, but the future is rich with possibility.

I just don’t fucking understand.
Don’t try to understand. Try to accept, and then gird your loins for battle.

I’m sure I’m not alone in asking this, now what? Earlier today when I was living in delirious denial, I was sure we’d elect our first woman president and turn the senate blue. I was wrong. I feel like the end of the world is here. Stock market crash, divided country, and someone truly unqualified, unstable, racist, misogynist, is going to take the highest office in the land in 70+ days. I imagine that Pence the terrifying evangelical will be the defacto president. Coke, I’m lost. Please give me something.
This is not the end of anything. It is the beginning of our call to action. We are on the right side of history, but nobody said this shit would be easy.

I will gladly join the resistance to take down the clown. Also any advice on what actions to take/how to best counteract Trump’s hate would be much appreciated in this dark despondent time.
Depending on how things pan out, I will have more information in the coming days with regard to joining the resistance. I’m not joking about this.

Were you serious about applications? I’m fucking horrified right now. I feel so numb. But something within me has changed tonight and I want to do something, anything. Much love from a longtime reader.
Yes. It’s too early to tell what it will become, but I am deadly serious about starting a movement. We can do this.

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Advice

On taking one for the team

I’d never heard of you before today. (Saw a book review at AV Club.) Spent the last hour reading some old stuff. You seem interesting, but have a giant blind spot related to Hillary. You write as if the only possible reason for voting for Johnson/Stein/Trump is because one is a selfish asshole, but voting for Hillary is just an enlightened, and completely self-less act of patriotism by one who only cares about altruistically bettering the universe.

All votes are selfish (or “groupish” according to Jonathan Haidt), intended to help the voter’s “in group” at the expense of the voter’s “out group”. This is how we convince ourselves the election is good vs. evil; we’re really just categorizing “us” vs. “them”.

How did you get so emotionally invested in Hillary? And when it comes to political advice, are you just lacking in self-awareness or is it calculated propaganda?

(If you’re wondering, I’ve voted Republican in every election/primary since I turned 18 in ’83 and Rubio last spring. But I just can’t vote for Trump because of the gaping hole where his character should be. My advice for you is to be careful what you wish for. She is monumentally corrupt and she will do tremendous damage to her party.)

 

Dude, welcome to the party, but don’t come in here quoting Jon Haidt and expect me to be impressed. I’ve read “The Righteous Mind” too, and as hyperbolic as you try to make me sound, I do genuinely believe that the moral intuition of Trump voters is fucking feeble compared to the moral intuition of Hillary voters, and that’s a statement I can make without commenting on the character of either candidate.

Since we seem to agree on the fact that Trump is a garbage monster, there’s no need to even go there. Instead, let’s talk about Hillary. First, allow me to reframe your assertion that she is monumentally corrupt. No, no. The system is monumentally corrupt, and Hillary is masterful at gaming it. I respect that. I don’t see it as a character flaw, because despite what Fox News would have you believe, Hillary really does have a conscience. She is a dyed-in-the-wool progressive who still manages to get shit done in this grotesque plutocracy of ours.

This isn’t about being enlightened. It’s about recognizing that the next President of the United States will select at least two and likely three Supreme Court Justices, thus adjusting the course of the entire American experiment for the next half century. That is not to be fucked with, and as much as you may be a knee-jerk Clinton hater, you know damn well that pulling the lever for Hillary on November 8th is the only responsible way to ensure that those Justices won’t be misogynistic reactionary corporate goons.

And do you really want Donald Trump playing chess against Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping when the world hits peak oil? Fuck no. That would be the greatest geo-political clusterfuck in the history of human civilization. I want the most brilliant, the most experienced, and the most Machiavellian politician we’ve got heading up the home team in the coming years. We both know that’s Hillary.

Listen, I’m very sorry that these are your circumstances, but it’s your duty as an American to ensure that Trump doesn’t win the Presidency. I’m not asking you to emotionally invest in Hillary. You can hate her breathing guts for all I care, but if you have any love for your country, you’ll still show up at the polls, hold your nose, and take one for the team.

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Advice

On having borderline personality disorder

First off thank you. I’ve been feeling more actively suicidal lately, as opposed to my typical passive approach, and I just received your book a couple days ago, which has been a god send (don’t worry I am also working with my therapist and psychiatrist). I have a feeling your book will be my go-to when these terrible invasive thoughts creep in uninvitingly. I am curious if you have ever known anyone with Borderline Personality Disorder that wasn’t completely terrible?

After years of resisting this label, I have finally succumb to the fact that I am sick. Being borderline can be complete hell, I feel everything so intensely; any perceived rejection or “abandonment”, no matter how slight, results in me collapsing to the floor, alone in my apartment, sobbing and hyperventilating. Some times this is accompanied by cutting up my legs and punching my arms and head so hard that it results in huge bruises and bumps. It feels like absolute hell. I never do this in front of people and almost all of my friends know nothing about this side of me (it is not an attention thing or manipulation tool, but more of a release). I am trying to learn how to embrace my “crazy”. I often feel hopeless, but I also know I am a unique individual who has a lot of great qualities. I am smart as hell and am working on great and important research in grad school. I am very intuitive and possess a great ability to understand others. I am extremely dedicated, giving, and loyal. I know how to have a great time and have always embraced a work hard, play hard mentality. But this doesn’t change the fact that I am bat shit crazy and have very problematic behavior patterns.

At this point I have basically been single for a year (the longest since I have been 17), besides for the few guys that I’ve dated that think they fall in love with me within the first couple of weeks of knowing me, only to quickly find out that I am way too much work. My earliest memories all have to do with realizing how alone and separate I felt, so it makes sense that I prize intimate connection so much. Is there any chance that I am ever going to find some one that kinda gets me (or at least wants to), that sees the ugliness in me, but also the beauty? How do I find people that understand craziness, or mental illness does not automatically equate dumb or worthless?

Is my diagnosis as hopeless and terrible as it is portrayed? Am I a manipulative piece of shit that everyone should steer clear of? Are all these pathetic men that write on the internet about their horror story with a borderline girlfriend actually right? My mind tells me no to all of these questions, but then again my mind is sick and not to be trusted. But if borderlines are the absolute worst than how come so many people are trying to save us from committing suicide?

 

First off, let’s dispense with the self-stigma. You are not batshit crazy. Hell, you’re not even mentally ill. You have a personality disorder. You exhibit a few maladaptive patterns of behavior that meet a certain set of criteria. That’s it. That’s all. Big fucking deal.

While we’re at it, fuck this whole “being borderline” bullshit. You are not borderline. You have borderline personality disorder. Huge difference. Would you say “I’m irritable bowel syndrome?” Fuck no. Then why would you go around saying “I’m borderline?” Stop identifying with your disorder.

Now, to be clear, I have known many people with BPD, and none of them are terrible. Actually, most of them are lovely people and a shit ton of fun. Sure, they can get emotionally dysregulated as all hell, and their abandonment issues make dating a nightmare, but generally speaking, folks with BPD are just fucking up their own lives rather than actively fucking up anyone else’s. Y’all are your own worst enemies, and the pain you’re experiencing internally is an order of magnitude worse than any pain you might be inflicting on the people around you. That’s kinda what makes BPD different from the other cluster B personality disorders. People with narcissistic and antisocial personality disorders tend to fuck up other people’s lives, which is why I’ll take someone with BPD over a narcissist or a sociopath any day of the fucking week. (Trust me, I’ve dated all three.)

As you can well imagine, I’ve been in a serious relationship with someone with BPD. It was someone I loved very much, someone who in our best days I actually considered marrying. I say this to point out that your romantic situation isn’t hopeless. You are worth being loved as much as the next person. Having BPD will be a struggle, but it doesn’t spell certain doom. While we’re on the subject of relationships, there’s a book you should run out and get called Loving Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder. This book really will help, and not just the person you’re dating. It’s an incredibly useful book to read if you actually have BPD.

In the meantime, quit it with all this suicide shit. You’re not going to kill yourself. You’re gonna have some of those feelings from time to time, but you’re not gonna act on them. It’s good that you recognize that they’re just invasive thoughts and that you don’t actually want to die. You just want the pain to stop, and it’s okay to acknowledge that, but it isn’t okay to think that being dead is a fucking solution. It’s not.

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Advice

On another bunch of books

Your book recommendations reignited my love of reading. Thank you. Will you be posting any more recommendations soon? It is September, after all.

 

Yes, yes. I love our September booklist tradition, especially in a month when I have a book of my own hitting the shelves. Here’s the latest snapshot of what I’ve been reading lately. As always, it’s a mixed bag. There should be a little something here for everyone:

Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Girls and Sex by Peggy Orenstein

The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick

Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks

Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks

Change Your Story, Change Your Life by Carl Greer

The Red Book (Liber Novus) by Carl Jung

The Highest State of Consciousness edited by John White

The Divine Within by Aldous Huxley

Delta of Venus by Anaïs Nin

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

Dreams from Bunker Hill by John Fante

Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith

Dropping Ashes on the Buddha by Zen Master Sueng Sahn

The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz

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