Why Doesn’t My Partner Want To Work With Me?

In this week’s installment of Unf*ck Yourself: a sedentary roommate, an obsession with television, and a strong hatred for Mr. Darcy.

Scaachi Koul is a senior writer at BuzzFeed Canada, formerly the managing editor of Hazlitt. Her debut collection of essays, The Pursuit of...

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Hey, did you hear that Benedict Cumberbatch dressed up as human garbage? The Internet got real excited by another vaguely handsome white British actor pretending to be Mr. Darcy, the single worst romantic lead in the history of popular culture, with the possible exception of Matthew McConaughey in everything. (If you saw How To Lose a Guy In 10 Days, you know what I mean. That scene where they’re eating lobster and he’s smacking his buttery lips and sucking on his tan fingers, oh my god, it is grotesque.)

Mr. Darcy is a terrible character that has inexplicably been glorified by generation after generation of women. A large portion of this is probably because of the BBC adaptation where Colin Firth chin-dimpled his way through the role. And as much as I like Colin Firth (looking at him is like drinking a big glass of red wine with a Quaalude dissolving at the bottom and letting it just take you away), he is not enough to make the character anything other than a bad person. We’re talking about a condescending rich dude who mansplains to Elizabeth Bennet throughout the entirety of the book, mocks her, demeans her, then somehow sees the fault in his ways, and they get engaged. (I’ll confess that I have not read this book since junior high, but if I remember correctly, Mr. Darcy is a real turd to Elizabeth but confesses his love so they get engaged and then there’s a twist in the plot where I get bored and re-read The Giver instead.)

Imagine, just for a second, that a girlfriend of yours does this. Some guy refuses to dance with her at a party, and, a few hundred pages later, they’re engaged. There is no way you would let your friend leave your apartment without grabbing her by the shoulders and shaking her and saying, “Doth mine ears deceive me, or are you a goddamn idiot?” I mean, this is the same guy who calls Elizabeth “tolerable” but “not handsome enough to tempt me.” NO ONE ASKED YOU, FITZWILLIAM. It is not the job of all women to be cute just for you, for you and your soggy hair and high collars.

He is terrible. He is a terrible human being and I will not change my opinion on him, I don’t care how many Julian Assanges you use to entice me.

But this column is all about advice, and there are plenty of quandaries one could pull from Pride and Prejudice, a fine enough book were it not for olden time Men’s Rights Activist, Mr. Darcy. For example: should you forgive a guy who not only won’t dance with you, but also makes shitty remarks about you while you’re in earshot? Nope.

Should you trust a guy who persuades another guy to not go out with your sister, despite the fact that they both actually like each other? Nope.

Should you get engaged to this dinkus? Noooope nope nope nope.

Should you date a man with sideburns that long? NOPE. That is what we in the business call a “red flag.” He is going to throw you into his carpeted van. Do not go near that van; he is not actually moving. You will die in that van.

The point is, Mr. Darcy is the Robin Thicke of the 1800s, and Benedict Cumberbatch looks like the vacuum from The Brave Little Toaster.

Anyway.

My partner and I work in similar creative fields. We’re both equally successful, and, I think, equally talented. The other day I brought up the possibility of us collaborating, and he got immediately uncomfortable. When I pressed him about it, he said he couldn’t envision a situation in which we could work together. Like, ever.

We have a very happy relationship and get along really well, and while I wouldn’t want to work together every day, the idea of creating something together makes me really excited. My feelings are VERY hurt, and I can’t stop thinking about it. What should I do?

— Let’s Make Sweet Music Together

If you are in a wonderful relationship with someone with whom you have important things in common (including your creative field) and you are happy with the way things are going, why would you want to cock it up by trying to work together?

Good professional partners are people who know each other relatively well, but are not too close, either. For example, Deputy Editor Jordan Ginsberg and I were friends before Hazlitt, but since he is now my boss, we are friendly, and I talk about his weirdly large forearms behind his back as a way of bonding with my other coworkers. Podcast Producer Anshuman Iddamsetty and I have many mutual friends, but when we see each other at parties, we actively hide from each other and whichever one of us makes eye contact first has to buy everyone a round of drinks and then immediately leave the premises. I like these guys! I like working with them. I like them on a personal level.

But I am not and have never and do not plan to touch either of their butts.

It’s an important distinction. The more intimate a relationship gets, the more volatile a working relationship becomes. You cannot love someone or hate someone and work with them. It often turns into hurt feelings and uneven power dynamics and, “Fine, Scott, you can build this bookshelf all by yourself since you know EVERYTHING and I know NOTHING.”

All this is likely what your partner seeks to avoid.

The more intimate a relationship gets, the more volatile a working relationship becomes. You cannot love someone or hate someone and work with them.

While working together may sound like a nice way to bond with your partner, it is, in fact, a terrible idea, likely little more than something that will lead to you fighting over something that you never needed to fight over to begin with. This is not worth feeling upset over. If you are secure enough in your career to know that you do not need to create something with your partner, then you should be able to get over this real fast. I’m not saying you shouldn’t take this personally—you should—but it’s a different type of personal reaction. It’s not about your work; it’s about you. You occupy a certain role (partner), and there is no need to let that bleed over into colleague.

Now stop sulking. It makes you look old.

*

My friend/roommate is extremely unemployed. She quit her job in March (“I just don’t like it”) and hasn’t worked or made an effort to get a new job ever since. She doesn’t leave the house or do chores. My other roommates and I are getting a little worried about how she’s going to continue to pay rent or contribute to household expenses. We are also getting concerned that she is turning into a bit of a recluse. Also, she is lazy and we are annoyed (and a bit jealous about how much free time she has). How can we approach her about this without sounding like jerks?

— Housemate Stuck In a Rut

There are not a lot of people in the world who have the gall to just up and quit their job without any back-up plan merely because they don’t feel like doing it anymore. There also aren’t a lot of people who willingly barricade themselves inside their home, who do not participate in the household in which they live with other people, and are generally not interested in living their life.

Those people are generally depressed, and as a Registered Clinician from the School of Haz, I am pretty sure I can diagnose this over the Internet.

But it does sound like your friend is going through something closer to a breakdown than a normal rough patch. If she stopped helping around the house but continued to be social and have hobbies, you may be able to chalk the issue up to laziness. Alternatively, if she quit her job but continued to seek employment while also ceasing to do her dishes, she might just be careless. But everything has come at once: a general lack of interest in her ongoing existence.

Those people are generally depressed, and as a Registered Clinician from the School of Haz, I am pretty sure I can diagnose this over the Internet.

Can you think of anything that may have occurred recently that might have caused her life to shift so dramatically? Is she prone to this kind of behavior, or is it sudden? Have you talked to her at all about what may be going on privately that she may not have felt comfortable approaching you about?

Instead of coming to her from the perspective of, “We are your roommates and you need to get up and dust the candelabras, Stacy,” try it as a friend who is concerned about her emotional well being. Suggest spending some nights in together to talk and relax and eat things that are bad for you. From there, gently discuss any roommate-related issues you may be having (and try to give her a break where you can if she truly is going through some stuff). Maybe you’ll find out what the root of the problem is. or maybe you’ll realize she is, indeed, just not interesting in trying, in which case it’ll be time to find a new roommate.

*

Is it possible to be addicted to television? I can’t stop watching it. I come home from work and immediately turn on Netflix, watching it pretty much all night. It’s not even like I’m paying attention to it, I leave it on in the background while I do other things. I can’t fall asleep without it either, so it’s on all night, and I usually wake up with it still playing. When I get up in the morning, I leave it on while I get ready in the morning. I feel like watching television for 12 hours a day is turning my brain into mush. (Also, I am paying a lot of money to stream at all hours.) How can I break this bad habit?

— Glued 2 Boob Tube

Did I write this question to myself in a NyQuil haze? This sounds like me. This sounds like me after watching 45 episodes of Bridezillas.

Because, see, it was my anniversary a week or so ago, and my boyfriend bought me (us) Netflix. It was also “an indefinite gift, unless we break up, so this is an incentive for you to not break up with me,” which is the single most romantic thing I have ever been told and a prime example of something that Garbage Mr. Darcy would never think of doing.

The problem is, we share the same account. When I log on, I can see that in a week, he’s only watched maybe half of a documentary about the mortgage crisis, whereas I have watched all of BoJack Horseman and Real Husbands of Hollywood and The Office, after having already watched the entire series six or seven times over. “How do you watch this much TV?” he asks when he sees that all his recommendations include Gordon Ramsay’s craggy face.

I have the television on all the time—when I’m writing, when I’m reading, when I’m trying to get to bed, while I get ready in the morning—because I don’t like silence. If you’re keeping it on when you’re busying yourself with other things, it’s likely that you’re not used to the deafening stillness that comes without Olivia Benson’s din in the background.

“How do you watch this much TV?” he asks when he sees that all his recommendations include Gordon Ramsay’s craggy face.

So start small. Listen to podcasts while you wind down or keep music on when you’re cooking or get some comedy albums to distract you instead. Limit your television watching to a set block in the day, and on weekends, go outside and spend time with other people doing things that does not involve a screen. If you watch TV in bed, stop doing that—relegate your shows to the living room and keep the bedroom for sleeping. It is also, depressingly, super bad for you to have the TV on while sleeping: it can make you depressed, it doesn’t lead to a very good night anyway, and may or may not make you gain weight. Soon, silence will feel like a treat instead of a chore.

Not that I will be taking any of this advice. Jenna Jameson and Treach and that dick from The Bachelor are all on Couples Therapy this season so if you don’t mind me, I’m going to be pret-ty pret-ty busy for the next 10 weeks.

Unfuck Yourself appears every Wednesday. Got a problem? Send it here.

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