updates: the partner’s employer’s quarantine requirements, the boss who thinks everything is fun, and more

Here are three updates from past letter-writers.

1. My partner’s employer makes me quarantine whenever I have contact with another person

Thanks for posting my letter (and jumping into the comments section as well). It was really helpful for me to get outside perspectives on everything. It was hard but necessary to hear that I’ve got to be taking a firmer stand – with this household and with my partner.

The household is still going through a covid risk budgeting process, led by an outside mediator. I really have been trying to follow the advice to keep my distance from these discussions! But there’s a lot of enmeshment going on – this household represented friends / a close thing to family for me, once upon a time. My loss of trust in them has taken a huge toll on me.

That grief, combined with the fact that I was living somewhere with no natural light, has put me in the worst mental health place I can ever recall being in. I’m used to thinking of mental health as a “quality of life” thing e.g., when I’m not depressed, I’m more productive and life is more enjoyable. I knew no natural light wouldn’t be good; I didn’t realize it would be dangerous for me. But I was in such a dark place a few days ago – staying up all night multiple nights in a row writing arguments for why the household should adopt a particular budget – that I might have had to be hospitalized without my therapist’s intervention.

That experience – including having to reach out to my partner, a former housemate, a friend, and my own employer for support instead of handling it on my own – really brought home to me that my own network is very small and under-resourced. I’ve been so worried about the vulnerable person we were taking all these precautions to protect that it took me a long time to see how vulnerable I am myself as a person who’s also disabled. I appreciate the commenters who flagged that for me.

I’m currently staying in a sunny room at a friend’s place and getting the right amount of sleep. My partner’s taking (unpaid) time off to take care of me. I learned that someone from my activist book club is an unemployment lawyer, so she’s advising him of his options for maybe getting quarantines covered in the future. Meanwhile, the mutual aid group I volunteer for is trying to help me find medium-term housing. So, I am in the process of building a new support network and learning how to ask for help. Asking strangers on the Internet for advice was an important first step there! Again, thank you to everyone who weighed in.

An update to the update:

My partner got a new (temp) job so things are looking up!

2. My new boss says everything is “fun” — even data entry and illness

My supervisor continued to micromanage (had to be cc-ed on every email, sent me “fun” templates to use for taking my own personal notes, etc.), and continued to assign me really tedious (“fun!”) work at the expense of more interesting projects. To alleviate some of the boredom, I signed on to help organize a small, regional event that has since exploded into a national virtual conference with several thousand attendees. (We may actually be considered for a major industry award!)

While that was happening, I was offered an amazing job that I just accepted! It’s a 40% pay increase, and is much more focused on the area of work I’m interested in. Even better, I’m essentially being brought in to build processes and policies from the ground up.

I studied your guides ahead of my interviews, and have followed your cover letter/resume advice from the time I was an undergrad! I didn’t get to use any of your negotiating tips, since I was offered the max salary automatically, but I’m not complaining!

3. Should I warn job candidates about how bad my company is?

My replacement ended up being an individual who was new to the state and had zero connections here in my city. As many of your insightful readers guessed, things were much rockier at my previous company than I realized or wanted to admit. In the months since I’ve left, I learned some pretty damning things about my previous employer, including that one team member was owed a YEAR of pay before they were fired and the CEO was purposely delaying checks to lower-wage, support staff to pay leadership on time because of cash flow issues. There are many more stories here, but I’ll save that for another day.

As for the good news: although I was intending to leave my industry, I applied to a position on a whim. I would consider it a dream role within a well-established company and never one I thought I would get in a million years. But, I used all the information from your blog and your book to brush up on my CV and craft a thoughtful cover letter. I worked on my interview skills and made sure I was focused on interviewing them too (I, of course, asked the magic question). And… I got the job! Oh, and the best part of it all? The pay jump. I’m getting over 100% in increased income. I’m so excited and looking forward to the simple things… like getting paid on time and having company-provided equipment.

{ 84 comments… read them below }

    1. JM in England*

      Definitely for the one resigning in the LW’s case and not so much for the micromanaging supervisor! :-D

    2. MassMatt*

      I sincerely hope the LW announced her “fun 2-week notice”!

      Giving adults templates for how to take notes? Unless it’s a very specific area (medical diagnosis? Court depositions?) that is a crazy amount of micromanaging.

  1. EPLawyer*

    Lw #2 and LW #3 — those are some HUGE pay jumps. Especially #3. Among all the other issues, you were WOEFULLY underpaid at your previous positions.

    1. FrivYeti*

      For #3, definitely! But depending on how much higher-ranked #2’s new job is (it sounds like quite a bit) that could be reasonable, or at least not egregious. For reference, if they were working at $20/hour and are now working at $28/hour, that would be a 40% raise, and that’s not much more than what happened to me when I shifted from “team” at one place to “management” at another.

      1. OP#3*

        I was definitely underpaid at my last job, but my new job is in an industry that is notoriously high-paying!

      2. OP#2*

        It’s actually a lateral-ish move. The job I just left was supposed to give me space to do policy design and implementation (though not to as large of an extent), but that was some of the work that my supervisor was taking on despite their role being much more focused on the “bigger picture” plans.

        I actually have the same title and am on the same level in the hierarchy in my new position. I was very much underpaid, but I do fairly niche work. There’s only 3-4 open jobs in my field in my state in a good year! And 2020 was…not a good year.

  2. Snailing*

    #3 – it’s crazy how some of the toxicity hits you after the fact when you’re no longer rationalizing everything just to survive at your workplace! Delaying pay for years and particularly for lower-wage employees is pretty dang despicable. But congrats on your new job – it sounds really exciting!

  3. TiffIf*


    I learned some pretty damning things about my previous employer, including that one team member was owed a YEAR of pay before they were fired and the CEO was purposely delaying checks to lower-wage, support staff to pay leadership on time because of cash flow issues.

    I really hope these people got paid or filed claims with their state labor agencies. Not paying is straight up illegal, and, depending on the state, delaying payment might be as well.

    1. Orora*

      Yeah, not paying rank and file is pure BS. I’ve worked for start-ups and when we were having cash flow issues, the employees got paid and the leadership/owners were not.

      1. FearNot*

        I’ve heard stories of this before, and I always wonder when the reasonable bail date is. A month? Two weeks? I feel like if I don’t get paid I would have to start looking for another job immediately. How could you stick around for a year?? Is this more normal in some industries than others?

        1. Cat Tree*

          It depends, but I’d stay less than a week. I was once working as a contractor (the permatemp variety) and the contract got renewed but was taking a while to be processed. I worked Monday and Tuesday, following up with my boss each day. By Wednesday I had to insist that he get it resolved that day or I couldn’t work the next day. It was really hard for me to stand up for myself when I was young and new to the workforce, but he got it done. He was a great boss and was acting in good faith. For a bad boss or bad company, I would hesitate to even give a 3-day grace period.

          1. Ama*

            As it happens I’ve had a lot of jobs where I’ve been the person in charge of making sure contractors and part-time employees get paid and I’m surprised every time I run into a coworker who doesn’t seem to find it urgent to get someone their money, make sure they are under contract, etc.

            Back when I worked at a university, I supervised a student worker who had two jobs. One year someone in payroll messed up about a third of the student appointments when putting them into our electronic payroll system and it could only get fixed if the managers notified the payroll team if they had an incorrect setup (and then usually followed up a couple of times to make sure they fixed it). About halfway into the semester my student told me her other appointment had never been fixed (because the other manager never contacted payroll), so she’d never been paid for that job. I think it wasn’t until I was absolutely horrified and offered to email the other manager to tell her how I had gotten it fixed that the student realized it was a big deal. I think she did end up pushing the manager a little harder so I didn’t have to intervene but I was pretty upset on her behalf.

        2. Mimi*

          I wondered about that, too.

          It’s more normal to keep working without pay in Zambia — the formal employment market is so bad that even the slim chance that your job might come back is considered worth it, and jobs like “person who sweeps the sidewalk in front of the mall store” is considered a good job because you get a uniform and a regular paycheck — but I can’t imagine continuing to work without pay for multiple weeks/months, not unless I was VERY confident that the money would be coming (and even then I’d be searching, just in case).

        3. OP#3*

          For context: This person was a c-suite exec in a small-ish company, which is probably why they were willing to go without salary for so long. Maybe they thought their sacrifice would better the company?

          Now that I’ve had some time way from the situation, I wish I was able to see the red flags. Companies who don’t pay their staff on time (and aren’t deeply apologetic) don’t care about their wellbeing.

        4. AcademiaNut*

          More than one late paycheck, or any paycheck late by more than a week is a strong sign you need a new job. Either the company is unstable enough that they’re having trouble making payroll, or they’re toxically mismanaged, or they’re evil enough to deliberately withhold pay. A single, short problem could be due to legitimate hiccups in paperwork or systems, but the company had better work fast when they find out there’s a problem.

          My question, though, is if you quit because of flaky pay, are you eligible for UI? If not, then I can see the appeal of continuing to work in the hopes that you’d some pay, eventually, while job searching, rather than knowing you’ll get nothing until you find a new job (and possibly losing health benefits).

          I think small, individually owned businesses and startups are more prone to do this, and people new to the workforce are more likely to accept it.

          1. DyneinWalking*

            Uh, of course you should be eligible for UI! The basic concept of a job is “exchange of work for money”, or, in the perspective of the employer, “exchange of money for work”. If either is missing or flaky, the deal is broken and there is no obligation to hold up your end of it.

          2. Ollie*

            My husband was not paid for 3 weeks. After the third missing paycheck he told them lay me off or pay me. They laid him off. In Florida at least not getting paid automatically makes you eligible for unemployment and 3 days later he received his back pay. Funny how registering for unemployment for non payment causes the unemployment office to notify the employer that not paying people for time worked is illegal.

          3. lemon*

            Sigh. In a perfect world, you would of course be eligible for UI.

            But I’ve been in this exact situation. The owner of the company told us they couldn’t make payroll, and said that if we wanted to get paid, we’d bring in some insanely high sales figure (something like $50k in the next three days). The company had signs of poor financial management before that, so I decided to leave. I filed for UI and got it, but months later, the owner contested it, won, and I had to pay it back. Because the owner eventually *did* pay me– you know, after I already resigned.

        5. fhqwhgads*

          Payroll was once late by ONE DAY somewhere I worked, and it was due to switching processors who scheduled it incorrectly. Management made it very clear they took it VERY seriously and would not fuck with people like that on purpose or again. It wasn’t the company hiding cash flow issues; it was a genuine human error from a vendor, but they reacted like they expected almost everyone to walk over it. I really respected that. They weren’t the greatest but that reaction taught me a lot.

          1. Paulina*

            I don’t know how recent your company’s problem was, but these days with electronic payments, a lot of people synchronize their debits (loans, investment deductions, etc.) to their payday. Income comes in in the morning, payments go out at night; if the income doesn’t show up on schedule and people don’t have enough to cover, there could be a lot of overdrafts and bounced payments.

        6. Rose*

          This really amazed me too. Why in gods name would you ever work a year for no pay? At a certain point don’t you have bills to pay? I don’t mean this to blame the victim, obviously the company is awful, but I am so curious as to WHY.

          1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

            You’d be surprised, Rose. Some employers lay a super guilt trip on an employee who goes to quit. I have a niece who had been stiffed by a foreign-managed firm. She hadn’t been paid in six weeks, and landlords, etc. don’t wait.

            So we advised her (me, and she has an uncle who is an attorney).

            1) Go in there. Tell them that THIS IS IT and she wants to get paid.

            2) Inform them that you’ve already prepared an affidavit for non-payment of wages, it need only be dated and notarized, and Uncle Lawyer (not me) has it and as soon as you leave the room, you’re going to sign it and submit it. Also ensure that Uncle Lawyer has verbally called the DA’s office, so these guys don’t try to pull some funny stuff on you.

            Alternatively – FILE THE AFFIDAVIT FIRST and then go talk with them. That will preclude any chicanery on their part.

            3) Remind them that they are foreign nationals. Should the DA receive this affidavit, he may dispatch the local police and haul you before a judge. If that happens THEY WILL SEIZE YOUR PASSPORTS until you cough up the dough.

            4) If they start to lay a guilt trip on you – tell them cut the s**t and it’s too late for that now. It’s all over now, baby blue. Plan to pay up.

            She did reject her grandfather’s (God rest his soul) suggestion to ask – “Hey do you know what our jails are like here in the States?” and when they say “no” – throw a small jar of Vaseline on the desk and say “you’re gonna need THIS!” before walking away.

        7. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          I was working at an exciting techie start-up back in the Eighties, before they were even a thing ! The boss was very cagey about pay, you basically had to grab him on his way back from the loo to get paid. He was hopeless at managing finances, and would promise huge salaries he couldn’t afford. I earned more there than anywhere else since, but when the company went bankrupt, he owed me six months’ salary. Luckily in France there is a fund to pay people whose boss didn’t pay them, so I got it all in a lump sum along with my severance. My partner worked there too and had a similar backpay situation. We were able to buy a flat outright, no mortgage, with our combined back pay severance and savings accumulated at that workplace.

    2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      Here in the employee-friendly, labor-friendly Commonwealth of Massachusetts, non-payment of wages is not just unethical, illegal, private relationship with employer and employee…..


      Yes, you CAN be hauled off to the hoosegow for failure to pay wages. I saw the local police pay a call on a manager who owed a guy some money, after he filed an affidavit with the DA’s office.

      We had a case of a factory – paid their employees on time – BUT – were pocketing their share of health care benefits, not turning over charitable deductions to the charities, and there was an investigation on withholding tax fraud. Rip off their pay, to jail they take you away!

      Or as we used to refer to it = in New York, they went up the river. In Massachusetts, they went for a “ride”.

  4. Guacamole Bob*

    OP1, I’m glad that things are looking up! And that you’re learning how to find help and how to put a higher priority on your own needs.

    It sounds like a really hard and stressful situation, with a lot of blurring of professional and personal boundaries. And some people with really significant anxiety issues (understandable ones, but by the time you have outside mediators involved and you’re setting limits on the behavior of people 2-3 steps removed from you, you’re likely not being especially clear-headed). I’m glad you’re finding your footing and getting some healthy distance from it all.

    1. Calliope*

      Agreed, and I might also gently suggest that discussing how cults operate to draw people in with a therapist might be helpful. It sounds like there’s a lot of commonalities here.

    2. Camelid coordinator*

      Yes, OP#1, I am glad that things are looking up and that you are able to put some energy and thought in your needs.

    3. Generic Name*

      Yes, I too am very glad things are looking up for you! And I’m glad your partner has a new job. Based on what you wrote about the household your partner worked for needing an independent mediator to facilitate…well anything….tells me that the household is frankly a hot mess. I’m glad you have a therapist as well. I can imagine that the activist work you’ve been doing has its own share of trauma, in addition to it taking place in the midst of a pandemic. This internet stranger is sending you warm thoughts.

    4. Beth*

      Yes! I was so happy to read this update, OP1, especially the part about your partner getting a different job and you getting the support you need.

      I also want to second that it’s good that you and your partner are detangling yourselves from this group, even as I hear you on it being a difficult process. By the time you have outside mediators involved in managing your household, something has gone off the rails; that’s not a stable arrangement, long term. (And using outside mediators to try to set limits on your employees is even worse. You can already tell your employees that a certain thing is a condition of their employment, and end their employment if it isn’t met. All an outside mediator is going to do is put an extra step of removal in there—so you don’t feel like the bad guy for enforcing the power you have over them? so they don’t blame you? so the employee feels like this is ‘negotiated’ and ‘mediated’ and ‘fair’ and therefore they have to agree to it, when in fact “I can’t agree to that, so let’s talk about winding down my time here” is a perfectly reasonable response on their part? The exact motivation is unclear, but all the options I can imagine are bad.) I think getting distance from it is a good move.

    5. OP#1*

      Yeah, I do think there are situations where an outside mediator can help hold people’s feelings (e.g. “I’m anxious about covid”; “I have family trauma”), but the process won’t necessarily get at dynamics or repair relationships if people aren’t willing to go there.

      My therapist has definitely been concerned about me burning bridges (partly because I just don’t have that many bridges in general), so I think a big part of making an exit for me has been reminding myself that I’m capable of building other bridges. There’s also a ton of weight, for me, around “when there was a pandemic, how were you helping?” so it’s harder to see taking a step back from a relationship – whether it’s family, friend, or employer – as “we’re both doing what’s best for us and we’ll see each other again when our needs are more compatible” as “this bridge will still be here later, if you want it” or “this bridge has been damaged but can be repaired” or “this bridge isn’t the best mechanism for you to cross this river in your car, but you can take less heavy things across it.”

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I drove myself into a mental pit last year (complete with hospital stay) by the pandemic, worries, grief, not feeling like I was doing enough.

        All of it because I neglected myself. It’s actually okay to take bridges down if it keeps you alive and sane for now.

      2. Beth*

        An important part of helping is keeping yourself well enough to be available to help with next week’s problems. If you tear yourself to the ground offering help on this week’s problems, you’re going to hit a crashing point where you have to drop everything and take care of yourself first. I understand the sentiment of wanting to stay present and supportive in all your relationships—I’ve been there! But it’s actually more helpful, in the long run, to be reliable in offering a lower level of support than to erratically offer a higher level of support.

  5. Secretary*

    #3: I love Alison’s advice about being professionally candid. I didn’t have that at the job I’m currently in, but the person training me in my first few weeks was pretty candid with me when I asked her some specific and direct questions.

    I think she thought it would scare me off, but actually it was really refreshing knowing what I was getting myself into. In fact, because I knew ahead of time some of the more difficult to work with aspects of my boss, I was able to get ahead of it and game plan strategies for communicating with him in a way that worked better than what the last person did. I also set up systems and boundaries on things that the last person in my position didn’t have.

    This isn’t bashing the last person, but sometimes it’s easier for someone new to come in and change some things around, vs the older person asking for the same change. I’m still here 5 years later and really like it, even though when I started I could tell the last person really didn’t like it here.

  6. Loaf4Days*

    Please LW1, when you are resigning and talking about how promising this new role is, please say “I’m excited, it should be a lot of fun!” And then walk away. I beg you.

  7. ten-four*

    Good lord, delaying payment for work due to cash flow!? My folks gave me one cardinal rule: as soon as your paycheck is delayed or bounces you no longer have a job. It’s surprising how often it has come up – or maybe “enraging” is the better word there!

    1. KaciHall*

      I didn’t realize how often this happened until I was working at banks. My parents own a small business and I used to process their payroll when I was in high school – there were definitely weeks the family didn’t bring any money home, but the employees ALWAYS got paid first. It still just boggles my mind that some places keep employees working without being able to pay them.

      1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

        I think what boggles my mind just as much is that after your paycheck bounces… why would you continue to work? It’s like loaning someone money, then they ask you for more loans before they pay back the first one. I can see a few days while they sort out a bank snafu, but not much more. Definitely not a year of working and not getting paid. That’s not a job, that’s volunteering.

      2. Worldwalker*

        I wonder how many of them consider themselves good Christians? I wonder how many of them know what the Bible says about paying workers: Deuteronomy 24:15 to be exact.

      3. OP#3*


        I think the reason that the company was able to recruit and keep a lot of great talent is because they a. paid higher than average for our area b. had a very flexible work culture that catered to a lot of people. It just felt like the price we had to pay to win out on all those benefits.

        1. collette*

          Yeah, but obviously they DIDN’T pay higher than the local average, given that they occasionally didn’t pay at all.

      4. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Well one of the problems a small business faces is that if they have to write bum pay checks, or just not pay their people on payday, they might not show up for work on Monday.

        And that can KILL a small business.

    2. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

      When I was in high school a friend worked at a local daycare after school each day. She had to take her paycheck to different banks each week to cash them as they kept bouncing. (That daycare was no longer in business shortly after we graduated.) I remember telling her the first time my paycheck bounces is when i start requiring to be paid in cash or I stop working.

      1. Random person commenting on Askamanager*

        I use to work for a daycare. The owner LOST the paychecks one day. Her office was a mess so I’m not surprised. We still got paid that day, just in cash. And she found the checks the next day.

        1. TardyTardis*

          At one office, I was paid with what looked like a personal check from the boss (very small office, me and his daughter). When I asked to see an actual check stub with tax info etc., I was laid off (but he kept his daughter). I was pleasantly surprised to find out later that he actually did pay Social Security et al, but it wasn’t the way to bet.

  8. HistoryGeek*

    I’m glad you are making the changes you need to but I’d like to suggest one more thing. I too have a disability and I too have been in complete quarantine. My health was suffering but I had been attributing my EXTREME fatigue and muscle weakness to my main underlying medical condition.
    My doctor suggested that we test my Vitamin D levels. I’m not much for alternative medicine or weird vitamin cocktails but I did my research and she was correct that it’s a very, very common vitamin deficiency and with people quarantining, it’s gotten worse.
    So I got tested and my numbers were…very, very low. Very. My doc put me on a daily ‘mega dose’ of D3 and suggested it would take about 6-8 weeks for me to feel a difference.
    Six weeks in I could feel the fog lifting. Eight weeks in the difference was substantial and my blood test showed me as being in low-normal levels and I just continue to feel better.
    So, I am not a doctor, but if you haven’t been getting any natural sunlight for months Vitamin D could be a contributing factor. Testing for it and treating it are really cheap, it’s something you might think about. I never would’ve figured it out on my own.
    But I am so, so glad you are making changes and getting ‘unstuck’.

    1. Becky*

      Similar happened to me! I had a visit with my doctor about two months ago and I mentioned the extreme fatigue and he tested me for vitamin D as well. A person is considered “deficient” if vitamin D is less than 30 ng/ml and I was at less than half that. I’m not on as heavy a dose as you are but since I was put on it more than a month ago I am starting to see some easing of my fatigue symptoms. I am due to go back to my doctor to get my Vitamin D levels rechecked in another couple of weeks.

      So LW#1– It is possible the things that are happening and the way you are feeling are being compounded by other factors such as a Vitamin D deficiency. That isn’t to say other factors don’t need to be addressed, which it sounds like you are doing! I’m so glad you’re finding your way on these things.

      I also have a thyroid problem, which, if not managed, can also lead to fatigue. I also have a problem absorbing Vitamin B12 which, if not supplemented by B12 shots I get every 3 weeks, can also lead to fatigue. Bodies are complex machines and different things can sometimes lead to similar symptoms or compound each other so the symptom doesn’t resolve until multiple underlying issues are addressed.

      1. 2 Cents*

        I had a vitamin D level so low that the endocrinologist asked me if I ever left my house (this was years ago, pre-Covid). He thought I was a hermit.

      2. Anon for this*

        I had a family member who had a similar experience recently but where the diagnosis was very low iron, and I recently went to the doctor with a weird constellation of low-grade symptoms that I thought might be caused mental health, lack of exercise, and pandemic fatigue but turned out to be Lyme disease. Never hurts to get screened by a doc if you’re feeling off.

    2. Wants Green Things*

      I recommend screening for B12 levels as well! Most people are deficient and there’s a lot of studies recently showing the impact that consistent low B12 levels has on the brain.

      Vitamin screenings used to be very common but once even that had to go through insurance things fell apart. It’s anazing (read: infuriating) how many mental health issues are compounded by vitamin deficiency.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, and this is especially important if you’re vegetarian or vegan, because B12 is the only vitamin that isn’t available from vegetable sources.

      2. Lyudie*

        I was going to mention this as well. Several years ago I found out I had D3, B12, and iron deficiencies and supplements have alleviated a lot of the fatigue I felt. If OP#1 is a woman, I definitely recommend checking iron as well as many women have low iron levels. Vitron-C is an excellent iron supplement that’s easier on your stomach than many iron supplements and the vitamin C in it helps you absorb the iron.

    3. OP#1*

      I appreciate the suggestions! For me the biggest problem with lack of sunlight has been circadian rhythm things, but I’ve definitely had low vitamin D levels in the past, and I don’t eat a ton of meat or dairy so that’s worth looking into, too – at the very beginning of the pandemic I did start taking vitamins more but definitely didn’t keep it up. I’m actually supposed to get bloodwork every 3-6 months for a different health conditions and had been putting it off because I didn’t want to quarantine after the doctor’s visit! It’s good to have more access to addressing other health issues now instead of covid prevention being the only health priority.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Wait what you put off YOUR OWN HEALTHCARE because of your partner’s employer’s quarantibe rules? Please tell me that’s not true.

        If it is these folks were not your friends no matter how much you felt that were. Real friends — and functional employers — do not insist you compromise your own health to satisfy their requirements.

        1. allathian*

          Seconding this so hard. I’m really glad you’re in a better place now, OP. Take care of yourself.

      2. Alicia*

        If it’s due to circadian rhythm things, you might want to check out Retimer glasses. They are kinda pricy, but they have been the one thing that actually fixed my delayed sleep cycle and got my sleep on normal hours :)

      3. Artemesia*

        I have friends who bought those light fixture that are designed for communities in places that go months without much sun — it really helped them. They have the sun light on at the breakfast table and then again at dinner.

      4. virago*

        “I’m actually supposed to get blood work every 3-6 months for a different health condition and had been putting it off because I didn’t want to quarantine after the doctor’s visit!”

        This underscores to me that this was not a healthy situation for you.

        For example, 13 years ago I was diagnosed with a chronic condition and prescribed medication that required twice-yearly blood draws to ensure that my liver was up to the task of processing the medication.

        So yes, my blood draws were routine care, but if I had forgone them and developed liver troubles, I could have become quite seriously ill. (Fortunately, my specialist switched me to a medication that is equally effective but has fewer side effects.)

        Anyway, I’m glad that your partner has a new temp job and that you are in a more salutary living situation now (I struggle with depression and I know how draining a low-light setting can be). Now is the time to work with your therapist on recognizing that you yourself have needs — such as for quarterly to twice-a-year blood work — that are non-negotiable and that matter just as much as anyone else’s.

        Take care. I’ll be thinking of you.

    4. TardyTardis*

      It’s not just mental illness. I used to hack up a lung every January to March; then I started taking D3 in fairly large amounts and now I get a few colds each year, but nothing like I used to have. My doctor said, ‘you’re taking HOW much? Let’s do a test.’ When it came back, she just ‘er, carry on…’

  9. bluephone*

    Okay, so the household in Letter 1’s update is a cult, right? Like, an honest to goodness cult? That is the only explanation I can think of for why/how this situation has gotten to this point and why/how LW1 still isn’t fully away from it :-(

    1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      I believe by “household” she meant the private residence where her partner is employed as a caregiver of a disabled person, not one where she, herself, lives. She was required to quarantine from her partner whenever she went out so that he would not risk infecting the household where he worked — it does get confusing because it sounds like the lines between employer and employee were getting very blurry. I imagine this is a common enough problem with in-home caregivers — they are an employee, but privy and sometimes included in the intimate details of a family life; the employer starts treating them Like Family, until they try to act like family, and then they are put in their place as employees. The OP — partner of the employee — should not have been involved in their household discussions at all.

      1. Calliope*

        Mmm, no, there were additional details in the original comments that unfortunately do make it sound like that it at least shares some worrisome commonalities with cults.

        1. NotJane*

          Ohhhh, that explains it. I was so confused by, “The household is still going through a covid risk budgeting process, led by an outside mediator,” that I was certain I must have missed something between the OP and this update. Going to check the comments, brb.

    2. RagingADHD*

      I thought it was family. OP said in the original comments that their partner came from a more privileged background, and the “employer” is paying for part time work, a housing allowance, sick leave, feeding both OP and partner, etc.

      Sounds like a family caregiving situation plus an allowance. With a weak pretense at making it into a job, sort of ladled on top.

      1. Cordelia*

        It has to be family. OP’s partner didn’t have to interview, the employers are randomly giving them money sometimes, everybody is all enmeshed in each other. If it isn’t family it’s at least a lot closer to that than a typical employer/employee relationship. Discussing this one as a workplace problem really doesn’t make sense.

  10. Kes*

    LW1 – I’m so glad to hear you are working to take care of yourself and get the support you need. The saying about not lighting yourself on fire to keep others warm seems very appropriate here. It’s evident that you care deeply but it’s really important to prioritize your own health. I hope that you and your partner can set yourselves up in a better and healthier position for you.

    LW2 – Such a great (fun) update! It’s great that you were able to take initiative and find an opportunity to get away from your boss’s fun, and it looks like your work there really paid off

    LW 3 – Wow, what a trainwreck (your old company). I have to think that doubling your salary often means you were underpaid before, but I’m glad you were able to get out of there

  11. confused*

    Update #1 is so confusing. What budget? OP has a connection with the family their partner works for? None of this was in the original letter?

    1. TheFrenchImpaler*

      You definitely have to read the comments — there’s a whole lot more to the story than is in the original letter.

      1. OP#1*

        “Budget” in this case has to do with “what kinds of risk we’re comfortable with people taking, for how many minutes each week, with how many other people, under what kinds of conditions, etc”, not financial budget! Basically: how to allocate the resource of “we all want to see people and go into buildings” among a group when people aren’t comfortable with the idea of everyone taking significant risks all at once. So, if my partner wants to see me, he would have to budget for it.

        1. Little My*

          Oh, god. I hope your partner is leaving that job completely and you two can live together in a sunny place, because I’m familiar with organizing using DJ principles but “budgeting” your time with your partner through their employer when one of you is vaccinated is absolutely not it.

        2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          Less of a worry, in my opinion: some of my friends have been using “risk budget” as shorthand for the idea that COVID exposures are sort of additive, and that different people have different levels of risk tolerance. The main point, for me, was the reminder that two bus trips, or going into the drugstore twice, are in fact riskier than one bus trip or one trip to the drugstore.

          So, “I took the bus to go to the hospital and get my hand X-rayed” is not an argument for “I might as well take the bus to my favorite bookstore, which is letting people in to browse a few at a time.” It’s very easy to instead think “I did this first thing, so I might as well do other things that are no riskier.”

          The problem in OP and their partner’s case, I think, was partly the size of the group: the more people are involved, the harder it is to be, and feel, fair.

          1. EchoGirl*

            The other problem, if I’m reading the comments correctly, is that they were expecting OP and Partner to bear an oversized share of the burden, i.e. saying Partner had to strictly quarantine from OP because someone in the house (not the client) was unvaccinated and “didn’t want to quarantine”.

  12. Jaybeetee*

    Took a break and now I’m back!

    LW1, I saw your last letter, and I’m so glad things are improving for you! (I’m late commenting here, not sure you’ll see this.)

    I empathize with multiple points of your situation. I’m also ND, and I’ve definitely been in “friends who aren’t treating me that well are better than *no* friends” situations. I also empathize with your SO’s anxieties about leaving the job, as I had employment troubles in the past and I get digging your nails into even an awful situation because looking for something else seems terrifying or impossible. And I have people in my life who frankly, if they catch covid, they’ll likely die from it.

    One thing I didn’t specifically spot going through the letter and comments, is I wonder if this family was expecting/hoping for you to drop the protest activities? It sounds like they frankly were unreasonable about other things, but that part in particular sounded like, “Well if you’re going to insist, we can’t actually stop you, but we do have the ability to introduce a bunch of parameters and tension points that will hopefully convince you it’s Just Not Worth It.” They probably assumed you’d quit the protests over scaling your own balcony and barricading yourself in your room 23.5 hours a day.

    But anyway, regardless of the family’s intentions, they were way overstepping and it sounds like there were just blurry lines all over the place. That’s a common pitfall of working with close friends or family.

    It sounds like things are more in hand now, but I wonder if you’re still open to hearing a couple small bits of advice?

    1) I know this got particularly messy because of your own relationships with all these individuals, but (as Alison actually often advises here), you gotta let your SO handle their own interactions with their employers. Discuss and help behind the scenes, sure, but it sounded like in this case you got really… involved in these conversations, when they should have been professional conversations between the family and your SO.

    2) A hard-earned lesson I had to learn too – it’s okay to have limits. It’s okay to be a brick wall sometimes. And your limit *shouldn’t* be “I literally, physically cannot do anymore.” You and SO got really focused on helping this family and accidentally neglected yourselves and it sounds like you’re learning from it. It takes practice and courage to say, “I just can’t do that”, but it will improve your quality of life so much. If you had just… point-blank refused, early on, what would have happened? If you had said, “Sticking to these rules means either SO and I live apart – which we can’t afford to do – or I become completely homebound, including postponing medical care.” What would have happened? (I’ve gotten far enough with this that if I’m in a situation where I’m stressing out about setting or maintaining boundaries, I know something’s wrong. I don’t struggle around reasonable people.)

    Anyway, sorry this got so long, and I hope I make sense – it’s late here! I’m glad things have calmed down and I’m glad you and your SO are doing better. As for this family, it’s okay to *not* burn the bridge – but perhaps barricading that bridge for awhile might be best for everyone. Hopefully life gets easier for all of us in a few months.

  13. Niii-i*

    LW:1, I’m sorry, but to me this sounds like an abusive relationship, between your partner and you, as well. I hope I’m wrong.

    In any case, put yourself first, above alla, ask for help when you need it, and take care.

    1. MsSolo*

      Not sure there’s enough information provided to say that, but I do think LW needs to make sure the employer’s bad boundaries haven’t bled into the relationship. There’s a lot of entangled stuff going on here, and the LW needs to be prepared for some pushback if they start setting reasonable boundaries in the relationship, especially if they appear to be firmer than those they previously set with people outside the relationship. You’re allowed to change your mind about what’s reasonable for you, you’re allowed to take what you’ve learned about yourself this year and say “I need this, and if you can’t provide it at the moment then we need to talk about whether it’s a matter of making sacrifices or a matter of parting ways”, and “but you climbed in and out the balcony to assuage my employer’s anxiety, why aren’t you doing even more than that for me” isn’t the right answer.

      I’m also not thrilled by LW’s therapist. I’m really glad LW has come to the realisation that she can build new bridges, and I don’t like that the therapist was concerned with burning the problematic ones. Maybe it’s a matter of communication, and maybe LW didn’t lay everything out to their therapist like she gradually did here, so the therapist isn’t getting a clear picture (in which case it may still be an argument for a new therapist, one who does draw the whole story out) but “my partner’s employer is using my emotional connection to them to rules-lawyer me into isolation every time I buy food by insisting it’s just the same as them and their friends meeting up at each other’s houses” should not have got that reaction from the therapist.

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