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Hi there Doc, 

I’m a 21 year old male, I go to college, go to work, just your normal everyday man. I need help understanding why this girl isn’t interested in me anymore.

It all started at my buddy’s house, let’s call him Alpha. Alpha and I were discussing how my dating life is going. I told him not so good, I’m looking for someone to be with. Out of nowhere he texts this girl, Chi, he knows and puts in a good word about me. She and I graduated from high-school together, but I never really gave her much thought. Turns out that she lives right behind me, so I figured “Why not, let’s give it a shot, I might have a diamond in the rough here.”

When she responded to Alpha, she said she thought I was very good looking, which was enough for me to decide contact her. I text her and we hit it off, everything’s great. We text for a couple of days and eventually I asked her out to dinner. She said yes. We went to dinner and had one hell of a good time, the chemistry seemed to work perfectly. At the end the night, we go back to my house and where we’re cuddling in bed, making out, watching movies and drinking wine through the late night. Eventually I dropped her off at her place. We both had a great time and we’re already making future plans to see each other again.

We continue texting each other morning till night for the next couple of days. We’re flirting and sharing and deep thoughts about one another via text and how good that date was. Eventually we hung out again at her house – two days ago, in fact. I show up at her house, we go up in her room, I help her with some homework and we just watch some romantic comedies on Netflix. During all of this, it feels like we have the same amount of energy and connection as we did on the first date. I meet her parents, had a great conversation, they seemed to like me. At the end of the night, I said my goodbyes and went home.

The next morning we started texting like usual, when all the sudden out of nowhere she sends me this: “I don’t want to waste your time and I think you’re such a great person, you did nothing wrong, but I’m not in the right mindset to talk to someone rn. I’m going thru a lot of stuff w myself and I don’t think I am ready for any sort of relationship. I would love to stay friends with you because I think you are such an amazing person. I am seriously so so sorry you did absolutely nothing wrong”. Immediately I start to freak out as I have become extremely emotionally invested in this girl. I’ve never had chemistry like this with anyone before. Yeah, we have only been talking for less than a week mind you but this is the first time I have been with a girl in 3 years. I have not received any sort of attention or affection from any women, so I guess you could say I was all over that like a fly on shit, I’m a sap for that stuff.

My main problem here is that everything seemed to be going picture perfect, just like out of a movie, when out of nowhere, Chi sends me that text that she isn’t interested and I’m just left here to pick up the pieces. What the hell, this always happens, I start talking to a girl we hit it off great talk about how much we like each other and at the end I always end up my fucking heart played with pardon my French. All I want at this point in time is someone I can call my own, something to come home to. Who knows maybe my mindset does not represent my current age.

I’m hoping maybe you could shed a different perspective on this.

It’s Not Her, It’s Me

Alright, a couple of things, my dude.

First of all: I am sympathetic to the fact that this is the first serious date you’ve had in a few years. I get it. It feels like you’ve been dying of thirst in the desert and suddenly you found an oasis. But, dude. For real. You’ve been on a grand total of two dates. You’ve known her for a week. The level of despair you’re expressing here is seriously out of line with the nature and depth of the relationship. Getting “hey, thanks but no thanks” after two dates is annoying, yeah. Frustrating, for sure. It may even make you grind your teeth and wonder what the hell happened. But freaking out and declaring that your heart’s been shattered into a thousand pieces?

No. Just… no, dude.

Now I can’t tell you just what happened. I wasn’t there to silently observe your date like The Watcher, nor can I read her mind to tell you just what happened  and why she suddenly seems to have gone cold on you. But based on your letter and a lifetime of experience, I’ve got a theory or two.

First of all, it’s entirely possible that it’s exactly like she said. She likes you, she really dug the chemistry you two had and had a lot of fun on your dates… but she knows herself well enough to know that she’s not in a place where she could really date someone. She can’t offer you the kind of relationship that you want and it would be unfair for her to let you live in hope of something that could never be. As such, she needs to be cruel to be kind – inflicting the necessary pain of letting you down now to spare you the lingering and deeper pain of having to reject you in the future. You know… at a time when it’d be more reasonable to be emotionally invested in her.

The other theory is that, well… you’re not the most objective participant in this. Sure, you had a first date that went gang-busters. But the second date… it may have felt amazing to you, but it wasn’t as magical for her. It could just as easily be that yeah she thinks you’re a good guy and she had a great date with you, but that second date may have confirmed for her that she’s just not feeling it.

And it’s certainly possible that, frankly, she could tell that you were way the hell more into her than is reasonable and that set off her Spidey-sense. That is going to wig people out, even if they like you. One of the keys for being somebody worth dating is that you have to have good emotional intelligence. That means, among other things, that you don’t decide that you’re in love after one or two dates. Yeah, I get that it can feel intoxicating, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve had a good date… but you need to have enough presence of mind to recognize that this is just an emotional high, not a sign from the cosmos.

And honestly this seems like it’s a pattern for you. If this “always happens” and you always get your heart shattered after one or two dates, then it’s likely that you need to seriously slow your roll when it comes to meeting people. I get that you want a serious relationship, but running full-tilt-boogie into every date like it’s your last is a great way to spook folks.

Now I’m not saying that you need to try to force yourself to not feel. That never works; all that happens is you bottle things up and the pressure builds until it explodes. What you need to do is to stop letting these emotions control you. Feel them, sure… but remind yourself that these feelings are ephemeral and the intensity is only in contrast to how lonely you’ve been feeling. Take some deep breaths, get re-centered and start to recognize the difference between excitement and a love to last the ages. The more you start to get a handle on your emotions and your expectations, the easier it’ll be for you to keep your head when you do meet someone who wants the same things you do.

It’s not a guarantee that you won’t hear “it’s not you, it’s me.” But it does mean that it won’t destroy you every time – or scare off potential partners – like it does now.

Good luck.

Hi Doc,

I’ve been married for a little over a year, together for almost two years. My spouse and I both have a history of abuse and sexual assault. Our sex life is complicated, and consent is HUGE for us.

I got pregnant only a month or so into our marriage, and when I started to show, my husband’s libido took a nosedive. He said it was just too weird knowing there was a baby in my stomach. That wasn’t a big deal at first.

Now it’s nine months later. Our baby is five months old and sleeping through the night. I’m back to my pre-pregnancy dress size. My husband and I have only had sex five times in those nine months, and I’m lonely!

This isn’t an issue I’ve ever had before, because my libido is very very low. We used to have sex once every two or three weeks, and that was fine. Now we hardly even kiss.

This isn’t something I can fix with masturbation, because it’s not about orgasms. I don’t actually enjoy those. It’s the bonding sensation of sex that I miss, but I worry that if I bring this up to my husband, he’s going to feel pressured into sex. I don’t want him to feel as if he has to do anything he doesn’t want. What can I do?

Sexless in Seattle

We live in a fairly sex-negative culture, SiS. We’re taught that sex is holy and sacred but also that sex is a contest of wills. That men want sex and women don’t and that these two desires are in conflict. That men who don’t want sex are weird and women who do are damaged and broken. And part of the way that this screws with people’s heads is that some guys get weird about pregnancy and becoming parents. Lousy sex-ed means that they don’t understand how vaginas and uteruses work and they think that they’re going to bump into the fetus with their dicks. Conflicting messages about who they’re supposed to bang and who they’re supposed to marry creates weird dichotomies between the “good” ones who they’re supposed to marry and the “bad” ones they can have wild and crazy sex with but would never settle down with. And if they’re in the room and see the baby being born, then they might have a minor freak out. Suddenly this part of you that until now has been about sex and intimacy and pleasure just pushed out a kid and their world view has changed. Now they can’t reconcile the image of the baby being born with the image of the sex they’ve been having and it shorts out their libido.

Even good, progressive dudes run into this problem. They see their partners as sexual beings, partners-in-crime who have crazy, swinging-from-the-chandeliers adventures… until they marry or have kids. Now that they’re parents, they see their partners as “the mother of my children”, ignoring that she’s the exact same person she was before. Marriage and parenthood becomes the death of sexual adventure because “dude, she’s a mom“.

I suspect that’s what’s going on here, SiS. I think your husband is having a hard time reconciling the idea of you as a sexual being with the idea of you being a mother. And while he may snap out of this on his own, the truth is that right now, you’re feeling a distinct loss of intimacy and connection, even if sex isn’t involved.

Now, I understand why you’re hesitant to bring this up to him. It’s admirable that you don’t want him to feel pressured into doing something he may not want to do, especially considering that you both have a history as victims of abuse. But at the same time, you have a right to advocate for your needs. And your husband may not realize that you have those needs if you don’t tell him.

So I think what you need to do is pull him aside for an Awkward Conversation. Carve out time to actually talk this out – time that you reserve specifically for this conversation. Start by explaining why you’ve been hesitant to bring this up: you don’t want him to feel pressured and why.  Then explain that you are feeling disconnected from him and missing that sense of intimacy and connection. Next, lay out just what you think would make things better – more casual contact, more cuddling, more kissing and physical togetherness even if sex isn’t involved. Let him know why you think things will be better if you do this. And then… give him his turn. Let him share his thoughts about what’s going on and how he’s feeling.

And after you’ve talked things out… consider having some non-sexual cuddle-time, where the two of you just lay there and snuggle with no expectations of more. Having some time to just physically reconnect without the potential pressure of sex may help reaffirm those bonds. And the simple act of being physical with one another may also help him remember that you’re a sexual being too… and reignite some of those fires while the two of you are at it.

Good luck.

The post Ask Dr. NerdLove: Why Do People Say “It’s Not You, It’s Me?” appeared first on Paging Dr. NerdLove.

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Dear Dr. NerdLove,

It starts about a year ago:
I’m snagging some dice for a new campaign at this out of town game and comic shop one afternoon. Another customer catches my eye, ‘cause he’s just wow: working man’s gear, dirty blonde hair with serious scruff and he’s a big boy – solid with some cuddly poundage. Think Tyler Labine in Dale and Tucker vs. Evil.

He leaves, I finish up, and he’s still outside the store due to a winter sleet storm. I offer a lift and he gladly accepts. We start talking – both came from small towns, do creative writing, and dork out over Kirk coming to the civic center. He thanks me and we part ways.

Fast forward to now: After a few rocky years and much marriage counseling my wife and I call it off in December. (She was cool with my bisexuality as we both took our vows very seriously.) We still attend counseling as we’ll always be co-parents and are amicably parting.

Now I’m starting to explore the male online world and most are married guys who want secret meat on the side or dudes looking for an anonymous pump n’ dump. Neither are worth my health or self respect.

So here’s the crux: Is it cool to pop back to that store on Magic night to see if that Golden Apple of Aphrodite still hangs there – maybe grab a burger and a beer and talk geek afterwards? Or missing him, drop note with a sci-fi short story and ask him to e-mail me one of his?

Haven’t dated in years, and don’t know his preferences, but I not only liked the blind box packaging, I liked what was inside too!

~ Gaga for Geeky Grizzly

Y’know, GGG, I get a variation of this question on a regular basis. In its own way, it’s almost a universal problem: people see somebody who’s absolutely amazing but, for whatever reason, they never say a word. Now they’re left with a serious longing for what might have been and wondering what they can do to get a second chance at meeting that special someone.

And to be honest, the answer is usually “nothing”. Now to be sure: this isn’t what a lot of people want to hear. We all like to think that if there’s a person who by all accounts should be perfect for us that God, the Doctor or the universe will go out of their way to bring us together again, some way, some how. But the truth is that one of the keys to dating success is timing… and that’s often completely out of our hands. Starting a relationship with somebody is all about the intersection of three things: the right person, the right place and the right time. If those three don’t synch up, then even people would would otherwise be a scorching couple will fail to connect. It’s nobody’s fault, just a cruel twist of fate… but all the more frustrating for it. Sometimes you’ll meet the right person in the right place… but the time will simply be wrong. You may not be in a place in your life where you can act on your interest. They may not be in a place where they’re available or open to a relationship. Or there simply may not be time to make things happen – have that brief moment, faster than the single beat of a hummingbird’s heart – and then they’re gone.

And that sucks. That leaves us with an open loop, like a bit of music that gets stuck in our head, echoing over and over, unable to finish because we never heard more than the hook.

But part of what complicates these missed moments is that often we assign too much importance to them. Because that moment of contact was so brief, we never had a chance to get to know them and so we’re left with our fantasy version of them. And fantasy can never disappoint you or prove to be wrong for you in all the ways you know someone can be. You can assign any amount of virtue and value to them because they’re just a frozen moment in time, never subject to the various sins and disappointments that mortal flesh is heir to.

This isn’t necessarily bad. Having that momentary crush, that flash of infatuation is a great feeling. But it’s when we let the fantasy of the person overtake the reality of our lives that we start to get into trouble. When we invest too much into our fantasy of them, we tend to get a little too… enthusiastic… about trying to bring that fantasy to life. We pursue it with too much vehemence and too much eagerness because we feel like it’s our Big Chance. But because people are flesh and blood and not an ephemeral fantasy… well, our exuberance tends to freak them the fuck out. With good reason.

(I mean, imagine being the poor soul who suddenly realizes that she’s the subject of a James Blunt song…)

That’s where you are right now, GGG. You met this guy who was pretty cool… but you knew him for the span of a car ride and from over a year ago. This geeky Tyler Labine-look-a-like may be the cuddly Yellow Lion of your dreams, but you don’t know the person behind the fantasy. You’ve built him into a monument to all the possibilities that you weren’t able to explore back in the day. Holding on to a dream that you built from one encounter is building hopes on a foundation of sand… especially if you suddenly show up out of nowhere and say “hey, we met once a year ago, hit me up.” Doubly so if you leave a message for him.

If you absolutely feel the need to close this particular loop, then yeah, you can take a night to go see if he still goes to Magic night. I don’t think it’s necessarily the best option, but stopping in once isn’t going to be the end of the world. But honestly? I think the better option would to take this encounter with him as inspiration. You have a much better idea of what you want now and – importantly – you know not to let the moment pass you by when it presents itself. Dating may feel weird and strange after having been away from it for so long, but the fundamentals haven’t changed. You still need the right person in the right place, at the right time. Now that you’re in a place to explore this side of your sexuality, the best thing you can do is make sure that you’re in a place where you can take full advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.

Good luck.

Hey Doc,
I’m 21f and he’s 22m. We met online and clicked almost immediately and spoke everyday for at least 8 months. We’d wake up and talk to each other, text each other while we were working our summer jobs, text each other about the little things we were doing during the day. We both found each other to be attractive and would flirt and had a lot of stuff in common. I casually mentioned that I could see us dating since we got along so well, but he is Christian (he seems to be more so on the liberal side tbh) and would like someone he dates to share his faith which I understood. I’m not religious. We continued to talk as usual, and then about two months ago he mentions he reconnected with this girl online that he met a few years back (same site that we met on) who he started to like. They started talking again at around the same time we connected, with maybe a one month span of time between. I had no idea until he sprung it up on me. If I had known I would have fallen back as to not get too emotionally involved. And then they made it official.
It sucked because I started to develop feelings for him but I put those feelings aside and congratulated him. It brought up a lot of bad feelings on my end which I’m ashamed of, but I kept them to myself and kept my cool. After that, I took a social media break of about one month due to a depressive episode I was having and to sort through the feelings for him I had. In the back of my mind I had a feeling this would happen but it happened so suddenly that I felt like I didn’t have much time to prepare and cope. 
We recently reconnected and I feel sad because it feels different. It feels weird to not talk to him everyday. For us to both be online and for me to respond to his posts but for him to not respond to mine when he did in the past. For us not to text each other as soon as we wake up, and talk all day about anything until we went to sleep. To not refer to each other as nicknames we have each other (and I admit this point might be over analyzing haha). To laugh at stupid memes and flirt and joke…I miss it. I know that it’s an adjustment I have to make but it does suck, I’m not gonna lie. I talk to guys here and there but it’s been a while since I felt excited at the thought of being with someone. Even if I couldn’t be with him romantically (and he absolutely does not have to return any feelings I have) it felt good to have someone to talk to al day that I click with on many levels. 
I guess my main thing is this: Sometimes I wonder if I was just there to fill avoid until he found someone to actually be with. Like he got some emotional fulfillment from us talking everyday without any sort of commitment involved. It really hurts to think about. But on the more positive side, I hope he spoke to me all the time because he genuinely enjoyed doing so. Its like I feel used in a way, but don’t have any reason to because there were no promises made. And the kicker is that I asked him if the flirting meant anything and he said there were no romantic feelings on his end, we were just friends who flirted…and I felt salty. And I feel ashamed for feeling that way. I try to remind myself that as long as I interacted with him in a genuine way I have nothing to be ashamed of but it still feels bad.
So I don’t know. What do you think? Friends who just flirted and probably spoke to each other too much and too often throughout the day? Just someone there to fulfill his emotional needs until someone else came along? Or something in between? I feel like I’m overreacting somehow. Especially considering the fact that no promises were made and I never met him in real life. I just feel left behind and abandoned in some weird way.
Sincerely,
Replacement Goldfish
Honestly, RG, I think you’re making more of this than there is. There are certainly folks out there – men and women both – who will flirt and string people along because they like the attention and emotional intimacy. They get a slight thrill from the imbalance of the relationship, knowing that they put in minimum effort to keep the other person on the line. They get all the rewards of a relationship – the emotional intimacy, the connection, the feeling of being desired – without any investment of their own. There’s none of that pesky commitment or having to maintain things. All they have to do is give just enough attention to keep hope alive until they find a better option.
But I don’t think that’s what happened here.
There are two key clues here as to what actually went down. The first is that he had been talking with this other woman for approximately the same amount of time that he was talking to you. If it’d been the case that she breezed back into his life as suddenly as she’d left it and he’d always had a thing for her… yeah, I could see him using you as a placeholder for the one he REALLY wanted. But that didn’t happen. It was an organic process that lead to his deciding to make things serious with her.
The other key is that he gave you a soft “no” early on. While there are definitely Christians who believe firmly in the whole “unequally yoked” bullshit from 2 Corinthians, the way he presented this sounds less like a “I can only date within my faith” and more of a “oh, if only things were different, then perhaps but as such, I must live with the regret.” This is a way of softening the rejection and putting the blame on Jesus instead of telling you “you’re cool and we’re great friends but I just don’t like you that way.”
So while I think he enjoyed your friendship, I don’t think he was keeping you around to pass the time until Ms. Right came along.
And while it’s a shame that the friendship has faded… well, there’re lots of reasons for that. One may be that he feels that having such a flirty friendship is inappropriate now that he’s in a committed relationship. Another may be that this relationship just faded, as many do. Not every friendship lasts forever or maintains the same level of intensity. Some flare bright at first, then burn low.
I don’t think you were being used. You had a flirty friendship. Now that friendship is less intense and less flirty. You were more invested in this than he was and, honestly, more than is reasonable considering that you two hadn’t met in person or had any expectation of a relationship. It’s a shame that things have changed, sure… but that’s how things go sometimes.
The best thing I think you can do is either adjust your view of this relationship and accept it for what it is. And if you can’t, if it’s too painful for you? Then the best thing to do is let it go.
Good luck.

Hi Doc!

I saw on your recent Buzzfeed roundtable that you would love updates from letter-writers, and I figured I’d send mine in.

Several months after I sent my letter about the rules of being the “other woman”, MIC and I had our date. It was nice, we met for dinner and then, because I can’t drive, he offered to take me home. I told him that I wanted to continue our night, but that I wasn’t ready for sex. He was very respectful of that and we enjoyed ourselves for a while, and though I knew I didn’t want a relationship with this guy, we had a really fun night.

A few months after that, he asked me on another date. I informed him beforehand that I although I enjoyed our time together, I’m not interested in being part of an open relationship. Once again, he was very kind and respectful, and I ended up meeting him and his girlfriend for a casual lunch when he was in town.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed myself, made a new friend, and, I think more importantly, stepped outside of my comfort zone, the latter of which (and I guess the other two by extension), I could never have done without your advice, not only in response to my letter, but everything else you’re written as well. Thank you for giving me the confidence and instilling in me the love of open communication with others.

Thanks again!

Third Person Singular

Well that’s awesome! Glad to hear that everything worked out well for you, TPS! Thanks for writing in and letting me know how things went.

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Hello Dr. NerdLove,

I’m a big fan of your writings and your youtube videos and am immensely glad that there’s a guy giving good dating advice that doesn’t spring from that weird toxic pickup artist bs. You’re doing a great service to men of the world. Anyway, onto my question.

I’m a 24 year old man who’s a virgin (long story short: late bloomer due to issues with anxiety and depression). I’ve made great strides in recent years, in no small part thanks to the therapist I had seen for about 2 years, ending in December of last year. I have lots of friends, diverse interests, and having finally started living on my own starting in the summer of last year. I’ve begun dating as well, mainly through dating apps though I’m trying to get out into the bar scene and other meatspace opportunities to meet potential dates. Though it can sometimes be hard to find a friend willing to head out with me (just another joy of being an adult I guess).

Anyway, while I don’t have trouble finding dates (I’m not great at it, but still learning) I do find myself being somewhat stymied by my sexual frustration at times. I have a very high sex drive (often having ‘me time’ at least once or twice a day), and whenever I get on Tinder or Bumble and start swiping my mind immediately goes to thoughts of potentially having sex with them. Same thing when I see a cute thing at a bar: my mind can pretty quickly go from “Oh she’s cute” to “I really want to see her with her top off” pretty damn quick. I obviously don’t want to approach them with that thought bouncing around in my brain because I’m worried about coming on too strong thanks to my desire, and because I’m genuinely interested in a relationship without jumping into bed with someone right away. Even when I can keep that frustration in check, when I start talking to someone I’m interested in that lust can pop up pretty damn quick, which I feel in turn makes me act like I have more invested in this person than I actually do, which in turn can make me come on to strong and seem desperate.

How can I deal with my sexual frustration? How can I make sure to keep my desire in check and not come on too strong with dates or potential dates? Is this really a problem, or am I just letting my dating anxiety get the best of me and making excuses not to talk to these people?

Sincerely,
Revved Up With No Place To Go

Not that I’m not sympathetic, RVWNPTG but you’re kind of making a mountain out of an erection here.

The problem you have isn’t the problem you think you have. I mean yes, you’re hornier than a three-peckered billy-goat, but let’s be real here: it’s not like all the blood is being pulled from your brain and now you’re just a mindless beast. It’s not like you’re finding yourself raging out of control, helpless before the power of your own lust. You’re just having really horny thoughts and worrying that it’s leaking out into everything you’re doing.

And while yeah, I think it’s safe to assume that folks are twigging to the fact that you’d like to get laid, I don’t think this is any different from all the other straight guy out on the scene. Those thoughts you’re having? They’re normal, my dude. It’s not like these are so intrusive that you can’t function or leaving you so horned up that you’re having to excuse yourself to the men’s room six, seven, eight times per day. You’re just seeing people you find attractive and having a perfectly normal and expected reaction to that attraction.

But is it affecting you? Well, you might not be making the best decisions possible, but horny people have long made poor choices when it seemed like sex was on the table (and the couch and the floor). I mean, the less said about some of the decisions I made when I was younger when I thought there was a vague chance of getting laid, the better. Let’s just say that I can relate to some of those boner-jam road trip movies on a deep and personal level and leave it at that.

Now I could understand being worried about a Paradise By The Dashboard Light situation where you make promises without thinking or pursuing someone you aren’t actually interested in just because you think it might lead to your getting some. But honestly, it doesn’t sound like you’re being boorish, crude or making people uncomfortable. I’m pretty sure that if you’d had some experiences where you blew it or actively drove someone off, then that’s something you would’ve brought up in your letter. Instead, it sounds more like you’re worried that you might be coming across this way. And hey, fair do’s. Being conscious of how you’re coming across to people is an important part of developing your social calibration and cultivating your emotional IQ.

But there’s being conscious, and then there’s letting your jerk-brain run away with you. It sounds to me like your bigger problem are the what-if and fantasy scenarios that are causing you anxiety, rather than anything you’ve actively done. It’s like you said: this is just good old-fashioned approach anxiety piping up and giving you reasons to not talk to people. So my advice to you is the same advice I give to anyone struggling with approach anxiety: don’t give yourself time to be afraid. Give yourself three seconds, then go talk to them. Are you afraid? Ok… go do it anyway. You’ve got nothing to prove and even less to lose. All you’re doing is starting a conversation and seeing where things go.

And if you’re really worried that your terminal horniness is going to get in the way? Then just rub one out before you go out.

Good luck.

Hey Doc,
I had a conversation recently that had been weighing on my mind a bit. For background, I’m a 29 year old male, overweight and a virgin.
So, I had been out with a friend for their birthday with a bunch of people I only kind of know and, since I can’t drink for medical reasons, I was the DD that night. I ended up taking 4 different people home and the last one was a woman who was pretty sloshed. Because her place was pretty far away from the last one, we were talking while I drove. Things were alright until the subject of sex came up. It was a little odd when she was talking about herself and some of the things she had done, but I can handle that. Then she started asking about me.
I figured “I’m a virgin” would stop that cold, but since it was, in her words, “incredibly obvious,” she started asking about other things. Stuff like kinks, what kind of porn I might watch and stuff like that. Then she asks the worst question she possibly could. “How big are you?” After trying to deflect for a bit I eventually gave in and told her that it’s about 4 inches. It took her a few seconds to realize that I didn’t mean a soft 4. At first she thought I was joking but after a few seconds she stopped laughing and realized I was serious.
Maybe if she was sober she would have just stopped there, but being drunk made her a bit of a rambler. To paraphrase, she basically said that with my stomach area being a large as it is and me being so small down there, the likelihood of anything really satisfying happening, for either me or anyone I was with, would be about zero. After a few minutes of this I finally get her home and we part ways. She apologized for being embarrassing and awkward, but I told her not to worry about it. After all, everything she had said was true and if I’m bothered by the truth, then I the one that’s in the wrong, not her.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking about this off and on for a bit and was wondering if it was possible to be unable to have sex at all due to these compounding size issues. I tried to do a little research on the matter, but there isn’t a whole lot out there regarding my specific issue that I could find. Most thinks I could find dealt with other physical issues, like heart conditions, high blood pressure and similar things. I was wondering if you had any advice or sources that might give me more information.
Small Soldier
Your “friend” is an asshole, SS, and she’s full of shit besides.
First of all: fat people have sex. Fat men, fat women and enbies have sex all the time. Big butts, big bellies, thunder thighs… none of these are keeping folks from getting busy. The idea that your gut is going to get in the way like some sort of demented rocking horse is the stuff of really offensive comedies, not reality. And honestly, even if it were the case that your stomach made it impossible for you to achieve penetration in, say, missionary, well you could always lay on your back and let some lucky lady ride you like a pony.
(And that’s just talking about penetration. There’s still all kinds of sex to be had that’s not PiV, my dude.)Second of all: this woman has no idea what she was talking about. Your dick may be on the smaller side of the bell-curve, but not by much. The average penis size is around 5.5 inches, erect. Meanwhile, the average vagina is approximately 3.7 inches in depth, expanding slightly during arousal. So you’re not exactly going to be having problems filling things out. It’s also worth noting that just as penises come in various sizes and widths, so too do vaginas; there are women who are smaller than average and women who are larger than average too. There are plenty of women out there for whom you’d be a perfect fit.

That is, of course, assuming you’re measuring it correctly. Most men don’t. If you’re going to measure things then you need to measure from the top, starting at the tip and then pressing the ruler back until you hit the pubic bone, not just where your stomach starts.

But as cliche as it is to say, penis size matters mostly to men, not to women. First, as a general rule, girth is more important than length for the psychological satisfaction of a feeling of fullness that some women prefer. More importantly though is that 85% of women are satsified with their partner’s penis size, which runs the gamut from the field mouse to the elephant. This isn’t surprising because penis size doesn’t do a nearly as much for actual pleasure as guys tend to think. The vast majority of women don’t climax from penetration alone; most women require direct stimulation to the clitoral glans in order to orgasm, which penetrative sex doesn’t accomplish. So even if you made Ron Jeremy look like he was packing a gerkin by comparison, you’re not actually hitting the love button the way most women require.
And to be perfectly blunt: dudes with horse cocks tend to be lousy lovers. Most of them tend to assume that since they showed up with a giant dong, the job was done and all they do is just pound away like a monotonous fleshy jackhammer. That’s a lousy way to make women feel good, even if she’s a size-queen.
You know what does make a good lover though? Someone who gets that there’s more to sex than “tab a into slot b, repeat”. Almost all women will get off with a combination of oral and manual stimulation and deep kissing… even if your junk never comes near hers. So no matter how big your junk is (or isn’t), your tongue and hands will be more than big enough to give her the oompf that she’s craving. And if she wants that feeling of being stuffed full? Well, that’s when you start getting comfortable with incorporating toys into sex. Don’t let the fact that you’re using a vibrator or a dildo throw you off. The toy isn’t doing the job any more than the hammer is building the house; it’s the hand that wields it that’s bringing her over the falls.
And if what she’s looking for is to feel you filling her up? Well, not only are there things like strap-ons for folks with penises, but there’re also penile sheaths for folks who want to fuck like an over-endowed pornstar on occasion. Plus, there’re positions that’ll help get deeper penetration, especially downward-facing rear-entry or going side-saddle.

So, in short: you’re worrying over nothing, SS.  Now, if you want a little (purely psychological) reassurance, you could work on losing some weight; the fat pad between the penis and the pubic bone can cause things to look shorter than it actually is, so losing weight will make you seem bigger. But honestly, tongues, hands, a can-do attitude and a willingness to take some direction are going to make you a far better lover than having a wang so big it makes you pass out every time you get hard.

Plus, one often overlooked benefit of being slightly smaller than average?

It makes oral sex way easier for women.

Good luck.

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Who REALLY Has The Power In Dating? | Paging Dr. NerdLove - YouTube

The power dynamics of dating directly affect your dating success. But who REALLY holds the power when it comes to dating? Why do so many people get the power dynamic of dating wrong and what’s the REAL power when it comes to love, sex and romance?

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Hi Dr Nerdlove!

I’m an older-than-I-want-to-say woman. There’s a guy at my job who is the same age. We’ve been flirting for probably about a year now. I always took it as ‘play’ flirting, although he would occasionally mention that I hadn’t given him my number, his weekend could have been better (wink, wink), etc. I was reluctant because I wasn’t sure I was into him. Plus, I worried that we might end up hating each other if we tried to connect on a different level (hey, it happens sometimes).

About a month and a half ago, my feelings began to change. He has been really affectionate; always coming in for hugs and giving me sweet pecks on the face and neck. I thought he was really sweet and attentive. So I decided to give him my number. But, it was after I told him why I had been reluctant (didn’t want us to hate each other), and mentioning that I’m not really a phone person.

Well, he didn’t call me. I chalked it up to probably having scared him off, and didn’t take it personally. I privately teased him a little about being scared off, and things were basically the same. (For the record, to my knowledge, there’s maybe only one other person who knows about he and I). About two weeks later, he approached me and said he would call me. I was excited; I was off that weekend and hoped we could maybe spend a little time beginning to get to know each other better.

Well, he didn’t call me. I was a little pissed. I felt like he was trying to make a fool of me; just wanting to see how far I would take it. While I didn’t cease communication, I was distant. It was evident I wasn’t pleased. But he remained the same. He continued to reach out to me. Eventually I let it go and things went back to the way they’d always been.

In fact, things seemed to get even better. I should mention that I had never asked/confronted him about not calling me. I didn’t want things to be awkward at work for either of us, and I didn’t want it to seem like I was running behind him.

So the flirting seemed to intensify, and I finally felt comfortable enough to ask him why he never called. He said he’d lost my number. He then proceeded to give me his number. He seemed sincere and I was thrilled. Again, it was my weekend off and I had the same hopes as before.

That was Friday. I called him Saturday afternoon. I immediately sensed a shift. While I don’t think he was physically with someone based on some things he said, it was immediately evident that he wasn’t thrilled to hear from me. We talked about 15 minutes, he ended the conversation, and he didn’t indicate any interest in continuing phone contact. I was hurt and embarrassed. I decided that I was done. I don’t know if he has someone, just isn’t interested in me, or a little of both. Either way, it’s clear he’s not interested. It sucks, but that’s life.

The problem is he continues with the same degree of flirting. Initially I didn’t think I had an issue with this, but I find myself becoming increasingly depressed (this isn’t the only reason for this, but it’s in the top three). I have tried distancing myself from him, which isn’t too difficult at my job, but he seeks me out. He definitely notices that I am distant and goes out of his way to reach out. I believe my issue is that twice I have given him the benefit of the doubt, continued to play along, and both times been disappointed, rejected, and hurt. I’m reluctant to play along again. I feel like the joke is on me but I’m not in on it. He dangles a carrot in front of me and when I reach for it, he snatches it away.

I honestly don’t know what is up with him. I’m afraid to ask for fear of seeming desperate and of getting my feelings hurt. And frankly, it doesn’t matter. He’s obviously not into me. My question is: what do you think is going on with him, and how should I navigate this minefield at work? I don’t want things to be awkward and uncomfortable. But I also don’t want my heartstrings tugged and trampled every day.

Maybe Yes Maybe No

There’s a aphorism that was coined by Robert Heinlein: Hanlon’s Razor. According to Hanlon’s Razor, you should never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. I don’t think your work flirt buddy is trying to string you along or is deliberately playing with your emotions. I think what’s far more likely is that he has no idea that you’re as invested in this as you actually are.

Something that a lot of people often don’t realize is that some people are just flirty. Just as some people enjoy making bad puns and others relate everything to sports, some people default to flirty behavior. It’s just an aspect of their personality, something they do because hey, it’s fun to flirt. The problem is that not everybody flirts for sport. Some people don’t appreciate being flirted with and some don’t appreciate people who flirt without intent. This misalignment can result in irritation and hurt feelings, especially if the flirter doesn’t recognize when someone else is taking it seriously.

(Although, pecks on the cheek and neck are just… well, hope he has better social calibration than he seems, because otherwise that’s a “yikes” from me, bro.)

Now that having been said, it’s also possible that there’s misalignment in other areas cropping up. The first is that you handed him your number and then told him that you’re not really a phone person. While I can’t speak for your coworker, to me, that would seem like some mixed signals. From the way you phrased it here, I think he might be forgiven for hearing “here’s my number, never use it.”

It’s also possible that he’s not comfortable talking on the phone. While it’s more common in millenials and younger generations, a lot of folks hate talking on the phone with the heat of a thousand suns. For them, texting is the way they prefer to communicate; someone calling on the phone feels awkward and makes them anxious. So you might have had better luck sending him a flirty text.

You might also have taken the initiative earlier than you did and made the first move yourself instead of waiting by the phone for him to call. While you may have had the same results – an uncomfortable and awkward conversation that went nowhere – at least you would’ve realized that this isn’t what you want or need.

Regardless, this series of near-misses, miscommunications or just plain incompatibility has lead to a point where you’re actively confused and upset. That’s why the thing you should do is what you should’ve done a while ago: use your words with this guy. While I understand your worry about appearing desperate, I think you’re well within your rights to say “Dude, what the fuck?” Trying to get some clarity isn’t desperate, it’s the first step in establishing some much-needed boundaries. If he’s a flirts-for-fun guy and you’re not a flirts-for-fun kind of lady, then the best thing you can do is say “I appreciate the flirting but if you don’t mean it, I don’t want it.”  If he does mean it and he’s having his own debate of “wait, is she interested or not”, then now he’ll know where you stand. Then the two of you can try to hash out whether you want to give things another shot while everybody’s on the same page.

Pulling him aside and having a much-needed convo about just what’s going on, how it’s making you feel and how you would prefer to interact from now on will do you a world of good. It may not get you any meaningful answers, but at least you’ll have cleared up any lingering confusion.

Good luck.

Hi Doc,

I’ve been in the scene for a little over a year now after taking an entire quarter+ of my life off of dating. I’m 26 and coming around to the idea that I’m not a bad looking guy and that I have a certain charm. Anyway, there’s a girl. She’s a little younger and a lot more experienced. The problem: I live in Kentucky and she only lives here part time. After an amazing few dates, she left town for her other part time home on the west coast. She’s been there a week and a half now and won’t be back for three more weeks, and then she’ll be here for about four weeks, then off to the beaches again.
I told her I liked her and she said she liked me too. It’s casual because she does not live here and doesn’t know if she’ll even live in the US in six months. I knew that going in. But what I can’t take is the lack of communication. She doesn’t ever text me first and when I text her she replies like six hours later at best and it’s usually only a few words. I don’t even know if I should be texting her at all and that drives me nuts too. She said she would let me know when she’s back in town and ready to hang out, and that makes me wonder if I should even ask her out when she’s back. If she doesn’t ask me out I know I will have to – I’m not going to ghost myself – but I guess my question is, how can I make sure she’s still interested without putting her off? Last time I said I thought she was awesome over text she gave me a “haha” and the memory haunts me. 
Relatedly, is it healthy to convince yourself that nothing is wrong and you’re just being anxious? I haven’t been able to do that but I’ve been trying. I’ve failed because I think too logically and I know that I cant be sure that nothing is wrong even if I know that at one point she liked me.
From,
Dumb Idiot?
Alright, there’re a few problems here DI, and the first is that you’re seriously overinvested. Now I get it: you haven’t had much dating experience and you’ve hit it off with this awesome woman who thinks you’re a fair bit of alright too. It’s totally understandable that you’re a little twitterpated and all caught up in the thrill and novelty of it all. But the truth is that you’re giving this relationship far more importance and significance than it really deserves. You know, intellectually, that this is a relationship with an uncertain future at best and that you’re going to see each other sporadically, if at all.
Those are all signs that this isn’t the relationship to be putting as many emotional investments in. But that’s what you’re doing, which is exactly why you’re in the emotional state you’re in.
Right now, you’re putting far too much thought into the meaning of everything, especially for what is ultimately a fairly casual relationship, particularly a long-distance casual relationship. I strongly suspect that as much as you see this as casual, this is more casual for her than it is for you. You’ve invested more than she has and you’re expecting more in return than I think she has to offer. And I think you may know this at some level; that’s part of why you’re so caught up with reading the tea-leaves and trying to divine meaning from silence and the length of her replies. The conflict between what you’re hoping for and what you’re feeling is triggering your anxiety.

Part of why we all get so hung up on the “OH GOD WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN” is because of the ambiguity of the situation. You want one result but you feel like the other is happening and the tension between the two – that sense of uncertainty – is incredibly uncomfortable. You don’t want to be right, but you’re afraid you are and you’re trying to find proof you’re wrong.  That’s why little things like an innocuous response to your text is keeping you up at night: you’re trying to make this fit between your hopes and fears.

Unfortunately, the answer to this is to collapse this particular dating quantum waveform and accept that she’s not into you the way that you’re into her. Yeah, I realize this is the opposite of what you’re hoping for. But here’s the thing: this will actually ease your anxiety. Having an answer, period, will settle you down. Yes, even when it’s not the answer you’re hoping for. The certainty will feel far better to you than constantly being on edge, trying to figure out where this is going and what you’re doing wrong.

Now this doesn’t mean that she doesn’t like you or won’t want to see you when she’s in town. It just means that she’s not looking for something that’s going to continue beyond when the two of you are in physical proximity to one another.  If she’s in town, she’ll want to see you, but texting and staying in regular touch doesn’t seem to be what she’s looking for. If you want this to have a chance of working, then you need to adjust your expectations accordingly.
I think it may help to think of this as akin to a summer romance: glorious and exciting but temporary… but all the sweeter for its brevity. Don’t take it as a sign that you’re undesirable or unwanted, but as proof that there are people who dig you and what you have to offer. Take the thrill, the experience and the confidence you gain from this short term relationship and let that help power and motivate you as you look for something closer what you want in the long term… and possibly closer to home.
Good luck.

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Hey Doc!
I use social media a lot, which has made me a lot of friends. Our social circles always begin to intermingle and before you know it I have friends all over the world. I got into contact with one girl this way who’s gorgeous and into a lot of the same things I am, and naturally I developed a bit of a crush. The problem is, though, that she lives in another country. Remarkably, I managed to wake myself up to the idea that developing feelings for someone I’ll never see in-person and only communicate with through tweets was a terrible idea that could only end badly, and so I put those feelings aside, we stayed online pals, and everything was all good.
Then at the end of last year I was on holidays and posting updates and photos from my trip. She posted a few replies to those that were a bit flirty, but I’m the worst at misinterpreting friendliness for flirting and so I just posted some jokey replies and didn’t think much of it. But then as we’re talking she suggests that my next trip could be to visit her town. It turns out she’s actually not too far away from a friend I was planning on meeting up with this year, so I tell her it’s a possibility and we’re both excited by the idea.
A short while later she shows up in my DMs and we get talking a bit more normally than just tweeting jokes and short comments between us and our shared friends. She starts sounding flirty again and I respond a bit reservedly because I’m afraid of just seeing what I want to see in her messages. But then, and I have no idea how we actually got onto the topic, but we start talking about dating and relationships and she mentions that she would totally date me. I respond saying I would happily date her as well, and next thing I know she’s given me her number so we can properly chat with each other. Now, I’m pretty confident that that’s a sign of some kind of interest.
Fast forward to now, a little over a month later. I’m going to be making a trip in a few months to visit her and my other friend I was intending to meet up with, and I sent her some souvenirs from my trip which she loved. She and I have been talking regularly and have gotten a lot closer, but the conversations haven’t gotten as flirty as they did to start with – on my end it’s because I rarely have much success in the dating department and now that I seem to be onto a good thing I’m terrified of coming on too strong and scaring her off. On her end it could be the same thing, or she could have changed her mind, or I’ve misread some playful flirting for something more. I’m really confused how to work out where I stand with her, and what to do if I’m standing where I want to be. If she were local I’d just bite the bullet and ask her out, and if she turns me down then no big deal; I’ve been through that before and stayed friends with those girls. But with the distance being what it is I’m not sure what my next move should be, and whether I should be making it before, during or after the upcoming trip. Then if we do hit things off, what’s the best way to approach a long distance relationship to avoid it being the fiery disaster I’m worried it could be. I’m willing to put in the work, but first I want to figure out if there’s actually something to put work into. Do you have any advice?
Thanks so much!
Hopeless International Romantic

What you need to do right now, HIC, is slow your roll. A lot. You have jumped a good six moves ahead of where you actually are. This isn’t just putting the cart before the horse, there is no cart to put in front of the horse.  Right now, what you have is some flirty talk in the DMs and vague plans to meet up while you’re on vacation. These do not an impending relationship make.

Straight talk here, HIC: you’re making a mistake that a lot of folks make when they don’t have much in the way of social or dating experience. You’re assuming that emotional chemistry is exactly the same as physical chemistry. The fact that you two spark when you trade DMs back and forth like a modern day Abelard and Heloise tells you that you two are on the same wavelength, but there’s a physical component to attraction that can’t be denied or circumvented. The truth is that no matter how enlightened we may claim to be as individuals, but you may love someone for their mind but you want them for their ass.

What works between two people in text doesn’t necessarily translate when the two of you are face to face. Humans as a species are designed for face to face communication. There are reams of information that we convey in the tone of voice, in our body language and even in scent and touch that just can’t be conveyed by text. Even regular Skype sessions can’t quite convey the physical side of things when you’re in person with one another. No amount of FaceTime can equal the gut reaction you have when you smell, touch or even kiss someone for the first time. You could well find yourself in the position of meeting up in person and realizing that you’re not quite so warm for her form as you thought, or vice versa. Or you might find that you’re kind of into her, but not so much as you expected to be. Now you’re in the awkward position of asking yourself whether you try to move forward despite being kinda “…enh” about her or choosing to be friends instead.

And that’s before we even address the question of whether she’s still into you. Right now you’re tying yourself into knots trying to figure out whether or not she’s still into you and it’s draining the excitement from your upcoming trip. You’ve built up this idea that this trip is going to be the start of a grand romance; if that doesn’t happen, then that’s going to taint what might otherwise be an awesome trip.

You can already see this playing out with the way you’re interacting with your crush. When you were just in the moment and just talking with her like anyone else, you were doing so  much better.  Now that you feel like there’re consequences, you’re tensing up and second and third-guessing every single thing you say. It’s draining all the fun playfulness the two of you had going on when there were no stakes.

One of the best things you can do – in dating in general and on this trip in particular – is be outcome independent. If you’re focused on getting with this one particular person OR ELSE, you’re going to psych yourself out. You’re going to invest this one person with terrible significance and subject yourself to any amount of anxiety as you try to read the tea leaves and tell whether or not she’s into you. But if you remain outcome independent and focused on just enjoying yourself, you remain calm and relaxed. You don’t scrutinize everything you say and she does because hey, if it doesn’t work out, then it doesn’t work out. The only important question is whether you’re having fun.

So it should be with this upcoming trip and any potential relationship with your crush. Focus on just enjoying the trip and the possibility of meeting an Internet friend in person. Everything beyond that is gravy. Do that and you’ll be in a much better position to handle whatever it is that comes your way.

Good luck.

Hi Doc,

I’m a 23F looking to start seriously dating again after being single ~half a year. But I don’t know how (or when!) to tell any future boyfriends that one of my closest friends is my ex. We broke up on good terms after 3.5 years, when we finished undergrad. He lives on the other side of the world now.

He and I transitioned pretty easily back to being the great friends we were pre-relationship. We text a good amount and call about twice a month, I’m in his skype d&d campaign, my mom messages him sometimes. We have clear boundaries in that we established early on where our line of platonic-ness is and how to not go over it and make things uncomfortable (like not teasing, even though we tease other friends, in case it comes across as flirting). Everything’s been totally fine–we even give each other relationship advice.

Even though this feels normal to me, especially because my best friends have historically been guys, I don’t know how to handle the “ex” part of my friend situation with future relationships. I can’t just not talk about him–it would feel weirdly sneaky, and I have too many stories that involve him. But when do I bring it up, and how? Knowing us, our friends thought it was a given that we would pop right back into being friends after we broke up. But I feel like to a new date it would seem weird.

Thanks,
Permanently Platonic

There’s really not much to explain, PP. “How’d you guys meet?” “We dated for a while, it didn’t work out, we realized we were better off as friends”. Boom, done. It might be more complicated (but not much) if the two of you were living together or had an incredibly close platonic relationship where you were constant physical presences in each other’s lives that might seem romantic to an outsider. But he’s your best friend, you talk regularly and you’re in the same D&D campaign. None of that’s going to so much as twitch an eyebrow for anyone who’s cool.

Now somebody who’s insecure may have issues with this. But they’d likely have problems with the fact you have “too many” (read: any) male friends, never mind that your BFF is a guy you used to date. So if somebody freaks out over the fact that your best friend is your ex – as opposed to realizing that being on good terms with your ex is a good thing – then that’s as strong a sign that they’re not right for you as you’re likely to find.

Good luck.

Hi.

I have a problem. I really like this junior in my high school (I’m a sophomore). I share two classes with him. We’ve talked a lot over Discord and message each other every once in a while and talk in school, but I don’t know what to do. I’ve had the feeling he likes me too, but of course there’s no way for me to know whether or not that’s true.

That’s where the problem lies: I’m at a standstill. I want to be around him and talk to him more but I don’t know for sure whether he likes me back and wants to do that too or not. I really like him and would like to start a serious relationship but I don’t know what to do or where I’m standing here. I feel like he hovers around me sometimes and wants to talk, but we both don’t know what to say or maybe he’s shy. And he also holds eye contact longer than usual and sometimes starts conversations with me. But then at times I’ll feel like he’s avoiding me or trying to stay away or maybe I’m coming off as rude.

Should I wait for him? Should I say something? Am I overthinking things? My point is, I want to keep moving forward but I don’t know what to do anymore and then I start thinking he doesn’t like me which throws me into a mild state of depression and it’s at the point where something needs to change. Do you have any advice? I’m just confusing and depressing myself further the longer this goes on.

Thanks so much,
A Confused Person

There’s a very easy way to find out if he likes you or not: use your words. Quit hemming and hawwing and waiting for signs, muscle up and just ask him out on a date. He’s either going to say “yes” or he’ll give you the Let’s Just Be Friends speech. Either way, you’ll get your answer and know for sure instead of always wondering “maybe but what about”. And if it’s the case that he’s just not into you that way… well, it’s a shame but now you’re free to find someone else who digs what you have to offer, instead of getting stuck in a constant loop of insecurity and uncertainty.

And as an aside: it’s a good idea to get in the habit of being proactive about your interest instead of sitting around waiting and trying to read the tea leaves. The more time you spend trying to gauge someone’s interest – which, let’s be real, is mostly about trying to avoid rejection – the harder it gets to actually make a move. You spend so long building up the importance of the question that you end up paralyzed, on the chance that he may reject you. Learn to get comfortable with taking the risk. It means that yes, you’ll get rejected (like everyone does), but it also means you’ll quickly learn that rejection doesn’t hurt more than you allow it to.

Good luck.

The post Ask Dr. NerdLove: Can This Long Distance Relationship Work? appeared first on Paging Dr. NerdLove.

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Dr NerdLove,

I need help on how best to navigate the period between when I meet someone I am interested in dating and when we actually decide to date exclusively.

Here’s my situation. I’m a guy, and about a month ago I met a guy (T) that lives in a different city that is a 4-hour drive away. We met while we were both on vacation in a beach resort and we hit it off immediately. He is a good quality guy that seems awesome for me except for one item – I am not 100% sexually attracted to him… I’m at about 60%. He is a great kisser (a huge sexual factor for me), and the over-all connection is there so I’m still trying to figure out if the level of sexual attraction is a deal breaker or not.

Since meeting T, I have driven twice to his city and we have spent 4-5 amazing days together on each trip. We’ve had a great time together each time. When we are apart, we text each other daily. He is planning to spend next weekend with me in my city.

A few days after I met T, but before my first trip to his city, I met another guy (M). M lives in the same city I do, plays the same sport (which is how we met), and on a scale of 1 to 10 in sexual attraction, M is a 12!

Initially, I thought M was just going to be a short-term sexual fling. There is a big age gap between us, so I didn’t have any expectations for it being anything other than a one or two-time sexual thing. However, to my surprise, we’ve been seeing each other almost every day, having meals together, going to the movies, museums… pretty much – dating. We seem more compatible than I initially expected.

Neither guy knows that I am dating two people. Hell, it’s possible they are also dating other people. Right? However, my conscience is starting to pressure me to make a decision. Yet I am not quite ready to choose one person to date exclusively… My brain right now chooses T, while my junk chooses M.

My question to you is – what is the best ethical way to navigate this initial period? This is the first time I’ve dated two people at the same time. Do I continue the “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule? Explicitly telling them I’m dating other people seems like a sure way to shoot my own foot and lose both.

Thanks for your help!

Exploring before choosing

Not going to lie, EBC, my knee-jerk response would be to say “nobody says you have to be exclusive.” And while I’m only half-serious, an ethically non-monogamous relationship is an option for folks these days. But it’s not for everyone, nor is that an answer that’s especially helpful for you in this circumstance.

The problem is that you’re in a weird gray area when it comes to dating – one that tends to come up because we as a culture don’t like talking about dating – especially with the people we’re dating. There’s an almost palpable fear that a person’s attraction to us is as fragile and ephemeral as a soap bubble and as timid as a deer. There’s a sense that if you try to bring up the topic – or even acknowledge its presence – too early and you’ll cause the whole thing to disappear with a sudden pop. As a result, we get people who want to surf this quantum state of ambiguity where they’re both dating and not, both exclusive and not at the same time. As long as nobody brings up the topic, then it’s anything goes.

But this is also how people end up getting hurt. When nobody says anything, you end up with the very good chance that you and and the other person are on entirely different pages. I’ve seen plenty of folks who’ve been hurt and upset because they found out that the person they’d been on a handful of dates with was also seeing other people, even though nobody had said a single word about their being an item. Hell, look at your situation. You see yourself as being non-exclusive, especially this early into the relationship. But T or M (or both) may have an expectation of exclusivity. If either (or both) of them find out that they’re not your one and only, then you run the risk of hurt feelings and the end of a burgeoning relationship.

The problem though, is that someone having these expectations (assuming they do) isn’t fair to you if they’re being imposed unilaterally or without your consent. It’s unreasonable for someone to insist that you’re bound by someone’s expectations that you didn’t know exist or that you didn’t agree to in the first place. This is why I’m a believer that if you haven’t had the Defining The Relationship talk – or at the very least, a discussion about exclusivity, you should both work under the assumption that you aren’t exclusive. Relationships can’t work if everyone involved isn’t on the same page, and that includes how everyone feels about issues like exclusivity and monogamy. There are too many times when couples (and triads and poly pods and…) run headlong into conflict because they never actually sat down and discussed just what the rules of their relationship actually were. As a result, something that one party thought was perfectly above board ends up hurting someone else, who had an entirely different understanding.

This doesn’t mean that one person may not want exclusivity, may not hope for exclusivity, may not be hurt if they find out you’re dating other people.

Now, I know a lot of people will say that for them, their potential partner dating others would be a definite deal-breaker. This is fine… but this is something that they need to be up front about. If it’s going to be important to someone, it’s far better to state it up front and weed out the folks who aren’t suitable for them. Trying to surf the ambiguity of the situation in order to not have to talk about it isn’t any more productive and causes unnecessary pain. Doubly so if they’re going to get upset at you for not living up to an arrangement you didn’t agree to. This is why I’m a believer in that if you have needs, especially needs from someone you’re only just starting to get to know, you need to state those up front and early.

You (general you) have to be willing to take responsibility and ask for the information you’re going to want adn/or need.

My belief is that exclusivity and monogamy should be opt-in, especially in the early days of dating, when you’re still trying to determine whether this is a relationship worth pursuing. But in general, it’s much easier to say “I want this to be about just us” than it is to say “yeah, we’ve been exclusive but now I want to see other people as well as you.”

With that out of the way, let’s talk about your situation, EBC. And the truth is that it’s really goddamn early in both of these relationships. You’ve only known T for a month and you’ve only been on a handful of dates. You’ve known M for less time and while you may be seeing each other on the regular… a month is still really goddamn early. Even with a month of near-constant dates and fucking, you barely know somebody. You’re both still very much in that initial “on my best behavior” stage, where you’re still presenting this carefully polished and curated version of one another.  There’s still a lot that runs on a “need to know” and “ready to know” basis and frankly if it doesn’t directly affect them, then I’m of the opinion that they don’t need to know. This includes the fact that you’re seeing other people, especially if you’re not serious about either of them.

However if they ask, then yes, you need to tell them. No trying to hem and haw or parse their words so that they didn’t ask specifically enough. If you can tell that they’re asking if you’re seeing other people, then you tell them, openly and honestly. Similarly, if your conscience is really bugging you about this, then it may make you feel better to talk to them and say “Hey, I know we never talked about exclusivity and I don’t know how you feel about things but I want to let you know that I’m seeing other folks.”

Until then, though? I think not saying anything at this stage is fine.

Good luck.

Hey Doc,

I have started seeing a guy that I like a lot. We seem to have great sexual chemistry as well as good intellectual discussions and a lot in common.

However, he doesn’t seem that aligned with my interests. I love personal development – going to seminars, listening to podcasts, reading books, hiring life coaches – all of the above. When I started talking about it he told me it reminded him of a date he went on where all the girl could talk about what how she wrote to Jesus in her spare time.

I was pretty offended at this point, and sort of shut down. The date was awkward after that point. What would have been a better way to handle this?

I really like this guy and I’m SICK of online dating, and he seems like a good option to become serious with. But, what do I do if he shames me for my love of personal development?

Sincerely,
Dating is Hard

I’m not gonna lie, DIH: that sounds like you’re putting a lot of time and effort into personal development. I mean, if you’re regularly going to seminars and hiring life coaches, that sounds like it’s something that takes up a significant amount of time for you. Which, don’t get me wrong, that’s cool. You do you. But to someone who isn’t as interested as you are, this may seem a little intense and overwhelming.

So I think my question would be: when you were talking about this with him, how did you roll it out? Was it a case of “these are a couple of the things I’m into,” or was it a lengthy explanation of what you’re doing, how, why and the results you’ve had all in one go?

One of the effects of being really passionate about something is that you really want to talk about the things you’re passionate about. The problem is that sometimes there’s so much to it that you love that it’s hard to explain it to someone who isn’t already familiar with the topic. You can see this all the time when somebody who loves, say, Star Wars or comics or anime or a particular game series tries to explain it to somebody who’s not into it themselves. This can sometimes lead to… less of a discussion and more of a lecture series, often with sub-lectures that branch off from the main topic. This can be a combination of overwhelming, mystifying and intimidating all at once.

(Here’s a fun exercise: ask a diehard fan to explain the story of Kingdom Hearts… in less than 30 minutes).

So it’s possible that he may not have been your personal development so much as the amount and delivery. Or he may have just heard all of this as your being into something he considers to be a lot of woo-woo and made a comparison that you (reasonably) found insulting.

It’s one thing for couples not to share every interest; in fact it’s quite healthy for the relationship if everyone has their own life and interests outside of being a couple. But even if they don’t share your interests, they have to at least respect them… or that you have them. If he isn’t into your thing for personal development or thinks it’s wacky or silly, that’s not ideal, but it’s also not necessarily a deal-breaker as long as he can respect that you love it. If he’s going to neg you for what you’re into though? That’s a sign that he’s not that great of an option to settled down with.

Good luck.

The post Ask Dr. NerdLove: How Do I Tell Someone We’re Not Exclusive? appeared first on Paging Dr. NerdLove.

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Hello Dr NerdLove

I was dating a girl from another country. The first year we basically lived together and everything felt like a dream. At the start of 2018, she had to move back to Europe. She wasn’t sure about whether she wanted a long distance relationship, but we decided to give it a go.

We were able to see each other 4 times during the year, but as time went by I noticed she was starting to pull away. She would text me less, not bother setting up Facetime dates, etc. I decided to tell her about this, and she simply said she was busy and not on her phone all the time. Eventually time passed and during the last weeks of December, I would notice she wouldn’t even bother to text. I decided to address the elephant in the room and she said we needed to take a break. I agreed and made sure that we both knew how to act during the break (would we see other people, etc).

Halfway through the break, she asked if we could talk. I had honestly been having a hard time during the break, since I really missed her. I decided to reach out to mutual friends and ask for advice on how to make amends and fix things. When she called me, she told me that some of our friends had reached out to her. She didn’t seem to keen on continuing the relationship and I honestly wasn’t going to force her into it if she was ready to move on.

She however wanted to be friends. I still had very strong feelings for her and the next day decided to tell her that I would always cherish our relationship together but I couldn’t be friends with her right away because I needed the time to heal and settle how I felt for her. I removed her from social media which seemed to have upset her. She sent me a message saying she was upset and that I hurt her.

I know am starting to question if I did the right thing by going the nuclear option.

Second Chances, Second Thoughts

One of the biggest questions that a couple faces following a break-up is “What should we do now?” It’s an easy enough question to answer if the relationship ended badly: the hard feelings, the anger and other factors that triggered the break-up in the first place usually make it a no-brainer. Similarly, if things ended amicably and you still have that core of affection and respect for one another even if the relationship didn’t work, it’s easy enough to say “yeah, we should stay friends.”

Other times, it’s not so clear.

Of course, there’s a lot of cultural pressure to say that you want to stay friends after the break-up. It’s what you’re expected to do to prove that you’re both mature adults and that this is all just fine. But to be perfectly honest: not only are there folks who aren’t in a place where they can handle that, but not everybody wants that in the first place. Not everybody wants to stay in contact with their ex, even if the break-up wasn’t so bad. Sometimes you want a clean and complete break so you can heal and move forward. But it’s not always easy to say this, especially if it wasn’t an ugly break-up. There’s that expectation that of course you’re going to stay friends because why wouldn’t you?

Well, there’s always the fact that your ex treated you pretty shabbily over the course of your relationship. Sure, the end of your relationship was fairly low key and non-dramatic but the circumstances that lead you there were painful as hell. In your case, SCST, your ex was kind of an asshole to you. She treated you with some serious disrespect over the course of the time you were apart. It was clear that she saw the relationship as an increasingly low priority and treated you like an afterthought. If she was having thoughts about being in a long-distance relationship, she could have brought those up directly or she could have done the honorable thing and ended the relationship herself. Letting contact dry up and pretending that there weren’t any problems – especially when it’s causing you actual distress – is a pretty shitty thing to do to someone you care about.

To my mind, it’s somewhat rich that she’s giving you grief over the fact that you’ve cut ties when she was doing the same thing to you. The only difference is that she was performing the death of a thousand cuts, while you cut the head off in one go. So while your cutting her off and taking the Nuclear Option may have hurt her, that was hurt that she earned.

I think you did the right thing, SCST. The point of The Nuclear Option – removing them from your social media, blocking their number, filtering their emails and otherwise cutting contact – isn’t about “we broke up and now you’re dead to me”. It’s an acknowledgement that break-ups hurt and you need time to let those wounds heal. Those wounds can’t close if you’re continually picking at the scab by Facebook stalking them to see if they’re dating anyone or reminding yourself about how much you miss them by following their adventures on Instagram. Nor, for that matter, can you heal if they keep coming around and reopening the wounds, whether they intend to or not.

That’s why many times the best thing you can do is lock them away. It doesn’t need to be forever, but it does need to be long enough for you to do what you need to in order to heal. And while it may suck for the other party… they don’t get a say in things. Your healing process is for you, not them.

And while we’re at it, your emotions aren’t a democracy. Other people don’t get a vote in how you feel or what relationships you want to pursue. You’re not obligated to be friends with somebody after you break up with them, just because they want you to.

To be blunt: if your ex wanted to stay friends after the break-up, then she should’ve acted like one before you broke up.

Good luck.

Hey Doc,

I am a 27 year old male with very limited dating experience due to a combination of mild disability, career focus and self-limiting beliefs. I’ve put in a lot of work to improve things, and as a result, my confidence and energy are up.  I’ve even been approached by gay men. Being straight, I wasn’t interested, but it certainly increased my confidence in being able to land a good woman.

Some members of my friend group, possibly having noticed my increased confidence and energy, and have recently made remarks of how me and a single friend of theirs should ‘totally get together’. I’m not sure if they’re joking or legit trying to set the two of us up. She and I are compatible (similar views on money, similar interests, trust each other, have never had drama, approach conflict in a similar way) and we like each other on a platonic level. This friend group even already contains couples, so it wouldn’t make anything awkward in that regard.

The problem here is I have never seen her in any romantic way, and as far as I can tell she has shown no signs of romantic interest in me.

I’m not sure what to do. Should I make a move? See if flirty behavior builds feelings for either of us? Ask one of our mutual friends if they’re just joking about the whole thing? Accept the relationship as platonic and find someone else entirely? Ask her how she feels about the situation and act accordingly? Something else?

Thanks,
To Ask or Not To Ask

Slow your roll, TAoNTA. You aren’t just putting the cart before the horse, you don’t even have a cart or a horse yet. The fact that your buds have been making comments about how you and their friend should get together may well just be that: stray comments. Observing that there’re two single people in the social circle isn’t quite the same as actively ‘shipping the couple or trying to set the two of you up as an item. Taking this as anything other than idle chatter is getting so far ahead of yourself that you’ve looped back around like a weird sociological mobius strip.

But let’s say, for argument’s sake, that your friends really do think that you two would make a good match and are actually, actively trying to pair the spares. Like I said to STSC, your relationships aren’t a democracy. Other people don’t get a vote in who you date or who you’re attracted to. The fact that they think that you and she might be a good couple in no way obligates you to actually give it a shot, especially if you aren’t interested in her. The last thing either of you need is to go through the motions of trying to date because other people want to see it happen. That’s a great way to cause all kinds of friction in the social group – the kind that causes hard feelings and tears friends apart.

And on top of that: this is all very one sided. Right now, you have no idea if they’re telling her this as well. She may well have no idea that they’re playing Cupid. And for that matter… she may well have perfectly good reasons for not wanting a relationship right now and would seriously resent her friends sticking their noses into things.

Now, if we had some data on any of those points, we could start to see whether it’s worth doing some exploratory flirting and see if anything develops. But we don’t.  As it is: you’re not feeling it for her in the first place, which means that you don’t really have any reason to try to pursue things with her. Right now, that would come off far more like trying to fill a hole labeled “girlfriend” with an available warm body instead of starting a relationship based on mutual attraction and respect.

So with the facts on the ground being what they are, I think the best thing you can do is just laugh it off and ignore the whole thing as a joke. And if it bothers you, tell your friends to back off with the jokey-jokes.

Good luck.

Dear Dr. NerdLove,
How can I get a life? I live with my family, and having spent a tolerably happy childhood, am almost an adult. Since the last year or so, however, my relationship with my father has grown rather cold, and he seems to have lost his affection for me, which has almost broke my heart. I have no friends outside of my family (a few acquaintances and half friends, but correspondence is very scarce and our seeing eachother even more so) and even between my family members there is little intimacy, agreement, or pleasure to be found. I want to be happy and fulfilled, but instead I am bored, vexed, and lonely most of every day. I want to make friends, but I do not go anywhere but church, and I hardly know of any opportunities. Very few things actually thrill me anymore. What to do?
Sincerely, 
A Confused and Lonely Friend
The answer’s in the question, ACLF. You don’t go anywhere but church and you don’t have much contact with people outside of your immediate family. Changing those two factors in the equation will give you profoundly different results. Going out and pursuing interests outside of church will put you in contact with folks who share those interests. And if you aren’t sure what interests you may have outside of the church and family… well, now’s the perfect time to start exploring, trying new things and seeing what strikes your fancy.
But there’s a couple parts of your letter that leapt out at me. The first is that your relationship with your father’s suddenly started to become distant and cold and that you don’t have much happiness in your life. Without knowing the circumstances surrounding things with your father, it sounds like you may be having issues with depression. As you start making headway finding new places to explore and new people to hang out with… consider talking to a counselor or therapist. They might be able to provide you with some insight about your emotional situation.
Good luck.

The post Ask Dr. NerdLove: Was Breaking Up The Right Decision? appeared first on Paging Dr. NerdLove.

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(Doctor’s Note: today’s letter deals with abusive relationships.)

Hello Doc,

I would normally dispense with the niceties and whatnot, but I feel like I’m in the middle of a potential crisis.

The long story made short is that I’m a 23 year old guy who had just graduated from college with a bachelor’s, and there’s a female friend of mine  – “Annie” — who had recently turned 29 (although if you ask her, she’s around 32 but that’s a detail I’ll get to later).

I’ve become increasingly concerned about her, to put it lightly. We’ve built up a rather strong friendship over the course of well over a year, but it seems like something has been very off over the past few months.

I know this because she was willing to become good friends because she gave me her number to text her (before that, we were DMing each other via Instagram). We’ve shared quite a lot of similar interests in just about a lot of topics (ranging from our favorite movies to particular styles of art), as well as recommended each other various new things to try. We’ve even vented to each other about our more personal secrets.

But like I said, it seems like there’s something rotten in the state of Denmark.

I noticed that Annie wasn’t really reading my messages or my DMs anymore plus her overall activity on Instagram and Tumblr have been significantly reduced, so I decided to email her. Some time ago, I asked her (through email of course) if she would be able to come to my graduation ceremony as well as let me stay over at her place (I graduated with honors and there was a cosplay convention on that same weekend as my graduation, and the con was about a couple of hours from where I live).  I was actually kind of expecting “no” because she wasn’t used to people staying over at her place, nor was she the kind of person to attend events with loud music and tons of people.

(In fact, neither am I, but graduation is pretty much a huge stepping stone that deserves commemoration).

The reason why wasn’t what I expected at all. She declined both offers because as of this writing, she has a fiancé that she’s been with for about three years now, and if her fiancé found out that another guy (even a male friend) took her to an event or let him stay at her place, then in her own exact words, “he would be significantly less than pleased… to put it lightly.” She then added that if her fiancé were to find out that we had been messaging each other as much as we had been in the past, then she would be forced to block me from all social media.

This wasn’t the only strange behavior I’ve seen from her. She has mentioned that she’s incredibly introverted and antisocial, but at least when we were talking more, she would at least take the time to talk when she was available. Not the case anymore. In fact, she was perfectly willing to give me her number in the past, but now it seems like she blocked my number for no apparent reason. She then DMed me on Instagram about that, trying to brush it off as a bug on her phone.

When another friend of mine tried to reach out to Annie, to check if this were a potentially abusive relationship, the she straight-up blocked them.

Finally, her whole demeanor has become a lot more… subdued, to say the least. I remember when we were texting until the wee hours of the night (it helps that she’s a night owl), she would get very emotional and very passionate about various topics. Nowadays, her personality seems to have just deflated into a shadow of her former self. She’s way less emotional now, and has become somewhat impersonal, almost robotic.

I’ve talked to another friend who recently got engaged , and they said that being engaged can come with less engagement with other people (especially on social media). According to them, it does kind of come with the territory. I do figure that’s understandable, except this feels less “guess they can’t stop bangin’” and more “blink twice if your soul is being held in a jar.”

Initially, I just brushed off all of this strange behavior from her because she recently became a business owner who works with several different countries (specifically China). Knowing that and her night owl tendencies, I could understand why she would be less active because I imagine that it’s a very demanding job that requires several hours of commitment. I mean, we’re both adults here, we both have real-world work to do.

In fact, I would even understand her having a fiancé and would have otherwise backed off because that kind of relationship requires a special kind of commitment… if her fiancé in question hadn’t been showing some serious red flags.

I just want to confirm that these are in fact red flags, and that I’m not going crazy:

– Annie telling me that her fiancé would be significantly less than pleased if any guy (including a male friend) took her to an event or let a male friend stay at her place.
– Annie telling me that if her fiancé found out we’ve been messaging each other as much as we had been in the past, then her fiancé would force her to have her block me from all forms of contact
– Her suddenly becoming way more willing to burn bridges with people, even with people she’s called friends for years (I can’t confirm this, but it seems like she’s unfollowed more friends who happened to be abuse survivors)
– Her outright disappearing from all social media and forms of contact (including her removing me from her Pokémon GO friends list for no apparent reason); she mentioned she’s a business owner who works into the wee hours of the night, but this disappearance is unusual even for her (I mean, she’s a diehard Pokémon fan for life!)
– Her apparently changing her age online to be “older” than she actually is (she has a history of dating men older than she is because she apparently finds herself unable to connect with guys around her own age, but this was well before I came into the picture)

After she told me about all the things with her fiancé and whatnot, I sent her a response email telling her about the potential red flags their relationship is showing, as well as all the strange behaviors that she’s been exhibiting over the past couple of months.

I haven’t heard from her since.

Interestingly enough, as of this writing, she hasn’t even unfollowed me on Instagram (she decided to follow me after her account had gotten hacked by Russian spammers; that was cleared up within a matter of hours), not even after I sent her that last email or after she blocked that friend who reached out to her.

This isn’t like she’s just “unfamiliar” with abusive relationships in the past; if anything, she has quite a history with them. Apparently when she was approximately closer to my age several years ago, she was in an extremely abusive relationship with a man who was about twice her age at that time. She doesn’t really want to talk about the details, but it more or less left her impoverished as soon as she left. Not too long after that, she met another guy and they started dating soon after. This now-ex had psychologically and sexually abused her, including forcing her to take alcohol and hard drugs to force her into caving in. As a result, she ended up alienating people she cared about, did some things that were uncomfortable and stranger for her, and developed C-PTSD as a result.

After all of this, she even created a sort of charity for abuse survivors and even creates hypnosis tapes for those survivors in order to help them recover (she’s a certified hypnotherapist, complete with degrees).

Additionally, I even did some asking around on online forums and chat rooms in order to determine if her fiancé’s behavior was indeed becoming abusive, and the overall consensus was pretty much “yes, the relationship is toxic AF and she should nope the fuck out of there ASAP.”

While all of this might be bad enough, here comes the part where I fucked up. After her mentioning that she had a fiancé, I was in panic mode because of past friendships that would cease to exist because that friend would immediately ghost me after that relationship had started (that’s another story entirely), and as a result, I let it slip that I was planning on asking her out someday. At first, I saw her as someone that I could summon up the courage to ask out, but as time passed, I got to know her more and saw her as the good friend I now have, to the point where I simply forgot to ask her out.

As a result, she got scared and put “romantically unavailable” on her Instagram bio (apparently because two other friends had tried to ask her out around the same time; I honestly didn’t know about this until another friend told me).

However, the number-blocking and deletion from her Pokémon GO friends list happened way before I let that slip out, so there’s no correlation here.

Besides, if she had been for fiancé for about that length of time, asking her out would have been a moot point back then.

I know you’re going to summon the Chair Leg of Truth on me for this cardinal sin, but fuck it, I honestly don’t care anymore because first and foremost, she’s my friend. I care about her as an individual, and I most certainly care about her safety (especially her safety).

I suppose I could sum it up to that being an inconvenient crush, but who knows? But then again, not knowing is part of the human experience, isn’t it?

It’s just that I really think she’s an awesome person, that’s it. In fact, she’s actually one of the few people I can actually talk to not just about personal items, but also about intellectually stimulating topics in such a way that I really can’t with most other people.

However, I am myself NOT ready for another relationship due to baggage that I won’t get into here (because then this will be a hell of a lot longer than it needs to be). I don’t feel emotionally ready for it, is what I’m trying to say. I even have plans to see a therapist to address this kind of baggage. On top of that, something like “getting into her pants” is NOT something I’ve thought about at all, not when she could be in potential danger.

Besides, it’s not like I can just drop her and move on with my life either, because like I said, her life could potentially be in danger.

In any case, I’ve asked my other friends for advice on what to do about this, and the best advice I’ve received so far is to just give my friend space. That’s… exactly what I did. I haven’t spoken to her in weeks, although I still find myself worrying about her every now and then, to the point where I check up on her to see that she’s doing ok (and that she hasn’t blocked me yet in case I finally decide to reach out to her).

I really don’t know what else to do. I guess I’m just looking for additional insight (especially from a professional), but more important, I just need advice on what I can do for my friend who may have potentially trapped herself into yet another abusive relationship.

Thank you for your time.

Stuck in the Middle with a Scorpion

Hoo boy. There’s a lot to unpack here, SitMwS. But let’s take it step by step.

First and foremost: Yeah, it sounds an awful lot like she’s in a toxic, if not outright abusive relationship. A lot of the behavior you’re describing sounds like someone who’s being isolated by an abuser. Take your friend burning so many bridges and cutting back on everybody in her life. While everybody’s different, getting engaged usually doesn’t also involve cutting ties with one’s friend. Someone who’s in an abusive relationship, however, often will suddenly withdraw from friends, from family and from activities they used to love.

This is entirely deliberate. Abusers will frequently try to cut their victims off from friends and family. The more isolated that their victim is, the more they come to rely on the abuser. It also helps keep them under the abuser’s thumb. By cutting their victim off from their friends, the victim has fewer voices warning them about the abuser’s behavior. Just as importantly, if the victim is cut off from her friends and family, then she has fewer available resources and fewer places to turn if and when she decides it’s time to get the fuck out.

Abusers will frequently frame this in ways that may seem reasonable. It’s rarely “I don’t want you talking to anyone who isn’t me” – though there are those who will make it about how jealous they get. More often though, abusers will try to poison the well and sew discord and mistrust while convincing their victims to cut ties – the better to inoculate themselves against accusations of abuse. So they’ll frame the request as “they’re bad friends” or “they’re trying to break us up because they’re interested in you” or “they’re trying to turn you against me because REASONS”. This way, if someone tries to point out how shitty his behavior is they can say “see, they said exactly what I said they would.”

Unfortunately, you played into this narrative by Nice-Guying your way through this. It’s much easier for him to sew doubt and mistrust by pointing out that you were hoping to ask her out at some point. This puts pretty much everything about your relationship with her into question, like asking if you can stay at her place, even knowing she was probably going to say “no”. Now anything you have to say about him is going to be through the filter of “yeah but he wants to date me,” regardless of whether that’s true any more or not.

But I want to come back to something you mentioned earlier: you’re surprised by this because she’s familiar with abusive relationships, having been abused before. This, unfortunately isn’t uncommon; a number of victims of abuse – especially as children – will end up in other abusive relationships. This can actually put something of a whammy on people who find themselves in abusive relationships; they don’t want to believe or accept it because they should supposedly “know better”. They believe they shouldn’t be the kind of person who’d get abused, especially again. It’s incredibly difficult to say “yes, this happened to me”. It’s even harder to say “It happened to me again,” especially to friends who may have pointed it out before. This mix of denial, shame and embarrassment can make it harder for them to decide to get out.

And it is hard to leave an abusive relationship. Abusers are very good at getting into their victims’ heads and convincing them that things are better and it’s all going to be fine now. They’ll lovebomb their victim and reinitiate a honeymoon period where they’re on their best behavior and it can feel like things are getting better. This lasts long enough for the victim to recommit and let their guard down… and then the cycle of abuse begins again. A victim of abuse – physical or emotional – often will leave and go back to their abuser multiple times before they leave for good. This can be maddening for their friends because… well, shouldn’t they know better by now? This cycle of leaving and going back often grinds people down, to the point that they’ll sometimes throw their hands up and say “fine, you know what, you chose this, I’m out.”

Which further isolates the victim.

Now that’s all assuming that’s what’s going on here. Yeah, the shit that you’re describing all sounds like very typical abusive red flags. But you don’t know for sure. A lot of the things you describe could be someone who’s giving soft excuses as to why she doesn’t want you visiting or staying over. It wouldn’t be the first time that somebody wanted to turn down a crush and shifted the blame to a jealous partner. The increasing ways she’s disconnected from you – and the lame excuses – could be depression, it could be a way of trying to put boundaries between the two of you… the possibilities are fairly robust. Her withdrawing from her friends could just as easily be her life changing and deciding she wanted different people in her life.

The truth is: you’re getting a tiny sliver of her life and extrapolating a lot from that. There are loads going on that you don’t see and that you don’t know. And let’s be honest here: you’ve got some motivated reasoning going on here to want it to be abuse and not just her rejecting you.

But before everyone gets angry in the comments, all of the things I just mentioned? That’s part of what makes it so damn hard for an outsider who wants to help and support their friend. All of the potential ambiguity, the potential other reasons for the suspicious behavior… all of that muddies the water and makes it hard to know how to respond. And even if you are 100% correct, they may not see it that way yet.

That’s why the hardest part for someone on the outside is that, at the end of the day, there’s very little that you can do to get somebody out of an abusive relationship before they’re ready. You can’t “rescue” someone from an abusive relationship. The only person who can make the decisions for their life is them. The only thing you can do is provide support and a non-judgemental space. If she comes to you – IF – and asks for help, then you can provide her with resources like the National Domestic Violence Hotline and help her create a safety plan. But those have to be her choice, and pushing her could very well push her away.

So you’re going to have to accept there’s not much you can do. Check out the resources for friends and family of domestic abuse victims at the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Call them yourself if you want to talk out potential options and how you can best help your friend if she asks for it. You can contact her and let her know that you care, that you’re worried about her, that you’ll always be there if she needs you and that she can reach out to you at any time for any reason.

But then… you have to leave the ball in her court.

Hopefully you’re wrong. Hopefully this is all a wacky misunderstanding and everything is just fine and there’s a logical and sensible reason for all of this. But if there isn’t… well, the best thing you can do is be the friend she needs, when she needs it.

Good luck.

The post Ask Dr. NerdLove: Is My Friend Being Abused? appeared first on Paging Dr. NerdLove.

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Did #MeToo Ruin FLIRTING? | Paging Dr. NerdLove - YouTube

Did the #MeToo movement change flirting forever? Can men no longer approach women? What makes the difference between flirting and harassment in this day and age?

SHOW HIGHLIGHTS: 

  • The two types of complaints about #MeToo
  • The goal behind the meme that men can’t flirt anymore
  • How men are getting the point of #MeToo wrong
  • The MOST important part of flirting
  • How to avoid being yet another creeper

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The post Episode #106 – Did #MeToo RUIN Flirting? appeared first on Paging Dr. NerdLove.

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