Before Christmas I met a girl and I instantly liked her. It was the first time I was going to make my move (late bloomer here) so I was really excited … and anxious of course. I asked a common friend if she is available and it turned out that she was – she broke up with her boyfriend before a couple of months. So I added her on Facebook and I arranged for another beer with all our friends in order to get to know her better. I was planning to move quick but it turned out that she was to leave the town the next day for Christmas and she would return after 2-3 months. I decided to occasionally chat with her on Facebook in order to keep some kind of contact. I noticed that even though we had long and smooth conversations she would never text first. As a result after some weeks I decided that she had no interest so I stopped texting.
After 2-3 months she returned and we hanged out as friends for some weeks. I could not notice any interest signs but I found strong feelings emerging inside me. At first I tried to ignore them as I always did in the past, because I was anxious of getting rejected and I was sure she didn’t like me. One day after some smooth and playful chatting – thanks to your great new book – I decided to ask her out on a date. The worst that could happen would be her turning me down so what’s the big deal I told to myself. It was the first time in my life that I did such a heroic act. I received no response so I assumed that it was a soft no and I continued hanging out with her as a friend. But after a few days something unexpected happened.
She begun flirting with me and we ended up going out for a date with all the kissing and stuff. We would hang out as a couple for a week. Although I was really happy I started feeling that something was not right. As the days were passing by she started looking uncomfortable. I asked her what the troubling was and she replied that she wanted to end our “relationship”. It turned out that she couldn’t get over her ex and moreover she was planning to leave the town in few months. She said that although she liked me, the timing was not right. She apologized for the pain inflicted and then came the dreadful question: “Can we remain friends?” I was feeling devastated at that time and avoided giving a definite answer.
I decided to take the semi-nuclear option (unfollowed her in Facebook, stop talking with her) and get on with my life. I thought that if I wanted to be a genuine friend I should get over her first. It has been almost one and a half month since then and I am still thinking about it. It was my first “relationship” although it lasted a little less than two weeks. Perhaps I suffer from Oneitis but at the same time I am thinking about her proposal to remain friends. It is sad that we stopped talking to each other – we haven’t talked to each other since our “break up”. We have a lot of friends in common so things feel a little awkward right now. I stopped talking with some people although we hung out together and had a good time just because they are close friends with her.
The following question keeps returning in my mind ” Should I contact her and try to act as a genuine friend regardless of my feelings or should I take the full nuclear option and let it go once and for all ?”. To be honest the nuclear option seems very brutal to me and at the same time I feel angry with myself feeling messed up about something that lasted only a few days. So, Doc, what do you propose ?
Thank you very much for your time.
To Be or Not to Be
So there’s a lot to unpack here. But let’s start with the obvious:
We often talk about “The One” or finding someone who’s “right” for us. But when we talk about someone being “right”, we tend to talk about things like shared interests and personality traits. One of the things that we don’t often talk about with dating is how much dating success is about timing. Someone can be amazing and tick off all the boxes for what we want and need in a partner… but if we aren’t or they aren’t in the right place in life, then it just isn’t going to work. It’s frustrating as hell when it seems like we’ve met someone who’s absolutely perfect for us but a quirk of timing means that the relationship isn’t going to work out… but unfortunately, that’s life for you.
The good news is that there is no One. There’s no single person who’s right for you – there are many, many people who are right for you and who are in the right place in life to date.
Part of why you’re hung up on her right now is because of what she represents to you. The reason why you’ve got this nasty case of Oneitis is because she is The One That Got Away, this near-miss at the sort of love you only find in bad fanfic and instant coffee commercials. The arc of “I like her, she’s not interested OH MY GOD SHE LIKES ME, oh no it’s not going to work,” hangs in the air like a lingering fart because you had happiness for a brief fleeting second before it got snatched away. Now she’s less of a person and more of a representation of What Might Have Been. When that’s your first relationship, that’s hard to swallow. Hell, it’s hard enough when you’ve had plenty of relationship experience under your belt, but it’s even harder when it’s your first brush with romance.
But here’s the thing: part of what’s messing with you right now is that you haven’t given yourself any closure. Part of why I advocate The Nuclear Option – unfollowing them on social media, deleting their number, etc. – when it comes to break ups is because you need time to tie off that cauterize that particular emotional wound… and you aren’t really doing that. It’s not about “you left AND NOW YOU’RE DEAD TO ME”, it’s about the fact that it’s much easier to feel, process those feelings and finally move forward when you aren’t constantly being tempted to check on them and reopen the wound. Out of sight, out of mind is a thing after all, and it’s much easier to heal when the person who you’re aching for isn’t symbolically right in front of you all the time.
Which brings us to the issue with “Can we still be friends?” We all want to be able to say “yeah, sure” because friends are awesome and someone we want to date is someone we should also be able to be friends with. But the problem is that it’s hard to be friends with someone who just hurt us. They may not have meant to – hell, it may not have even been their fault – but the fact is that we’re still hurting. It can take time to get past that and get to a place where you can be friends. But if we’re honest… there’s a certain amount of pressure involved to say “yes” immediately. The last thing that anyone wants is to give the impression that the only reason to be with someone is if you have the chance to sleep with them. So a lot of times, we get hung up in the middle – wanting the distance we need to heal but not wanting to send the wrong message or close the door on the future relationship.
That’s where you are at the moment, TBONTB. You’ve stuck yourself in a place where you can’t NOT think about her or move forward because, well, you’re picking at the wound. And the conflict inherent in this limbo is starting to spread out to affect the other folks in your life. It’s one thing to cut ties with your ex; cutting out your other friends just because they’re connected to her isn’t healthy. That’s just going to isolate you further, which is bad. You’re going to need folks in your life who care for you, who you know have your back. You aren’t going to heal if all you’re doing is trying to excise every association of her like some sort of damnatio memorae; all that does is create an unhealthy feedback loop that will leave you always on your guard on the off chance you see ANYTHING that reminds you of her.
You need to close this loop and give yourself some closure. First, while this isn’t strictly necessary – the fact that you haven’t talked to her in a month and change is sending a message, even if you didn’t intend for it to – you may want to send a quick email that says “Hey, I know it’s been a while but I wanted to reach out. I DO want to be friends, but right now this is still kind of raw and I need time to get over it. Thanks for being patient with me.” Then set up a filter so that her emails get sent to a folder, not to your inbox. This solves the bigger issue that you’re struggling with: what to do about her. This gives you the best of both worlds: you give yourself permission to let her go, with the understanding that you can try to resume a friendship if that’s what you want down the line.
But the next step? Forgive yourself, my dude. Getting angry with yourself about how much you hurt is pointless. You can’t control how much you hurt, so instead of trying to tell yourself that you’re not “supposed” to to feel the way you do, just accept it. Let it flow through you instead of damming it up. Accept that yeah, this sucks… but it’s going to suck less over time. One day you’re going to wake up and you’re going to realize that the pain has reduced itself to a dull ache. One day, you’re going to wake up and you’re going to realize that not only does it not hurt any more, but it hasn’t hurt for a while. But that’s not going to happen for as long as you keep telling yourself you’re a loser for caring for someone and being hurt when things didn’t play out the way you hoped. So forgive yourself for being hurt and for loving not too wisely, but too well.
This will get better. I promise.
All will be well.
Hi, Doc. I’m embarrassed to be writing this, because I’m ashamed I’ve let things get to this point.
Nine months ago I had a baby. Between her health issues and my disabilities, it makes the most financial sense for me to stay home and do the 24/7 childcare and house upkeep, and my husband generally works about 50 hours/week. I feed the baby round the clock on doctor’s orders (she can only have small amounts without getting sick, so she needs to eat frequently), and I get pretty busy sometimes.
I’m writing because our sex life has become basically nonexistent… and while I feel fine, I’m worried about my husband’s needs not being met. I’m totally willing and I’ve tried initiating things sometimes, but he doesn’t seem particularly interested.
I’ve seen you write before about how it can be hard for a man to shift back from seeing someone as a mother to seeing her as a sexual partner before, especially if he’s present for delivery (which my husband was) and I’m sure that could be part of what’s going on. However… I also just don’t have much to offer right now.
I’m still carrying some baby weight. I have stretch marks everywhere. I haven’t colored or cut my hair since early in pregnancy. Breastfeeding did not do my figure any favors. Between caring for a baby with extra needs, keeping up with my own freelance work, cooking and cleaning, and dealing with my own issues without the money for medication, I can’t seem to find much time for things like skincare, hair care, or weight loss. I walk for an hour or so every day, but that’s the most strenuous exercise I can really do with a baby in tow when we live ten miles from town and have no car to get to a gym (my husband needs our only running car to get to work).
My point is, I look disgusting. My husband isn’t shallow or cruel, and he has never said a single negative thing to me about the way my appearance has deteriorated, but I can’t imagine the way I look now is particularly enticing. My question is… should I suggest an open relationship? I’m not particularly comfortable with the idea and I have no interest in seeing others myself, but I feel like he deserves the opportunity to have sex with someone more appealing than I am at the moment. He’s a good person who shouldn’t have to put up with this.
I’m trying to get it together for him, but I haven’t found a way yet, and he’s been patient with his gross slob of a wife for too long already.
What do I do, Doc?
So it’s true that some men have a hard time making a mental shift when they see their partner give birth, PPB… but I don’t think that’s what’s going on here.
There’re a couple issues at play. The first is that, come on, you JUST HAD A BABY. Having a child is a massive disruption to your life, especially during the first couple of years. Your life is going to revolve around taking care of the little miracle, and that means that everything goes out the window – from keeping house, to sleep to your sex life. Under the best of circumstances, y’all are going to be stressed and sleep-deprived, which is as hard-core of a libido-killer as you’re likely to find. But when you factor in that your baby has special needs and your husband is working long, long hours? Yeah, that’s gonna throw a major spanner in people’s desire to get down.
But the other issue is that honestly? I think you aren’t being fair to yourself.
Actually, I take that back. I think you’re getting upset at yourself for not being superhuman and holding yourself to absolutely insane standards. I mean, the language you use in your letter is kind of telling: you’re ashamed that you “let things get to this point”. This implies that you should, what, have been able to slip back into your old life exactly like it was before without missing a beat? How in pluperfect hell was THAT supposed to happen?
I mean, yeah we see stories on Instagram and in tabloids about how so-and-so got their body “back” after the baby… but here’s the secret: most of that is bullshit and the rest of it is because they have money and resources to burn. It’s much easier to focus on “getting your body back” when you’ve got the money to pay for a nanny or a housekeeper AND a trainer, or your partner doesn’t need to work like a maniac to keep food on the table so that they can take time off from work and share in the work at home. Being upset at yourself because you weren’t able to “bounce back” like Beyonce or Kim Kardashian or any celebrity mommy is like being upset that you’re not an Olympic athlete; you’re getting upset that you can’t measure up to 1% of the population who have advantages and resources that most of us can only dream about.
Well, my first suggestion is that you check in with your husband and have an Awkward Conversation about the current state of your union. It doesn’t need to be a big, dramatic meeting; all you’re doing is let him know that you have concerns and you want to make sure that he’s OK. Then let him reassure you. If he legitimately is ok with things, then do yourself a favor and believe him. Because as hard as it can be to wrap our heads around it: our partners love us as holistic beings. Things like stretch marks aren’t going to be the end of desire; they tend to get folded into our concept of who our partners are. So when he tells you that he’s fine, he still loves you and that hey, it’s a little hard to get busy with the life you two have right now? Take that “yes” for an answer.
(And if you’re really worried, you can always order him a Fleshlight or Tenga and some lube to help ease the pressure until you’re both in a place where you can get down and dirty again).
My next suggestion is see if you can get some help with the baby. I know that “it takes a village” is a cliche… but some things are cliches for reason. If your parents or his parents – or hell, even a family friend – can come and give you a hand, then by all means, do that. Getting a little time for yourself is crucial for new parents. That’ll let you have some effective self-care, even if that just means having a chance for a hot bath, a face mask and some deep conditioning. Easing some of the burden – even if it’s just for a couple of hours – can make a night-and-day difference.
But trust me: this is a temporary problem. It may take a while – kids take a lot of time and attention, especially in the first couple years – but if you two can white knuckle it and hang on, you will get through it. Just be a little easier on yourself and a lot more forgiving for not being Instagram-perfect after such a relatively short time.
Here’s the skinny: It feels like time is running out and I’m scared to death of turning thirty.
I went to community college and ended up with a couple different degrees that I ultimately didn’t pursue. I was frustrated that I hadn’t found my calling. Instead I looked around for a year, found a part-time job working in the local community, and was hired into a full-time position a year later. I’ve held the same steady job for six years.
I settled. I went to work, came home, and ended up on autopilot. I stayed at home to help pay bills so my mom could afford the mortgage. I hadn’t dated, hadn’t built a network of friends, and went through the same routine. I became unhappy, tired, depressed, and struggled with anxiety. I cut when I couldn’t manage my feelings of loneliness. My life was going nowhere and I attempted suicide.
I went to counseling on and off and proceeded to see a general doctor. The pill I was given to treat my mood disorders literally changed me overnight. My anxiety went away instantly and signs of my depression lifted. I felt confident and unstoppable.
Insert Nine Inch Nails refrain: “Nothing can stop me now.”
I didn’t realize what I was doing at the time. I spent several times the amount of money I had in savings across multiple credit cards and loans in a very short and destructive amount of time. I was drinking during my lunch breaks and more at home. I was inappropriately pursuing a relationship with someone who already had a kid and a steady boyfriend. I was out of control. All in pursuit of happiness.
The medicine gradually stopped working despite increases in dosages. My depressive episodes slowly came back and I had gained an incredible amount of weight. After a year I took myself off cold turkey and went through an absolutely nightmarish month of withdrawal. Afterwards I began to reckon with what happened.
I was misdiagnosed. This year I’ve learned I’m bi-polar and the pill I was given wasn’t what I needed. My depression was treated but I was left absolutely manic. I felt good – too good – all of the time and didn’t understand that wasn’t normal.
My debts have since gone to collections, my vehicle was repossessed, and bankruptcy feels like the only way out. Back to less than square one. I still don’t know if should blame myself, the pill, or a little bit of both for my lack of self-control.
Doc, I feel so far behind and so incredibly alone.
I’m turning thirty this fall. I spent a lot of my twenties trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with me and blew up my life in the process. I still haven’t found my passions, entered the dating world, made friends, or moved into a place of my own. In the meantime I’m watching coworkers have fulfilling relationships with each other, have children, and live fulfilling lives. And in my manic state, I’ve damaged a lot of my own relationships with them.
I feel like I have to catch up to my peers. I’ve set up a lot of expectations for myself that I can’t possibly meet. I should be in an apartment by x date. I should have x paid off by x date. I should be starting to have a family. I should be financially stable. I feel like I have to fix everything all at once. I feel like if I had a couple more years, I wouldn’t feel so much pressure. I’m should’ing myself into anxiety filled rumination.
I’m working on agency and learning to control what I can. I found a new therapist and continue to work with them weekly (without medication which is hard but so it goes). I was connected with a fitness coach who’s helped me lose thirty pounds and made exercise a regular part of my life. I’ve been sober for six months. I’m slowly trying to mend relationships with my peers. I’m going to be volunteering soon to help me get out of my head, meet new people, and potentially live for something beyond myself. I even applied for school on a whim and am currently in the process of seeing if I get accepted. If I don’t I’ll get a second job to settle my debts.
It’s going to be a few years before I can get my life together. Settling my debts and repairing my credit is going to take a long time. But the prospect of having it all together well after turning thirty is eating me up. I’m already making a lot of sacrifices, such as not spending much of anything on myself or having free time to explore hobbies.
I’m not sure how to approach making friends, dating, and living in regards to this. A lot of meetups in my age group revolve around social drinking and I’m not touching alcohol right now. I can’t keep waiting to have it all together before I start looking for someone, because then I’ll always be waiting. Dating right this very second isn’t the right time, but when? How can I gain new and interesting experiences when I’m going to essentially be broke until my debts are paid off? How can I do any of this when I’m working on so much else?
How can I build the life I want without beating myself up or burning out in the process?
I think you’re looking at things the wrong way, FE. You’re not missing time, nor are you behind everyone else. You’ve been doing exactly what you’ve needed to do for you. You’ve been trying to fix these foundational issues in your life that have been sitting at your core and waiting to detonate like a bomb.
There’s no question that this has been a rocky process, but that’s not your fault. You were misdiagnosed and given treatment for a disorder you don’t have. That, unfortunately, is something that often happens to people. Many mental health disorders can mimic one another and many have what are known as comorbid conditions – conditions that often occur alongside those primary conditions; this can make diagnosis and treatment incredibly difficult. You were bipolar, not depressed, and the treatment that you were given meant that you were more prone to manic episodes. Again: that happens. And if I can be perfectly blunt: you’re incredibly lucky. There were people in my life who had bipolar disorder who would only take their antidepressants because they loved the feel of being on a manic high… and they suffered from the consequences of the way those highs impaired their judgement.
But you made it. You figured things out, you pulled yourself out of the spiral and now you’re starting to rebuild your life. That’s not something to be ashamed of, that’s something to be proud of. You shouldn’t be ashamed of this, you should be proud of the fact that you’ve yanked yourself back from the brink and all the progress you’ve made. I mean, look at what you tell me towards the end of your letter. You’re working with a therapist, you’re getting fit, you’re clean and sober, you’re volunteering and being financially responsible. That’s all so goddamn amazing that I’m in awe, FE. I’m unbelievably proud of what you’ve accomplished, and you should be too.
And holy hopping sheep shit my dude, you’re doing this before you’re 30? That’s awesome. You’re not falling behind the game, you’re setting yourself up for an amazing life.
I’m gonna level with you, man: I didn’t start coming into my own until I was in my late 20s. I had to go through some dark shit to get to where I am today and while yeah, I wish I did my 20s differently, all of that lead me to this place in my life, right here, right now. And I could either complain about what I didn’t do in my past… or I can work on making my present and my future amazing. Past is merely prologue, FE; it’s the start of your story, not the totality of it.
What you need more than anything right now is self-compassion. You had a rough start and that’s fine. You are more than your worst day and you’re not defined by your worst mistakes. You’ve got the capacity to be so much more as you are proving right now. So do yourself a favor and eliminate “should” from your vocabulary. All it’s doing is blinding you to the amazing progress you’ve made and the brilliant future you’re setting yourself up for. Yeah, it can feel like you were supposed to hit these various milestones in your 20s… but you know what? You’re going to be in a better position to hit them now than you would’ve been then. Take it from me: your 30s are like your 20s but with more experience and better credit. That is gonna open up some wide vistas for you, FE, if you just take the chance.
Listen to Jay-Z and realize that 30 is the new 20. This isn’t the end of your life. It’s not even the beginning of the end. This is the end… of the beginning.
Be sure to write back and let us know how you’re doing, FE.
I am a woman in my late thirties who was burned very badly in a cooking accident four years ago. I have been struggling with PTSD ever since and see a therapist weekly, which has been immensely helpful. One of the unfortunate side effects of my injury is that I no longer wish to engage in much physical contact with my husband. We have had sex only a handful of times in the years since the accident, and not once in the past two years. We have been in couple’s therapy for several months now to work on this issue, but I am frustrated with the pace of things. Not only do I not want to engage in sex, but kissing, cuddling, hugging and even casual physical contact make me incredibly uncomfortable. Prior to my injury we had an enjoyable sex life and were very affectionate with each other. I miss that, but even more I feel an overwhelming amount of guilt for denying my husband even the most basic physical contact. It feels cruel but I can’t help it! My burns are mostly on my chest and torso so they are front and center when we are intimate and I believe that may be contributing to the issue. I’m no longer in pain but my skin is quite sensitive and my husband forgets this sometimes, which is another issue. Add to that the trauma of my treatment, when I was trapped in the hospital, constantly being poked and prodded in horrible ways. The anxiety caused by that loss of control over my body creeps in whenever he initiates contact.
I honestly don’t know how to move forward. All our therapist wants to do is discuss my self-esteem in abstract ways but I desperately need concrete suggestions for how to get over this. I want to rediscover the level of intimacy that we had before I was hurt but it feels impossible because I’m no longer the person I was before I the accident. My husband is endlessly patient and understanding, but he is a human being! It’s not fair to either of us that we are stuck here. Please help.
I’m so, so sorry this happened to you Untouchable. Feeling like you’re cut off from intimacy with your partner can be maddening. When even little things like simple physical touch is off limits to you – for whatever the reason – then it can feel like you’re absolutely isolated and alone, even when you’re surrounded by people. It’s made all the worse when you’re unable to have that simple, casual intimacy with the people you love. It’s amazing how much things like feeling your partner’s hand on your back or being able to put your head on their shoulder can mean so much… and how much you don’t realize this until you’re cut off from it.
Unfortunately, some of these issues are far beyond my paygrade; like I’m often saying, Dr. NerdLove is not a doctor, he’s a loudmouth with a blog. Some of the things I would suggest are things you should definitely run by an actual medical professional first. It may be that doing things to alleviate the physical symptoms of anxiety could make life easier for you; if it’s legal in your area, smoking weed or a couple of edibles might help calm your anxiety enough for at least casual affectionate contact with your husband. I understand that occasionally beta-blockers have been used to help people with PTSD as well and that MDMA also shows promise; it may be worth your time to see if you can be part of a study for the effects that those may have on recovery from trauma.
The other thing that immediately comes to mind is going to sound a bit weird, but stick with me: you might want to incorporate kink into your life. If, for example, you find yourself triggered by loss of control, then it may help to set things up so that you are absolutely in charge. If your husband is, say, tied to the bed and unable to move his arms or legs. then you’re in the position of not just initiating contact but controlling how much, how long and how far it all goes. And while being tied up may seem like a lot just to, say, be able to rest your head on his chest… that might be a way to bring a level of contact and intimacy back into your life together as well as increase your feelings of agency and control. Similarly, having him be tied up and blindfolded may give you the confidence to be physical in a way that you haven’t been able to enjoy since then. After all, this would mean that you have all of the control, not just of your body but his.
If that seems like something you think would be worth trying, see about finding a munch in your area or look into the feminist and female-owned sex shops in your area. They often have workshops and lectures about intros to kink, rope-play and other venues of power exchange that may be what the not-a-real-doctor ordered.
But the other thing I want to bring up is your therapist. One thing that people often forget – or never realize – is that if you can advocate for what you need from your therapist. While dealing with your self-esteem is important – learning to see yourself as more than your scars can be huge – if what you need are ways to be more intimate with your husband, then ask for it. And if it feels like your therapist doesn’t understand you or isn’t meeting your needs… you can find another therapist. It may well be worth your time to visit the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists’ website; they have a referral directory that can help you find a sex-positive counselor or therapist in your area who may be a better fit for you and your needs at this time.
You’re lucky to have your husband, Untouchable, and he’s lucky to have you. I hope you two can find some ways to overcome this impasse and find ways to regain that affection and intimacy you’ve been missing.
And please, don’t hesitate to write in and let us know how you’re doing.
I’m a big fan of your website. I found it after doing some googling to help make a decision and help my mental state of being with my relationship of over two and a half years. I’m a young, 24 year old guy who is struggling with the decision to break up with my girlfriend or not. I’ve made a pro con list, I’ve talked to friends and family, and I still can’t come up with a conclusion. A little back story on me, my relationship, and her:
We’ve been dating for two and a half years and met through some friends in college during the fall of our senior year. When I first met her, she was just getting over a devastating relationship with a boyfriend who had cheated on her, abused her (mentally physically and emotionally) and was an all around bad dude. The first few months are rocky and she pushed me away due to her natural fears of getting in a relationship, and used the space to hookup with other guys, have fun, and find herself. I did the same, but only after being extremely hurt by this decision from her. Fast forward to early spring, she comes around and realizes that I am a good guy. Apologizes for it all and blames her fears and past. I accept this and we decide to try out the relationship, regardless of our post-grad plans (she moved to Boston to go to law school, I stayed in CT).
After a few months, she expected me to move to Boston because she wanted to be there for school. I did not want to move there, but I looked for jobs regardless and she was not happy when I couldn’t find any. She asked me to commute to Boston while working my job in CT (a 1.5-2 hour commute each way) and finally asked me to just move there without a job, which I refused. This was the start of where things got rocky.
Ever since then, about a year ago, she has been picking fights with me about things she is insecure about, most likely stemming from her previous relationships. She has a lot of trouble moving on from past problems. She brings old things up a lot. I have comforted her and limited what I tolerate, as I don’t believe it’s healthy to allow insecurities to get worse. This is my first relationship, and I am a fairly confident man with a lot going for him and come from an old-school family of values and traditions. I’ve never brought a girl home before her, because I am pretty picky and do not commit to relationships unless I am serious.
That being said, I’m tired of everything going on. She has asked me to choose her over my morals and beliefs, saying she should be worth the sacrifice. My friends and brothers have gotten upset at hearing the things she says to me and for being with her because she picks fights all the time. Not to mention, she takes up a lot of my time. I have visited her every weekend I can and put tons of miles on my car, missed family events and things I want to go to so I can be with her. She tells me every day she loves me and appreciates me and the things I do for her. She constantly reassures me we’re a team. She writes me notes, calls me several times a day, texts all day and night. She would never cheat on me or abuse me. She treats my family so well, constantly bakes for them and checks up on them. But I’m exhausted from the constant fights over and over about BS. I don’t hang with other women at all, I don’t go out to bars, I don’t look at other women online, etc. I find myself skipping out on things I would normally do with friends or family so I can be with her on the weekend.
My conscience is clear. We have said about a dozen times that we’re going to change and communicate better, not yell, etc. And we end up continuing to argue about the same old things she is upset about. I’ve made some changes but they aren’t helping. Sometimes, she can even talk to me like shes my mom and try to tell me what to do. I don’t know if its her natural instinct as the men in her life are a little empty-headed (to put it politely). I care about her, but I am so hurt and exhausted to the point that I am falling out of love with someone I have devoted so much to. Do I go on? Or throw in the towel? The decision is ultimately my own, but I do not want to let this drag out any longer and would like to act urgently.
And I’m getting the impression that this is what you’re looking for, ETD. You can list the pros all you want, but there’s no amount of texting, love notes and baking that one can do that’s going to make up for constant fights and unreasonable demands. Demanding that you move, getting upset when you can’t find a job and then demanding you make a long and expensive commute instead are all examples of someone being unreasonable. These are times when you compromise – two hours isn’t far for a long-distance relationship, for example – instead of sticking to your guns and insisting that someone uproot their life and throwing things into chaos. Similarly, demanding that you give up family events for her – you WILL visit every weekend, no exceptions – and not allowing for you to have your own life is equally unreasonable.
While it’s a shame that she’s been hurt before and has her insecurities… that’s a her problem, not a you problem. It’d be one thing if it was just one thing that you do that occasionally triggers something… well, then you can learn to avoid doing that one thing. But when it’s a neverending series of insecurities that she needs you to manage for her? That’s when you’re well past the point of “I have some scars from previous relationships and I could occasionally use some reassurance” and well into “You will conform your entire life around not upsetting me.”
It’s time for you to face the truth ETD: this relationship is already over. You’re having the same fights, making the same resolutions and nothing is changing. That’s one of the surest signs that things have ended, and all that’s left is the animated husk of a relationship. You know this. You’ve already come to this conclusion. The only question now is whether you’re going to end it now or wait until this relationship has ground away whatever joy and affection you have for her and left you with nothing but bitterness and resentment.
And honestly? You don’t need that pro/con list, you don’t need to list her sins or the disagreements you’ve had or why. All you need to end a relationship is the desire to end it. If you’ve decided that you need to leave, then you have all the reason you need to leave. And I think you already have.
Do what you need to do, ETD. End things, quickly and cleanly and firmly. You’ll be far happier once you have.
I was in a long distance relationship with a girl who I sort-of grew up with (I live abroad, but visit during school breaks). Eventually, after about half a year of being in a relationship, she broke it off. This hurt me a lot; she was my first ever crush, love, etc. Now, almost two years later, I am still not over her. Despite not talking to her for over a year, I think about her daily.
I finish (high) school soon, and will be moving back to my home country by the end of the year. Our families are VERY close, so here is my dilemma: I cannot avoid seeing her unless I avoid my family. I don’t mean that with any anger towards anyone, that’s just how the situation is. So, the way I see it, I need to find some way of getting over her that isn’t just to cut her out. However, I have tried a lot of things and nothing has changed. I’ve gone through trying to hate her, ignore her, be friends, etc, but my romantic love for her doesn’t dwindle.
I have no clue what I can do to remedy my situation. I am exhausted by the pain this causes me, and fear how much worse it will be when I live closer. I feel the best way to describe my thoughts is as if we are still in a relationship, and I never got the memo that it’s over (albeit with more obsessive behaviour than a relationship should have).
Stuck In Limbo
It sounds to me like you’ve done everything except actually move on, SIL. Almost everything you’ve done has been focused on her, specifically, rather than on yourself. You’ve made her the center of everything you do, whether it’s trying to force yourself to hate her or ignore her or try to form a friendship. But what you haven’t done is focus on you.
The difference here is significant. The more you put your energy on doing something about her, the more of your bandwidth devote to her. It doesn’t matter whether you’re thinking about how much you “hate” her or how much you’re consciously NOT thinking about her… you’re still letting her occupy your mind 24/7. Small wonder that you couldn’t get over her; she’s been dominating so much of your time that I’d be amazed that you had time to think about other things.
One of the reasons why I advocate what I call The Nuclear Option – blocking them on social media, deleting their texts, putting away all of the letters, emails and photos and otherwise cutting them out of your life – is because you need time to not think about them. You need time to get distance and perspective and let yourself heal… none of which can happen when you have all of these reminders surrounding you and the temptation to keep checking on her. You need to let yourself have time without her – time to rediscover who you are when you’re not The Guy Who Got His Heart Broken, time to remind yourself that there are millions of amazing women out there who aren’t her and that you have a life and a future that doesn’t revolve around her or the relationship you used to have.
It’s also one of the reasons why people say “the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else”. It’s a crude saying, but reminding yourself that there are other people out there that you find attractive and find you attractive is a great way of realizing that your ex isn’t the ONLY woman in the world. It lets you realize that she wasn’t your last chance for love, that you will find other people who you will care for just as much as you cared for her… and it distracts you from thinking about her 24/7.
Unfortunately, it’s a little harder to do this when you know you’re going to be up in each other’s space. So right now the best thing you can do? Talk to your folks. Let them know that you’re still stinging after the break-up and, if at all possible, you could use a little breather from her. That doesn’t mean that you’re going to be able to avoid her completely… but getting some advance warning that she may be around can give you the chance to make alternate plans or otherwise get some time and relative dimensions in space away. Getting that time where she’s not omnipresent is going to be important… even if she’s literally the girl next door.
You need to focus on you for a bit, instead of her. The more you can reclaim your life and realize that you will be ok and move on, the easier it’ll be. And then maybe you’ll be able to come back around and have a new and different relationship with her. One that isn’t predicated on the one you used to have.
I’m in need of some advice on how to take rejection better. Not necessarily in the moment when it happens because I feel like I’ve become a pro at that, but in the days that linger on before you’ve met someone else you’re into and the person who rejected you is still in your social orbit.
Here’s a story to illustrate what I mean:
So first things first, I’m heavily involved in the stand-up comedy scene in my hometown. I perform, help run shows, and handle a lot of the marketing. This also means that I’m a familiar face at a few of the bars in town where shows take place. Second things second, there was this woman, see…like a lot of these stories go. We go from sharing smiling glances from across the bar to breaking the ice. Some nights we’d speak with each other, other nights we’d stick to our own social groups since she doesn’t normally come to the bars I do shows at for the stand-up comedy, she just has a lot of friends who go to the same places.
Anyway, on one particular night we end up socializing in the same general group after a show until the group wittles down to just the two of us, and I then proceed to ask her on a date. She tells me that she’s in a newish relationship but is flattered by the proposal. I try my best to put any nervousness she may have at ease by cracking a few jokes; departing not too long afterwards by wishing her a good night, which she smiled ear to ear at and seemed to genuinely appreciate.
So hey, seems like a positive story right? I didn’t get what I wanted but according to my own observation she seemed to find my attempt charming and I put myself out there even though I didn’t know where I would land. I haven’t dated someone in over a year due to being, frankly, devastated from losing a job I loved (albeit in a poorly paying industry), and have slowly been regaining confidence by going back to school for a higher paying career change that is finally starting to show its upside. I respect her choices and have no intentions of asking her again or even referencing it in jest.
Thing is, the next time we were at the same bar I honestly had no damn clue how to act around her. We didn’t speak, I stuck strictly by my own friend group the entire night, in the one moment where our glances met by chance I averted my eyes immediately, and I left the bar the first chance I could after getting paid. Basically I feel like I went from being a fun guy in her presence to a walled-off coward in the space of just over a week. I think a large part of this is that I’ve taught myself to roll with the punches when it comes to women turning me down because I’m confident I can/will find someone who is into me, but on some level I’m embarrassed by being the same space with someone who I’ve been vulnerable in front of, however briefly and relatively inconsequential.
So Dr. NerdLove, I’m not overly concerned about what I should do regarding this specific girl since I’ll actually be away from my hometown for the next few months for work and hopefully any residual awkwardness will have faded by then. What I am concerned with is being embarrassed about the rejection after the fact. It certainly makes me question how cool I actually am with rejection if I have a lingering shame about it. Is there a way to cope with the fact that rejection really is just irreparably humiliating and no amount of steely confidence in the moment it happens can overcome that? Is there a lesson to be learned from my letter that anyone else could benefit from?
Barfly Affected by Emotions
So I’m gonna be honest here: you’re kind of inventing a problem for yourself, BAE.
I mean, you did everything right. You saw someone who’s a regular in your various hang-outs, you got to know her, the two of you got comfortable enough to hang out and talk on your own, you made your move without hesitation and took her refusal with good grace. While it’s a shame that things didn’t work out, those are all literally what I tell folks to do when they see someone they’re interested in.
Here’s the part that’s not quite lining up for me, BAE: why should you act any differently around her? Literally nothing has changed. It’s not as though you were harboring deep-seated feelings for her or that you had a friendship of long-standing and your asking her on a date suddenly changed the context of your relationship. Similarly, it’s not like you did anything wrong, uncomfortable or shameful when you asked her out. You asked for a date, she said “no, thank you” and you said “ok, no problem”. That sounds to me like it all went as smoothly as one could hope for.
So why would you have any reason to be uncomfortable around her? Well, the answer to that is in how you’re looking at this, not how cool you are or aren’t with rejection.
See, the issue you’re having isn’t that you were vulnerable with her, the issue is that you were vulnerable and you were rejected. It’s that feeling of “Great, I did what everyone tells me to do and it didn’t work. Glad I opened myself up to pain for no good goddamn reason.”
Which is entirely understandable; when you’re letting yourself be vulnerable with someone, it feels like you’re doing something that’s going to make you look bad. It feels like you’ve done something shameful or embarrassing and showed a side of yourself that you otherwise keep hidden. But here’s the thing about vulnerability: it’s actually a strength. It’s showing the world that you don’t find your authentic feelings to be shameful or something that needs to be hidden. When you’re letting yourself be vulnerable, you’re showing the world that you’re strong enough to be your authentic self instead of putting up a mask that you think the world wants to see. You’re living openly and honestly and sincerely, and to be perfectly blunt: most people can’t handle living like that.
The fact that you told someone you were attracted to them and wanted to take them out on a date isn’t anything to be embarrassed about. Hell, the fact that you made your move is admirable. It’s a shame that it didn’t work the way you’d hope, but the fact that you did it at all is something that you should be proud of. There’s no reason to feel awkward around her or to try to avoid her because you didn’t do anything to feel awkward about. Honestly, avoiding her is going to make things more awkward because it sends weird messages, even though you don’t intend for it to do so.
So what do you do about it? Well, the only thing you can do is just power through it. Take a deep breath, let it out slowly and then push through that initial feeling of “oh god I’m embarrassed” and act like nothing has changed. This will be easy because, fundamentally, nothing has changed. It’s all exactly the same as in the minutes before you asked her out on a date. So when you force yourself to fake it (at first), you’ll realize very quickly that you aren’t having to fake it; everything will flow smoothly and normally and you’ll relax into the familiar old patterns before you know it.
You have no reason to feel humiliated, BAE, nor do you need steely confidence to get over this. All you need to do is change the context of how you see being vulnerable. It’s not something above and beyond or something embarrassing. It’s just you leaning into being your authentic, genuine self. It’s hard at first, but the more you choose to live authentically, the more natural it becomes.
And that’ll make it that much easier to find someone who will want to go out on that date with you.
I need some platonic advice:
So, I’m moving away in a few months (I’m living in Taiwan and am returning back to America) and recently a female friend reached out to me wanting to throw a party for me before I leave. Super nice sentiment and all that, but some issues:
– We were kinda seeing each other last year. Nothing serious and far from really anything just spending most of the weekend together and she wanted me to sleep over her place (I insisted on the couch because I didn’t want to cross a line) when we hung out and we kissed a few times. But, the moment another guy she wanted to get with got back into town she ghosted on me for months. I eventually got over it, but still kinda stings, so this is kind of out of left field.
– We have no friends in common, and the friends of hers that I have met I suspect don’t care for me.
– She’s younger than me (23 vs 30) and still parties really hard while my blackout drunk days are behind me.
My question is this:
How do I turn down her party idea politely and suggest maybe we do something else like just go get drinks and grab dinner or something just the two of us without coming across as having any kind of romantic overtures to the idea? I legitimately just want to have a platonic hang out and I’m worried that if I turn down a bigger party with lots of drunk people I don’t know or really like in lieu of a situation that means more to me like “how about just the two of us” will seem like I’m trying to make a move.
– Kautious in Kaouhsiung
I think I need a little more information, KiK. My first question is “how close are you two?” The way you phrase things makes it sound like you haven’t seen much of each other since you had your brief flirtation. That alone raises a few questions for me. But the fact that you also have no friends in common or overlapping social circles is what really makes my Spidey-sense tingle. I don’t think she’s planning anything untoward or malicious, but it’s a little weird to want to throw a farewell party for you when you haven’t exactly been seeing each other in months. I suspect that this is less of a “party” and more just excuse to see you before you go. Maybe she wants to make up for having ghosted on you for so long. Maybe she just really wants a last chance to hang with you before you’re gone for good. Who knows?
That having been said, I don’t think you really need to worry about her taking things the wrong way if you suggest an alternate plan. As a general rule, there’s really nothing wrong with saying “Hey, I’m not really feeling like a party, maybe we can just get dinner instead?” While it’s possible that she would see this as an attempt to make a move, that’s not really your problem. You can’t really control how people interpret what you say; no matter how clearly or explicitly you say it, some people will always hear what they want to hear, regardless.
So if you don’t want a party, just tell her you don’t want a party and suggest some other ideas instead. Then just relax and enjoy this opportunity to see your friend before you leave, instead of getting hung up on “what if she thinks I’m trying to make a move?” Either she’ll recognize that this is a strictly platonic-hang-out from the jump… or she’ll figure it out when you, y’know, don’t hit on her.
Hi Doc, In the last couple of months I’ve felt really tired as if I had lost all my energy and the only thing I want to do is stay under my sheets. It’s not like I want to sleep, in fact I’ve not slept well in weeks. Everytime I go to bed I remember how pathetic and sad is my life and how worthless am I.
I’m 25 and since I left college (one year) I’ve been in so many jobs interviews and all have led to nothing. I know it’s supposed to be hard but every time my hopes of landing a job have been crushed and I’m scared that I’ll never get a job and I’ll never have a life and I’m running out of time and waste my life. I don’t want to be a failure or a burden to my family.
My social life is as nonexistent as my work life. I’ve never had a girlfriend and I never kissed or held hands with a girl in my life. Back in high school almost every girl in my class told me how ugly I was and that I would die alone and so far they have been right. And just thinking that I’ll go through life without experiencing love kills me and makes me cry. I’ve approached many women in the past and always got rejected (sometimes is just a ‘hi’ and they look at me like GTFO) I must conclude I’m hideous or well below a minimum acceptable standard, since 100% of the girls I’ve met didn’t like me. I don’t try anymore because I’m scared of being laughed or ridiculed.
I know you have been through hard times and low points in your life and I guess I want a word of advice on how to keep going. I feel like I’m giving up on everything and I don’t know what to do.
A Tired Lad
Alright, ATL, you’ve got a layered series of problems, and the overarching issue is that you’re trying to handle these in the wrong order. Cases of yours are like mathematics; you need to solve things in the correct order to get the right result; otherwise you end up with an answer that seems correct but ultimately doesn’t solve anything. Trying to find a relationship, for example, is the wrong answer. You’re not in a position where you can find one or maintain one. Not because you’re worthless or because you’re undeserving but because you won’t be able to. In your current state, you won’t believe that people can find you attractive and you’ll brush off the folks who show interest lying or a mistake. You’ll take people’s responses in the worst possible light, regardless of what they actually said or did. Those women you insist were looking at you like GTFO? I can guarantee you that this is your brain looking at things and trying to find the worst possible interpretation.
Just as importantly though is that you won’t have the emotional resilience to bounce back from the disappointments and frustrations that we all face in dating.
So let’s talk about orders of operation.
In this case, you need to work from the inside out. So first things first, ATL: the symptoms you’re describing right at the top? That’s depression, man. Not “I’ve got the blues”, but chronic depression. The listlessness, the lack of energy that no amount of sleep seems to fix, the self-critical thoughts as you lay in bed? Those are all incredibly common symptoms of depression. That’s why the first thing you need to do is talk to a therapist and start getting that under control. And as someone who wrestles with depression himself, I’m here to tell you: that shit ain’t easy. There’s no one-size fits all answer. Some people respond well to self-directed therapies like Mood Gym or cognitive behavioral therapy. Other people respond well to talk therapy, while still others need medication to get things under control. It can take time to find the course of action that’s right for you. It may not be any one thing; you may need more than one option working in conjunction to help pull you out of this morass and feel like you’re back in control again. And that’s fine. There’s no shame in needing help, and being willing to actually take steps to get better is a sign of strength.
And while it’s by no cure by any stretch of the imagination, exercise, yoga and meditation can certainly help give you a greater feeling of control. Being active gets your blood flowing and your heart pumping, which helps your brain produce endorphins. Yoga and meditation help you get your racing thoughts under control and teach you how to get some much-needed quiet and calm at times when it seems like your anxieties are whispering in your ear like Grima Wormtongue. It won’t solve your problems, but they can help give you just a little more strength to hold on and to push through.
Your next step is going to be dealing with fundamental lifestyle issues. Unemployment is awful in general, but for a lot of men, it hits on an existential level; we grow up with the idea that a Real Man Is A Provider and that A Real Man is self-sufficient. This is part of why we get so anxious about issues like living with our parents or being “a burden”; it’s not just the guilt of relying on others, but the fear that this marks us as Not Men. If you aren’t living on your own without help from anyone… well, are you an adult? Are you even a man? But the problem is that, while the stock market may be doing gangbusters and CEOs are pulling down record profits, the economy still blows for everyone who isn’t a multi-millionaire. Jobs are scarce and insecure – especially as industries get “disrupted” and automation continues to eliminate jobs entirely – so everyone lives with the awareness that the job they have today may not even exist tomorrow. So now many men find themselves in the position of feeling like their identity as men is literally out of their control.
This is why your next step is simply getting work. It doesn’t need to be your dream job. It doesn’t need to be the last job you’ll ever have. It just needs to be something that gives you that sense of control back, a combination guide-rail and stepping stone. It’s something to steady yourself long enough to feel like everything isn’t hopeless, that you can then use to move forward to a new and better job. So if you have to join the gig economy briefly… do it. If you need to pick up a job stocking shelves or pouring asphalt, go for it. This is just temporary, something to help you get your feet under you. Save up your cash as best you can so that you can take your next step – whether it’s finding roommates and an apartment, freelancing, developing a side-hustle or taking time to go hit the job market like it’s a piñata and you want that delicious candy inside.
As you build on these, then you’re going to be in a position to give more attention to your social life. But you won’t be looking for a girlfriend; you’re simply going to build your social life, holistically. You’re going to make finding friends and reinforcing the bonds with the friends you already have. Having a strong circle of friends – people who love you, care for you and who support you. I realize it’s not as sexy – as it were – as going out and finding Hotty McHotterson and finally getting that first kiss or losing your virginity… but it’s what you need far more right now. Most men are desperately lonely and don’t have a strong group of friends; as a result, they put all of their emotional burdens on their girlfriends and wives. This taxes their relationships under the best of circumstances, but it also isolates them. If their partner is their sole source of emotional support, socializing and emotional intimacy, then those partners become a single point of failure. If their relationship falls apart, they’re back to being isolated and alone, with nobody to rely on and nobody to turn to. And then you’d be back in the position you’re in now.
Getting these aspects in your life are going to form the stable foundation that you can use to build on. You won’t feel so out of control or at the mercy of the poison your depression is dripping in your ear. You’ll be in a position where you’ll be able to recognize your worth and understand that you are deserving of love. More importantly, however, is that being single or not won’t be what defines you as a person.
I am a female in my late 20’s with a variation of a problem you’ve heard before. I can’t get a date. I never get asked out, and if I ask a guy out they say no. The last guy I dated was in college and we were best friends first and shifted to a relationship as it became clear we both had feelings for one another.
I do plenty of activities where I’m around people. I play D&D with multiple groups of people (forever DM), volunteer at church in areas where I’m around other people my age, go to the gym, play intramural sports, and hang out with friends where I can meet more of their social circles. My friends describe me as fun, friendly, flirty when I want to be, passionate about the things I like, witty, independent, and sarcastic as hell. However, I’m very analytically minded, pragmatic, and not good at showing my emotions. When I jokingly asked which Star Wars character I was most similar to, they all separately said R2-D2 or K2-S0. I am also fairly overweight, but I’m working on it and know that won’t change overnight. I try to look as good as I can, but I stick with minimal makeup and clothes that make me feel comfortable but still look nice.
I have lots of guy friends, so I know I get along well with guys. They take initiative and invite me along to things; it’s not like I’m just tagging along with them. But it’s never more than that. Anytime I try and ask a guy out, which only happens after significant flirting and it seems like they’re interested (and friends tell me it looks like they’re interested-so it’s not just me misreading signals), they say that they only think of me as a good friend. And guys ask out all my single friends, but never me.
What am I doing wrong? I’m not going to mope around and say “woe is me, I’ll be single forever”. If there’s something I should fix, I’ll get right on it. Is it that I’m not attractive enough? Or am I totally missing something else?
Thanks, Too Many Best Friends
Here’s my question for you, TMBF: do you feel attractive? Not in the sense of “here’re all the dudes that think I’m hot,” but the way you think of yourself. Do you look in the mirror and think that you’re sexy? Or do you look at the things that you think are your flaws and think about trying to look good despite them?
The way you describe yourself physically and the way that you describe your appearance makes me suspect it’s the latter. I’ve known a lot of folks, especially people who’re overweight, who look at their weight as the disqualifier from… well, everything. They don’t feel like they have a right to dress well, to put effort into their presentation or to just think of themselves as being a sexy bad-ass. And that sense of “I’m not good enough” tends to get in the way of, well, everything. Because straight talk: there’re folks out there who like big women, just as there’re folks who like big men. And I don’t just mean fetishists or people who think that overweight women are desperate or will put up with more bullshit, folks who are attracted to and desire big women and want relationships with them.
But it’s hard to find them when you don’t feel like you’re allowed to think that you’re a sexy badass.
So my first suggestion for you is to start treating yourself like you’re hot. Find the things that make you feel unstoppably awesome. Maybe it’s a kick-ass dress. Maybe it’s a different make-up routine. Maybe it’s finding your personal style, something that’s uniquely you and makes you feel like a million bucks. This isn’t about changing yourself to someone else’s ideal, but in finding the things that make you feel like a goddamn bundle of awesome that people would be insane to pass up. Because, like I’m often saying, attitude is destiny. And recognizing that you’re money and knowing that people would be lucky to date you changes how you approach relationships and dating.
My second suggestion is to examine how you’re coming across to people. If you’re a little more emotionally reserved and pragmatic just because that’s how you naturally are… cool, you do you. But if you’re holding yourself back because you don’t feel like you’re allowed to have a presence or express yourself… well, that’s when it’s time to give yourself take up a little more emotional space. It could be that your cool demeanor and reserve may be putting people off because they think you’re not interested. It may be that by leaning into your passions and letting those passions be a bigger part of your life, you’ll feel empowered to be more expressive.
My third suggestion is to give things time. Sometimes the issue has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the people around you. It may be that at your age and in your social circles, you’re with people who aren’t mature enough for you; god knows that those guys who like big women often have to overcome a lot of social programming that tells them that their desires are shameful and that they should only want conventionally hot women. It may also be that you just haven’t been in a position to meet the right guy yet. A good friend of mine spent years dealing with assholes who would tell her to her face that she was good enough to fuck, but not good enough to date. She was convinced that she was going to die alone, unloved and unmourned.
As unhelpful as it can feel, sometimes the problem isn’t something that you can fix; it’s just a matter of time and demographics and waiting for things to line up correctly. Which ain’t fun… but it also means that this too shall pass.
You’ve got a lot going for you TMBF, and I suspect that the more you embrace your awesome, the more luck you’ll have. Live an awesome life that makes you feel awesome and the rest will start to take care of itself.
The Dr. NerdLoveLine Special - Answering YOUR Dating Questions | Paging Dr. NerdLove - YouTube
You’ve been waiting patiently, and it’s finally here! This week, the Doc – and special guest host Crystal Donovan – take your questions from the NerdLove Hotline and dispense wit, wisdom, dating advice and digressions into side topics.
Loved this episode? Have a dating question you’d like to hear answered on here? Call your question in to 512-522-6513 and leave a voice mail!
How do you talk about being an older virgin? What about when your friends want to talk about sex and you feel anxious?
How do you approach women during the day on a college campus?
What’s the best way to flirt when you’re worried about running out of things to day?
How do you approach an introverted guy?
How can you manage approach anxiety?
The time the Doc screwed up so badly the club closed down
I had been with my current girlfriend for almost 7 years and I feel happy and good with her. In February, I asked her to marry me and she said yes. We will get married at the end of this year. I consider everything is ok between us, but recently, a work partner (48, F) , suggested to me in a work chat that I should have a last romantic adventure. She told me I should enjoy my last chance to stay with another girl. I disregarded this and just dropped that idea but everything changed a couple days ago.
Some background … 6 years ago I took English lessons due to my job. I met there many people and I got along well with one girl in special. She was 14 and I was 24 years old. Nothing weird happened at the time, but now after 6 years, I discover I like her and she seems to like me. Everything started with a Facebook post that something like this “if you read this you should kiss me one time if you continue reading at this point, two times, and three times at this part of this text” …
Well, I consider that so funny and then I replied, “sorry but I read the full text” and that was the beginning. We have a kind of “date” last week and we spend a wonderful time. We went to watch a movie and after that, we went to a bar. There was where everything started. We had some drinks, we had some chat and then we confessed our attraction. After that, she suddenly kissed me. I have to admit, I enjoyed it and I like it too. We spend all night dancing and drinking. We had a lot of kisses too. After that weekend, we continued chatting about more intimal dates and both accepted to do “that”.
We will have our “romantic date” this weekend. She is very excited about that and me … I feel just “ok” with that. However I feel a little curious about stay with her one night. I am pretty sure I want to stay forever with my fiancée, I haven’t any doubt about it.
Of course, my fiancée doesn’t suspect anything but I feel a little bad about doing this, but I think too this would be my last chance to have a “romantic adventure” before getting married.
I don’t know if this is something I should try and I would like to know if this is really bad … please help me
Feet Getting Cold
Right, so where to start.
Oh wait, I know: don’t cheat on your fianceé.
My dude, I freely admit that my views on monogamy and infidelity are nuanced as hell. Monogamy is incredibly difficult to execute perfectly and there are going to be many, many temptations in your way over the course of your life. But holy sweet fucking hell chief, there’s a giant goddamn world of difference between “I was on a trip, I had too many drinks and I failed a Wisdom saving throw” and “I’ve consciously decided to cheat on my fianceé”. One is understandable. Something you should try to avoid in a monogamous committed relationship, but not the worst thing you could do. The other is deliberately choosing to do something that you know will hurt your partner, and that’s a shitty thing to do to somebody that you love.
(And I don’t even know where to start with the fact that you first met the woman you’re planning on cheating on your fianceé with when she was 14. Yeah, I know she’s 20 now but that’s still gonna be a “YIKES” from me.)
Of course, that’s not gonna happen if you’re starting things off by cheating on her.
If you love your fianceé and want things to work, then you need to cut things off with your friend now. No engaging with her flirty Facebook posts, no messaging, no dates and certainly no “romantic” dates. This is a bad scene, chief and it’s only going to get worse. And like the dude who was afraid he’s settling too far, if you go down this road, then you’re going to end up realizing that you gave up a good thing… and you won’t be able to get it back.
I (20’s cis male, hetero, autistic) am told by ladies that I trust that I am good looking. I just don’t believe them. Not that I have horrible self image or wallow in pity at what life threw at me, I am just unable to look at what I have and see someone attractive and/or sexy.
How can I improve this deficiency?
No Mind’s Eye
You have an issue that a lot of folks have, NME. A lot of us have a difficult time believing it when other people tell us we’re attractive. We look in the mirror and just wonder… what the pluperfect hell are they seeing?
Part of this is because we tend to be hyperaware of what we perceive as our flaws. Our eyes lock on all the places where we feel like our bodies are too flabby or our skin is too pocked and cratered. We see the parts of us that are too big or too small, that stick out too far or that seem like they’re out of proportion to the rest of us and we wonder how the hell anybody could think somebody with these misshapen features was handsome.
But the fact that we are conscious of those things doesn’t mean that other people notice – or even care about them. Nor for that matter, does it mean that they think that they’re flaws. The things that make you unique are often the very things that other people think make you special and desirable.
Just as importantly, many times, we don’t let ourselves accept that we could be attractive. We may feel like we don’t meet some impossible standard and so we think that we couldn’t possibly be considered attractive. Or we may think that because we don’t match some trend, don’t have the currently popular body type or even the right race or ethnicity, nobody could think that we’re hot.
Start with your grooming. Work with a barber or stylist to get a cool haircut, one that frames and flatters your face and your head. If you have facial hair, make sure that it’s shaped and trimmed and neat. Pay attention to how you smell, too; Brad Pitt may be a good looking dude, but that attractiveness disappears when people realize he never showers, so he always smells like BO and weed.
Next, find the clothes that make you feel amazing. Clothes really do make the man and when you’re wearing something that makes you feel like a sexy bad-ass, then that in turn changes how you walk, how you sit and how you carry yourself. Make sure they’re clothes that fit properly too; a well-fitting t-shirt and jeans will look infinitely better on you than a baggy, unkempt suit.
But more than anything else, you need to learn to see yourself for the sexy bad-ass that you are. Start by looking in the mirror and finding your good parts. Focus on those; maybe you have gorgeous eyes. Maybe you have an awesome smile or great shoulders. Let yourself feel proud of them, even compliment yourself on them. Telling yourself out loud that you look hot, especially as you look at yourself in the mirror, can be surprisingly powerful.
And as weird as this may sound: start getting in the habit of taking selfies. Learning to find your angles and being able to see photographic evidence that you look great goes a long, long way to accepting that yeah, you’re pretty damn foxy.
It’ll all be a little uncomfortable at first. Guys are taught that these are all “female” or “feminine” behaviors. But when you set those fears aside, you’ll start to realize just how much being willing to care about yourself can make you feel amazing.
I’m 17 and ending off my junior year. I’m having a lot of trouble with the girls at my school. Here’s my situation, I’m still a virgin but have had girlfriends here and there, nothing too outstanding. I’m pretty average looking, but I’m on the shorter side, 5”7. I’m fit, outgoing, and pretty funny. But my main problem is that no girls at school even give me a damn chance. I can get any girl I wanted online, but I’m losing interest in online relationships or long distance.
I’ve been told that I’m cute, handsome, hot, by multiple people but no matter what I fucking do I can’t get a damn date.
Is it my height? That’s the only thing I can think of to be honest.
I’m 5’8″, SR, and I can tell you that my height has never been a handicap. While there will always be women who’ll want dudes of certain heights, all that means is that they’re simply not compatible with you. It’s a shame, but it just frees you up to find the folks who are. There’re plenty of women who’ll dig you.
Because, straight talk, SR: the issue isn’t your height. The issue is that dating in high-school is a goddamn dumpster fire. High-school is less like education and far more like a maximum security prison, filled with people whose hormones are surging so hard that nobody knows if they’re coming or going. Everyone’s confused, everyone’s freaking out and everyone is trying to figure out who they are and what any of this means. That’s why people start playing weird status games and sectioning themselves off into cliques; everyone’s trying to find identities and personas that fit. This is why my standard advice for folks in high-school is to not sweat dating.
You’re a junior. You’ve got a year left of high-school, and if I’m perfectly blunt, the odds that any relationship you start now won’t survive past graduation. 99% of the folks in college aren’t dating the people they were dating in college, especially past the midpoint of their freshman year. Your best move here is to focus on developing the social skills and emotional intelligence that’ll let you be ready to hit the ground running once you graduate high-school… when you’ll be setting foot out into the real world, when things will start to actually count.
I’m having trouble dealing with the various impulses between my relationship, my career, my balls and my mind.
For a timeline: I’ve been dating this girl for 7 months now. Due to some family divorce and job relocation circumstances, we’re basically living together now and have signed a year lease.
One on one, she’s very fun to be around. We’re both flirty and weird with each other, are very experimental in bed and love doing adventurous things together. When I’m with her alone, it feels like nothing else matters; we’re literally like children together most nights. Her character and personality are admirable: she’s made me aware of my own shortcomings, has taught me the value of constructing a shared narrative with someone I trust and her optimism is contagious. However there are two triggering situations which make me rethink my dating situation:
Firstly, I constantly see pictures of other girls and feel like I’m settling. I will admit there are definitely angles and clothing and lifestyle changes which she works to her advantage, but sometimes it really doesn’t feel like enough. She’s acutely aware of me feeling this way, as I’m bad at hiding emotions, and blames my feelings on the whole ‘Tinder generation’ if there always being something better. She may have a point, but to what degree should I suppress this urge?
Second, to add fuel to the ego fire, I recently got a big job promotion and will be in sales. It’s a difficult enough job as it is, where I’ll have to be focused and sophisticated with my social interactions, but it also gives me a huge ego boost. I feel that the money, status and opportunities I’ll be presented with will be continue feeding the beast within me that desperately wants all the spoils life has to offer, which would contradict a monogamous relationship. I’m 24, and while I’ve screwed many girls already, I’ve become such a higher quality individual and feel I deserve more.
Can you help me understand if this is something many guys feel? If so, how long will it be before I can’t take it anymore? In the meantime, what can I do to keep myself satisfied with her?
Thanks a lot for reading, Settling Down or Settling For?
Alright SDSF, I’m gonna be blunt: it sounds to me like you’re looking for a reason to dump her without feeling bad about it. And if that’s the case, then yes, you should break up with her. For her sake, not yours.
I mean shit dude, you’re already hurting her. The fact that you’ve been conveying the message of “You’re great but I think I could do better” is a pretty shitty thing to do to somebody you care for, even if she’s blaming it on “the Tinder generation” and not your having an eye out for the newer, hotter model.
So straight talk: yes, you’re settling. It doesn’t matter who you date, whether it’s your current girlfriend or some unspeakably hot Instagram model: you’re always going to be settling. This is because nobody gets everything that they want in a relationship. There are always going to things that you are going to have to let go of to be in a relationship with somebody. It may be accepting that the person you’re dating isn’t as sexually adventurous as you’d like and so there won’t be any threesomes or sex clubs in your future together. It may be that they’re not a bikini model and instead are a lovely but-not-unearthly-gorgeous person. It may be that they’re unspeakably beautiful but aren’t ambitious or don’t have much intellectual curiosity or won’t do monogamy. There are always going to be tradeoffs when you commit to a relationship with someone; you have to recognize that what you do get is so amazing that it more than makes up for the fact that you’re not getting those other things.
Now going by that metric, it sounds like your girlfriend more than meets that standard. You describe all the ways that things are great… except for the fact that she doesn’t quite stroke your ego as arm candy. And look my dude, I’m not gonna say that you’re obligated to date her or anyone to prove that you’re not shallow, but if the problem you’re having is that you’re worried she’s not hot enough to impress your friends then that’s a you problem, not a her problem.
The other thing is that you’re doing something I’ve seen a lot of guys do in your position: you’re throwing away happiness you do have for the potential of getting something better – something that’s not guaranteed by any stretch of the imagination. You’ve gotten the promotion and salary bump but that doesn’t automatically translate to “and now I have access to hotter women.” You’re going to be the same person you are now, with the same social skills. If the only difference is that you’ll be talking to people who’re more impressed by money or status… well, great, but you’ll mostly be attracting people who are into money or status. And speaking strictly for myself, if someone’s only interested in a version of me that’s exactly the same but with larger digits in my bank balance, that’s someone I’d rather not be dating.
In fact, many times the same guys who’ve been in your position and put aside their current relationships in order to “trade up” (as it were) have come to regret it; even if they date someone who’s physically hotter or more ego-polishing, they still recognize that it doesn’t make up for what they lost in the process.
But hey, if you think you deserve more, then that’s your call chief. But I can tell you now that that aspect of things is going to make it impossible for you to “keep yourself satisfied with her.” If you want to stay with her, then what you need to do is start actually appreciating what you have, how she makes you feel and what she brings to this relationship and worrying less about the proverbial two in the bush. The more you can focus on what you enjoy about your relationship with her and the more grateful you can be for what you have, the more satisfied you’ll be.
But if you’re always saying “you’re great, but I think I could do better,” then all you’re doing is condemning your relationship and her emotions to a death by a thousand cuts. At which point, you’d be better off just breaking her heart now instead of slowly bleeding it dry over time; at least that way she’ll have a chance to get over you quicker and with less unnecessary pain.
And it’s like the sage once said:there’s a million fine looking women in the world, dude. But they don’t all bring you lasagna at work. Most of ’em just cheat on you.
Dear Dr. NerdLove,
First I would like to say I’m from a South Asian country. We take relationships seriously and culturally. I have a girlfriend (4 months affair). She is my first love. but she had a boyfriend and I’m her second love. I’m really suffering that I couldn’t be her first love. But she loves me more than her life. She always tells it and I’m actually feeling that. Her ex-boyfriend was cheated on her and left her. She always tells I’m way better than him and she says “no one loved me as you do”. We have good emotionally and sexually love life. She is totally satisfied with me. But I’m really suffering.
I always feel like she lies to me because she doesn’t like to broke my heart and she still secretly love her ex because it is ‘first love things’. Sometimes I ask her that she still remembers her ex. She says no. But I can’t believe it. Please help me to figure this out. I really love her and I can’t even think that she is thinking about another man even for a moment.
Second Place, First Loser
Dude, if you love her, then you need to shut the hell up and trust her.
I’m going to give it to you straight: pretty much anyone you date is going to have a history. The older you get, the less likely it will be that you’re going to be somebody’s “first”. And that’s fine. There’s no prize for being somebody’s first love, somebody’s first relationship, somebody’s first sexual experience. It doesn’t magically confer significance on the relationship that nobody else will ever match or outdo. I mean, fuck dude, you know this already because she’s already told you about how her first boyfriend fucking cheated on her and dumped her. That’s such a low goddamn bar for you to clear that you could roller-skate over it.
And here you are agonizing about the fact that someone else was there first.
Here’s the other thing about firsts: they’re almost never “lasts”. No matter how seriously one’s culture takes relationships, the truth is that the vast majority of the population doesn’t stay with their first partner until death do they part. While it does happen – I’ve got a friend who’s been with his wife since they were 13 – it’s rare enough that you shouldn’t be betting the farm on it. So the fact that you aren’t someone’s first only means that the odds are better that you two might have the capability, the experience, the perspective and the emotional maturity to go the distance.
But NOT when you’re sitting there, telling someone that you love that she’s a liar when she says that she loves you and only you.
This ain’t about love, chief. This is about insecurity. This is about you worrying that you don’t measure up and that she’s going to leave you for someone else because reasons. And I’m here from the future to tell you that this is exactly what’s going to happen if you don’t quit throwing her past relationships in her face. You need to either accept that she’s being straight when she tells you that she loves you and cares for you and wants to be with you, or you need to get ready for the break-up that will be coming down the pike.
Instead of dealing with whether she loves you or not – accept that she is telling you the truth – you need to work on your self-esteem and your sense of self worth. I think the best thing you can do for yourself is to find yourself a counselor or therapist and start unpacking these insecurities you have, before they detonate something good you have in your life.
As part of that process, he admitted that he’s been in near constant mouth pain since shortly after the baby was born. He has now gotten some major dental work done (wisdom teeth removed, cavities filled, and gum disease treated) and not being in constant pain has definitely also helped.
Things still aren’t perfect, but they are a whole lot better. Thank you.
Doing Better In Seattle
Hey, thanks for letting us know how you’ve been doing, DBIS! Glad to hear things have improved, especially since it means that your husband is no longer dealing with serious constant pain! Congratulations on the work the two of you have put in and having the courage to talk things out, and I hope things continue to improve for you both!