Hello all you spaceporn lungfish of the Twitternet, and welcome to Ask Dr. NerdLove, the only dating advice column whose coming was predicted by the sacred mutterings of the oracle of E3.
This week, we’re looking at two sides of the same coin. On the one side: what do you do when your girlfriend thinks that you don’t care enough? And on the other, how do you convince a friend that you don’t care too much? And lastly, can a porn habit get in the way of sex with your significant other? Breathe in the sacred smoke of a thousand burning NES Classics and get ready to dive in.
So, I have never done this, but I have I question about relationships and I am tired of hearing the same advice from friends and family.
I have been with my girlfriend for almost two years now, and I really love her. I never felt this way with anyone and I like to think I have given all I have to her, but she seems to think is not enough because “I am not jealous enough”. This is something that she has expressed several times, regardless that I have explained to her several times also that it doesn’t mean I don’t love her but that I don’t want to be possessive of her.
I really don’t find joy in controlling who she is with, or limiting it in any way. She is a very social person in some instances and a very shy one in others, so I want her to fully embrace who she is with persons who she knows and strangers who might become friends, and that my presence doesn’t limit enjoying herself. We are both in our 20s after all.
I would like to clarify that this is a monogamous relationship and that I am not interested in “experimenting” in any way, and she neither. I think this need for jealousy is rooted in two things: (1) we both always wanted to have a couple but when we started dating each other we were very shy, so it didn’t become official six months after we have started; (2) she cheated on me when we weren’t officially boyfriend and girlfriend and felt very guilty about it. I have forgiven her for the latter. No one except us and her mother knows about this.
We are happy with each other and we are the best mates, but knowing that she doesn’t feel loved because I am not jealous is killing me.
No Yellow-Eyed Demon
This is one of those times when the question being asked is different from the question that actually needs to be answered, NYED. You want to know about how to handle her insistence that you don’t love her enough.
To be fair: occasionally you’ll run into someone whose love language involves being possessive and people who want to feel possessed. There are people who think that part of how guys are supposed to act is to treat every other man as a threat to “his girl” and to want to keep her all to himself. And there can be something appealing — if emotionally unhealthy — about the idea that someone feels so passionate about you and thinks so highly of your desirability that they guard you like a dragon guarding its hoard.
But being jealous and possessive and controlling of your partner also means that you don’t trust them and feel that you have the right to dictate their behavior and life. Jealousy is only cute until you’ve had to live with it. In practice, it’s a form of neediness and insecurity at best and a precursor of abuse at the worst. And while you’re both young, I find it hard to believe that she honestly expects you to be the Big Moose to her Midge.
That’s why I think you’re asking the wrong question here, NYED. I think the real question is: what is it that she feels she’s lacking from you?
See, there’s such a thing as being trusting and confident in your relationship with your partner. It’s great when you can be easygoing and let your partner have their own life without feeling like you own them or have some sort of control.
But there’s easy-going, and then there’s “not giving a shit at all.” It’s possible to be so trusting and uncontrolling that you end up seeming like you don’t care. You may be saying “Hey, I want you to have your own life and not worry about my thinking you’re up to shenanigans”, but what she may well be hearing is, “fuck it, what do I care? Do whatever, I checked out of this relationship a while ago.”
Going slow because you’re shy can sometimes feel like going slow because you can take it or leave it. Especially if your laissez-faire attitude to the relationship has been there from the jump. And to be perfectly honest: I think the time where she slept with someone else may have been a clue about how she’s feeling.
As I’ve said before (and has been argued over in the comments), cheating can be a complex topic. Not all infidelities are equal and the motivation behind cheating can convey multitudes. Some people cheat because they’re dissatisfied in the relationship and are seeking comfort, release or validation elsewhere. Others cheat because of a perfect storm of weakness and opportunity. Some cheat because FUCK YOU, THAT’S WHY. And some people cheat because they’re trying to send a message.
Even when there’s no expectation of commitment or monogamy, for many people, knowing that someone they care about has slept with someone else can provoke an intense reaction. If someone feels unwanted, taken for granted or otherwise neglected, they might try to provoke a reaction — any reaction — in hopes of shaking things up.
If you want a great example of this in fiction, check out The Last Boy Scout. Bruce Willis’ wife in that movie doesn’t want him to insult her and say he’d spit in her face if the cops weren’t around, she just wants him to react instead of shutting down and shutting her out.
It’s good that you forgave her after she slept with someone else (even if there wasn’t anything to forgive… but that’s a different argument entirely). But if this was something that you were able to do so easily that you didn’t even react? Then she may wonder whether it even bothered you at all and that might have left her a niggling worry.
(And if it didn’t, well, that’s cool man, but you need more than “nah, that didn’t hurt me.” “I love you enough that I trust you to come back to me” would be closer to what she wanted to hear than “enh, I want monogamy but I’m not too fussed about it”)
So you may love your girlfriend. You may say so. But if you’re so laid back and hands-off that she feels abandoned? Then she’s going to wonder if there’s any emotion behind those words. I don’t think that she wants you to be jealous. I think what she wants is to feel that you want her and need her and that the idea of losing her would hurt. Jealousy just happens to be the (inaccurate) shorthand for what she wants.
You’re doing a lot of talking, but nobody’s actually communicating. I think the two of you need to sit down and have a serious talk about emotional needs and how you express the way that you feel to one another. What is it that she actually wants when she tells you that you aren’t jealous enough? What does she hear when you encourage her to have a life of her own, separate from you?
Get that sorted out, and I think that you’ll both finally understand one another. You’ll know what she needs from you, and she’ll see the ways you’re trying to give those things to her.
Dear Dr. NerdLove
Unlike many letters, this is about friendship rather than romance, but I’m sure you can help anyway.
I am a 28 years old male and for the last 3 years I have been doing a Ph.D in a different country than where I am from. Therefore, I am isolated from my friend network (though I do still text and Skype with my 2 best friends frequently) and my family. Making friends here has not been easy, because of cultural and linguistic differences.
That said, after my first year here, I met a girl in my program. She is from another country as well and English is her second language, just like me. We became fast friends. And I eventually developed a crush on her.
However, when I met her, she had a boyfriend, but said boyfriend was in her home country, things weren’t going well, and she was expecting to break up when she went back from Christmas break. So I decided I’d ask her out after Christmas. Turns out, she did not break up. In the end, her boyfriend decided to move out of his home country and go come live with her here.
I was obviously bummed by the news, but also happy for her. So I decided I would just be her friend, and swallow my crush. Since I did not want to make things awkward, I told her what I had planned to do, and that I did have feelings for her, but I was fine with staying friends.
And I meant it. Sure, I was sometimes jealous, but I got over it. During that year, everything went well. We were very close, we hung out a lot, she even slept on my couch when her roommates were being dicks. Then, she changed apartments, and had different roommates who were awesome and friends of mine as well, so we hung out a lot less as a pair, and mostly as a group.
About a week before her boyfriend arrived, I told her that I didn’t have a crush on her anymore. Sure, I’ll always find her pretty and interesting, but we were friends now and I did not see us being anything else. Again, I meant it 100%
Her boyfriend arrived, and while he was a nice guy, it didn’t work out and they split up. She made plans to transfer to a new university in a new city and I was having a hard time in school. I really wanted to hang out a lot with her while we still could, as she was my only good friend in the city.
Shortly after her break-up, she told me that I should not get my hopes up even if she was single. I was a little hurt she felt like she had to say that, but I reiterated I did not have feelings for her anymore.
Despite my reassurance, in the weeks that followed, I felt that she was pulling away, seeing new friends more and more and me less and less. We barely saw each other and mostly interacted by text. Then there is the fact that planning things was becoming a nightmare. She often waited at the last minute to confirm that we were doing something, and she cancelled a few things because she “didn’t think it was a solid plan.”
Recently, she also became incredibly thin-skinned on things I said. It happened twice in one week that she took something I said in the worst way possible and got pissed at me based on that. After the last incident, I decided I had enough, and finally sent her that message, telling her to be brutally honest if she had to, but to tell me what the hell was going on. She eventually responded.
She said she could not get the idea out of her mind that I was still interested, and that she didn’t like how I changed my behavior after she was single. She gave examples, and in both case they had nothing to do with her being single.
So, because she was convinced I still had feelings, she said she didn’t want to hang out as much anymore. I responded that I was sad, but I would respect her wishes, and would not contact her anymore unless she contacted me. This was 2 weeks ago.
So, my question is: what should I do? Can I do anything? It seems to me that if she is convinced that I have feelings for her, she is going to interpret every attempt I make to convince her otherwise as a proof of her belief. But maybe I’m wrong? Also, is there anything I could have done to prevent this situation? I really liked having this girl as a friend, and I would love to be her friend again, but I don’t know where to go from there.
A Friend in Need
I don’t think there’s much you can do, AFIN. What you needed to do was… well, nothing. It sounds as though – and I could be wrong here – you never got around to asking her out on a date before you told her that you were going to get over your crush. If that’s the case, that’s going to feel a bit weird. But regardless of whether you got turned down first or not, the best response was “OK, not a problem” instead of “Well, I’ve got a crush on you but I’ll choke it down, no worries.”
Reiterating it later on – especially if it came up unprompted – is going to feel even weirder. You may have intended it with all sincerity, but to someone else, it can sound like “methinks the boy protests too much.” You’re saying “hey, don’t worry all’s cool,” but she’s hearing “hey, just FYI, this is your last chance to ditch the zero and get with the hero…”
Here’s the problem: the world is filled with stories of Nice Guys who will swear up and down that they have no romantic or sexual interest in someone and then stick around in hopes that they will wear their target down over time. And fair or not, a lot of women will give some side-eye to someone who tells them, “Yeah, I used to have an unrequited thing for you but it’s gone now,” because they’ve been lied to before.
And while your crush – or her belief that you still had it – may have been cute if unimportant while she was still in a relationship, when she was single, she had a not-unreasonable worry that you might have been biding your time until this very moment.
Paradoxically, the fact that you two were close could well be what ultimately caused her to suspect you were still carrying a flame for her. Behavior and familiarity that might have been acceptable while things were “safe” and you knew there wasn’t any chance for the two of you might seem suspicious when she’s single. Even if you were acting exactly the same way as you were before, the context had changed, and that, not unreasonably, could change how she interpreted things.
And no, it’s not fair, unfortunately. You wanted to spend time with your friend before she left, at a time when you were having a rough go of it. While you may have had the purest of intentions, to someone who’s worried that a dude has been harboring a secret crush all this time, that can feel like a dude trying to make his move.
It sucks. You’re in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation, because you can’t prove a negative. One of the quirks of human psychology is what’s known as confirmation bias. We tend to see the things that we expect to see and ignore the things that don’t line up with what we already believe. So even if your motives are as pure as the driven snow, they can still be seen as proof that you’re lying.
To be perfectly honest: I think your friendship may have been on the downward swing before you two broke up. She was becoming more distant. She was spending less time alone with you and hanging out with you in groups. Those tend to be the actions of someone who isn’t necessarily comfortable or interested in being close with you and is trying to downplay the intimacy you had before.
So, no, I don’t think there was really much you could have done to have prevented things, short of hopping in a Delorean and going back in time to avoid confessing your crush in the first place. I think your friendship was starting to come to its natural conclusion already, and her suspicion about you and your intentions is only going to make her see almost anything you do in the worst possible light.
The more you try to fix things, the worse it’ll go. All you can do now is give her space, let the matter drop and respect her boundaries. If she wants to reach out some day down the road, she knows where to find you.
Hey Dr. Nerdlove,
I have been a regular reader of your column and find your advice to the point (rather than sugar coated) and very practical. Hence I am turning to you for advice.
I am 35 years old and married for the last couple of years. We have a great relationship at an emotional level and love each other. Believe that’s the only reason why she is still with me, because our sex life has never been good to begin with and is pretty much non existent now. I have trouble getting an erection and maintaining it. This has been more so of late and you can understand when I say I am reluctant to get intimate anymore. It leaves me feeling dysfunctional and worthless. I am sure my wife is frustrated as well, though she has been very patient. It helps that she is not the kind that wants to get intimate every day and once a week works perfectly well for her.
I have been into porn for the last 20 years, watching it almost on a daily basis. I never had issues getting an erection watching porn though recently I have been seeking out more and more novel variety of porn, and frequently I just skim through videos rather than really watch them.
Do you think my troubles are related to my porn habit? And if so, would just switching off it be enough to get things back on track? Or should I be going to a doctor for medical advice? I am reluctant to get on medication unless absolutely necessary since I have heard ED medication can develop a reliance on them. I have been off porn for last couple of weeks (which is quite an accomplishment for me) and think I can go cold turkey if that will help. But I haven’t seen any change in my situation yet.
I have yet to see a reputable study about porn and erectile dysfunction that didn’t come from an outlet with an agenda to push, PA (yes, including that one. And that one. And that other one), but I have seen ones that say that there isn’t a connection.
I think your problem is more prosaic, and you said it yourself: your sex life has never been that great in the first place. If you’ve been jerking off to porn instead of having sex, you may not have enough energy left for your wife too… especially if you’re not enjoying the sex you’re having with her. And if you aren’t attracted to your wife, or you and your wife aren’t sexually compatible, then it’s far more likely that it’s a lack of interest that’s killing your boner, not how many times you’ve spanked it to Lexi Belle.
So if you want to go cold turkey and block Pornhub, well shit, more power to you man. See where it gets you. But I don’t think the problem is the porn. I think the problem is your relationship. You’d do better to talk to a sex-positive relationship counselor than worrying about what Cassidy Banks is doing to your boner.
Has a lack of jealousy caused issues in your relationship? Did you squash a crush and save a friendship? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments. And meanwhile, we’ll be back with more of your questions in two weeks.
Ask Dr. Nerdlove is Kotaku’s bi-weekly dating column, hosted by the one and only Harris O’Malley, AKA Dr. NerdLove. Got a question you’d like answered? Write firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Kotaku” in the subject line.
Harris O’Malley is a writer and dating coach who provides geek dating advice at his blog Paging Dr. NerdLove and the Dr. NerdLove podcast. His new dating guide New Game+: The Geek’s Guide to Love, Sex and Dating is out now from Amazon, iTunes and everywhere fine books are sold He is also a regular guest at One Of Us.
He can be found dispensing snark and advice on Facebook and on Twitter at @DrNerdLove.