Above: Not what actually happened.

Hello all you frightening skin machines, and welcome to Ask Dr. NerdLove, the only advice column with a complete walkthrough for the dating sim of life.

This week, we’re tackling a couple of complex topics. When it seems like you’ve missed your window, is it possible to turn a friendship into something more physical? And what do you do when you’re innocent of the infidelity you’ve been accused of… but you got rid of all the evidence anyway?

Let’s do this thing.

Hi Doc,

Don’t know if you can help, or even if this is something that needs the help of others or I should just figure out myself, but I thought I’d give it a shot.

I’m in my mid-20s, bisexual and have graduated college. I moved back to my hometown and I spend most of my time working. It’s worth noting early on despite being bisexual I’ve never been with a guy.

Shortly after I moved to the big city for college, I met a girl and we started a relationship. It lasted about a year but we found we didn’t have the strongest feelings for each other and we broke it off. But we kept a friendship and (perhaps too quickly) transitioned to a friends-with-benefits relationship.

It was great. We were supportive, honest and while there were a few hiccups we moved past them healthily. We were good friends that also banged when we hung out. Our relationship was way better as friends who had sex than lovers, mostly due to us dropping a lot of expectations we had for each other. It kind of met all of our emotional and physical needs. No regrets there.

While I was in college I tried to meet up with guys and go out but none of it went anywhere. I tried meeting people at LGBTQ+ clubs and events but there was either no one there I felt attracted to or no one I liked reciprocated those feelings. Eventually I decided to stop trying as I focused on my studies.

After school, I moved back to my hometown. Me and the Friends-With-Benefits live far away from each other now and the whole relationship came to an end. I miss her as a friend, not just as a person I slept with. Needless to say: it’s left me a bit lonely.

This is why, after four years of essentially straight-heterosexual relationships I feel frustrated with my sexuality and how half my sexuality has gone completely unexplored.

I took up Grindr again and met someone there. We’ve started going to the gym together and have quickly become friends. I don’t think he’s looking for anything more than that, but I’m kind of tempted to ask him if he wants to do some sexy things kind of like my previous FWB relationship. I don’t know how he’ll react because he seems pretty conservative.

I think a lot of this stems from a friend in highschool who meant well, but would occasionally ask me things like “how do you know you’re bi if you’ve never been with a guy?” I would counter that how could he know if he was straight if he was never with a girl, but to be honest even though I knew I was right it still bugs me.

I feel confused because I have this whole side to my sexuality I’m desperate to explore but I’m worried I’ll damage my relationships if I try to push it. Random Grindr hookups aren’t my thing. To be honest Grindr as a whole weirds me out and I’m lucky I found someone likeminded who meshes well with me.

What do you think I should do? Would it be potentially harmful to ask this friend to do things with me? Should I just pour some cold water on myself?

Thanks,
Figuring out Both Sides

Before we get too deep into what you should do, FBS, I want to talk a little about the concept of The Friend Zone, which is where you seem to be with your gym bro.

More specifically: there’s no such thing as The Friend Zone. The Friend Zone is simply people who just don’t want to fuck you, for whatever reason. It may be that they’re not interested in you, sexually or romantically. It may be that they’re not in a place where they feel like being sexual with anyone. They may well have been up for it at one time, but that time has passed and now that interest has passed.

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The key to avoiding The Friend Zone (if we’re going to have to use the term), especially with someone new, is to make sure you act like a potential lover, not a friend. Most people end up throwing away their shot because they’re too afraid of being rejected. They’d rather surf the quantum wave of ambiguity, where there both is and isn’t the chance of sexy times, than actually step up and risk collapsing the waveform one way or another. (The dudes who spend their time trying to pull the Platonic Best Friend Back Door Gambit, on the other hand, are a different story entirely.)

If you behave like a friend does - such as never actually making a move, never asking someone out on an unambiguous date or otherwise making it clear that you want to actually fuck… well, then they’re going to assume, not unfairly, that you don’t think of them that way and eventually move on.

Like a bad first impression, that thought of “well, I guess we’re platonic friends” can be incredibly hard to shake. It becomes the filter through which they see you and interpret everything you do.

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That’s more or less what happened here, FBS. You met on Grinder — a site that’s primarily about no-strings attached hook-ups — and never actually, y’know. Hooked up. That’s not to say you can’t find friends or even FWBs on there, but your actions are telling the guy that you’re not into him sexually.

Now, can you turn that around? Yes… maybe. Hell, you can even try to turn it around without losing the friendship. But before you make the attempt, let me ask you a couple questions.

  1. How much of this is because you’re feeling lonely? Are you thinking about getting this dude into bed because you miss the FWB relationship you had in college? Are you looking at sex as a way of curing that loneliness? Because let me tell you: sex on it’s own can still leave you feeling pretty lonely.
  2. Are you into your gym bro specifically? Or is it more that he’s the only bi or gay guy you know? Would you be less interested in trying to turn a platonic friendship sexual if you felt like you had more options? Or is there something specific to him that turns you on and that you’ve been longing for?

    This is also important because… well, if this is just about overcoming your anxieties about your bi cred, that can feel kind of alienating to potential partners. I know it’s a cliché that guys are cool with being used “because guys” but we’re emotional beings too. Finding out that someone’s less into you as a person and more for what you represent can feel intensely dehumanizing.

    But then again, hey: you met on Grindr. Maybe he’d enjoy being treated like a piece of meat on occasion and he’s been wondering what’s been taking you so long.
  3. Has he ever given signs that he’s (still) interested in you? Has he been flirty with you? Has he entered your personal space when he didn’t have to? Has he touched you and let his hands linger longer than a platonic friend would? Or does he act like a friend?

If you feel like you’re in a good place about this emotionally — you may want to finally get with a guy, but you also want to get with him specifically — and you’re getting some indicators of interest, make a low-key pass. Let him know that you appreciate his friendship, that you’re interested in maybe a bit more and it’s totally ok if he’s not down with that. And then let it go. Ball’s in his court. If he’s up for it, blessings on you both. If not, then continue to be his friend. Yeah, it can be a bit awkward. That’s fine, let it be a bit awkward. But if you power through the awkwardness and don’t let it be something devastating, then you can keep that friendship and this will just be an amusing side-note in your story together.

And hey: you don’t have to stick to Grindr to find potential partners. A more traditional dating site might work a bit better if you’re not into casual hook-ups.

Good luck.

Doctor NerdLove,

I love my wife (“S”) and I want a long and happy marriage, but we just got married and there’s already some bulky baggage weighing us down.

S is Muslim, from a Pakistani family where everyone is a doctor, S included. They’re not super religiously observant but are culturally different from my family. I’m white and not Muslim and not a doctor.

We dated for nine years before we got married, in secret from her parents for the first six years. It took me a long time to get my shit together and get enough education that her family would accept me.

But the biggest problems aren’t cultural. Two years ago, I had a blonde classmate in my chem 3 at night school (we’ll call her B). She was very bright and helped me ace the class. She was also attractive and interesting to talk to. I had no intention to cheat on S so when the course ended I wrote B a little note thanking her for studying with me and wishing her luck, and never spoke to her again. But I sensed immediately upon meeting B that she would make S jealous so I never told her that B existed and deleted all texts and emails that had passed between us.

Inevitably S found out about B (thanks Facebook) and I admitted everything. She believes I cheated on her and has lost all trust in me. We still married 4 months ago (our families are excited for grandkids) but she frequently tells me she wants out of the relationship, that she hates me, and deserves better than me. I tell her I love her and will never betray her again but it’s true: she would never ever tell a lie and does deserve a more truthful man than me. It doesn’t help that I still have a bad habit of checking out girls when we’re in public (including S’s friends), a habit I’ve struggled to break.

We have hung together so far and I don’t want to go back to my life without my beautiful, brilliant, heartbroken wife. What can I do?

~Loving Liar

Dude. Dude. Let me ask you something. Have you ever seen a mystery where an innocent person has been accused of a crime and — in trying to avoid going to jail, he ends up creating more evidence that he’s guilty? ‘Cuz that is exactly what you did.

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Like I told A Conflicted Girlfriend last time, it ain’t the crime, it’s the coverup that gets you. See, you already give your wife reason for suspicion because you’re ogling people in front of her. Yeah, being in a relationship doesn’t mean that we stop being interested in other people and being on a diet doesn’t mean you can’t read the menu but fucking hell dude, if your wife gets upset by your checking people out then stop doing the goddamn David Lee Roth in front of her.

So you’ve got that going against you. Then there’s the fact that you kept your relationship with your wife on the down low for years. Yeah, it’s because her parents weren’t going to like you, but you have a precedent of dating women on the sly. So once she finds out that you’ve been spending time with another woman? As unfair as it may be, it’s not that much of a leap to think that you’ve been stepping out on her.

And then you make the mistake of destroying the evidence that would prove you were on the up and up? Jesus dude, it’s like you want to blow up your relationship for no reason.

As a general rule, I tell people that their partner’s jealousy issues are something that their partner need to work on but it doesn’t help when you start acting shady, even when it’s perfectly innocent. You may not have intended to, but your cumulative behavior basically did the Sadist’s Tango on every single one of your wife’s insecurities.

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And the thing is, this could’ve been avoided. If you weren’t blatantly checking out women in front of her, for example, then you wouldn’t have primed the idea that you’re just looking for your chance to cheat. Avoiding talking about your study sessions with B may have been cause for conflict, but it would’ve been more survivable.

You didn’t cheat. But being sneaky — and previous bad behavior— means that you hurt your wife, and deeper than you may have realized. You’ve fucked the pooch and unless you’re going to slingshot around the sun at warp speed, there ain’t no un-fucking it. All that’s left to you is to try to get through this and heal the rift that you inadvertently created.

Your next move depends entirely on your wife. Is she the type to explode at first but settle down and listen to reason afterwards? Or did you manage to trigger the End-Of-Marriage countdown and it’s just a matter of time before lawyers get involved?

If it’s the former, then you still have a chance. The first thing I’d suggest is couple’s counseling. Not only would a neutral third party possibly help mediate things, but they may be able to give you the vocabulary and communication skills to navigate this crisis. Of course, while you’re at it, you need some work on disclosure, openness and how to not act like a cheater. Not to mention, y’know, breaking your habit of checking out other women in front of your wife.

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If it’s the latter… well shit dude, there’s nothing that I can say that’s going to fix this for you. Your only Hail-Mary pass here is your study partner B. If — if — your wife were willing to hear it from the supposed other woman that nothing happened, she might be more willing to believe you. But ask your wife before you say word one about this. Maybe she’ll take B’s word for it. Maybe she won’t. But I wouldn’t risk it unless your wife is actually willing to listen and won’t just get even more pissed that you brought the woman you “betrayed” her with back into the picture.

Regardless, you’re now in recovery mode. It doesn’t matter that you didn’t cheat. If you want to save your relationship, you’re going to have to be proactive in earning her trust back. You are going to have to be the guardian of boundaries with other women and go above and beyond showing that you’re worthy of being trusted again. That is… if she’ll let you earn it back. And that’s a mighty big if.

Good luck.


Did you turn a platonic friendship into a friend-with-benefits? Did getting caught in a lie nearly destroy your relationship? 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? Writedoc@doctornerdlove.com and put “Kotaku” in the subject line.

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Harris O’Malley is a writer and dating coach who provides geek dating advice at his blogPaging 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.