Hello you radioactive orgasm otters, and welcome to Ask Dr. NerdLove, the only dating advice column that survived Second Impact.
This week, we’re here to address the relationship problems you never expected to encounter. How do you tell your partner that she didn’t actually take your virginity? What about telling her that you actually lost your virginity to a sex worker? What do you do when you find out your oldest friend is openly cheating on his wife? And what happens when you want to get married, but your partner doesn’t believe in marriage?
It’s time to get in the fucking robot, Shinji. Let’s do this.
Dear Doctor NerdLove,
I’m 23. My girlfriend is 24. We’ve been dating for one year. We’re talking about having her move in and starting to make plans for it. I really love this girl and want to make a life with her.
But I’ve been keeping one secret from her. We were first introduced by a mutual friend, who told her I was a virgin. Which as far as most people knew, I was. However, I wasn’t. I had sex for the first time about a year and a half before I met her. With an escort. Yeah, I lost my virginity with an escort.
I was never ashamed of that fact, but I find it hard to talk about now. Three very close friends know, but besides that nobody does.
This girl thinks she took my virginity and she’s the only girl I’ve ever slept with. When in fact, I’d slept with two different escorts before meeting her. I used a condom both times and was very careful not to catch anything. My penis never showed any signs of possibly being infected so I’ve never gotten myself tested for any disease either as I didn’t want to tell any medical professionals what I’d done.
Some nights, this secret really bothers me. I feel like I should tell her. I’m really scared about how she’ll react though. She has an iud so we have sex without condoms all the time now. My penis is fine, her vagina is fine, fairly certain neither of us have a disease. There’s really no harm, no foul. But I feel guilty not telling her. Any advice would be appreciated.
Second First Time
Alright, there’re a lot of things tied up in this, SFT, so we’re going to take this in stages.
Here’s my first question, SFT: why in pluperfect fuckery haven’t you gotten tested anyway?
I realize that sex ed in this country is a blasted hellscape and you have better odds of encountering a coelacanth in the wild than you do of getting medically accurate sexual health education, but the fact that you two don’t have symptoms — or, critically, symptoms that you recognize as symptoms — doesn’t mean that you haven’t had positive contact.
Many STIs, such as chlamydia, are frequently asymptomatic in men, which means that you or your girlfriend could well have it. Similarly, 90% of the people who have genital herpes don’t realize they have it; many times they have a single outbreak that they don’t even recognize as an outbreak and then nothing since.
So the fact that you two haven’t noticed anything weird about your junk isn’t a sign that you haven’t had anything.
If you and your girlfriend are going to be fluid bonded and have condom-free sex, then you two need to get tested. It’s entirely possible for one or both of you to have an infection you aren’t aware of.
And you don’t need to give your doctor a rundown of just who you were sleeping with. You can just ask for an STI test, period. And if you feel weird about going to your primary care physician, you can always go to your local Planned Parenthood, get screened and get your results anonymously. Even if your doctor is sex negative, Planned Parenthood won’t judge you for having seen a sex worker.
As a side note: contrary to popular misconceptions, most escorts are less likely to have STIs, more likely to go for regular screenings and more likely to insist on proper condom usage. The chance of positive contact is still non-zero — and it always will be, if you’re having sex, period — but the odds are much lower than sleeping with a random hookup from a bar or dating app.
My second question is: why did you go along when your friend told her you were a virgin? You don’t need to go into the details of how you lost your virginity — most people aren’t going to want the details, especially early on — but you could just as easily have said that no, you’ve had sex before.
It seems like an unnecessary complication to your relationship, to be honest. It’s a lie you didn’t need to tell or allow your girlfriend to believe, and the longer you go without correcting her mistaken belief, the bigger of a deal it’ll become when you DO tell her.
That having been said: I think there are far worse things in this world than letting her believe that she was your first. It’s not exactly on the level of “I lied about my name/second family/ fact that I’m a member of Hydra.” While it’s not exactly great, I don’t think it does any real harm, and people would have to bend themselves into pretzels in order to find a reason why a reasonable person would give a good god damn.
Unless, that is, it turns out you have an STI you didn’t know about. At that point you are going to have to tell her, because now her health is at risk and she needs to know.
Another question is: what are the odds that your friends will spill the beans? Are you dealing with a couple of folks who can’t keep their friend’s secrets, or are they going to take that secret with them to the grave? If you’re dealing with a metaphorical time bomb, then you’re likely going to have an awkward conversation with your girlfriend sooner rather than later.
If that happens? Well, you can tell the truth: You’ve had sex before with some folks you didn’t care about and it was easier to go along with your buddy’s story (assuming they knew) than to get into an awkward conversation about it all.
Similarly, I don’t think your girlfriend needs to know that you slept with escorts. Relationships aren’t depositions, and people in relationships are allowed their privacy and secrets, particularly about things that happened long before you two met. Especially if those conversations are likely to cause drama that is both unnecessary and easily avoided.
If you really feel the need to unload your soul about this, you can wait until you’re on your 10th anniversary together, get some drinks and have a “hey, let’s share all our crazy sex secrets” fest. Otherwise? I think it’s ok to let this slide.
I have a friend I grew up with that has been married to his wife for some time. Naturally, our friend circle is now also great friends with her. They have 3 beautiful children together and are great friends! Recently, he started having an affair with a co-worker. He kind of brags about it and it’s a really dick thing to do to his wife and his children. Naturally, we expressed our displeasure with this situation and advised that if he’s unhappy with his marriage he needs to address it with his wife and decide what to do from there. Not only is it unfair to her and the kids, but it could also be a divorce nightmare (he makes a decent wage). It also is unfair to us because we are also very good friends with her. If I wasn’t friends with him, I would let her know in a heartbeat that she was being cheated on, but I don’t feel like it’s my place. However, if she eventually finds out and then finds out that we knew the whole time and didn’t say anything, we will all feel terrible about it. It seems like a lose-lose situation for everyone. Should we tell her? Should we give him a chance to come clean (don’t think he will)? Or do we just bite our tongues? Anonymous tip???
Friends Without Benefits
This is a tricky situation, FWB. It feels like the obvious answer is “Yes, tell the wife,” but more often than not, that ends up being far uglier and more complicated than it seems on the surface.
I hear a lot from people who were told that their partner was cheating on them. You know what 90% of them said? That they wish they hadn’t known. Almost every time, they would rather have not known; finding out your partner cheated inevitably retroactively changes your memories and casts an ugly pall over what were once cherished and beloved moments in life. Many times people would rather have lived with the truism that ignorance really is bliss.
So my usual stance is “you don’t know enough, it’s not your business and you should keep the hell out of it.”
However, in this case, your co-worker’s made it your business by both carrying on so openly and bragging about it to you. He’s turned you into unwilling accessories to his crime and put you in a position you would never consent to be in. Now you’re stuck with information that directly affects a friend of yours and a series of bad choices, each shittier than the last.
So what do you do? Well, what you don’t do is give your friend an ultimatum of “end this or we’ll tell your wife.” The problem with this approach is that, by letting him know that you’re willing to tell his wife, you’ve given him the opportunity to poison the well long before you could get to her. If you give him advance notice, he has the chance to clear up the evidence and convince his wife that you all are conspiring against him for some strange reason.
Similarly, just going straight to his wife has the problem of “can you prove it?” If you don’t have actual evidence of your “friend” and his paramour — evidence that he can’t explain away as a misunderstanding — then you run the risk of his wife not believing you, as well as giving him a chance to throw you all under the bus as a way to cover up his infidelity.
What I would suggest is a blended approach. First, you need to tell your friend that you all are disgusted by his actions — both that he’s so openly disrespecting his wife but also that he involves you in it. Make it clear that you want absolutely nothing to do with his cheating. You don’t want to hear about it, you don’t want to see it and you really don’t appreciate being put into the position you’re in.
Second, consider the odds of whether — and how — his wife will find out. Considering that he seems to be cavorting openly, the odds are pretty good that it’ll come out without your having to say or do anything. But if you want to speed things along, a burner email or social media account that gives the information you have — times, dates, etc. — isn’t entirely out of bounds.
But even that runs the risk of her refusing to believe you, an anonymous source.
You’re in a shitty position, and all of the choices are varying levels of suck. Someone’s going to get hurt regardless of what you do. The most you can hope for here is to minimize the damage where you can.
Dear Doctor NerdLove:
I’m a first time writer and a long time fan of your columns and advice, so I’m a little nervous and unsure about how to start this.
I’m a 24 year old woman whose been in a long term relationship with my boyfriend of nearly 6 years. I love him dearly and I know he loves me too. We met during my first year at University, at our Uni’s anime society. Which nicely ties into the fact that we’re both a couple of weebs who share a lot of the same nerdy hobbies and interests. He’s my first proper boyfriend and I’m his first long term girlfriend. We live together now and he makes me laugh and he knows me so well and he’s so considerate of me and I’d like to spend the rest of my life with him.
This is all sounding pretty great right now, but there has been one issue that keeps on cropping up in our relationship and whenever it does it plagues my mind with worry and causes me to worry about our future.
The most recent trigger for this worry, and the reason why I feel compelled to write this letter to you, comes from a weird place. I’ve just finished watching the second season of Aggretsuko on Netflix.
If you don’t know of it, it’s an anime about the life of a red panda office worker named Retsuko and how she deals with the toil and pain of her office job, her sexist (literal) pig of a boss and her overbearing mother by unleashing all her frustrations and fury in a karaoke booth. Transforming into a death metal singing furry ball of rage (all from the creators of Hello Kitty would you believe). The second season came out recently and dealt more with Retsuko’s love life and what she wants out of a relationship, and sorry for spoilers but after meeting a new guy she falls head over heels for him, but then he drops the bombshell that marriage is pointless and he doesn’t believe in it.
Aggretsuko has always been a relatable show to me, but her situation practically mirrors my own. I love my boyfriend so much, but years ago he stated that he doesn’t see himself as the marrying type. He can’t see himself as married and believes that a piece of paper doesn’t mean all that much. In a way, I understand where he’s coming from. My boyfriend has said he loves me and truly wants to spend the rest of his life with me. Does being married really matter all that much?
But, like Retsuko, I can’t really explain why being married means a lot to me. It’s just something I had always imagined doing. It sounds like flimsy reasoning but being committed to each other legally and sharing our love with our friends and families is something I’ve always wanted to do with the man I love.
When he first told me, I was shocked, too shocked to take what he had said seriously. I loved him and I didn’t want to leave him so I foolishly swept it under the rug and pretended like it wasn’t a big deal. But that was a mistake and we have had several conversations about it since then, telling each other how we felt.
I know communication is key, so we’ve talked to each other seriously about why we feel the way we do about marriage. We both try to under each other about the issue. Our last conversation ended well enough; he still feels hesitant about the idea of marriage but he says he is keeping an open mind since he knows how important it is to me. He doesn’t want our relationship to end either. I don’t want to pressure him into doing something he doesn’t want to do and I don’t nag him about it. It’s a conversational we have maybe once or twice a year.
But I honestly can’t help but worry about our future. I’ve talked about it to my sister and she feels like we keep trying to sweep this issue under the rug, hoping we never have to make a definite decision about it. But the thought of drawing that line in the sand terrifies me. Like Aggretsuko, I’ve seen other shows tackle this issue and like Aggretsuko it always ends with the characters breaking up. And this makes me cry every time I think about it, that perhaps this issue will one day drive us apart. And I can’t imagine life without him. Is that selfish of me? There are times when I feel like I’m being silly, like I’m going to let the fact that we disagree about marriage ruin our amazing relationship. Yet the thought of never marrying him depresses me too. I feel very conflicted and worried about all this.
After watching the final episode of Aggretsuko season 2, I cried for a straight hour. And then I finally decided to write this letter to you, something I had been considering doing for a while now about this issue. Hoping that you can shed some light on these confused feelings of mine. Or at least tell me how much of a dumbass I’m being.
Aggretsuko Hit Too Close To Home
You’ve had this conversation before, AHTGTH, but has he ever explained just why he’s so seemingly afraid of marriage? That, more than anything else, will tell you where you need to go with this.
If we assume your boyfriend is communicating with you in good faith — that this isn’t some weird way of trying to get you to end the relationship, that he isn’t trying to keep his options open for finding a new partner in the future, etc. — then it comes down to why he feels like the label is so momentous. What, exactly, does he think will change for the worse?
It could be that he, like a lot of people, thinks that marriage is the death of sex and adventure. A lot of people see being married as the sign that it’s time to quit having all the crazy sexy times that they feel empowered to have when they’re just shacking up with their partners. Swinging from the chandeliers, freaky games, banging out in inappropriate places where you might get caught? That’s for boyfriends and girlfriends, not husbands, wives and parents.
(Of course, you’re far more likely to find married couples at sex clubs and swingers parties than singletons. And keeping the crazy sexy thrills is part of how you keep a marriage alive and vital.)
Other folks have emotional associations with the label “marriage.” They may have negative memories or feelings that tie to seeing their parents’ marriage. Children of divorce — or worse, marriages where everyone stayed together “for the kids” — occasionally have that atavistic response to the idea of marriage because the only model they had for marital happiness were the mayor and deputy mayor of Dysfunction Junction.
Or hell, maybe he’s always convinced himself that he was going to be a lifelong bachelor and now he doesn’t quite know how to let go of his younger dreams.
(But if George Clooney and Warren Beatty can settle down and become devoted husbands…)
Maybe it’s just an issue with the label. Maybe it’s a fear of promising “‘till death do you part” when he’s afraid he won’t be able to keep that promise.
Or—and I hate to say this—he may just not be interested in marrying you and he can’t bring himself to be honest with you about it.
But to turn this around for a moment: have you been able to explain to him why marriage is so important to you? Would you be willing to forgo the label of marriage if it was marriage in everything but name? Would you — and he — be willing to, say, have a hand-fasting instead of getting married, if it would be fundamentally the same?
The only person who knows what’s going on in his head is him. And he’s the only one who can tell you why he’s so hesitant to consider marriage.
Since these conversations clearly haven’t resolved the issue, I think it may be time to bring in a third party. It may be well worth your time to see a relationship counselor to help facilitate the conversation. Many couples visit couple’s counselors not because their relationship is broken or in trouble, but to help with their communication. Having someone who can guide you to the right questions, tease out the answers and provide the vocabulary you may lack to express those ideas can be invaluable for breaking a relationship impasse like this one.
This doesn’t mean that he’ll magically come around on the concept of marriage. It also doesn’t mean that you’ll magically be able to give up your hopes of marrying him some day. But what it will do is help you both be heard and understood. Once you have that, you’ll be in a position to decide how you both want to proceed.
Did you lie to your partner about being a virgin or how you lost your virginity? Did you expose a cheater? Share your story in the comments below and 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 YouTube channel. 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.