Hello, all you electric blue sex-angels of the Twitternet. Welcome to Ask Dr. NerdLove, the dating column that promises to introduce 2017 to the Chair Leg of Truth if it acts at all like its older brother.
It’s the final column of the year and we’re going to talk about various dating anxieties from folks who want a chance to set things right. Is it OK to break up with someone over things that are outside of their control? What do you do when you’re on your second attempt at your first time? And is there any way to ditch a third wheel without being a dick?
Life is a river, time is an illusion, and the door is ajar. Let’s do this thing.
A few months ago I got out of a high-maintenance relationship and swore to myself I’d find someone more easygoing. Recently I met a guy on Tinder and from the first time we met up it was clear we had some sort of connection. He is sweet and very gentlemanly and we share a lot of the same interests, and we get along well. I’ve gone out with him on multiple dates.
I was waiting for the other shoe to drop—like you do—and I found it: he has a chronic intestinal disease that prevents him from doing a lot of things that I enjoy. For one thing, we’ve done tea, coffee, and other kinds of dates but haven’t done a dinner date because he literally can’t eat most of what’s out there. He also can’t drink alcohol and doesn’t have much physical stamina.
I’m a big foodie and while his diet initially didn’t bother me, it does more now that we’ve started talking about taking each other out with our respective friend groups and going to parties. For example, we were invited to a dinner party hosted by a friend of mine but he said he’d go and wouldn’t eat and also wanted to leave early, which left me in an awkward situation—I felt like I couldn’t enjoy the party and felt guilty for wanting to go at all because he wasn’t compatible with the situation. He has canceled plans to go out on me several times, instead suggesting I just meet him at his apartment to hang out because he isn’t feeling well.
The no alcohol doesn’t bother me, even though my friends and I are quite the drinkers (not to get drunk, but we do frequent wineries and tasting and love just having a glass of whisky together after work on weekdays). But the stamina has become a giant issue, especially in the bedroom. He’s great at everything else but the act itself, and he consistently blames his inability to perform on his illness. Again, it was fine for a while as I thought maybe he was nervous about dating me—I’ve been told I can be intimidating—but it’s been a few weeks and nothing has improved and more often than not I leave his place wanting.
He told me that he’s been single for a while because women tend to give up on dating him because he can’t/doesn’t go out and is introverted because of his illness. So my question: am I a huge bitch for also finding these circumstances a deal breaker and wanting to break things off? Sometimes I enjoy spending time with him—he’s a great conversationalist in person, not in text, though—and sometimes I feel like I’m wasting my time because our lifestyles are not compatible. Am I a jerk for not being as accommodating as I could be with his illness? My friends are deeply important to me and it bothers me to be constantly canceling group outings and double dates and parties because he is pulling me away due to either his illness or shyness.
Am I being unreasonable? Should I try and soldier on?
This can feel more complicated than it actually is EE, because of the issue surrounding his disease. This introduces a seeming moral complication: if you break up with someone with a disease or disability, does this make you an inconsiderate jerk?
And the answer is… it depends. I know. Not immediately helpful, but stick with me for a second. I’m going somewhere with this.
Let’s start by acknowledging the obvious: people who have chronic health conditions or have various disabilities frequently have a harder time finding relationships. Unfortunately, there’re many people out there who can’t or won’t look past an issue like that and get to know the person instead of the label. And yeah, that’s a dick move. It’s one thing about them and our reaction to that one thing tells them everything about us.
But their issue isn’t the only thing swings both ways. When we date somebody, we’re dating someone with the knowledge that it’s going to involve compromise. Nobody—not Brad Pitt, not Drake, not Scarlett Johansson—gets 100% of what they want in a relationship. We get anywhere between 65% - 80% and round up. We accept that those compromises are the price of entry because what we do get when we date them is so awesome.
And sometimes those compromises are going to be too much. Sometimes it may be because we’re the asshole. I’ve dated women who were great, but there were health issues I simply didn’t have the patience or maturity to work around.
Other times it may be that sure, they’re great and you really like them but you are just not compatible on a fundamental level. Attraction is great and people can be amazing, but sometimes there will be areas where the two of you just conflict and there’s nothing you can do about it.
You have a case of the latter. Let us put his health issues aside and imagine that they don’t exist, but things are otherwise exactly the same. A relationship with this person would mean that you wouldn’t be able to share or experience many—if not most—of the things you enjoy in life. You aren’t able to share as much of your life with him or go out to as many places. The sex isn’t working for you either, which is also important. Sexual compatibility and satisfaction is a crucial part of a relationship’s success. If you can’t make that work, then the relationship as a whole is going to be in trouble.
Now, are there ways to work around these issues? Sure, in theory. One can make up for sexual stamina issues by expanding on your definition of “sex” to include more foreplay and the use of toys. You can have your time out with friends and your time with him at his place. But here’s the critical part: you don’t want to.
Don’t get me wrong: this is not a criticism, nor am I telling you that you’re a bad person. You simply aren’t so into this guy that you’re willing to accept these compromises as the price of entry to this relationship. That is perfectly legitimate; you can’t force yourself to like someone more than you actually do. And that’s what it all comes down to: how much you like this guy compared to how much adjusting you want to make to make things work.
If it weren’t for the fact that these issues stem from his illness, I don’t think we’d be having this conversation. It’d be pretty cut and dried. But because it does, it feels like you’re being selfish or an asshole. I get that.
But you have to ask yourself this: how long are you willing to be in a relationship that ultimately doesn’t make you happy, just so that you’re not The Asshole? This is a chronic condition that isn’t going to change. Are you going to wait years for a more “legitimate” reason to end things?
Just as importantly: if the only reason you stay with him is to not be The Asshole, how do you think he will feel when he realizes that you’ve been dying to leave him all this time? That’s kind of an awful thing to do to someone. Not to mention, all that time he’s with you, he could be with someone who thinks he’s the bee’s knees and the badger’s nadgers and doesn’t see the restrictions of his illness as a deal-breaker.
So I get where you’re coming from. Like I said: I’ve been there, I’ve done that and I very much was The Asshole. But at the end of the day, it’s just that you two aren’t right for each other. You aren’t going to be happy dating him, and that’s going to suck for him, too.
The kindest thing you can do in this situation is to end things quickly and cleanly and let him find someone who is right for him. It sucks all around, but the alternative sucks more. Sometimes the best option is just the least shitty one.
So recently I dated a girl I met at my language school (I’m studying overseas). We have different native tongues, but we talk in Japanese, which is what we’re both studying at the moment. Things were amazing at first. We share similar hobbies - gaming and karaoke/music. I have the most amazing time being with her at gaming arcades, singing karaoke together and she has the most amazing smile when I tell my jokes (I tell a lot of jokes in class and otherwise). I plan to return back to my home country in another few months, and with nothing to lose, I decided to let her know I liked her.
To my surprise and delight, she accepted my feelings and we started dating. However, probably due to me knowing our time together was so limited, I tried to spent a lot of time with her. One of her other friends, a guy, was a bit of a weird one. He would spend a lot of time with her doing nothing but just being there. He would even go to karaoke with her despite almost never singing. He would always tag along with us, and my now-girlfriend said there’s no need to tell him we’re dating since he doesn’t need to know. So here’s where I screw up. I’d got a little heated up when he would sit next to her, and there were these very awkward situations where my girlfriend would decide not to tell the friend we were going to watch a movie together, despite him being right next to us as we part in the same direction as him (we usually take a different train line home together). He’s a very sticky guy, so it’s hard to brush him off without being totally blunt - again something my girlfriend strangely didn’t want to tell him straight. I think there’s no way he wouldn’t think we’re dating, but she doesn’t want to tell him as it would have made things ‘awkward’.
Situations similar to this eventually led to arguments. She doesn’t understand why I want to be the one closest to her usually, and I often became irked when he would sit next to her instead of myself. Combined with a few other conflicts, we stopped dating after a spectacular 1 month.
I’m still fairly sure she has no feelings for him (something she assures me), and we’ve reverted to being a group of 3 friends. However, I still think I like her. We still have the best time together, and I still can’t get over her smile. I still want to keep going as lovers and continue what was fun (she’s stopped coming over to my place to play a game we started together), perhaps this time without me being so desperate. I don’t despise the other friend anymore—he’s a normal friend like any other and I don’t feel conflicted by him being around anymore. I just want to enjoy the time with her as they were before, but is this event worth the effort anymore? I have only 3 months of time left before I go back so even if things work out is there even a point to all of this? More importantly, am I getting my emotions mixed up? Things have been such a train wreck that I feel like I don’t even know what I’m feeling anymore.
Desperate and Confused
It sounds like your girlfriend had an orbiter—someone who’s life revolves around her heavenly body without ever actually coming in contact with it. This happens fairly frequently with Nice Guys (as opposed to nice guys) who’re pulling the Platonic Best Friend Back Door Gambit. They stick to their crush like a love-sick barnacle with boundary issues.
Sometimes orbiters are covert and the object of their affections doesn’t realize that he has an agenda. Other times, it’s so obvious that blind people half a country away can see it. The problem is that many women are taught not to make a fuss and to prioritize the feelings of men over their own—even when doing so is almost absurdly inconvenient. This is doubly true if it’s someone who’s been a part of their life for quite some time.
So now you’ve got a situation where she wants to have her own fun with you but she also doesn’t want the uncomfortable awkwardness that’ll come from telling her orbiter that not only does he stand no chance, but she wants to suck face with someone else, and could he back the hell off please?
There could very well also be a certain amount of “not wanting to be The Asshole” here—as with Exacting Extrovert above. If this guy has any emotional issues or for whatever reason doesn’t necessarily grok boundaries or relationships, then she may feel like she can’t say anything because to her it might be like kicking a puppy.
But while all of this explains what’s likely affecting her decisions, it doesn’t excuse them. She’s allowed this guy to be a major impediment to your relationship with her and it’s completely understandable that it’s pissed you off. You have a right to want closeness and intimacy with someone you’re dating and this guy’s getting in the way of that. At the end of the day, however, she’s decided that avoiding the potential awkwardness of confronting her orbiter is more important than how you feel about him.
That sucks, no question. But you need to keep things in perspective. You two were only dating for a month. That’s no time at all. As much as she might have dug you, your time and impact in her life is likely far less than this guy’s. And since you were going to be leaving the country anyway, I imagine she didn’t feel that her relationship with you was necessarily going to be worth the upheaval it would cause in her life if she scraped this guy off. And that’s her choice.
Was it a good choice? I don’t think so, personally. But it’s the one that she made and there’s really nothing you can do but shrug your shoulders and move on.
I think the best thing you can do is accept that things happened, you had a great month with her and leave it at that. You only have three months left and spending those three months trying to get back into her good graces (or her pants) just means that you’re going to be wasting time that you could be putting to better use. Best thing for you to do is put it in your rearview mirror and make the most of the time you’ve got left.
I’m a boy and a freshman in high school and I really love your articles.
So the problem I’ve been noticing recently is all my friends going into relationships and having girlfriends/boyfriends and I’m Malcolm in the middle. I am the class clown and I’m nice to everyone but I do act crazy from time to time. I have crushes on girls and stuff but for some reason I have no urge to be in a relationship or even have sex.
Is there something fundamentally wrong with me? It just seems weird everyone wants someone to pair up and I don’t. Advice?
Sitting on the Sidelines
I really only have one question I’d have for you SotS: how do you feel about your lack of interest? Do you want to want sex and relationships and you’re upset that you don’t? Or do you feel weird because you feel like you’re supposed to want things and this wouldn’t bother you if it didn’t feel like it was always in your face?
If it’s the former, then unless you’re feeling serious anxiety over it, I’d advise a wait-and-see attitude. If it’s really bugging you, it may be worth talking to your doctor (you know, a real one, not a loudmouth advice columnist) and seeing what they say.
But honestly? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you, SotS. You’re just not that interested in sex or dating. It could be that you’re a late bloomer and this will change over time. It could be that you’re asexual and sex just isn’t your bag. Or it could just be as simple as the fact that nobody at your school does it for you, and later on you’re going to run into people who’ll make you harder than Russian trigonometry.
In the meantime, regardless of labels or causes, you may want to check out the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network. Even if this is just a temporary issue, knowing that you’re not the only person going through this—and that it isn’t that unusual—could be a help.
Have you dated someone with health restrictions? Did your snuggle-bunny have a friend who was a little too present in their lives? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments, and we’ll be back in two weeks with more of your dating questions.
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.